How can you build muscle efficiently? This is the big question for many men trying to achieve that desirable ‘cover model’ physique.

You may have heard the expression “eat big to get large” – or, more commonly known, “dirty bulk”.

Science and common sense tell us that this isn’t the best way to gain muscle in a healthy, organized manner.

Muscle growth doesn’t have to be difficult. You don’t have to sacrifice your health or your sanity to grow your muscle with ‘dirty Bulking’, clean Bulking’, or any other method than progressive training and sound nutrition principles.

Origins of the myth of the “dirty bulk”

The roots of the “dirty bulk” lie in bodybuilding circles from the 70s and 1980s. They popularized the idea that excessive calorie intake was vital for muscle growth.

Because trainees had to eat high-calorie, highly-palatable food, it became a staple dietary item. It was nearly impossible to meet these targets by simply consuming unprocessed, nutritional-dense foods.

The routine use of anabolic steroids or cutting agents in such spheres is a strong foundation for the traditional “bulk-cut” method.

Bodybuilding is an elite sport, and to compete at the highest levels, athletes often use large amounts of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs).

You will gain muscle no matter what quality foods you eat when you use such large amounts of drugs. When it comes to removing a bulk, PEDs allow you to work hard and quickly while minimizing muscle loss.

Is ‘bulking’ necessary?

Bulking refers to an increase in calories beyond the maintenance energy required to support a phase of muscle-gain. This concept is based on the 3,500-calorie rule. A 500-calorie deficit should result in one pound of weight loss per week. A 500-calorie surplus should result in one pound muscle growth.

However, the science behind muscle growth is more complex. A pound (0.5kg), of hydrated muscle will only contain around one third of the protein. The rest are minerals and water. A pound of muscle contains approximately 800 kCal, while a pound of fat has 500 kCal. This means that muscle mass requires more metabolic work to synthesize and maintain than body fat.

Even if you’re not overweight, weight loss almost always means gaining some fat. You may also need to increase your caloric intake because muscle building and maintenance requires increased caloric expenditure. You will need more calories if you bulk up faster than you should, which can increase your risk of serious fat gain. A ‘dirty bulge’ is a diet that includes high intakes of processed, calorie-dense food with little consideration for health risks.

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