T Nation

The Great Debate: Bulking

This post is long, but bear with me. I am starting this thread to comment on what has become the dead horse of this site: what we’ll call “traditional” bulking (focusing on MAXIMAL muscle growth, NOT keeping BF super low) and so-called “lean bulking”. The thread “An Introduction” in T-cell Alpha is where this battle is currently being fought.

Here is the thing that drove me to start this thread: the “lean bulkers” claim that muscle mass can be added just as fast while staying very lean by proper nutrient timing, among other things. But here, from the above-mentioned thread, is the crux of the argument, courtesy of Zap and Pushharder:

[quote]Zap Branigan wrote:

You can eat too much, too little or the perfect amount. It is almost impossible to eat the perfect amount when you have other priorities.

pushharder wrote:

That’s it in a nutshell.

If you err and undereat you will NOT gain muscle.

If you err and overeat you will. You may end up at 11% and “fat” but you will gain muscle. [/quote]

Perfectly stated by both, and maddeningly glossed over by the “lean bulkers”. Adding muscle is the body’s LAST priority, after all other metabolic processes have been completed. Once everything that requires calories is taken care of, if there are any left over, only then will the body build more muscle.

So the million dollar question is this:

QUESTION: How can one know they are growing muscle at the maximum possible rate their body will allow if they focus on keeping BF low? How can the “lean bulkers” know with such precision how many calories and g of protein they need day-to-day, hour-to-hour, to perfectly nail the maximum number of kcals needed???

ANSWER: They can’t. I say NO ONE can. We don’t know enough about human metabolism to say with such a degree of accuracy how many g of protein can be synthesized in a given time period, or how many calories are exactly needed in the same period.

So I am going to go ahead and take things a step further and say this: A controlled fat gain during a bulk is NECESSARY - yes, necessary - IF your goal in said bulk is to gain as much muscle as humanly possible. Why? It is the ONLY PROOF that you’ve consumed enough calories to allow muscle growth to occur at a maximal rate.

(NOTE: I am also assuming that any bulk, defined as a continued caloric surplus for the purposes of gaining muscle, is as “clean” as possible, so no sugary, starchy crap in the name of calories, b/c these may hinder muscle building progress while still contributing to fat gain through hormonal response. But again, I assume we all know this already.)

I would like to hear what the “lean bulkers” have to say about this. I need to hear an argument and see an example of how they can grow muscle at the maximum possible rate and still not gain fat through such perfect, precision dieting. Then, and only then, will I change my opinion on this debate.

http://www.T-Nation.com/tmagnum/readTopic.do?id=2326086

HAHAHAHAHA BOB SAGET

[quote]LankyMofo wrote:
http://www.T-Nation.com/tmagnum/readTopic.do?id=2326086

[/quote]

Yeah, I saw it, but nowhere in there can you find the point I’m trying to make: it is impossible to grow muscle at the maximum possible rate through lean bulking. I want to hear from a “lean bulker” who says you can explain how.

And wait, isn’t this you?

[quote]
I’ve read too many of these threads lately so I didn’t read this one, but has anyone noticed that when a topic gets hotly debated in the t-cell it shows up in the BB forum? [/quote]

How can you know what’s in that thread and what’s in mine if you didn’t even read it?

[quote]JucinitJack wrote:
HAHAHAHAHA BOB SAGET[/quote]

I don’t get what’s so funny.

[quote]doubleh wrote:
LankyMofo wrote:
http://www.T-Nation.com/tmagnum/readTopic.do?id=2326086

Yeah, I saw it, but nowhere in there can you find the point I’m trying to make: it is impossible to grow muscle at the maximum possible rate through lean bulking. I want to hear from a “lean bulker” who says you can explain how.

And wait, isn’t this you?

I’ve read too many of these threads lately so I didn’t read this one, but has anyone noticed that when a topic gets hotly debated in the t-cell it shows up in the BB forum?

How can you know what’s in that thread and what’s in mine if you didn’t even read it?
[/quote]

I got bored at work and read it.

And I agree you’re making a good point that can be overlooked, however I also think it could have been stated in that thread. That was the only point I was trying to make.

[quote]doubleh wrote:
LankyMofo wrote:
http://www.T-Nation.com/tmagnum/readTopic.do?id=2326086

Yeah, I saw it, but nowhere in there can you find the point I’m trying to make: it is impossible to grow muscle at the maximum possible rate through lean bulking. I want to hear from a “lean bulker” who says you can explain how.

And wait, isn’t this you?

I’ve read too many of these threads lately so I didn’t read this one, but has anyone noticed that when a topic gets hotly debated in the t-cell it shows up in the BB forum?

How can you know what’s in that thread and what’s in mine if you didn’t even read it?
[/quote]

So now your saying theres different types of bulking?
“Lean Bulking”? is there a “Fat Bulking” ? in bodybuilding too?

Every day bodybuildings unelite get more complicated.

[quote]Airtruth wrote:
doubleh wrote:
LankyMofo wrote:
http://www.T-Nation.com/tmagnum/readTopic.do?id=2326086

Yeah, I saw it, but nowhere in there can you find the point I’m trying to make: it is impossible to grow muscle at the maximum possible rate through lean bulking. I want to hear from a “lean bulker” who says you can explain how.

And wait, isn’t this you?

I’ve read too many of these threads lately so I didn’t read this one, but has anyone noticed that when a topic gets hotly debated in the t-cell it shows up in the BB forum?

How can you know what’s in that thread and what’s in mine if you didn’t even read it?

So now your saying theres different types of bulking?
“Lean Bulking”? is there a “Fat Bulking” ? in bodybuilding too?

Every day bodybuildings unelite get more complicated.
[/quote]

I guess this makes up for the “not getting much bigger” aspect of their lives.

[quote]Airtruth wrote:
doubleh wrote:
LankyMofo wrote:
http://www.T-Nation.com/tmagnum/readTopic.do?id=2326086

Yeah, I saw it, but nowhere in there can you find the point I’m trying to make: it is impossible to grow muscle at the maximum possible rate through lean bulking. I want to hear from a “lean bulker” who says you can explain how.

And wait, isn’t this you?

I’ve read too many of these threads lately so I didn’t read this one, but has anyone noticed that when a topic gets hotly debated in the t-cell it shows up in the BB forum?

How can you know what’s in that thread and what’s in mine if you didn’t even read it?

So now your saying theres different types of bulking?
“Lean Bulking”? is there a “Fat Bulking” ? in bodybuilding too?

Every day bodybuildings unelite get more complicated.
[/quote]

“Lean Bulking” is just a made-up term I used to describe the group of people that seem to think you can grow muscle at the maximum possible rate without any subsequent fat gains. Are you really so dense as to not understand that?

[quote]Professor X wrote:
Airtruth wrote:
doubleh wrote:
LankyMofo wrote:
http://www.T-Nation.com/tmagnum/readTopic.do?id=2326086

Yeah, I saw it, but nowhere in there can you find the point I’m trying to make: it is impossible to grow muscle at the maximum possible rate through lean bulking. I want to hear from a “lean bulker” who says you can explain how.

And wait, isn’t this you?

I’ve read too many of these threads lately so I didn’t read this one, but has anyone noticed that when a topic gets hotly debated in the t-cell it shows up in the BB forum?

How can you know what’s in that thread and what’s in mine if you didn’t even read it?

So now your saying theres different types of bulking?
“Lean Bulking”? is there a “Fat Bulking” ? in bodybuilding too?

Every day bodybuildings unelite get more complicated.

I guess this makes up for the “not getting much bigger” aspect of their lives.[/quote]

Is this directed at me?

One thing I know from being a professional analyst-- You CAN have TOO MUCH information.

With regards to ‘proper’ bulking-- My head is spinning.

I’ve put on some fat in the past few months, but you know what? I don’t give a rat’s ass. I’m not sloppy fat, I work out hard 5 days a week, my strength numbers have gone up, and my targeted muscles have gotten bigger. I’ll take the fat right now.

Obviously, I can only speak to my goals.

Someday I’d like to see my abs-- I have the rest of my life to starve. However, the muscle factory is finite, at least for big gains, so I’m milking it for all I got.

The wife doesn’t care about abs, and I keep my ego in check, so I’m all set. I’m starting to think that having and maintaining ‘abs’ at the expense of gaining muscle is a lot like having the burden of ‘Precious’ on your finger…

[quote]doubleh wrote:
Professor X wrote:
Airtruth wrote:
doubleh wrote:
LankyMofo wrote:
http://www.T-Nation.com/tmagnum/readTopic.do?id=2326086

Yeah, I saw it, but nowhere in there can you find the point I’m trying to make: it is impossible to grow muscle at the maximum possible rate through lean bulking. I want to hear from a “lean bulker” who says you can explain how.

And wait, isn’t this you?

I’ve read too many of these threads lately so I didn’t read this one, but has anyone noticed that when a topic gets hotly debated in the t-cell it shows up in the BB forum?

How can you know what’s in that thread and what’s in mine if you didn’t even read it?

So now your saying theres different types of bulking?
“Lean Bulking”? is there a “Fat Bulking” ? in bodybuilding too?

Every day bodybuildings unelite get more complicated.

I guess this makes up for the “not getting much bigger” aspect of their lives.

Is this directed at me?[/quote]

It was directed at the MANY people starting threads acting like “bulking” means anything other than simply getting really big without dieting, not YOU specifically. However, you did continue to use these terms that most of us should shit on and flush immediately.

[quote]Professor X wrote:
doubleh wrote:
Professor X wrote:
Airtruth wrote:
doubleh wrote:
LankyMofo wrote:
http://www.T-Nation.com/tmagnum/readTopic.do?id=2326086

Yeah, I saw it, but nowhere in there can you find the point I’m trying to make: it is impossible to grow muscle at the maximum possible rate through lean bulking. I want to hear from a “lean bulker” who says you can explain how.

And wait, isn’t this you?

I’ve read too many of these threads lately so I didn’t read this one, but has anyone noticed that when a topic gets hotly debated in the t-cell it shows up in the BB forum?

How can you know what’s in that thread and what’s in mine if you didn’t even read it?

So now your saying theres different types of bulking?
“Lean Bulking”? is there a “Fat Bulking” ? in bodybuilding too?

Every day bodybuildings unelite get more complicated.

I guess this makes up for the “not getting much bigger” aspect of their lives.

Is this directed at me?

It was directed at the MANY people starting threads acting like “bulking” means anything other than simply getting really big without dieting, not YOU specifically. However, you did continue to use these terms that most of us should shit on and flush immediately.[/quote]

Well, I agree, these terms have too much negative connotation associated with them, but I have to use some generally accepted terminology so people will know what the hell I’m talking about. It’s kind of like GAAP for bodybuilders.

I know bulking should mean 1 thing and 1 thing only, and it wasn’t me who skewed it. Notice I’m on the side of what bulking SHOULD mean, and I labeled it “traditional bulking.” I used “lean bulking” to describe the other camp, but apparently some people weren’t bright enough to pick up on the fact that it’s just a term to describe a concept, a concept I disagree strongly with.

Uggh. Please, let’s not get bogged down in semantics.

Might as well put this here too…

[quote]mr popular wrote:
Anyway regarding the actual debate, people always want examples and you could look at a guy like JoeSchmo and learn a thing or two.

Link: forum.bodybuilding.com/showthread.php?t=659148

Now here is a guy that is extremely active in his life (football and track&field on top of his weight training), doesn’t take steroids, has great genetics, and has the resources to eat enough food to keep him going.

He eats very healthy, and states he simply doesn’t eat the types of foods that would cause him to put on much fat anyway. He also says that his being able to stay lean year round is largely due to having a fast metabolism. The only thing he “counts” is protein and he just makes sure to get a large amount of it every day.

His philosophy is one of patience, and he has said that muscle gains come slowly whether you gain them with fat or not. And that consistency is the only thing that works 100% of the time.

And the kid is in incredible shape, and he’s incredibly strong. He trains like a bodybuilding (20 sets per bodypart in later years), and his bench, squat,and deadlift are all in the 400-500lb range.

However, Joeschmo only gains – on average – 10lbs per year.

Now one could argue that this is 10lbs of sheer muscle mass and from the looks of it thats pretty accurate.

But someone with such great genetics, if he had chosen to eat even more food and gain at a much faster rate, imagine where his body would be at now, and how easy it would be for him to achieve his natural level of leanness later on?

This is all taking into account that he also started seriously training at 13, and obviously had a lot of structural growing left to do, he had other activities he was committed to, and also that he simply doesn’t want to be 280lbs and utterly freakish. haha

What I’m getting at is that the guy looks remarkable, and especially for his age, but could he be better or gotten there faster simply by choosing to gain more weight year-round?

Here is one example of lean bulking, and then how many examples do we have of losing-the-abs-bulking where people got from that same point A to point B in less time?

And for all of the “lean bulkers” here, do you think YOU have genetics as good as JoeSchmo anyway? haha. Good luck with that.

Does anyone have anymore examples besides dave gullege?[/quote]

If you err and overeat you will. You may end up at 11% and “fat” but you will gain muscle.

When did 11% become fat?

[quote]mr popular wrote:
Might as well put this here too…

mr popular wrote:
Anyway regarding the actual debate, people always want examples and you could look at a guy like JoeSchmo and learn a thing or two.

Link: forum.bodybuilding.com/showthread.php?t=659148

Now here is a guy that is extremely active in his life (football and track&field on top of his weight training), doesn’t take steroids, has great genetics, and has the resources to eat enough food to keep him going.

He eats very healthy, and states he simply doesn’t eat the types of foods that would cause him to put on much fat anyway. He also says that his being able to stay lean year round is largely due to having a fast metabolism. The only thing he “counts” is protein and he just makes sure to get a large amount of it every day.

His philosophy is one of patience, and he has said that muscle gains come slowly whether you gain them with fat or not. And that consistency is the only thing that works 100% of the time.

And the kid is in incredible shape, and he’s incredibly strong. He trains like a bodybuilding (20 sets per bodypart in later years), and his bench, squat,and deadlift are all in the 400-500lb range.

However, Joeschmo only gains – on average – 10lbs per year.

Now one could argue that this is 10lbs of sheer muscle mass and from the looks of it thats pretty accurate.

But someone with such great genetics, if he had chosen to eat even more food and gain at a much faster rate, imagine where his body would be at now, and how easy it would be for him to achieve his natural level of leanness later on?

This is all taking into account that he also started seriously training at 13, and obviously had a lot of structural growing left to do, he had other activities he was committed to, and also that he simply doesn’t want to be 280lbs and utterly freakish. haha

What I’m getting at is that the guy looks remarkable, and especially for his age, but could he be better or gotten there faster simply by choosing to gain more weight year-round?

Here is one example of lean bulking, and then how many examples do we have of losing-the-abs-bulking where people got from that same point A to point B in less time?

And for all of the “lean bulkers” here, do you think YOU have genetics as good as JoeSchmo anyway? haha. Good luck with that.

Does anyone have anymore examples besides dave gullege?

[/quote]

Great post Mr. Popular. Where was this originally? I must have missed it.

[quote]mr popular wrote:
[/quote]

I don’t quite get what your arguing for here? That he should’ve ate and gained more? or that you can stay lean and bulk ?

I agree entirely with the OP (I think).

As long as you are eating in a calorie surplus and gaining weight, you will put one some fat and some muscle, whether you lift or not.

The ratio of the two will be determined by overall calories (i.e. how much of a surplus), nutrition, workouts, etc…

So the more weight you gain, the more muscle you will gain, but the percentage of that weight that is muscle will decrease after a certain point.

So really everyone has to find their point of diminishing returns where the amount of fat gain for an incremental muscle gain is too high. Obviously trying to optimize nutrition and workouts is part of that.

Also I would be surprised if the relationship (% of weight gain being muscle vs. calories) is linear. So there’s probably a reasonably tight optimal range of rate of weight gain for any individual.

[quote]greystoke wrote:
If you err and overeat you will. You may end up at 11% and “fat” but you will gain muscle.

When did 11% become fat?[/quote]

I think this is where the problem comes from. Too many people think that if you are over 10% you are fat.

I have to admit, I got suckered into that line of thinking and spent some time losing out on valuable muscle building time. Now, I at least have my head on straight and am working on adding muscle while forgetting about my abs. It is amazing to see how quickly I am getting past my sticking points (regarding strength) now that I’m not trying to stay at a certain bodyfat %. It is like night and day.

[quote]doubleh wrote:
This post is long, but bear with me. I am starting this thread to comment on what has become the dead horse of this site: what we’ll call “traditional” bulking (focusing on MAXIMAL muscle growth, NOT keeping BF super low) and so-called “lean bulking”. The thread “An Introduction” in T-cell Alpha is where this battle is currently being fought.

Here is the thing that drove me to start this thread: the “lean bulkers” claim that muscle mass can be added just as fast while staying very lean by proper nutrient timing, among other things. But here, from the above-mentioned thread, is the crux of the argument, courtesy of Zap and Pushharder:

Zap Branigan wrote:

You can eat too much, too little or the perfect amount. It is almost impossible to eat the perfect amount when you have other priorities.

pushharder wrote:

That’s it in a nutshell.

If you err and undereat you will NOT gain muscle.

If you err and overeat you will. You may end up at 11% and “fat” but you will gain muscle.

Perfectly stated by both, and maddeningly glossed over by the “lean bulkers”. Adding muscle is the body’s LAST priority, after all other metabolic processes have been completed. Once everything that requires calories is taken care of, if there are any left over, only then will the body build more muscle.

So the million dollar question is this:

QUESTION: How can one know they are growing muscle at the maximum possible rate their body will allow if they focus on keeping BF low? How can the “lean bulkers” know with such precision how many calories and g of protein they need day-to-day, hour-to-hour, to perfectly nail the maximum number of kcals needed???

ANSWER: They can’t. I say NO ONE can. We don’t know enough about human metabolism to say with such a degree of accuracy how many g of protein can be synthesized in a given time period, or how many calories are exactly needed in the same period.

So I am going to go ahead and take things a step further and say this: A controlled fat gain during a bulk is NECESSARY - yes, necessary - IF your goal in said bulk is to gain as much muscle as humanly possible. Why? It is the ONLY PROOF that you’ve consumed enough calories to allow muscle growth to occur at a maximal rate.

(NOTE: I am also assuming that any bulk, defined as a continued caloric surplus for the purposes of gaining muscle, is as “clean” as possible, so no sugary, starchy crap in the name of calories, b/c these may hinder muscle building progress while still contributing to fat gain through hormonal response. But again, I assume we all know this already.)

I would like to hear what the “lean bulkers” have to say about this. I need to hear an argument and see an example of how they can grow muscle at the maximum possible rate and still not gain fat through such perfect, precision dieting. Then, and only then, will I change my opinion on this debate.[/quote]

I am for all intents and purposes a ‘clean bulker’. But that is more to do with the foods i choose… 2 thirds clean foods is a good guess.

But let me explain, it means i will bulk and allow my bodyfat to rise… if it rises too fast for my tastes and what i simply know as ‘too much’ then i will lower calories or cut evening carbs, add cardio etc… If i stop gaining then increase calories… reduce cardio… you know how it works!

Then once i reach about 14-15% i tend to stop bulking. I dont need to ‘cut’ at this point, and i think the term is bandied around here like some of you actually know what it is, but just by dropping to maintenance calories for a few weeks allows me to shift a couple pounds.

Bear in mind during a bulk it can take me 6-8 months of good eating before i go from 10-11% to 14-15%.

In a nutshell, i don’t like to hold too much fat, i dont mind the stomach going soft… hell, it usually is soft as i am always bulking, but i have limits. Over 15% is too much for me personally. I feel soft at 12%. That would be uber lean to some folks.

I definitely do not sacrifice my gains for bodyfat though, i feel over the years, that i have managed to find quite a decent balance between fat gain and muscle.

I think it is impossible to eat the exact amout of calories to gain muscle and no fat. Not deliberately anyway. I have done it for a few weeks, assisted, but it was by chance. There are too many processes going on to be able to fathom that calculation IMO. As you said, it is impossible to know if you are gaining as weight fluctuates and the scales are not reliable day to day. BMR changes from day to day.

Do i believe it is possible to gain with a very low accumulation of fat… definitely. As stated, all you need is a surplus, that doesnt have to be 2000kcals of olive oil (you know who you are) - it can be 1 protein shake and a banana surplus… 250kcals! :wink:

But a small accumulation of fat is the safest way to know you are gaining muscle. Better safe than wasting your time, effort and money simply metabolising the food you buy with that expensive gym membership.
May as well just cut out the middle man and not eat and not train… kinda.

Brook

[quote]Arioch wrote:
greystoke wrote:
If you err and overeat you will. You may end up at 11% and “fat” but you will gain muscle.

When did 11% become fat?

I think this is where the problem comes from. Too many people think that if you are over 10% you are fat.

I have to admit, I got suckered into that line of thinking and spent some time losing out on valuable muscle building time. Now, I at least have my head on straight and am working on adding muscle while forgetting about my abs. It is amazing to see how quickly I am getting past my sticking points (regarding strength) now that I’m not trying to stay at a certain bodyfat %. It is like night and day.[/quote]

This is where the lines blur… this is all well and good, but if you stop paying attention to the fat for too long… you’ll become a fat guy with calves and forearms. It happens so often.

What is your bodyfat at now then, reasonable or out of control?