Clean Bulking vs. Dirty Bulking: Which One Is Best?

Troy here and I’m really excited to share with you my take on clean bulking vs. dirty bulking.

I know it’s the time of the year where a lot of you guys are hitting the weights and buffets hard in hopes to pack on some bulking season gains, so I thought it would be an appropriate topic to dive into the pros and cons of clean bulking and dirty bulking.

To be quite honest, I have done my fair share of both clean bulking and dirty bulking in the past and I have a few opinions on each.

This was not a simple answer, so I invite you to sit back and take some notes throughout this article because the answer on if clean bulking or dirty bulking is right for you depends 100 percent on your goals and current fitness level.

The Pros and Cons Of Dirty Bulking


Dirty bulking has some good and some bad. Here is a quick list of things that I thought were really positive about “dirty bulking.”

Dirty Bulking Pros:

  • A lot more fun to pig out on pop tarts, ice cream, and your favorite snacks.
  • Much easier to enter a calorie surplus due to many “dirty foods” like pizza, donuts, and ice cream being more calorically dense.
  • If you don’t let it get out of hand and follow the 80/20 rule you can still make great progress without storing too much body fat.
  • Works best if you are a beginner to the gym (less than 2 years of training).
  • If you don’t care about gaining body fat along the way this is likely a better strategy for you.

So those are the pros that I thought of in regards to “dirty bulking.” The thing about dirty bulking is that it works awesome if you are a super hardgainer in the first 2 years of your training career.

I know guys who are rail thin that tip the scales at 110 lbs. and actually want to gain some body fat. This means that they have to sometimes eat 5,000 calories per day to have a radical weight gain, so eating food like pizza, sub sandwiches, and milk shakes can be a great strategy.

The best of both worlds of course is to follow an 80/20 rule in regards to your dirty bulking, and that means just 20 percent of your total calories are “dirty.”

What makes a food “dirty” you probably are thinking? Basically it just means that it is processed, high in fat and/or sugar, and is very low in nutrients. Think fast food, pizza, fried foods, dessert foods, etc.

Dirty Bulking Cons:

  • Could lower your anabolic hormones (especially if you are past the age of 30).
  • If you have a sensitive stomach you are likely to upset it even further with “dirty foods.”
  • Clearly not the best option for your long-term health.
  • You will gain much more body fat.
  • Energy levels will likely be lower due to poor quality food and lack of nutrition.

The Pros and Cons Of Clean Bulking


Clean bulking is my current choice for a very specific reason. I am striving to compete in a fitness competition sometime in the next 9 months, and I have to be careful of how much body fat I pack on.

I’m only going to give myself 12-16 weeks max to cut and I want to ensure that my body fat levels hover around 10-12 percent at the peak of my bulk.

There are also a few other reasons I prefer a “clean bulk” which can be summarized by the pro’s that I came up with:

Clean Bulking Pros:

  • Your natural hormone levels like HGH and testosterone will be much higher if you’re in a “clean calorie surplus.”
  • Your energy levels will be much better and you will have an easier time digesting your food.
  • You won’t pack on as much body fat and can actually eat MORE food in terms of total volume and still stick at your calorie goal.
  • A far superior strategy if you are a fitness competitor or just want to get very lean during the summer time.
  • If you have been lifting for more than 3 years and already experienced your “newbie gains” this will be a much better strategy for you.

As you can see I’m a big fan of eating clean for optimal hormone secretion. Right now I have my testosterone levels soaring because I’m eating a very clean calorie surplus.

There is a huge difference in how your body functions when you have a calorie surplus consisting of organic and grass fed meats, olive oil, red skin potatoes and broccoli vs. eating Pepperoni pizza and ice cream.

You may hear of bodybuilders eating foods like this in the off-season, but keep in mind they are on steroids and have an unfair advantage!

I simply feel much better physically and have higher energy levels when my diet is mostly clean. This doesn’t mean that I won’t cheap every once in a while – but I probably keep it closer to 90/10 to ensure that my body fat stays relatively lean.

Keep in mind that I have been in the gym for 10 plus years, and have aspirations of competing in a fitness show.

Clean Bulking Cons:

  • Makes it harder to get into a calorie surplus if your diet is ONLY clean foods.
  • If you’re a serious hard gainer and need to eat 5,000 calories to be in a surplus a 100 percent clean bulk will be a ton of food and you will find it difficult.
  • It’s rather boring, and can get mundane since the list of “clean foods” is much shorter than the list of “dirty foods.”

What do you think? Is a clean bulk or a dirty bulk right for you? Share your thoughts below and I look forward to hearing your bulking game plan!

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