Dieting & Lean Bulking

A guide to dieting and lean bulking for beginners


Losing weight and gaining muscle are the two goals that a lot of people want to achieve.  If you are one of these individuals, then congratulations on taking the first step in trying to get yourself in shape. If you are just starting out, then it’s understandable that you have no idea how to start and what to do. Most people take the approach of doing loads of cardio and eating basically nothing, which is not the proper approach to take. In this article, we will be discussing a better approach to dieting for gaining lean mass and for losing fat.

Dieting to lose fat while preserving muscle or “cutting”

Dieting is one of the most important parts when trying to make your physique look better. You can work out all you want or do all the cardio you want, but you can never out-train a bad diet. This section of the article will discuss how to diet when you want to lose fat or “cut” while preserving the muscle. The first thing that needs to be done when starting a diet is to determine your maintenance calories, which are the calories that keep your body at its current weight. This can be done by just multiplying your body weight by 15 or 16 for a ballpark estimate, and then go through trial and error to find the correct calorie intake for you. After finding your maintenance calories, the next step should be to decrease your calories by 500. For example, if your maintenance is 2500 calories then you would start dieting on 2000 calories. This deficit should allow for fat loss at about 1 pound per week, which is what you want if you are trying to retain as much muscle as possible while losing fat (1). Losing 1 pound per week does not sound like a lot but getting the physique you want will take time and patience. This is very important to note, because if calories are restricted too much and too quickly, then you will experience a rapid decline in your muscle mass. This is the last thing that you want to happen after spending much time building up your muscle. When planning your diet, a higher intake of protein will be needed in order to maintain muscle mass. According to the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, they recommend a protein intake of about “1.4 – 2.0 g protein /kg body weight/day” (2). Taking in enough protein during dieting and proper training in the gym are crucial factors for keeping and even gaining muscle during a cutting phase. The next thing to talk about during a diet is carbohydrate intake. Generally, people who are new to working out or trying to lose weight believe that foods like bread, pasta, and rice will make you fat because they are carbohydrates. However, that is not the case. As discussed before, the way to lose weight is not to restrict nutrients, like carbohydrates or fats, but to be in a calorie deficit. Carbohydrates are your fuel source for a workout and should not be forgotten about while crafting your meal plan. Your body needs energy in order to perform workouts, so if your number one fuel source is missing then your body will take from other nutrients, such as fats or proteins. This is something you don’t want, because the more protein being burned to fuel workouts, the less there will be to achieve what is called muscle protein synthesis (MPS). MPS is the repairing of muscle by a protein which is how our muscles get bigger(3). So, carbohydrate intake is a very important nutrient to include in your workouts. Fats are another nutrient that should not be ignored when put into your diet. Lack of fat nutrients in your diet could potentially affect your hormones. A good intake of fat would be about 25 – 30% of your overall calories taken in. So, the main points that you should take away from this are:

  • Being in a calorie deficit is how you will ultimately lose weight. A good calorie deficit is negative 500 from your maintenance calories. If you want to take an aggressive approach to the diet and go lower than that, then remember that muscle mass has the chance to be affected.
  • Enough protein is necessary in order to maintain or gain muscle. A good intake of protein is suggested to be 1.4 – 2.0 g/kg body weight/day.
  • Carbohydrates are not bad and should be included in your meal plan to fuel your workouts so that protein intake does not suffer.

Lean Bulking Guide

Bulking is the act of entering a calorie surplus in order to gain muscle. During a bulk, it is inevitable that you will gain fat. A large or small amount of fat gain is dependent upon how you execute the bulk. This is where the strategy of lean bulking comes into play, which is a process that allows you to minimize fat gain while maximizing muscle build-up. So, how do you accomplish a lean bulk? First, you will need to identify your maintenance calories, or the calories needed to maintain your current weight. Next, you will want to increase your calories by 500. So, for example, if your maintenance calories are 2500, then your new calorie intake would be at 3000. It is important to note that lean bulking is a slow and steady process, but this does allow for maximum muscle gain and a lower amount of fat increase. One of the most important things to keep consistent while either bulking or dieting is making sure that your protein intake is always at a sufficient level for muscle growth. Now, if you are someone who is not concerned about gaining much fat while bulking, then by all means go for a higher calorie intake. However, for those who would prefer to stay lean year-round, then lean bulking is the way to go.