Dirty Bulking: What is it and Does it Work?

If you’re keen on gaining mass, for sure you’ve come across the words ‘dirty bulking’ and ‘clean bulking’ on the internet.

But, what really is bulking?

Bulking is simply consuming more calories than your ideal caloric intake so you gain mass. But, dirty bulking and clean bulking aren’t alike.

So, what’s the real score between dirty bulking vs clean bulking? Let’s find out what is dirty bulking first.

If you’re only learning about dirty bulking now, the idea behind it is simple: You go on a caloric surplus with vague or no real nutrition guidelines.

Dirty bulking is popular because you can indulge in anything you want to eat. There is no clear distinction between what food is healthy and what food is junk. 

With that said, do you think dirty bulking would take you closer to your mass gaining goals?

Read on to know why the word ‘dirty’ is often thought of as something bad, and to understand the basics of dirty bulking for gaining the most mass you can in a healthy and structured way.

Table of Contents

  • What is bulking?
  • Pros and cons of bulking
  • Dirty bulking
  • The optimal way to dirty bulk
  • Dirty bulking diet
  • Dirty bulking workout
  • Bottom line

What is bulking in general?

Bulking is a period where you eat over your basic calorie needs, or the number of calories you need to maintain your weight, to add mass to your frame

For bodybuilders and most fitness enthusiasts, they go through a bulking season to gain as much muscle mass as they can before they cut down for a competition or a beach vacation.

Bulking works because you load your body with essential nutrients it needs. So, you always have muscle-building and energy-giving compounds to fuel muscle growth and intense workouts.

This being said, you should be consuming the right types of food to maximize the gains you get from bulking. You might need to do drastic changes to your diet, so might as well make the most out of it!

There are two ways to bulk: clean and dirty. The primary difference between clean bulking vs dirty bulking is how many calories you over-consume.

Pros and cons of the different types of bulking

Source: fitwithap

Clean bulking generally requires a caloric surplus of 300-500. This is deemed enough to add maximal muscle mass while keeping fat acquisition low or none at all.

So, what result can you expect from clean bulking?

You can maintain the muscular definition you have.

On the other hand, dirty bulks don’t really have a fixed calorie guideline. When you go on this type of bulk, you can eat anything in sight. Or, at least that’s the notion with dirty bulks.

What bulking does is it makes sure that you have more than enough nutrients to build muscle and perform at your best in the gym. Its goal is to create an overflow of nutrients so muscle growth is always at its peak.

Are you already thinking which type of bulk you’d like to do? Read on to dig deeper into bulking dirty vs clean.

What is Dirty Bulking?

The core of dirty bulking is eating as many calories as you can.

The problem is that people become reckless and they use it to rationalize eating everything in sight. They will surely gain mass from a dirty bulking diet, but it is not optimal, nor healthy in the long run.

While you do lift weights and exercise frequently, this is not an excuse to be careless with what you eat, nor does it mean that you are immediately healthy and fit.

The number of calories you consume definitely matters when you want to gain mass. BUT, you should not sacrifice the quality of that mass.

You should aim to gain significantly more muscle than fat.

The Reality Of a Reckless Dirty Bulk

A reckless dirty bulking diet usually consists of junk food.

Although abundant in calories, it contains saturated fats and simple carbohydrates that wreck your health — you wouldn’t want that!

Simple carbs significantly spike blood glucose levels, and, hence, your insulin levels.

When chronic elevation of these happens, you are more prone to storing the food you eat as fat. It becomes harder to shuttle nutrients to your muscles; meaning they won’t be growing maximally.

Reduced or slow results from training, combined with a higher tendency to store body fat is the exact opposite of what you are aiming for when on a bulk.

Unhealthy fats can cause you to develop arterial plaque. This can result in chest pain, shortness of breath, and hypertension. At its worst, you will be at risk of stroke or heart attack.

So, should you do dirty bulking or not?

If you really want to add as much mass as you can — because not everybody wants to be chiseled and jacked — then go on a dirty bulk.

If you are sure you want to go down this route that most powerlifters and Strongman aspirants tread, then stick for more info on how you can make your dirty bulking diet plan work.

The Optimal Way to Dirty Bulk

This is what dirty bulking is to me:

Dirty bulking is not eating junk food. Dirty bulking is eating high amounts of calories but from healthy choices. This way, you will gain mass without posing any short and especially long-term risk to your health.

Thus, dirty bulking is harder than clean bulking. You’ll have to over-overeat.

The appeal of dirty bulking is that you can indulge in junk food to aid your mass gain efforts.

I won’t be taking this away from you if that’s how you want to go about it. BUT,  we have to set guidelines to ensure you won’t stray away from your goals.

How do you do it?

Follow the 80/20 rule.

This means that your diet will consist of 80% clean foods and 20% of the foods that you love eating but are deemed “junk”. Sounds like a fair deal?

Calculate how many calories you need to consume in a day. For a dirty bulk, that’s typically 1000 calories over your TDEE or baseline calorie needs.

If your baseline is 4000, then eating 5000 calories worth of food is the goal.

5000 x 80% would equal 4000 clean calories. And, the remaining 1000 calories can be your go-to fast food, chips, ice cream, burger, and whatever satisfies your cravings.

Dirty Bulking Diet

The most important thing in a diet is making sure you are hitting your protein intake.

Thus, no matter how many calories you plan on eating in a day, make sure you are consuming 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight.

This will make sure you are repairing the muscles you break down in the gym in the most optimal manner, aka maximizing muscle protein synthesis.

For carbs and fats, you can divide the remaining calories whichever way you want. My advice, keep the carbs high around your workout, in the pre, peri, and post-workout meals and drinks.

You can also eat a high-carb meal in your last meal of the day. The carbs will help you sleep faster and better by upping the production of tryptophan and serotonin.

Dirty Bulking Diet Tips

Opt for high-fat protein sources

Red meat and eggs should be your staple protein sources. Besides being high in protein, they also carry a lot of healthy fats that will help you hit your high calorie goals easier.

In a bulking diet, fats are your best friend because they are easy to consume — most of the time you won’t even notice it.

Fat has 9 calories per gram, which are more than twice the calories of carbs and protein (4 calories per gram).

Go mad on milk

You can also incorporate the GOMAD or gallon-of-milk-a-day approach. This helps you add at least 1500 calories.

If you can’t drink that much milk, then a high-calorie mass gainer can be an awesome alternative.

Some mass gainers can give you a thousand calories per serving. Drink two servings in a day, and you’ll be golden!

Eat bland foods first

Eating foods that you often find icky makes sure you are getting the essential macros first.

Chicken breast, rice, broccoli — just talking about them makes you gag, right? But, they are the important foods to eat for a successful bulk.

Save the highly palatable stuff for after your meal, the last meal of the day, or during cheat days. If you eat the yummy stuff first, you might totally forget about eating the bland food.

Prepare your meals in advance

I highly recommend meal prepping what you would be eating, especially whole foods.

Why so?

First, you won’t have to cut, measure, and cook food every day (which can be a waste of time). 

Second, this prevents you from opting for fast food and other quick and, usually, unhealthy choices.

Dirty Bulking Workout Plan

Since you’re overloaded with calories, you have to put most of that to use.

Hence, this workout plan will consist of heavy compound work and isolation movements to max out your muscles.

You’ll be training 6 days a week in a 3-days-on, 1-day-off manner, as shown below.

  • Monday: Chest, shoulders, triceps
  • Tuesday: Back, biceps
  • Wednesday: Legs
  • Thursday: Off
  • Friday: Chest, shoulders, triceps (repeat)
  • Saturday: Back, Biceps
  • Sunday: Legs

This push-pull-legs split helps you emphasize muscle groups that are trained using the same type of movement. It also helps you improve on weak areas.

For example, if your chest is lagging, you can swap out one shoulder exercise for another chest-focused one. 

Just like your dirty bulking diet, this split lets you be flexible with your exercise selection while making sure each muscle still gets enough volume to maximally stimulate them.


Bench Press55
Incline Dumbbell Press48-10
Lateral Raises510-15
Tricep Pushdown310-15


Bent-over Row55
Chest-supported Row48-10
Lat Pulldowns510-15
Rear Delt Prone DB Swing4AMRAP
Preacher Curls4 (each arm)10-15


Back Squats55
Leg Press510-15
Romanian Deadlifts58-10
Single Leg Curls4 (each leg)8-12
Calf Raises515-20

You can see that all workouts start with a compound movement. And, that all of them should be done heavy enough to have you at failure on the 5th rep.

Then, the other workouts are only at a slightly higher rep range. Hence, this split is intended to be hard and heavy. Sounds like a lot of fun!

REMEMBER: Always watch your form for every exercise, and don’t just go through the motions. 

Lift with intent, as in Rich Gaspari lifting with saliva bubbling from his mouth and his head veins popping — or maybe something close to that.

Dirty Bulking Workout Tips

Go beast mode in the gym

Always keep your training intensity high and your workout schedule consistent.

With the number of calories you’ll be consuming, there’s no doubt most of those would turn into fat if you don’t put your best effort in during each training session.

By training hard every single time, you are able to use most of the calories you soaked up in the gym and some more during recovery.

Do some cardio

Although the goal is to gain weight, you will be eating a hefty amount of food. So, keep your cardiorespiratory health in check by incorporating some aerobic training. 

It’s best to do high-intensity, interval-type cardio as it gets your heart pumping and your lungs gasping for air in a short amount of time.

Avoid doing long periods of endurance-type cardio because they burn more calories and exercise your hearts and lungs to a low level., Hence, it’s counterproductive to the goals of a healthy dirty bulk.

When should you do dirty bulking?

Dirty bulking is usually for hard gainers, the skinny folks that find it really hard to gain any form of mass, be it fat or muscle.

This type of bulking also works for people who recently went on a cut for a competition and are looking to again add more mass to their frame during the off-season.

When should you switch to clean bulking?

Switching from dirty to clean bulking simply means going on a cut. You gradually lower the number of calories you consume.

The benefit of switching from dirty to clean –instead of just immediately jumping on a cutting cycle — is that you get to lower the body fat you have accrued and still have more than enough calories to build muscle.

After a bulking phase, it’s time to strip the fat away and see how much quality muscle mass you were able to put on.

Bottom line

Now, it’s time for you to put in the work

You have decided to leave the realm of average gym bros who are content with having muscles to flex for the sake of selfies. Separate yourself from the pack, my bro!

Use this guide for a disciplined dirty bulk and make your way to a bigger and stronger physique.

So, are you ready to go on a bulk mode?


What is dirty bulking?

Dirty bulking is going on a high-calorie surplus in the pursuit of gaining as much mass as you can.

Why is dirty bulking bad?

Dirty bulking is not inherently bad. But, a lot of people use it as an excuse to eat junk food instead of eating a disciplined diet. This is why dirty bulking gets a bad rap.

How many calories should I add when dirty bulking?

Generally, you add about a thousand calories for your bulk to be considered a dirty bulk. 

How long is the cut after dirty bulking?

The length of your cut depends on how much fat you have accumulated throughout the bulk and how steep you drop your calories for the cut.

What’s the difference between a clean bulk and a dirty bulk?

A clean bulk requires a modest amount of calorie surplus, typically 300-500 calories. On the other hand, a dirty bulk can have upwards of a thousand calories in surplus.

Hence, clean bulkers maintain low body fat levels while, usually, dirty bulkers don’t mind too much how much fat they acquire.

How should calorie intake be when dirty bulking?

When dirty bulking, there is really no hard-set principle to follow in terms of calorie intake. However, I recommend a surplus of 1000 calories to really saturate your body with muscle-building and workout-fueling nutrients.

What is the point of dirty bulking?

The point of dirty bulking is to overload your body with the essential macronutrients so you can maximize performance in the gym and maximize muscle protein synthesis, aka muscle growth.

Why does dirty bulking result in more fat?

Because of the high surplus, the excess calories that don’t get burned during training and don’t get utilized for muscle building are converted into fat.

Imad Deryan

My name is Imad, and I struggled to gain mass in the past due to my metabolism and being very skinny. In this blog, I share the best reviews and advice when it comes to gaining weight and mass, for all the people that are struggling like I was.

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