With the Winter firmly upon us in the UK many of you will be wondering how you should tackle the Winter months in respect of adding some mass and bulking up, is your Winter plan to stay relatively lean so you don’t have to cut too hard when Summer appears again or do you want to sacrifice it all to ensure you gain the maximum amount of muscle possible?

If you’ve been having trouble deciding on which route to take then lets break down each of them to help you decide and get you bulking.

As most reading this will know, the process of bulking requires you to consume more calories than you burn off, this in turn creates weight gain as a result of storing all of that extra energy (food) as glycogen, unfortunately for us not all weight gain is equal!

So what could be dirty or clean about that?

First we need to understand the composition of food, for example 1000 calories from chicken breast is not the same as 1000 calories from a packet of biscuits, this is because the composition of those foods are completely different, the chicken is high in protein with virtually zero carbohydrates whereas the biscuits are made from mostly sugar and carbs.

Understanding the composition of food is vital for anyone interested in their food intake and macro-nutrient requirements.

The Clean Bulk.

A healthy, balanced and controlled diet, where special attention is paid to a persons macro nutrient intake to allow them to steadily gain weight (hopefully mostly muscle) with a slight increase in calories above maintenance is considered a clean bulk.

The above approach will keep body fat to a minimum while packing on the mass, this means that there is less fat to shred when it comes to cutting time. It is important to remember however, that it is possible for a person to eat ‘clean’ AND gain a lot of body fat, this happens when food intake is not monitored correctly, or at all and results in too many calories being consumed.

Portion control is vital here! But if done properly you will still be eating a good amount of excess calories so you shouldn’t be feeling hungry as some do from just hearing the term ‘portion control’.

It is recommended that for a clean bulk, one should consume around 250 to 500 calories above their maintenace level of calories.

The Dirty Bulk.

If the clean bulk approach doesn’t float your boat then you have its bigger, uglier brother, the dirty bulk.

So what is a dirty bulk?

Some interpret the dirty bulk as a way to add mass by eating anything and everything they see, somewhat of a ‘see food and eat it’ diet, however in reality thats more of a lack of a diet plan than a dirty bulk and comes with a whole host of health issues (diabetes) that we wont discuss in this article.

Traditionally the dirty bulk mentality was calories are calories, doesnt matter where you get them from, just get them down your gullet!

A more modern, less liver intesne dirty bulk is when all the veg and sweet potato goes out of the window from your clean bulk and in comes the white rice, bread, oats and milk.

The dirty bulk is when a person consumes 1000+ calories over their maintenance each day, resulting in maximum muscle gain but also a larger amount of body fat as well, much more than the muscle that would have been gained at the same time.

This is the trade off from a dirty bulk, also keep in mind that you can’t eat 3000 calories of chocolate and expect to see any muscle gain, use a pinch of common sense and realise even though the dirty bulk is considered to be less strict and slightly less balanced you still need to feed your body with what it needs to grow muscle.

You will find it very difficult to progress in the gym and gain any muscle if you disregard your macro-nutrient requirements completely and binge on junk food. (Junk food = Nutritionally void)

If you look at some of the worlds pro bodybuilders during their off season they look unrecognisable, this is because they chose to dirty bulk so that they can capitalise on gaining every ounce of muscle possible, show season doesn’t come around until Summer so they don’t mind not having huge bulging abs during their off season.

Another point to note when considering a dirty bulk is that come summer time when its time to chisel away the fat to reveal your Winter gains, the dirty bulkers will have to work harder as there is considerably more fat to shred than someone who clean bulked all Winter.

Both methods can achive fantastic results, but which one you choose depends on if you want to stay relatively lean all year round and sacrifice potential muscle gain or go all out, gain the most but lose your aesthetic appeal for a few months in the process.

So now that you know the basic differences between the two methods of bulking, which will you choose this Winter?