The Clean Bulk Diet: 3 Options For More Lean Muscle

Brad Borland
Written By: Brad Borland
March 19th, 2014
Updated: March 19th, 2021
Categories: Articles Nutrition
727.7K Reads
The Clean Bulk Diet: 3 Options For More Lean Muscle
Build lean muscle mass without packing on unwanted body fat. This article presents three sample lean bulk diet eating plan options that can help you reach your goals.

Brad Borland is a strength & conditioning specialist, cancer survivor and the founder of WorkoutLab.

Back in the 90s the goal of every wide-eyed future bodybuilder was to bulk up no matter what. Obviously from the looks of things back then no one was concerned with staying lean throughout this perpetual bulking period. What resulted was a lot of big, burly and somewhat fatty guys wearing oversized, baggy pants and shirts never to be seen poolside.

Boy, have times changed! The goal today is still to build muscle and reshape our bodies, but now we want to be lean, shredded, ripped and generally in good shape athletically as well. We want to be able to take our shirts off at the pool and beach, we want to possess a muscular body and most of all we want to be comfortable in our own skin.

Another trend regarding searching for a diet is the school of thought seems to be split into two camps. One is to get completely shredded as possible while sacrificing some of that hard-earned muscle of yours and the other is to bulk up while putting on a little fat which tends to blur your efforts.

Cooking For A Lean Muscle Bulk Diet

Well, it doesn’t have to be this way. You can build lean muscle without packing on the unwanted pounds. All it takes is a disciplined adherence to your training and diet plan and proper rest and recovery. All of these factors will work synergistically with each other to produce your ideal result – a leaner, more muscular physique.

Below are three options for lean bulking eating plans. All are designed to build lean muscle tissue without blurring your muscular lines. They contain just the right amount of proteins, carbs and healthy fats to keep the gains coming without any extra baggage. This is, of course, also presuming that you are already committed to a sound body building-style training program, one that is intense and doesn’t include an extreme amount of endurance exercise.

A few points to consider:

  • These are only examples and estimations of training day diet plans. Your personal calorie requirements may vary. The meal plans below are based on someone weighing 180 to 200 pounds.
  • Try them out for at least four weeks before adjusting macronutrients.
  • On non-training days you may need to reduce calories slightly. This may be accomplished by simply deleting the post-workout meal.
  • Adjust or change only one aspect of the diet at a time. If you adjust too many variables it is hard to tell which worked and which didn’t.
  • Allow yourself a cheat meal around once per week. If you decide on two cheat meals avoid two days in a row. Either have both cheat meals on the same day or space them out on different nonadjacent days of the week.
  • Be patient. It takes the body a few weeks to adjust and acclimate to its new nutritional environment.

Meal Prep For A Lean Muscle Bulk Diet

Clean Bulk Option 1

  • Meal 1: ¾ cup of oatmeal (dry measure) mixed with either skim milk or water, 3 eggs scrambled
  • Meal 2: 1 scoop of whey protein powder, 1 oz. of almonds
  • Meal 3: 2 slices of whole wheat bread, 2 slices of low-fat cheese, 6 oz. of turkey deli meat, tomato, lettuce, 1 medium banana
  • Meal 4: (pre workout) 1 scoop of whey protein powder, 1 medium apple
  • Meal 5: (post workout) 1 scoop of whey protein powder, 20 oz. of Gatorade
  • Meal 6: 6 oz. tilapia, ½ cup wild rice (dry measure), small side salad with olive oil and vinegar

Clean Bulk Option 2

  • Meal 1: 2 slices of whole wheat toast with 2 tablespoons of natural peanut or almond butter, 1 cup of Greek yogurt
  • Meal 2: 4 to 6 oz. of beef jerky, 1 oz. of walnuts
  • Meal 3: Medium salad with 6 oz. of shredded chicken and ¼ cup of sunflower seeds, 1 medium sweet potato
  • Meal 4: (pre workout) 4 egg whites and 1 whole egg, ½ cup of blueberries
  • Meal 5: (post workout) 1 scoop of whey protein powder, 20 oz. of Gatorade
  • Meal 6: 6 oz. of ground beef, tomato sauce, 2 oz. of whole wheat pasta (dry measure), small side salad

Clean Bulk Option 3

  • Meal 1: 3 medium-sized buckwheat pancakes mixed with 1 scoop of whey protein powder, honey to taste
  • Meal 2: 1 cup of Greek yogurt mixed with 2 oz. of granola
  • Meal 3: 6 oz. of fajita-style steak strips and two wheat tortillas, onions, peppers and olive oil
  • Meal 4: (pre workout) 1 cup of cottage cheese, 1 medium apple
  • Meal 5: (post workout) 1 scoop of whey protein powder, 20 oz. of Gatorade
  • Meal 6: 6 oz. of ground beef made into hamburger, whole wheat bun, low-fat cheese, 2 cups of mixed vegetables and 1 cup of strawberries
Posted on: Mon, 08/14/2023 - 22:34

I'm new to working out, just looking to get more strength and muscle mass, I'm doing 4-5 days a week. But do not have a eating/diet plan. I just take 2 scoops of protein a day. Will I still see gains? Let me know thanks

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sat, 08/26/2023 - 21:44

Gotta eat big to get big, Brandon. This guide will help.

Posted on: Mon, 08/28/2023 - 02:27

Thanks, I appreciate it.

Posted on: Sun, 06/25/2023 - 20:24

These diets look ridiculous. Doesn’t look alike enough macros unless I’m trying to lose weight (which I’m NOT). Spell out the macros in those diets,please.

Posted on: Sun, 06/25/2023 - 13:46

What is a full cup be in grams?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 06/26/2023 - 10:53

1 cup equals 237 grams. Hope this helps.

Posted on: Thu, 03/11/2021 - 12:25

I’m new trying to find a meal plan for me how much to cook eat but every where I look it’s for 180 and up my Weight is 170 can som one help me

Posted on: Sun, 11/22/2020 - 14:48

Can women use this plan too? I know my required daily calories. I just want some more meal options.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 11/23/2020 - 10:04

Hey Jewelz - yes you can use this plan

Posted on: Tue, 11/10/2020 - 17:48

Does anybody know how many calories is in option one

Posted on: Tue, 11/10/2020 - 01:42

How much should I eat if I am 140lb

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 11/10/2020 - 09:19

Hey Trever - use our BMR calculator to determine your daily caloric need:

Then, check out this article for info on calculating your macros:

Posted on: Wed, 11/11/2020 - 02:14

How much cal are in most of these meals

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 11/11/2020 - 09:07

Hey Trever - calorie counts are not given for the above diets. They are to serve as a guide. It's best to use your own caloric needs and adjust the food accordingly.

Posted on: Tue, 08/06/2019 - 08:26

I train at 05.30am 6 days a week due to work and family commitments, I tend to just take pre workout essentially training on an empty stomach which means I am hungry halfway through my training session, any tips for someone training on my schedule

Posted on: Thu, 10/10/2019 - 15:40

Lee, what time do you wake up? You typically want to have time to let your food digest prior to working out.

If you are able to manage getting up at 4:15am then I would probably say a good idea would be to make a bunch of pancakes with protein powder and blueberries (not necessary, but a nice touch for flavor) ahead of time. So say 3 pancakes is a serving, I would do 3 pancakes times the number of days you work out (say you lift 6 days a week, you’d want to make 18 pancakes) and then I would stick them in zip loc bags (one serving per bag) and then toss them in the freezer - maybe leave one bag in the fridge and then when you eat the ones from the fridge, replace them with a set from the freezer so they can thaw a little bit for the next day.

If you aren’t able to get up as early, then perhaps something that digests quickly, like a protein shake would be a decent option, but this also depends on how your body digests these shakes... protein shake + pre-workout (high caffeine content) = trip(s) to the bathroom midway through a workout. Protein isn’t necessarily what is going to fuel your workout, but it can kickstart the recovery process that your body undergoes after training sessions. Protein also tends to have a high satiety, meaning it makes you feel full, so this could prevent you from feeling hungry mid-workout. Let me know if this helps!

Troy Idler
Posted on: Mon, 03/25/2019 - 19:04

Seriously these meals are like half of my meals during a cut phase.
My bulk weight is 255lbs right now. My stage weight is 230/235 so this I probably for a 180lb man.

Posted on: Wed, 08/31/2022 - 15:05

Yea, this is not a "Bulk" diet. I'd bet the majority of people actually on a cut eat more than this. This is not a good representation of a clean bulk by any means.

David Goad
Posted on: Thu, 03/21/2019 - 02:12

Is it ok to substitute meals from each option if we don’t like every meal in any option?

Joey Gonzalez
Posted on: Sat, 01/12/2019 - 16:44

I have trying bulking up and many diets and all I have gain max is 17lbs in a year, and that is consuming 3k calories per day. I am 32 years old and I believe generics have to play a big role an me being a hard gainer. Right now I am 5’11 and 153lbs with 11% body fat. I want drop down to 7% body fat and gain about 15lbs of muscle mass and be able to keep on.

Kiano Frederick
Posted on: Tue, 09/11/2018 - 17:30

What is a proper clean bulk diet for someone weighting 280- 300lbs???

Andrew Sanchez
Posted on: Mon, 02/04/2019 - 18:20

Aim for about 1-1.2 grams protein per pound so ruffly around 290 grams protein, 65-70 gram fat and about 550-600 gram carbs. And after about a week and a half to two weeks drop the card 25 grams and add 12 grams protein and drop your fats to 60-65

Glenn Gentry
Posted on: Wed, 08/15/2018 - 11:21

Would this work for some one who works night say 10pm til 7am? I usually go the gym after work 7:30am.

Alexis Flores
Posted on: Tue, 04/10/2018 - 13:37

Hey Im 5'8 206lbs i dont know if I should start bulking if i am ready who should I start?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 04/10/2018 - 13:57

Hi Alexis,

Give this article a read:

Hope this helps!

Posted on: Sat, 08/13/2016 - 11:04

How much calories are the bulking meal plans

Andrew Sanchez
Posted on: Mon, 02/04/2019 - 18:22

From the looks of the meals and macros of a 180-200 lbs person the calories for these meals should fall around 3200-3500 since a it’s a lean BULK.

Posted on: Wed, 02/10/2016 - 19:15

Hi, im going to Gym between 7 to 9 AM, how would be the order of the meals in these scenario?. Regards.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 02/11/2016 - 11:24

That depends on what you tolerate well in terms of digestion and energy before working out. You may do better with only liquid nutrition (i.e. a pre/intra workout shake) or you may tolerate whole foods. That will depends upon your individual needs and tolerances. The only way to determine those is to experiment.

Posted on: Sat, 02/06/2016 - 08:01

I follow a plan similar to this as I am trying to put on about 5lbs. I am female, 5'7, 126lbs. So I agree, for a male this seems super light on calories. I typically consume around 2600 calories per day. I would also swap out all the "protein shakes" for actual, whole foods. Protein shakes are great and have their place, but to be considered a meal is absurd.

Posted on: Wed, 02/21/2018 - 14:07

Exactly madam I agree. Also Deli meat or beef jerk as a meal over chicken breast ,steak or fish??? Whoever wrote this must not have any muscle at all! Theses meals are a joke!

Noel B.
Posted on: Wed, 01/06/2016 - 01:22

I'm getting back into lifting again and am having a hard time eating enough calories. Since all you guys are saying this isn't enough calories for yall, do you think it would be enough for a smaller girl? (5'6", 130 pounds)

Posted on: Tue, 09/02/2014 - 05:36

This is a really bad article, the amount of calories is to low and the so called bulking option 1 is basically some scoops of protein powder.

Posted on: Wed, 08/13/2014 - 17:25

Calories for a clean bulk is around x16 per ibs. 25 pct from fats. A min of 1g protein per ibs. Calories associated with that. Then rest carbs. Balance the carbs to gradually bulk clean. This is way way too low on calories for a bulk. Its a cuttimg diet. Esp. Given they say its for 180 to 200 ibs male. I need way more than this, and its actually lower end protein intake also even if they whey is 30g. Bad 'bulk' here. On optiom 1 i would cut hard and be in a serious calorie deficit at 180 ibs...

Posted on: Tue, 05/06/2014 - 09:30

i go to the gym at 2pm so can i switch meals 4 and 5 with meal 3? in option 2

Ryan St. Onge
Posted on: Mon, 03/24/2014 - 22:46

If I were to pick any of those options, I would lose weight rapidly. I am cutting right now on 3400 calories and losing more than what I would like per week, so I am upping the calories...

It is pointless to tell people how much of what they should eat during each meal because everyone has a different metabolism. It would be better if you just listed the types of food people should eat and macro percentages. People can weigh their own food and critique their own meal plans until they are perfect. I do and I weigh everything I eat during lean bulks/cutting.

Sonia Lopez
Posted on: Mon, 03/24/2014 - 12:05

Saludos, Soy mujer de 62 anos, quiero musculos en mis brazos. Que hago?

Tim england
Posted on: Thu, 03/20/2014 - 19:17

I noticed that most of the foods I eat are spread between all 3 categories, is it ok to mix and match, and also I work second shift so I usually workout around 730am, the preworkout and postworkout meals are later in the plan is there a better way I can do it to fit my schedule

Hank England
Posted on: Fri, 01/19/2018 - 16:10

Hey how is it going are we related all my family live down south or up north

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Fri, 01/19/2018 - 16:16

We're only a few Englands away from a full house!

Erick Doherty
Posted on: Thu, 03/20/2014 - 17:50

Can you guys post some diet options for loosing weight and toning the mid section.
Thank you if you can

Posted on: Thu, 03/20/2014 - 17:09

Since when is a cup of cottage cheese and an apple a meal?! Or a scoop of whey and some almonds?! Call these what they are... a snack. Do people eat this little bird food and tell everybody they eat 6 meals a day? It's good stuff don't get me wrong, it's good stuff to eat... but don't be callin' it a meal.

Posted on: Thu, 03/20/2014 - 08:38

If my estimates are right these barely reaches 2000 kcal...

Posted on: Wed, 08/13/2014 - 17:27

Yep. Its crazy. Way too low. I would lose serious mass on this. X16 to weight in ibs is a clean bull. They say for 180ins to 200ibs. This will barely reach 2000. Even if the whey protein is laced with lactose

Edward Breault
Posted on: Fri, 02/19/2016 - 07:51

David55...its LBS not ibs or ins..stop confusing people and learn how to type.