Muscle for life

The Ultimate Guide to Bulking Up (Without Just Getting Fat)

The Ultimate Guide to Bulking Up (Without Just Getting Fat)

If you want to know how to build muscle as quickly as possible without piling on body fat, you want to read this article.


On a beautiful late spring afternoon, three years ago, two young men decided they need to build muscle.

They were very much alike, these two young men. Both had normal physiques and average genetics and, as young aspiring Adonises, were filled with ambitious dreams for the future.

Recently, these two men met again in the gym.

They were still very much alike. Both had been consistent with their training and dieting. Both had read the same books and blogs and had tried the same types of workout programs.

But there was a difference. One of the men had gained over 30 pounds of muscle and looked lean and athletic. The other had gained maybe half that and looked soft and flabby.

Have you ever wondered what makes this kind of difference in people’s physiques? It isn’t always genetics or dedication. It isn’t that one person wants success and the other doesn’t.

The difference lies in what each person knows and how he or she makes use of that knowledge.

And in this article, I’m going to share with you everything you need to know to follow in the winner’s footsteps. (And yes, everything in this article applies equally to women!)

Is “Bulking” Really Necessary for Bulking Up?

Bulking is a controversial subject these days.

  • On one hand, it has earned its place in the canon of bodybuilding. “You want big muscles?” A century of meatheads have asked. “Then you’d better have a big appetite.”
  • On the other hand, it has earned its fair share of scathing criticism. “You want to gain a ton of fat and little muscle?” A legion of modern fitness gurus retort. “Then listen to the meatheads.”

Who’s right? Well, unsurprisingly, the truth isn’t so black and white.

Bulking isn’t inherently good or bad. As you’ll see, the basic theory is sound but execution is everything.

“Body recomposition”–gaining muscle and losing fat at the same time–has gained a lot from the debate and is the “go-to” marketing button to sell all kinds of PDFs, pills, and powders.

That isn’t black and white, either. If you’re new to weightlifting, then yes, you can likely do it. If you’re not, then no, you probably can’t.

The truth is this:

If you want to gain muscle as quickly as possible, you have to be willing to gain some fat too.

And to be specific, the goal when bulking up is gaining muscle and fat at about an equal rate. Some people will gain a bit more fat than muscle and some lucky bastards will have it the other way around.

Why? It starts with this:

Your body’s ability to build muscle is strongly affected by how much food you eat.

Eating enough protein isn’t enough. If you want to build muscle as quickly as possible, you need to eat enough calories as well. If you undereat, your body simply won’t be able to build much muscle.

You see, you feed your body so much energy every day and it burns so much through activity. The relationship between these quantities is known as energy balance.

If you feed your body less energy than it burns, you’ve created a “negative energy balance” or “calorie deficit.” This is necessary for losing fat.

A calorie deficit has downsides, however.

That is, your body just can’t add to muscle tissue efficiently when in a calorie deficit.

This double-whammy of reduced testosterone and increased cortisol levels further blunt your body’s ability to build muscle.

  • It reduces workout performance.

I don’t need to cite research here because anyone that has restricted calories for fat loss quickly learns this.

Newbies can gain strength while in a calorie deficit but most experienced weightlifters are going to experience slight strength loss while dieting. The best they can hope for is maintaining their strength.

This, of course, isn’t conducive to muscle growth.

These are the three reasons why maximizing muscle growth absolutely requires that you ensure you’re not in a calorie deficit. And the most reliable way to do that is to slightly overshoot your body’s energy needs and place it in what’s known as a “calorie surplus.”

This is why it’s often say you have to eat big to get big.

When you’re looking to bulk up, a calorie surplus is essential regardless of dietary protocol.

No matter what you do with your macronutrients or eating schedule, you simply can’t get around the need for a positive energy balance.

How Big Do You Have to Eat to Get Big?

This is where many bulking programs get screwy. They prescribe sky-high calorie intakes, which is ultimately counterproductive.

Here’s the good news: bulking doesn’t require eating nearly as much as you might think.

Where most bulking advice misses the boat is the simple fact that a slight calorie surplus is equally effective for muscle-building purposes as a large one.

That is, if you eat on average 10% more calories than your body burns, that’s equally anabolic as eating 20 or 30% more.

The big difference between those approaches though is how much fat you’ll gain.

  • If you maintain a 10% calorie surplus, you’ll slowly gain small amounts of fat over the course of months.
  • If you maintain a 30% surplus, however, you’ll quickly gain large amounts of fat without gaining any additional muscle.

This causes bigger problems than just ruining your “aesthetics.” Namely, it further accelerates fat storage and slows down muscle growth.

You see, as body fat levels rise…

Insulin is a hormone that shuttles nutrients into cells.

As the body becomes resistant to its signals, however, its ability to burn fat decreases, the likelihood of weight gain increases, and protein synthesis is suppressed.

The bottom line is the better your body responds to insulin’s signals, the better it can do many things, including building muscle and resisting fat gain.

The downsides here are clear: testosterone is a primary hormonal driver of muscle growth and high levels of estrogen promotes fat storage.

As you can see, excessive fat storage while bulking is a triple-whammy of fail: it hinders muscle growth, accelerates fat storage, and makes undoing the weight gain even harder.

This “dirty” style of bulking casts a long dark shadow over the indisputable truth that a calorie surplus is necessary for optimizing muscle growth.

Here’s how you do it right:

1. Maintain a moderate calorie surplus of 5 to 10% when bulking.

This should allow you to gain 0.5 to 1 pound per week, which is your goal if you’re a man. Women should shoot for half.

If you’re not sure how to determine your calorie intake, click here.

2. Don’t screw it all up with massive cheat meals or days.

One of the biggest mistakes I see people make while bulking is egregious overeating.

A couple days of gorging per week while bulking is enough to cause you to gain fat at double or even triple the normal rate.

Don’t do this. Learn how to “cheat” intelligently instead.

3. If you’re a guy and you’re over 15% body fat, reduce this to about 10% before bulking. If you’re a girl and over 25% body fat, diet down to ~20% before bulking.

This is ideal for several reasons: it preserves insulin sensitivity and hormonal balance, it allows you to maintain a calorie surplus for many months before having to reduce body fat levels, and it saves you from long, grueling cuts.

4. Once you reach 15 to 17% (men) or 25 to 27% (women) body fat, stop bulking and start reducing body fat levels.

Don’t “slow cut,” either. Do everything you can to safely and healthily lose fat as quickly as possible.

5. Juggle your bulks and cuts like this until you’ve gained the size you want.

If you’re like most people, you’ll eventually reach a point where you’re happy with your overall muscle size and development.

The name of the game then becomes getting and staying lean while still training hard and progressing in your lifts and addressing weak points in your physique.

Calorie cycling is great for this.

What to Do When You’re Not Gaining Weight

I mentioned earlier that you want to gain 0.5 to 1 pound per week (0.25 to 0.5 for women) when bulking.

What should you do when you’re gaining less or no weight whatsoever?

Well, assuming you’re following an effective workout program and you’re doing enough to adequately recover from your training, the solution is simple: eat more.

I’ve yet to piece together a holistic scientific explanation for why this is, but my experience working with thousands of people has verified it hundreds of times over.

If you’re gaining strength but not weight (and thus muscle), you’re not eating enough. It’s that simple.

By increasing your calorie intake you’ll eventually bring it into the range that is your body’s “sweet spot” for muscle growth.

Now, I don’t recommend you increase intake willy-nilly. Here’s how you do it right.

1. Keep your protein at 1 gram per pound of body weight.

There’s no need to eat more than this.

2. Increase your daily calorie intake by 100 to 150 calories by increasing carbohydrate intake.

That is, add 25 to 35 grams of carbs to your daily intake.

3. If, after 7 to 10 days, your weight is still the same, repeat #2.

Increase daily carb intake repeatedly until you’re gaining weight at the desired rate.

It’s really that simple.

I should note, however, that some people (guys usually) need to eat downright gluttonous amounts of food to gain weight steadily. I’m talking 160-pound guys having to eat 4,000+ calories per day just to gain 0.5 pounds per week (“hardgainers“).

In this case it’s not exactly feasible to reach their necessary calorie levels by increasing carbohydrate intake alone. In such cases I recommend capping carbs at about 3 grams per pound and, if more calories are needed, start increasing fat intake instead.

Train and Recover Big to Get Big

I know I’ve already given you a lot of information to process but I’d be remiss to not talk about training and recovery as well.

The reality is a perfect bulking diet is basically useless if you’re not also training correctly and giving your body what it needs to recover.

I’ll try to keep this section short and sweet though.

1. Emphasize heavy compound weightlifting in your workouts.

This is the foundation of muscle building for natural weightlifters.

2. Push yourself hard in your training but don’t overtrain.

High-frequency workout programs are really popular these days but you have to be careful with this approach.

Your muscles can only take so much of a beating every week before your body falls behind in its ability to repair the damage caused by training.

Training frequency alone doesn’t determine much in the way of gains. That is, just because you train a muscle group once, twice, or thrice per week doesn’t guarantee you’ll make progress.

Total weekly volume (number of reps performed) and intensity (load in terms of percentage of 1RM) are more important. Get these right and you’ll be in the money.

Training frequency is best viewed as a tool to hit optimal amounts of weekly volume and intensity. And there are many ways to skin, or split, that cat.

Learn more about determining the right volume, intensity, and frequency for you here.

3. Do everything you can to help your body rest and recover.

Get plenty of sleep, eat plenty of carbs, and take supplements like creatine and carnitine, and you’ll ensure your body builds as much muscle as possible.

Learn more about muscle recovery and muscle growth here.

Building Muscle Takes Longer Than You Think

The right expectations are just as important as everything else discussed so far.

If you’re clinging to an unrealistic goal for muscle growth you’re setting yourself up for disappointment and failure.

Know this: if you want to dramatically change your physique, it’s going to take more time than you probably think.

Forget the hyperbole used to sell you supplements, magazines, and workout programs. You can’t transform your body in a month or two and you can’t pack on 50+ pounds of muscle in a year.

Here’s what you can do, though, with consistent, dedicated and proper training and dieting:

  • Men can gain 15 to 25 pounds of muscle in their first year of weightlifting. Women can gain about half of that.
  • Men can gain 8 to 13 pounds of muscle in year two. Women can gain about half.
  • Men can gain 5 to 6 pounds of muscle in year three and 2 to 3 pounds per year each successive year. Women’s numbers are again halved.

If you’d like to learn more about the science and reasoning behind those guidelines, check out this article.

If you’re new to weightlifting and want to go from a normal physique to a muscular, fit one, you can assume you’ll need to gain anywhere from 30 to 50 pounds of muscle as a man and about half that as a woman.

As you can see from the numbers above, that takes time. Anywhere from 1 to 3 to 4 years to be specific.

So don’t take up weightlifting as a quick fix. It’s not. It’s a lifestyle.

The Bottom Line on Bulking Up

Now you see why bulking has gotten such a bad rap among certain fitness experts. It’s easy to mess up.

Fortunately, it’s also easy to do right, and you now know what that takes:

  • Maintain a slight calorie surplus.
  • Don’t blow your diet with cheating.
  • Don’t allow your body fat percentage to get too high.
  • Emphasize heavy compound weightlifting.
  • Train hard but don’t overtrain.
  • Use sleep, diet, and supplements to optimize muscle recovery.
  • Set realistic goals and stay patient.

Do those things and you’ll never struggle with gaining size again.


What’s your take on bulking up? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

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  • Martin

    Great content as always Mike!

    You mentioned taking creatine in this article. I always take creatine but recently I came across this: ”Creatine Linked to Testicular Cancer” http://www.webmd.com/cancer/news/20150416/muscle-building-supplements-cancer

    Of course there need to be more studies and so forth, but whats your take on reading that?

  • Renier

    This article just came at the right moment, Thank you Mike!

  • MsJadensDad .

    Hey Mike,

    I’ve been following your plan(s), blogs, and podcasts for a couple of years now, and I think this is the first time I’ve seen you prescribe something for those of us who are getting stronger, but only slightly bigger–do you think it’s as simple as more food? For instance, over the last 18 months or so, my 1RM in deadlift has gone from about 325 to 475, incline from 175 to 225 (the other big lifts have gone up too, just not quite as much thanks to my extra long limbs), but I’m not a whole lot bigger than when I started. I’m 5’11” and 180 lbs after my most recent bulk that I started 4+ months ago (put on 10 lbs) and am eating around 3100-3300 calories, increasing as I plateau. I definitely started putting on fat (and strength) after a couple months of reverse dieting, but based on what I’m seeing in the mirror, not much beyond the fat….just eat more?

    • Thanks so much! Yeah that was actually the impetus to write this article. I was surprised I hadn’t written about that yet.

      Wow those are impressive gains. Great job. Honestly 4 months and +10 pounds is solid. I like that. You won’t see anything BUT the fat in the mirror haha. We’re wired like that.

      I wouldn’t eat more. I like the rate of about 0.5 to 0.75 pounds gained per week…

  • Hanson Wong

    Hey Mike! Why do you recommend a cheat meal or two for individuals who are bulking? My initial understanding is that for someone who is cutting, cheat meals serve mainly to restore leptin levels and a functioning metabolism since leptin levels are lowered in a caloric deficit. But for those in a caloric surplus, what purpose does the cheat meal serve besides a psychological boost? Research citations would be awesome.

  • Marko

    This article was amazing….it came 4 months to late for me though…tried to bulk up and only gained like 2 pounds 🙁 I think the reason was (as sooo often): I wasn’t eating enough and I might have done too much cardio…I do Thai Boxing 2 times a week and I run on Sundays which I can not stop, because it’s too much fun 🙂 … I tried to use your article to calculate and used the activity level of 1,35 (4-6 hours of working out time) and I ended up adding 350 kcal as my surplus (I started with 100 which was way too less) … Can you recommend a suggested surplus for a cardio activity like mine?

    Greetings from Germany and Thanky You so much for your content.

  • Don

    If you have trained properly over your first year but spent half of that in a cut only gaining 10 lbs of muscle, how does your year two projection change? Still half or potentially matched or surpassed?

    • Good question. I’m actually not totally sure. Haven’t worked with anyone under those circumstances for 2+ years.

  • Carlos Enrique Hernandez

    Excellent article! “Round” ( it means: complete, exhaustive, thorough, but at the same time, precise and concise) in the rough topic of bulking up. One of The best I have read. Congratulations Mike. Love also the links who lead us to accurate and useful scientific information

  • Scott

    Hey Mike, just curious as to how often you check your body weight and your body fat %? Is it daily, weekly? Cheers, another awesome article 🙂

  • DK

    “The difference lies in what each person knows and how he or she makes use of that knowledge”

    Boy have I had to learn this the hard way!!!

    You’re a legend Mike. Keep churning the articles.


  • Mark

    So after you cut down to 10% body fat and you want to start gaining more muscle you go on a bulk. Do you need to increase your calories slowly when you start the bulk so as not to gain so much fat all at once? or can you just start with the bulk calories and bulk up like that to 17% body fat? Does it matter..

    • MsJadensDad .

      Hi Mark,

      Mike recommends reverse dieting back up to your full bulking calorie amount rather than jumping right back in to the full amount. Reverse dieting consists of maintaining 1g of protein per lb of body weight and upping your carbs and fat by about 150 calories per week (about 5g fat and 25g carbs). You avoid gaining so much fat so quickly while still harnessing the ability to build both muscle and strength. Personally, I seem to be able to reverse diet for 2-3 months without putting on a appreciable amount of fat. Hope this helps.

      • Steve Crook

        “about 150 calories per week”
        Per day I think 🙂

  • Ryan

    Hey Mike,

    You mention looking to gain 0.5-1 lb/week as a guide for figuring out if you need to increase or decrease intake. What does this value look like for someone in their second or third year of proper training?

    • You should shoot for 5-8 pounds of muscle gained so about double that in weight–10 to 16 pounds or about 1 pound per month, give or take.

  • Thanks! I like your plan. You could do that yeah. I don’t see anything wrong with that.

  • ClubWolf

    Hi Mike,

    This is without a doubt your best article you’ve written to date; thorough, concise and informative.

    I have kind of a random question. I’ve been struggling with my barbell deadlifts for the lower back, they just seem to cause more harm than good, leaving my back sore for weeks. Are deadlifts absolutely necessary for the complete aesthetic of the physique. In other words, if you did everything else right, such as lat pull downs, dumbbell rows, would your back still ‘look good’ despite not doing any deadlifts. Are deadlifts more for strength and performance rather than aesthetic because i’d really like to bin the exercise. Thanks.

    • Wow thanks! 🙂

      Deads aren’t 100% necessary no but they are extremely effective for whole body development.

      It sounds like something is off on your form? Want to send me a video with lighter weights?

      • Andrew

        Hi ClubWolf,
        Just saw your Barbell Deadlift issue – a problem I used to have too. I had lower back soreness, and pulled my hamstrings twice.

        My solution was to switch out the Barbell Deadlift for the HexBar Deadlift. I found the side handles were higher, so I didn’t have to reach down as far and it was much easier for my lower back.

        I stuck with HexBar for about 6 months… Got my lifts up from around 160 pounds (starting tentatively), to 275 pounds. No lower back problems, and good leg, glute and back development.

        In the last few months I have cautiously moved back to the Barbell Deadlift, and with the strength I’ve gained from HexBar I can handle it without lower back trouble now. So I’m back to regular Barbell Deadlift at around 275 with no issues (vs 160 when I had lower back & hamstring trouble).

        Might be a solution for you…
        Best of luck,

        • Andrea

          this was my issue as well. when my hams (flexibility probs) could’t handle going all the way down, I began to mess up my form to get the bar down to the floor. Now I put my bar on something, so its a bit higher and the problem is solved.

  • Tmice826

    Do women need to go thru the bulking process in order to get muscle definition? And for how long, and how often?

  • Szonja Nemeth

    Hi Mike, great article, again 🙂

    I have a question though after reading all your articles concerning TDEE.

    I tried to make a calculation for myself, and for bulking I should eat around 3000 kcals. The number doen’t really matter, as my problem is:

    – if I calculate according to the food labels I get different numbers than calculating according to gramms than multiplying back.


    #1st approach
    if I read the label of my oatmeals, for 100gr it’s like 372 kcal.


    #2nd approach
    If I make my plan based on gramms and than multiply back, it’s not the same:
    13g proteins = 13×4,1 (sum 53 kcal)
    60 gr carbohydrates = 60×4,1 (sum 245 kcal)
    7 gr fats =7×9,2 (sum 65 kcal)

    TOTAL SUM: 363 kcal.

    I know, the differnce between 372 and 364 is only around 10 kcal, but at the end of the day the difference will be around 120-150 kcal, which does make a difference, if you say that we should eat only in a 5% surplus.

    So which is the correct way to calculate?
    From label-calories or from gramms back to calories?
    (i would say from gramms?)


    • Hey hey!

      Just got off food labels when available. No method is actually going to be 100% accurate down to the last calorie but you don’t have to be. You want to be within about 100 cals of your target and you’ll be fine.

  • Mario

    I couldn’t be happier to read something about bulking. I feel that everything is so focused on dieting that they forget about skinny people who don’t want to diet and just add weight. This July will make 2 years since I started your program and I have gained 36 pounds. I don’t know what percentage of it is fat or muscle but it’s enough that people notice I have gained size in a positive matter.

    My question to you is about steroid use. I came across a very fit person and boldly asked him if he ever used steroids. He said he did and it works marvelously ( no surprise there as you have stated in the past). However, he mentioned that if used moderately it can be beneficially and a person can stop and then build from there. What do you think about that as a bulking approach? I’m sure you’ll say it’s no but I would love to hear your reason as to why. Or perhaps it’s way too risky to recommend and a liability for you. What’s your honest “no BS” approach as you put it lol. Thanks.

    Mario | Ortiz

    • Great job on your gains brother. That rocks.

      Steroids are never good for your health and honestly one of the most common complaints I hear from long-term drug users is that they wished they had never started. Once they got a taste they just couldn’t stop because of how much better they looked and felt on drugs. It’s a VERY slippery slope that I’ve never wanted to hazard.

  • Mike

    Another great article big Mike! I’ve been training as instructed (in your book) and strength as well as muscle growth has increased dramatically in only 3 weeks. I’ve tried tons of work outs but this is by far the best. I’m still working on the eating part, it’s about 80% there. I’ll continue to work on it. Thanks for all the info.

    • Thanks Mike! Really glad to hear that. 🙂 Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

  • Stephen Crisp

    What a great article. A nice read while eating my breakfast. All that advice is great & I have learned all that at the beginning of my lifting lifestyle (6 weeks in). I have a long way to go to get down to 10% BF before I can put this into practice but it is nice to have the knowledge ready. Thanks for everything Mike.

    • Thanks! Definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help.

  • MiG

    Hi Mike,

    Thanks for the great books, interesting articles and podcasts which I am constantly following.
    I’ve been following your program for 6 months. I am 192 cm and 85 kg (started your program at 79 kg) and a hard gainer. My fat is constantly arround 15%. Now, after reading this article I am in doubt if I should start cutting now, to get at 10% fat, even if I am still skinny? My initial plan was to get another 10-15 kg and only then to start cutting. What would you recommend? Thanks again for all the great info that you are giving us.

  • Richard N

    Disaster! I was working of 0.5-1.0 Kg per week! That makes me 5-5.5Kg of fat more than I should be at this stage of my bulk. Arse…. not much else to say except thanks for writing such great books and articles Mike. All I have to do now is learn how to read 🙁

    • Doh! Well you can always cut for a few weeks if you want to reduce some of that fat and then get back on the bulk.

      • Richard N

        If I did cut for a month/five weeks say to drop 4Kg, is it better to still reverse diet out of it or is that only necessary to do if one had been cutting for a number of months? The reverse dieting takes time and obvious delays getting back to the important bit of bulking…..

        • You won’t drop 4 kg in 4 weeks but 2ish is doable. You could reverse diet quicker–make 200ish jumps instead of 100. Only a couple weeks to get back to TDEE.

  • My pleasure! I’d say you’ve probably built muscle if you’ve gained that much strength!

    It was a ton of fun, thanks. Lenox loved it. 🙂

  • Cory

    If you are following a clean bulk (Custom Meal Plan) and you go off your diet and gain a little too much fat. Do you do a cut for a week or just go back to your custom meal bulk plan? I have been on track most of the time, but can see diet slipping since I am more relaxed when bulking than Cutting.

    • Yeah you can do that. You just don’t want to make it a habit.

  • Nes

    Hi Mike,
    Thanks a lot for your books/website/podcasts and all, it’s great !
    Just wanted some precisions about calories intake when bulking/cutting….
    BULKING : If i check bulking phase calories in your book : 1g P, 2g C and 1/3 g F which for me , 194lb means 2910kcal a day.

    If i take your advice in this article, i get 10% TDEE. I get a BMR of 1834 with Katch McArdle and 1824 with mifflin St Jeor so quite close and apply a multiplier of 1.35 which is basically 45mins gym sessions x 5. This get me to 2460kcal.

    This makes a huge difference ! 450kcal a day ! even if i use a higher multiplier, x1.5 this would still be short close to 200kcals…

    CUTTING : cutting is closer with both methods and seems to be around 2000kcals, does it sound right ?
    Thanks a lot,


    • Thanks Nes!

      I would go with TDEE + 10% as that’s likely going to be most accurate.

      Yup 2k cals sounds about right for cutting.

  • Pingback: How to Know Exactly How Many Carbs You Should Eat | Muscle For Life()

  • Poe

    Hi mike,
    I wonder how much fat will come with those lean muscle gains? Say if first year lifters can gain 15-25pounds, how many pounds of fat will come with those gains? And also for the 2nd and later on years.
    And should second year lifters lower the 10% surplus since they can’t gain as much lean mass as in 1st year or still maintain 10%?

    • Really depends on your genetics and dietary compliance. If you can gain 1 pound of muscle for every 0.5 to 1 pound of fat, you’re doing well.

      10% surplus is good for everyone looking to clean bulk.

  • Azouri

    Hey mike great article! I was wondering should you eat your surplus calories everyday when ur bulking or only on your training days, and then on off days you eat at your maintenance calories(tdee)?

    • Thanks!

      If you’re training 5 x per week I’d recommend being a slight surplus every day because your body has a lot of recovery to do. If you’re training 3 x per week you could be in surplus for 5 days and TDEE for 2.

  • Don’t you think a statement such as “bulking can be done right, but unfortunately, it is also nearly impossible to do it right without gaining at least some fat in the process if you are natural” 😀 Because i know i sure have fallen into the idea of bulking and trying to stay really lean in the process.. didn’t move forward much at all because of stopping the bulk and cutting for a week etc and that repeating the process 🙂

    • Yeah I’m not a fan of “mini-bulks” and “mini-cuts.” It just doesn’t work well over the long term.

  • Anthony

    When you’re bulking, do you expect to have to eat so much that you feel bloated and almost sick, cramming yourself with food all the time?

    I’ve been trying to follow the MFL advice for ~1.5 years now. I went from 150->180 before by eating constantly, and it felt awful eating. I gained almost all fat from it, and I think it was just small jumps each weekend when I didn’t lift.

    I’m 150lbs, ~13% fat right now. I’m eat 3900 calories a day and still not gaining anything. I started at 1700 cals/day at 146lbs, and I think the minor difference is water retention, a little fat, and maybe a tiny amount of muscle.

    I’m already drinking milk and a lot of OJ daily, in addition to a lot of food.

    I see other people gain almost effortlessly, and it really makes me question all my efforts for years now when others can eat whatever they want (far, far less), not track any workouts and just do whatever they think of, and then still gain a massive amount. I track all my food, make everything myself, never unintentionally miss a work out and still nothing.

    • …kind of. 😉

      It sounds like you may be eating too much fiber. Check this out:


      Good on the caloric beverages.

      Trust me I understand where you’re coming from. I too have to eat upwards of 4,000 calories per day to reliably gain weight. We have it easy though. I’ve worked with quite a few guys that don’t start gaining weight steadily until intake is pushing 5,000 calories per day. They joke about wishing they could “damage” their metabolisms hahaha.

      • Anthony

        I roughly estimated that I’m getting around 60g fiber a day at 4k cals, which doesn’t sound too off from the 14g/1k cals your article suggests.

        Do you recommend eating more high glycemic foods and replacing out some whole grains? I’ve been thinking about just trying to up calories through ice cream or something like that, but I’m hesitant to eat so much sugar.

        • That’s a lot of fiber. Most people don’t need more than 30 to 40 grams. Let’s reduce that and see how you feel.

          Yeah exactly on the refined. You’re getting a ton of nutrients already so you can “afford” to make those switches.

          • Anthony

            I’ve tried this out since posting. Swapped out some oatmeal, whole grain bread, and potatoes for ice cream, cornbead, white bread, and fried rice.

            My waist is at least an inch smaller, but I feel as or more sick now. I definitely can’t keep this up. I’m having to take breaks while lifting because of the stomach pain, and it’s hard to force down more food when you’re already in pain.

            I’m not convinced I can eat enough to gain weight. I’ve run into this same problem for years trying to swap my diets around with no success.

          • Yikes that’s no good. What about bringing back the more nutritious foods and using weight gainer shakes or caloric beverages like milk and juice?

          • Anthony

            I’m not sure how that would be different, just more expensive? I already had shakes with a ton of calories, but I could dump a cup of sugar in them like most of the weight gainers, I guess. That sounds hard to digest too.

            I don’t think I can sustain drinking any cow milk, and almond milk is really low in calories.

            Seems like there’s just not enough known biology to explain why I can’t eat enough and why I have to eat so much. Maybe I just need to accept that I’m screwed up genetically and stop wasting so much time in the gym and eating.

          • Have you tried rice milk? Fruit juices?

            You’re not screwed up genetically. You just have a quick metabolism and are probably a high-burning type (a lot of spontaneous activity, higher amounts of brown fat than average person, etc.).

            I’ve worked with quite a few “hardgainers” and they just slowly but surely learn the calorie-dense types of foods they enjoy enough to eat regularly. And they just build up more of an appetite over time as well.

  • Mark Dinsdale

    Oh one more thing, how does bench dips fit into bls? Do you do a 10,10,4,1 warm up and decrease the time to do a rep? I have some weights to put on my lap to increase resistance but I was unsure of your take, thanks

    • I normally recommend regular dips rather than bench dips because it’s easier to go heavy on regular dips for 4-6 reps. If you have a way of making the bench dips heavy enough for you to do 4-6 reps then that works!

  • Hey hey! Great job on the results you got from you’re cut. You killed it!!

    Cool you’re bulking now to put on some muscle. 🙂

    During your rest week, I’d drop to maintenance cals. To set up your cals this, check this out:


    LMK what you think!

  • Andrea

    Now, If I just want to stay at 20% bf, I mean, that’s my end goal, but I want to support my muscle training, not sure if it would be called muscle building, would i then, once I get to 20% (I’m like 24%) would I go back to maintenance, and that will allow me to stay there and support my muscle training, or do I bulk??? I don’t get it, cuz you say to keep bulking until you get to 25%BF (women) and then go back to cutting, so what’s the point?? I know it’s not good to go up and down!

    • I recommend clean bulking for anyone trying to put on a lot of muscle.

      If you’re happy with where you are and really just want to stay lean and build muscle, I’d recommend eating at maintenance cals.

      You can also try calorie cycling. Check this out:


      LMK what you think!

  • Chin

    I used to lift weights a couple years ago but stopped. I retain a fair bit of my old strength but have lost a lot of muscle and gained some fat. I started again recently, trying to cut to 8% body fat, and bulk after that. Would I gain muscle as fast as a total beginner would?

    • Yes you would! Possible even faster. Check this out:


      • Chin

        Thank you Mike!

      • Chin

        Hey Mike. I’m still trying to cut fat and progress was pretty steady. Last week I stopped strength training for a while as I was down with the flu. I started again today but I realize I seem a lot smaller than I was. My clothes that were fitting last week were quite loose. This is strange as, on top of not training, I was also eating a bit more than usual. I was probably still at a smaller deficit though. I suspect I have lost some muscle. It’s strange that so much can change in less than a week and I’m worried.

        • That’s normal after sometime off. It’s not muscle loss. It’s water retention and glycogen. It’ll return when you hit the weights again.

  • Joel

    Hi Mike—I’ve been working out for about 4 years (I’m 29) always with a sort of hybrid strength/bodybuilding routine, mixing heavy low-volume compounds and some moderate-rep accessory work.

    Every year I bulk until I feel fat, gaining about 15-20 pounds (to ~165-170, 16-17% bf at 5’10”) and then cut to the point of having abs (~150, 11-12% bf, but I never quite get as lean as I want because at the end of cutting l start to look scrawny instead of lean and muscular and my lifts go down). My problem is it seems like I’m really only making small body composition gains every year and keeping small strength gains.

    It feels like I’m missing something, like other people transform their bodies in 2 years while I’m just putzing around, stuck in this weight range. How do I get off this yoyo of incremental progress? Am I just too old?

  • Xuan

    Hey Mike,

    I am a little confused. I am 126 lb at 8% fat. So I calculated my TDEE to be around 2056 calories per day since I multiplied my BMR by 1.35. I went on to calculate the number of calories for bulking using the 1 g protein per lb, 2 g of carb per lb, and 0.4 g fat per lb suggestions and got around 1966 calories. But then according to the article, I need 10% surplus; I know the 1966 is a starting point, but if that’s not even a surplus to my TDEE to start with, then the numbers don’t quite line up/make sense for bulking. Did I do something wrong? What should I do? Thanks!

    • Hmm. Yeah, you should be eating above TDEE for sure. Use this to set up your macros and cals:


      LMK how it goes.

      • Xuan

        Thanks for the reply, Mike! I will follow the advice given on the link! You’re awesome!

        Just curious, but if that article is preferred, why is the 1 g protein per lb, 2 g of carb per lb, and 0.4 g fat per lb recommendation also provided?

        • Great! LMK how it goes.

          Just for a simple starting point.

          • Xuan

            Gotcha! So is there a reason why that starting point wasn’t above my TDEE? Is it normally supposed to be? Or am I just weird? Haha!

          • If someone has a fair amount of muscle and is lean it can be a little low that’s all.

  • Azouri

    Hey mike great article on bulking especially the clean way! I was wondering should I eat the same calorie surplus even on my rest days? Second I have a part time job so should I use the 1.5 activity multiplier I workout for 5 hours a week in the gym and then I also work during te week?

    • Yep, keep the cals up even on rest days.

      What are you doing for your part-time work? Unless it’s a very physically demanding job and you do a good chunk of hours, you don’t need to use the 1.5 multiplier.

      You should be gaining .5-1 pound a week. So, adjust as necessary to get those results.

      • Azouri

        I’m a server in a restaurant so I’m kind of brisk walking for about 25-30 hours per week, also carrying stuff.

  • Alex Wunder

    If I get down to 7 percent body fat at the end of my cut, reverse diet back up to maintenance and then go directly into a bulk..

    ..will I be able to bulk for twenty weeks straight without having to cut down?

    Will I gain .5 lb muscle and .5 lb fat a week if I am doing it correctly and have the lucky genetics to get the 1:1 ratio?

    My goal is to gain about 10 lb total in muscle mass before having to cut down again and because I will be starting off so low in bf% I feel as if it will be more attainable. What do you think?

    • Alex Wunder

      I realize now that with a 10-15 percent surplus I will be gaining less than a pound of muscle/fat per week no matter how I calculate it so I realize 10 lbs of muscle gain will not be possible in twenty weeks.

      I also forgot to consider at least one deload week, if not more. I probably am getting a little ahead of myself here with my future calculations.

      • 10 pounds in 20 weeks would be maximum newbie gains so yeah.

        Don’t spend too much time in calculation land. Have a general range that’s sensible/acceptable and just work hard.

    • Yeah I think that’s a good overall goal. Very doable. I’ve done it.

      In the end you’ll have to just do it and see what happens.

  • Robbie

    Hey man, great article – i was wondering if you had any suggestions for people who have a hard time eating a lot of food (i get nauseous easily) right now i should be getting 130 grams of protein, 388 grams of carbs, and 58 grams of fat. I’m taking a weight gainer that gives me 60 grams of protein, 156 grams of carbs, and 7 grams of fat. Just having a hard time getting all my calories each day without feeling sick. Ha thanks a lot!

    • I’m not a fan of weight gainers because they’re just full of junk calories (mainly carbs). I much prefer eating real food, and just stick to calorie-dense foods like…

      Red meat

      Grains like brown rice and quinoa

      Oils like coconut oil and olive oil


      Whole-fat dairy

      Multi-grain pasta and bread

      Almonds and almond butter


      White and sweet potatoes

      If you focus on these types of foods in your meal planning, you should have no trouble reaching your daily caloric needs.

      • Robbie

        Cool i’ll give it a try! Thanks so much

  • Dustin Parker


    If I am about 220LBS, 6’3, 25%BF, should I just not bulk at all, and just cut down to below 15%BF first? I

  • OKD

    If I had just recently finished cutting to around 8-10% body fat, but I wanted to bulk up again to gain more size would I have to gradually increase my calories to my TDEE before I could then start bulking? as I know this will increase my metabolism and stop extra fat gain if I started eating excessive amounts of food. Or would I just stop cutting and go straight onto a bulk with no slow increase to my TDEE?

  • Austin

    Hey Mike for a while I was is lifting purgatory I would be in an aggressive deficit of about 700-800 cal a day and then I would eat it all back on the weekends. I finally got down to around 10% I think (I’m 5’10 with a 30.25 inch waist but I only weight like 148 so I don’t have the muscle to look particularly lean). Anyway I have been eating at maintenance/slightly over for about 2 and a half weeks and even though I am getting 700-1000 cal more a day then I was my strength isn’t going up, why would that be? I seem to have gained a little bit of fat but that’s it?

    Also what do you think is a better lean bulk strategy: 200-300 cal surplus every day.
    Or 500-700 cal surlus on my 3 lifting days and then maintenance on the other 4 days


    • Yikes well don’t do that again, haha.

      How are you training?

      I would maintain a slight surplus 5 to 7 days per week.

  • OKD

    is it possible that I could bulk on the weekdays and cut on the weekends ? would this be ok for my metabolism ?

  • Austin

    My lifting routine has been Greg O’Gallaghers Aggressive Fat Loss/Warrior Shredding and next week I am moving to his Greek God Program but I am freaking out because an extra 700-1000 cal is not doing anything for my energy or lifts its just added a pound or two of fat to my waist, I think I may have broken science. What do you think it is Mike? Have I broken science?

  • richard

    hi mike,

    when you talk about 0.5 to 1 pound of weight gain each week when properly bulking, are you talking about the muscle gain only or the total gain (muscle+fat)?

    In one of your article you mention that even in best case scenarios, calorie surplus is a 1:1 muscle:fat gain. if we are looking for a 0.5 to 1 pound of muscle gain per week this reflects to 1 to 2 pounds of weight gain on the scale per week right? thank you for your clarification as this is little bit confusing.

    • Good question! You’re looking for .5-1 pound a week of total weight gain.

  • /Raudi

    Hey Mike,

    Quick question.
    I am on a bulk right now, where i first started with a surplus of 10% bringing me to 3000 calories a day. However i did not gain weight in the 0.5-1 pound range, so over a course of around 8 weeks, I am now at around 3500 calories, where I expect to gain around 0.9 pounds a week.
    My question is in regards to a deload week. I feel like I need one, but what should I do with my calorie intake? If i deload with 3x light workouts for a week, should i decrease my calories to TDEE? What do you advice?

    Thx in advance

    • Good on adjusting your cals accordingly.

      That’s within the range of weight gain we want per week so let’s keep it there.

      During the deload week, keep the intake the same.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

      • /Raudi

        Thanks Mike! 🙂

  • John Iannuzzi

    Hey Mike,

    I’m currently at a cross roads with my fitness plans…

    I have for 4-5 months followed your nutrition and workout guide to a tee, and have seen great results. I am now around 9-10% body fat, visible six pack and a considerable amount of muscle; except for in my chest. I have seen vast improvements in my chest, but it is just not the size I want it to be yet. My thought is to “bulk” and try and put some size on that way, but I don’t want the rest of my body to become disporportionately big. I’m rather short, 5’9” and I want to maintain a lean look and not look like a big meathead (not to mention maintain the six-pack). My initial thought is to bulk with a 10% calorie surplus, as you recommend, but focus on eating as little fat as possible. The thought being that if I don’t eat fat I can’t gain fat, this of course could be completely incorrect and that is why I am asking for your advice. If it weren’t for my chest I would, in my mind, reached my goal physic so (as crazy as this sounds) I don’t want to put on any more muscle anywhere else. Is this possible? If not, would it be possible for me to trim off some of the gained muscle after I bulk?

    Thanks so much! I really do appreciate everything you’ve done for all of us.

    John I.

    • Hey John!

      Great job on the results. That rocks.

      You can definitely gain fat even if you don’t eat much fat. Your body will just convert glucose into fat.

      Energy balance is everything in the long run. Where restricting fat makes sense is in an individual meal. For example when “cheating” it’s smarter to go high-carb and low-fat than high-carb and high-fat or low-carb and high-fat.

      IMO do this:


      And do a split that has you train upper twice per week and lower once with something really basic like 3 sets deads, 3 sets squats, and 3 sets hammie curls.

      Unorthodox but fitting for you…


  • Paul

    Hey Mike,
    So if body weight stalls during a bulk, adding some carbs is the way to go, but is there a point you would need to readjust protein as well? If its 1g/lb of body weight, and you gain say 10 lbs during a bulk, do we readjust the protein numbers (add 10g of protein), or keep it at the starting numbers?

    • Nope never need more protein unless you just can’t force yourself to eat more carbs or fat…

  • YW! That’s just the way it is. Gain weight any faster, and the fat gain really speeds up.

    Enjoy the bulk. 🙂

    • richard

      Hi mike,
      I used to weightlift several years ago but not the way you advise in your wonderful book(doing the old fashion way) but changed that after getting your book.
      I am currently cutting since 4 weeks now and lost almost 4 pounds so far at 13% body fat trying to reach 10% before starting to bulk(i am 5 feet 10 inches and 143 pounds) .i am seing improvements in my reps number and weights every week even during my cut, does this mean i am gaining muscle, is it the newbie effect? As doing calculation based on my weight and fat% doesnt seem so and not too much changes in the muscle size and look!!! Will that immediately change once i increase calorie intake so that the muscles will fill with glucogen and water?

      • Wow great job! That rocks.

        Yup, that’s right. Recomping is fun. Check this out:


        Sorry but I don’t understand your last question.

        • richard

          it really does specially if i am doing body recompp that is music to my ears.

          my 2nd question:
          my total body weight is decreasing 1 pound every week, but my lean mass isn’t increasing every week “which should be the case if i am in recomp mode since i am gaining strength every week for example:
          w1: 145.8 pound, 15.2% fat–> lean mass 123.5 pound
          w2: 144.8 pound, 14.9% fat–> lean mass 123.2 pound

          w3: 143.2 pound 14.3% fat -> lean mass 122.8 pound

          “values were taken using digital scale on daily basis and did the average for 7 days as you recommend in BLS. Any explanation?
          I was thinking of water retention in fat cells as i am facing whooshess and sudden weight drop every 8-10 days !! this is also another tip i am grateful for from your blogs ….

  • Aikas

    Hello brother,
    There are a lot of people who claim that you should add less and less calories after every one of your bulks as you reach more and more your maximun potential and you don’t need the same amount of surplus as in your first bulk.. Could you be so kind to shed some light on this matter? 🙂

    • Never heard that but don’t agree. 5 to 10% surplus is right for everyone.

  • Austin

    Hey Mike sorry I keep asking questions, everytime I post after I hit send I’m like “crap I should have asked this” anyway I have 2 questions.
    1.While bulking if I take 2 days a week to eat at a deficit what is the highest deficit I could eat at without affecting muscle or strength gains? I hear some people say do like 300 and I have heard others say they do 500-600 without any seeming consequences.

    2. Brad Pilon has said you can use 2 weekly 24 hour fasts when bulking to build muscle and too drop fat, how would that work?


  • Matt Templeton

    Quick question just calculated out my bulking numbers and I’ve been running the moderate 10% you suggest. Having a bit of a hard time seeing the weight come on with the “former fat-boy syndrome” and all but I get that it’s part of the process of being a natural lifter. How often do I need to recalculate my percentages? Also I loved the new strength article and my question is would you suggest a strength training regimen during bulking?

    • Yeah getting fatter can be annoying if you don’t embrace it, haha.

      I’d just take measurements once per week to make sure everything is going in the right direction.

      Y1C is going to be better suited to you if you’re looking to build a “pretty” physique and not just get really strong. BLS is a hybrid between strength training and traditional “hypertrophy” training.

      • Matt Templeton

        Hey mike quick question, have you made any changes to the Y1C from BLS with next newest edition of the book or has the program stayed the same?

  • joseph

    Hi mike,
    just wanted to ask your opinion. i Started my bulk about 2 months ago at arounf 7% body fat and a weight of about 139. Now, 2 months in, im at 10.5% bodyfat, weight is about 151lbs. I have increased my calorie intake by 100kcal just once during the bulk, when my wight stopped increasing. is the fat gain and weight gain too fast…? am i on track to go atleast 5 months on the bulk before i need to start cutting again…? by the way, although i am gaining strength in the gym, it really sucks to see my cuts slowly fade away, specially my abs. you can still see them, but week after week, i feel like they are slowly fading..
    i am taking creatine by the way. does that affect the weight gain?

    • Seems like your bulk is going well! Good call on increasing the cals.

      As long as you’re gaining .5-1 pound a week and getting stronger, you’re doing great.

      The BF increase is part of the game.

      Creatine will have some effect on the weight gain too.

      The next time you cut you’ll look even better with all the muscle you’ve put on from this bulk.

      Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

      • joseph

        Thanks mike,
        Some great advice here. I have a question though. i came across some info on youtube from Athlean-X. i just wanted to get your thoughts on this.
        Apparently it is possible to gain muscle and reduce fat by being in caloric deficit, but in a “nitrogen balance” by having a really high protein intake. it’s apparently a very slow process, but keeps you lean all year round.
        I shy away a bit from the “very slow” part.
        Ive read about your opinion on this on the site. just wanted to get some feedback on this

  • frost11b

    Hi Mike,
    I’ve been in a calorie deficit for the majority of the last 5 years as I’ve gone from 235 lbs to the 145-150 range. I started getting really serious about resistance training about a year ago (mostly body weight) and I have seen great newbie gains in terms of reps but not size. So I want to start bulking soon and lifting heavy weights. My question is about how long each bulking and cutting cycle will take. I’m at 11-12% body fat now and I’m on the fence about getting down to about 10% before I start my bulk. I’m trying to be able to time it so I am at the end of a cut in about 8 months when I go on vacation. Is it possible to estimate when I should get started to achieve this?

  • Reuben Schreiber

    Hey Mike,i Have read almost all your articles,and love the content,I just have a question on calorie surplus for building lean muscle tissue.You say in your articles that being in a calorie surplus optimises protein synthesis,meaning that the calorie surplus is more for hormonal purposes.But doesn’t the creation of new muscle fibers “need” extra energy to be created? I mean new muscle tissie cannot be built with thin air ?..i just want to clear that up 🙂 thx Mike

  • James L Robinson

    Hi Mike, nice article. I began at around 10% body fat five months ago and weighed 150 lbs. I’m now 15.4% body fat and around 175 lbs. Do you think I’ve overbulked? I think I’m still in my beginner gains phase and am still gaining muscle every week so am afraid that if I start cutting I’ll lose a lot of the muscle I’ve put on…I’m naturally skinny and have seen strength and size gains/family and friends have commented on this.

    Should I continue the bulk or start cutting?


  • Brian Basden

    What are your thoughts on sugar, like what’s in Gatorade, in terms of carbohydrate intake for bulking up?
    When I was cutting, I avoided sugar and sweets as much as possible. For bulking, are all carbs considered equal, or are complex carbs and whole grains better than candy and soda? I’m guessing the negatives have to do with glycemic impact, insulin response, blood sugar levels, etc.?

  • Jenny Hudson

    Great post. Look here for very healthy and fast weight loss. http://www.amazingaus.com/whats-the-best-way-to-lose-weight/

  • Reuben Schreiber

    Hey Mike
    So I have successfully leaned out to 7-8% bodyfat(with your help 🙂 and Im really looking and feeling amazing.I have a good amount of muscle and I have 3 years of serious lifting under my belt.My question is…if I want to improve my physique,should I stay at maintance where I am right now,and focus on getting stronger and progressing in my lifts?Or will I get better/faster results eating at a slight surplus ?
    Thx Mike

    • Well done! That’s lean my friend.

      You’ll definitely get results faster in a surplus, but it all depends what you’re trying to do. What are you trying to do the next few months?

      • Reuben Schreiber

        Well i have worked really hard to get to where i am right now,and i dont want to just throw it all in the water because i might gain a little extra muscle if im in a surplus.So My goal is to maintain this level of bodyfat,but still build muscle.What would u suggest Mike ?

  • Aikas

    Hey my idol!
    You’ve said everywhere that our aim when bulking should be to gain 0.225-0.450kg a week. What I’ve been pondering is whether it is better to be in the upper or in the lower end? Should the best bulk continue 4 or 6 weeks? For cutting I know that it’s best to loose 0.450kg a week because nobody wants a long cut 😀

    • As long as you’re in that range, you’re good. A proper bulk would last a few months if starting from the recommended 10-12% BF. Of course, if you’re in the higher end of allowed weight gain, you won’t get to bulk as long.

      • Aikas

        And how many Bulks/Cuts do you believe is the optimal goal for 12 months? : )

  • Daniel Cole

    Hey Mike,
    I’m currently reverse dieting and then I plan on bulking. I have 2 questions about what methods used during cutting should be left behind when bulking though:
    1. Is training fasted helpful when bulking while still remaining in a 10% calorie surplus? (I don’t mind training fasted but I have better workouts when I’m not in a fasted state)
    2. Is cardio necessary anymore, especially for someone like me who isn’t a big eater and will have difficulty getting to my 10% surplus of my tdee? I know I will be forcing food down to reach that haha
    3. Would either of these help me not gain as much fat while gaining the same amount of muscle while bulking?


    • Cool on what you’re doing.

      1. I don’t train fasted when bulking because I want maximal strength.

      2. Yeah I’d keep some cardio in even if just to help keep insulin sensitivity as high as possible.

      3. #2 will.

      Yeah it can be tricky for ya’ll college folk. I’ll make a note. It’s just the obvious stuff though: stay away from certain dishes, stick to the plain “boring” stuff, supplement with protein powder, keep snacks/foods with you, etc.

  • Andrew

    Hey Mike, I just started my bulk a month ago and I’ve been doing IF because I like the energy I get for work but clearly it’s tough eating 3,300 calories in a shorter window than it was eating 2,000 when I was cutting. So I was wondering do you think by doing IF during my clean bulk it will help my insulin sensitivity and convert more carbs to muscle rather than fat? Is that logical to think or regardless of when I eat it’s all about my numbers and nothing else matters? I’m just wondering since that’s what I am doing right now. My numbers are spot on, all the carbs help my workouts and I’m getting stronger every week esp not having to train fasted anymore. Incline bench went from barley 185 x 4-6 to 205 x 6 within the first 3-4 weeks of bulking. Also, any tips for high calorie foods to eat while bulking since I have to fit all that food in a short window?
    Thanks for all your help!

    • Yeah that’s the struggle of IF bulking.

      It could help but if you keep your intake on point and keep some cardio in you should be fine with a traditional bulk.


  • Bobbi Chugg

    Hi Mike, I’m starting my bulk in a couple of weeks by reverse dieting up to my surplus. By the time we get nearer to Christmas I’ll be in my surplus. We’re planning on going for a meal out one evening over the holiday period. This will make it hard to track the macros for that day but at the very least I don’t want to go over my surplus by masses. So on that day, can you suggest what sorts of foods to eat during the day so that I’m not starving hungry during the day but so that I also save the majority of my calories for the meal out so that I’m less likely to exceed my surplus? Thanks!

    • Honestly one meal out won’t matter but personally I would just eat protein leading up to it and “save” all my carbs and fats for that meal.

  • Robbie

    Hey man – when you work out, say you get 5 reps for your first set, 4 for your next set, would you then decrease weight for your third set to ensure that you stay in the 4-6 rep range, or keep the same weight even if it means getting less than 4 reps? Thanks so much

    • That’s up to you really. If you think you’ll be able to get 4 reps again with the same weight, keep it the same. If you prefer or don’t think you’ll be able to get 4 reps with the current weight, drop the weight to stay in the 4-6 rep range.

      Hope this helps! My pleasure!

  • Mendy

    Hi mike awesome content

    I bought the book bigger leaner stronger and just finished reading it. But I don’t understand something which is the rep range.

    In chapter 16 It says to do 9-12 reps
    Then in chapter 18 says “your upper body day consists of 3 sets for chest of 8-10 rep range Arm 4-6 Then at one point says working sets are 8-12 then working sets are heavy 4-6

    Pls clarify for me when what. Lol

    I’m going to do 4 day split


    • Glad you like it!

      Thanks for reading my book and writing! I really appreciate it.

      I recommend 9-12 heavy sets per workout with the focus on the 4-6 rep range.

      Day 3: Upper Body day has 3 sets of incline barbell bench press in the 8-10 rep range for extra chest work. There’s already heavy chest work on Day 1. I just added 3 higher rep sets of chest on Day 4 to help with chest growth. I went higher rep on the extra work to prevent overtraining.

      I also include higher rep work on calves and abs because they seem to respond well to those rep ranges. The rest of the sets will be in the 4-6 rep range.

      Hope that makes sense! LMK.

      • Mendy

        Thanks for the reply Mile!
        I appreciate it😀

        So what ur saying is that I do 9-12 reps with the weights I use for 4-6?

        Just trying to understand.

        • My pleasure!

          No, 9-12 sets with each set being in the 4-6 rep range. The weight used is whatever is heavy enough so you can’t get more than 6 reps but not too heavy so you can’t get 4 reps.

          • Mendy

            Thanks I appreciate! I just didn’t get the the whole rep and sets thing. Got confused. That’s so much for ur help😀

          • Mendy

            I thought I did. If the working sets mean 4-6 reps then y in the 4 day split u say “upper body consists of 3 sets for chest in 8-10 rep range. But when u actually put down all the exercises. It says working sets. Which means 4-6 and not 8-10?? And also says 3 not 9-12 working sets. I hope I’m not a bother I’m just not getting it. I’m trying to prong a workout form for myself.

          • No worries!

            If you look at my earlier comments, you’ll see I mentioned that on the extra incline chest sets on Day 3 and with calves and abs I include higher rep work.

            Unless it states to do higher reps, the standard for working sets is 4-6 reps.

            On the upper body day, it starts with 3 sets of incline chest at 8-10 reps and then continues with the military press, side lateral raise and bent-over rear delt raise all done in the 4-6 rep range and then a calf workout.

            Hope this makes sense! LMK.

          • Mendy

            Got you. Thanks soooo much! Will keep you posted with my progress. 😀

          • Happy to help. 🙂 Sounds good!

  • John Iannuzzi

    Hey Mike,

    I have kinda an odd question that I hope you can shed some light on. I have come to the point in my weightlifting journey where I have achieved my ideal size for all my muscles except my chest :/ My question is, for the next couple weeks if I were to only train my chest every five days would they grow faster because my body doesn’t need to allocate nutrients to other parts of the body to grow? Or are my pecs already receiving maximum nutrients regardless of how many other muscles I break down and require to grow? Hopefully that made sense lol.

    p.s. I am also currently following your bulking plan.

    John I.

    • That’s great.

      Look into the Bulgarian Method. You could do that for your bench pressing and do assistance work to maintain the rest of your body.

      An idea. 🙂

  • Ziad

    What about cardio?

  • Tim

    Hi Mike,

    2 months ago, I began bulking using your bigger leaner stronger guide. Within the first couple of weeks I noticed that I wasn’t gaining a pound a week as your guide says I should, so I increased my carbs again and again until the numbers on the scales began moving. Its taken me 2 months to go from 189 to 193 pounds but the numbers seem to go up and down week by week! There’s no consistency :-(. On average, I’m eating 190-200g protein, 500g carbs and 80-90g fat a day (3500-3600 cals a day) and training 4 days week. My Strength has definitely increased but there’s no great change in my weight or size What can I do?

    Tim of London, UK

    • Cool on what you’ve been doing.

      You want to shoot for 1/2-1 pound gained a week on a bulk. So, 4 LBS in 2 months isn’t bad. Great your strength is going up!

      Regarding the weight going up and down week by week, make sure you’re consistent with your calorie intake. If you have been, you should up the cals again to ensure weight gain each week.

      As long as you’re gaining the 1/2-1 pound a week and getting stronger, you’re doing it right. The size will come!

      • Tim

        Thanks Mike! Would you suggest I increase my fat, carbs or protein calories?

        • Welcome! Let’s increase the carbs by 25g and see how your weight responds after a week.

  • Dillon Gragnano

    I’m about to start my bulk and I follow your BLS program. My question is would it be too aggressive to start out with 500 calories above my TDEE? I ask this because my job is at an after school program with kids where I do a fair amount of running around with kids during work. Thank you!

  • Lee Nagle

    Mike, I just completed Week 5 of The Year One Challenge for Men. I noticed that in BLS you say workouts should not exceed 45 minutes to an hour. However, after the warmup and my fourth or fifth set the hour mark passes. I typically end up spending an hour and a half to two hours (the latter on my upper arms days). My rest never exceed four minutes and my sets seldom if ever exceed one minute. Should I reduce weight to expedite my working sets, or simply stop when the one hour mark is hit?

    • Glad you’re rolling on the 1YC!

      Yup, you should be able to do the workout in about an hour.

      To help save time, this is how your rest times should look: 3-4 minutes on the main compound lifts (squat, deadlift and bench press), 2-3 minutes on all other 4-6 rep exercises, 1-2 minutes on 8-10+ rep exercises and 60 second rest on warm-up sets.

      It’s also important to make sure you’re actually under the bar and lifting the weight right when the rest time is up.

      With that, you should be able to keep the workouts about an hour long.

      I don’t recommend reducing weight or ending the workout when the time is up. You should be able to fit everything in.

      LMK how it goes!

      • Lee Nagle

        This helps! Thanks for the response. I’ve been taking 3-4 mins on “all other 4-6 rep exercises and the 8-10 rep exercises”, so this may be part of my problem.

  • Kal-El

    I’m in the 9th month of BLS. I’m bulking now but I’ve not gained any weight in 3 weeks.
    I weigh 144 pounds. I’m taking 2500 calorie, 340 carbs, 180 protein, 45 fat. My strength is going up but not my weight. I get 7 hours of sleep but of late, I’ve been waking up often at night. My activity has increased in the last month coz I joined college. Should I add more calories and see if that fixes it? What do you think?

    • BC


      Read the “What to do when you’re not gaining weight” section in the article again and you will find your answer. Try to even out your sleep too…I bet eating more will help that as well.

      • Kal-El

        Got it. Thanks 🙂

    • Glad you’re rolling on the program! Good to hear on the strength gains.

      Sounds like you gotta eat more my friend. Let’s add 25g of carbs to your daily intake and see how your weight responds after a week.

      LMK how it goes!

  • Aikas

    Hey Mike <3
    Do you still consider Calorie King and Calorie count the two best sites for food nutrition info? For products without labels, I use the average numbers from both sites.

  • Jordan

    Hi Mike, Thanks for the GREAT article. I was disappointed to read that the amount of muscle I can gain over the years of training decreases. I’ve been training on and off for the past 21 months and I went from 58kg to 70kg-10% BF. Due to the fact that I haven’t maximised Muscle Growth in my first two-years of training does that mean I can still gain all those potential lbs of muscle that I missed out on in the first 21 months over the course of lets say the next 21 months?

    Would really appreciate it if you could reply and clarify this for me.

    • Thanks Jordan.

      Great job on what you’ve done so far and yeah some people are able to make late “newbie gains” when they start training and eating better.

      I experienced that myself.

      • Jordan

        Thanks for the feedback. I look forward to the late ‘Newbie Gains’

  • Ben

    Hey Mike,

    According to Lyle Mcdonald (http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/muscle-gain/whats-my-genetic-muscular-potential.html/), one should aim for 2 lbs of muscle per month for the first year of training, and 1lb of muscle per month for the second year of training – so if my understanding is correct, this means you should aim for a maximum of 0.5lbs gained a week in year 1, and 0.25lbs gained a week in year 2. Any reason why you suggest going higher and aiming for 1lb a week?

    • Yeah those are reasonable expectations. You have to gain some fat too though, which means 0.5 to 1 lb/week depending on your training experience and genetics and so forth.

      • Ben

        So if i’m understanding this correctly…. Theoretically, you can gain 0.5lbs of muscle a week in year but, in a 1:1 fat-muscle ratio, so the total gain you should aim for for year 1 is 1lb a week, half of which is fat, and half of which is muscle. For year 2, this changes to aiming for 0.5 lbs a week, 0.25lbs of which is fat, and the other 0.25lbs is for muscle, and this number keeps going down…

        Am I correct? (Of course, I appreciate that it won’t be quite as accurate as this in the real world)

        • Yup. These are starting points to think with and not set in stone for everyone of course. Part of the game is learning your body and how it responds to various levels of food intake and such.

  • Ben

    Hey Mike,

    What do you think about Cyclical Bulking, such as the method used by Layne Norton where you bulk for 4-6 weeks and then cut for 2 weeks. This method is suggested to keep you lean while still gaining muscle at an efficient rate. While in a 10% surplus over several weeks fat burning hormones like T3, leptin and overall metabolic rate are heightened so when you switch to cutting you lose fat very efficiently (2-3 pounds over a 2 week period) meanwhile staying in a deficit causes favorable physiological adaptations that promote optimal muscle building when you transition into a surplus. The approach is claimed to allow you to gain muscle effeciently while also keeping you lean by stripping off the minimal fat gain. Thus allowing you to stay in a lean range (let’s say fluctuating between 10 and 12%) while still building muscle, so you look good year round and avoid prolonged periods of dieting.

    • I prefer straight bulking because, in my experience personally and working with thousands of people, you seem to get into a “groove” after several weeks in a surplus where you’re able to progress steadily.

      If you then switch to a deficit for 2 to 3 weeks, you can “lose” it.

      Not very scientific, I know, but I’m just speaking from experience. The best results I’ve seen in myself and others are almost always from straight bulking for 4 to 6 months.

      That said, you can try cyclical bulking and see how you do.

      • Ben

        Yeah every 6 weeks you basically stall on your lifts and just maintain your current volume and intensity while you cut for 2 weeks then pick up progressing where you left off. I think psychologically it’s easier to stick to because you don’t have long periods of dieting. I think the most important factor in the grand scheme of things is which one you can stick too long term and be consistent with. 6 weeks bulking, 2 weeks cutting vs 4-6 months bulking, 12 weeks cutting.

        • That’s fair. If you’re stuck on your bulk you might as well give yourself a break on all the food and cut some fat for a couple weeks.

          Again I think this is more a point of personal preference. If you like it and it works for you, there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with it.

  • Howdy Mike,

    I’m just finishing my first cut and am about to start bulking. I have been taking Phoenix and am wondering if you recommend taking it while bulking or only when cutting?


    • Hey hey! Good job on finishing your cut!

      No need to take Phoenix while bulking.

      My pleasure!

  • Trev

    Hi. I’ve been on.my first ever bulk. 8 weeks in and have some gains but waist in pantsbgetting tighter. Want to continue to bulk till Feb but worried I might get to fat. I’m in track with my diet and stick to it 100% recently upped carbs to 50% was thinking if I cut them back to 35 % and add more protein would thihttp://www.muscleforlife.com/bulking-up/s effect my energy levels?

    • Cool you’re bulking! I understand your concern with weight gain.

      If done properly, the weight gain will be slow and with only minor fat gain.

      To calculate your intake for bulking with the ideal macro breakdown, check this out:


      The goal is to gain 1/2-1 pound a week so adjust intake based off results.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Jonny


    so can I, as a beginner, get away with bulking for an entire year… or should I do a 6 month bulk and 2/3 month cut and repeat that, in order to stay in the 10-15% body fat range better?

    • Theoretically, you could as long as you continued gaining strength and weight and stayed under 15-17% BF. It’s unlikely though.

      So, the goal is to bulk until you reach 15-17% BF (whenever that be–usually several months) and then cut to 10-12% BF. You repeat that cycle until you’re happy with your size. Then you cut one more time and maintain.

  • Axel


    I currently weigh 79kg (174 lbs), 186cm tall, and approximately 12-13% BF. If I want to gain more muscle but lose/limit fat, should I be in a calorie surplus? I am just starting now. I calculated my TDEE to be 2529 and with the 10% increase it becomes 2782. Macros: 30% Protein (209g), 50% Carbohydrates (348g), 20% Fat (62g). Do I stick with this calorie surplus or should I follow something like your article about calorie cycling? Also, when talking about calorie deficit, do you start right after you finish bulking?


  • Paulo

    Awesome content, I am 72Kg and 1,78m with around 10% of bodyfat. Unfortunately this body fat is all over my lower abs and lower back. So I decided to go on a bulk to gain more muscle an then finaly cut this BF once I pass 15%BF, do you think this is the right aproach? What book of yours you recomend? Can I buy one of this books if I am from another country (i am from Brazil and don’t have a international credit card).

    And one of the most important questions I’d like to ask you. Do you know any natural product that increase appetite? I realy strugle to eat enough calories to achieve 2000 calories while I need 2700 to maintain my weight, if I star a bulk if so little appetite I’ll probably don’t get close to the number of calories necessary. So do you know any product to increase hunger?

  • Alex Onda

    I’m at about 12% BF and 165lbs. Been bulking for a few weeks but my metabolism is creating quite a challenge! I’m 21 years old and have been eating around 3400-3500 calories per day and am still struggling to gain weight. I’ll see the scale range anywhere from 165-167, so I’ve concluded it’s primarily just water weight that’s fluctuating. As a busy college kid, getting in those calories can be a challenge. I’m just shocked that even at eating this much food, I’m struggling. Any recommendations?

    • Thanks for the info!

      To help track your weight gain, I recommend weighing yourself daily and taking the average weekly.

      To help get the cals you need, I recommend sticking to calorie-dense foods like…

      Red meat

      Grains like brown rice and quinoa

      Oils like coconut oil and olive oil


      Whole-fat dairy

      Multi-grain pasta and bread

      Almonds and almond butter


      White and sweet potatoes

      If you focus on these types of foods in your meal planning, you should have no trouble reaching your daily caloric needs.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

      • Alex Onda

        Thanks Mike! Been loving the BLS program. Especially the abs circuit! Probably the best ab workout I’ve ever done!

        • Welcome Alex! Happy to hear it.

          Thanks for the kind words and support!

  • Chintan Jariwala

    hey mike
    i am on a gaining diet for about 6 months now. Started with 160 lbs with 2800 cal. Currently i m on 3700 cal (500 carbs 100 fat 180 protein approx) with 172lbs
    Problem i m facing is that i m a hard gainer and m out of option on how to increase my cal intake. my goal is to go around 185 lbs before starts cutting.
    Kindly suggest how to go about my diet to reach the goal.
    PS: I m following your Beyond BLS workout program with heavy lifting 5 days a week.

    • Damn! You have a fast metabolism.

      How much are you gaining ATM? The goal is to gain 1/2-1 pound a week.

      To help increase your cal intake, I recommend calorie-dense foods like the ones I listed in the comment below.

      If you focus on those types of foods in your meal planning, you should have no trouble reaching your daily caloric needs.

      Awesome you’re rolling on BBLS. Hope you’re enjoying it!

      Talk soon.

  • sean_noonan

    would you say its neccessary to slowly increase your intake before bulking or is that just when you just finished a cut

    • sean_noonan

      also one more question some times i get really hungry and i usually wait untill 12 because thats technically the next day would you say this is the cut off i was thinking it would work kind of because of like intermittent fasting since you getting all your bulking calories in the same day just at different times. Also thanks so much for the help so far.

    • I only recommend reverse dieting before bulking if you’ve been eating at a deficit for a while. Otherwise, there’s no need. Check this out:


      No worries my friend! Most people have!

      Happy to do it! Talk soon. 🙂

      • sean_noonan

        ok im taking in about 2900 now hopefully that works would you say its ok to vary with the macro ratios like 10 grams up and down some times i try to get as close as possible though thanks for the help

        • YW!

          That much variation is fine. Generally though, you’ll get the best results sticking to your macros. Check this out:


          • sean_noonan

            ok also one more thing im not sure if this is the same question i just asked but would you say a protein surplus on rest days would be ok sometimes since i dont need as much carbs because im not lifting on those days. i figured my body might store less fat that way rather than with carbs or fat so i could have a leaner bulk sorry for all the questions

          • There just isn’t a need to increase your protein intake. Check this out:


            Your daily intake is based off in part by your weekly activity. Your daily intake takes into account the days with little or no activity.

            You may as well enjoy the carbs. 🙂

          • sean_noonan

            ok thanks

          • YW

          • sean_noonan

            last question would you say eas or on has the protein they claim i paid 45 for like 2 pounds not really sure whats true and what isnt there seems to be alot of lies in the fitness industry

          • I wouldn’t trust that company personally.

          • sean_noonan


          • No worries! You want to be gaining 1/2-1 pound a week. So, if you didn’t gain at least 1/2 pound last week, feel free to increase intake.

            Hope this helps! Talk soon!

          • sean_noonan

            yeah it was iffy ill probably increase intake. the highest point it got was the highest point it usually got when fluctuating throughout the week while not bulking

          • sean_noonan

            hey what casein powders would you reccomend im trying to get some so i can hit my protein numbers throughout the day without just chicken

          • You can see the different protein powders I recommend here:


          • sean_noonan


          • sean_noonan

            hey i got a quick question also how would you calculate 80-85 percent of your one rep max would you reccomend to just keep adding weight and experiment until you can only do one rep i feel like im iffy with a few exercizes on wether im lifting enough

          • Nah, you can use a calculator:


            Happy to help! 🙂

          • sean_noonan

            hey i seem to continiously get hungry even though im on a bulk. I try to eat as many slow digesting things a day as i can except for preworkout carbs and pre and post workout whey. my metabolism seems to be putting up a big fight too would you say its best to just keep checking my weight every 7-10 days and adjusting until im gaining weight at a steady pase also is being hungry like this in the proccess normal i havent really been hungry like this before

          • sean_noonan

            maybe increase by 150 at a time instead of 100

          • sean_noonan

            hey would you say the accumeasure caliper is good for checking bodyfat it says im 8 percent but i look like 10-12% not sure if its off

          • sean_noonan

            would you say the accumeasure caliper is accurate because it says im 8-10% but my friend is 10% and he looks alot leaner not sure if i should be bulking. I did it exactly how you did it in that video though.

          • It’s accurate by 1-2% BF and it’s, of course, subject to human error as well.

            Different people hold fat differently. So, you and your friend could be the same BF%, but he “holds” it better.

            Feel free to send me a pic at [email protected], and I’ll let you know what I think.

          • sean_noonan


          • Great! I’ll get back to you soon. 🙂

          • sean_noonan


          • sean_noonan

            wait so if im 14% should i be cutting or should i still be trying to put on muscle

          • Yep, if you’re 14% BF, I recommend cutting until you reach 10-12% BF. Then you can bulk and focus on building muscle.

          • sean_noonan

            also thanks so much for all this help

          • sean_noonan

            hey i find it hard to tell if im gaining weight at the right pace especially if its .5 pounds a week i dont think my weight has gone up the most is .5 pounds would you reccomend like maybe adding 100 or would you think its best to give it another 10 days?

          • sean_noonan

            im probably gonna get one of those things where you can ask questions the meal plan thing sorry for all the questions

  • Jamie Buttons Nicula

    Hey Michael,
    I’m confused on which way to go and which meal plan to purchase at the moment.Either to bulk or cut? I’m a female almost 5’8. 150lbs Bf btw 24-26%. I have a vacation end of April. Is it possible to end up doing both bulking and cutting before than? I’m also concerned to keep and have more booty gains as well.lol.

    • Jamie Buttons Nicula

      Ps I’m not a newbie in the gym either. I’m currently taking a wk break from gym to give muscles a break. I feel like I hit a plateau.

    • Hmm. With the time you have, I recommend you cut to 20% BF and then RD and maintain until your vacation.

      After the vacation, if you have more muscle you’d like to put on, you can bulk.

      Cool on the week break from the gym. To help with the plateau, keep this in mind:


      For the butt just keep up the heavy lifting, keep protein intake high and stick to losing 1-2 pounds a week.

      You may lose some butt size as you get leaner though.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Dominique Chau

    Hi MIke! I have used this site http://rippedbody.jp/how-to-ca… to calculate my macros to lose body fat. I am 6’1 and 197lbs and the calculator told me I needed 197g protein, 69g fat, and 425g carbs which equates to 3110 calories and my TDEE on that site was at 3141. On your site, the calculator showed me that my TDEE was around 2730 and by multipling that by .8, it said that I can only eat 2192 calories per day. Is there a particular reason why there is such a big difference in recommended calories intake between your calculator and rippedbody.jp’s calculator. Thanks and waiting for your reply.

    • That’s way to many cals for fat loss. Most calculators are just very inaccurate.

      Stick to the cals you got from my calculator and see how it goes. The goal is to lose 1-2 pounds a week so adjust intake accordingly. It is important to note that you may lose more than that the first couple weeks due to water and glycogen, but it should level out after that.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Ryan Bonnette

    Unreal article. I’ve been researching for about a year now and everything you’ve said is spot on. One thing that you did not mention that most articles leave out is alcohol consumption. Fitness is my life but I am a college student surrounded by party animals. I try my best to cut back on my drinking but what is your take on it? My name is Ryan by the way.

  • amos

    I’m 115lbs and eating 2700kcal (40F/40C/20P). I’ve eat at this range for 2 weeks and couldn’t gain any weight. I continue eating at this amount for another 2 weeks but i notice my skinfold measurement has increased while there isn’t much change in my weight. What should I do?

  • Christopher Matthews

    After My wife and I had our first child 3 years ago, we gained a lot of “happy weight”. I’d been pretty active before that with running but after the first kid came around I saw some pictures and I knew something needed to change. That was the start for me. After that I’d done a few programs and had a personal trainer and read everything I could on lifting and proper form. I saw some gains but my strength plateued after awhile. My wife first purchased “The Shredded Chef” for new ideas on healthy meals (the mexican meatloaf is my favorite and a weekly staple in our food prep). So for Christmas, my wife got me Beyond Bigger Leaner Stronger and I read the entire book within days, then reread it a few times over, making notes, taking measurements, and taking it all in. I was so impressed with how much science was used to explain everything, so I decided to start my new workout routines based off of the book, going from working out body parts twice a week down to once a week and focusing on heavier weight lifting at lower reps. It’s been just a month so far and my strength is steadily increases, 225 was my brick wall on the bench for the longest time, and today I passed it by, doing 6 reps of 235. Slowly but surely my training seems to be working and I just wanted the oppertunity to thank you for the knowledge and motivation to keep pushing myself further. Thanks Mike!

    • Congrats on the kid! Understood on the weight gain after that.

      Thanks for all the info on everything you did. Glad you were able to make some gains with all the studying and working with the PT.

      Awesome the wife picked up TSC and then got you BBLS. Happy to hear you’re enjoying the meatloaf. 🙂 I

      I’m glad you decided to start following the routine and are already seeing gains!

      My pleasure for everything. Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

      • Christopher Matthews

        Thanks! Yeah I will keep you up to date on my progress. This is a lifetime activity to stay active and healthy. I’ve been very lucky to have a wife who is on the same page with training as me. It was nice having a PT last year but our finances took a hit and I had to cancel my gym membership, so I saved up what I could and made my own gym at our house in the shed aptly called “The Shred Shed” so I ended up with a power rack, weights, dumb bells, dip bar, and a pull up bar. I have to watch my two kids and work evenings so its very convenient for me, plus has been pretty great seeing my daughter do squats with me and full push ups, and with my assistance, some pull ups. I just want her to have the best role models she can have and teach the next generation how to live healthy. Since I have dedicated myself to this lifestyle, I’ve noticed my energy and my mood have gone way up, and it helps me get through the long days. Thanks again for the response, it means the world and I’ll keep pushing forward!

        • Welcome! Sounds good.

          It’s always nice to have your partner on the same page. 🙂

          The Shred Shed looks awesome! You don’t need more than that.

          Happy to hear your daughter has been getting her own workouts in too haha.

          Completely agreed on being a role model.

          Awesome to hear on the energy and mood since you’ve started training.

          Happy to help man! Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

  • NotTheBigGuy

    Hey mike! This is my 2nd year of serious weightlifting. I’m about 130 lb and around 9% bf and about 5’10” ( I was ~165 when i started) About 3 weeks ago i started my first bulk ( i had some problems finding a gym in my budget). I started eating 2300 a day, but my weight seemed steady for 2 weeks or so. So now i’m eating 2400, but I’m gaining about 2 pounds a week. Should i bring my calories back down? Or is 2 pounds a week normal?
    BTW Love your books, keep up the good work! 😀

    • Thanks for the info! Good job on the weight you lost, and I’m glad you officially started your first bulk.

      Hmm. 2 pounds a week is too fast. You want to be gaining 1/2-1 pound a week so let’s lower the intake.

      Thanks for the kind words and support.

      Will do! Talk soon.

  • Great information! I like how comfortable I am with increasing 100 to 150. I’m having whey shakes before as well as after cardio (no more fasted) and this is also where i’m increasing carbs right now. Thank you again Mike.

  • Marck Lester

    Hi Mike,

    Loving your book Bigger Leaner Stronger! I will try and keep this brief.

    If I am struggling to meet my calorie target on a day (particularly when bulking) by not having enough carbs, is it ok to make up the deficit with healthy fats instead of carbs? Or will this greatly hinder results?

    What’s your opinion regarding having carbs in the evening if I train in the morning or am not even training that day? Would having low glycemic carbs (like oats) in the evening be recommended, especially to help me meet my calorie and carb target for the day? Or would it be better to make up the deficit with healthy fats or protein instead at night in order to avoid fat gains?

    Appreciate your help.



    • Happy to hear it!

      For best results, you want to stick to the macro breakdown, but you’re free to toy with the carb and fat a bit if needed to reach your calorie intake goal. It’s 1g fat for 2g carbs.

      No worries on the timing of your carb intake. Carbs in the evening is fine. You definitely want to make sure you reach your protein intake goal, but from there, again, you’re welcome to toy with the carb and fat amounts.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Gregory

    Hey Mike,

    I’ve achieved the shoulder to waist ratio of shoulders being 1.618x my waist size (30 inch waist, 49 inch shoulders) which is the most important ratio of aesthetics, but I want to bring my chest and arms up a bit to be in more proportion. Would you recommend I use the advanced strategies in BBLS for staying lean while addressing weak points or bulk/cut again. I don’t need to gain that much to have my chest and arms in proportion to my back and shoulder measurements, I’m going for the more Hollywood physique rather than bodybuilder physique.


    • Hey Greg!

      Great on what you’ve done so far. That rocks.

      Yeah a simple approach is to put certain parts of your body on maintenance in your training so you can focus on your weak points.

      Cycling your calories can help you stay lean while you build muscle.

      I’m doing that personally but training my shoulders twice per week and reducing my chest pressing so I can go heavier (3 to 6 sets of chest pressing per week to maintain).

      • Greg

        In a way I prefer calorie cycling over bulking not only because it helps to stay lean and look good year round but because I love weightlifting as a hobby and part of the joy is hitting small goals on a regular basis. Since calorie cycling allows you to make gains but at a slower pace than bulking it extends the period of time it takes before you hit your natural limit and therefore you get to experience slow and steady improvements for a longer period of time while staying lean and looking awesome. I look at weightlifting not as something that will make me happy in the long run once I get a certain physique but as something that enhances my happiness here and now.

        • That’s very true! If you’re okay with the slow progress and want to stay relatively lean, then calorie cycling is the way to go.

          Most people want to build muscle quickly to reach their ideal physique as soon as possible, and in that case, I recommend the standard bulking and cutting cycle until you reach your goal.

  • Erik

    Hi Mike, how do we know if we are in a calorie deficit or surplus? I guess this assume a natural amount of energy burn each day plus increased burn through training?

    • By the results. If you’re gaining weight, you’re in a surplus. If you’re losing weight, you’re in a deficit.

      • Erik

        Thanks Mike! Wasn’t sure if you had a specific number targeted as a base.

        • Welcome! Of course, the more you gain or lose, the greater the surplus or deficit.

  • Hey Mike, yet another great article you’ve produced.

    I’m not sure if this has been asked before, but I’ll ask anyway just in case…

    When reverse dieting from a cut back up to maintenance, I’d do that by increasing carbs. But what would you recommend I do when I want to increase my fat intake from barely any to reasonable amounts?
    I’m assuming I’d reverse diet to maintenance and when I go on my next lean bulk, I’d introduce fats incrementally as each week goes by (reducing some carbs to make up the calories) or am I able to immediately go in with 40g fats with reduced carb intake?

    Also, I know that in time as you get bigger and stronger, you’ll need to increase your calorie intake too. How exactly should this be done?
    I believe for every pound of lean mass is gained, it seems as though 9-12 calories are added to your basal metabolic rate.

    Thanks in advance, Mike 🙂

    • Thanks, Tommy!

      If you’re not having enough fat, I’d recommend getting your fat intake up first and you can make up for the extra cals by reducing carbs. Then you can follow the standard RD protocol. It’s all explained here:


      To calculate how much fat you should be having, check this out:


      Regarding increasing cals, You should keep your intake the same as long as you’re getting results. Once you stop losing 1-2 pounds a week on a cut or gaining 1/2-1 pound a week on a bulk at your current intake. Adjust your intake accordingly.


      My pleasure! Talk soon.

      • Hey man thanks for the response! I should have known better that if I’m not seeing gain on the scale per week then to adjust accordingly… thanks for the heads up!

        Also, I commented on your article about a workout routine – http://www.muscleforlife.com/how-to-build-a-workout-routine/
        Could you possibly have a look when you’re next free?

  • Bert

    Hey Mike,
    More great stuff here, you are the man!!
    I’m 2 weeks onto the 1YC and I’ve gained 7lb when should I expect this to settle down? I suspect it’s mostly water weight. When should I think about adjusting my intake?

    • Thanks, Bert!

      Hmm. You should only be gaining 1/2-1 pound a week when bulking and losing 1-2 pounds a week when cutting. So, let’s adjust your intake accordingly.

      My pleasure! LMK how it goes.

  • sean_noonan

    hey sorry to bother you with all the questions Ill try to keep this the last one for a while. My doctors telling me to go 20-30 rep and very light weight do to a ganglion cyst even though its not 100% certain from lifting. I don’t really wanna put my gains on halt, would you recommend to do anything, or have you ever had one before? she also said to go to a personal trainer because i kind of argued how high rep never worked for me and i know the trainer is bs because he makes people sit on an exercise ball and balance while you dumbell press and says you have to confuse your muscles

    • No worries!

      Hmm. Unfortunately, I don’t recommend going against what the doc is saying. To help your argument for the lower rep training, feel free to show him/her this:


      If you decide to see a personal trainer, keep this in mind:


      Hope these help! LMK what you think.

      • sean_noonan


      • sean_noonan

        Yeah im probably just gonna stick with bigger leaner stronger and i ended up finding some ways to get rid of the cyst thing, plus i can still squat and do some other stuff even if i do have to get a surgery or something to get rid of it. Thanks for the help though.

      • sean_noonan

        hey would you reccomend adding calories faster like maybe 200 ive been slowly increasing and havent seen weight gain at all for 2 months if i still increase slowly would that waste my newbie gains?

        • Nah. No need to risk the fat gain. Keep doing what you’re doing!

          • sean_noonan


          • sean_noonan

            my strengths been going up alot though so it definately means i need to eat more

          • That’s great! Just make sure you’re dieting properly and progressively overloading, and you’ll get results. 🙂

          • sean_noonan


          • sean_noonan

            Hey I dont wanna sound annoying but If my stomach is flat when sitting down could I be 14% the accumeasure caliper says 9% too again I don’t wanna sound defensive but I just wanna be sure because I know cutting messes with your strength and I really wanna build muscle, if I have to cut now it’s ok though. I’m thinking my abs don’t show just because there not as strong as they used to be and I haven’t really done too many ab exercises. Thanks so much for the help though.

          • Sorry but I don’t understand the question.

          • sean_noonan

            I mean I feel iffy if my body fat percent is really 14 because my caliper says 10 percent so I’m not sure if I should start cutting or continue trying to build muscle

          • I see what you’re saying. Honestly, it’s your best bet to accurately measure BF%…

            I wouldn’t worry too much about it, though. Just use it to measure progress. If the measurement is getting smaller, you know you’re getting leaner, if it’s staying the same, you’re maintaining and if it’s getting bigger, you’re gaining BF.

          • sean_noonan


      • sean_noonan

        thanks so much for all the help too i used to make almost all the mistakes you did bigger leaner stronger definately saved me alot of time

  • NaiKang He

    Hi mike ,
    I want to start bulk shortly , I have been cutting for 8 weeks now and lost about 10lbs till now . But I have problem measuring my body fat . I need to get close to 10-12% before bulking but now I struggle what my bf % really is . I start cutting about 15-16% bf according to you in an older post . I am measuring now between 12-14mm skinfold which comes at 12-13 mmis 13.6% and 14-15mm is 15.4% . If I calculate the maximum fat I did lose is 2% from let assume 15.5 to 13.5 % that comes at 3.2 lbs (I weight 160lbs and am 6ft tall) Did I lose that little of fat? And does this bf caliper even work for skinny fat people , because I have most of my fat around my waist . I am really confused and afraid of going into a bulk . Please help…

    Ps. I have posted some pics of me this week please give a look and see what bf I am at .
    My strength have gone up or remain the same in weight lifting during the cutting ,so I don’t think I lose a lot of muscle and also am 1-1.5 inch smaller on my waist

    • Hey hey! Great job on the weight you’ve lost!

      That sounds right! I’d say you’re about 13-14% BF.

      It’s important to keep in mind that there’s a bit of weight loss at the beginning of cutting due to water and glycogen. So, a chunk of the 10 LBS you lost was from those–not fat.

      Let’s continue with the cut until you reach 10-12% BF.

      Great job on maintaining/gaining strength. That’s great. Awesome that you lost 1-1.5 inches around the waist as well.

      Definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help.

  • Jack

    Hey Mike,

    What do you think about Athlean X’s videos on bulking? He says that a calorie surplus isn’t needed to build muscle but positive nitrogen balance is the key. Essentially he says you can gain muscle, albeit at a slower rate, without eating a surplus of calories and instead eating enough protein and eating enough calories to maintain your weight. It’s interesting because the idea of “lean gains” sounds nice even if they are slower

    • You don’t HAVE to be in a surplus but you can’t be in a deficit, and as all TDEE calculations are really just estimations, the most effective way to accomplish this is to slightly overshoot your needs.

  • Mark

    Hey Mike,

    Quick question about bulking. I’ve been doing your cutting regimen and went from about 5’10” 182 lbs and 18% body fat to 169 lbs and I think about 10 – 12% body fat. I’m really happy with the results but I think I would really like to be around 180 lbs and 10% body fat. Do you recommend I bulk up to about 190 lbs or so in order to get to that? Thanks for your help and your knowledge. I’ve never been able to get this lean before. I really appreciate it.

  • Shane Ryan

    Hey Mike,

    I was just wondering do you add the protein from incomplete protein sources such as plants and nuts to your total protein amount or do you try and hit your protein target with complete proteins such animal sources only.

    Shane from Ireland

    • Hey Shane! Yep! All protein is counted regardless of its source.

      I recommend getting the majority of your protein sources from animal products. They are more bioavailable than their plant counterparts.

      Welcome! Talk soon.

  • NaiKang He

    Hi mike ,
    I have measured my body fat early in the morning today and it comes at 10mm skinfold thickness which fall at 11% ( previous week was 11mm). But comparing to the previous week I have gain an extra 1.5 lbs and waist also increase about an inch . I am still under a calorie deficit , is it due to water retention . And if it is true that I am 11% ,but I am still looking fat when looking at my self . I will start my deload next week while reverse dieting and there after a clean bulk , I just want to make sure that I am in the right direction ..I have attach some photo in this post . Please take a look ….

    And one more question .. When bulking can I bulk as long as I want as long I keep my body fat under 15%..

    • Hmm. It could be. Check this out:


      Also, I’d say you’re more like 12-13% BF. I recommend you continue cutting to 10% BF. To help keep the weight moving, check this out:


      Yep, as long as you’re within 15-17% BF, you’re fine to continue bulking.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

      • NaiKang He

        Can I just do a clean bulk right now at 12-13% cause I am felling really weak . My lifts are dropping this week as well . Can’t keep cutting and lose my strength . Also I tried different times with the caliper and it only Measure at 10mm which fall in the category of 10-11mm =11.6% and I am at the lower end which you can say it is 11% , does it mean that the caliper is not accurate ??

        • You could, but I don’t recommend it. You wouldn’t get much time to bulk since I don’t recommend bulking past 15-17% BF.

          The caliper is accurate within 1-2%. It is also, of course, subject to human error.

          Thanks for all the extra info. Even with that, I’d say you’re around 12-13% BF.

          • NaiKang He

            Thanks mike !
            I am on RD right now and I think I will lose maybe an extra 1-2% after I reach my tdee which put me on 11-12% and then bulk . I will bulk until I reach 15-16% . Is that a good solution ? And also how long do you think I can bulk until I reach 15-16% and how much I will gain during the proces muscle and fat assuming that I gain 0.5-1 lbs per week .

          • Welcome! Sure, that can work!

            How long you can bulk depends on your starting weight, starting BF%, how well you stick to your diet, etc. However, when bulking properly, you can expect to gain 1/2-1 pound a week and the ratio of muscle to fat gain is typically 1:1.

            Totally fine on the deload week.

            If you get sick on the 6th week, I’d take the week off and count it as a week off/deload week and then continue training from there resetting your 8 week training phase and start with week 1.

            What do you think?

            Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • patrick

    5 foot 7 176lbs 26% male 27 year old bulked from 155lb 3 months what do think I should do…please help me

  • Julio jones

    Hey Matt I’ve read a bunch of your articles and Im in pretty much agreement with everything you say. I’ve been lifting for about five months and only just started lifting heavy weight low rep when I read ur article about a month ago. I am about 5 8 135 and I’m at pretty low body fat and I eat hardly any carbs. I’m just needing help deciding if I need to eat that many more carbs I want to gain more muscle people still se me as skinny apparently but not lose my six pack. I’ve put on a little muscle I can definitely see it and my immediate family can too, and strengthed my core a good bit. I do a mile usually every day before I train which is about 5 -6 days a week. Any advice u can give I will greatly appreciate. I guess im mainly asking should I buil a more cut muscular body before I try a bulk or just go ahead and do it and say good bye to the six pack

  • Blanks

    Hello Mike,

    Whats the verdict on weight gainers and protein powders? I ask because some say protein powders are bad for the kidneys and to stick to natural proteins eggs, meat, omega 3 etc. As for weight gainers I’ve been thinking about using as a meal replacement to bulk or gain weight.

    • I’m not a fan of weight gainers because they’re just full of junk calories (mainly carbs). You have nothing to worry about regarding the kidneys. I just much prefer eating calorie dense foods like….

      Red meat

      Grains like brown rice and quinoa

      Oils like coconut oil and olive oil


      Whole-fat dairy

      Multi-grain pasta and bread

      Almonds and almond butter


      White and sweet potatoes

      If you focus on these types of foods in your meal planning, you should have no trouble reaching your daily caloric needs.

      LMK what you think!

  • Mark Dinsdale

    Hello I’m cutting til the end of this month when I’ll be around 11% body fat which is when I’ll begin a slow transition into a bulk of 250cal surplus and was wondering how much bodyfat I’d expect to gain weekly/monthly. I’d like to keep the bulk as long as possible as I hate cutting in winter and know this is probably something that varies from person to person but just thought I’d ask – 6ft 3″ age: 27 – thanks 🙂

    • Hey Mark! I believe I answered you on this somewhere else? LMK !

  • Abraham Valencia

    Hi Mike!

    Need your input. Age 38, My weight is 148 pounds with a 13% body fat. Should I start to bulk or cut? So far I have don maintenance under your plan. Gained a lot of strength, visually I see my body changing for better. But not sure if I should cut or bulk with a 13% body fat.

    Thanks for your help. Great book!

    Abraham from Canada.

    • Hey hey! Thanks for all the info.

      Let’s cut to 10% BF. Then you can bulk. You’ll look better, and it’ll give you more time to bulk and build muscle since you’ll be starting from a leaner point.

      My pleasure! Thanks!

      Talk soon.

  • Seth G.

    Hey Mike, big fan of the site and just ordered your book!

    Question: Should I increase calories to match calories burnt during cardio? I plan to keep cardio to a moderate level while bulking, but I actually enjoy cardio and like including it into my regimen.

    Example: If my base maintenance calorie intake was 2,100 and at a 10% I was taking in 2,205 calories. And I then burn approximately 400 calories doing let’s say steady state or high intensity interval training, should I then consume 2,600 calories for that day?

    • Thanks! LMK what you think of the book. 🙂

      The calories burned from weightlifting and cardio should already be taken into account when calculating your intake. You wouldn’t subtract those cals again.

      You can calculate what your intake should be here:


      Hope this helps! LMK how it goes.

      • Seth Goodfellow

        Okay cool. But how I have actually preferred to calculate my intake so far is to calculate my sedentary TDEE and then add the calories that will be burned for my week’s planned workouts, so I know exactly how much to eat. So I forecast my week’s workouts by plugging all workouts into MyFitnessPal, which I add to my spreadsheet calculator to get daily intake goals (see screenshot!).

        That way I am not just guessing on “5 or 6+ hours of general exercise” a week and I am actually putting in the exact figures. I like to switch up my exercises so they are not always the same every week. So far using this method I dropped 32lbs and got to 10% BF from 25% BF!

        So with that method in mind… is it correct to add calories for strength and cardiovascular calorie burn WHILE BULKING? (I see the answer as straightforward for cutting, but I do not want to overeat and gain too much weight back).

        Thanks again!

        • Ah cool! This is great.

          Generally speaking, I would shoot for a 5 to 10% surplus every day, including your rest days.

          As you’re good with micromanaging, you could shoot for a 10% surplus on training days and 5% on rest days.

  • Seth G.

    Correction: Example above is with a 5% surplus… but the question remains!

  • Xavier

    Hey Mike, what do think about this article by Bret Contreras (a highly respected fitness professional) stating bulking and cutting is unnecessary?

    • I totally agree that the traditional bulk and cut approach doesn’t work very well. What I recommend in this article isn’t that.

  • Julio Jones

    Hey matty ice I got a 2 part question. So im currently doin a bulk and I was on around 3000 calories a day for about two weeks now I went from 133 to 142 I workout about 5/6 days a week . Do you think that’s too much weight gained im concerned if I keep it up I’ll be mostly fat pounds and not enough muscle pounds.

    Also I was wondering if i wanted to buy both of your books is there any bundle discount or no? And do u have any testimonials of skinny guys like me who put on a few pounds of muscle? I haven’t seen any but I’ll keep searching I kn most who come here probably trying to lose weight

    Thanks for your time and inspiration bra💯

    • Hey Julio! Haha.

      Cool you’re bulking!

      Woah. Yeah, that’s way too much weight gain. The goal while bulking is to gain 1/2-1 pound a week. So, adjust your intake accordingly. Also, were you cutting before you started the bulk?

      I don’t have any discounts for bundles, but I do do sales on the books pretty frequently so stay tuned. 🙂

      Yep, I’ve had plenty of guys put on significant amounts of muscle with my program. You can see all the success stories here:


      My pleasure, man! Definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help.

      • Julio jones

        I wasn’t cutting but I was eating carbs really at all for like four months (stupidly) while beginning to work out. I got a lot more cut muscle wise and stronger but no lean mass gains. So yea I’ll probably cut it back to like 2200 a day or so. N okay I’m jus gonna buy both books anyway n get too it. Thanks for all the info and help though man. 👍

        • Ah okay. Well, you know what to do next time. 🙂

          Sounds good. LMK how you like them!

          My pleasure, man! Talk soon.

  • Sam

    Hi Mike

    I’m currently in the process of reverse dieting. While cutting I was training in a fasted state without any food before my workout. When I get to my bulking cycle is it best to eat something before my workout? Will a protein shake be sufficient enough before? I do not weigh a lot so I will not be eating 3000 calories plus so I can easily fit meals in anytime.
    Thanks. Sam.

  • Daniel Vroman Rusteen

    Question: Do you have a recommendation for a mass gainer drink during bulking?

    Additional: I am the definition of a hardgainer, eating 4,200 calories (70% carb, 20% protein, 10% fat), I went from 178lbs to 208lbs in 8 months, doubling the weight on my lifts. As an aside, took me only 1.5 months to lose 25 of those pounds eating 2,200 calories. Still not seeing definition in lower abs 🙁 Must build up core more.

    • Not really. I’m not a fan of mass gainers because they’re just full of junk calories (mainly carbs). I much prefer eating calorie dense foods like….

      Red meat

      Grains like brown rice and quinoa

      Oils like coconut oil and olive oil


      Whole-fat dairy

      Multi-grain pasta and bread

      Almonds and almond butter


      White and sweet potatoes

      If you focus on these types of foods in your meal planning, you should have no trouble reaching your daily caloric needs.

      Damn! Yes, you sure are, and that’s a LOT of weight to lose in 6 weeks. At that rate, you risk losing muscle. For the next time you cut, keep this in mind:


      Yep, abs all come down to being lean enough and your core being developed enough.

  • Jon Payne

    Hey Mike,

    Great advice! In both this post and BLS you recommend bouncing between 10% and 15% body fat using cutting and bulking cycles. Is there any reason why this schema for muscle gain couldn’t be applied in the 7% to 12% body fat range?

    • Thanks!

      It can be done but you have to keep two things in mind:

      1. It generally takes longer to go from 12 to 7% than 15 to 10% due to stubborn fat issues.

      2. Maintaining a higher body fat percentage allows you to eat more food in general, which can be better for your training.

  • fide

    Hey mike, how are you doing?. I have a couple of questions and i hope you can answer them for me.

    Im 14 years old and i have been doing calisthenics for 7 months and recently started lifting weights (a month ago) and was thinking of making a change. Getting a good diet, a nice program and everything to gain muscle. I know my stuff, the problem is that im trying to combine bulking with intermittent fasting as i study and go to school from 7 am to 1 pm. I want to make this effective so i was thinking of fasting from 11pm to 3pm of the other day and having my eating window from 3pm to 11pm making that a fasting period of 16 hours and an eating window of 8 hours. 1) what do you think of that?.
    i was thinking of training at 1:30pm (during fasting) so i could eat at 3pm after training a high carb and calorie meal breaking my fasting during my eating window. 2) Think that is alright? What would you change?
    My calorie maintenance intake is 2072 calories, as im 14 years old, 114 pounds, 5’6″ feet tall and very active. So my calorie surplus should be of 250 calories. 3) Is that right?
    4)Should i have a calorie surplus on train days and on nontrain days just a calorie maintenance?
    5) How much protein should i take per day?

    It would be very apreciated if you could answer this stuff for me, really helpful. and very good article. Have a great day!

  • Larry Weaver

    Hey Mike! I was considering a different style of dieting over the summer, but I was wondering if it would be a bad idea. It goes like this… Two weeks of bulking followed by two weeks of cutting, and so forth. I want to stay lean over the summer but still make a little gains. According to Brandon Carter, u will build a little muscle in the first two weeks then the next two weeks you’ll shed any fat you gained, thus staying very lean while gaining a little muscle every month. Is this a good method or just a good way to mess up your body?

    • I’m not a fan of mini-cuts and mini-bulks because they tend to ruin your momentum when bulking. I much prefer a straight lean bulk as described in this article.

  • Miltiadis Nicolopoulos

    I was wondering what BF % I am. I have never checked and also should I bulk or cut. 40 years old 172 lbs 5 foot 8.

  • NaiKang He

    Hi mike ,
    It’s been a long time since my last post . How are you ? I have been bulking for about six weeks and I have had great result following your advises . I have gained about 5-6 lbs weight and 20-30lbs to my big lifts in 6 weeks and am really curious about what my bf right now is according to you .
    P.s I started like 12-13% bf according to you in the previous post . Am I doing well with these results ?

    • Hey hey! I’m good!

      Awesome you’ve been bulking. Great to hear on the successful weight gain and strength increases.

      Wow. It doesn’t seem your BF has changed much! I’d say 13% BF. That’s great!

      Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

  • Joesph

    Hey Mike,

    Can I still gain muscle eating at TDEE and progressing in the gym? Basically maintain my current body fat by eating at TDEE and increase my muscle mass by getting enough protein and applying progressive overload?


  • Josh

    Hey Mike,

    I recently came across your website and am very impressed with your quality of information, concise explanations, and great writing style. I do have a question, I am about 14% body fat, 5’11, and 162 lbs. I have never lifted before and started Stronglifts 5×5 (a progressive overload, compound lift program) a month ago. I just began a caloric surplus diet this week with the goal of putting on at least 15 pounds of muscle in a year-long period. I know that you recommend commencing a bulk period once I am around a 10% body fat, but I have already started the program and would like to continue my momentum and maximize muscle gains.

    Here is my question, as my body fat percentage climbs, wouldn’t it hurt me to begin cutting in the midst of a progressive overload program? I was thinking I should take Stronglifts to the point where I repeatedly stall and deload before cutting. Is this a good approach?


    • Hey Josh! Thanks!

      Yep, I’m familiar with the program. I’m a fan of it!

      Ehh. I understand your concerns and wanting to keep the ball rolling, but I recommend you start with a cut for several reasons. It’ll save you from having to do a long grueling cut in the future, since you’re new to this style of training, you’ll be able to build muscle while losing weight anyways and if you start your bulk from a leaner point, you’ll be able to bulk for longer hence build more muscle!

      Check these out:



      Hope that makes sense. LMK what you think.

      • Josh


        Thanks so much for the reply! Your points make a lot of sense (with the added benefit of looking better during my cut AND bulk), so I am going to do the smart thing and take your advice. I plan to continue with Stronglifts, while utilizing a 20-25 percent calorie deficit (possibly with intermittent fasting if I like it), going for a 40:40:20 macronutrient split, and doing HIIT 2-3 times per week. Assuming I lose 1.5lbs a week, I should be below 10 percent body fat level in roughly 8 weeks. How does this plan sound to you?

        • YW! Exactly. 🙂

          That all sounds great!

          Definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help.

  • Kristie Heyden

    Great article 🙂 I have been increasing my calories via carbs since April 3rd, been at bulking macros for about 3 weeks now. I did this as I felt I needed to reverse diet into my bulk as I’d been at a deficit for quite some time. I’m wondering how long to bulk for? Is there a time frame or do I continue until my BF% reaches 27% – it’s currently around 24%. Thanks Kristie

    • Thanks, Kristie! Cool you’ve been increasing your intake!

      Hmm. Typically, I don’t recommend women bulk until they’re at 20% BF and that they don’t bulk past 25-27% BF. Here’s why:


      LMK what you think.


      • Kristie Heyden

        Hey Mike
        Thanks for the reply
        Another great article, very informative. I’d been at a calorie deficit for a very long time and felt like I’d hit a plateau with reducing my BF% hence the slow increase of calories. I’m not sure if I was doing the caliper method correctly but I’m currently at 70kg with around 24% BF (my body weight has increased by about 5kg).
        Do you think I should go back to a deficit until I reach 20%BF ….. sorry getting a bit confused.

  • Sergio Alba

    Hey Mike!

    I’ve been bulking for a while, went from 130 pounds @9-10% bf to 145 pounds and around 13-14%.
    I decided to start cutting for the summer 2 weeks ago, and then a question popped into my head. When I was bulking I was eating 2400 cal a day, so now that I want to cut, do I multiply that by 0.8 to get the 20% cal deficit?

    I’m concerned because I haven’t lost any weight since I started cutting, so do I need to cut starting from my TDEE? Or from the bulking calories?

    In the case that it was from TDEE, would I have to reverse diet back to TDEE and then start the cutting or just lower them?

    Thanks Mike, keep up the good work!

  • Georgia

    Hi Mike

    I started my fitness journey by dieting down to around 17% body fat. I am really pleased with how I look and I have almost finished reverse dieting up to a maintenance intake.

    I would like to build some muscle and I know that the next step is to bulk. I have worked out that I could gain around 8lbs of muscle and get back to this body fat by this time next year if I start bulking in June/July.

    I am seeking a bit of encouragement and reassurance really because I don’t want to look puffy and gain fat over summer. I really love having abs and a shapely lean body. How far into a bulk will this disappear?

    Thanks so much


    • Hey Georgina! Great job on getting to 17% BF and good call on the RD.

      Sounds like a good plan. I completely understand not wanting to look puffy and get fat during summer, haha.

      When bulking properly, the weight gain will be slow and there will be minimal fat gain. At what point the abs will “disappear” depends on how developed your core is, where your body tends to hold fat, etc. Usually. it’s around 21-23% BF.

      So, if you’re 17% BF, you’re good for a while. 🙂

      Welcome! Talk soon.

  • Julio jones

    Hey matty ice was up man. Quick question for you. So I’ve been doing your suggestion of 80% compound excersices. My splits are usually military press and squat on day 1, then bench n deadlift day 2, then a third day for arms. Do you think I should split into only doing one compound a day a trainer at my gym suggested it.

    • Julio jones

      And I’m doing this twice a week so six days of lifting usually

      • Hmm. That split is kind of odd, but if you enjoy it, it could work.

        It’s fine to do the 3-day split twice as well as long as you’re keeping the volume relatively low each time through. What really matters is your total weekly volume. Check this out:


        Hope this helps. LMK what you think.

  • Kal-El

    I’m in a dilemma. I’m at 15% bf but I don’t have enough muscle mass to go on a cut. Is it okay to bulk till 18-20% and then cut?

    • Hey hey! Ehh. I still recommend you cut to 10-12% BF. Don’t worry about not having enough mass. It’s just part of the process. Once you’re down to 10-12% BF, you’ll be able to focus on building muscle and putting on weight.

      And remember, the leaner you start from, the more time you have to bulk which means you’ll build more muscle.

  • NaiKang He

    Hi mike ,
    I am almost at my deload week from my bulking routine , I want to know if I can do 2 times hiit cardio with 3 times pull/chin up with biceps workout instead of 50% 1rpm . The reason why I do this is that I need to improve these exercises both form and weight as I am a lot behind compared to the other exercises. Current chin up is 3 rep bw and bicep curl is 30 and the bicep curl has been stucked for weeks . And about my diet , should I go maintenance diet or a bulking diet in my deload week ? As for supplement I am afraid of taking creatine , because it adds water weight to my body and therefore I can’t accurately track my progress especially my weight . The creatine I have right now is evolution nutrition creatine with 3G creatine monohydrate , 1g magnapower, 1g anhydrous . Is this a good one ?

    • Even if you do that, you’ll want to work with lighter weight to give your body a break or else it ruins the whole point of a deload week.

      You can stick to the same intake during the deload week.

      I wouldn’t worry too much about the water with creatine, and the supplement is still well worth it and one I recommend. Check this out:


      That should answer your questions. LMK what you think!

  • Danielle1029

    Hey Mike, so I recently went from maintaining using calorie cycling to bulking (I basically just started eating bulking calories on my rest days too), at the same time I switched my workout program dramatically, I went form just using machines to compound lifting (following the TLS routines). I’ve been gaining close to a pound per week for the first two weeks, now, I read in your book that gaining that amount is okay if you’re new to weightlifting, does that apply to my case? (switching from machines to free weights)

    • Cool you started bulking. Yep, that’s totally fine! I recommend gaining 1/2-1 lb a week when bulking.

      Keep up the good work!

  • zed

    hello mike how are you? .. can you please help me. can you tell me how much body fat % I am in right now? should I bulk or cut? I’m currently 135 lbs at 5’7.

    • Hi! I’d cut. From the single photo, I’m guessing around 17-18%

  • Dan

    Hey Mike, I”m bulking now, and keep upping my cals now at 3300/d and still not gaining. But my macros seem to say I gotta eat 500g of carbs right now…What the heck do you eat to get that many carbs without getting some fat in the process? I almost never seem to hit that number before I run out of calories…oh, and I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, so candy isn’t dandy…;-)

    • Some people just need more calories than others to gain. You can increase fat once you go past 3x your body weight in carbs too.

      • Dan

        Hi Roger, yeah, saw that, just wondering what you eat that has 500g of carbs while still holding less than 54 g of fat…maybe I gotta look at the recipes.

  • Kal-El

    Mike, what do you think of fasted cardio during a bulk? Of course with bcaa and yohimbine. Will it be more effective to keep fat gains to a minimum?

    • Hey Kal,

      You can do it if you want to keep up your cardio conditioning. But, for more effective bulking, I wouldn’t recommend it. You need to be in a deficit to be losing fat.

  • NaiKang He

    Hi mike ,
    What do you think about my body fat percentage right now ? I have been bulking for 12 weeks and went from 12-13% bf first pic to the second picture below . Do you think I can still bulk another 12 weeks and then cut .

  • Leighton Gates

    Hi Mike,
    Great article! I have a question though as it seems my body does not quite respond as it might.

    I have been following BLS for 10 months and have been cutting. Am ready to bulk now, but I still make gains every week in the gym even when cutting. So is there any point to switch to a bulk? I am making small gains anyway. So is there any point in overeating? Thanks Leighton.

    • Thanks! That’s great you’ve been on the program for 10 months. Newbie gains last 6mo-1yr. If you’re at or under 10%BF, you are ready to bulk and you will see greater strength and muscle gains doing so when on a bulking diet.

  • Francisco Velasquez

    If I want to cut after a bulk, can i go straight into cutting calories (significant difference) or slowly decrease calories per week much like reverse dieting in the aspect that you gradually make small changes to calories (except, in this case, like, reverse REVERSE dieting lol??)

  • sean_noonan

    hey one last question for a while ive asked a bunch so im gonna try and back off for a bit. So i was gaining steadily around 1 pound per week and recently but weight shot up like 5 pounds and hasnt gone back down, I have changed anything really and im on the same intake. Would you reccomend to give it a little more time or maybe take off 100 or 200

    • Wow. The response depends on what changed in the routine.

      Was it a slow crawl to +5 after huge cal increase? That’s a lot in such a short amount of time. LMK some more data and let’s see what’s up.

      • sean_noonan

        yeah it happened 4 days after increased by 100 cal. before that i was gaining pretty steadily. Also no like the next day i litterally weighed about 4 pounds heavier there wasnt really a slow crawl.

        • sean_noonan

          i wasnt gaining at all when i was a couple hundred calories lower which is weird but at least i think i found out where i finnaly gain weight

        • So you increased by 100, weight didn’t change much, then all of a sudden BAM! +5lbs?

          Water, stomach contents, measurement time of day, bladder contents, digesting food, etc can all contribute to increased weight. If you haven’t been gaining weight before this, I’d stick to what you’re doing now and see how things are at the end of the week.

          • sean_noonan


          • sean_noonan

            hey also would you reccomend like a high carb shake its been helping me reach my macros. i got the one from my protein

          • sean_noonan

            its different then other weight gainers because the carbs come from oats

          • Ideally, get your macros from whole foods. More nutrition that way. That being said, oats as a carb source is pretty dang good for the weight gainer.

          • sean_noonan

            i get alot of fruits though but im at 814 carb so i have alot of room its crazy

      • sean_noonan

        also no it was a 100 cal increase

    • sean_noonan

      this is what i look like at the moment the lighting is a little different though and i cant really tell if my bodyfat went up

      • BF% doesn’t seem too different from the photo you sent us recently, actually!

        • sean_noonan

          Yeah my weight literally went down all the way to where it was before it must have been water weight or something or maybe it’s just the scale

          • Sweet. Yah a jump like that usually will come back down.

          • sean_noonan

            hey quick question my weight jumped up again but again I look just as lean and maybe even leaner and my skin fold measurements haven’t changed. I took some off calories in hopes of gaining steadily from here just so I wouldn’t gain to quick. Would you recommend to take a few weeks to try and lose some weight and then go back to bulking or should I just let it go. I’m kinda confused with wether this is fat or not and if I should try to lose it. Also again thanks so much for all the help.

          • If your skin fold measurements haven’t changed, let it go and enjoy the ride, Sean!

  • YF

    Hi Mike. You say above that “If you’re gaining strength but not weight, you’re not eating enough.”
    But beyond initial neuromuscular adaptations, muscles need to be getting bigger if they are getting stronger, correct? So might it not be the case that one stays about the same weight, but uses body fat stores to fuel muscle growth? For instance, I’ve been consistently training for about a year. I am currently at around 15% bf and getting progressively stronger each week in the gym (preparing to go for a cut soon, by the way), but I’m not getting heavier on the scale. Is it possible then that I’m building muscle using the calories stored as body fat? Thanks for your insight on this issue.

    • To build any significant amount of muscle without being in a surplus is really only possible if you’re new to this style of training. Check this out:


      Hope this helps! LMK what you think.

      My pleasure!

      • John B

        So a waste of time trying to “build muscle, lose fat at same time” if you are not a newcomer.

      • YF

        Thanks for the reply Mike. Your post on this topic makes sense and is in line with what I have read by other training experts.

        However, let’s consider the case of an intermediate lifter, such as myself, who has not yet reached their genetic potential for muscle growth and who has a considerable amount of body fat to lose (let’s say again that I’m currently sitting at 15% bf). Since body fat is essentially ‘stored calories’, why would the body not be able to utilize this fat as an ‘effective caloric surplus’ to fuel muscle growth, such that I could build muscle and lose fat at the same time, while eating at maintenance?

        It seems reasonable though that as one’s bf% becomes progressively lower, the body would be more resistant to use body fat stores to fuel muscle growth, so those extra calories would need to be provided through diet.

        • That’s just not how it works. The caloric deficit causes systemic effects in the body that impair muscle growth.

          • YF

            Ok, just so that I’m clear on this, you’re saying that excess body fat stores (again, let’s say I’m currently at 15% body fat and am far from my genetic potential) cannot be used to fuel muscle growth; hence, in order to me to build any significant amount of muscle I must obtain surplus calories through diet.

            Perhaps you’re correct, but I should point out that other experienced trainers/bodybuilders have argued otherwise. For instance, please see Menno Henselman’s posts:

            How can you gain muscle while losing fat



            I’d be curious what your thoughts are on this. Do you know of any scientific studies which address this issue?

            Thanks again for your time and valuable advice!

  • sakib800

    Hey Mike Something Interesting!!! Please Read!!!!

    OK so whether you watch soccer or not you probably know a player called Christiano ronaldo. He is pretty muscular and is known for that.

    But when christiano first started playing soccer he was preety skinny looking. So it seemed to me like he went from being a skinny soccer player, straight to being a muscular soccer player… And i dont ever remember seeing a fat picture of christiano ronaldo.

    So does this mean you can gain muscle without getting any sort of fat?? I mean even in a clean bulk you gain some fat but in the case of Ronaldo it seems like he just added muscle to his body…..?

    Please respond i want to hear your opinion on this!!!

    • You can lean bulk slowly. Also, someone new to training, especially BLS style training, will see gains even while on cutting calories!

      Lastly, calorie cycling can also make this possible. When you want to maintain your physique at it’s leanest, but want to make slow, steady gains, it’s a great strategy:


      It won’t be as effective as a straight bulk, however.

      • sakib800

        yes but what do you think he used? or is it all that running from soccer that just burned of his excess fat??

        • Can’t answer you on that one, man. Either a calorie cycle or regular diet would do it. The cardio definitely keeps him lean.

          • sakib800

            Hey Thanks for the reply! I also kinda wanna here Mikes take on this, you should ask him this question!

          • Tough to say without knowing about his specific training and dieting.

            It’s also important to keep in mind he was young and probably still physically developing.

  • NaiKang He

    Hi mike , I am wondering how much bf % I am at now , can you please tell me your guess and can I still keep bulking?

  • sean_noonan

    hey quick question. Its been helping on my last set of my exersizes (pretty much just the big compound movements) to drop the weight a little sometimes 5-10 pounds and sometimes i drop weight proggressively after the first set. But while doing this ive been adding 5-10 pounds to every lift every week. Would you say this is ok? I know greg ogallagher reccomends it, but i dont know if thats only for advanced lifters.

    • If that’s working for you, go ahead! Just make sure you do the heavier sets first.

      As to getting stronger and not gaining size, you just gotta eat more. 🙂 You want to make sure you’re gaining 1/2-1 lb a week.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

      • sean_noonan


      • sean_noonan

        yeah my weight skipped up like 3-4 pounds and never came down but my skinfold measurements have changed its weird

        • Yep! Keep it up.

          • sean_noonan

            hey also one more thing. I have been using a belt for a while on deadlift but im not sure if its good or bad. ive heard you can get a hernia if you dont use one and im not sure if i should go beltless or not. Ive made great progress in the last 5 months though on deadlift.

          • sean_noonan

            wait so should it try belt less

          • sean_noonan

            would you say its possible to get close to same weight without a belt or will it be a big drop

          • I don’t recommend using it. The weight you pull might decrease or it might feel more challenging than before.

          • sean_noonan

            i mean try 50 pounds less with no belt and see how it feels

          • sean_noonan

            i was at 405 though but im not sure if thats false strength since i had a belt

          • The effort will feel more difficult with a belt, and conventional stance. You can certainly drop weight to ensure good form after taking off the belt.

          • sean_noonan

            ok ill try

          • sean_noonan

            ill try dropping like 50lb and slowly work up and see what i can get belt less next time

          • Sounds good, buddy. 🙂

          • sean_noonan

            yeah i ended up hitting my leg doing a flip (i was being stupid) the good thing is it should only take 1-2 weeks to be better so its nothing serious so im just gonna count this time as a deload week and hopefully i can train some upper body if possible

          • Jeez! Well, that’s good it won’t take long to heal.

            Sounds like a plan, Sean.

          • sean_noonan

            also my weight seems to still be going up quicker but i dont look any different or have different skinfold measurements. Would you reccomend to off more calories or maybe cut for a bit? Its weird though, i wasnt even gaining weight before.

          • sean_noonan

            i litterally feel like i look just as lean its so weird it must be water weight or something. I literally wasnt gaining weight at all before on the intake im at now

          • sean_noonan

            Hey quick question is there any weight gainers you would reccomend that isnt really junk calories? Ive been really having a hard time getting all the food in especially at almost 800 carb to gain .5 – 1 pound per week its been crazy.

          • I’m not a fan of weight gainers because they’re just full of junk calories (mainly carbs). I much prefer eating calorie dense foods like….

            Red meat
            Grains like brown rice and quinoa
            Oils like coconut oil and olive oil
            Whole-fat dairy
            Multi-grain pasta and bread
            Almonds and almond butter
            White and sweet potatoes

            If you focus on these types of foods in your meal planning, you should have no trouble reaching your daily caloric needs.

          • sean_noonan


          • sean_noonan

            Would you say if the weight gainer uses oats as a carb source it’s ok

          • Sounds good to me!

          • sean_noonan

            also thanks for the quick reply

  • anuj
  • caryScript

    Okay. Tried to post this a minute ago and the image wouldn’t load.

    Hey Mike, I’d really like to start bulking, but I have no idea where I am body fat wise. Calipers peg me in between 11-13% but because of the way my abs are built, I can’t place the caliper in the same place you recommend. Apparently all the crunches I did when I was younger have really put some bulk around the belly button and it’s impossible to measure without grabbing muscle.

    Couple of disclaimers, I’m tensing the abs in this image. I’m assuming everyone does when photographed. And frankly, anytime my shirt is off (and most times when it’s on) I’m tensing my abs. Guess it’s a pavlovian response. I’m on the cusp of 47 and I had a few too many carbs yesterday so I’m puffing a bit.

  • Gin

    Thank you for all your articles! I literally live by them..
    Should I be doing cardio when bulking? or can I just do weight lifting?

    • That’s great, Gin! You can just do weight lifting when bulking, and if you want to do cardio, limit your cardio to an hour each week.

  • Liam Bosse

    I am currently bulking and following your BLS program and have been for about half a year, and I am just wondering, is there a way to fit more than just an hours worth of cardio into your routine without it having negative impacts on your muscle/fat gains? I am into a lot of activities such as mountain biking, long distance running, and hiking/backpacking (so lots of LISS stuff, however biking can be intense and more similar to HIIT). I do 20-30min HIIT Sprints fasted 2 to 3 times per week, and usually my free time is spent doing the activities I listed above. I want to excel in both strength AND cardiovascular strength, and be able to enjoy the activities in my spare time without worrying that it’s hugely effecting my training. I am eating at a 10% caloric surplus, and the scale is going up about 1/2lb per week, but I usually deal with food cravings for 80% of the day. Should I just eat more when I go and do long bouts of cardio? Should I skip my HIIT for the week if I plan on doing other activities on the weekend? Thanks

  • YF

    Hi Mike,

    I’ve been lean bulking for the past 4-5 months, and training (consistently and properly!) for close to 1 year (6’2″, 187 lbs, 45 yo). I was wondering if you could give your opinion on my current BF% and whether I should continue lean bulking or go on a cut. I’ve attached two recent pics.

    Thanks very much for your advice!

    • Hey! Looks like around 15%. You can stretch it to 17%, if you want, but that’s more cutting to do.

      • YF

        Thanks for your quick assessment and advice Mike! I think I’ll ride the bulking wave for a bit longer and then cut. When cutting, should I go to maintenance for a few weeks first to acclimate or jump directly into a deficit?

  • Wishywashy

    Hey Mike, I was wondering if alternating day bulking works if you like accidentally ate too much. Like if i was lean bulking and i was suppose to eat a 200 calorie surplus and i ate 500 because of resteraunt can i like eat at maintainence or 100 calorie surplus for the next few days to lessen the fat gain but still get the benefit of bulking. Basically the question is does that huge 500 calorie surplus carry on a bit? Or is it that after u eat that surplus that partically day it all goes to fat and that surplus wont elevate anabolic hormones and protein synthesis(bulking benefits) if i ate at maintainence for the next 2-3 days or so till it balances.

    • If you do it every once in a while that’s fine. If it happens regularly, though, it will negatively affect your results over time. You’ll build less muscle and gain more fat.

  • sean_noonan

    Hey i know ive been asking alot of questions recently but i got one more for now. My weights still been having weird jumps. Like last time, it jumped up 3-4 pounds after a 100 cal increase and then went down a little then jumped up again after increasing calories again after my weight went down. I havent really looked to different and my caliper measurements havent really changed to much so I dont know if that means its not fat. Is this normal? Or should i take off calories after a jump like this? It seems to happen whenever i increase.

    • Hey Sean, with water retention and bloat, that is pretty normal. The weight of food and water will also affect your weight measurement.

  • Brandon Dedic

    Hey mike I have been hesitant to eat more as I do not want to put on fat. I have been trying out intermittent fasting out of curiosity, but my lifts have been stuck for a while. im 5’9 129 lbs so I have a lot of muscle to gain. Does it come down to just eating more I guess? Thinking Intermitent fasting just isn’t necessary for me, as I’m tired of not seeing strength increases

    • Hey Brandon, IF isn’t going to do much for you. At the end of the day what only matters is how many calories you’ve consumed. If you are bulking, gaining some fat is inevitable, but you’ll be packing on more muscle as well.

  • Brandon Dedic

    As a reference for my previous post, this is my current condition, I definitely need to gain strength

  • sakib800

    Hey Mike, what if i am an athlete and have to stay extremely lean and fast, but i want to build muscle up to my genetic potential.??

    I heard somewhere a 3 week (500 calorie) bulk followed by a 1 week cut adds muscle while keeping you around 1% of the ideal body fat?

  • Bryan

    Hey Mike, I have been on your program for about a year now and saw pretty nice gains for a while until I had to cut. I have been back on a bulking regiment since the end of June and I just don’t seem to be making the progress that I would have expected. I know results diminish, but at the end of December before my cut I had put up 225 x 4 on the bench my last week. I have still not been able to duplicate that as the best I can do is 215 x 4. The same has been true for more or less all my lifts other than the squat which has increased slightly (but still too low IMO). I meticulously watch my intake and measure everything to the point my coworkers and family poke fun at me as well as monitor my weight daily. I have been gaining around 0.75-1 lb a week for about a month and a half now (eating 3650 cal/day) and because I wasn’t sure what the issue is, I increased my protein intake to about 1.2g/lb to see if it would help. I also push myself to the limits of failure on my lifts so I am at a bit of a loss as to why I can’t progress. I follow your plans to a T and do 5 workouts a week. I am just about to go to my family doctor and try to get some bloodwork done just to ensure everything is in line because something just doesn’t add up. Am I expecting too much? I have always been very non-muscular, but over the years I was able to put on fat pretty easily because I love to eat. Currently 6’3″ 185lbs (with long legs and arms) and my big lifts are as follows:
    Bench: 215×5
    Shoulder Press: 135×5
    Squat: 275×4
    Deadlift: Was told not to do anymore because of Spondylolisthesis in L5 Vertebrae (broken piece of L5) so I do variations of rows and pull ups to try to make up for it the best I can.
    Any thoughts or comments on what could be causing me to be stuck in this plateau?

  • Gin

    Hey Mike,

    First of all – thank you for information that actually does work! I have been able to cut down to my goals only after using your advice. After a recent cut of about 5 weeks and losing around 8lb, I really let myself go and binged quite a lot for a few weeks.. I think I am even fatter than I was before the cut. I cannot bring myself to do a full-on proper cut, and I was wondering, what happens if I do a moderate calorie deficit (10-15%)? Will I be able to slowly lose some fat while building muscle? (I really need to start working on my muscle mass, but again, I really am not willing to go thru the cut again before bulking) So I guess my main question is, will I be able to build muscle slowly on a smaller deficit, or there is no difference as long as I am in a deficit?

    • Nice work on the cut! If you’re fatter than before the cut, then you just erased all the fat loss gains, and should cut down again. This is ideal for several reasons: it preserves insulin sensitivity and hormonal balance, it allows you to maintain a calorie surplus for many months before having to reduce body fat levels, and it saves you from long, grueling cuts.

      I know it sucks, but it is what it is. Best to cut hard and fast for the best effectiveness. You won’t be building significant muscle while on the cut, so hit your cutting target and get that part of the cycle over with as fast as you can. Dragging out a cut also drags your metabolism down with it as it adapts to the lower intake, thus making further weight loss harder and harder.

      • Gin

        That makes sense, thank you for such a detailed and simple answer! I think I will go all into the cut then. One more question: after I cut and will start my bulking phase, is it ok to eat at the maintenance calories instead of 10% surplus? Will that help me gain less fat during the bulk, or will it slow down the muscle building process?

        • Any time!

          After your cut, do a reverse diet:


          Then, you can stay at TDEE, during which you can build some muscle, but not at the faster rate of a bulk–though you won’t put on fat. You’ll hit a ceiling eventually, though.

          • YF

            Thanks for your excellent advice RogerT!

            A question related to your comment above:

            Let’s say I’m currently at 16% body fat and am still far from my genetic potential for muscle growth (though I’m not a beginner). Can I stay at maintenance calories, continue to progress in the gym (progressive overload), and expect to build muscle without gaining fat? I understand that this would occur at a slower rate than bulking, but I’m in no rush- and since I’m continuing to hit PRs every week I’m reluctant to cut while I’m on a roll. In short, can I build muscle at maintenance? Or am I just wasting time spinning my wheels?

            Thanks for your insight!

          • Any time! I wouldn’t expect much from doing that. You can get stronger and build some muscle, but it’s so not worth wasting the time if you want results.

          • YF

            Ok, but if I am at 16% body fat and getting stronger every week in the 6-8 rep range, would it be reasonable to assume that I am building muscle rather than just increasing neuromuscular adaptations? Thanks again!

          • As long as there is progressive overload, then yes. To maximize muscle growth, though, bulking is the way to go. You’ll still make gains on maintenance up to a point.

          • YF

            Ok, thanks Roger!

  • Søren Bostrom
  • Lambros Vasiliou

    OK I was on diet for like a year and a half and dropped my body fat from 28-29% to 18.5%. Problem is at 18.5% things became interestingly difficult due to the prolonged period on diet, mo body was holding onto the fat real hard and was easier to gain due to the stress from the reduced calories. I am now building muscle and i have to admit i am impressed how i gained 1kg of muscle in two weeks, however, the fat is piling up to the extend that by the time i reach bulking phase (in 1 week, for 3 weeks) I might be back to waist 36! I have seen gains in some areas of the body, but arms remain “tiny”, especially after 1.5 years of dieting. Having said that, it does feel that the ratio of muscle to fat is shifting towards muscle, its jsut that the carbs are piling on the stomach and chest area making things probably a bit worse. I feel confused, i think the lean muscle is a myth or at least it doesnt apply to people who are not professionals

    • Hey hey! That’s awesome work you did. One important question to ask: Did you reverse diet after the cut, and before you started bulking?


      Also, I don’t recommend bulking at 18.5%… Starting at 10% is ideal for several reasons: it preserves insulin sensitivity and hormonal balance, it allows you to maintain a calorie surplus for many months before having to reduce body fat levels, and it saves you from long, grueling cuts.

      What you can do after a prolonged diet and you haven’t reached the goal yet, is to reverse diet before starting the cut again.

      • riva

        First time i saw that so thank you and thanks for your reply. Couple of things; I lost 45kgs mostly using HIIT (Insanity Max 30 workout). The HIIT meant that i was losing body fat but also that my upper body was getting weaker and it is not a state i want to be in. Then i decided to try a different workout, something that included lifting but the problem was my energy was very slaggish – even at 500 calorie deficit on my TDEE. Overall the past few months while on diet felt like a drag where i lost quality of sleep, food was tasteless, dizzines when walking my dog and more stress. I would love to reach a 10% and then bulk up, that was my original plan but it feels like i am going in circles with the diet. Signed in with disqus this time hence the different name 😀

  • Insufficient Fare

    Question. Already cut 5 lbs (Started at 185) got 5 more to go. I’m 180. TDEE is about 2900-3000. I train 5 days/week. I do 15 mins HIIT 4-5 day’s after lifting. What should I set calories at? Should I add calories I typically burn from HIIT to the total calorie’s? I’m cutting at 2480 calories.

    • Drop to a total daily cal intake of 2300–a 20% deficit from your 2900 TDEE.

      • Insufficient Fare

        Thanks for the quick reply. Yeah, I was rolling at 2420. Just dropped to 2300, I’m 179.6. 4 pounds left to go, cut should be done end of this month.

        Can I maintain my weight and get bigger? I mean, bigger as arms/chest/etc becoming bigger. Or do I have to bulk to achieve that? If I can be 175-180 and look 2
        190+ that’s be great.

        • Cool! Adjust as necessary to keep weight moving.

          You’ll have to bulk to achieve that.

          • Insufficient Fare

            Will do. So to look bigger I have to bulk? Probably bulk 5 lbs then. Nothing too crazy. I’m 12% now. If I bulk 10lbs how much fat do you think I’ll gain? I’m talking about a slow bulk.

          • Correct. You’ll have to bulk. at 12%BF, you have a 3-5%BF window before it’s time to cut again.

            Hard to say how much fat you’d put on…

          • Insufficient Fare

            Got you. I’m going to cut down to 10%. Then I’ll slow bulk for 6 months. By then I should have gained 3-6lbs of fat. Then I can cut and get rid of it in a month. Slow bulk again. So forth. That way I can add 1-2lbs lean muscle a month, gaining a little fat, and be able to cut back to 10% in a month. I got it all figured out now. Thanks for all the help! (If you’re the same person).

          • Insufficient Fare

            Will do. So to look bigger I have to bulk? Probably bulk 5 lbs then. Nothing too crazy. I’m 12% now. Aiming for 10%. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/56b71d79aa82aa44f4272144b15e99142901a28fbe3479d6a5c624f1259764eb.jpg If I bulk 10lbs how much fat do you think I’ll gain? I’m talking about a slow bulk.

          • Insufficient Fare

            Thanks for all the help! I have it figured out now. Gonna cut to 10%. Slow bulk for 6 months. Then cut a month to get back to 10%.

          • Sounds like a plan!

  • Lowson

    Hi. You’ve said that:
    3. If you’re a guy and you’re over 15% body fat, reduce this to about 10% before bulking. If you’re a girl and over 25% body fat, diet down to ~20% before bulking.
    But what if I am a pretty skinny male. Will you stil advise me to first cut to 10% bf by lowering calories I need to take? Regards

    • Check this out:


      Unless you’re really underweight, I recommend cutting first before bulking. This is ideal for several reasons: it preserves insulin sensitivity and hormonal balance, it allows you to maintain a calorie surplus for many months before having to reduce body fat levels, and it saves you from long, grueling cuts.

  • Hey, you’ll want to increase your cals to a point where you’re still gaining weight weekly. For best results, You’ll build less muscle and gain more fat.

    • Just gotta make stick to a small surplus (I recommend 10%) so that you’re only gaining 1/2-1 pound a week. That combined with proper training and a proper macro split, and the fat gain will be minimal.

  • Eddie

    My problem is that at present I am at 30% body fat. Sure it would be fantastic to get down to 10% body fat. So is it possible to do that and gain muscles at the same time?

  • Matt

    Hi Mike! Im’ 5’7, 34 years old and now 132 Lb, thanks to your book and diet In a couple of months I went from %15 BF to %11.7 (or so it says my calisper)
    The question is…should I start bulking now or should I shed a couple of more pounds to reach %10 BF (My issue is my belly fat-love handles as shown in the picture) I’m afraid that if I start bulking and gaining BF ,Im going to look “fat” only in that area (an area that is VERY hard to get rid fat from) And at the same time I see myself way to skinny sometimes…it seems that I only gain weight in my stomach! 🙁

    Should I diet for a a while longer?
    I also noticed that my metabolism slowed a little bit…is reverse diet applicable here? I thought of adding a few more grams of carbs (90 calories extra to my diet = 4grs of protein, 16grs of carbs and 1gr or fat) But Im so afraid Ill get “fat” again and it took me sooo long!

    Hope you can help this skinny-fat guy!

    • Nice work on the cut! Check this out to get rid of stubborn fat:


      I’d diet a while longer to shrink it down. No need to add calories. If anything, you should subtract calories to keep the fat loss moving–as long as you are staying in BMR.

      • Matt

        Thanks, the thing is Im pretty close to my BMR as it is (my BMR is around 1560 ish and my diet goes for a 1680 calories a day or so, so I cant really cut calories THAT much…Ill try some HIIT sessions since Im not really doing as much cardio as I should…Could that speed my weight loss?

        I also work on my feet for +8 hours a day and walk a lot so, that could help—

        Looking at my pics would you say im at %117 BF? Ive seen guys here with their pics and they look way better and they are around 12-13%BF

  • Annie

    Thank you so much for all the information you give me and all of the readers. Learned tons since I’ve discovered your website.

    I am cutting at the moment, and I think I am about 21-22% BF now (114 lbs, 5’3 ft tall female, 10 mm caliper pinch on suprailliac – so 20.3% according to accumeasure) – it’s hard to estimate bf based on pictures because all the women are pretty muscular there at that range, and I have very little muscle, as I just started training by your program. I can still grab onto folds of fat on my sides and belly tho…

    I would like to start bulking, and I am wondering if it is ok to start already? (even if maybe I’m not at the 20% yet) I really don’t want to cut any longer, plus I am pretty happy with my weight and looks (other than the lack of muscle) at the moment.

    • You’re welcome, Annie! Glad you’re enjoying the content and learning a lot.

      I’d cut just a bit more before bulking. Keep up the great work!

      • Annie

        Thanks for the quick reply!
        But what happens if I start bulking now? I’m just too eager to start building muscle!

        • Any time! Bulking at 20% or below is ideal for several reasons: it preserves insulin sensitivity and hormonal balance, it allows you to maintain a calorie surplus for many months before having to reduce body fat levels, and it saves you from long, grueling cuts.

          • YF

            Mike, are you really suggesting here that one could start bulking when they’re 19-20%? Wouldn’t you say that 10-12% is FAR better?

          • 10% for men, YF. 20% is for women.

          • YF

            Ah yes…thanks for clarifying that for me Mike!

          • NP!

          • Annie

            I get all of that, but what if my goal is not to get any leaner in the end? I just want to put some muscle on.. Do I need to bulk for that or just maintain? Or do I still need to cut no matter what my goal in the end is?

          • You can bulk now if you want, but keep in mind that bulking will inevitably come with fat as well.

            If you want to make much slower gains but stay lean, you can consider calorie cycling instead. But, this is not as efficient as a straight bulk/cut. It’s more for maintenance:


  • Kal-El

    Hey mike,
    If I just eat everything I can eat and lift and play football 1-2 hours almost every day, can I put on muscle while remaining lean?

    • That depends if you’re lucky enough to hit the right amount of calories without any planning whatsoever!

  • NaiKang He

    Hi mike , I am currently cutting after 6 months of bulk , my weights have been increased compared to previous week , however my bodyfat is decreased according to the bodyfat caliper . Is it possible ? And how much do you think my current body fat is (see picture )? How much bodyfat do I still need to cut ? https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/7889abc71617b139735ae0127af79a09f56b5c6cbbde0a973a9c81d91e047463.jpg

  • Mark

    Hey Mike,

    I’m training for a half marathon in March and was wondering how to bulk while training for such a big run. I average probably about 20 miles a week, with runs ranging from 3 miles up to 11 miles. I can calculate a rough estimate of the calories I’ll burn with each run but do you recommend I eat what I burn spread out over the week (say an extra 2000 calories spread out over the 7 days) or do it each individual day (like eating 1500 extra calories to negate an 11 miles run, etc.) Thanks for your help!

    • We don’t recommend more than an hour of cardio when bulking, but if you must, then be sure to take that activity into account when calculating your calorie targets and eat enough to put you in a 10% surplus.

  • AmyL

    My husband wants to try BLS. He is 12.7%bodyfat. Should he bulk or cut? He has been trying the bulk but feels super full lol!

    • I recommend that he first cut down to 10%BF. This is ideal for several reasons: it preserves insulin sensitivity and hormonal balance, it allows you to maintain a calorie surplus for many months before having to reduce body fat levels, and it saves you from long, grueling cuts.

      Haha, yeah its the opposite struggle compared to a cut when bulking.

  • AmyL

    Sorry, one more question: in the TLS book it says women should start bulking at 20%bf. Why wouldn’t I cut down to my goal bf first (17-18%) and bulk from there if I am not happy with my size? Thanks again for your time!

  • Gin

    You mentioned cheat meals in the article, so can we still have cheat meals while bulking? If so, would we use the same protocol? (no more than 100g fats, 150% of calories)

    • You can…but with so many calories to work with in your daily target, you shouldn’t have much trouble fitting in some fun meals while still reaching your macro targets at the end of the day as long as you make smart food choices throughout the day.

  • Sam

    I’ve seen other articles saying that it is more effective to do a long term lean bulk for say 3 years to gain muscle and then cut down. What do you think of this?

    • That’s just slow progress. Yes, building muscle takes time, but you’re capping your rate of growth by restricting your calories in the way you describe.

  • Ken Botelho


    I have cut down to about 8% BF at 170lbs. I’ve been on 2,000 calories/day for the last 4 weeks and will spend the next 10 days at 1,875 trying to lose the last pound or two. I don’t have problems with cravings and I’m pretty clean in what I eat. I’m as compliant as you can be given the accuracy of food labels. Where should I start my bulk? I’d like to gain as much lean body mass as possible before hitting 15% BF. If I started at 2,300 calories and added 100 calories a day each week until I was gaining more fat then LBM would that be the best way to do it?

    • Nice work cutting down to 8%, Ken! Once you’re done with the cut, calculate your new TDEE and start a reverse diet:


      Then, bulk up with this guide.

      • Ken Botelho

        Okay, got it. I’ll RD by adding 100-150 calories to my daily intake every week or so until I hit my TDEE. I’ll want to keep my protein at 1.2G per lb of BW and alternate adding carbs and fats until my fat is between .3 and .4 grams per lb of BW. After that, just add carbs until I’m at TDEE.

        Hang at TDEE for a week or two then lower my Protein to 1 gram per pound of BW and work up to a 5-10% calorie surplus. If I start gaining more then a pound or two a week, or when I hit my 15% BF threshold, recalculate and start cutting again.

        • Sounds good! Here’s the reverse diet article:


          • Ken Botelho


            I’m now about two months into my bulk. It’s been pretty interesting. I’ve gone from 167 lbs and around 8% BF to 176 lbs and around 11% BF, I’m 5’ 8”. Obviously gaining weight too fast, but not horrible results since I am gaining muscle as well. I find it strange that I’m having a more difficult time adhering to my reverse diet when my cut seemed so easy. The problem is in both directions. At first, I was off the reservation a little bit. Since I had a little more room in my daily calories, I went overboard on some days and added a lot of weight. The past few weeks as the amount of calories I’m eating every day has increased and I prefer to eat nutrient dense foods, I’m having trouble eating enough calories. Hitting my Carbs goal is the most challenging.

            There are a number of factors that seem to be at play. I am still a nube, (less than a year of heavy compound lifting), but I have a history years ago as both a strength trainer, (I was 185 lbs – ~9% BF at one point), and a competitive endurance athlete, 140 lbs, – ~6% body fat. In addition, I am still running competitively so I run 4x week at fairly high intensity and incline walk 3x week. Lastly, and I may be guilty of burying the lead, I’m 59 years old.

            I’m up to 2,705 Calories/day with 275g of carbs. I’ll keep adding calories until I get to 15% BF. The last few weeks I’ve been gaining less than .5 lbs/week. The calculator suggests that a 10% surplus for me is about 3,000 calories. I love lifting heavy and getting all the positive feedback that I do for how I look. Thanks again for all of the common sense, scientifically supported information you provide. It’s great to be an experiment of one armed with the solid foundation and experiences from thousands of members of the Muscle For Life community.

          • Good work, and awesome training history, Ken! Looks like you’re nearing the point where you’ll have to increase your cals to keep bulking. It definitely can be a struggle to pack in the carbs.

            Glad you’re enjoying the content and the program!

  • Ŝtêpħeń Gtb Verasammy

    im 122lb 5″7 and 16 old year how much calorie i need too build muscle without gaining too much fat.

  • Mike

    I started your workout plan laid out in the supplement to your book, Bigger, Leaner, Stronger back in July 2016. My weight was 137lbs (I’m 5’9″). My goal is to gain some mass, not huge but pack on 10-15 pounds of muscles. I was eating poorly (not eating calories or proteins). I increased everything to follow 55% carbs/20% fat/25% protein macro %. Fast forward to today, I gained about 10lbs but not necessarily muscle. I measured myself and saw some increases in my thighs, chest, arms, etc. What I did not like to see is my waist increased from about 31.5″ to almost 34″. So I am gaining too much fat. I calculated my calorie intake to about 2,335 but I rarely hit that mark. I seem to fail to hit my minimum carb requirement too. I average about 1,900-2,100 calories per day. My target carb is 321g/day but average about 270-280g/day. My protein intake is about 130-140g/day while my fat intake is about 60-70g/day. I thought I needed more carbs and calories (maybe get a mass gainer to make up the difference). However after seeing my stomach grow big, I don’t know if that is the right move.

    Am I on the right track or am I gaining too much fat and not enough muscle? I personally do not see much changes even after taking pics to compare. I do notice my gut is bigger! I do workout 3 times a week using low reps/high weights and make sure its progressive. I also do the compound exercises and little cardio (maybe 1-2 times a week). Any help would be greatly appreciate. I am disappointed that my gut is growing and not my muscles. Am I consuming too much “fat”?

    • It’s not the amount of fat in your diet that’s doing you in–it’s the calories. Could be your tracking and portioning are off and you’re eating more than you need to grow muscle. Also, it’s been 6 months. If you’ve hit over 15% BF, then it’s time to cut!

      • Mike

        OK, thanks. I recalculated my calorie intake based on the calculator linked above. It is stated my TDEE should be 2,019. I actually averaging about 2,200. So I should focus on 2,019? Or lower? What about my macros? Do they look fine?

        Also, I couldn’t find any articles here on proper way to cut. Could you provide? Thanks again!

  • amos

    Hi Mike, I’m 147lbs and 12.5% body fat and on a bulk. Just finished the 3rd week of BLS. Lately when I increased my calories by 140 (not gaining on 3020kcal), I noticed my lean body mass dropped but my weight still stay the same. I take weight and BF measurements of my self everyday and calculate the average. Is it due to insufficient sleep cause last week I was only sleeping 6-7hours a night compared to 8-9 hours previously?

    • Hmm. How are you tracking your composition? As long as you’re getting enough protein, aren’t in a steep deficit and training properly by focusing on getting stronger on your compound lifts your LBM won’t go down.

      Sleep can affect water retention which could affect your results when measuring composition. Take a look at this:


  • Annie

    Hello. I have just reverse dieted into my bulk. I am not sure if I am calculating my calories correct, as I don’t know what exactly to put for activity multiplier. I am following your program, training hard 4x week and doing fast walking for about 1 – 1.5 hours per week. I put 1.3 for my activity multiplier, my weight has been consistent and not moving anywhere for the past couple of weeks. (I know that for a woman it’s supposed to go up by .25lb per week, and my scale might now show that little of a difference, thats why I want to make sure I put the right numbers) Thanks in advance!

    Also, if I happen to train 3 times during some weeks, do I have to change the numbers?

    • Awesome! Nice job completing your cut and rd. 1.35x is a good start. If you’re not gaining weight, you know what to do–eat more carbs!

      If training for only 3x/week on the rare occasion, make the appropriate adjustments.

      • Annie

        Thanks! and what if I quit the walking, and still weight train 4 x a week, can i still do 1.35 multiplier?

  • Miz Eloise

    hello. this site is my bible and truth! 3 questions pls:

    1) 24% bodyfat now. im reverse dieting from a 21.2% just cause i hate the way how emaciated i looked. do i go straight now to bulk once i hit tdee? (32 yo female; 112 lbs; 24% body fat
    how do i know when to stop adding 100 calories every 7 to 10 days? when does it stop?

    2) my carb choice is hill less barley just cause i get hungry super easy and its high in fiber. now when i poop i see that it comes out in grains still not digested (sorry tmi). am i hurting my carb allocation? should i stick
    to easier digestible carbs.? so far this is the only grain that makes me full. black brown white red rice do not satisfy me. potatoes are soso sweet potatoes make me hungry.

    3) will you make a post about gym insecurities especially a woman like me scrawny and weak lifting among the bros.

    ty and mre ppwer

  • Hans Mabatuk

    For more bulking advice and diet plans, go here

  • Eric Merkley

    Hey Mike,

    Big fan and love your science based resources. I have a question about starting another bulking phase. I have just come off a cut and have been bulking for 2 weeks now, but I’m having a hard time reaching my numbers from my last bulk. What recommendations do you have or am I being unrealistic with wanting to pick up where I left off?



    • Thanks! Do you mean you’re not hitting the same weight and reps as your last bulk? Don’t worry. It’ll come back soon enough.

  • YF

    Hi Mike,

    Two questions please:

    1. I’m 2 months into my cut now (sorry that I’m posting in the ‘bulking’ section!) and noticing that I have lost 1-3 reps on some of my lifts. Is this normal during a cut? Should I be concerned about muscle loss?

    2. Do you advise reducing training volume during a cut or trying to maintain the same volume as during the bulking phase?

    Thanks very much for your help.

    • Hey! Nice work sticking to the cut for 2 months. Losing a few reps or a slight reduction in weight lifted is normal when you’ve been in a deficit for awhile. Keep up the volume and make sure you’re getting enough protein, calories, and rest. Here’s also a great video to check out:


      • YF

        Thanks for the reply Mike, and for the excellent and reassuring video!

        I know that you recommend ‘fast’ cutting, but I decided to go a bit more moderate this time at an average weekly deficit of 15% relative to TDEE.

        My current cutting macros are approx. 35% P, 45% C, and 20% F, which I track meticulously with MyFitnessPal. Are these appropriate in your opinion?

        Do you think I could benefit from a high carb refeed day? Or will a refeed just prolong the cut unnecessarily?

        Thanks again and happy 2017..

        • You definitely will see better results on a 20% deficit, and there’s no benefit to cutting at 15%. With 1.2g/lbs bodyweight protein and 20% fat, you’ll be fine!

          No need to refeed early in the cut. Check this out:


          NP, and happy 2017 to you too!

          • YF

            Ok, thanks Mike! Next cycle I’ll go for a 20% cut. It was my first successful bulk, so I was afraid of cutting too aggressively and losing my gains!

            Sorry, but I have one more nagging question:

            I have never barbell bench pressed- all of my chest development has come from dumbbell incline bench pressing, and I’ve been quite satisfied with it.

            However, I noticed that during the cut it’s become much more taxing to hoist the heavy dumbbells up and into position (I’m currently lifting 95s for 5-6 reps). In fact, I failed once, which was a bit demoralizing, not to mention embarrassing! I find that I’m quite spent by the time the chest portion of my upper body workout is completed, and the subsequent back exercises seem to suffer as a result.

            To reduce fatigue, do you recommend switching to barbell incline bench until the cut is over, or staying the course so as not to lose the strength adaptations to the dumbbell lifts?

            Sorry about the barrage of questions and thanks again for your advice!

          • Sounds good! Nah, don’t worry about losing your gains. As long as you’re getting enough protein, lifting heavy, and not going overboard with the deficit, you’ll be fine 🙂

            In BLS, the routine actually calls for both barbell and dumbbell incline presses. You should be able to lift more with the barbell once you’re accustomed to it. It is normal after many weeks of a deficit for strength to waver or drop a little bit though.

            Don’t sweat it. I’m happy to help.

          • YF

            Ok, thanks very much again Mike!

          • YW!

          • YF

            Oh, sorry, I forgot to ask you- when should I introduce the barbell incline press into my routine as you recommend in BLS? While I’m still cutting? Or should I stick with the dumbbells and wait until I’m lean bulking again?

          • Any time 🙂

  • Ung Tung Ho

    Hi mike! I started my journey here after reading your recomp article. Now transitioning to bulking phase though, I have another question.


    The first pic is where I finished my recomp in what I estimated to be 12%(or was I wrong?) I know you would prefer to start bulking at 10% but the cut was getting miserable and I was constantly hitting plateau so I decided to bulk first until 15%.

    However there is one thing I would want to ask, am I bulking too fast here in 2 months? I would estimate the second pic to be 13%, or am I wrong?

    • Looks like about 13-14%. Just about right!

      • Ung Tung Ho

        Thanks Roger! So my estimate of previously 12% sounds right to you too?

  • Taha Baig

    Hi mike , Im lifting heavy for bulking, I dont feel the burning sensation when I do 3-4 reps as compared to what you feel when you do high reps. For example side lateral raises feels useless.

    Im a hardgainer but Iv always been around 24% body fat. I dont gain muscle but I gain belly fat easily.
    Im bulking right now to bulk my thin arms then start cutting.

    Please advise ..
    taha baig

  • Georgia

    Hi, are there any circumstances when you would increase protein or fat consumption whilst bulking? I am 119lbs, pretty lean and not successfully gaining weight. I am eating 119g protein, 36g fat and 329g carbs. So a minimum of 2100 calories a day. I am finding that as I continue to increase carbs I am storing a lot of water so it is difficult to tell whether I am gaining weight or not. Could it be that I need more protein? Or is it always add carbs?

    • You can add protein and fat for extra cals, but carbs are the preferred energy source. When you hit 3x your bodyweight with carbs, that’s typically when you can start adding fats to make downing all those cals easier.

  • Miz Eloise

    hi mike

    ive currently reverse dieted out of a cut. 23%bf 110lbs. doing 1780 cals 110p 261c 33f

    i find it hard to consume that much carbs. can i allot it to protein instead? can i increase fat still? its going to go above 30percent of body weight if i do. 33 is max right

    pls help as i feel bloated xonsuming that much carbs

  • Taylor Kuzik

    Hey Mike, sorry if I’m visiting your articles so much but they’re so juicy metaphorically speaking that I can’t get enough.

    I believe I’m hovering around 11-12% BF though not completely sure. Haven’t done a skin caliper test because I don’t have skin calipers. Haven’t done a waist measurement since they can twll you if you’re making progress. I’m contemplating doing a lean bulk next fall or winter because spring is coming in a couple of months and it’d be too late to start a lean bulk now. I don’t think I could maintain a 10% calorie surplus for very long because I’d probably get sick from eating that much food. I know homemade mass gainer shakes can help you in the surplus because the ones you buy at a supplement store or online are loaded with carbs and sugar save for a few that have a more correct ratio in terms of macros.

    Everyone’s body different and may have to experiment to find their sweet spot for maximum muscle growth. Isn’t the general rule is bulk for about 4 months then start cutting to shed the unwanted fat you sadly gain with the bulk. This whole cycle of bulking and cutting does eventually takes its toll on your hormones. Is it best to do a maintenance phase between cycles to help recover your hormones?

  • dash

    Hi , I would love to buy your book but I have some questions , I am skinny fat , I have a big tummy but I am super skinny and I would rather workout at home than in a gym , would this book be good for me?

  • sean_noonan

    Hey I got a couple questions would you say the weight trend looks better now?

    Also from now on if I gain quicker then 1 pound a week would you recommend to reduce Intake?

    I wanna get strong I just dont wanna gain too much weight. Also would you say it’s a realistic goal to maybe bench like 240 at the end of the bulk and weigh like 205 at like 14-15%? I feel like I dont wanna have to weigh 240 to bench 240. I know you have a lot of experience with bulks and cuts though I’m just kinda wondering how it was for you strength/weight gain ratio. Again thanks so much for always replying. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/ef5b776b027fd2a477c5efc1bb0afa38e32f43707f0c9bfff0a4f396730605cb.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/7bfaffbb9246b1c35e8a16cf33065dbb772e2a3a9db232ead1d993d42164fee2.jpg

  • sean_noonan

    Hey I got a couple questions would you say the weight trend looks better now?

    Also from now on if I gain quicker then 1 pound a week would you recommend to reduce Intake?

    I wanna get strong I just dont wanna gain too much weight. Also would you say it’s a realistic goal to maybe bench like 240 at the end of the bulk and weigh like 205 at like 14-15%? I feel like I dont wanna have to weigh 240 to bench 240. I know you have a lot of experience with bulks and cuts though I’m just kinda wondering how it was for you strength/weight gain ratio. Again thanks so much for always replying. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c44ff2381921ff217b9ba0354251c1abc6eed4ba37dae4bec47e9318373ae7fc.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c40b851199294672fdff340ccc3fb4c8e927824d8e164099b367fdbfa23f7ed2.jpg

  • Ryan

    Hi Mike!
    Love the site! I believe you are doing great things for all us natty people.

    Ive always valued your opinion and i wanted your advise on something.

    Im about 8 months into mu bulk, but ive run into a bit of a pickle. There are 2 all natty physique shows i planned on joining, bu they are so far apart. One is in May, the other in october of 2017.

    Do you advise that i cut starting next week for the may 6th show and just calorie cycle until the october show, or simply skip the May show and bulk straight to june and cut in july in preparation for the october show.? After all, my priority is the october show.. my main concern with bulking til june was gaining too much fat and having a hard time cutting…

    • Thanks Ryan! Happy to do what I do. 🙂

      Hmm. I’d reverse diet and bulk after the first show and then cut again. You’ll get to eat more, build some muscle and probably be in a better position mentally to get lean again for a show. Even if you only get to properly bulk for a month or so.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

      • YF

        Hi Mike,

        Related to your reply, are you a fan of mini-bulks/mini-cuts or do you instead recommend longer cycles (say, 9 month bulk, 3 month cut)? Any downsides to each of these approaches?


  • Sean Steinmetz

    Hey Mike, I’ve been bulking for a month and a half now after a successful 6 month cut. Making steady progress in reps/weight in the gym now which is awesome, but admittedly, I’ve had several full on cheat days and gaining fat a little faster than I’d like. I’ve learned I can eat a LOT of calories (I’d say easily 8,000 in a day). When I eat less than, lets say, 6,000 cals, I’m flat out hungry by the end of the day. I’ve taken the approach of, “I’ll just enjoy this while I can”. I’m confident in my ability to cut, but I’m wondering how I can continue to bulk without feeling like I’m still cutting. This little voice in my head keeps saying, “just enjoy the bulk before summer when you have to cut again.” My recommended intake for a 10% surplus is just under 2,600 cal, which I can very easily eat in a single *nutritious* meal and feel nothing. “Clean” bulking feels just as restrictive as cutting did at this point. Any suggestions? Thanks!

    • Nice work on the cut and good to hear you’re on the bulk! As you’ve experienced first-hand, a bulk isn’t a free pass to eat whatever you want without restraint. Don’t listen to that little voice in your head! Do it right, or you’ll be cutting again before you know it.

    • Miz Eloise

      im on the same boat. i have an anaconda in my tummy im always hungry. i recommend fiber. sometimes im afraid am.i eating too much fober. i can go up to 39g for 2200 calories. fiber is the only thing that tames my tummy

  • Juan Zevallos

    Hey Mike

    I’m very a novice lifter currently working on form check. I weigh 152 lbs and am 5’6″. I definitely fall into the smaller/skinny category. My body fat percentage is about 16-17% (I think), abs aren’t exactly visible although there is some shaping and with the right lighting you can see some ab shadows, definitely not grating any cheese with it. Anyways, should I still be working on cutting down to 10% body fat. Starting strength suggests bulking up to 165 lbs to gain some muscle and strength first. Thoughts?

    • Hey Juan, check this out:


      I do suggest cutting down to 10% first. This is ideal for several reasons: it preserves insulin sensitivity and hormonal balance, it allows you to maintain a calorie surplus for many months before having to reduce body fat levels, and it saves you from long, grueling cuts.

      What do you think?

  • Chase Alexander

    Hi Mike,

    I just finished Bigger Leaner Stronger and was wondering if I should bulk or cut first. I’m 19 years old 6’1” 155 lbs and have a 14% body fat percentage. I’m not very strong in the gym yet, so I’m anxious to get up to respectable weights. I’m concerned that if I cut first I’ll miss out on newbie gains. What would you recommend?

    • You won’t miss out on newbie gains. Cut first, then bulk. This is ideal for several reasons: it preserves insulin sensitivity and hormonal balance, it allows you to maintain a calorie surplus for many months before having to reduce body fat levels, and it saves you from long, grueling cuts.

      Even during the cut you’ll be able to build muscle and get stronger in the gym.

      • Chase Alexander

        Awesome! Thanks for the help Mike.

  • Alex

    Hi there, I’ve been reading your site and book – great stuff!
    My question: I’m around 18% body fat, 154 pounds, and I have a belly but my ribs are showing. I’ve been lifting for around 6 months but am transitioning to your program. In this case, should I still try to cut to 10% first before bulking? Will my ribs be exposed even more? Thank you!

    • Hey Alex, that’s what we usually recommend in most cases. Shoot an email to Mike with your photos attached and we’ll take a look.

  • V’s Zumba

    Hi, Michael.
    I loved the BLS book and have been following it for 15 weeks. I found it very informative, thorough, and helpful.
    Thank you very much for sharing your knowledge with the world.
    I am 6’3″ 44 year old male. In the last 4 months, I have limited my calorie intake to between 2,500 and 2,700 calories per day and I cut from 235 lbs at 23% body fat down to 200 at ~6.5% body fat. I used the body caliper 3-point method to track body fat. According to my calcs I lost 40 lbs of fat and gained 8-9 lbs of muscle.
    I would like to start the bulking phase. I have a sedimentary job but am very active otherwise. I follow the 5-day BLS workout schedule (5 x 600 calories = 3,000), teach four (4) Zumba 1-hour long classes per week (4 x 800 calories = 3,200) , and dance Latin 2 hours per week (2 x 500 calories = 1,000). I understood that the sedimentary adjustment is 0.2 of BMR (2,200 BMR x 0.2 = 440 calories).
    I am estimating my TDEE at 2,200 + 440 + (3,000 + 3,200 + 1,000) : 7 = 3,700 calories per day. If I use the recommended 1.5 multiplier for very active lifestyle and apply it to the BMR, I arrive with 3,300 calories per day (2,200 x 1.5). The difference is substantial => 400 calories.
    I understood that the recommended calorie surplus should be 5-10%. I was planning on 300 calories.
    Would you please provide your recommendation whether I should use 3,700 or 3,300 calories for TDEE.
    Thank you.

  • Filippo Bonadonna

    Hi Mike, I have been lifting for 4 years and I am currently cutting, I believe I am in the 13% (here is a picture, you can judge if I am at 13% bf or not). I was wondering regarding the bulking and cutting phases, you reccomend to gain about 0,5 lb-1 lb per week and to lose weight around 1 lb per week. I weigh myself every morning after going in the bathroom and before eating/drinking anything and I enter my weight on the app called Libra which gives me my rate loss/gain per week by averaging my daily weight. Does it have to be accurate…for example, I am on a cut, but the past week my rate of weight loss is -1.4 lb per week, does that mean I need to reajust my calories so that I can match it to -1.0 lb per exactly? And since I am on my 4th year of lifting, when I bulk, if I am hitting a weekly gain of 0,9 lb per week (just an example), do I have to lower my calories so that I actually gain 0,5 lb??? https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/2a2dc045bc1d9ab6de1492908fd671c7813e79c6b972a3d8944b80e52cf215fd.jpg

  • Filippo Bonadonna

    Hi Mike, I have been lifting for 4 years and I am currently cutting, according to my scale, I am in the 13% (here is a picture, you can judge if I am at 13% bf or not since we know scales aren’t always accurate, but I think I am there). I was wondering regarding the bulking and cutting phases, you recommend to gain about 0,5 lb per week and to lose weight around 1 lb per week. I weigh myself every morning after going in the bathroom and before eating/drinking anything and I enter my weight on the app called Libra which gives me my rate loss/gain per week by averaging my daily weight fluctuations. Does I have to be accurate with my weight/gain rate…for example, I am on a cut, but the past week my rate of weight loss was -1.4 lb per week, does that mean I need to reajust my calories by highering them by maybe 100 calories so that I can to hit it at -1.0 lb per week for the following week ? And since I am on my 4th year of lifting, when I bulk, if I am hitting a weekly gain of 0,9 lb per week (just an example), do I have to lower my calories so that I need to be at 0,5 lb per week or am I just ocd lol https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/2a2dc045bc1d9ab6de1492908fd671c7813e79c6b972a3d8944b80e52cf215fd.jpg ???

    • You actually look more like 11% BF.

      Haha, regarding the weight gain and loss, losing 1-2 lbs/week is fine and gaining 0.5-1.0 lb/week is fine. So, adjust intake as necessary to stay in those ranges.

      You’re looking good though man. Keep up the good work!

      • Filippo Bonadonna

        Thanks, I appreciate the fact that you answer almost all of our questions. You’re one of the very few people in the fitness industry I trust. I also enjoy your podcast, keep up the good work 🙂

  • Alex

    Mike – I’ve followed a dirty bulk, and put on too much fat. I think I’m at 25-30% BF, but I have a good bit of muscle underneath of it. I think I need to stop focusing on increasing my lifts, and focus on cutting my fat but don’t know where to start. I get somewhat scared when my lifts go down, and it’s hard to lift heavy in a caloric deficit. I get really tired and sleep a lot. Do you have any suggestions, or should I try something like LeanGains for a 4-6 months and switch to BLS afterwards, and be prepared to be beat up for a bit?

  • D.J. Via

    Just came here to say thank you Mike. I’ve read almost every article you’ve put up over the past 16 months and have formed a great base of knowledge off of them. I went from beer belly 178 lb probably 20-25% bf, down to 155 lb and less than 10% bf. Now I’m 170 lb, 10% bf. Slight caloric surplus over the last 7 months has allowed me to make gradual gains. It doesn’t happen over night and I actually enjoy the lengthy process of it all. Like you said it’s a lifestyle. You’re the man and I’m grateful that you’re so generous. Thanks again Mike.

    • YW! That’s awesome you’ve made such great gains. Keep it up!

  • YF

    Hi Mike,

    I’m (hopefully!) nearing the end of a 6 month cut (lost 15 lbs) and beginning my second year of consistent training and diet according to the methods you prescribe. Would it be ok if I sent along a picture for your opinion as to whether it’s time for me to start lean bulking again?

    • Nice work! Sure, send it over.

      • YF

        Thanks! I’ve included a ‘before and after’ for reference- I had no idea how FAT I had gotten at the end of the bulk! In your opinion, should I keep cutting, or start lean bulking again? https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/3fdc994f53b1014fc4305ba2c16176172aee607787275fc57488e63f893eb8ca.jpg

        • From this photo, I suggest cutting a bit more. You can use these photos as a reference:


          • YF

            Thanks for your honest opinion Mike! So, what would you estimate my bf% to be, 12% or more?

          • YF

            Also, since body fat% is a function of both fat mass and muscle mass, do you find value in using waist/height ratio as a guide to decide whether to bulk/cut?

          • Looks like about 13%. No real need to look at waist/height ratio, TBH. All you need is the mirror or calipers.

          • YF

            Thanks Roger! Based on your and Mike’s advice I’ll probably drop another 3-4 lbs before switching gears.

            For what it’s worth, I believe the concept of body fat% to be rather limited in deciding whether to cut or bulk (ignoring the fact that bf% is difficult to determine accurately anyway). A person with 20 lbs more muscle than me, but with the same amount of body fat will have a lower bf%, and based on that, most would say that he should stop cutting, whereas they might suggest that I continue to cut, despite having equivalent fat levels. What makes more sense to me, on the other hand, is waist to height ratio- at least for men, since they tend to store excess fat around the waist. It would seem to be a more useful guide, since it doesn’t also depend on the amount of muscle a person has at a given time. Am I mistaken on this?

          • BF% is going to be best. I know it can seem difficult at first to determine accurately, but with enough practice and experience with calipers, you can get pretty dang accurate. Waist to Height ratio can give you an idea about abdominal fat, but not a sufficiently accurate or precise method for our purposes.

          • YF

            Hmm, now I’m confused. I’ve personally found that waist measurement around the navel in the AM, before eating and drinking, to be remarkably consistent. Also, isn’t it primarily abdominal fat that we’re trying to lose when cutting? If so, then it would seem that the tape measure would be a good guide, no?

            I guess in the end it doesn’t really matter; as Mike suggested, what ultimately counts is whether you like what you see in the mirror.

          • We lose fat everywhere when cutting, and the tape measure won’t be as accurate or precise as other measurement methods to give us the BF% data. There is one Navy method that takes measurements all over the body to find BF% and that one can be very inaccurate. For more info, if you’re not yet seen the article:


            And, that’s true. The number doesn’t matter if you like what you see in the mirror.

          • YF

            Ok Roger. Thanks for clarifying!

          • Any time!

  • Wcs

    Can you bulk up with only calisthenic?

  • Mark

    Hi Mike,

    I’ve been reading your book and have been bulking for a couple months now, reaching 180 lbs and 20% body fat with my ultimate goal of being 180 lbs and 10% body fat. I’m currently eating about 3000 calories a day and have been going up on my carbs because I wasn’t gaining much weight at the original macro recommendation. I’m going to start cutting to get back down to 15% but it seems like I’m never going to get to my goal. It seems like I’m just going to lose weight now with the cut and eventually get back to the same spot I’m at now when bulking again. Do you have any recommendations? Should I just cut down my calories and carbs when bulking again and be a little more patient? I was waiting a week or two before I would increase my carbs/calories when bulking like you recommend. I had cut before with your program and got down to 164 lbs and 8% body fat but that’s much lighter than I would like to be. Thanks for your help.

    • Hey Mark, I recommend cutting down to 10%. This is ideal for several reasons: it preserves insulin sensitivity and hormonal balance, it allows you to maintain a calorie surplus for many months before having to reduce body fat levels, and it saves you from long, grueling cuts. Alternate your bulk and cuts and stay between 10-15%. Be more patient with the bulk and increase your cals when you’re not gaining enough weight.

  • dm

    Hi Mike,

    Sorry for my english. i am not a native english speaker. Very nice article. I just finished your book <> and i have some questions, i will be very thankful if you can help me. I am 28years old, 69kg and 176cm. I just measure my body fat using <> and my fat is 9.3%(6,3kg fat). One year ago i had 16% body fat. I want to add some muscle gains, so i will follow your recommendation for 0.8 to 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight(until now i consumed large amounts of proteins–one of my mistakes) and 20% fat of my daily calories. Should i measure in protein’s macros the protein from rice(carbs sources etc) or only from chicken, meat, whey-poweder etc? Also, i am training using functional-training (weight lifting, trx etc) 4 days per week. It is a very intense workout. Can i build muscle using this workout? I just want to add 2-4 kgs muscle.

    Thanks for your help,

  • dm

    Hi Mike,

    Sorry for my english. i am not a native english speaker. Very nice and useful article. I just finished your book “bigger Leaner Stronger” and i have some questions, i will be very thankful if you can help me. I am 28years old, 69kg and 176cm. I just measured my body fat using a bioelectric impedance tool and my fat is 9.3%(6,3kg fat). One year ago i had 16% body fat. I want to add some muscle gains, so i will follow your recommendation for 0.8 to 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight(until now i consumed large amounts of proteins–one of my mistakes) and 20% of my calories will be from good fats on my daily calories. The rest will be carbs. (now i consume almost 3000 cals to stay at this weight). Should i add in total protein’s macros the protein from rice(carbs sources etc) or only from chicken, meat, whey-poweder etc? Also, i am training using functional-training (weight lifting, trx etc) 4 days per week. It is a very intense workout. Can i build muscle using this workout? I just want to add 2-4 kgs muscle.

    Thanks for your help,

    • Hi Dimos, no problem! Your English is great, by the way 🙂

      For your protein intake, include total protein from all sources.

      I do not recommend functional training for building muscle. This is what you want to do instead:


      • dm

        Hi Mike,

        thanks for your response! It is very helpful and instructive:) A last question: is the 20% a good ratio of total good-fats in my total macros or should i increase them as i increase a bit the carbs?

        Thanks in advance,

  • Nicholas Wan Cheng Yao

    Hi Mike, As mentioned in the article, bulking to get ripped takes a long time. I do see some videos on youtube with 90 days transformation where somebody with a flabby body can cut and get ripped within 90 days. I was wondering is this possible or it’s just a hoax?

  • Anthony M

    Mike or a coach,
    I’m likely around 15%bodyfat I’m told, according to an inaccurate scale ive lost 15lbs of fat since starting and i now I’m stuck between bulking and cutting. I’ve had a few people tell me I should bulk for a year straight; is this bad advice? I am low on muscle, im between 137-147lbs lean and 15-25lbs fat. You say you should cut until you’re 10%, but what if you are really in need of a good bulk, should you still cut to 10%? I don’t want to look overly skinny and people are telling me I dont have enough muscle to cut, they said I should just get it out of my mind until i build some muscle, like a year’s worth. I dont know much about insulin sensitivity but maybe that’s a reason to stay between 10-15% like this article says. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/129cd3802d09b410ed61c21d05997f7157325d9f1d2a7371d406c54d5c86518e.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/98a5609bc9bf013a92be1b92be874fffc455f2f95a0b1e665106602ada6b2009.jpg

    Thank you

    • Yeah looks about 15%. Bulking now for a whole year would be a terrible idea unless you’re a teen in high school who’s still growing. You’d likely be able to stay around 14-16% if you control your calorie intake well enough.

      It the above doesn’t apply to you, then definitely cut to 10%. This is ideal for several reasons: it preserves insulin sensitivity and hormonal balance, it allows you to maintain a calorie surplus for many months before having to reduce body fat levels, and it saves you from long, grueling cuts.

  • Chris

    Hi Mike,

    These articles are amazing thank you! So i have been on your cutting program for months now and I got down to under 10% body fat which is great but I just feel like i look too skinny as I lost about 20 pounds going down to about 185. Should I bulk now and then cut again? I see that you recommend on a bulk going to a surplus and adding a lot of carbs while decreasing protein is that accurate? Basically, I want to bulk up again but I am scared that I will lose everything I’ve worked hard for during this cut. Please help!!!!

  • Olivia Crinnion

    Hi Mike,
    What calculation do you use with the caliper? I know there are a few just not sure which one you recommend. I am really anxious about the whole bulking/cutting process as I know calipers aren’t 100%, how can I be sure I am at the right stage to start each process? I am nervous I will bulk too soon and have difficulty cutting.

  • Jay L

    Hi Mike!

    How long should a bulk be? I know eating at 10% caloric surplus until I hit ~15% bf. But is there be a guideline on how many weeks I should be on a bulk?

    Likewise, how long should a cut take?
    I know you advocate cutting rapidly until 10% bf but roughly how many wks?

    Thanks !

    • There’s no specific timeframe for a bulk or a cut. Cutting takes as long as it takes to reach 10%. You can bulk as long as you want, but I wouldn’t go above 15-17% body fat. I recommend stretching out your bulks as long as possible. Make sense?

  • Ethan

    Does any of this change if you’re a teen lifting in high school? I naturally stay at about 10-12% BF, so I want to bulk, but as you said, I don’t want to ruin my “aesthetics”. I’m currently about 145 lbs. and 8% BF. I figured bulking during the powerlifting season would be a good idea, but I really like how lean I am, and my coaches are prescribing 27x my bodyweight in calories plus 500 to gain a pound a week. Any advice?

  • Jay L

    Hi Mike! Thanks for your stuff.
    Been lifting for couple yrs but recently discovered this and am on my 9th week of BLS and gona deload after another wk of training before resuming. I’ve been seeing some strength gains and am able to add weight to the bar for most lifts once every 2 wks but my weight doesn’t seem to be moving up linearly like a bulk should.
    18 Sep: 154.5lbs
    25 Sep: 156.9lbs
    2 Oct: 155lbs
    9 Oct: 156.7lbs
    16 Oct: 158.3lbs
    23 Oct: 155.8lbs

    Should I be worried? Should I increase calories via carbs or decrease? Thanks.

    • Hey Jay! Rather than weighing yourself once a week, it would be more helpful to take a weekly average. Daily weight fluctuations are to be expected, so weighing yourself just once a week can make it a little tricky to see what’s really going on.

      As long as you’re gaining 0.5-1lb per week, you’re in the sweet spot. If you’re gaining less than that, you can increase your daily calories by 100 by adding some carbs.

      Keep me updated on your progress!

      • Jay L

        Great idea! I did a weekly average and so far it looks like:
        Week 1: 70.83kg
        Week 2: 70.62kg
        Week 3: 70.51kg
        Week 4: 70.58kg
        Week 5: 70.81kg

        • Gotcha. I’d just follow what I outline in the article: add 100-150 cals to your daily intake this week and see if that does the trick.

          • Jay L

            Great! Thank you.

          • YF

            Hi Mike, related to this, is it common for weight gain during a lean bulk to plateau such that calories need to be adjusted upward as the bulk progresses?

          • Yup, pretty common.

          • YF

            Ok, thanks Mike! Since I’ve been stagnant for the past 3-4 weeks I’ll go ahead and add 100 cals to my intake.

          • Sounds good. Keep me posted 🙂

  • Jay L

    Hi Mike! I read somewhere that you do not recommend training fasted during lean bulk. I currently am in my lean bulk and I only work out fasted first thing in the morning. I take my preworkout 30 mins before and BCAA 15 min before my workout.
    Will it be bad?

    • It’s not “bad,” but you’ll probably have better workouts with some food in your system.

  • Jay L

    Hi Mike, thanks for your stuff. Second cycle of BLS now.
    Need your advice on something because this greatly affects whether I should bulk or cut; and also my calculation of TDEE.
    The regular weighing scale I use has a built in function and tells me I’m 20% bf and there’s another machine at the gym with the handles that tells me I’m 11.5%bf.

    Which one should I take as true so that I can plan accordingly?
    For reference I’m quite lean, abs do show. Been making slow but decent gains via BLS.


  • NaiKang He

    Hi Mike , I am currently cutting and want to know if I am ready to bulk . What’s your estimate on the bf % of my current status . I want to bulk around 12% as your advised https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/539d86e54034176f4f94ce596617e903cb9e7caa4c72360ed4af61b34a81d394.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/8eb390003ea56b5e0d495dc94ecc677d14078739a86781759743feb213ba51d2.jpg and want to know if I am near .

  • Bella Walsh

    Hey Mike,

    I guess its time to Bulk! I know those on line body fat calculators are inaccurate but I kinda checked e or 4 of them using my measures and took the average and got the info I am with around 19% BF. Ive been on cutting for while and noticed doesn’t matter how hard I workout Im not getting more muscles which made me feel its time to start bulking. I’m gonna follow your 10% surplus advice and start eating around 2300 cals. I’m 5’7 and weighting 149lbs. I exercise between 4 to 6 hours/week between lifting and doing jiu jitsu.

    Am I on the right track??? I really wanna try your Build Muscle Stack supplements. Do you recommend it for this stage?

    Thank you very much!

    • Hey Bella! 2300 sounds about right for you. If you’ve been cutting, I’d reverse diet up to that and see how your body responds. Check this out:


      That stack would be great for you! 🙂

      Keep me posted on your progress!

      • Bella Walsh

        Awesome, Mike! Thank you! Love the article about reverse diet. My only problem I’vee been struggling with time lately and it still take me a long time to come up with the best meal plan for me. So I dont think I will be able to create a new plan every week increasing calories. 🙁

        Is that too bad if I start with the 2300 plan already?

        • If you can stick to it without bingeing or going off the rails from the sudden increase in food, it won’t be much of an issue. You’ll probably gain some weight at first from extra water and glycogen, but if you notice you’re gaining too fast after the initial bump, lower your cals just a bit. I hope this helps!

  • Age

    Hi Mike,
    I’ve been an avid follower of yours for the past few years and really respect your work.
    I’m currently attempting a bulk and I’m am wondering if it’s necessary to do cardio while bulking as the concept seems counter intuitive to maintaining a calorie surplus every day and steadily gaining weight.

    From what I understand from your BLS book and articles, I should be maintaining a calorie surplus of aprox 300cal every day and I should expect to put on fat and muscle to about a 1:1 ratio. However, if I manage to burn say 200 calories twice a week with cardio, it wont result in any fat loss. Is this correct?
    Is cardio necessary?

    Thank You very much for your time,


    • Hey Age! Thanks for the kind words 🙂

      Cardio isn’t necessary while bulking, but I do like to do a couple of sessions of HIIT a week when I’m in a surplus just to help maintain conditioning.

      Check this out:


      As long as you’re in a surplus, you won’t lose weight/fat.

      Keep me posted on your progress!

      • Age

        Thanks Mike!
        Appreciate your time and the article link.
        Hopefully send you some before/after pics after my Cut.


  • Mohammed Khaled

    Hi Mike,

    I am 27 years old, 80 kg, 13%PBF.
    I started bulking when I was just 9%PBF, but I just gained 200 gm of lean mass through two completed months.My cal intake is 2700, with 10% cal surplus, my protein intake is more than 1.8 gm per kg of my weight.
    I want to know what is wrong with that?
    Is that the large amount of carb? Or the less amount of protein intake?

    • Hey Mohammed! Your protein intake seems fine. If you’re not gaining weight, then you need to increase your overall calories. If you’re getting adequate fat, then go up another 100 to 150 calories from carbs. Keep doing this each week until you’re gaining weight at a good rate (0.25 kg per week is a good target).

      I hope this helps!

      • Mohammed Khaled

        Thanks for your help, but what about my fat level ??which is increasing, I wonder what is the exact reason for that.
        However my fat intake doesn’t exceed 50gm per day.

        Also what about cardio .. I used to run three or four times per week. About 10 km for each time.??

        • Some fat gain is expected when you’re in a calorie surplus. Are you making progress on your lifts and getting stronger? If so, you’re on the right track. If you’re gaining weight too fast, lower your calorie surplus.

          For cardio, check this out:


          I like to do two HIIT sessions per week while bulking.

  • Cesar

    Hi Mike,
    I weight 145lbs and my current macros are 435 carbs, 58 fat, and 259 protein for a total of 3300 calories. I wasn’t gaining weight after I hit 3x my weight for carbs so I started increasing protein, but I saw in this article to keep protein to 1g per pound of body weight and to increase fat intake. So my macros would be 435 carbs, 109 fat, and 145 protein. Is that too much fat or should I increase protein?

    • Hey Cesar! That’s fine. Keep protein at 1 g per lb, and increase from fat once you cap out on

  • Yatnig Fernandez

    thanks for this mike! very informative! i’ll apply this in my program!

  • Adam

    Hi Mike. I’m currently 17 years old, am 6’1 and weigh 176lb. I’m a naturally skinny guy, but I do have a bit of obvious fat stored around my mid section (my stomach and lower back), but it’s only really noticeable but after I’ve eaten. I’d estimate that I’m between 10-15% body fat.

    I’ve been lifting properly for about a year now, but only started worrying about diet and nutrition in the last week or so. There’s a lot of conflicting information regarding what I want to achieve, which is wanting to lose fat but develop muscle at the same time. I just want to ask you what to do, quite simply. Recently I’ve been following Greg o’Ghalagher’s advice from Kinobody, and eating at a surplus of about 200-300 calories on training days and at a deficit of about 100-200 on resting days, however, I understand that being at a deficit on resting days can prevent protein synthesis and means your muscles won’t grow. I also intermittent fast for about 4-6 hours after waking up on rest days.

    Would you say body recomposition is possible for someone like me, with 1 year lifting experience? Over the past year, I did increase in strength, but aesthetically, there was only a very minor increase in muscle, and perhaps a slight increase in fat. Overall, I believe I gained around 10-20lbs in the last year.

    If body recomposition IS possible for me, is following Greg and Kinobody’s program (namely the WSP one) the right approach to it, with surplus on lifting days and deficit on rest days, with IF in the morning and skipping breakfast? Is your calorie cycling approach better? Or should I try to drop down to 10% body fat or lower and THEN follow your bulking advice in this article? I’m not looking to become extremely muscular, definitely not bigger than Greg himself, for example, so what should my approach to nutrition be?

    I look forward to your advice, and thank you!

    • Hey Adam! Honestly, at your age, I recommend being in a calorie deficit for as little time as possible. You’re in a healthy weight range right now, so I would just focus on lifting hard, and listening to your body when it comes to your overall food intake. Check out this article of mine:


      What do you think?

  • Richard

    Big fan of your work, Mike! Just curious, is there any research that shows doing bulk/cut cycling leads to faster overall muscle growth (and physique development) compared to something like a recomp or other strategies (if there are others)? I’ve looked around and haven’t really seen anything.

    • Hey Richard!

      There actually aren’t any long term studies that compare bulking/cutting with recomping. That said, the reality is trying to gain muscle mass while in a calorie deficit is a losing proposition once you pass the beginner stage. While you may be able to gain some strength depending on your training and experience, bulking and cutting is going to result in faster progress overall.

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