Lean vs Bulk. Understanding the difference.

Most of us work out with a goal in mind and generally that goal is to “look good”. But there are different variations when it comes to body composition and we will end up choosing one or the other. Some people want to build muscle mass while others may want a more lean look.

Maybe you are one of those people who can’t truly decide which avenue to take when it comes to lean vs bulk. Perhaps you may not know the differences between one or the other or which one is more beneficial to you. How different would the workouts be or what kind of food and quantity would you intake?

Well, I want to bring you some understanding and insight about these type of muscle developments. So Let’s dive right in.

What is lean muscle?

This is the kind of muscle that doesn’t have fat or has very little fat around it. Now just to be clear, all muscles are lean because muscles don’t typically contain fat.

Also, what you eat makes a difference on how lean you may or may not look. If you want to go with a lean look, then you have to eat “lean”. But also consider your caloric intake.

Burn more calories than what you are taking in. For example, if you are burning around 2,500 calories per day, then you may want to consume around 2,000 or 2,200 calories to be on a deficit.

So what kind of food should be consumed to help have that nice lean body physique? It’s obvious that we shouldn’t indulge in fat saturated foods like donuts, candy, and french fries. As tasty as they may be, we are still what we eat.

Protein packed foods like lean beef, tuna, eggs, salmon, chicken breast, tilapia, turkey breast, and Greek yogurt are some examples and most of these kinds of foods contain vitamins and amino acids which are the building blocks of protein.

Also, when it comes to lean muscle, we have to consider the following – weights and cardio. It’s actually a pretty simple concept. Both are great ways to simultaneously torch fat and build muscle. So by doing both, you are very well on the path of building lean muscle.

The word “cardio” to some people maybe a little cold-shouldered because there’s this misconception out there that if you do cardio, you’ll lose muscle. Well, guess what? it’s not true! So don’t listen to that B.S. (Belief System).

Cardio is not only good for your overall health but it can help promote muscle gains as long as your nutrition is on point and you are consuming enough protein.


Bulking for people could mean different things. But generally the idea is to eat more calories than you are burning or to be on a caloric surplus. But it isn’t just only about burning fewer calories. It’s also about eating the right energy source foods to promote muscle growth. Especially foods that are high in protein.

For most bodybuilders, “bulking” is typically the “off-season” thing to do because they don’t have to worry about cutting down for competition. A high calorie maintenance is necessary to not only build but keep muscle mass.

For some people, bulking can be an excuse to eat whatever they want just as long as they load up on calories. This term is usually referred to as “dirty bulking”. But just because more calories are being consumed, doesn’t mean that the right nutrients are.

Foods like chocolate, ice cream, cookies, cake, and donuts are all high in calories but also high in fat which of course are detrimental to muscle growth because as I mentioned earlier, muscle has little to no fat.

On the other hand, there’s “clean bulking”. As you could probably guess, that would be the healthier way to bulk and add more mass. Things like adding more protein, refraining from processed foods, and tracking your macros(carbs, protein, and fats) are ways to do that.

There are also different workout methods to train for bulk. Strength training and hypertrophy are very proven and effective ways. More strength equals heavier weight lifting which ultimately creates bigger mass. Compound movements like squats, dead lifts, bench press, shoulder press and rows are necessary to add to your program.

So which is better?

Is one better than the other? Well, that really just depends on your overall body goals and preference. Most people usually go for the lean look when it’s closer to summer. Lean is the more popular way to go when it comes to having a “beach body”.

The idea of having ripped abs and a more defining muscle tone to show off seems to be more appealing especially when it’s “suns out, guns out” season.

But once the climate starts to cool down and it’s back to layering up, then that’s typically when “bulk season” is in because the primary goal is more centered on gains and packing on mass instead of leaning out. I mean why else would you go through the work of getting more muscle tone if you can’t really show it off?

In my opinion, I don’t think you could go wrong with either one at any time. I think it’s all about trying things out and seeing what works best for you. Of course, the healthier the choices, the better results you’ll reap.

“Everything in moderation” is a very respected mantra and should definitely be considered when it comes to fitness and nutrition.

I think that eating an overall healthy diet all year around is a better choice. That way when it’s closer to summer you don’t have to go through too much trouble of trying to shed and lean out.

Being fit is not just a trend but a lifestyle. Develop those healthy habits and it will just become second nature. It’s more about just looking good. It’s also about feeling good too as well.

I hope I was able to provide some valuable insight here. What do you guys think? I’d like to hear any opinions or if there are any questions, please leave them in the comment section below!


  1. I agree with you being fit is not a trend but a lifestyle, no matter lean muscle or bulking , keep healthy habits is the most important thing. Thanks for sharing.

    • Absolutely! I couldn’t agree more. It’s those daily habits that determine our success and longevity in health and fitness. It’s all about making the right choices for ourselves!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *