Lean Bulking for All Year Round Lean Gains
By James Collier BSc (Hons) RNutr, MuscleTalk Co-Owner and Nutrition Consultant
This meal plan is aimed at more advanced bodybuilders who hold some good size and shape, and want to make lean off-season gains without gaining too much excess body fat, so it's not hard to get back into competition shape when the time comes. Also staying in this condition has the added advantage of you always looking good and you can more readily see your progress without the muscles being hidden by fat. Keeping fairly lean will entail doing regular cardio exercise, which will in turn keep you fit and healthy.
The goal here is to bulk up, but not too much: lean gains only. Try to keep to a sensible off season weight, and definitely no more than 2 stone (28lbs) above a stage weight; indeed for lighter guys, then even this may be too much.
The key to healthy lean gains is to eat big and consistently throughout the day following a structured meal plan. The plan below is compiled around six or seven meals / snacks each moderately large, rather than three huge meals. You need to include plenty of high protein food choices: lean meat, chicken, fish, eggs and milk; high fibre complex carbs like cereals, bread, pasta, rice and potatoes; fruit and vegetables (don't forget nuts and pulses are also good sources of protein); as well as sources of essential fats.
The timings of meals is also important; they need to be distributed regularly through the day and carbohydrate foods need to be structured in such a way to provide an even influx of energy, especially around your workout.
As an advanced bodybuilder you may wish to include a few more hi-tech supplements. There are some rubbish ones out there, but the following are worth considering:
- Whey protein isolate – protein is the most fundamental of all bodybuilding supplements. A good quality whey protein isolate should be included in your meal plan. More information on Whey Protein
- MRPs – meal replacement formulas shouldn't be relied on, but can be useful supplements: they are high in protein and contain all the vitamins and minerals, as well as being a convenient way of including an extra meal or snack. You can buy formulas or can make your own smoothies like James' Super Smoothie
- Maltodextrin is a complex carb powder: an ideal way to get more energy and calories. More information on maltodextrin
- Vitargo – following on from maltodextrin, there are specifically formulated carb powders which optimise refuelling post workout. More information on Vitargo
- Beta-alanine is a really useful performance booster with a lot of evidence to back up its effectiveness. Include 5-6g daily. More Beta-alanine information
- Creatine Monohydrate – tried and tested and been around for years, creatine has been shown to help a lot of trainers improve their performance. Creatine FAQs
- Pre-workout formulas – many supplement companies have produced their own pre-workout formulas and may contain a range of ergogenic ingredients like beta-alanine and creatine, as well as other tonics like nitric oxide which help muscle pumps, taurine to help focus and citrulline malate to help delay fatigue. A good quality pre-workout supplement may be a useful inclusion.
- BCAAs – the three branch chain amino acids are found in large amounts in muscle tissues, therefore some advanced trainers feel supplementing with BCAAs has benefits.
- L-glutamine – is an amino acid which may be required in larger amounts in hard training athletes. More L-glutamine information
- Essential fatty acids – although we should be getting good amounts of EFAs from our diet, some of us do not. Therefore a flaxseed oil or mixed omega 3-6-9 blend may be included.
Advanced Bodybuilding Meal Plan
The following is a sample meal plan for one day for an experienced competitive bodybuilder to help gain quality lean mass in the off season:
Wake 7.30 am
40g whey protein isolate + 5g L-glutamine in water
100g salmon / mackerel
Large handful mixed nuts
Mug green tea
Large chicken breast or 2 mackerel fillets
4 slices granary bread
Large mixed salad
Low fat yoghurt
Tub cottage cheese or quark
15 mins pre-workout
Pre-workout supplement including beta-alanine
Immediately post workout 40g scoops whey protein + 40g Vitargo in water
250g lean red meat or 250g chicken / turkey or 300g white fish
70g basmati rice or 90g wholewheat pasta or 5-6 small boiled new potatoes or 1 large sweet potato (dry roasted)
Large serving of vegetables / salad
Low fat yoghurt
Serving of James' Super Smoothie
Tub cottage cheese or quark
Note that not all the mentioned supplements are included in the plan and some of them are ingredients in the smoothie. This meal plan is merely a guide and must not be stuck to rigidly! Aim to eat a variety of different meats / fish / alternatives, complex carbohydrates, fruit and vegetables every day, and drink plenty of water. Adapt the plan to suit your own needs, goals and lifestyle and adjust according to your results in order to keep the gains coming and body fat down. Vary your portion sizes from day to day, along with hard training will help maximise gains. However, as you carry a lot of muscle, you will need to consume fairly large portions of your meals.