You’re trying to pack on as much muscle as possible and wondering if you should be bulking or maingaining?
What exactly is each of these and what are their differences? Which is the best for muscle gain?
I’ll give you some factors to help you decide.
Bulking VS Maingaining
Bulking is the most ideal way to put on muscle if you’re a new lifter or you are very lean. Maintaining is most optimal for those who are happy with their physiques and want to slowly put on muscle without fat. Your personal goals will really be the deciding factor.
The term bulking refers to eating more calories than your body is burning, which results in weight gain. The goal is to put on muscle and as much size as possible. However, this cannot be done without adding some fat.
It’s usually done for a period of around 4-6 months. The increased calories that your body takes in are meant to increase muscle size and strength. They additionally provide extra energy during workouts from the extra carbs.
10-20% above your daily maintenance calories are consumed while bulking. Take your maintenance calories and add about 300 calories. Watch the scale and adjust as needed.
The slighter the increase in calories, the less fat you will put on during the bulk phase. If you aren’t gaining any weight, then increase the calories.
Note that a lean bulk approach is more efficient and results in less fat gain. This is where you try to eat lean foods and still keep your fat and sugar content low.
On the other hand, the goal of a dirty bulk is to eat anything and everything. Your strength and weight will shoot up, but so will your body fat levels. This is not healthy or sustainable for your body.
Both result in some fat gain and require a cutting phase to later burn off that fat.
The unfortunate truth about bulking is that many people will use it as an excuse to eat poor foods without ridicule. They can eat all the burgers and pizza they want and just explain that they “are bulking.”
Should you not be eating these types of foods while bulking? In moderation is fine. It is best if you can fit them into your daily macro goals. But a cheat meal in moderation will not harm you.
Bulks are a bit more allowing for extra cheat meals when compared to any other eating phase. However, the more junk foods you allow yourself to eat will result in more body fat being gained.
Most people are probably familiar with bulking, but what is maingaining?
Maintaining refers to keeping your same body fat level and body composition while slowly building muscle. You eat either at or slightly above your maintenance calories and continue to progressively overload in the gym.
Progressively overloading is increasing your weight, reps, or sets every workout. It can also be down by increasing intensity or decreasing rest times. This allows you to gradually build strength and muscles over time.
You also must be eating adequate protein. Aim for 1gram of protein per pound of body weight. This ensures that your muscles can grow and recover after you break them down in the gym.
Maingaining has become popular in its ability to gain muscle without putting on fat. It does require eating clean foods. You can’t expect to eat out and eat fatty foods and maingain. This will cause you to put on body fat.
Who should maingain? Maingaining is typically done once you are happy with your physique. This usually takes a few years of training, but is different for everyone. If you are mentally happy with your physique, then go ahead and maingain.
People who are overweight should not main gain. Their objective should be to lose body fat first. If you are very lean and don’t have a lot of muscle mass, you should bulk up before considering to maingain.
Notice that maingaining should only be done at a healthy weight. If you are at a very low body fat following a show it is not optimal to keep that look.
You will be eating such low calories that you won’t have energy and will not feel good. There is a reason bodybuilders gain weight back after getting extremely lean for a show. Your body does not function properly when you are that lean.
If you are around 10-15% body fat and content with your physique, then you should give maingaining a try
Bulking VS Maintaining
Many people get into a cycle where they bulk all year putting on muscle and fat and then cut for the summer. This results in them having a physique that they’re actually happy with for about 2 months in the summer.
Then they go back to bulking and putting on body fat. They throw on their hoodie and forget about their abs and low body fat until the summer. This can become draining mentally. Maintaining removes this issue.
While bulking does build more muscle than maingaining, it eventually results in a cutting phase. Muscle is a lot harder to build while cutting than it is maingaining.
Maingaining will not result in a bunch of extra body fat.
If we were to compare the two phases on a graph, bulking would go up quicker than maingaining. However, every time a cut phase is introduced that graph would go down slightly. The maingaining graph increases at a slower rate but is constantly going up.
Your physique while maingaining will constantly be improving. People often get discouraged with their physique as they start to build up body fat on a bulk. Sometimes getting too lean on a cut will also make them feel small and weaker.
Bodybuilding is very much all about illusions and how you picture yourself. Maingaining does a great job of keeping you satisfied mentally year round.
Maingaining is a healthier approach to gaining muscle because little to nobody fat is put on. Bulking always results in body fat gain. The more body fat on your body, the less testosterone you have and the higher your risk for disease such as heart attack and stroke.
If you are new to lifting then bulking and cutting is best option as you will see the most amount of muscle growth by eating in a caloric surplus.
If you wish to stay relatively lean and keep your abs year round, maingaining is the way to go. Have have issues with over eating and putting on way too much body fat during your bulks? Consider maingaining.
If your goal is to get as strong as possible and you don’t care about your physique, like in power lifting. Then you should be bulking as it is the best way to build strength. Powerlifters are required to lift as heavy as possible so if they have some extra body fat it really makes no difference to them.
The maingain approach is the best way to keep your current physique if you are happy with it.
Newer lifters should start with bulking or cutting, depending on body fat levels.
If you always put on too much fat when bulking, try maingaining.
You should always try to eat in either a lean bulk or maingain phase as they are the healthiest ways to build muscle.
Full Affiliate Disclosure: If you purchase a product through a link found on my website, I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. All products provided on this site have been price checked to be the cheapest options online for your convenience.
Leave any questions below and I’ll get back to you!