Bodybuilding has two gears… building muscle, or losing fat. We’re either getting bigger, or getting smaller, in one way or another. In an ideal world, a bodybuilder wouldn’t have to cut, because everything he ate would be used for pure muscle growth, and the remainder would disappear into thin air rather than the reality of having the excess stored as fat. Ugh.
But, here we are in reality, for better or worse, and fat is always a side-effect of any attempt to put muscle on. The aim of the game is to minimize it. It’s all we can do.
Bodybuilders call putting mass on ‘bulking’, and you can either do a dirty bulk (where you eat what you want, and don’t care too much about the amount of fat you are gaining) or you can do a clean bulk, where you are very stringent about what you eat and how much fat you are putting on.
Normally, a dirty bulk will only last maybe 6 months or slightly more, because the amount of fat may begin to get out of hand and the trainee will then cut for what may well be an equal amount of time to what they bulked for. (Maybe even longer.)
There is no doubt about it, doing a clean bulk is preferable, particularly for the drug free trainee. The simple fact is, when you put on a lot of fat, without steroids, it’s going to take several months to lose it – and you’ll lose some muscle mass in the process. But, if you don’t have much fat to lose in the first place, you can bulk for longer (more muscle)… you’ll look good throughout the process (no real fat accumulation) and when you cut, you’ll have to do so for less amount of time and also don’t risk losing much muscle during the cut. It’s win-win.
Doing a clean bulk is easy – you simply eat all the right foods, in the right amounts (proteins, carbohydrates and fats) and take regular weight and body fat measurements.
My advice is to shoot for a 1lb bodyweight a week increase. Much more, and you are certainly putting on fat – because muscle simply doesn’t grow that fast.