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Dirty Bulks: Your Complete Step-by-Step Guide to Weight Gain

Updated: Dec 15, 2023

Use these tips to put on mass and strength, the dirty way!

Table full of unhealthy foods in preparation of a dirty bulk.

So you're planning to go on a dirty bulk.

Or maybe you've just started considering one, and want to learn more about them before you commit to making a decision like this.

Either way, you've come to the right place if you're wanting to learn more about dirty bulks, including how to do them, why you would do them, some pointers to do them effectively, and are wanting to put on proper mass and strength.

Plus, there's lots more tips I'll be giving you along the blog post to make sure that your dirty bulks go according to plan.

Let's get started!

What Are Dirty Bulks?

Bulking is the act of purposely eating in a caloric surplus to gain weight, muscle mass and strength.

Combined with strength training of some sort (usually weight training), bulking is an extremely effective method of putting more mass and enabling your body to build more muscle.

Dirty bulks then take it one step further (though not necessarily in the right direction for everyone).

Dirty bulks are a form of bulk phase that has athletes and trainees recklessly eating anything and everything, as well as taking all measures possible to ensure that weight is gained, and muscle mass is built.

During the traditional dirty bulk, no foods are off limits, and no amount of calories is too many either. Literally anything that's going to help you gain weight is going to be done.

You'll see many quite a lot of people utilizing dirty bulks, from lots of different backgrounds.

Many teenagers who start out on the smaller side will be attracted by the idea of dirty bulking, and seeing excessively quick and rapid weight gain.

Many bodybuilders, powerlifters and even some team sport athletes will also utilize dirty bulks during their off-seasons to put on some serious size.

Athlete eating pizza to dirty bulk and gain mass

While dirty bulks can be a pretty effective approach for putting on size and strength quickly, they also come with several side effects and disadvantages that simply aren't worth it for some people.

To decide whether or not it's worth it for you to engage in a dirty bulk, keep on reading!

I'll get to the advantages and disadvantages of dirty bulks in the coming sections.

Are Dirty Bulks Effective?

Well, dirty bulks are a form of bulking.

And bulking successfully is a matter of eating enough calories (more than you burn) and being able to put on weight.

Since dirty bulks have you eating so many calories and keeping up consistently with your strength training, they're a pretty safe bet if the only thing you can about is gaining some weight and putting on some muscle mass.

However remember that they may not always be the best choice or approach for everybody, due to their potential downsides and drawbacks.

I'll get into the advantages and disadvantages of dirty bulks now.

The Advantages of Dirty Bulks

Dirty bulking comes with several different advantages over other forms of bulking and simply 'maingaining'.

Rapid Weight Gain

For starters, due to the sheer amount of calories that you're taking in each day and the fact that you're consistently keeping up with you strength training, you're likely going to see quicker weight and size gains than you otherwise would.

Other approaches are generally more controlled and keep the calorie intake at more sensible daily amounts.

While this may be better in the long term, it does mean that taking the approach with dirty bulks is going to allow you to see quicker weight gain, and possibly reach your goals earlier.

You'll Find It Easier to Lift More Weight

Fit and muscular man doing barbell deadlift with heavy weights to build muscle

Since you're going to be gaining more mass more quickly, you're likely also going to find that it's much easier for you to lift weights that you used to struggle with, and also much easier for you to hit new PRs when you're a little bit heavier.

You're going to be able to challenge your muscles under new, heavier loads, and practically force them to grow more in size.

No Need to Fight Cravings

When you dirty bulk, you basically eat whatever you want, whenever you want.

This is going to reduce the chances of you having to fight off cravings, as you'll get to eat them, even when you're following the diet plan!

You won't have to try and resist the urge of eating those chocolates, or those cakes, or those pizzas.

Instead you can eat whatever you want, and however much of it you want as well.

Sounds like bliss doesn't it?

You Don't Have to Follow a Repetitive Diet

This one is kind of similar to the one above.

When you follow a dirty bulk, you don't have to constantly eat the same foods every day, at the same portion sizes either.

You don't have to wake up and dread breakfast due to you forcing yourself to stick to eating foods that you don't like.

Might be Cheaper than Cleaner Bulking Approaches

It's no secret that unhealthier foods are generally cheaper than healthy options.

That's why so many people like to get fast food as cheap takeaways.

Not only are they quick and convenient to prepare, but also pretty cheap compared to healthy options that you have to take home to cook.

And cheaper options are likely also going to more affordable, even if you do choose to take groceries home and cook the food yourself.

For the most part, the more easily available a food is, the cheaper it's going to be.

This may mean that if you're running on a tight budget, dirty bulking might be a more suitable option for you.

The Disadvantages of Dirty Bulks

While dirty bulking does have its advantages, it also comes with some downsides that make it a poor choice of approach for many people.

Many people think that dirty bulking is the single best way to gain mass and strength, since they're easy to stick to and generally yield the fastest results when it comes to purely gaining weight and size.

However, this is simply not true for everyone.

You Might Feel Sluggish

This may actually come as a surprise to some people, as it might make sense that eating loads and loads is going to increase your energy levels,

However, since your body has to take so much time to digest the food and the amount of it that you're eating, you're likely going to feel sluggish and drained of energy for a good portion of your days.

This is one of the major drawbacks of a dirty bulk.

You Might Jeopardize Your Health a Little Bit

Since you're going to be removing the cap off of your choice of foods that you eat and the amount of it that you consume, you're going to inherently increase the risks of compromising your health a little bit.

Tasty fried chicken wings that are helpful for accumulating calories during dirty bulks

Whether this comes in the form of reducing your insulin sensitivity from consuming too much sugars (see study here), or simply becoming severely overweight and maybe even obese.

According to WebMD, being severely overweight can increase the chances of you suffering serious conditions such as certain types of cancers and heart diseases. I'm sure you know that those are things you want to avoid.

There are other effects that dirty bulks can cause to your overall health, making it more suitable as a short-term approach to weight gain for most people.

Due to these negative side effects of dirty bulks, it's usually best to seek professional medical advice before engaging seriously with a bulk phase like this.

You'll Probably Have to Work Harder to Cut Down Again

Since dirty bulks can cause such rapid weight and size gain, they can quickly spiral out of control and cause you to gain weight at rates that you otherwise wouldn't want.

Unless you've got experience with dirty bulks, there's a pretty good chance that you're going to end up overdoing it and putting on quite a lot more mass than you initially planned to put on.

And due to the nature of this bulking style, you're more likely to put on more fat than a cleaner bulk would cause you to. This means that either way, even if you manage not to overdo it, you're likely going to have to do more work on cutting.

However if you're prepared to do that extra bit of work to ensure that you get back to your lower body fat levels, this shouldn't be too much of a problem to you.

So Should You Do a Dirty Bulk?

Well, it's up to you.

You need to take into account all the factors that are going to have an influence on the effectiveness of your dirty bulk, and and your ability to stay committed to it.

For example, weigh the pros and cons of a dirty bulk.

Are you desperately wanting to put on mass fast?

Perhaps if you're a bodybuilder and you have a tight time window to put on this mass before needing to cut, or you're a powerlifter needing to move up a weight class in a short time period.

If you've got a case similar to one of those above, then it might make sense for you to try a dirty bulk.

You need the rapid results.

And if you're not too worried about compromising your health a little bit (remember to stay sensible) and you've got enough in your budget, then it might make sense for you to engage with a dirty bulk.

However if you're just the average gym lifter, and you don't train for any professional or competitive purposes then it might be better for you to stick to clean bulking and spare yourself the negative side effects of dirty bulks.

The only REAL downside is the fact that a dirty bulk approach might compromise your health.

So if you haven't got any important reason such as a competition of some sort coming up, then it might make sense for you to stick to clean bulking instead.

It can be easy to let the dirty bulk slip out of hand and for you to either gain too much weight or become too unhealthy.

Will You Be Able to Stick to Your Bulk?

Another thing that you have to keep in mind when you decide whether or not you're going to engage in a dirty bulk is the type of person that you are, and whether or not you'll actually be able to stick to a cleaner bulk, or a bulk at all.

Cleaner bulks are generally harder to stay committed to due to the fact that they require you to eat from healthier, more restricted food choices.

Plus, there's still a cap and some limits to the amount of food that you can eat.

I've seen many people become bored of clean bulks, or bulking at all and simply give up when it becomes hard.

Because believe it or not, it is hard to always keep stuffing your face with food.

It's not easy to keep on eating when you don't feel like it at all. Especially if the foods you're eating are ones that you don't particularly enjoy, or would much rather swap out for something else.

You need to be honest with yourself and ask these two questions:

  • Will you be able to commit to a clean bulk whilst eating foods that you might not particularly enjoy eating?

  • Will you be able to commit to eating lots and lots of food, even when you don't feel like eating any more?

If you answered 'no' to the first question, it might be better to engage with a less restricted, 'dirtier' bulk instead.

Otherwise if you answered 'no' to the second question, you might be better off simply staying away from bulks altogether, to avoid wasting your time on something you won't be able to commit to just yet.

So if you've got the ability to wait for slightly slower progress in return for less of an impact on your overall health, a cleaner bulk might be the better option for you.

Otherwise, if you don't mind the side effects and just want/need to gain weight for any reason and do it quickly, then a dirty bulk is a perfectly fine approach to take.

How to Dirty Bulk

Dirty bulking the traditional way is easy.

All you have to do is pick some foods that you enjoy (ideally high in calories and protein to build muscle), and eat a lot.

Fit man eating unhealthy foods during dirty bulk to gain mass

By this, I mean a lot.

During a dirty bulk, you basically eat as much as your body can tolerate.

Often, it's going to feel pretty uncomfortable eating that much weight. But this is normal if you're dirty bulking the way most people do.

Even if you want to stop eating, you basically force yourself to eat more.

The whole point of engaging in dirty bulks is to get loads and loads of calories in. Constantly eating more and more calorie-dense foods is going to be the best way to go about this.

And to make it just a little bit easier, that's why we pick foods that we enjoy eating.

But What If I really Can't Get All the Calories In?

If you really struggle to eat that much food, and you feel like you're unable to get all your calories in, there is a way you can get around this.

Get Liquid Calories In

The best way around this problem is to get your calories in through liquids.

By this, I mean any form of liquid like a protein shake with protein powder, your favorite blend, or a smoothie that you enjoy drinking and can easily fit into your diet, even if you're eating lots on the side.

Drinks are generally much easier to consume and much less satiating (filling) than real foods are, therefore they're extremely useful if you're trying to bulk and get as many calories into your body as possible.

A quick search online can bring you the some of the quickest, tastiest and most convenient high-protein and high-calorie smoothies or blends.

They're seriously a great way to bulk up, just ask anyone that's gone from the skinner side and built some good mass.

Mass Gain Powders

Another option that you have would be to take mass gaining powders instead of your regular protein powders.

These powders generally contain more calories than your usual powders, making them a great option for those that are looking to put on weight.

Many people like to put mass gain powders inside of their protein smoothies and shakes, which is a perfectly viable and good option for getting more calories in when it becomes tough.

My favorite mass-gain shake is the Optimum Nutrition Mass & Weight Gainer, which comes in several delicious flavors and has great value for your money if you look at the benefits that you get from this stuff.

Please note that this is an affiliate link. Link to affiliate disclosure.

Overall these are two great ways that you can work around the problem of not being able to fit that many calories into your body.

Either get them through liquids or switch out your regular protein powder for mass-gainer powders instead.

How Should You Be Training During a Dirty Bulk?

The way that you train during your dirty bulk should be more or less the same as you would be if you were maintaining, or even cutting.

This is assuming that you're lifting weights in the gym.

You need to constantly be training hard and lifting in relatively heavy rep ranges (4-12 reps per set).

All of your working sets need to be taken close to failure, and by this I mean going within 3 reps of not being able to do another rep at all.

You need to be doing enough training volume to stimulate muscle growth throughout each week, and also ensure that you're continuing to apply progressive overload.

That is, continually increasing the weight or stress that you're placing on your muscles to provide them with increasingly challenging workouts.

On top of this, you should try to keep cardio activities to a minimum.

This is because cardio generally burns a lot more calories than strength training does, and it's just going to cut off some of the hard work that you're doing during your dirty bulk.

Instead, stick to heavy or intense strength training and stick to eating in your caloric surplus.

Combined with the right eating like I outlined above, this is the recipe for a successful bulk.

What Foods Should I Eat?

You should be aiming to have foods that are both high in protein and high in calories. This is going to ensure that it's as easy as possible for you to reach your goal of a large caloric surplus and fast weight gain.

Some examples of this could include:

  • pizza

  • pastas

  • avocados

  • fast food

  • nuts

  • baked goods

  • milk

  • red meat

  • chicken

  • protein shakes

  • mass gain powders

  • burgers.

Of course these aren't the only foods you can eat, they're simply ideas.

What Foods Should I Avoid?

You'll generally want to avoid any foods that are low in calories, and those that are low in sugar content.

This is because these foods will still fill you up, but won't help you that much in achieving your macro and calorie goals for the day.

They'll basically take up your ability to eat food, but won't do a whole lot towards the cause of your dirty bulk.

Some examples of food that you should try to avoid could be:

  • liver

  • fatty fish

  • apples

  • oats

  • berries

  • white mushrooms

  • watermelon.

It's not to say that you can't eat these foods are all during dirty bulks, but just that you should avoid letting them take up too much of your diet.

Final Pointers With Dirty Bulks

To wrap up this post, I'll give you some helpful final pointers that you can take advantage of and use to ensure your dirty bulks go as successfully as possible.

Dirty Bulks Aren't Too Good in the Long Run

One of the most important things you need to remember is that dirty bulking is not healthy at all.

It's not going to kill you if you run it for a short while, but it definitely should not be followed in the long run.

Unhealthy fast food being consumed during dirty bulk to gain mass quickly

Instead, try to keep your dirty bulks as a short-term approach, and don't run them for more than a few months at a time.

The compromises in your overall health are going to catch up to you if you're not careful.

If Things Get Out of Hand, Dial It Down

There's no guarantee that you're going to be able to stick to the original plan if you do choose to engage with a dirty bulk.

After all, it is pretty easy to get sidetracked when you allow yourself to eat whatever foods you want, at quantities that you freely choose as well.

However if things do get out of hand, there's no reason for you to need to keep on going. Just because you said you'd commit to a dirty bulk for a certain number of months does not mean that you need to stick to that.

You shouldn't waste more of your time in a commitment that you don't want to stay committed to, just because you've already started it.

It's simply not a smart thing to do.

To Conclude

Dirty bulks are a perfectly viable option and strategy for most people towards the goal of gaining size and mass.

They bring about rapid results, and are extremely effective at boosting both muscle mass and strength in the gym.

However, there are also several drawbacks that you need to take into consideration as well.

It's up to you to weigh everything, and decide whether or not dirty bulks are the right approach to this goal for you.

Wishing you the best of luck with your bulk!

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