From personal experience, I find I can be more lenient and get lean gains. My average daily intake is 2600ish, but on cycle I like 3200-3500(more on some, but never less than 3200) Eat clean, get nothing but clean gains. Eat fairly clean with a little flex, get pretty lean gains still. But the eat anything in sight, just doesn't work for me. I gained a decent bit-o-fat from that method, even though I never broke 4000 cals doing it.
Personally, I just like planning out my 2 weeks on 2 weeks off, make a list of meals and combinations I can eat on any given day, and pick through 'em. Last time, I posted a table on my wall and threw darts at it to decide on that day's meals.
Each person will react differently, but that's how it is for me.