A very common question and misconception is if we should bulk or cut. If you want to know what cutting is and what bulking is, which will suit you best and why you want to keep reading this post.
What is Bulking?
Bulking is when you gain weight consciously (with the purpose being gaining muscle) this is often referred as “off-season”.
A typical bulking season in the old days of bodybuilding consisted in just eating as many calories as possible and focus on a really high protein diet. Some even went as far as adding a gallon of milk per day to gain weight.
While all of these strategies may work for some to gain weight, they are not the best way to build lean muscle. And if your goal is aesthetics, health and real progress, these may not be the best strategies for you out there.
Why lean bulking is the best option for natural lifters
The problem with doing an old school bulk, also known as a “dirty bulk” is that you do gain lots of weight, but the majority of that weight ends up being body fat. Body fat is not bad by itself, but that is simply not the goal when doing a proper bulk, the goal of doing a proper bulk is maximizing you muscle gains.
Since muscle building is a slow process and the more you gain the more it takes to gain, bulking if you are a beginner or intermediate should be about this:
- Slowly gain weight
- Slowly gain strength
For more about bulking, check out this article: How to gain muscle and weight
Lean bulking will have the best of both worlds, while you are in a caloric surplus you will create a very anabolic environment for your body, this will facilitate putting on muscle and strength during your bulking phase and you will see the scale going up a bit every week if you do it right. When you are using anabolic steroids, you can bulk to a very heavy weight and still make a lot of progress, but as a natural lifter patience and determination will be your best friends.
When should you bulk?
If you are starting in a bodyfat percentage relatively low (around 10%-12% bodyfat) and you are interested in gaining muscle and strenght you should bulk. I don’t really advise to bulk if you are on a higher bodyfat percentage, but if you are okay with looking a little soft for a while, you can still bulk on around 15% bodyfat until you get to 20% bodyfat. Is that simple! If you want to get big and look big in clothes then you should give the bulk look a shot! A lot of people i know actually prefer to be in a higher bodyfat percentage and have no abs if that means they look bigger in person.
You should aim to gain around 2 pounds per month, or .5 pounds per week.
What is Cutting?
Cutting is the opposite of bulking, you will be in a caloric deficit and will try to lose FAT not muscle. You will lose fat and you should be losing weight to get to a lower bodyfat percentage. Getting around 10-12% bodyfat for men of 20-22% bodyfat for women is a good standard.
For all the specifics of cutting, check out this article: How to lose weight and maintain it
You should lose around 1-2 pounds per week for a successful cut.
When should you cut?
If you are overweight, or you are in a high bodyfat percentage, you should cut. Make sure that you choose a bodyfat percentage that suits your life, for example some men can stay around 15% bodyfat and look/feel great. This will vary from person to person and everyone is different but if you are going for a beach look the you should cut, if you want to be ripped for summer then you should cut. Cutting is fun because you can see all the muscle that you have been working hard to build. Some people will actually look bigger without clothes when they are lean because of the muscle definition.
If you are going in a vacation and want to look better, or going to the beach, you should cut to reveal that muscle definition. Once you are done with your cut, you can maintain that bodyfat percentage and keep training or you can go into a lean bulk. People will feel comfortable with a certain bodyfat percentage, if for some reason you are ok with making really slow progress you can maintain this condition for as long as you need to. With proper training and proper nutrition you can still make gains in a lower bodyfat percentage.
IS BULKING AND CUTTING NECESSARY
A lot of successful bodybuilders and some studies suggest that you can build muscle without bulking. Some studies even show gains when you are in a caloric deficit. When it comes to fitness there are a lot of ways of getting things done. If you want to lose weight, you can try a lot of different diets but they will all need to be based on a caloric deficit. For this reason, we know that your body will need protein to build muscle. This is why is you choose to build muscle with your maintenance calories for some reason yous should optimize things like meal timing, hormone optimization, protein intake and supplementation.
Of course bulking is not completely necessary to build muscle and you can build muscle and strength eating at maintenance calories, but being in a caloric surplus will create the perfect environment for your body to build muscle mass. If you are really serious about gaining size your best option is to bulk. The bulking experience is overall great, you will gain muscle and strength with a little bit of fat only if you do it the right way. Remember that bulking is not an excuse to cheat everyday and get really fat. You will still need to know how many calories you are eating. Of course you don’t have to be as strict and due to being in a calorie surplus you will be able to eat a lot of food!
That’s it for cutting and bulking, do you have any questions? Let me know in the comments!