Bulking and cutting correctly is simply knowing how to sync your fitness, and nutrition plan together to reflect your current goals. The type of exercises and the amount and type of food you eat play a major part in determining the quality of results you see.
This sounds like common sense but not everyone follows it. For example, if you’re bulking, this doesn’t mean to eat everything in front of you just to add up the calories. You will only end up gaining fat and losing muscle definition. Or if you’re cutting, you may think starving yourself will get you to your goal faster. All this will do is make you lose lean muscle which is exactly what you don’t want.
With some simple planning you can avoid these mistakes, getting your diet and fitness plan on the same page isn’t complicated.
What Is Your Goal, Lose Weight Or Build Muscle
The first step is to decide what you’re trying to accomplish.
There are many different reasons that will make someone want to change their fitness habits.
- If you’re overweight and want to slim down.
- You may be on the skinny side and want to build muscle.
- Or you’re somewhere in the middle and don’t know if you want to lose fat or build muscle first.
The most important part of creating a fitness plan is to first identify what goal you are trying to reach. Are you trying to bulk (build muscle) or cut (lose fat)?
The answer to this will determine your daily caloric intake which is the most fundamental factor in creating a nutrition plan no matter your goal.
Should I Be Bulking Or Cutting First
For most people this will be pretty simple to figure out.
If you consider yourself overweight and you want to slim down you should cut first.
If you consider yourself skinny and want to gain lean muscle you should bulk first.
The only time this decision isn’t so easy is when you are somewhere in the middle.
If you’re a man with more than 15% body fat or a woman with more than 25% body fat you should cut first.
If you’re a man with 10% body fat or less or a woman with 20% body fat or less you should bulk first.
Some people prefer having excess weight on their body, if you are one of those people than obviously you can choose to bulk no matter what your body fat percentage is. Just keep in mind the higher your body fat percentage, the easier your body will retain fat.
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How Long Does Bulking And Cutting Take
This will be different for everyone, genetics and metabolism play a role in how fast or slow you gain or lose weight. Also the amount of effort you are putting into your workout sessions.
If you are bulking first you should continue until you attain the amount of lean muscle you desire, or you become uncomfortable with the amount of fat you have accumulated.
When bulking you are eating a calorie surplus which will always add some fat to your body. How fast this happens depends on your metabolism and the cleanliness of your diet.
A bulking phase could last 4 months, 6 months, 8 months or over a year. The duration will depend on how fast your body adds on fat. I am able to bulk for about six months before I feel the need to trim back down. Fortunate people can bulk for years before having to cut.
If you decide to cut first, you shouldn’t stop until you reach the desired body fat percentage you were trying to achieve.
Does Bulking And Cutting Work
I get asked this a lot and I never understand why, whether or not your bulking and cutting phase works is entirely dependent on your food choices and how you approach your workouts.
This is one of the few times in life where the outcome is completely up to you, bulking and cutting isn’t a machine that can break, or a unreliable friend that breaks a commitment at the last second.
You’re the only person that let themselves down when trying to reach a certain fitness goal. just as long as you do what you have to do on a daily basis then you’ll eventually achieve the body you want.
What Not To Do While Bulking
A lot of people think if you eat a ton of calories this will equal more muscle production and this is not true at all.
It is true that you need to be on a calorie surplus in order to give your body the extra fuel it needs to build muscle, but this is generally around 300 to 500 extra calories per day depending on your metabolism and lifestyle activity.
Excess food won’t make more muscles
Adding more calories above the amount that you find yourself needing is only going to result in excess body fat, this will diminish any muscle definition you have and make your cutting phase longer, and who the hell wants that.
Another awful habit I see people do is they focus on the calorie number they have to hit , but not the quality of food they eat to get there.
If you eat a bunch of crap while bulking just to hit your calorie quota, then your results are also going to be crap. It really is that cut and dry, 2500 calories from chicken breast, eggs, rice and pork, is a higher quality nutrition source then fast food, and processed foods.
You’re nutrition plan needs to be made up of whole foods, made by you so that you can have complete control over how and what you’re putting in your body.
What Not To Do While Cutting
Let us get this out of the way, first and foremost, cutting sucks!!!
No one likes being hungry, tired, and unmotivated, unfortunately there is no way to not feel some of these symptoms once you put yourself on a calorie deficit.
Cutting however is a necessary evil if you want to show off the muscles you just worked your ass off for.
The way you go about your cutting phase will determine if you keep that hard earned muscle or if you’re going to lose some of it.
People have a bad habit of going on too much of a calorie deficit, thinking that the more extreme their diet the faster they’ll lose the fat.
This is somewhat true, you will lose weight at faster increments, but some of that weight is going to be in the form of lean muscle. You don’t want to lose more than a pound a week, this will keep the vast majority of losses to body fat and not muscle
Can You Bulk And Cut At The Same Time
I’ve been involved and witnessed many conversations on this topic, and I’m not sure why it’s not clear to people that the answer is NO.
The one exception is when you’re brand new to lifting some people will experience fat loss while building muscle, but this only happens with certain individuals at certain times. Not nearly enough to warrant a yes to this question.
When you’re bulking you have to be eat more calories than you burn, this will always result in some build up of body fat.
This is why you then cut, to get rid of the fat you gained from bulking to create muscle definition.
Bulking and cutting phases are dependent on your daily caloric intake, this makes it impossible to do both at the same time.
You can practice lean bulking, this is where you eat just enough calories to build extra muscle, while adding the smallest amount of fat possible. This takes experimentation while you track your progress until you find just the right amount of calories and exercise.
When doing a lean bulk you may find that your results are slower, but if done correctly you’ll never have to go on a strict cutting phase.
How To Track your Progress While Bulking
- You want to gain around 0.25% bodyweight per week. for example, a 170 pound person would gain between 1 and 2 pounds per week. Remember that your weight fluctuates for many reasons, water retention, digesting, time of day. For this reason when tracking your muscle gains try to weigh yourself in the morning wearing the same clothes.
- If you seem to hit a strength plateau one of two things is happening. You’re either not eating enough calories, or you’re not gradually progressing with the amount of weight you’re training with. If you think it’s your diet then add 100 to 200 calories to your daily allotment and see if that helps. If you realize that you haven’t increased the weight or amount of reps your doing on a weekly basis you need to start. This is how you train your body not to adapt to your routine and stop building muscles.
- You should notice an increase in strength during the 6 to 12 rep range of your workouts.
How To Track your Progress While Cutting
- You want to lose around 1% of bodyweight per week. For example, if you weigh around 200 pounds then you’ll expect to see about 1 to 2 pounds per week.
- If you see your weight loss diminish you either need to decrease your calories in intervals of 100 per day until you see results, or you need to increase the amount of cardio you do.
- User a variety of tools to help you track your weight loss like scales, body fat calipers, and before and after pictures.
Body Fat Raises Estrogen Levels
The majority of people think that estrogen is only produced by women and testosterone is exclusively produced by men.
This isn’t true, both chemicals are produced by both sexes, women produce estrogen at higher levels and men produce testosterone at higher levels.
Estrogen plays an important role in the muscle building process in males, it helps with the repair and cell regeneration. This study shows how estrogen is involved in muscle growth by promoting less inflammation while boosting anti inflammatory mechanisms that speeds up muscle repair after intense workouts.
The problem becomes when an individual has too much excess body fat, this will increase your estrogen levels and interfere with your testosterone development leading to an estrogenic effect in men that will decrease your muscle building results.
The Importance Of Calories While Bulking And Cutting.
What is a calorie?
Simply put a calorie is the energy received from the food and liquids you ingest.
If you eat excess calories, your body will store the extra energy as glycogen or fat to be used at a later time. Glycogen gets stored in your liver, muscles and fat cells. Continually eating excess calories causes your fat stores to grow, creating weight gain.
The next step is to figure out your caloric maintenance level. This is how many calories needed on a daily to maintain your current weight. Use the calculator below to figure out your your daily caloric needs.
This will tell you your BASAL METABOLIC RATE (BMR).
BMR is the amount of calories your body needs to perform all of its natural functions while at rest. For example, breathing, temperature control, digesting food and circulating blood flow. Even laughing burns calories.
Then I’ll explain what to add or subtract to give you the amount of calories you need whether you’re bulking or cutting.
BMR Calculator provided by calculators.tech
Now you want to take the number you received from the calculator and follow the directions below depending on what your goal is.
If you’re bulking, you’re going to want a CALORIE SURPLUS which means you will add 350 calories to your total.
If you’re cutting, you’re going to want a CALORIE DEFICIT which means you will subtract 500 calories from your total.
This formula is very accurate in helping you determine how many calories are needed daily. However you still need to remember that different genes and metabolisms can cause varied results. If you keep proper track of your progress you will know if you have to tweak your diet.
What To Eat While Bulking and Cutting
Your diet is going to be made up of whole foods consisting of the three major macronutrients. Proteins, healthy fats, and carbohydrates.
You need to understand the ratio of each and which types of food to receive then from.
That amount of information is way too much to get into in this post, so when you’re done reading this click over to my article called How to create a muscle building diet.
Ignore the title, after reading it you’ll have a better understanding on how to go about creating a nutrition plan whether you’re bulking or cutting.
What To Eat While Bulking
Protein is the most important macronutrient when it comes to building muscle, it has all the required amino acids your body needs to allow protein synthesis to happen.
You want to aim for 1 gram of protein for every pound of bodyweight, so a 20 pound person would want to eat around 200 grams of protein per day.
Split this up between the 4 to 5 meals you eat per day, that way your body can digest and use the highest amount of protein each meal. Eating too much protein in one sitting can be useless due to how your body only can digest a certain amount.
Fats gae a bad rap due to how dense they are in calories but they are essential for hormone function and balance. without the proper amount of fat in your diet your testosterone levels will diminish hindering your muscle growth.
Aim to get 20 to 30% of your daily calories from healthy fats.
Once you figure out the percentage of proteins and fats you eat the rest of your diet will be comprised of carbohydrates.
Carbs also play a large part in hormone production , but most importantly they are the primary fuel source to energize your workouts.
When you eat carbs, they break down into sugar, or glycogen. Rough;y 80% of your workout is fueled by your glycogen stores.
What To Eat When Cutting
Protein helps you maintain your lean muscle during a cutting phase and it will also help you stay and feel fuller longer.
You’ll want to aim for 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight, if you’re 180 pounds you’ll want to eat 180 grams of protein per day.
Being on any type of calorie deficit for a prolonged period of time will hinder hormone production, one way of countering this is to eat enough fats throughout the day.
Fats will also help you not feel like a lazy piece of crap while dieting.
Aim for 1g/kg of fat per day
Carbs will give you the energy you need to workout at a high intensity even while on a calorie deficit.
Aim to eat 2g/kg of carbs per day
- Figure out if your body type requires you to bulk or cut
- Calculate your calorie needs to determine your nutrition plan
- Form a diet plan to meet your goals.
After you do these three steps the rest is up to you, if you reach your goals or not, it will be in your control to make the changes you seek.