When it comes to gaining muscle and strength, there are many different strategies. Some athletes, gym-goers and bodybuilders go through a combination of ‘bulking’ and ‘cutting’ phases during their training. You may have heard the terms before, but do you know what they entail? We’ll tell you all you’ve ever wanted to know about bulking and cutting!
What is bulking?
Bulking refers to periods of consuming a caloric surplus in order to gain muscle mass. This means eating more calories than you burn every day. It’s a strategic phase during which the goal is to gain weight through increased muscle mass.
There are different approaches to bulking: some like to stick to a healthy diet while bulking (clean bulk), while others prefer to eat everything they want (dirty bulk); some like to do it rapidly (fast bulk), while others prefer to take it slow (slow bulk), etc. How you decide to proceed is up to you! But bulking is not just about eating more: muscles aren’t going to appear out of nowhere! In order to boost your strength and muscle gains, it’s often associated with high intensity resistance training.
One of the downsides of bulking is that it can lead to an increase in body fat. If your goal is to gain muscle mass while you are bulking, it is recommended that you stay clear of processed or “junk” food. Instead, try to get your calories from nutritious wholefoods while keeping your overall diet balanced and varied.
What is cutting?
As opposed to bulking, cutting refers to periods of eating at a caloric deficit in order to lose weight and body fat. You’ve guessed it, this means eating fewer calories than you burn every day. The main goal here is to lose body fat while still preserving your hard-earned muscle mass. This is typically what bodybuilders do before a competition, but any sports enthusiast wishing to get lean and achieve better muscle definition can also adopt this strategy.
Similarly to bulking, it’s not just about what you eat! Cutting is usually combined with a combination of cardio and strength training. Cardio workouts such as running, swimming, cycling and high-intensity interval training can help you burn calories and shred fat. But it’s also important to balance your cardio workout with muscle-building exercises, to ensure that you don’t lose any muscle mass.
This is one of the main cons of cutting: you may lose muscle mass alongside body fat. To be on the safe side, make sure you are consuming enough protein every day, as protein can help you maintain muscle mass.
I want to try cutting/bulking, but where should I start?
Now that we’ve explained what the two phases are, you may be wondering where you should start. This will depend on many factors, such as your body composition and short and long-term goals. For most people, it makes sense to start with a bulking phase, in order to build a solid muscle mass before stripping off any excess fat during the cutting phase. However, if your primary goal is to lose body fat, then cutting is a good starting point.
Remember to start slow and take some time to evaluate what works best for your body and your routine. Don’t try anything too drastic, especially as a beginner, and don’t hesitate to reach out to a personal trainer or a coach if you need help. And keep in mind that there is no universal standard when it comes to cutting and bulking: each body is different, and your results may differ from other people’s.
Once you have established your strategy, you can then follow a pattern of bulking and cutting in order to achieve your goals.
How long should each phase be?
Unfortunately, there is no universal answer to this question. This will vary depending on your goals, body type, metabolism, etc. Generally speaking, each phase of the cycle should last at least 4 to 6 weeks in order to see results. Keep in mind that everyone needs a different amount of time.
Is cutting and bulking necessary to achieve my goals?
Short answer: no, it’s not! Bulking and cutting are not universal solutions, but they can help you reach your goals faster when it comes to building a muscular physique. However, it’s also entirely possible to achieve your body goals without going through bulking and cutting phases. There are plenty of different methods and strategies when it comes to building muscle mass, losing body fat, etc. It all depends on what your goals are, what works for you and whether or not you have time limits (for example, having to prepare for a competition on a certain date).
To sum it up…
Alternating bulking and cutting phases is a well-known strategy that is widely used by bodybuilders and gym-goers willing to achieve a specific body composition. Like any other technique, bulking and cutting come with both pros and cons. While it can help you reach your goals faster, bulking and cutting can also be physically and mentally challenging. So if you decide to give this process a go, it’s important to be prepared and plan each phase carefully. Remember that no strategy is universal, and that each body reacts differently to the bulking and cutting cycle.