Cutting vs. Bulking: The ultimate guide
Cutting and bulking are two different methods of bodybuilding that have been around for a long time now. They both work in their way, but they also complement each other very well.
In this article, we will go over all aspects of these terms so you can decide which one is best suited for your goals.
Who Should Cut Or Bulk?
The answer to the question of who should bulk or cut depends on many factors such as age, gender, experience level, current fitness levels, etc.
Let's take a glance at each of the elements:
If you're an older person, it might make sense to start with cutting because you'll need to lose weight first if you want to look good in clothes.
If you're younger than 30 years old, however, I would recommend starting by bulking up. This means gaining muscle mass instead of having to lose fat.
It takes longer to gain muscle mass compared to losing fat, but once you've reached your goal size, you won't even notice any difference between the two.
Women tend to store more fat than men do naturally. So women usually require fewer cuts than men.
However, there are exceptions, like some female athletes who train hard enough to burn off most of their excess fat before competing.
But generally speaking, women don't really need to worry about cutting too much fat unless they're trying to compete in figure competitions where they must show no visible signs of cellulite.
On the contrary, men often need to cut down significantly just to fit into specific clothing sizes.
This factor has nothing to do with either method. You could say that beginners should always focus on building muscles while advanced lifters can choose whichever strategy suits them better.
Current Fitness Levels:
As mentioned above, people with higher fitness levels can benefit greatly from bulking since it allows them to build bigger muscles faster.
Beginners may not see results fast enough to justify spending hours every day lifting weights.
Instead, they should try cutting until they reach their desired physique. Once they feel comfortable with their new shape, they can switch to bulking.
How to get started?
Wondering how to cut or how to bulk?
Well, there are several ways to begin either method.
For example, you can use a diet plan or lift heavyweights. Here are three examples of how to get started:
You can follow a specific diet plan designed specifically for those who wish to cut down.
These plans typically include low-calorie foods, high-protein meals, lots of vegetables and fruits, moderate amounts of carbohydrates and fats. Some popular diets include Atkins Diet, South Beach Diet, Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem, Jenny Craig, Paleo Diet, etc.
If you aim to bulk, consider following a similar diet plan except replace "low calorie" food items with healthy ones.
Lift Heavy Weights:
Another option is to pick up a barbell and start working out.
There are plenty of exercises available online that allow you to perform basic lifts without purchasing expensive equipment. Just search Google for free exercise videos.
As long as you have access to a gym, you can easily find a program to help you achieve your goals.
Another option is to start by adding extra calories through food supplements. Then slowly reduce the amount of food consumed during training sessions.
As soon as you reach your ideal weight, stop taking supplements completely. Now you can continue eating normally without worrying about having to gain weight.
Deciding To Cut Or Bulk:
Now let's talk about deciding whether to cut or bulk.
This decision depends entirely upon personal preference.
Most bodybuilders prefer to cut because they want to look leaner and sleeker. They also believe that this type of routine gives them an edge over other competitors.
While others enjoy bulking because they think it makes them stronger and healthier.
Looking at cutting, we'll first take a closer look at why someone would decide to go underweight. It's important to understand that weight management doesn't necessarily mean getting skinny. Many people lose weight only to gain back all the lost pounds later. That's why it's crucial to maintain proper nutrition throughout the process.
Also, remember that if you've been overweight for years, the chances are slim that you'll ever regain your old size once you drop below the normal range.
In reality, both methods work well if used properly. It all comes down to which one works best for each individual. Noteworthy, however, is that most beginners tend to choose to cut rather than bulking.
Because they don't know any better! Cutting requires less time and effort compared to bulking. You won't need to spend countless hours in the gym just to add some muscle mass. Plus, there's no risk involved in cutting. No matter how much you weigh, you're guaranteed to stay within safe limits. On top of that, you'll never experience hunger pangs while on a cutting regimen.
The main drawback associated with cutting is that it takes longer to see results. However, if done correctly, you shouldn't face any health problems due to the extreme loss of fat. Remember though that even after reaching your target weight, you still must keep exercising regularly. Otherwise, you may end up putting yourself in serious danger.
On the flip side, bulking involves consuming more calories than usual. But unlike cutting, bulking does not guarantee fast results.
Instead, you'll notice gradual gains in strength and endurance. If you do everything right, you could potentially put on 10-20 lbs of pure muscle tissue in just three months.
Of course, this isn't always possible.
Some individuals might require six months before seeing significant changes. Still, those who stick to their plan usually reap great rewards.
Workout Routines For Cutting and Bulking
As mentioned earlier, cutting and bulking come with different benefits. So naturally, these two types of workouts have unique sets of exercises. Here's a brief overview of the typical routines followed by either method.
For cutting, you will typically perform compound movements such as squats, bench presses, deadlifts, pull-ups, chin-ups, dips, etc. These exercises help build overall muscularity. As long as you follow a strict diet, you can achieve impressive results without lifting heavyweights.
For bulking, you'll focus mainly on isolation moves like bicep curls, triceps extensions, leg presses, calf raises, shoulder shrugs, chest flys, crunches, situps, pushups, etc. These exercises allow you to develop specific muscles groups. This way, you can pack on lean muscle mass faster than ever.
What and when to eat
You'll follow strict fat, carbs, protein, and fiber diet if you decide to cut. For fats, you'll consume mostly healthy oils. Examples include olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, flaxseed oil, sesame seed oil, etc.
These fats have been proven effective at reducing body fat levels. Research has shown that people who use them can lose an average of 2 pounds per week.
When choosing carbohydrates, make sure to avoid refined sugars. Stick to whole grains instead. They contain plenty of nutrients that promote growth.
Moving to proteins, you'll want to consume fish, chicken breast, turkey breast, beefsteak, eggs, milk, yogurt, cheese, nuts, beans, lentils, peas, soybeans, tofu, etc.
Fiber-rich foods include fruits, vegetables, oats, brown rice, barley, wheat bran, oat bran, psyllium husk powder, chia seeds, flaxseeds, etc. Avoid processed food products since they lack essential vitamins and minerals.
A bulking diet is slightly different from the cutting counterpart. For fats, you won't need to worry about restricting unhealthy ones. You can choose whatever kind of oil you'd like. Just remember to stay away from trans fats.
Also, don't forget to add some omega-three fatty acids. Omega 3 helps boost metabolism, which allows for better calorie burning. Carbohydrates aren't too much of a problem either.
However, it's essential to keep your intake moderate. Too many carbs can cause insulin spikes which may lead to weight gain.
Protein consumption shouldn't pose any problems either. It's recommended that you aim for around 0.5 gram of protein per pound of body weight. That means if you weigh 150lbs, then you should try eating 75 grams of protein each day.
Finally, there's no reason why you cannot enjoy high fiber diets while bulking up. Foods containing many dietary fibers include apples, oranges, pears, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, celery, zucchini, cucumbers, potatoes, sweet potato, yams, green leafy veggies, etc.
How to measure success
The best thing to do would be to track your progress using online fitness calculators. There are tons of free tools available online. Some examples include Fitbit, MyFitnessPal, LoseIt!, Weight Watchers, SparkPeople, Bodybuilding.com, etc.
If you're not into tracking calories, just stick with measuring how much you've lost in terms of inches/centimeters.
The most common measurement used by athletes is BMI.
To calculate this number, divide your height in centimeters by your weight in kilograms. Then multiply the result by 703. This will give you your ideal body mass index.
Your goal here is to maintain a normal range between 18-24. Anything above 24 indicates overweight, whereas anything below 18 suggests underweight.
Another way to gauge your results is through waist circumference measurements. Measure yourself at the narrowest part of your abdomen. Divide the length of your tape measure by two. Multiply the resulting figure by 0.0254.
This gives you your ideal waist size. Ideally, it would be best if you strived to achieve a value less than 40 inches.
Anything over 44 inches is considered obese.
There are several ways to go about bulking. One method involves consuming more calories than usual. Another one includes increasing your daily caloric expenditure. Both methods work well but require discipline. Here are some tips on how to implement both techniques effectively.
Increase Caloric Intake
To increase your caloric intake, start adding extra meals throughout the day. Make sure to spread out those additional servings evenly so as not to overload your system. Don't skip breakfast, though. Skipping breakfast leads to overeating later in the day.
Increase Daily Expenditure
If you want to burn fat faster, then you'll have to exercise harder. Try doing cardio exercises such as running, cycling, swimming, rowing, walking briskly, jumping rope, playing basketball, soccer, tennis, squash, badminton, volleyball, hiking, climbing stairs, dancing, etc.
In addition, strength training also works wonders. Make pushups, pull-ups, squats, lunges, deadlifts, bench presses, dips, chin-ups, rows, curls, leg lifts, calf raises, bicep curls, triceps extensions, shoulder press, lat pulls, back extension, abdominal crunches, planks, situps, burpees, jump ropes, kettlebell swings, dumbells, barbells, medicine balls, etc.
Remember to vary your routine every week. Doing the same workouts all the time eventually becomes boring.
Common cutting strategies involve reducing calorie consumption while maintaining an adequate amount of physical activity.
Cutting calorie intake
Reducing calorie intake can be done either gradually or abruptly. Gradual reduction means that you reduce your food intake slowly over weeks or months. An abrupt drop happens overnight.
It's usually recommended for people who don't like eating healthy foods because they find it difficult to adjust their diet.
However, if you're already accustomed to eating junk food, abrupt reduction may help you lose weight fast. You can either reduce your total weekly caloric intake or decrease it per meal.
Consume plenty of fluids
Drink plenty of fluids like milkshakes, juices, sports drinks, tea, coffee, soup, broth, etc. You can also try drinking coconut water which has been shown to help reduce hunger pangs.
If that doesn't do it for you, then add an electrolyte supplement to your diet. Electrolytes include sodium chloride, potassium chloride, magnesium sulfate, calcium carbonate, zinc oxide, manganese dioxide, aluminum hydroxide, copper gluconate, iron phosphate, chromium acetate, and molybdenum trioxide.
These supplements come in tablet form and must be taken before each meal.
You need to maintain a certain level of intensity during any exercise.
To achieve this goal, make sure to warm up first by jogging/running at low speed for 5-15 minutes. Then perform light aerobic activities.
Afterward, begin with moderate intensity exercises.
Finally, move on to high-intensity ones.
For example, jog/run at 60% effort, walk briskly at 70%, run sprinting at 80%. When performing interval training, alternate between periods of intense work followed by rest intervals.
This is known as HIIT.
Eat less than usual
You can choose to consume fewer calories through fasting or skipping one meal. Fasting involves consuming no more than 500 kcal daily.
Skip 1 meal means having only two meals instead of 3.
Cutting and bulking provide solutions to different problems. Cutting helps the overweight but not obese, whereas bulking provides support to those who are underweight.
Both methods require discipline and dedication. But there's always a tradeoff between them. While cutting will give you immediate results, bulking takes longer but provides better long-term benefits.
So, decide wisely!