Bulking up to gain muscle
weight and then cutting down to lose fat weight is the core
of bodybuilding. Every bodybuilder is either on a cutting
phase or a bulking phase, or if your advanced you may be on
a clean bulking phase (discussed below). This article will
help address the issues of both phases and teach you the
principles of both.
lot of people might disagree but I think that bulking
cleanly is more difficult than cutting up, the only
exceptions to this rule are people who are small and don't
have a lot of mass/muscle to begin with and people who have
slower metabolisms. That, however, is just my personal
opinion and I feel that both cutting and bulking (correctly)
are challenging. Here are some key differences in
both phases you need to focus on:
Bulking: Gain muscle
while minimizing fat gains.
Cutting: Lose fat,
while minimizing muscle loss.
So as you can see both deal
with balancing muscle and fat masses. Here are the basics
you need to understand for both phases:
Bulking and Cutting Differences
In order to bulk
effectively you need to take it slow and don't think you
have to over eat all of a sudden to gain the muscle weight
you want. You do need to eat more overall to increase
your body mass. Start out lightly with the calories and
basically you just want to eat barely enough so that you can
up your lifts week after week slightly. If you eat too much
you will most likely store a lot of it into fat weight,
which of course you do not want.
The secret to minimize fat
gains while bulking up is cardiovascular exercise! Now
you need to be careful with cardio because overdoing it will
prevent you from gaining muscle mass. You basically just
want to do a few short intense cardio intervals a week. What
works best for me is to do a cardio workout every 3rd/4th
day and keep the workout around only 10-15 minutes total,
doing a slow warmup to start and finish it up with some
short high intensity bursts, and that's it. While cutting up
you will be doing a lot more cardio. This has worked very
well for me to gain muscle without putting on much fat
weight at all during bulking phases.
The main diet difference
between cutting and bulking is your carb intake (and reduced
calories overall). While
bulking you will want to increase the amount of complex carbs across virtually all your meals, this means to add
more brown rice, oats, sweet potatoes, etc. Beans, such as
black beans are also a good addition to a bulking diet since
they contain both protein and complex carbs. And while
cutting you will simply want to drop all of those complex carbs out of your diet, or at least drop them slowly out
until you consume no complex carbs.
Protein and fat basically
can remain the same on both phases as the key here is
manipulating the hormone insulin to gain weight on a bulking
phase and to turn off insulin during a cutting phase to lose
fat. In case you do not know, insulin is an anabolic
hormone secreted when carbs enter the bloodstream and tell
your body get rid of the nutrients flowing through your
blood by storing them in your body as muscle/or fat, which
is helpful during a bulking phase but not helpful during a
Also a personal tip, I feel that while bulking, protein is
less essential than carbs. Yes protein is muscle building,
but carbs are muscle sparing, allowing you to eat less
protein if you eat more carbs and still grow. however, these should be good, grainy,
unrefined/unprocessed starchy carbs along with some good
veggies, though you will gain a decent amount of fat on a
long term bulking diet, that fat allows you to lift more
weight than if you were ripped to shreds, allowing more
overload and thus more muscle, just my theory. The
best way to get more protein in your diet is to get protein
powder from Netrition's Protein Selection, which I highly recommend.
Cutting on the other hand, requires more mental toughness
because you must resist the urge to bust out the Hagen Daz
and stick to your steamed broccoli. And unlike bulking where
an occasional cheat meal here and there won't hurt you much,
cheating on a cutting diet will. This is because, while
cutting you're in a caloric deprivation, slightly lowering
your calories by about 500 below your BMR and TDEE. This means
your meals can be much smaller and much easier to bring with
you. Also, you must eat even more frequently while cutting,
even as often as every 2 hours because this allows you to
keep your metabolism soaring, burning cals, so don't be
surprised if you end up eating 8-10 small meals instead of
the traditional six meals every 3-4 hours when bulking.
Now to the part of cutting we all hate the most... cardio!
Cardio is essential for strengthening your
cardiovascular system along with increasing your metabolism
to burn fat off through out the day. While cutting it's
normal to do it as often as you can. A 30-45 minute workout
every other day is about the standard, but you can do it
every day if you like. Doing it every 3rd day is an
okay option as well.
If you can, find cardio activities that are fun
to do, such as recreational sports. And try to keep your cardio workouts
varied, which has been proven to be more efficient to getting leaner. I
can attest to this myself!
Weight training is the same for both phases, no
What is Clean Bulking?
Clean bulking means to put
on muscle weight without putting on fat weight. I am a big
advocate of clean bulking and I always do clean bulking when
trying to gain muscle weight. Generally with bulking up,
people do not do cardio or very little of it, which will
slow down the MBR and allow for fast muscle gains, but at
the cost of fat gain as well. What's the point of that
when you will have to spend a longer time on the cutting
phase to lose the fat?
From my experience it is a
wise idea to continue doing cardio workouts during a bulking
phase to minimize any fat gains. It's important
though, not to overdo cardio, that will prevent muscle gains
severely. Like I said above you will want to do a few
short intense cardio workouts a week and that is all that is
generally required to make clean bulking happen.
You can take it a step
further and spend 1-2 days a week to lower your complex carb
intake to help empty out some glycogen in your liver to
allow some fat lose acceleration every now and then during
your clean bulking phases. I actually made a whole article
on this actually called
calorie cycling for fat loss, please read that for more
info on how to do clean bulking effectively.
How long should you do a
cutting or bulking phase you may ask? There is no definite
answer on this, you will get answers from 1 day bulking, 1
day cutting, all the way to 6 months bulking, then 6 months
cutting. Generally is doesn't matter a whole lot which
frequency you choose. What's important is that you spend the
time to do both in the amount that you need and want to do
for your specific goals. For most I recommend bulking for
2-3 months, then cut for however long you need to get rid of
the fat you gained during the bulking phase.
- Eat CLEAN foods every 3-4 hrs, with
- Try not to cheat and over eat.
- Make your meals balanced with protein, carbs and fat.
- Eat at least 5 meals a day.
- Monitor your weight workouts every week
and see if you are progressing. You basically just want to slowly
progress with your weight workouts slightly each week.
- Do only a few very short intense cardio
workouts a week. NOTE:
This is optional if your doing clean bulking, but I
recommend doing this anyway though! I am not a fan of
regular bulking without some cardio in the mix as well!
- Small meals every 2-3 hours
- Cut back on the carbs (oats, rice, potatoes, etc..)
- Your overall calories must be decreased
(mostly from the carbs).
- Increase your cardiovascular workouts,
frequency and durations.
- Don't try to cut weight too fast... slow
and efficient is the way to go. If you see your lifts going down week
after week, that is an indicator that you need more nutrition to maintain
your muscle mass.
I hope this helps some of the new guys!
Also for advanced
techniques to build muscle and lose fat overtime with short
bulking and cutting phases, please check out my
zig zag calorie cycling diet out.