Here’s the lowdown on bulking vs cutting
A person would “bulk” when their primary goal is to build muscle.
To begin with let’s get one thing straight, bulking does not mean eat whatever you like because ‘you're bulking bro’ so put down the takeaway menu! To bulk the smart way keep to the ultimate goal which is to build muscle whilst keeping fat gain to a minimum and maintaining a healthy balanced diet. After all it is muscle you want to gain right? At some point you’ve got to get that fat off – don’t make this stage harder for yourself!
A person would “cut” when their primary goal is to lose fat.
When cutting, the ultimate goal is to lose fat whilst maintaining all of the muscle you’ve worked so hard to build. You should then alternate between phases of bulking up and cutting down until you’re as lean and muscular as you desire. If you do it the wrong way you’ll gain too much excess body fat while bulking and/or lose too much lean muscle while cutting down – you’ll basically spin your wheels and get nowhere! So now you’ve got some questions right?
Which phase do I start with?
For the majority of people bulking before cutting makes the most sense. Building a good solid base of muscle before stripping away excess fat to reveal the muscle below. Having said this, if you are already extremely overweight your primary goal may be to lose fat, so I would suggest a fat loss diet to get your weight under control before returning to the bulking phase and back to cutting (should you desire).
How long should each phase last before switching the other?
There is no definite answer to how long each phase should last. Generally it doesn't matter a whole lot the frequency you choose what's important is to keep going until you achieve the desired results. However, for most I recommend bulking for 2-3 months, then cut down for however long you need to get rid of the unwanted amount of fat. Everyone will need a different amount of time.
What do I eat during each phase?
The main diet difference between cutting and bulking is your carbohydrate intake and reduced/increased calories overall. Whilst bulking up you will want to increase the amount of complex carbs across most of your meals. For example adding brown rice, oats, sweet potatoes, etc. The quantities will be personal to your current body weight.
Whilst cutting down you will simply want to drop the quantity of these complex carbs, and timing them around your workouts rather than at every meal. Protein levels will remain generally the same with a small increase in healthy fats. The amount of cardio that is undertaken also differs between the phases but let’s focus on the nutritional element of bulking and cutting for now.
Why don’t we all lose fat and build muscle at the same time?
It is possible to gain muscle whilst dropping fat but completing the phases separately will give you maximum results. In order to cut down, you need to use more calories than you take in. In order to bulk up, you've got to take in larger amounts of calories to support the strenuous training sessions. As you can see it would be pretty difficult (but not impossible) to do both of these things simultaneously. Remember to bulk smart and eat clean, and then you shouldn’t need to spend every waking moment during the cutting stage on the stair master.