If you have been working on your fitness or physique, you will most likely be hearing the terms “Bulking” and “Cutting”. These two terms correspond to the physique or look you are aiming to have. May it be as big and buffed as The Rock or as shredded and as lean as Ryan Reynolds.
If you have been exercising for a while, there is a chance you’ve been bulking or cutting at some point in your fitness career. Back in the day, men were typically the ones bulking and women were usually doing the cutting. However, with strong being the new skinny for women, these old school rules don’t apply anymore.
Whether you use a free health app to help you get fit, employ a trainer, or simply do it yourself, the time you put into either gaining weight, losing fat, or increasing strength can be counted as bulking or cutting! Most bulking and cutting phases typically last around four to 12 weeks. Though it is important to note that both terms are not interchangeable. In this article, we will define and differentiate the two.
What is Bulking?
Bulking is a process commonly used by an individual to gain weight. Most commonly used in bodybuilding, the act of bulking can be adopted by anyone including a regular fitness enthusiast. Ultimately, bulking refers to the act of building muscle mass.
Someone who is in a bulking phase is purposely eating more calories than they need. This provides your muscles with a strong stimulus to grow from progressive and intense training. These excess calories, especially protein, will boost muscle hypertrophy and gains. However, if you just eat a calorie surplus without the necessary resistance training for muscle growth, the excess calories will eventually accumulate as body fat.
Most of the time, bodybuilders will bulk over the winter season and then cut down on their diet in the summer. It is exceptionally hard to gain weight and lose body fat at the same time, so it is advisable to go through the bulking phase before cutting.
One of the main reasons why you should consider bulking is its increased myonuclei. When you are lifting heavy and consuming plenty of calories and protein, you’ll be in an anabolic state. When you’re in an anabolic state, it’s much easier to grow muscle. While you’re growing muscle, satellite cells will function. Satellite cells surrounding the muscle cells will donate their nuclei to the muscle cells so that they increase their total number of nuclei. This translates into greater potential muscle mass.
There Are Two Ways To Bulk:
‘Clean’ and ‘Dirty’ are the terms used to differentiate the two methods of bulking.
Clean bulking refers to adding excess calories through healthy food. The types of food eaten when clean bulking aren’t that dissimilar to food eaten when cutting or trying to maintain and stay lean. Treat meals will still be used in many cases, but 90% of meals will be packed with nutrients and calories while meeting the calorie surplus requirements for bulking. A clean bulk usually leads to a leaner bulk and is more healthy to the body and mind in the long term.
Dirty bulking refers to adding excess calories in general. It is indifferent to the type of food you consume. Often it is seen as an excuse to eat all the food you avoided during a cut or when staying lean. This refers to food that is calorie-dense but often low in nutrients. Dirty bulking can have health implications and is not something that is typically recommended. Ultimately, the psychological effects of eating such food after cutting them out for so long can also be detrimental when bulking and has been linked to eating disorders.
Bulking Up The Proper Way
Bulking up is not always as easy as it seems. A few crucial factors and habits need to be formed in order to bulk in a healthy and safe manner. Here are a few tips and tricks you may follow to bulk appropriately –
- Count your calories – For muscles to grow, they’ll need to be fed. This means eating an additional 2,000 to 3000 calories a week to build as much as 1 pound of muscle during that period. When broken down into daily needs this equals about 500 additional calories a day. You’ll also need to calculate your daily activity. If you’re hitting the gym regularly for an intense weight lifting session, you could be burning up to 500 calories an hour. In such cases, you’ll need to shift your caloric intake to an estimated 1,000 additional calories a day.
- Monitor your protein intake – You are encouraged to eat an estimated 1.1 to 1.4 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass. Protein will become your best friend on this quest to build muscle. You’ll want to eat enough, but not too much as these excess calories will only add fat. An average desk-bound male needs approximately 0.36 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight, but if you’re hitting the gym regularly to build muscle, you’ll want to aim for 0.7 to 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight. You can get your fill of protein from protein supplements, shakes, bars, and most importantly, natural high-protein foods like meat, eggs, peanut butter, and nuts.
- Monitor your fat intake – Your fat intake should be about 20% of your total calorie intake.
- Make sure your carbohydrates are complex – Complex carbohydrates refer to food that contains sugar molucules. These molecules can be found in foods such as peas, beans, whole grains, and vegetables. Ideally, the only sugar you want to be consuming should be natural. As such, you’ll be needing to cut out refined sugar, sweetened beverages, fruit juices, pastries, white bread, white pasta, white rice.
- Other Tips – Lifting exercises should be performed in the six to 12 repetition range to see proper growth from the workload you are completing. It is also important that you get enough rest throughout your bulking phase. This means prioritizing your sleep. Ideally, you should be getting approximately seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep.
Workout Routine for Bulking
Here are a few bulking exercises you can consider incorporating into your existing gym regime. These exercises will help in strength training, body conditioning, and most importantly muscle growth!
- Bench Press – 4 sets, 8 reps
- Incline Dumbbell Press – 4 sets, 8 reps
- Pushup – 3 sets, 10 reps
- Dumbbell Overhead Press – 4 sets, 8 reps
- Dumbbell Lateral Raise – 3 sets, 10 reps
- Triceps Pushdown – 3 sets, 10 reps
- Pullup – 4 sets, 8 reps
- Bent-Over Row – 4 sets, 8 reps
- Lat Pulldown – 4 sets, 8 reps
- Seated Cable Row – 4 sets, 8 reps
- Shrug – 3 sets, 10 reps
What is Cutting?
Cutting will definitely help you shed fat quickly. When you cut, the goal is to reduce body fat while maintaining your muscle mass. In order to do this, you will need to reduce the calories you eat so that your body begins to use the fat you have stored away.
For bodybuilders, this process is normal, as they typically eat a large amount of calories to build up muscle mass, before embarking on a calorie deficit to shed weight. If you want to cut, you’ll first need to change your diet. Then you’ll need to change your workout routine to include cardiovascular training so that you burn more calories on a daily basis.
Ultimately, during the cutting phase, calorie intake is decreased, and/or calorie expenditure is increased so that a caloric deficit is present.
Cutting The Proper Way
Not to be confused with regular dieting, the process of cutting should not leave you feeling fatigued or uncontrollably hungry. The cutting phase is not a crash-course diet plan, and will still require you to eat the minimum calorie intake needed for your body to function at its best. Here are a few tips to note when embarking on your cutting journey –
- Hydrate – Drinking water is important during weight loss because it provides hydration without unwanted calories. Drinking non-caloric fluids like water before or with a meal can help a person feel full sooner. Staying hydrated also minimizes one’s risk of snacking. More often than not, when you don’t feel hungry yet have the urge to snack, it’s your body crying out for hydration.
- Monitor your nutritional intake – The best way to monitor your nutrients is to cook your own meals. There are plenty of resources out there for menu options. Find a few and stick to them throughout your cutting phase. Make sure you are getting lots of protein and fiber, avoid sugar, reduce cooking oil, and remember to consume clean complex carbohydrates.
- Increase your cardio – High-intensity cardio will heighten your metabolic rate and burn more calories. Cardio is a great way to lose the calories you’ve accumulated.
- Maximize lean muscle mass gains during bulking phase – The more lean muscle you can pack up during the bulking phase, the easier your cut will be. Bulking and cutting isn’t about shrinking, it is about reshaping.
- Keep score – The only accurate way to ensure that you’re on the right track is to keep score of your gains and losses. Ideally, you should aim to lose an estimated 0.5 to 1% of body fat per week during this phase
Workout Routine For Cutting
No body-reshaping journey or dietary change is complete without the appropriate exercise regime. Here are a few exercises you may incorporate into your weekly routine. These exercises are designed to help you make the most of your cutting phase.
- Dumbbell Bench Press – 4 sets, 8 reps
- Incline Bench Press – 4 sets, 8 reps
- Cable Crossovers – 4 sets, 8 reps
- Close Grip Bench Press – 3 sets, 8 reps
- Lying Tricep Extension- 3 sets, 8 reps
- Rope Pulldowns – 3 sets, 8 reps
- Core Strength exercises – 20 minutes
- High-Intensity Interval Training – 45 minutes
- Squat – 4 sets, 8 reps
- Stiff-Legged Deadlift – 3 sets, 8 reps
- Military Press – 4 sets, 8 reps
- Dumbbell Lateral Raise – 3 sets, 8 reps
Final Thoughts on Bulking and Cutting
Whether you’re bulking or cutting, remember to plan your daily calorie target and make sure to follow it. Plan your weekly gym schedule and abide by it without fail. If you will miss a gym session, make plans to get back on track immediately by making an adjustment in your schedule. The only way changes occur is if you commit to a workout and diet plan wholeheartedly. Try not to be demoralized by slower results, challenges, and plateaus in achieving your bulk, cut, or shredded physique. Simply stay motivated and focused. Having these values will make all the difference in achieving your dream physique. Lastly, make sure to follow the steps in this guide to have an idea of what to do on your bulking and cutting fitness journey.