If you want to build muscle mass and lose fat the process is called bulking and cutting. When you “bulk up” you are gaining muscle. When you “cut” you are losing body fat. This article explains the how the bulking and cutting cycles work and how to it correctly.
Cutting and Bulking Summary: There are 3 main processes in play for building muscle and shredding body fat: Diet, Exercise, Supplementation.
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How to Cut and Bulk in BodyBuilding
Bulking and cutting are terms you hear a lot when people are talking about bodybuilding or weight training. If you are reading this article, there is a good chance it’s because you have heard these terms and don’t know what they mean.
Or perhaps you already know why people use bulking and cutting cycles but are unsure how to do them and want to find out.
Regardless of your reasons for ending up here, hello and welcome. We are glad you came and happy to assist you in your quest to learn more about bulking and cutting cycles and, possibly, decide if they are right for you.
What Is Bulking?
Bulking is when you eat and train specifically to gain weight. If you are doing your bulking cycle correctly, most of the weight you gain should be muscle. You will generally gain some fat too, but the improvement in lean muscle mass should be greater.
Many bodybuilders incorporate a bulking supplement. Arguably the most popular is D-bal – a legal anabolic steroid-like supplement.
Bulking cycles require you to consume more calories per day than you burn. Most of the calories will probably come from food but many bodybuilders use bulking powders or protein shakes as well.
But how many calories per day should you consume? Many bodybuilders aim to take in around 500 calories more per day than their body requires.
So, a man who normally burns 2500 calories per day will need to aim for taking in 3000 calories per day.
Of course, before you can set your calorie target, you need to have a good idea of your present calorie requirements. You can work that out by using an online calorie calculator, such as the one available on the Mayo Clinic website:
Making the Right Food Choices While “Bulking Up”
Muscle growth requires adequate protein. Your diet also needs to provide enough carbohydrates to give you plenty of energy to train.
Vitamins and minerals are important too.
For instance, zinc and magnesium help you to produce testosterone. B vitamins help you to extract energy from food and a recent study, from 2020, suggests Vitamin C helps protect you from loss of muscle mass due to aging. [source]
Choose lean proteins, like chicken breast and white fish. Oily fish is good too. It provides useful nutrients like Vitamin D (also a testosterone booster) and omega-3 fatty acids.
Eat kale, spinach, and other healthy greens and get plenty of fruit, vegetables, and whole grains. Avoid processed foods and saturated fats stick to fresh foods and healthy fats, such as olive oil.
How to Calculate the Best Macronutrient Intake for Bulking
So, how much protein do you need to eat during bulking cycles? One gram per pound of bodyweight.
You also need to shoot for around 0.25 grams of fat per pound of body weight.
Protein provides four calories per gram. So does carbohydrate, but fat provides nine. Working out your macronutrient requirements for the day is not rocket science but it will require some basic calculations. You start with the calorie recommendations you got from the online calculator.
For instance, if you are a 30-year-old male who stands 6 ft tall and weighs 210 pounds, you may need about 3000 calories per day.
That’s how many calories you require to maintain your normal weight. During a bulking cycle, you will need 500 calories more.
That makes your daily target 3500 calories.
You need one gram of protein for each pound of bodyweight. That’s 210 grams. Each gram provides four calories, so you can times that by four, giving you 840 calories.
You also need 0.25 grams of fat for each pound of body weight. That’s going to be 52.5 grams per day, which will provide 472.5 calories per day.
That gives you a total energy intake of 1312.5 calories per day from protein and fat. But you require 3500 calories and you need to get the rest of them from carbs.
Let’s do the math:
3500 – 1312.5 = 2187.5
So, if you shoot for around 2187 calories from carbs, you should be about right.
Training for Bulking and Muscle Gain
Bulking cycles don’t dictate which exercises you choose for your workouts. However, you will be going about things differently in comparison to cutting.
Depending on the exercise, you will probably be only aiming for 5 to 8 reps per set, but you need to go heavy, work the muscles hard, and do no more than three sets.
This low-rep heavy training causes a greater need for repair and growth and your bulking diet, with its surplus calories, will provide the perfect anabolic environment for the growth to occur.
Cutting is reducing body fat percentage and losing excess fat gain
What is Cutting?
Cutting cycles help you to get rid of the fat you gained during bulking. If you are new to bodybuilding and already have a lot of body fat, you may want to turn things on their head and start with cutting first.
Again, it helps if you have used a calorie calculator to work out your daily energy requirement. The big difference is, this time instead of giving your body more calories than it requires, you will be giving it less. If you aim for a shortfall of 500 calories per day, you won’t go far wrong.
A successful cutting cycle should leave you with excellent muscle definition and minimal fat. If you can see your abs and they are making you think “Wow!” you know you have got everything right.
The calorie shortfall your diet creates during cutting is the trigger that forces your body to burn its fat. However, if you increase your level of cardiovascular activity you will be able to get it to torch even more.
Using a good thermogenic fat-burning supplement will turn up the heat further still. However, if you do use a supplement, it’s better to choose one that’s made for the job. Good cutting supplements not only help you to melt your fat; they protect against loss of muscle mass as well.
A supplement that is ideal for cutting is Andalean – a SARM that can help strip away excess body fat quickly leaving lean muscle mass.
Making the Right Food Choices While on a Cutting Phase
The food choices you make during cutting shouldn’t be much different from the ones you make when you are bulking. The only thing you will need to change is your overall calorie intake for the day.
Instead of creating a calorie surplus, you need to create a calorie deficit. The best way to do this is to adjustment your carb intake.
However, you need to be sensible about it. Starving yourself in an attempt to burn fat even faster will be counterproductive. Apart from sapping your energy, making it harder to train, overly restricting your calorie intake will increase muscle loss.
If you go too hardcore with your cutting diet, it will be easy to lose most or all of the gains you made while bulking. That would make all that effort a waste of time.
Training for Cutting and Losing Fat
As we already mentioned, your exercise choices during cutting and bulking are likely to be the same. As with your diet, you will only need to make some tweaks.
Depending on the type of exercise and the muscles you are training, you will probably be only aiming for around 12 reps per set. However, this time you will be using lighter weights instead of heavier ones.
During cutting cycles, it’s also a good idea to increase your level of cardiovascular activity. Cardio should always be part of your routine. It’s important. Even during bulking cycles. However, increasing your cardio commitment while cutting will help you to lean up faster.
How Long Is a Good Bulking Cycle?
There are no hard and fast rules about how long an ideal bulking cycle should be. Nothing is written in stone. The ideal length will be different from one person to the next. A lot of factors come into play such as your present physique and metabolic rate.
As you may be aware, some people make more muscle gains very quickly and other people do not. The ones who struggle to make progress are termed “hardgainers.”
If you are a hardgainer, your bulking phase will need to be longer than that of someone who is more genetically gifted.
Age can be a factor too. As we get older, our testosterone levels dwindle. So do our levels of human growth hormone (HGH).
When these two important anabolic hormones are in short supply it makes it harder to gain muscle and easier to gain fat. Good supplements can help you to redress the balance but, when you hit the other side of 30, you may find your bulking cycles need to be longer than they used to be.
Your rate of fat gain during bulking can also influence the cycle length. If you are gaining a lot of extra fat alongside your muscle gains, you may want to switch to a cutting cycle sooner.
It depends on how uncomfortable you feel about carrying around excess fat.
If you are not gaining a lot of extra fat, or see your fat as a problem to tackle later, a good bulking cycle may last for 6-12 months. Maybe even longer. As we said before, there are no hard and fast rules.
On the other hand, if you are unhappy with your level of body fat, you may prefer two switch cycles after only 2-3 months.
How Long Is a Good Cutting Cycle to Lose Fat
As with bulking cycles, the length of an ideal cutting cycle will vary from one person to the next and for all the same reasons.
Factors such as metabolic rate, age, and hormone levels, come into play yet again.
It is also important not to try and do too much too soon. Getting all gung ho with your cutting and fat loss endeavors will only increase the danger of muscle loss.
If you need to lose 15 pounds of fat, don’t set a target of a month to do it and then tailor your diet and training towards such an overly ambitious goal. Do it the other way around. First, work out how many calories you can safely cut each day, and then tailor your cycle length accordingly.
1. Focus On Your Diet
When you are trying to bulk, correct diet is incredibly important. If you don’t get enough carbs you won’t have the energy to train and, if there is a shortfall in protein, you will find it harder to gain muscle.
Your body requires different nutrients for different tasks so you have to give it everything it requires – without going overboard.
Using a calorie calculator to work out your daily requirements is a very good place to start. Once you know what you need, you can tailor your diet to supply it.
Choose lean bulking over dirty bulking.
2. Train for Muscle Growth and Building Muscle Mass
When you are training, make every rep count. Work your muscles hard instead of going too fast. Keep the pressure on.
If you have a long bulking phase, try to vary your routine every 1-2 months. This will create muscle confusion, helping you to get better gains.
Don’t just lift weights. Schedule a few weekly cardio sessions as well. This will help you to get fitter as well as bigger and stronger.
3. Get Sufficient Sleep for Muscle Growth and to Maintain Muscle Mass.
A lot of the muscle-building process happens during sleep so make sure you have plenty of early nights instead of trying to burn the candle at both ends.
4. Take Advantage of Supplements for Gaining Muscle Mass
Supplements are not an essential part of a good bulking routine but good ones can help you to train harder, heal faster, and maximize your muscle gain.
Here are some tips for fat loss. Losing fat is not weight loss. It is maintaining muscle mass and reducing fat intake.
1. Plan for Body Fat Percentage Reduction Success
As with good bulking cycles, good cutting cycles work best when you build strong foundations. So use a calorie calculator to work out your requirements and then plan your cutting diet accordingly.
2. Only Eat When you are Hungry – Fewer Calories
The best way to stick to a low-calorie diet is to avoid hunger. A good way to do this is to only eat when you feel hungry instead of planning to eat at certain times.
Avoid eating junk food and eat fewer calories.
3. Keep Active – For Losing Body Weight and Body Fat
It’s not just about training. Every move you make burns extra calories and helps you to lose fat. Even fidgeting can help.
Of course, nobody is suggesting you become a fidget but the more active you are, the more calories you will burn.
Walk more instead of driving or taking a bus. When distances are too far to walk consider cycling instead.
Say no to the lift and yes to the stairs. Try to stand more, whenever possible, instead of sitting down. The more you do, the more calories you will burn and, during cutting cycles, that’s the name of the game.
4. Take Advantage of Cutting Supplements to Lose Fat
Yep! We said it for bulking, now we are saying it again. Although you don’t have to use supplements while cutting, there are some excellent options available.
As well as helping you to burn calories and fat, the best ones can offer additional benefits such as reducing hunger and protecting against loss of lean muscle mass.