Do you want to learn a simple method so that you’ll easily be able to tell if you should bulk vs cut? Well, that’s what you’ll get by reading this article. You’ll also learn exactly what a bulk and a cut are. And you’ll learn clear-cut guidelines so that you’ll be able to make a decision on whether you should bulk vs cut right away.
What Is A Bulk?
A bulk is a muscle gain phase. During a bulk, you’ll need to eat in a calorie surplus of 10%, eat enough protein, strength train 3-4 times per week and get enough sleep. This will maximise muscle gain and minimise fat gain.
So if you were underweight and had a daily energy expenditure of 2000 calories. You’d need to eat 2200 calories to gain muscle. And you’d also need to eat enough protein.
This will put your body in an anabolic (muscle building) environment for muscle gain to occur.
During a bulk, you’ll gain muscle (woohoo) but you’ll also gain body fat (sigh).
Although depending on your level of experience in the weight room. You’ll be able to gain more or less weight.
For example, a novice will be able to gain muscle quickly compared to an experienced strength trainee.
The reason for this is because the longer you’ve been training and the more seasoned of a lifter you’ve become the harder it is to gain muscle and strength.
And over time you’ll have to work harder for less muscle gain. This is just the way the cookie crumbles unless you’re on steroids.
Weight Gain Targets Depending On Experience
Most people reading this will fall into the novice or intermediate category for weight gain.
For example, If you’re an underweight male novice of 140 pounds and you want to add muscular weight to your frame then you’d aim to gain 1.4- 2.1 pounds per month. Or roughly 0.4 – 0.5 pounds per week.
What Is A Cut?
A cut is a fat loss phase. The primary goal of a fat loss phase is to lose fat and retain as much muscle as possible.
To appropriately lose fat you need to ensure you’re in a sustainable calorie deficit of around 25%, eating enough protein, strength training 3-4 times per week. And getting enough sleep.
For an overweight individual who needs to lose fat and has a total daily calorie expenditure of 2000 calories, this would mean he’d need to eat 1500 calories per day to lose fat.
Which will result in a 500 calorie deficit every day. And over the course of a week should result in 1 pound of fat loss. The reason for this is because there are roughly 3500 calories in a pound of fat. And a 500 calorie deficit multiplied by 7 days is 3500 calories.
When you’re cutting your body is in a catabolic (muscle breakdown environment). But if you eat enough protein and regularly strength train you’ll be able to maintain almost all of your muscle and might even gain muscle if you’re still a novice.
If you gain muscle while cutting this is called a body recomposition and only novice’s or individuals getting back into lifting after some time off can effectively do this.
Intermediate and advanced lifters won’t be able to gain muscle while losing fat (A body recomposition).
Weight Loss Targets
A good rate of weight loss is between 0.5% -1% of your body weight per week. So if you’re a 200-pound male. losing between 1-2 pounds per week is good going.
Who Should Cut And Who Should Bulk?
As the graphic shows, you should generally alternate your bulk and cuts until you develop the look that you’re happy with.
And if you stay within the 10-20% body fat range your body fat levels will be within a perfectly healthy range.
Whereas health problems start to accumulate when you go over the 20% body fat range for men.
Note: add 8% to these percentages if you’re a woman because women naturally have higher levels of essential fat than men.
And the reason I haven’t mentioned sub 10% body fat percentages in this graphic is that most recreational lifters don’t need to go below 10% body fat (unless you compete in physique sports or are getting ready for a photoshoot).
Simply because it’s hard to maintain that level of leanness and you’ll feel more hungry and lethargic than you need to. Your workouts won’t be as fun and productive if you’re too lean.
And if you gain most of your natural muscle building potential a muscular 10-15% body fat looks very impressive.
And a muscular 18- 23% for females also looks very impressive.
How To Determine Your Current Level Of Body Fat
Below are 2 pictures of different body fat percentages.
Men’s Body Fat Percentages
Women’s Body Fat Percentages
Take Weekly Calliper And Waist Measurements
I use the accumeasure 3000 body fat calliper that takes a skinfold measurement above your suprailiac. It gives an impressively accurate reading within 1-2% body fat percentages. Here’s a good video demonstration on how to use it.
If you take these calliper readings and your body fat percentage increases until eventually, you get to 17.5 -20% of body fat percentage or so. You know when to start cutting.
Or if you’re already cutting and the callipers say that you’re at the 10-12% body fat mark you’re ready to start bulking.
Or you can just gauge your body fat percentage by looking in the mirror and comparing it to the pictures in this article. And then take weekly waist measurements around your naval to see if you’re gaining or losing fat.
If your waist measurement increases you’re gaining fat. If your waist measurement decreases you’re losing fat.
What If I’m Skinny Fat?
Skinny fat means that you look skinny when you wear a top and look fat when you take it off.
Here’s an example of what being skinny fat looks like
The reason that being skinny fat is a thing, is simply because the person who is skinny fat lacks any noticeable muscle mass and has too much body fat.
The Skinny Fat Solution
You could do 1 of 2 things. Depending on your estimated body fat percentage you could bulk for 4-6 months and build some muscle/ strength and then go on a cut.
Or you could go on a cut and if you’re a novice (you’ll most likely gain muscle while losing fat).
Both options are viable. It’s up to you to decide. Although you must be strength training if you really want to make a difference to your physique.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I Bulk First?
If you’re in the 10-15% body fat range then it’s perfectly okay to go on a bulk until you reach a maximum body fat percentage of 17.5-20%. If you go any higher than this you’ll just be gaining too much fat.
Should I Cut First?
If you’re currently above 20% body fat then cut until you’re at the 10-15% body fat range and then go on a lean bulking phase up to the 17.5-20% body fat range at the most.
How Long Should I Bulk For?
A good rule of thumb is to bulk for at least 4-8 months for every 1-2 months of cutting. That is to say, you want to be bulking for at least 4 times longer than you’re cutting.
This way you’ll spend more time in an anabolic environment which is perfect for muscle gain. And you won’t constantly be yoyo dieting.
If I Start My Bulk At A Higher Body Fat Percentage Will I Gain Less Muscle And More Fat?
No, as long as you’re training hard (getting stronger) and eating enough calories, protein and getting enough sleep you’ll gain muscle no matter what your body fat percentage is.
Most sumo wrestlers are morbidly obese yet they have been shown to carry the greatest amount of lean body mass in the world.
This is also observable with powerlifters. The heavier powerlifters are stronger than the leaner powerlifters.
But I recommend that you stay within the healthy range of body fat percentages previously mentioned. Because if you do, you won’t carry too much body fat and generally speaking in this range is where you’ll look and feel your best.
How Can I Bulk?
Read this article it’ll tell you everything you need to know on how to gain muscle.
How Can I cut?
Read this article It’ll tell you everything you need to know on how to lose fat and retain muscle.
What Is The Best Body Fat Percentage For Aesthetics?
If aesthetics is your main focus then stay in the 8-15% body fat range. This means that you’ll start your bulk at roughly 8-12% and finish it at around 15% body fat. Then you’ll cut again to a body fat percentage of 8-12% and reveal the newly built muscle.
But bulking to 20% is perfectly fine as well and healthy although you will have to go on a longer cut to obtain aesthetics and reach a body fat percentage of 8-12%.
If you reduce your body fat any lower than 8% it just won’t be sustainable in the long run.
The Bottom Line On Should You Bulk Vs Cut?
- If you’re at the 10-15% body fat range it’s perfectly reasonable to go on a bulk up to 17.5-20% body fat. If you’re a female add 8% to these body fat percentages.
- Although If you’re above 20% body fat reduce your body fat percentage to 10-15% before bulking.
- If you’re skinny fat (look skinny when you wear a top, and look fat with your top off) you can do either a cut to 10% or bulk to a maximum of 17.5-20% body fat.
Are you going to go on a bulk or cut? let me know in the comments below.
Thanks for reading if you need any extra help send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.