Deciding whether to bulk or cut is a common dilemma in the fitness world. It’s important to consider your comfort level with weight gain and body fat percentages when determining the best approach for your fitness goals. In this NutriWiki article, we will provide guidelines and insights to help you decide whether you should cut or bulk, ensuring you make an informed decision tailored to your needs.
What is Cutting?
Cutting refers to a phase in which individuals focus on reducing body fat while preserving lean muscle mass. The primary objective of cutting is to achieve a leaner and more defined physique. During this phase, individuals typically aim for a calorie deficit, meaning they consume fewer calories than their body requires for maintenance.
The cutting phase is especially beneficial for those seeking to shed excess body fat, reveal muscle definition, and improve overall body composition. It allows individuals to showcase the muscle mass they have built during bulking or other resistance training phases by reducing the layer of fat covering the muscles.
What is Bulking?
Bulking, on the other hand, involves a phase focused on increasing muscle mass and overall body weight. During this phase, individuals aim for a calorie surplus, consuming more calories than their body needs for maintenance. The goal of bulking is to provide the body with an abundance of nutrients to support muscle growth and strength gains.
Bulking serves as a foundation for building muscle and increasing strength. It allows individuals to capitalize on the surplus calories to support muscle growth, repair tissues, and enhance performance in the gym.
Should I Cut or Bulk?
Things to consider
When deciding whether to cut or bulk, several factors should be taken into account, such as individual goals, body composition, starting point, and lifestyle. Understanding these considerations will help you make an informed decision that aligns with your specific fitness objectives.
Clarifying your goals is crucial in determining whether cutting or bulking is the right approach for you. If your primary aim is to reduce body fat and achieve a leaner physique, cutting may be the preferred choice. Conversely, if your focus is on gaining muscle mass and strength, bulking is more suitable.
Body Composition and Starting Point
Evaluating your current body composition and starting point is essential in selecting the appropriate approach. Assessing body fat percentage and muscle mass will provide insights into whether you have a solid foundation for bulking or if reducing body fat through cutting is a more suitable starting point.
Consider your lifestyle, dietary preferences, and personal commitment when deciding between cutting and bulking. Cutting usually requires a calorie deficit, which may involve dietary restrictions and discipline, while bulking entails a calorie surplus and potentially increased food consumption.
General Guidelines to Determine Whether to Cut or Bulk
Here are some basic guidelines you can use that are based on body fat percentages for men and women to determine if you should cut or bulk:
Cut or Bulk by Body Fat Percentage
Typically, with women, diet to 17-22% body fat and bulk back up to 24-27% body fat and repeat.
Typically, with men, diet to 10-12% body fat and bulk back up to 15-18% body fat and repeat.
If you are prepping for a competition, you will need to diet down to lower than these levels.
Remember that the goal is to lose steadily but avoid rapid fat loss, as this will cause an unwanted loss of lean body mass with fat. When gaining, the goal is to gain slowly to minimize fat gain and maximize muscle gain.
Diet as long as you need to reach your goals. However, approximately every 8-12 weeks, take a two-week diet break. During a diet break, you will either not track or you can increase your calories back to your maintenance calories. Stay there for two weeks and then start dieting again at your previous macros.
For further reading, our guide on bulking successfully will help you gain mass, the right way.