In manipulating the body’s form with muscle, many questions plague the fitness world: Can you make the same gains with plant-based protein? Is pre-workout necessary? And the one we’d all like a straight answer to once and for all—How in the heck does one cut after bulking?
The Bulk-Cutting Process
Cutting and bulking have been popularized by the bodybuilding industry as practices that evolve body composition to achieve goals according to aesthetic or personal preference. This process may be a lot more extreme if done for competition purposes. If you’re someone who wants to see how they can build their own body, and you’re not working with a credentialed dietitian or coach, exercise caution. Note that extreme measures could have unfavorable effects on the metabolism.
The Goal of the Bulk-Cutting Process
Ideally, the goal of cutting is to lose fat acquired during a bulking process. Bulking refers to the process of putting on weight intentionally by building muscle mass. Cutting is the reducing of fat to gain visibility of the muscular composition gained during the bulking process. If done correctly, some body fat should be gained in the mass during bulk, and lost during the cut.
Achieving fitness goals is all about finding a balance that works with your lifestyle, as well as genetics. That said, there are some general parameters on what to follow when attempting to cut, assuming you’ve worked out the bulk correctly.
The Importance of Bulking Method to Achieve a Proper Cut
Bulking is complicated, and if in cutting you’d like to avoid losing muscle mass, the way you choose to bulk matters. There are two widely recognized ways to bulk: the clean or “lean” bulk, and the dirty bulk.
Against popular theory, a lean bulk will likely yield much better results as it ensures that the weight you are putting on is minimal in fat and maximum in muscle. Again, some may have success with a dirty bulk if the key objective is to gain mass, in which case, a milder cutting phase follows.
However, if you choose a dirty bulk, the weight you put on will consist of more fat than muscle. In this case, a cut will yield minimal effects and will likely result in ending up where you started before the bulk, if not in a more difficult place of trying to cut more excess fat than needed.
Things to Keep in Mind for a Successful Cut
Because cutting is part of a process, it’s necessary to ensure that the other parts of the process are to your advantage for best and safe results. That said, there are lots of ways to cut. To reiterate, what’s beneficial for you may depend on your genetics, lifestyle, activity level, and nature of how your body responds to changes. Here are some staple things to consider while cutting.
- Calculate BMI, body fat percentage, and muscle percentage before beginning to bulk. If fat percentage is above what is considered lean or average for your height and weight (or goals), you may want to consider a brief cut before your bulk, followed by a final cut.
- Bulk by increasing strength training in tandem with a caloric surplus (consuming more calories than you burn).
- Note that the process of bulking takes time, and that if weight seems to come on easy, it is likely more fat than muscle as quality muscle building cannot be rushed and typically takes time to develop.
- Begin a cut by reducing calorie intake to a caloric deficit (burning more calories than you consume), once you reach an optimal bulk status.
- Caloric intake may be less of a focus if content of food consumed is nutrient dense and fat-burning friendly.
- Eat a clean, high protein diet, reduce sugar and carbohydrate intake, and limit sodium as to cut excess water weight. Make sure to hydrate well.
- Maintain training levels, increase cardiovascular activity, and opt for resistance style workouts, and compound movements.
- Implement HIIT (high intensity interval training) for full-body fat burning.
- Use supplement aids such as L-carnitine, or CLA.
- Don’t try to rush the process! Even if you’re competing, rushing the process can result in unsustainable or illegitimate gains.
A Note from GR8NESS
If the idea of working to build your body excites you, that’s awesome! However, be careful to work with it, not against it. Consider consulting with a licensed dietitian or nutrition professional that may advise you according to your health and goals.