Not sure whether you should be trying to cut down or bulk up?
This is a very common question that we see beginners and intermediate lifters asking.
Should you cut down and better reveal all of the hard work you've been doing?
Or should you put on the hoodie and go on that bulk for the extra strength and muscle gains? The answer to this question comes down to several factors, which we'll break down for you in this article.
These factors are:
where you're currently at
what is reasonable within your budget and schedule.
the current season
Let's get into it.
So When Should You Cut or Bulk?
Before we get into that, we need to make sure that we're all on the same page and know the difference between cutting and bulking.
Just very quickly, cutting is the process of eating at a calorie deficit and gradually forcing your body to burn the fat stored on it, so that you get leaner and can really show off the muscle you've built by making yourself look more defined.
Bulking, on the other hand is the process of eating in a caloric surplus and forcing your body to gain weight, usually in the form of some fat and some muscle. Bulking makes it easier for you to build muscle and gain strength quicker.
Go ahead and check out some of these articles pasted below if you need a refresher on calories, gaining and losing weight or any of the other topics!
Now that we've covered that, we can get into the factors.
It Depends on Your Goals
The first factor that determines when you should bulk or cut is going to be your primary goal in fitness, and why you're doing all this.
Do you care a lot about the way you look?
Or are you just focused on becoming strong because you want to be a competitive weightlifter of some sort in the future?
If your primary reason for exercising is to look good, and you would really hate to put on a little bit of fat, then it might make sense for you to avoid bulking too heavily.
That doesn't mean you should always be in a caloric deficit, because eventually you'd start losing way too much and it would start to backfire on you.
It might make sense for you to eat at your maintenance levels, just matching the amount of energy that you burn throughout the day.
Personally, I wasn't too worried about hitting new PRs on my lifts or boasting about my numbers for quite a while throughout my lifting journey.
All I wanted to do was build muscle without putting on too much fat.
I still had to focus on getting strong, but I wasn't eating any ridiculous amount and I wasn't trying to bulk up to a massively heavy weight.
I made steady progress.
Would bulking have been a better way to see more long-term results?
However I did not really like the idea of putting too much noticeable fat on my body at the time, so I stuck with my maintenance.
However if you're really focused on getting stronger and really want to focus on gaining mass and size as quickly as possible, and you don't mind putting on a little bit of extra weight, it's a perfectly good idea for you to bulk (as long as you don't have any sort of medical condition that would affect this).
Please, go and consult medical advice first if you think this may be the case.
You Also Have to Look at Where You're Currently At
We see many beginners asking the question of whether they should cut or bulk, long before they've built up their base of foundation and frame.
If you're still yet to put on any real or noticeable muscle mass (and there's nothing wrong with being a beginner), then it doesn't really make sense for you to try to cut.
You're going to lose all of your size, and have nothing left to show for yourself.
It's better to keep a little bit of fat on your body and continue to eat in a caloric surplus to make use of the heightened ability to put on strength and muscle mass.
On the other hand if you're already a a little bit bigger, it's not going to make sense for you to try to bulk too much further. You're just going to end up looking too fat and you're going to regret it.
Really, if you're a beginner or just getting back into fitness after some time, it's probably a good idea for you to either bulk or maintain, unless you're already starting from a heavy weight and are really wanting to cut down on it.
The Current Season or the Season You're Heading Into
One last thing that you have to look at is going to be the current season, and what season you're heading into next.
It seems to be tradition for people to head into summer looking lean and cut, and then retreating back to a more sustainable, higher body fat level when the colder months roll around.
Now this is likely due to a number of reasons, such as it being easier for you to keep weight off in the summer (when it's hot) and the fact that people go to the beach and expose their bodies more often in the summer as well.
Now I'm not saying you have to follow this, because everything is your choice. It's just what seems to be the tradition, and it also makes sense for most people to do it this way if you care a lot about the way that you look.
Take a Look At Your Budget and Your Schedule
There's also a practicality component to this.
You shouldn't really be trying to dirty bulk and be eating every hour of the day if you're a busy parent and have a full time job.
Or you shouldn't be out buying the healthiest, most expensive foods just for your fitness if it's going to cut holes into your budget plan and money for other expenses.
You'll hear people saying that you can always find a way if it matters to you enough.
And while this is definitely a great mindset to have, you still have to be practical and avoid putting yourself or others at risk.
So take a look at your budget, take a look at your daily schedule and see what you have time for.
If you haven't got time to be bulking and eating so much, that's fine. You don't have to go on a massive bulk.
Make the efforts, but don't overstress it if there are other, more important things you need to take care of.
Deciding on when to cut and when to bulk comes down to the factors of what your goals are, where you currently stand, the season you're heading towards and the path that's more practical for you.
Whatever you do, make sure that it feels sustainable, and that you're not doing anything you don't feel like you could keep up.
We wish you luck with your fitness endeavors, and hope you enjoyed reading through this article!
If you did, remember to share it with your friends so that we can reach more people and help more reach their goals in fitness!
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