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This article will help you to make the best possible decision based on your current situation and goals.
Bulking Diet or Cut?
Measure your bodyfatHave your bodyfat taken using a reliable method such as a Dexa-scan machine or calipers used by a trained professional. Most commercial gyms have personal trainers available that are willing to take your bodyfat for free.
Get your bodyfat checked on a consistent basis by the same individual at the same time daily. By maintaining consistency in the measurement process you will be able to see a more accurate depiction of your bodyfat percentage.
Beginner liftersBody fat should not be the only determination for cutting or bulking but it does play an important role. If you are a beginner that has never undergone weight resistance training with a smaller frame you should begin bulking regardless of your bodyfat percentage.
If you are a heavier beginner focus on losing weight while simultaneously starting to build muscle. As a newbie you will be able to take advantage of those beginner gains. Beginners need a solid 1-2 years of consistent bulking to put on considerable size prior to beginning their first cutting cycle.
Intermediate/Advanced liftersIf you have been working out consistently for a couple of years or more you need to approach the bulk/cut a bit differently.
Have your bodyfat percentage checked by a knowledgeable individual. Note: Bodyfat taken via calipers should be taken prior to engaging in any workouts for the most accurate results. Review the results of your bodyfat measurement.
- If your bodyfat is above 15% start it is likely time to start cutting.
- If your bodyfat is below 10% then you should begin lean bulking.
- If your bodyfat is between the 10-15% range continue bulking until you reach 15%. After this point is reached start cutting. Rinse, recycle, and repeat the process for life.
Ryan Rodal answers the question: should you bulk or cut?Many people are often confused about the ideas of when they should cut or when they should bulk. Falling on either end of the spectrum is not healthy overall. Forever bulking by simply gaining as much weight as possible for the justification of "getting stronger" is not a valid reason to continually add weight to no end.
After reaching 15% you are simply adding excessive amounts of fat with little to no overall increases in your maximum lifts. Furthermore, increasing bodyfat to high levels can negatively affect hormone levels not to mention the detrimental effects excess weight has on overall health and well-being.
On the other hand staying extremely lean year round can be counterproductive to your goals. Getting down to 5% bodyfat for a physique show is one thing, but maintaining bodyfat that low for the entire year may make it difficult to add muscle mass and strength. Keeping your bodyfat that low will likely require extreme dieting which can be mentally unhealthy and unsustainable.
Ryan Rodal addresses the topic of mini-bulking and cutting cycles.
The solution?A good general rule of thumb is to maintain a bodyfat percentage that consistently lies within the 8%-15% range. This is the optimal range for building muscle while also maintaining a relatively lean physique overall. Keeping bodyfat too low or too high will not result in achieving maximum strength and muscle hypertrophy growth.
How long should you bulk/cut?Bulking is best done in a slow and consistent manner. Bulks should be sustained for a minimum of 6 months to a year depending upon overall bodyfat percentage and individual goals. Aim for gaining 1-2 pounds per month while bulking to achieve the most amount of muscle possible while limiting overall fat gain.
Cutting cycle times will depend upon your current bodyfat percentage. Aim to lose 1-2 pounds per week to ensure not losing excess amounts of muscle during the process. Typical cutting cycles range from 8-20 weeks although if you have extremely excessive amounts of fat it may take longer. Consistently weigh yourself daily to get an accurate representation of how you are progressing.
Knowing when to cut and when to bulk doesn't have to be difficult. You will be able to bulk and cut properly by gaining an understanding of your overall body composition. Following a strong bulking/cutting cycle year in and year out will result in the best results and sustained progress over the course of your lifetime.
Be sure to follow me on Instagram @ryanrodal and on YouTube: MuscleMinds for great workout advice and diet tips.