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Bulking vs. Cutting

January 05, 2021 3 min read

Bulking vs. Cutting

As the new year approaches there are plenty of opportunities throughout the holidays to stop and consider your goals for what you might want to achieve with your training in 2021. Two concepts you commonly hear in bodybuilding discussions are those relating to bulking up or leaning down in a process referred to as ‘cutting’. When it comes to gaining body weight or dropping body-fat some different considerations need to be made, this article will address those considerations in more detail.

1. Macronutrients

Energy Intake relates to the macronutrients we consume in food, these can include protein, fat, and carbohydrate. All of which contain calories, more specifically 4 calories per gram of protein and carbohydrate and 9 calories per gram of fat. To build muscle or gain weight, it is important to remember that eating more calories than your maintenance calories is required to fuel performance and recovery, this is termed ‘caloric surplus’. Alternatively, if an individual is looking to lose weight a ‘caloric deficit’ or intake below maintenance is preferred.

2.What is ‘maintenance’ and how do I calculate it?

Maintenance calories refer to an energy balance between basal metabolism, energy intake through food or drink, and energy output via structured exercise and incidental physical activity. There are plenty of online calculators available (provided below) that will help determine your energy requirements based on factors including current activity levels, age, body weight, and goals. Maintenance simply refers to the calories that need to be consumed to maintain consistent body weight. If you are looking to add lean mass 300-500 calories above this maintenance is advised and vice versa if you are looking to lose weight. This is only a ballpark figure and is contextually based on individuals circumstances, subsequently, there should never be a one size fits all approach.

3. Energy output and the role of resistance training.

In order to preserve muscle during a calories deficit, it is important to prioritize structured resistance. Regular weight training while in a calorie deficit can help you lose body fat, maintain your metabolism, and preserve existing muscle tissue. A common mistake many individuals make when cutting down is reducing their workout intensity and increasing the volume of their training. Focus on major compound movements like pull-ups, dips, bench press, squats, or deadlifts, and avoid excessive training volume. Instead, focus on your dietary modifications using low-intensity steady-state cardio or high-intensity interval training as tools to further increase your deficit into a cut. Similarly, if you are looking to add weight, focusing on progressive overload with your major compound exercises whilst fueling your recovery with plenty of high-quality nutrients and adequate sleep will help optimize recovery and subsequently protein synthesis.

Consistency over all else is always the key to achieving your goals! Whether you are looking to add size to your frame in the new-year or trim a few extra kilograms after an indulgent Christmas period, remember you can’t expect to achieve optimal results without a clear plan. Start by writing yourself a clear training program picking 3-5 exercises with 3-4 sets on each focusing on major compound movements 3-5 times each week. Calculate your calorie requirements to meet your goals whilst considering your career and daily activity levels. Devise a gradual plan to either remove calories and increase cardio progressively over an extended period, or increase calories as lean mass and strength increases. As a general rule of thumb weight losses or gains of 0.25-0.5kg per week are ideal to ensure either you aren’t gaining excessive fat mass during a bulk or losing excessive lean mass during a cutting phase!

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