Bulking and cutting has long been a controversial and divisive concept within the world of fitness and body sculpting. And as a third of Brits are supposedly unhappy with their bodies, it’s easy to see why this trend has grown in recent years.
However, trying to find a definitive way to successfully bulk and cut can be a bit of a minefield. Is it just a case of piling on the pounds - then quickly losing it, as world champion boxer Ricky Hatton famously did?
Well let our PTs give their expert advice on how to safely and effectively bulk and cut your way to body perfection.
How healthy is bulking and cutting?
Carly Tierney believes that although it can be done healthily - bulking and cutting doesn’t come without its dangers.
“Huge body weight fluctuations and uneducated dieting can be dangerous and lead to weight gain over time. Body builders can do this with phenomenal results and it can be tempting for a beginner to think they'd like to give it a try too,” she commented.
If you’re a novice and looking to get into it, however, she recommends that you consult an expert.
“My advice to a beginner would be to seek professional advice if you would like to gain muscle or, for whatever reason, are considering a cut.
“For most people starting out it's much more fun and sensible to train and eat to support the goal of staying in good shape all year round. Unless you've taken the time to build muscle in the first place (and it's a slow process) there won't be anything to showcase when you cut.”
Bulking and cutting myths
One of the biggest misconceptions of the bulking diet is that you can simply put on fat by eating whatever you like. As exciting as it sounds to stock up on all your favourite unhealthy treats, it really doesn’t help when it comes to efficiently putting on size.
Carly warns that completely throwing nutrition out of the window will do nothing to help you achieve your goals.
“The smarter you eat and train, the leaner you can stay. This is important for a couple of reasons.
- The less fat you have to lose, the less drastic your cut will be.
- Who wants to look fat for half the year when you're still working so hard in the gym?
“The fact is that you can't expect to gain lean muscle feasting on pizza and chocolate. Muscles need good nutrition to grow,” she added.
Master trainer Eddy Diget also dispelled the myth that it’s simple to bulk and cut.
“Anyone can put on fat easily, but gaining lean muscle takes hard work. Eating on a regular basis, whilst not missing your training sessions is crucial to see results,” he remarked.
“It’s all about changing the basic fundamentals of your body, especially if you’re new to this.”
A proper (and safe) bulk and cut isn’t all about extremes
The main problem with this process is that it encourages uninformed people to adopt an extreme lifestyle - either eating too much or too little.
Carly explained that moderation is key and she has two main tips to share.
“When you're bulking - just because the weight is going up on the scales it doesn’t mean it's all muscle. Most adults can only gain around 10lbs of muscle per year so the rest is likely to be fat.
“When cutting - you don't have to eat like a bird. If you have a lot of muscle to begin with, the likelihood is that your metabolism will be efficient. You also still need fuel to train effectively and maintain your muscle. There is often still a lot of food needed during the cutting stage, just the right things at the right times.”
How often should I exercise?
Whilst most of us would assume that bulking gives you the chance to minimise your cardio training and concentrate purely on the weights - our experts tend to disagree.
“Those that use terms like ‘bulk’ in their training routine are generally the type of people who are in the gym 4-5 times a week,” Carly says.
“Cardio helps to keep you lean, which is incredibly important at this point. It’s about the intensity of your cardio - it should be shorter and less strenuous. It’s about figuring out what suits your body.”
When it comes to cutting, Eddy feels that a combination of cardio and high-rep weight training is the way forward.
“Every other day, begin a cycle of high reps - around 20/25 reps per body group. Cardio will be very much part of this,” he added.
“If you feel like you need to incorporate more cardio into your plan, however, swimming, rowing or light jogging are the best way to go.”
Is there a perfect bulking diet?
When it comes to getting the body you want, nutrition is as important as the effort you put in at the gym.
And whilst there is no hard and fast rule on what you should be specifically eating, there are some healthy foods that work better than others.
Carly highlights the impact of lean proteins on both bulking and cutting.
“Steak, chicken, turkey and salmon are brilliant sources of protein when looking for a body transformation, as are eggs. Complex carbs work wonders too, like sweet potato and wholemeal pasta.
“Good fats like flaxseed, avocado, olive oil and veggies like asparagus and broccoli are all likely to feature on meal plans for both bulking and cutting.”
Eddy, meanwhile, stresses the importance of taking it slow.
“In the first week of bulking, your weight gain will mainly be water-based. The stomach is holding water to aid the digestion of this new input of food, which it just isn’t used to.
“Keeping within a standard 70% protein/30% carbohydrate split, you will successfully bulk,” he added.
You can learn more expert tips on nutrition right here.
What are the best bulking and cutting workouts?
So now that nutrition has been sorted - plus how often you should be in the gym - let’s take a look at the exercises you should be doing.
It’s no secret that mixing up your workout maximises results. By keeping your body guessing and changing your routine you’ll not only reap the rewards - but enjoy it more too.
Heard that classic gym tip that you should train each body part one by one?
Carly doesn’t agree.
“It’s a myth that you must train each body part on different days. It really is all down to how your body feels and what kind of trainer you are,” she continued.
This post explains how you can avoid an exercise plateau by keeping things fresh in the gym (and the kitchen).
The whole process of bulking up with muscle and then cutting down on fat is rightly viewed with scepticism.
It’s far too easy for gym-goers to take things to the extreme, which puts them in danger of piling on, or losing, vast amounts of weight in too short a period. This is never healthy.
That said, our experts have shown that if done sensibly and with the correct help, it is possible to adopt this approach to hit your fitness and body targets. So why not get in touch and book yourself a session with one of our PTs?