Question: I’m new to bodybuilding and I hear people say they’re cutting or bulking a lot. What do they mean by that?
Answer: Cutting and bulking are bodybuilding cycles that bodybuilders, both male and female, engage in to build muscle mass and reduce body fat efficiently. Competitive bodybuilders usually bulk during their off-season and cut when preparing for a contest.
Here’s what you need to know about each cycle:
If you have a lot of body fat, cutting can help trim off the excess while keeping your muscle gains intact. Your goal here is to get as lean as possible without losing too much muscle mass. To achieve this, you must eat slightly below your maintenance intake while meeting your macronutrient (protein, fat, carbohydrate) requirements.
- It helps make muscles more visible and pronounced.
- It is an effective way to lose weight without losing significant muscle mass.
- Losing too much weight may result in a loss of muscle mass.
- Cutting is dieting — it’s not fun!
- Bodybuilders can only maintain muscle mass, not gain more.
Generally, female bodybuilders with excessive body fat will use the cutting route. If you’re a beginner, you should cut if your body fat is average or high — say above 25% or so. Cutting down will help you identify weak points in your muscular development. From there, you can develop a solid lifting program to help even out these weak areas.
Bulking is the opposite of cutting — you simply eat above your maintenance intake and train hard to gain muscle mass. As fun as it seems, gaining too much weight quickly will lead to fat gains as well as muscle gains, which you don’t want. The key here is to maximize muscle gains while minimizing fat gains. Women often don’t eat enough, so this isn’t usually an issue with female bodybuilders.
- It’s an effective way to gain muscle mass.
- You get to eat above maintenance!
- This cycle allows bodybuilders to train harder.
- Women still need to eat carefully to ensure they gain weight slowly.
- Bodybuilders may gain fat as well as muscle.
Generally, female bodybuilders who are very lean and want to gain muscle should bulk. If you’re skinny, you’re a good candidate for a bulking cycle, especially if you want to get “toned” or more muscular. It is extremely difficult — actually, impossible — to get ripped on just a diet, but a couple of bulking and cutting cycles can help you get lean.