Some argue that the traditional bulking-cutting cycle is the most effective, while others say that it’s best to gain muscle without building fat in the first place.
So the main question is, “Should I bulk and then cut, or just build lean muscle??
The answer to this lies in your diet, so let’s look at some basic nutrition factors to see how what you eat affects your ability to gain muscle.
It sound pretty cliche but that’s because it is absolutely true: what you eat and the amount of food you eat every day directly impacts your ability to build muscle. And yes I said FOOD not just PROTEIN! Unlike many people believe, just because you take in huge amounts of protein doesn’t mean you are maximizing muscle growth.
So how does food play such an important role in building muscle?
Well, your body burns a certain amount of energy every day, which is measured in calories. Naturally, the body gets this energy mainly from the food you eat, and the fat you store.
If you’re feeding your body less energy that it burns, then you are in a “calorie deficit”, which results in weight loss and fat burning. The thing is, this also means that your ability to create muscle is greatly reduced.
This is why you really can’t build muscle AND lose fat at the same time (unless you are under the influence of certain drugs).
What does this mean for you?
It means that if you’re serious about bulking then you literally need to OVER-eat. In other words you need to “eat big to get big”.
This comes with limits of course, one of the most common myths out there is that you can just eat whatever you want when you’re bulking. This will make you bulk all right, although probably not in the way you want to.
Okay so you don’t want to under-eat, but you want to avoid over-overeating too, so what’s the right amount?
Here’s an easy rule of thumb for how much food you should eat to maximize your muscle growth: Eat 10% more calories than you burn every day.
By maintaining this small “calorie surplus,” you ensure that your body’s ability to synthesize muscle proteins can work at full capacity, and you minimize fat storage.
It goes without saying that these calories should come from healthy whole foods with natural sources of carbs, protein and vitamins and minimal fat. Okay… maybe one cheat meal per week or so but remember this is a CLEAN bulk!
Here a good rule of thumb in terms of expectations: Ideally you want to tweak your diet until you are gaining between.5 – 1.5 pounds of weight per week.
If you’re gaining more than 2 pounds per week for any more than your first 2 – 3 weeks of weightlifting, then you’re eating too much (you’re gaining too much fat).
If you’re gaining less than 1 pound per week and you still haven’t gained your first 20 pounds of muscle, then you should be eating a bit more.
So, there you go that’s how you bulk properly-you eat the right amount of food which enables your body to put on pounds of muscle, while minimizing its ability to store fat.
Now the question is, when should I stop bulking and focus on cutting?
The answer to this is quite simple and it depends on your body fat percentage.
Guys, if you’re over 15% body fat or girls if you’re over 25% then you should cut fat.
Why this number?
Well, there’s the visual factor (once you get above 15%, you start looking “fat” – abs completely disappear, muscles look like big blobs, etc.), but there’s more.
The reality is, the fatter you are, the easier it is to get fatter and stay fat, which significantly gets in the way of building muscle.
As body fat levels rise its ability to burn fat decreases, and the likelihood of storing carbohydrate as fat increases.
So if you were considering “dirty” bulking just know that the excessive weight gain during a “dirty” or “dreamer bulk” impairs muscle growth and makes undoing the weight gain even harder.
That being said:
Guys, if you’re between 10 – 12% body fat and girls between 20 – 22% and need to put on size, then you should bulk.