How to Bulk and Cut
In order to gain added muscle while keeping a low body fat percentage, your body needs to go through separate periods of growth and leaning. This is otherwise known as bulking and cutting.
Find out the difference between bulking and cutting, and how they impact on the muscle building process.
Bulking is the period in which muscle growth takes place, and happens when you consume extra calories, complemented with hard, heavy workouts. During the bulking period, your body fat percentage increases despite which foods you choose to eat. This is due to consuming more calories than you’re burning off (also known as a caloric surplus).
How to bulk
Bulking or gaining weight doesn’t automatically mean going on an all-out junk binge. Avoid “dirty bulking” (when you try to pack on as much muscle as possible with no regard for nutritional value) unless advised otherwise by a qualified Nutrition Professional. Instead, feed your body clean whole foods to keep your energy levels high and your metabolism running effectively’.
Some of the best foods for bulking include:
- Rolled oats
Having a solid understanding of your body type can also help in determining how much you should eat to bulk up, however this is all best determined by your unique metabolism rate and the goal you’re trying to achieve (bodybuilding or general muscle gain, for example).
An ectomorph (naturally lean build and high metabolism) and mesomorph (symmetrical build, low body fat and good muscular build) should aim to eat 6-8 small meals a day, spaced out with two hour intervals. An endomorph (larger frame, higher fat percentage and slower metabolism) should eat 6 meals a day, broken up with two and a half hour intervals.
Regardless of how you bulk, it’s important to avoid foods that are full of empty calories, with little to no protein. These include:
- Potato chips
- Concentrated juices
- Fast foods
- Simple carbohydrates
To find out more, read up on what you need to eat to build lean muscle to discover the best foods to eat to complement your weight training routine.
Once your body has gained the extra weight it needs to build muscle, the cutting phase begins. This is when you burn fat, while retaining as much muscle mass as possible. Many fitness professionals, in particular bodybuilders, will undertake a cycle of cutting in the months leading up to a competition. When combined with a weight training routine, cutting allows deeper muscle cuts to show through.
How to cut
During the cutting phase, a carefully monitored diet is essential. You need to ensure you’re eating every few hours to maintain a fast metabolism, and make sure that what you are consuming is high in nutrient value, while avoiding anything overly processed or high in sugar, fat or simple carbohydrates.
Some of the best foods for cutting include:
- Leafy green vegetables
- Red lentils
- Chicken breast
- Lean beef
- Flaxseed oil
During your cutting phase, it’s recommended to increase your cardio sessions in order to burn fat more effectively. Minimising your carbohydrate intake is also an efficient way to cut body fat, however you need to make sure this doesn’t come at the expense of your current training routine. If you find yourself struggling to lift weights you were previously competent at lifting, this may be a sign that you need more nutrition to maintain your muscle mass.
To measure your success, a qualified Personal Trainer will be able to measure your body fat, and complement your nutrition with a training plan that will enable you to increase your muscle strength and allow your newly formed muscles to show their definition.
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