With bathing suit season now fast-approaching, it will soon be time to step up your training so that you can reveal your beastly new physique to the world in the warm sunshine, without a care in the world. Bulking up and building muscle isn’t easy, but cutting fat and preserving lean muscle? Well, that’s a whole other story entirely. If you thought bulking was hard, just wait until you follow your first proper cut.
Building your dream body may not be easy, but when you achieve your goals and get where you want to be, it sure is rewarding. There’s no finer feeling than flexing in the mirror and actually being satisfied with the physique that you’re rocking. To build your dream physique, you’ll need to live life like a bodybuilder and follow a few months of bulking, and a few months of cutting.
Bulking isn’t just about eating as much food as possible, just like cutting isn’t simply about doing endless cardio sessions on the treadmill. There is a fine art to both. Here’s a look at your ultimate guide to bulking and cutting, and how to transition from cutting to bulking without gaining fat.
To start with, we’re going to ease you into the world of bulking and cutting by looking at bulking. A bulking phase is basically a period of time, usually several months at least, whereby a bodybuilder will increase their caloric intakes and step up their training intensity and loads, with the intention of packing as much muscle and size onto their frames as possible.
During a bulk, the goal is to get as big as possible, while ideally not gaining too much fat. The more fat you gain, the worse you will look and feel, and the harder your cut will be. Basically, the simple goal of a bulk is to get as big, as muscular, and as strong as possible, without gaining too much fat or sacrificing your health.
Diet and Nutrition Tips for Muscle Gain
To help get you on the road to Gainsville, we’re now going to share a few tried and tested diet and nutrition tips from trained and qualified experts. If you’re looking to pack on the mass and aren’t quite sure where to begin, these diet and nutrition tips will make your bulk that little bit easier.
– Eat more healthy fats
Fat is not your enemy, fat is your friend, as long as you choose healthy fats. Many bodybuilders are wary of eating too much fat because they’re not ready to say goodbye to their precious abs. The truth of the matter, however, is that any successful bulking diet plan should include a healthy volume of good fats on a daily basis. Fat is important during a bulk for a number of reasons. To begin with, healthy fats provide energy, which is vital for training hard and intensely in the gym. Good fats also help to promote cardiovascular health and keep the brain healthy. Finally, fat is also vital for optimal hormonal balance. Hormones such as growth hormone and testosterone play vital roles in the growth and repair of muscle tissue. If your hormones are unbalanced, your physique will suffer.
– Get used to eating
If you have a large appetite, bulking will be much easier for you than to others. If you don’t have a large appetite, it’s time to dig deep and suck it up because you’re going to need to eat a lot of food for the next several months if you want to make some proper gains. To bulk up and gain muscle, you need to create a caloric surplus. This means that you need to eat more calories than your body needs. The bigger you are already, the more calories you’ll need to reach your new goal. For optimal digestion and nutrient absorption rates, we recommend you consume a healthy and balanced meal every 3 hours. This will make it easier for your body to digest the meals and break them down, plus it will keep your metabolism firing on all cylinders.
– Don’t fear carbs
When it comes to carbs, people either love them or hate them. In terms of bulking, carbs are very important. Carbohydrates in the form of complex carbs are healthy and beneficial. They’re slow-releasing so will provide you with a steady stream of energy as they’re broken down and digested. Complex carbs also have a low glycemic index so they won’t disrupt your blood glucose levels too much. Some great carb sources for bulking include foods like: oatmeal, sweet potatoes, brown rice, wholegrain pasta, potato, wholegrain bread. These are clean carbs and your body will utilize them very effectively.
– Don’t forget your veggies
Just because you won’t be walking around shredded, with your shirt off for the next several months, does not mean that you can neglect your health and ignore your veggies. Vegetables are packed full of nutrients that are essential for health and well-being. Health officials recommend that you consume at least 5 portions of fresh fruit and vegetables per day, so that is the magic number to aim for. With each meal, try to include a vegetable portion. Veggies are packed full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants and they’re also a great way of helping to fill you up.
Training Tips for Your Bulking Cycle
Now we’re going to talk to you about training. If you’re trying to bulk up, it’s important to train hard and follow the right training program.
– Heavy compounds
If muscle mass is your primary objective, heavy compound exercises are crucial. Compound exercises work several muscle groups at the same time. This places an increased load onto them and ensures that you’re breaking down more muscle fibres. The more fibres you destroy, the more muscle you will build as you rest and recover. Compounds such as: barbell squats, deadlifts, barbell bench presses, pull ups, standing military presses, etc, are all hugely beneficial for anybody trying to build muscle.
– Vary your routines
A bulking phase can vary in length, but generally most bulks will last several months at least. During your bulk, it’s important to change your training routine regularly in order to keep the gains coming. Ideally, you should aim to change your program every six weeks. So, for the first six weeks you could try following a 5-day split. After that, you could change this to a German Volume Training (GVT) routine for a few weeks, followed by a full-body split. The idea behind switching up your training routine is that you keep your body guessing so that it doesn’t become complacent. The idea is that you shock your muscles by doing something new.
– Switch up your volume
Another effective way of shocking the muscles is to switch up your training volumes every so often. One session you could perform 4 sets of 10 reps, yet the next session with a slightly different weight you could perform 6 sets of 15 reps. Basically, if you adjust the weight you use, and alter the amount of sets, reps, and exercises you perform, you’ll be more likely to pack muscle mass onto your frame than if you followed the same training pattern week in and week out.
Supplements for Bulking
Before we leave you to begin your bulk, we’re going to share a few tips with you on supplementation.
– Invest in a good quality whey
Assuming you can consume whey protein, it’s worth spending a little more so that you can invest in a good quality one. Cheap and inferior brands of whey contain less protein and more filler ingredients. Protein is vital for muscle growth and recovery, so a protein shake is perfect. If you can afford to, we recommend a good quality whey isolate, as whey isolate provides more protein per serving.
– Casein before bed
To keep your body in an anabolic state and to prevent muscle wastage as you sleep, casein protein is ideal. Casein protein is a slow-releasing, slow-digesting protein that takes several hours to break down. A shake before bed will ensure you have protein and amino acids in your system as you sleep, allowing your body access to the nutrients it needs to repair itself.
– Mass gainers
Bulking is all about building muscle mass. The more mass you can build, the better your bulk has been. To build mass, you need a caloric surplus. To help you to take in more calories, a mass gainer shake is very beneficial. These supplements contain added fats, carbs, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and proteins, which all work in synergy to help you build more muscle mass. One shake also contains hundreds of calories, making it much easier for you to reach your daily macro requirements without sacrificing your gains.
Now we’re talking to you about cutting. Here is where things really get tricky. During a cut, the idea is to strip away all of that excess fat that you gained during your bulk, to reveal the muscle you built which is hiding underneath. It’s not easy, but if you’re committed and you do it right, being shredded is one of the best feelings in the world.
Diet and Nutrition Tips for Lean Muscle
First, we’re going to talk to you about diet and nutrition. If you want to be shredded, these are the tips you need to follow:
– Create a small deficit in calories
Crash dieting during a cut just will not work. The idea is to very slowly burn fat and lose a little each week, so that you can preserve more lean muscle tissue. A little muscle loss is inevitable, but if you create a very small deficit, you will only lose a small amount. Begin by creating a deficit of no more than 300 calories per day. So, if you need 2500 calories for maintenance, you would aim to consume 2200 calories per day. If you’re losing weight too quickly or too slowly, adjust your cals accordingly.
– Don’t forget your fats
Don’t make the mistake that a lot of amateur bodybuilders do when cutting and adopt a fat-free approach to dieting. Healthy fats are not only good for your body, they’re also useful for weight loss as fat helps to speed up the metabolism. Without healthy fats, your body can’t absorb fat-soluble nutrients, it can’t function correctly, your metabolism will slow down, and you’ll feel tired and hungry. A few healthy fats such as: avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, salmon, mackerel, etc, will do your body wonders.
– Eat regularly
Just as you had to eat regularly while bulking, you also need to eat just as frequently when cutting. As you are dieting, you’re already in a deficit so your body will eat away at some muscle mass. The trick is to ensure that you only lose a very small amount of muscle, by ensuring you never go hungry. Eat small and healthy meals every three hours and be sure to track your macros.
– Don’t cheat
It’s hard, but the best thing you can do to avoid cheating on your diet is to avoid cheat meals. Cheat meals are full of calories, fats, salt, sugar, and other junk that your body doesn’t need. Cheat meals will derail your cut, so only cheat very, very occasionally, and certainly not once a week, unless you have an incredibly fast metabolism.
Training Tips for Your Cutting Cycle
Now we’re going to talk to you about training.
– Maintain a high intensity
During a cut, a lot of bodybuilders back off on the intensity because they have less energy and less strength due to their lack of calories. To preserve lean muscle and burn fat however, you need to train with the same intensity as you did when bulking. Sure, the weights may be lighter, but you need to be training to failure and really pushing yourself.
Cardio during a cut is vital. Cardio is essential for fat loss, and so the more you wish to lose, the more cardio you need to do. Aim for at least 5 cardio sessions per week. Some prefer HIIT, while others opt for steady state. As long as you’re doing cardio, the fat will go and that’s the main thing.
– Try supersets
Because you can’t train as heavy when cutting because of your loss in strength, overloading the muscles is much harder. To really test the muscles and recruit more muscle fibres, we recommend supersets. A superset is basically an exercise which you pair up with another, instantly after completing the first. So, a chest-based superset could be barbell bench presses, supersetted with push-ups. Here, you’d complete your bench press, and then immediately perform as many push ups as required before repeating the process for your required amount of sets.
Supplements for Cutting
Now we’re going to very briefly talk to you about supplements during a cut.
During a cut, you will be lacking energy so training will be hard. To counter this, invest in a good quality pre-workout supplements. These supplements contain stimulants and other nutrients designed to increase physical and psychological energy.
Protein supplements are equally as important during a cut as they are during a bulk. Again, whey protein isolate is best, along with a casein protein shake right before bed.
– Amino acids
To help assist with athletic performance and recovery rates, amino acid supplements are very beneficial. BCAAs for example, are great as they boost endurance and recovery, and thanks to the leucine, they also initiate protein synthesis for muscle growth and repair. Glutamine and beta-alanine are other very popular choices for bodybuilders during a cut especially when a lack of energy and strength is present.