Bulking and Cutting – How To Bulk Up & Cut For More Muscle/Less Fat

Whether you want to build muscle, lose fat or do both, there’s a good chance you’re going to come across the terms bulking up and cutting in your quest for figuring out how to best reach those goals.

In fact, I’m sure many of you have already done a couple of “bulk and cut” cycles over the years, and many others are probably thinking about doing it for the first time. How nice.

The thing is, how successful these bulking and cutting cycles have been for you in the past and how successful they will be for you in the future depends on a bunch of factors, the most important of which may just be understanding what these terms DO and DO NOT mean and applying them accordingly.

So, let’s start with the basics.

What Are Bulking And Cutting?

Honestly, they are just stupid words used to describe building muscle and losing fat. The reason I call these words “stupid” is because they are quite broad, and that leaves an opening for them to be interpreted many different ways… some of which are VERY wrong.

You see, in the most general sense, they can be defined the following way:

  • The Bulk: A period of time when the primary goal is building muscle, gaining weight, increasing strength, or all of the above. Calorie intake is increased so a caloric surplus is present.
  • The Cut: A period of time when the primary goal is losing fat, losing weight, getting leaner, or all of the above. Calorie intake is decreased and/or calorie expenditure is increased so that a caloric deficit is present.

The final constant about the scenarios these words entail is that they are typically done in alternating cycles. You know… bulk for X amount of time, then cut for Y amount of time (or vice-versa depending on your initial goal).

This is how countless people have gone about trying to reach their fat loss and muscle building goals for decades and will likely still do it decades from now.

Why? Because it works IF it’s done right. However, as you’re about see, that’s a pretty big IF.

Now For The Problems…

What sucks about these words is that they lack details and specifics. The general concept of each is well known and widely agreed upon, but exactly how those concepts should be applied will vary.

And therein lies the problem, because there’s a way of bulking and cutting that works well, and a way that works horribly. Let’s make sure you know the difference.

How To Bulk… The Wrong Way

The typical old-school approach to bulking up tends to take things literally. As in, the goal here is to just gain a lot of “bulk” at a fairly rapid rate.

Of course, “bulk” can be a few different things (muscle or fat), and while we might want it to mostly be muscle, this style of bulking doesn’t really put much of a focus on actually making that happen.

What I mean is, usually

  • Calorie intake isn’t closely monitored. In fact, there’s often little attention paid to calories beyond just making sure you eat a shitload of them.
  • Nutrient intake also isn’t closely monitored (other than maybe protein).
  • Food choices are typically “dirtier” than they would normally be (more junk food is allowed in the diet to provide that aforementioned shitload of calories).
  • No cardio activity is done.
  • The focus is largely on just gaining weight fast… even if a significant amount of that weight is ugly body fat rather than pretty muscle. As long as body weight is increasing, the bulk is successful!

This is the approach that comes with such genius sayings as “just eat as much as you can” and “eat whatever isn’t nailed down” and the always wonderful “you gotta eat big to get big, bro!

There is some truth to this of course, as a caloric surplus is definitely required for building muscle. But here’s the thing… there’s a limit to the amount of muscle a person can build and the rate at which they can build it (more here: How Fast Can You Build Muscle?).

What this means is that there is also a limit to the amount of calories the human body can actually put towards the process of muscle growth. Consuming more calories than that amount doesn’t lead to more muscle growth or faster muscle growth. It just leads to you getting fat as hell.

See, once you have supplied your body with the extra calories it needs to build muscle, any additional calories you consume beyond that point will just be stored as fat. And with this style of bulking (where little to no attention is put on monitoring calories, and the attempted rate of weight gain is often hilariously high), this is something that always ends up happening

And that fact right there is EVERYTHING that is wrong with the typical old-school approach to bulking that a surprisingly high number of stupid people still keep trying to make seem right. It’s not.

But What About REALLY Skinny People Who Have A Hard Time Gaining Weight?

Now even if you’re someone who agrees that the old-school “bulking up” method of just eating as much as you can, not closely monitoring calorie intake, and gaining weight fast is totally wrong and dumb for most people… you might however still feel that there is one exception to this. A group of people who a typical “just-shut-up-and-eat” bulk IS ideal for.

I’m talking the super skinny. The guys/girls with naturally thin body types and ectomorph genetics who seem to be unable gain weight and build muscle no matter how hard they try and how much they eat.

Surely a guy who is something like 5’11 125lbs is someone who would benefit from just “eating whatever isn’t nailed down” and sticking with the old-school bulking approach we just covered, right?

Right???

RIGHT??????

Um, as a dude who literally started lifting at exactly 5’11 125lbs… I’m here to tell you that this approach is still completely and utterly WRONG.

Super skinny or not, eating MORE calories above what is needed for optimal muscle growth will STILL lead to excessive amounts of fat being gained just the same. Sure, it may seem like less of a problem if a really skinny person gains that extra fat rather than someone who isn’t as skinny to start.

But who gives a shit? No one wants to unnecessarily gain extra fat, period. Even the super skinny.

As someone who once fit that description (it may have even been an understatement), I know I sure as hell didn’t. But, all of the advice I was hearing at the time made it seem like someone as skinny as I was needed to ignore everything and just eat a ton. Eat big, get big, right?

Why should someone who is barely 125lbs and the width of a broomstick waste time closely monitoring their calorie intake or try to gain weight at a slower more moderate pace? Someone with my body type should be gaining 20lbs in the next 10 weeks!!! Right?

This seemed to make sense in my silly noob head, so that’s exactly what I did. And do you know what happened? I built some muscle, but I also got fat as hell in the process.

So fat that looking back at those pictures right now still makes me feel terrible. One day I may even fight the embarrassment and post them as proof that a super skinny guy can easily become disgustingly fat as a result of old-school bulking methods and just eating big with no real regard for closely monitoring the exact extent of the caloric surplus and the rate of weight gain taking place.

Weight Gain Can Happen Fast… Muscle Growth CAN’T

That’s why whenever I see people recommend the “eating whatever isn’t nailed down” approach, or to not bother closely counting calories, or suggesting you aim for 2 pounds gained per week (or more), or doing GOMAD (gallon of milk a day) for the purpose of gaining something as insane as 25lbs in 25 days… I do a combination of laugh and cringe.

Seriously… as someone who started off as skinny as anyone ever will, I can tell you firsthand that it’s all just flat out wrong. Even for the super skinny. You’ll certainly gain a ton of weight really fast by following this type of bulking advice. There’s no doubt about that at all, and if all you care about is just gaining weight, then I guess it’s alright.

But if you actually give a crap about what that weight is, then it’s not alright at all. Why? Because the majority of that weight will always be fat, not muscle.

And besides making you look like crap (hooray, now you’re skinny-fat instead of skinny), this is just going to create a much bigger time-wasting job for you when it comes time to cut and get rid of that fat. Trust me, I know.

And I know how tempting the thought of fast weight gain is to someone super skinny. I also know how the weight gain feels awesome at first regardless of what the composition of that weight is. It’s just nice to have people notice that you’re filling out your medium shirts a little better, even though what’s going on underneath that shirt is getting uglier by the pound.

Still, none of this changes the fact that in the end, this type of bulk will ALWAYS cause you to gain a bunch of body fat that you DID NOT NEED TO GAIN!

That’s why I feel that the old-school approach to bulking up is wrong for EVERYONE. Not just “most people,” but the super skinny as well. (Additional details here: Ectomorph Workout & Diet Guide And The Skinny-Fat Hardgainer Solution)

How To Bulk… The Right Way

And now for the new-school approach to bulking, although I use the term “new-school” loosely. There’s nothing really “new” about this type of bulk at all. It’s just that many people have finally seen the light in recent years, so to the people who have been doing it wrong all this time, this just seems like the newer way to bulk.

In reality, it’s just the smarter way to bulk.

The goal with this approach isn’t to just gain weight, eat whatever isn’t nailed down, and get as “big” as possible as fast as possible. Instead, the goal here is to build quality lean muscle mass while keeping fat gains to an absolute minimum.

A caloric surplus is still DEFINITELY required, only now it’s closely monitored and set to a level that is optimal for both muscle growth AND preventing any unnecessary body fat from being gained. The same goes for the rate of weight gain. Since muscle can only be gained so fast, the focus is on slow and gradual (yet still consistent) increases in body weight to ensure muscle is being gained without a ton of fat coming with it.

Similarly, the rest of the diet plan and the entire weight training routine is set up accordingly to improve calorie partitioning (meaning how your body uses the extra calories you’re consuming… to support muscle growth or just go towards fat storage?).

With this type of smart bulking, we’re doing everything we can to ensure muscle is being built as fast as it can while ALSO doing everything we can to ensure there is as little fat as possible coming with it.

Now, unless you’re using drugs and/or have the greatest genetics on the planet, everyone will always gain at least some small amount of fat along with muscle when creating a caloric surplus. But the goal should be to adjust diet and training to ensure the ratio of muscle to fat gain is as ideal as it can possibly be.

And that’s what this approach to bulking is all about (and why some people like to call it a lean-bulk or a clean-bulk… but it’s really just a smart-bulk).

So whereas an old-school bulk ends with you having gained some muscle along with a ton of fat that now needs to be lost in order to actually see it, a new-school bulk ends with the same amount of muscle being built, only now there’s significantly LESS fat that needs to be lost.

And that brings us to cutting.

How To Cut… The Wrong Way

The typical old-school approach to cutting is really about just losing weight as fast as possible. It’s probably because at the end of a typical old-school style bulk, you’re so F-ing fat that you just can’t wait to get rid of it by any means necessary… no matter how dumb.

And that describes old-school cutting exactly. There’s usually

  • An extra large reduction to your calorie intake.
  • A huge increase in cardio… something like 30-60 minutes of steady state activity done 5-7 days per week is pretty normal (coming from doing zero cardio during the bulk), with maybe some HIIT thrown in for good measure.
  • A switch from heavy weight and low reps (for bulking and building muscle) to light weight and high reps (for cutting and toning, duh)
  • A switch from eating lots of junk while bulking to only eating “clean” foods now that you’re cutting.
  • A switch from barely paying any attention to nutrient intake to now paying all sorts of OCD-like attention.
  • And it’s usually all added instantly and simultaneously as soon as the bulk is over.

If all of that sounds right to you, then please have a close friend or family member kick you square in the nuts (or, for those without nuts, somewhere equally attention-getting). Everything associated with the old-school approach to cutting is VERY wrong and VERY counterproductive.

Yes, you’ll lose weight for sure… probably really fast too. But, THAT’S the problem with cutting this way. “Weight” isn’t just fat… it can also be muscle. And believe me, when following these methods… you can bet your ass that a significant amount of the weight you lose will be quality lean muscle.

Yup, the same quality lean muscle you just put in a ton of time and effort to build.

And that fact right there is EVERYTHING that is wrong with the old-school style of cutting. Losing weight is simple, but ensuring the weight being lost is fat and NOT muscle takes effort and attention that this approach not only doesn’t provide… but completely goes against. I don’t recommend it to anyone.

How To Cut… The Right Way

And now for the new-school approach to cutting. Once again, there’s nothing really new about it. It’s just that it seems “new” in comparison to the silly incorrect way many people have previously gone about doing it. This is really just the smarter way to cut.

The goal with this approach isn’t to just lose weight as fast as possible. The goal here is to lose body fat while maintaining all of your hard-earned muscle and strength.

A caloric deficit is still DEFINITELY required, only now it’s closely monitored (as is the rate of weight loss) and set to a level that will produce optimal fat loss without hindering recovery and negatively impacting your performance in the weight room (which would lead to muscle loss).

Cardio is completely optional but can still definitely be done to create/help create the required deficit. However, it’s programmed properly in sane amounts (and intensities) to avoid the same recovery related problems I just mentioned would lead to muscle loss.

Similarly, the rest of the diet plan (especially protein intake) is set up accordingly to suit the goal of preserving muscle while losing fat in a way that is the perfect combination of highly effective, enjoyable and sustainable.

And, most important of all in terms of maintaining muscle… your weight training routine is adjusted intelligently to compensate for the drop in recovery/performance that comes with being in a caloric deficit, and to ensure strength levels are (at the very least) maintained. The Fat Loss + Muscle Maintenance Solution (which is now available in The Best Workout Routines) makes all of these adjustments for you.

With this type of smart cutting, we’re doing everything we can to ensure body fat is being lost as fast as it can be while ALSO doing everything we can to ensure ALL of our lean muscle and strength is being maintained during the entire process.

So whereas an old-school cut ends with you having lost fat but also a significant amount of muscle and strength right along with it, a new-school cut ends with the desired amount of fat being lost without any problem, and muscle and strength levels maintained perfectly (or, in some cases, possibly even increased).

The End Result: Wrong vs Right

Now that you’ve seen the major differences between these two approaches to bulking and cutting, let’s quickly compare their end results.

The WRONG Way To Do It

When you attempt to build muscle in a way that is associated with “old-school bulk up” methods, you’re always going to end up gaining some amount of excess body fat that you just didn’t need to gain. When you attempt to lose fat in a way that is associated with “old-school cutting” methods, you’re always going to end up losing some amount of muscle and strength that you just didn’t need to lose.

And alternating between these types of bulk and cut cycles is really the ultimate recipe for disaster. You’ll just keep building underwhelming amounts of muscle and while gaining overwhelming amounts of fat, and then go on to lose most of that fat while also losing a large amount (maybe even ALL) of that muscle.

Sounds pretty terrible, huh? Oh… it is. I’ve been there and done that, as have countless others. You just keep gaining and losing the same weight over and over again and end up EXACTLY where you originally started at. No real new muscle or strength, and not really any leaner either. Just spinning your wheels.

If anything, you usually look slightly worse at the end of each bulk and cut cycle.

But that’s what you can expect when you attempt to build muscle and/or lose fat in this manner. I’d absolutely NEVER recommend it. Anyone who does is an idiot, and you can tell them I said so.

The RIGHT Way To Do It

Instead, anyone looking to make these kinds of improvements to their body should do it the way that I’ve described as new-school and smart.

That means if your goal is building muscle, bulk in a way that allows you to slowly but optimally build that muscle while simultaneously keeping fat gains to an absolute minimum. If your goal is to lose fat, cut in a way that allows you to lose that fat optimally while simultaneously maintaining all of your lean muscle mass at the same time (more here: How To Lose Fat WITHOUT Losing Muscle).

And if you want or need to do both, just alternate between cycles of SMART bulking and cutting.

Doing it this way, you can be sure that you’ll always end up with more muscle and less fat than you previously had… as opposed to the other way around.

(Wondering which phase to start with first? Read this: Should I Build Muscle or Lose Fat First?)

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85 Comments

  1. Eddie says

    Really great post! I just had one follow up question. How long should each ‘smart’ bulk and cut phase last? Are they more effective if they are shorter or longer?

    • says

      That will vary based on each person and their specific starting point, experience level, goals and preferences for how fat or lean they want (or can tolerate) getting.

      In general though, a guy would ideally start bulking at around 10% body fat and stop before exceeding 15%, at which point they’d switch to cutting. I’ve done it both from lower/higher start and end points, and this seems to be the sweet spot.

  2. Steve says

    When cutting I always find that my libido goes out the window. And I’m not doing silly calorie deficits either (ie I’m running 15-20% under maintenance and keeping 20-30% cals from fat). What I hear is that this is not uncommon and kinda comes with the territory. Is this your experience too and any tips to minimise or even avoid this??

    • Steve says

      Also I should add that I’m getting older – mid 30s (yikes!) – so I am resigned to the fact that I will never see a return to the glory days as a teenager.

      • says

        Yup, that’s one of the many not-so-fun things that frequently come with being in a prolonged caloric deficit.

        Tips for minimizing/avoiding it are pretty much the same tips for minimizing/avoiding most of what sucks about fat loss.

        Take diet breaks every so often (where you go back up to maintenance or maybe even slightly above it for a short term period of time), ensure your macronutrient intake is what it should be (sufficient protein, sufficient total fat and essential fatty acids), and don’t go overboard on the cardio/weights.

        Beyond that, I got 2 words for ya… calorie cycling. I’ve been playing around with different ways of having more calories on training days and less on off days for the last few years (for both bulking and cutting), and I really feel like I’ve found the perfect balance right now in my own diet as I try to get down to single digit body fat levels for the first time in a while. This is the easiest I can remember it being for sure.

        It’s definitely a subject I’ll be writing more about in the future, as it’s something that seems to single-handedly improve a bunch of physiological and psychological aspects of making positive changes to body composition.

  3. Tom says

    Jay…how much cardio do you recommend during a cutting phase? At what point does cardio become too much cardio?

    The reason I ask is that I’m about to start a cutting phase. The right way this time. In addition to my own time in the gym, I usually go to a spin class once a day with my wife. Doing the whole ‘moral support’ thing for her (although I admit that I enjoy going to the classes together and they aren’t easy, even for me).

    So is that too much cardio?

    By the way…just finished the Best Workout Routines…completely awesome. Definitely a core book for me from now on. Thanks for putting the time into it.

    • says

      Awesome to hear you liked the guide! Thanks for the feedback. Now about this cardio stuff…

      Since fat loss requires a caloric deficit, and that deficit can be provided through diet alone, it means there really isn’t ANY need for ANY cardio when cutting. It’s completely optional.

      So because of this, there really is no general “how much cardio should you do” answer. It depends on the specific person.

      For example, for someone who is perfectly fine just eating less to create their deficit, I’d recommend zero cardio. But for someone who’d rather create their deficit (or more likely a portion of their deficit) by doing cardio rather than just diet alone, then I’d recommend whatever amount of cardio is needed to burn the amount of calories that need to be burned for their ideal deficit to be created.

      As for what’s “too much,” that again depends on a bunch of factors. For example, the intensity (walking 4 days a week is nothing compared to doing HIIT 4 days a week). Not to mention, it depends on how (or if) your weight training routine is being adjusted to compensate for the cardio being done. So another example… someone doing 2 lower body workouts per week who wants to add in some HIIT would be wise to maybe drop one of those lower body workouts to compensate for the added stress of HIIT.

      So yeah… it’s kinda complicated and definitely in need of a full article/series of articles to cover in detail. I will write it at some point, I swear. ;-)

      And semi-related, there’s also the enjoyment factor. If you like doing that spin class with your wife (and I’m assuming you meant to say once a WEEK rather than once a DAY, right?), you should do it. I mean, playing basketball while bulking just gives me a bigger job to do in terms of now having to eat more to make up for the extra calories burned. But, I like playing basketball. So screw it.

  4. Tom says

    Thanks for the info. I’m actually pretty psyched to start this cycle as I’ve literally always followed all of the “old school” methods of cutting you listed in this article. To less than desired effect.

    And no, I meant that we do a class just about every day we can (depending on my work schedule, ect). Obviously, I’ll be cutting back on those.

    • says

      Ah, well in that case… it’s pretty safe to say it would be WAY too much assuming it’s being done for the typical duration and intensity most spin classes usually are.

      Honestly, I’m not really a fan of cardio at all when the primary goal is losing fat while maintaining muscle/strength. Obviously if you have some sort of conditioning related goal in mind, this changes.

      But if you just want to get really lean and not lose muscle in the process, I generally recommend no cardio for fat loss, or, if anything, some low intensity walking (possibly fasted) on your off days from weight training.

      • Tom says

        Yeah, I’m going to have to cut back. Based on my particular circumstances, though, I wouldn’t be able to get rid of cardio altogether. But cutting back is doable.

  5. Husni says

    Hey, great article. My questions is whatis, what is the best way to start if you are a beginner who needs to lose at least 15 lbs but also wants to gain 10lbs muscle (hence the beginner status).
    I am 30, 195lbs, 185cm, 20% body fat and 40% body fat with 2015 BMR.

    Do you recommend I first cut down to 15% then start bulking and cutting in small cycles to put on that extra muscle? Not sure what to do if goal is to loose weight and gain muscle at same time.

    Sorry for long post. Your help is appreciated.

    • says

      I definitely wouldn’t recommend bulking (meaning creating a surplus) until you are ideally between 10-12% body fat (for a guy). The fatter you are when you start, the worse calorie partitioning will be which means the worse your ratio of muscle to fat gains will be.

      As for what to do right now as a beginner who wants to lose fat and build muscle, I’d recommend creating a moderate deficit so fat is lost, getting a sufficient amount of protein each day, and training your ass off with an intelligently designed beginner routine focused on progression.

      The fact that you’re a semi-fat beginner gives you the short term ability to actually build muscle while losing fat. I’d suggest taking advantage of it while you can, and then when you reach the ideal levels of leanness, switch over to a smart bulking cycle.

  6. Colin says

    My question is couldn’t it be argued that the old school version of cutting wouldn’t be terrible if it was the first thing you are doing if you are starting with a bodyfat of say 22+% and hadn’t been working out at all in an extended period of time. Basically if you are in a situation where the muscle loss doesn’t bother you because you really haven’t been trying to build any anyway or am I off base here?

    • says

      A few things. First, what you’re describing is less about “cutting” (which actually refers to losing body fat to uncover the muscle you’ve built, ideally without losing any of it in the process) and more about just “fast weight loss.”

      Second, even if you haven’t been training, you still have muscle to lose. So going with that silly old school cutting method can still result in muscle loss even in that situation.

      Third, in that situation (a fat beginner), the person would actually have the short term ability to build some muscle while losing that fat. But if they’re going about their fat loss in the typical old school cutting way, that ability will be lessened or eliminated.

      So, if you don’t care at all about losing muscle, building muscle, maintaining muscle or really anything other than just losing weight, old school cutting is fine. But if you do, then I wouldn’t recommend it.

  7. Kye Daniel says

    Hey, I like the guide and the level of feedback you have given here.

    I have been going gym for about 1yr now, I started at 24% body fat with very little muscle. Now I am 17% body fat with a lot more muscle mass. I still have excess fat around my lower stomach and back, but in general I look good.

    I have not yet bulked once since I started gym almost a yr ago I have been following a similar program to the new style cutting. Should I NOT bulk until I reach 10-12% body fat or is it worth bulking for a period at my current body fat levels?

    My personal goal is to get lean whilst keeping the muscle I have got, however would I be beeter off building more (bulking) then cutting as I have never bulked before? Geeting rid of the excess fat on the stomach is probably most important to me.

    Cheers :D

    • says

      Two things instantly stand out here. First, you said: “Geeting rid of the excess fat on the stomach is probably most important to me.”

      That alone is reason enough to keep on losing fat and hold off on bulking until after.

      Second, you mentioned that you’re currently 17% body fat. At that level, even if your #1 goal right now was to build muscle, I’d still recommend holding off on bulking and continue losing fat. When you hit 13% body fat or less, that would be the ideal time to switch.

  8. Wildwabbit says

    I’ve adopted the cycling system, as you mentioned earlier in this post. Largely due to a long period of being out of shape (and being the fattest I had ever been in my life), I dieted for for about 4 months and hit my goal quite successfully. (From 92kg now 75kg)

    The experience gave me an understanding of the feed back I get from my body, and I have been hovering quite successfully between 13.5 and 16% body fat while I build muscle.

    I always make sure I’m in calorie excess about 12hrs before and after each work out, and pretty much keep a minimal deficit in between. If I suspect I’ve had too many calories over a week I’ll make a bit more of a deficit on my 2day break between workouts. I almost do it sub-consciously. I just listen to my body if that doesn’t sound strange?

    Since i started “hovering” for about the last three months I’ve noticed the muscle start to really come on, and looking forward to a final cut getting closer to x-mas.

    This site has definitely been been a big part of achieving my personal goals, haven’t looked back since I found it.

  9. Daniela says

    Best article about bulk and cut i’ve ever read! Thank you.
    Just one questio: You have written about the body fat% of men to start bulking. What’s about the fat % of women to start the change from cut to bulk?

  10. Gamid says

    Hi, good informative article!!! I am new to body-building and will start a “bulk” soon. I am 172 cm and 58 kg(5’8 and 128 pounds)around 15% BF .
    Two questions:
    1. Say I want to be 65-70 kg at around 10-13% BF. What is my goal weight before cut?
    2. Should I recalculate maintenance calories every now and then to adjust surplus/deficit to the current weight?
    Thank you!!!!!!

    • says

      1. I wouldn’t pay much attention to weight, I’d pay more attention to body fat percentage. For men, a bulk should ideally start between 10-12% body fat (or less) and end around 15-16%.

      2. I’d calculate maintenance just that initial time, then adjust the surplus/deficit based on what actually ends up happening. So if after a certain number of weeks your weight stalls for 2 weeks straight, I’d adjust calorie intake at that point, usually by around 200-300 calories.

  11. Matt says

    Very good guide! Lot’s of good stuff here.

    I have been half-ass bulking for about 3 months now, gained about 22 lbs (high metabolism ectomorph) lifting heavy, high sets, low reps. I’m going to continue this for about two month before cutting.

    You mentioned in the article that lowering the weights and upping the reps is the wrong way to cut and get defined muscles, could you explain the right way? Should i continue lifting heavy, with high sets and low reps and just change my diet?

    Thanks again for this article :)

  12. elias says

    hey loved the article … what is the ideal amount of weight loss per week during a cut? also is it ok just to jump right into a defecit from a surplus ? or maybe consume maintenance for a while and then slowly cut back by a couple hundred calories at a time? thanx

    • says

      More if you have more weight to lose (1-2lbs per week), less if you have less weight to lose (0.5-1 pound per week).

      When transitioning from deficit to surplus, a short period at maintenance is usually beneficial first. The other way around… from surplus to deficit… it’s usually less important but can’t hurt.

  13. Jake says

    Ok so I’ve been smart cutting for about 2 months now. I’ve gradually gotten down to consuming 1700 calories a day, 40 grams of fat, and 170 carbs a day. I’ve lost a lot of fat and maintained most of my muscle. I’ve lost about 15 pounds and I’m ready to go to a “maintenance” diet, or even a bulk. How should I gradually start increasing my food intake?

  14. Mike says

    Another great article. What are your thoughts on light cardio (jogging, rowing at slow paces) mixed in with weight training? I do three days of each a week. Do you think the cardio is burning the muscle I build from the day before? Thanks.

    • says

      Low intensity cardio that isn’t overly long or frequent shouldn’t be too big of a problem for muscle growth if it’s something you really want to do. But, it will burn some calories, and building muscle requires a surplus of calories. As long as you take that into account and eat enough to compensate, you should be alright.

      If for some reason it begins to feel like too much, cut back on the cardio.

  15. Mike says

    I like the article…. I am a bigger guy 6’4″ 320 about 25% bf I want to cut down but do not want to be small. The classic response I get is your 6’4″ …you arent small but, I cant stand seeing guys at my height and 240-250. Is there really any way to lose bf and keep all the hard earned muscle?
    I don’t think i’m that strong but some ppl do( bench 480, squat 615, dl 680) all are 1 rp max. I am just looking for some input here… I need to lose the belly like everyone but honestly don’t want to look like a basketball player. thanks

  16. kissofjudas says

    You’re a FUCKING GOD!!!! All of your articles are just the superb in-your-face type of truth that it’s just astonishing (; and you have a great sense of humour too

  17. Rizzy says

    This article is awesomeness, ok so I started bulking but I don’t know when is the right time to start cutting? Is it the last month of 5month program? Plz help with this

  18. Noah Rombold says

    Could you tell me how much of a calorie surplus and deficit I should have during the bulking and cutting phases or at least where to find this information? I’m currently about 5″11 190lbs approx 13% body fat last time I got pinched.

  19. Mouhammad Khayat says

    Hi, I started bulking 15 months ago and went from 65kg to 100kg and look pretty cut excluding the abs which are still present but have decreased. Most of my weight however comes from my lower body and I would like to drop to about 90kg fully shredded with <6% body fat. How much times should i do cardio a week and what intensity. Also, should i still lift heavy or a percentage of my maximum?

    • says

      Cardio needs a full article to cover. It’s on my to-do list.

      And yes, you should still lift heavy. It’s the primary signal that tells your body to maintain muscle during fat loss.

  20. workitout wells says

    Hi. Great read but slightly bedazled .. Could you simplify one question for me? : )
    If I am only a small woman but have some small amounts of stomach fat to reduce should I enter a cutting cycle or just use the muscles more lol thanks x

  21. Matt says

    Thanks for the great advice! What would you recommend to measure my body fat as far as being accurate and not over-the-top expensive?

    • says

      Honestly? The best and most doable way is to get a realistic idea of what various body fat percentages actually look like, and use a mirror/pictures to objectively judge where you’re at.

  22. Andrew says

    great post
    Question I used weight 235 pound about a year ago and I decided to loose weight and put on muscle but how I did it it was stupid ain the way of cutting tooooo much calories so I lost a lot of fat and sure enough muscles too and here I am I have been plateu for like damn 5 to 6 month eating clean cardio and weight training I’m kind good at weight training when it comes to experience so anyway I’m now 185 pound with my scale saying 18% BF and I have been trying to go down to at least 10% however I can see my 4 Pac abs it’s just little tummy around my number 5&6 ab when I sitdown. It pops out lol so my eating is like this 50% protein 35% carbs and 20% fat of my total food all day so SHOULD I CUT OR BULK UP TO LET MY BODY THINK THAT ITS OK I’M NOT STARVING OR LOST IN THE DESERTS LOL OR JUST KEEP CUTTING TILL I REACH 10% BF I also lift heavy my max should I go easy and more reps
    I do 5x8to12 reps heavy what’s your take on that one please thanks in advance

  23. Jeff says

    Hey I wanted to get your opinion on my situation. I have around 8% body fat and have been working out regularly for around 2 years. I’ve never done a bulking, cutting phase though. I’ve simply built this muscle slowly over the years. I would really like to do a bulking/cutting phase to see some real progress but I’m not sure if I can. I regularly eat around 4000 calories a day and have barely managed to put on any weight at all. I’m eating clean, trying out the paleo diet right now, but just can’t seem to put on weight. I weigh about 165-170 and am 6’3″. Is a bulking/cutting phase a good idea, or should I just stick with what I got?

    I should also mention I was a super skinny guy before I started and I weighed around 145

  24. Khalid says

    That’s quality information right there.

    I am interested in your opinion Jay , I just don’t trust anyone but you :D

    What do you think about bulking one day cutting the other , can the body work this way?

    I mean 3 training days eating +20% surplus > building muscles 3 days a week
    4 days eating -20% deficit > losing fat 4 days a week

    And what’s your thought about “cyclical bulking”

    For example you bulk for 1 month and cut for 1 week

    Thank you very much Jay

  25. Michael says

    Thanks for this logical and educated article. I am tired of everyone out there advising people to eat till they puke. Seems like this goes on in every bodybuilding forum.
    Anyway, I have one question. I am 36, 5′ 6″, 140 lbs, and around 10-11% bf. So, a small frame with bit of muscle already on. I’ve been doing the “smart” cut for a few months now, I started at some 20-22% bf. My goal was to get down to 8% bf before starting a bulk, with an idea of maintaining abs during the bulk. I am curious as to why you advise only cutting down to 10-15% bf before starting a bulk. For me, my #1 goal is to have abs (not quite there yet) and secondary to add lean muscle mass, about 10-15 lbs.

    • says

      You can certainly cut down to 8% before bulking, that’s fine. For others, it’s a lot hard, takes more time, potentially causes more muscle loss, etc. and they just want to get back to building more muscle.

      In that case, cutting down to 10% and then bulking till about 15% is usually ideal.

  26. Rex says

    Hello there, this post surely give me a new idea how to bulk in a smart way. I’ve been training in the gym for 3 months now but my result is really little. 150 pounds with 5’5 height.. I keep my meals 5-6 a day but I havent see much result. Am I doing wrong in my diet? I trained 3-4 times a week. Body fat around 14-15% and a hardgainer ~_~

  27. mike says

    Hi, i’m . 5’11, 207 pounds, im probally in the range of 15-20 percent body fat.. my bmr/activity level tells me just to maintain, i would consume 3047 calories a day. To lean down/cut, should i be cutting calories by 300? or more to cause a moderate deficit? Maybe Start the bulk when i’m 13% percent bf? Goal is to lower body fat and increase size and strength. Currently on program to do just that..

    thanks

  28. Dan Moore says

    Hi, I have just completed your “Best Diet Plan” Guide and have to say i am extremely impressed with how in detail it is. I am 21 male, weighing 13.11stone (183 pounds) Have been bulking for last few months taking in around 4000cals per day and managed to put on 2 stone which i am happy with. I am now looking to cut down and as i have never actually done a cutting cycle before i was looking for help with it and your guide did just that! I have know worked out i need around 200g protein, 67g of good fats and 250g of carbs. Which works out as 2400 cals per day. Now iv been hitting the gym 4x a week without touching cardio. My question is coming down from 4000cals per day to 2400 should i slowly drop the cals before jumping this low?? I must admit i always thought cutting carbs right down was how a cutting cycle worked so 250g of carbs seems quite alot, but i wont knock it untill iv tried it! Also you would it be sensible to start including a couple of cardio sessions per week? Very worried about this cutting cycle as i have always been a very skinny guy and now i am at a good weight i thought it was time to shred down but worried i may go back to looking too skinny!!

    Any Advice would be much appreciated.

  29. says

    Hi. I read the articles. They were amazing. I have a few questions about my training. I started a year back . I had an annoying belly and weighed around 85 kgs. Back then, I had no idea about ‘fat’ loss, so, all I did was, ate less and did lots of cardio. Within six months, I came down to 62-63 kgs. I certainly must have lost a lot of muscle mass too, but most of the weight loss still came from fat. Around 6-8 months back, I started training with weights. I gained a little muscle mass and did see some increase in my strength too. However, till now, I was creating a slight caloric deficit only, to somehow lose fat AND gain muscle at the same time. I did have results, but they were very, very slow. I started bulking from last two weeks only, this year, and am creating a surplus of 250-300 calories a day, a gram of protein per pound. I train with weights 6 days a week, and do 20-30 mins of cardio daily. I weigh 65 as of now, and I’m 5’10. I have a pretty clearly visible 4 pack even at 12% bodyfat. However, I don’t know why exactly, but, my waist size has slightly increased and the skin around the lower abdomen is slightly more jiggly. Hence, I feel like my bodyfat is increasing and muscle gain isn’t happening. I know it’s too early to expect any visible results at all. But still. I hope my diet routine is the type that would be helpful. If not, please guide me about what exactly should I do to ensure a visible change in my body? Maybe the weight training isn’t nearly as effective? Or maybe the cardio is hampering muscle gains? But still, I’m not overtraining any bodypart, and creating a caloric surplus daily. Seems so confusing. What exactly shall I do?

  30. Jake says

    How would one go about cutting or bulking if they play sports and have to do intense workout that can’t be avoided

      • Jake says

        One more thing does the type of cardio change the amount of muscle I would lose if I adjusted the amount of cal like lets say if I ran for an hour and added 200 calories or walked for an hour and added 100 calories would I lose more muscle with the running or would it matter? Note I made up the calorie adjustment for example purposes

        • says

          The more intense the cardio is, the more likely it will be to cut into recovery… which increases the risk of muscle loss.

          Generally speaking, walking is the least intense/least stressful/least problematic type of cardio you can do.

  31. Towerdog says

    I started 18 months ago at 280 lbs and was 43 years old. I was 35% body fat and feeling bad about myself. I lost 80lbs in the first 4 months and then decided to try to start putting it back on right. I hit the weight room almost every day for the last year, I do cardio (although I have cut back on the amount in the last 2 months) and I do Ju Jitsu, Tae Kwon Do, and kickboxing about 6 hours a week total. I spend about 45 – 60 minutes each day in the weight room working on a different muscle group each day. Abs Tuesday and Thursday. I have not really gained any weight and your article really explained to me why. I am not eating enough. I am obsessive about counting calories because that was how I had to be to lose the 80 lbs. I just have a tough time getting mentally ok with putting weight back on because I know it will partly be fat. I was down to 7.1% BF at one point but am around 12% now. I try to get 200+ grams of protein each day but some days do not get there.

    All that above is to ask you, at 6’4″ 215lbs what should my calorie surplus be daily to add the optimal amount of muscle without adding too much fat to later have to cut? And once I get to a state where it is time to cut what is the optimal caloric deficit for me?

    • says

      You should ideally aim to gain no more than 0.5lb per week (something like 1-2lbs gained per month is the sweet spot for minimizing fat gains while building muscle). Whatever surplus allows you to do that… that’s the ideal surplus.

      An ideal deficit will typically be 10-20% below maintenance.

  32. Justin says

    First I would like to thank you for your awesome articles. I have read the one about Upper/lower split and total body workout and they helped me a lot with my workout training.

    I would like to give some background about myself. I was 250 lbs, 6’1″, 24 yrs old during March last year. After losing weight with training and eat right, I am now 179lbs. From my perspective, I look lean with 11% fat. Now I would like to gain some muscles, and my goal is to gain overall 1-2lbs of weight per month until summer come.

    My current workout routine is still upper/lower split 4 days/ week with 15 minutes cardio after each weight session.

    I have a few questions about my diet. Now I am currently doing Carb Cycling (as you have mention it in one of your comment to someone).

    On training days, Sunday/Monday/Wednesday/ Thursday I eat around 2700 calories with 220gr carb, 300gr protein, and 80gr fat (high calories day). Do I need to add extra calories? because my maintain calories is around 2600.

    On rest days, Tuesday/Friday/Saturday, I only have 90gr carb, 280gr protein, and 100gr fat, and calories is around 2300. (deficit)

    Also since last week I added Friday to train extra for abs (I only have 4 packs and the low abs still have loose skin) and chest (to focus training since my chest is small, in my opinion).

    It that alright if I eat calories surplus on training days (2700 or a bit higher like 2900-3000) then continue with deficit calories on rest days? Should I stop doing cardio to help with the process?

    Thank you tons for your time and commitment to help everyone, I am looking forward to hear back from you.

    • says

      I really need to do a full article on calorie cycling to properly answer your questions about it. I’ll get to it eventually, I promise.

      I wouldn’t add any of that Friday stuff you mentioned adding. It won’t help and will most likely be counterproductive.

  33. Gracie bee says

    Hi, with bulking on the days your not training are you still required to increase calories or keep calories at a maintenance on rest days

    • says

      It can be done both ways, and I plan to eventually write an article explaining the pros and cons of each approach.

      The key thing however is that the same total weekly surplus is there in both cases.

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