Bulking And Cutting: How To Bulk Up And Cut The Smart Way

If you want to build muscle, lose fat, or do both, you’ve probably come across the concept of bulking and cutting.

It’s a method I use myself and recommend to both men and women who are looking to make significant improvements to way their bodies looks.

The problem, however, is that most people do it all wrong.

In this article, I’ll explain what bulking and cutting are, the common mistakes people make that screw up their results, and exactly how to do both the “smart” way.

Here we go…

What Are Bulking And Cutting?

Let’s begin by defining what these words mean:

Bulking

Bulking is a term used to describe a muscle building phase. During this period of time, you’d eat an amount of calories that causes a caloric surplus to exist so that weight gain occurs.

Cutting

Cutting is a term used to describe a fat loss phase. During this time, you’d eat an amount of calories that causes a caloric deficit to exist so that weight loss occurs.

How To Use This Approach

Here’s how it would work.

  1. The first step is to determine which phase to start with. As in, should you bulk or cut first? This mostly depends on the current state of your body (particularly your current body fat percentage), as well as your specific goals and preferences. I’ll explain all of this a bit later.
  2. Depending on which you’ve decided to start with, you’d then either bulk or cut for an amount of time that allows for significant progress to be made, but without exceeding an amount of time that may be detrimental to your progress (more about that later as well).
  3. At this point, you’d switch to the other phase for a sufficient amount of time to allow yourself to either A) lose any excess fat you may have gained while bulking, or B) get back to building additional muscle after cutting.
  4. From there, you’d simply alternate between phases until your long-term goal has been achieved.

Sounds pretty good, right?

Well, it can be… assuming it’s done right. And therein lies the problem.

The Problem With Bulking And Cutting

When you bulk and cut the right way, you successfully build muscle and lose fat over time, and end up as lean and muscular as you intended to be as quickly and effectively as it can realistically happen.

But most people don’t bulk and cut the right way.

Instead, they approach things in a manner that causes them to gain too much body fat (and/or not enough muscle) when bulking, and lose too much muscle when cutting.

This then creates a lovely cycle of losing/gaining the same fat and muscle over and over again, looking like crap throughout most of the process, and ending up with a body that looks the same or worse (i.e. skinny-fat instead of lean and muscular) in the end.

And it sucks.

I know this from first-hand experience. I found myself bulking and cutting the wrong way for quite a while back when I was first starting out. All it did was waste my time and make me look worse than I did when I started.

Today I’m going to show you how to prevent this scenario. Let’s begin with the wrong way to do things.

How To Bulk: The Wrong Way

The typical old-school approach to bulking up tends to take things literally. As in, you try to gain a bunch of “bulk” as fast as you can.

Here’s what I mean…

  • Eating Recommendations
    Bulking the wrong way typically comes with such genius phrases as “just eat as much as you can” and “eat whatever isn’t nailed down” and “as long as you’re eating clean you won’t get fat” and the always wonderful “you gotta eat big to get big, bro!
  • Calorie Intake Recommendations
    Calorie intake for this sort of bulk will range from somewhere between a very large surplus (e.g. 500-1000 calories above your maintenance level each day, sometimes even more), to simply not even paying attention at all to how many calories you’re eating other than just “eating a lot of them.”
  • Weight Gain Recommendations
    Recommendations for your rate of weight gain are pretty similar. It’s either very fast (e.g. 1-2lbs gained per week), or barely even monitoring how much weight you’re gaining other than just making sure you’re consistently gaining a noticeable amount each week.

Basically, the #1 goal when bulking the “wrong” way is to gain weight fast.

Why?

Because the faster you’re gaining weight, the faster you’ll be building muscle.

Right?!?

Ehhh, not quite.

Weight Gain Can Happen Fast, But Muscle Growth Can’t

See, “weight” in this context can primarily be three different things:

  1. Muscle
  2. Fat
  3. A combination of both.

And while we want all of the weight we gain to be muscle and nothing else, this style of bulking isn’t conducive to making that happen.

That’s because there is a limit to the amount of muscle each person can build and the speed (source) at which they can build it. (Details here: How Fast Can You Build Muscle?)

These limits are predetermined by factors we can’t control (e.g. genetics, age, gender), as well as our experience level and the amount of muscle we’ve already built (and thus how much muscle is still left for us to build).

And whether we like it or not, these limits are set in stone and cannot be changed. Well, at least, not naturally (e.g. steroids, hormones, etc.).

Which is why if you attempt to exceed these limits and gain weight faster, the excess weight being gained will always be body fat, not additional muscle.

So, for example, if a person can only gain X lbs of muscle mass per month and they end up gaining 5 lbs more than X, you can bet that those 5 extra pounds are going to be body fat.

So while bulking absolutely DOES require consuming more calories so that a surplus exists, and you absolutely DO need to see weight gain consistently taking place, the amount of actual muscle you can gain and the amount of calories your body can put towards the muscle building process is limited.

So if you eat more calories and/or gain more weight than whatever these limits are for you, it’s not going to make muscle growth happen any better or faster. It’s just going to make you gain a ton of excess body fat.

And that’s the biggest problem with bulking the wrong way.

I don’t recommend it at all, even to super skinny people who have a really hard time gaining weight. As someone who started at 5’11” 125lbs and attempted to bulk in this manner, I can tell you from experience that this approach just leads to getting unnecessarily fat.

Want to see an example of a real bulking and cutting transformation from someone who did it the right way? It’s 100% free.
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How To Bulk: The Smart Way

Now for what I do recommend.

Some people refer to it as “clean bulking.” (A pretty stupid term for it, in my opinion.)

I’ve been referring to it for over decade as “smart bulking.” (A much better choice.)

But the most popular term for it is “lean bulking.”

And what it all means is this…

Lean Bulking

A term used to describe a period of time when a person strategically adjusts their diet and workout for the purpose of maximizing lean muscle gains WHILE minimizing body fat gains as much as realistically possible.

So, the goal is no longer to just gain weight. Nor is it to just build muscle. The goal when lean bulking is to build muscle without gaining excess body fat.

Does this mean you should expect to gain no fat whatsoever while lean bulking?

Nope.

That would be an unrealistic goal for the vast majority of people, and attempting to make it happen usually just leads to spinning your wheels and never actually gaining any muscle at all.

Additional details here: How To Gain Muscle Without Gaining Fat

Instead, you should expect to gain some body fat along with the muscle you’re building, with the goal being to keep those body fat gains to an acceptable minimum.

This is in sharp contrast to the old-school bulking approach we just talked about, where you end up gaining excessive amounts of body fat to the point where you’re clearly gaining more fat than muscle.

Pretty big difference between the two.

So, how do you do lean bulk? Here are the 8 most important factors…

1. Be Lean Enough To Start

The first step to a successful lean bulking phase is ensuring that you’re lean enough to actually begin such a phase.

What I mean is, if you’re currently over a certain ideal range of body fat percentage, and you go into a surplus for the purpose of bulking, you’re going to go from “fat” to “too fat.”

In addition to potentially worsening your calorie partitioning (i.e. the ratio of how much muscle and fat you gain while in a surplus [source]), it also means you’re going to look like crap throughout the entire muscle building process, because going from “fat” to “too fat” isn’t exactly a pretty transformation.

For this reason, you don’t want to begin bulking until you are “lean enough” to do so.

This will ensure that:

  1. Your calorie partitioning is optimal from the start.
  2. You have some room to work with in terms of fat gains, as you can now gain some body fat along with the muscle you’re building and still look fairly decent throughout the process.
  3. You’ll be able to switch over to a cutting phase before you ever get “too fat.” (More about this in a bit.)
  4. Your cutting phase won’t have to last too long since you’ll have significantly less fat to lose at that point than you would if you started at a higher body fat percentage.

Win-win-win-win.

So, how lean should you be to start? Here’s what I recommend…

Ideal Body Fat Range For Bulking

  • Men should be 10-15% body fat (or less) before bulking.
  • Women should be 18-23% body fat (or less) before bulking.

Additional details here: Should I Build Muscle Or Lose Fat First?

And if you’re currently above these ranges, you should cut first.

(Note: If you’re not sure what your body fat percentage is, feel free to join my online coaching program (The Results Crew) where myself and another coach will provide you with an accurate estimation along with ongoing 1-on-1 guidance on how to adjust your diet/workout to get the results you want. Details here: The Results Crew)

2. Gain Weight At An Ideal Rate

As I explained earlier, if you’re gaining weight too quickly, you’re guaranteed to be gaining excessive amounts of body fat.

On the other hand, if you’re gaining weight too slowly or not at all, you’re either not gaining muscle as fast as you could be, or you’re not gaining any whatsoever.

That’s why your goal when lean bulking is to aim for the sweet spot in the middle of these two scenarios.

Here’s what I recommend for making that happen…

The Ideal Rate Of Weight Gain

  • Men: aim to gain between 1-2lbs per month.
  • Women: aim to gain between 0.5-1lb per month.

(Note: I get much more specific with this recommendation based on factors like your age, gender, experience level, and genetics in Superior Muscle Growth.)

In my experience, this rate of weight gain tends to provide the best balance between maximizing muscle gains and minimizing fat gains for most people.

3. Create An Ideal Caloric Surplus

Gaining weight too fast leads to too much body fat being gained, and eating too many calories is what leads to gaining weight too fast.

For this reason, your goal is to create a caloric surplus that causes you to consistently gain weight at the ideal rate specified above.

How much of a surplus will that be, you ask?

There’s no universally accurate answer to that question, as various factors (exercise activity levels, non-exercise activity levels, etc.) affect how much of a surplus each person will need in order to gain weight at their ideal rate.

However, I do have some recommended starting points…

Caloric Surplus Starting Points

  • Men: a daily surplus of 200 calories above your maintenance level.
  • Women: a daily surplus of 100 calories above your maintenance level.

(Note: Just like with my weight gain recommendations, I get a lot more specific with surplus sizes based on your age, gender, genetics, experience level, and more in Superior Muscle Growth.)

So, for example, if your maintenance level is 2000 calories, a man would eat 2200 calories per day, and a woman would eat 2100 calories per day.

(For more on how to estimate your maintenance level, check out How Many Calories Should I Eat A Day?)

From there, the key step will be to monitor what your weight does over the next 2-4 weeks to see if it’s increasing at the ideal rate it should be.

If it is, you’re good. Keep eating that amount and continue to closely monitor your progress. If not, adjust your calorie intake accordingly (i.e. if you’re gaining too fast, eat a little less… if you’re gaining too slowly or not at all, eat a little more) and monitor what happens over the next 2-4 weeks.

Continue to monitor progress in this manner throughout the duration of your bulking phase and adjust when/if needed to ensure weight gain continues to happen at the ideal rate.

4. Consume An Ideal Amount Of Protein

After creating your caloric surplus, the next most important part of a bulking diet is protein intake.

As you’re probably already aware, a sufficient protein intake is crucial for growth and repair, and it’s a requirement for muscle to be built.

So, how much protein should you eat per day to maximize its benefits?

Based on my experience and the available research (source), here’s what I recommend…

Ideal Protein Intake

Eat between 0.8-1.2g of protein per pound of your current body weight each day.

(Those who are significantly overweight should use their goal body weight rather than their current body weight when calculating protein. Although, as mentioned earlier, if you’re overweight, you shouldn’t be bulking.)

So, if you currently weigh 150lbs, you could aim for an even 150g of protein per day (which is the old “1g per pound” recommendation that has been around for decades), or aim for some degree higher or lower depending on your own personal needs and preferences.

As long as you’re somewhere within this range, you’ll be fine. (Additional details here: How Much Protein Do I Need A Day?)

As for where to get this protein from, common high-quality sources include chicken, turkey, eggs, beef, fish, dairy, and whey protein powder. Pick your favorites.

5. Use An Effective Weight Training Workout

The workout routine you use and how effective it is at stimulating muscle growth is going to be extremely important for building muscle and not gaining excess body fat.

Because, again, when you’re bulking, you’re in a caloric surplus supplying your body with (an ideal amount of) extra calories. And those calories can either go toward muscle growth, fat storage, or both.

Which means…

  1. The more effective your workout is (and/or the better you are at putting it into action), the stronger the muscle building stimulus will be and the more likely your body will be to use those extra calories for building muscle.
  2. The less effective your workout is (and/or the worse you are at putting it into action), the more likely your body will be to store those extra calories in the form of body fat.

How do you make #1 happen and avoid #2? By using a proven workout routine specifically designed for maximizing muscle growth.

Here are a few for you to choose from…

My Recommended Workouts

6. Sleep Enough And Avoid Stress

There are a few reasons for why sleep and stress are important factors in the context of lean bulking.

On the more obvious side, insufficient sleep and/or high stress levels will negatively impact training performance and recovery.

On the less obvious side, insufficient sleep and/or high stress levels can have a negative impact on your hormonal profile – especially testosterone and cortisol (sources here, here, here, and here) – both of which influence our calorie partitioning.

As you may remember from earlier, calorie partitioning refers to how calories are used when we consume them. As in, will your surplus calories go toward the muscle building process, or be stored as body fat?

That’s calorie partitioning, and sleep and stress both play roles in that regard.

So, my common-sense recommendations are as follows:

Get 7-9 hours of sleep a night, and keep stress as low as realistically possible.

Easier said than done, I know. But if you want your bulking phase to go as well as possible, this is what’s ideal.

7. Stop Bulking (And Switch To Cutting) At The Right Time

The whole purpose of lean bulking is to build muscle without getting too fat in the process.

However, as mentioned earlier, even if you’re doing everything correctly for minimizing fat gains, some amount of body fat will still be gained along with the muscle you’re building.

That’s just a normal part of the process.

Which means if you continue lean bulking for too long, you can eventually reach a point where you’ve gained too much fat.

Fortunately, there’s a simple way to prevent that from ever happening: stop bulking and switch over to cutting at the right time.

And what is the “right time,” you ask? Here’s what I recommend…

Ideal Body Fat Range To Stop Bulking

  • Men should switch to cutting in the 15-20% body fat range.
  • Women should switch to cutting in the 23-28% body fat range.

Exactly where within these ranges you choose to end your bulk is mostly dependent on your own needs, goals, and personal preferences.

For example, some people don’t mind being slightly higher in body fat during the muscle building process (e.g. a man starting at 14% and ending at 19%), whereas others prefer remaining a bit leaner (e.g. a man starting at 10% and ending at 15%).

In my experience, I’ve found that men do best starting in the 10-12% range and then cutting when they reach 15-17%. And women do best starting in the 18-20% range and then cutting when they reach 23-25%.

But again, each person’s own needs, goals, and preferences should be taken into account.

In the end, as long as you’re starting within the ideal ranges I specified earlier and ending within the ideal ranges specified a minute go, you’ll be doing it the smart way.

8. Everything Else

The 7 factors we just covered are the major ones. They are what will account for the majority of your bulking results.

Having said that, there are a handful of smaller factors playing smaller yet-still-meaningful roles in how things go. And if you’re looking to get the best results possible, they warrant making adjustments for as well.

This includes factors like:

  • Carb intake.
  • Fat intake.
  • Pre and post workout nutrition.
  • Calorie cycling.
  • Cardio.
  • Supplements.
  • Deloads and training breaks.
  • Adherence and sustainability.
  • And more.

To learn more about all of these other factors, I recommend checking out the following:

And that brings us to cutting.

How To Cut: The Wrong Way

The typical old-school approach to cutting is essentially a reverse version of the old-school approach to bulking we talked about earlier.

Which is to say that the goal now is to lose “weight” as fast as possible by doing all of the things believed to be good for making that happen.

For example…

  • Calorie Intake Recommendations
    Cutting the wrong way typically involves drastically reducing your calorie intake by some unnecessarily large amount right from the very beginning so that a very large deficit is present.
  • Carb Intake Recommendations
    In most cases, that drastic reduction in calories will come via a drastic reduction in carbs. Why? Because carbs are supposedly the “bad” food group that makes us fat. (Spoiler: it’s not. Details here: The Truth About The Low Carb Diet)
  • Other Dietary Recommendations
    A person may also avoid any food not deemed to be “good” by whatever misinformed standards they have (in fact, they may even switch to some fad diet that supports this mindset, like paleo, keto, “clean eating,” etc.). And they may also begin paying OCD-levels of attention to unimportant aspects of their diet (what time they eat, whether they should avoid white rice in favor of brown rice, etc.) while important stuff (like daily protein intake) is largely ignored.
  • Cardio Recommendations
    Whereas little to no cardio was done while bulking, the switch to cutting will usually be accompanied by a massive increase in cardio activity. We’re talking 30-120 minutes of steady state cardio 3-7 times per week, HIIT workouts 2-5 times per week, and potentially even more. Perhaps done in a fasted state because that supposedly burns more fat. (Spoiler: it doesn’t [sources herehere, and here]. Details here: Cardio Before Or After Weights?)
  • Weight Training Recommendations
    And finally, another adjustment that comes with cutting the wrong way involves the switch from weight training to “build muscle” to weight training to “lose fat.” And this, for most people, means lifting lighter weights for higher reps (because heavy weights/lower reps are for getting “big and bulky,” but lighter weights/higher reps are for getting “lean and toned“). Other common adjustments include shorter rest periods, more machines/isolation exercises (“for the cuts!”), doing additional volume to burn more calories, and essentially turning weight training into high intensity cardio (circuits, finishers, Crossfit-style workouts, etc.).

Basically, the #1 goal when cutting the “wrong” way is to lose weight fast.

Why?

Because the faster you lose weight, the sooner you’ll look lean and ripped and toned, and reveal all of the wonderful muscle you built while bulking.

Right?!?

Ehhh, not quite.

“Weight” Can Be Muscle, Too

When cutting in the manner outlined above, you’ll certainly lose weight fast.

The problem is, “weight” isn’t just body fat. It can also be muscle.

Yup, the very same muscle you just spent months working your ass off to build while bulking and should now want to maintain at all costs.

Unfortunately, this old-school approach to cutting isn’t conducive at all to making that happen.

Rather, it’s a recipe for muscle loss.

I don’t recommend it.

Want to see an example of a real bulking and cutting transformation from someone who did it the right way? It’s 100% free.
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How To Cut: The Smart Way

And now for what I do recommend.

Simply put…

Cutting The Smart Way

A period of time when a person strategically adjusts their diet and workout for the purpose of losing body fat in a healthy and sustainable manner WHILE maintaining as much muscle mass as realistically possible.

So, the goal is no longer to just lose weight. Nor is it to just lose body fat. The goal when cutting the smart way is to lose fat without losing muscle.

How do you accomplish this, you ask? Here are the 8 most important factors…

1. Lose Weight At An Ideal Rate

Just like when setting your ideal rate of weight gain for bulking, your ideal rate of weight loss for cutting should be in the sweet spot between too fast and too slow.

Because if it’s happening too fast, not only does the risk of muscle loss increase, but everything else that sucks about losing weight (hunger, lethargy, metabolic slowdown, etc.) is worsened as well (source)… and that will negatively affect adherence and sustainability.

And if it’s happening too slow or not at all?

Then you’re either losing fat slower than you need to be (which will just prolong the process for no good reason), or not losing any fat whatsoever.

You want something in the middle of these two scenarios, and here’s what I recommend for that purpose…

The Ideal Rate Of Weight Loss

Aim to lose between 0.3% – 1% of your body weight per week.

For most people, this typically ends up being between 0.5-2lbs lost per week, with 0.5-1lb being ideal for those with less fat to lose, 1-2lbs per week being ideal for those with an average amount to lose, and 2lbs or potentially even more (especially at first) for someone with an above-average amount to lose.

(Note: I go much more in depth with this recommendation in Superior Fat Loss.)

2. Create An Ideal Caloric Deficit

Making this ideal rate of weight loss occur is all about creating an ideal-sized caloric deficit.

And just how much of a deficit will that be, you ask?

Once again, there’s no universally accurate answer, as various factors will affect how much of a deficit each person will need.

However, for most people, this will be the ideal place to start…

Caloric Deficit Starting Point

Create a deficit that is somewhere between 10-25% below your maintenance level.

(Note: I go much more in depth with my deficit recommendations in Superior Fat Loss.)

So, for example, if someone had a maintenance level of 2500 calories and wanted to create a deficit of 20%, they’d figure out that 20% of 2500 is 500. They’d then subtract 500 from 2500 and get 2000. In this example, this person would eat 2000 calories a day when cutting.

(For more on how to estimate your maintenance level, check out How Many Calories Should I Eat A Day?)

From there, the key step will once again be to monitor what your weight does over the next 2-4 weeks to see if it’s decreasing at the ideal rate it should be.

If it is, you’re good. If it isn’t, then simply adjust your calorie intake accordingly and monitor what happens over the next 2-4 weeks.

Continue to monitor progress in this manner throughout the duration of your cutting phase and adjust when/if needed to ensure weight loss continues to happen at the ideal rate.

3. Consume An Ideal Amount Of Protein

Protein isn’t just important when you’re bulking and trying to build muscle.

It’s just as important – if not more so – when you’re cutting and trying to maintain it.

In fact, eating a sufficient amount of protein each day is likely the most important part of your diet when it comes to losing fat without losing muscle. This is supported by numerous studies on a wide range of people (sources here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here).

So, how much protein should you eat per day to maximize these benefits? Here’s what I recommend…

Ideal Protein Intake

Eat between 0.8-1.3g of protein per pound of your current body weight each day. (Sources hereherehere, and here.)

(Those who are significantly overweight should use their goal body weight rather than their current body weight when doing this calculation.)

Additional details here: How Much Protein Do I Need A Day

4. Weight Train For The Purpose Of Maintaining (Or Building) Muscle

Even though you’re cutting and fat loss is your goal, that doesn’t mean you should make fat loss the goal of your weight training workouts.

Because while that approach can be somewhat useful for burning some calories, it’s terrible for preventing muscle loss.

You see, the primary training stimulus for building muscle is progressive tension overload (source), which essentially means gradually getting stronger over time.

For example, if you lift the same weights for the same number of reps for the next 20 years, your body will have no reason to build additional muscle. However, if you gradually lift more weight, or lift the same weight for more reps, your body would then have a reason to build more muscle.

And this same concept applies for maintaining muscle while cutting as well (source). Your goal is to give your body a reason to keep the muscle mass it currently has.

Which means…

Instead of switching to “light weight/high reps” or making adjustments that turn weight training into a fat-burning activity rather than a muscle-stimulating activity, your goal is to (at least) maintain your current strength levels throughout the duration of the cutting phase, or, if possible, increase them. 

This is what provides the “muscle maintenance signal” that tells your body it needs to keep the muscle it has (or build more of it), while the myth-based “toning” nonsense many people do when cutting the wrong way has the opposite effect.

As for what workout routine to use for this purpose, any well-designed program aimed at building muscle while bulking will usually also be fine for maintaining muscle while cutting, potentially with a few small adjustments made.

Additional details here: How To Lose Fat Without Losing Muscle

5. Avoid Excessive Amounts Of Cardio

Cardio is additional exercise… and additional exercise requires additional recovery.

This always matters, but it matters even more while cutting because you’re in a caloric deficit, and a caloric deficit is literally an energy deficit.

For this reason, recovery will always be reduced to some extent compared to when you’re at maintenance or in a surplus.

Which means, the more exercise you do while in a deficit, the more risk you pose to your ability to adequately recover, both in terms of the body parts being used the most (typically the legs with most forms of cardio), as well as the central nervous system (CNS)… which affects everything.

And if recovery begins to suffer, strength and performance will suffer as well. And when strength and performance suffer, so will your ability to maintain muscle.

This is all quite common when cutting the wrong way.

Does that mean you shouldn’t do any cardio whatsoever? Nope, some cardio is perfectly fine. Granted, it’s completely optional for losing weight, but if you happen to prefer using it, you can and you should.

You just need to avoid going overboard with it, which people very often do.

Now, exactly what qualifies as “overboard” will vary based on the exact frequency, duration, and intensity of the activity being done, as well as each person’s individual capacity to recover.

Which is why my best general recommendation is this…

Do the least amount of cardio needed (e.g. if you only truly need it 3-4 days per week for 30 minutes at a time, don’t do it 5-7 days per week for 60 minutes at a time), at the lowest intensity needed (e.g. if you only truly need low/moderate intensity work, don’t include HIIT just for the sake of doing HIIT).

Beyond that, be sure to closely monitor how things are going and how you’re feeling overall, and if you reach a point where it seems likely that too much cardio is being done and it’s having a negative impact on your progress… adjust accordingly.

Additional details here: How Much Cardio Should I Do To Lose Weight

6. Sleep Enough and Avoid Stress

Remember everything we talked about earlier regarding the effects of sleep and stress on bulking?

Well, it’s quite similar when cutting.

  • For starters, calorie partitioning is still important (i.e. when you’re in a deficit and your body is looking for some alternative source of energy to burn, it can be fat or muscle), and sleep and stress are both factors that affect it.
  • They also affect strength, performance, and recovery, all of which affects your ability to maintain muscle.
  • In addition, insufficient sleep and/or high stress are common causes of overeating (sources here and here), which can prevent you from being in the deficit you need for fat loss to occur.

For all of these reason and more…

Get 7-9 hours of sleep a night, and keep stress as low as realistically possible.

7. Come Out Of Your Deficit Periodically

As I’ve been alluding to throughout the second half of this article, being in a caloric deficit comes with a lot of potential problems.

  • Muscle loss.
  • Strength loss.
  • Reduced recovery.
  • Hunger.
  • Lethargy.
  • Metabolic slowdown.
  • And on and on and on.

As it turns out, one of the best ways to help minimize the presence or significance of these issues is to not be in a deficit.

But wait… you’re cutting… and that requires being in a deficit, right?

Right.

However, it doesn’t require being in a deficit every single day from the minute your cutting phase begins until the minute it eventually ends.

And, for best results, you shouldn’t be. Instead…

Use refeeds, calorie cycling, and/or diet breaks throughout your cutting phase to temporarily pause your deficit and minimize or potentially even reverse many of the issues that can arise while in a caloric deficit (sources here and here).

Additional details about all three of these methods and how to use them are covered here: How To Lose Fat Without Losing Muscle

8. Everything Else

The 7 factors we just covered are the major ones. Just like earlier with bulking, these are the factors that will account for the majority of your cutting results.

Of course, yet again, there are a handful of smaller factors playing smaller yet-still-meaningful roles in how things go. And if you’re looking to get the best results possible, they warrant making adjustments for as well.

To learn more about these other factors, I recommend checking out the following:

Summing It All Up

Bulking and cutting work extremely well… when it’s done the right way.

When that happens, you end up gaining muscle, getting lean, and always looking at least good throughout the entire process, and looking great at the end of it.

But when you do it the typical “wrong” way that so many people do?

That will result in too much body fat (and not enough muscle) be gained while bulking, too much muscle being lost while cutting, and looking like crap both during and after.

To avoid this second scenario and ensure the first one occurs for you, simply follow all of the recommendations covered in this article, and the rest will take care of itself.

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Are you working out at home with nothing but some resistance bands, or a few dumbbells, or just your own body weight?

If so, I've written the ultimate guide to getting the results you want without a gym.

It contains beginner, intermediate, and advanced home workouts. 2-day, 3-day, 4-day, and 5-day home workouts. Body weight options, dumbbell options, and resistance band options. 170+ home exercises to choose from, with video examples for each. And so... much... more.

Check it out: The Home Workout Guide

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jay is the science-based writer and researcher behind everything you've seen here. He has 15+ years of experience helping thousands of men and women lose fat, gain muscle, and build their "goal body." His work has been featured by the likes of Time, The Huffington Post, CNET, Business Week and more, referenced in studies, used in textbooks, quoted in publications, and adapted by coaches, trainers, and diet professionals at every level.