There was a time when I also had this question in my mind and again, like many other situations or questions I had in the past but the answers kept flowing left and right without anything definitive.
In all seriousness, now, after many years down the road experimenting with different cutting and bulking strategies and observing performance on many different protocols, I came to realize that the answer to the question “should I bulk or cut” is:
The question “should I cut or bulk” doesn’t really have a final and exact answer for everybody.
What I can do for you is to tell you that I gave you the answer “it depends” because it really depends on the condition you are now in.
I don’t know at how % body fat you are currently sitting, I don’t know how much you are eating or how you are training plus the fact that I don’t know what are your goals.
But what can I help you with is to give general guidelines that can be used by anyone wanting to follow a good approach to all this bulking and cutting issue.
I usually make recommendations for my clients depending on their current state and goals.
For example, if a person comes to me, sitting at 200 lbs with 20% body fat and she wants to increase her muscle mass while losing fat, the answer I give is pretty simple:
I’M SORRY BYT YOU CAN’T DO THAT
Believe me, most of the time, what happens next, is that person looking at me, thinking if I really know what I am doing with her time or if I am knowledgeable enough to help her reach a goal.
This happens for a whole host of reasons:
- The same person was guided by other trainers and promised that fat loss with muscle gain is possible
- Reading too many internet forums and taking every advice as some bible writings
- Listening to various people that don’t really have any good nutritional and training background
The easy solution that I always use when this happens is to tell that same person:
UNLEARN EVERYTHING YOU THINK YOU KNOW ABOUT TRAINING/NUTRITION
Well, now I start the fun part of this whole training journey.
But enough with stories and let’s get straight to the facts.
When To Bulk?
The optimal time to start bulking should always be when you are at a low enough body fat to take advantage of caloric partitioning and also avoid having too much fat to start with.
For males, I would recommend 8-10% body fat before any bulking stage begins and 15-20% for females.
Why I say this?
Well, a naturally thin individual that will start bulking will get over 60-70% of body mass gained in the form of muscle mass – I say naturally thin because people that dieted down to a lean state, don’t really have this advantage.
Even if you are not thin by “default”, it’s still better to start at a low body fat % because starting too fat is not optimal and will make your gains lean towards more fat mass.
The more fat you are, the more your body tends to favor putting fat mass over muscle mass so It’s logical to start leaner.
When To Cut?
As I said in my how to bulk up article, my general recommendation to start losing fat is when you don’t see your upper abs anymore or when you are sitting at slightly over 15% body fat.
This is my answer to the question “should I bulk or cut”.
How is your approach? Share it with us