We hear about bulking season and cutting season but what do they really mean and when and why should you do them? Is there a way to do them both?
The most important thing to consider before setting your bulk/cut plan in writing is to decide what it is you TRULY want to accomplish and if you're willing to dedicate time to that goal! When you decide on your goal be prepared to work on that goal exclusively for 3-6 months minimum! Why? Anything involving muscle and body composition changes take TIME to accomplish. Don't get too excited when you start seeing results 4 weeks in! You can see significant results pretty quickly but in reality (sorry to bust your bubble) these quick results that people rave over come mainly from a reduction in bloating and water weight, or an inflammation or "pump" in the muscles from changing your program. When it comes to REAL measurable body composition transformations, 4 weeks is not going to show you significant or LONG TERM change (unless you're doing something incredibly unhealthy👀)!
Since we want to make changes that will last a long time, make us healthier and make us happier we need to focus on ONE main goal at a time.
So... you choose to BULK.
An increase of muscle mass and often an increase of fat mass. Bulks also give you the energy and calories required for an increase of strength!
To BULK simply means to put on MASS. To grow muscles or gain fat you MUST BE in a surplus of calories from your maintenance calories. I suggest 300-500 calorie surplus when in a bulking phase to see significant results.
I suggest going through a healthy bulk where you are simply eating a surplus of healthy foods! Try to substitute in high carb proteins (like beans) and start adding high fat foods to your daily diet like peanuts/avocado for example. Carbs and fats are crucial during a bulk 🍞🍌🥑
A lot of people swear by the "dirty" bulk where they will eat whatever they can including unhealthy foods, fast food, sweets and treats in order to gain weight and fuel their workouts.
I personally do a mix of both (Please view the picture below for my results after my last bulk).
So ... you choose to cut.
If you're cutting you will drop body fat % and lose weight! Why? You MUST be in a deficit of calories in order to lose significant fat and with losing fat and eating less you will lose weight!
I would suggest a 300 calorie deficit from your maintenance calories when trying to do a significant cut! If you're not looking to lose much but just want to tone up just do a smaller calorie deficit over a longer period of time and you will see the toning results you hope for!
Substitute in lean meat and low calorie protein sources... reduce carbs! Focus on high protein and high healthy fats to fuel your workouts. Be careful what type of carbs and fats you consume when having weight loss/fat loss goals! There's no "dirty" cut! You have to be on point! One of my client's successes using my 3 month challenge (coming again this fall)!
So... Can you do both at once?
The simple answer is no. The best course of action to getting the bikini body you dream of is to go through a bulk... gain muscle, shape your body and grow where you want to grow (i.e. BOOTY ;) ) and THEN cut down and shed the fat that is surrounding the muscles.
Ready for the not so simple answer? You can try calorie cycling. The reason I don't really recommend this method is because even though you CAN see results using this method your results will be a lot less dramatic and can lead to a plateau easier and sooner than when you're focusing all your energy and training on ONE goal at a time.
It is really as simple as the name suggests. Change your calories in a varying cycle. Depending on your goals you choose different periods of high calorie vs. low calorie periods.
If you're looking to make gains MORE than cut then spend more time in a calorie surplus ... if you're looking to get more tone than grow spend more of your cycle in a deficit.
If you are trying to gain weight/muscle but don't want to get too bulky (this is what I am doing during the second half of my bulk this season)
On training days give yourself a huge calorie surplus and then on your off days just eat maintenance calories (or a lower surplus) and high protein for muscle recovery. This way you are fueling your workout and then when you're using less energy on your recovery days you won't be overloading your body with unneeded calories that will just sit there unused.
If you're trying to lose weight/fat % but don't want to get too much smaller?
On heavier more intense training days eat in a surplus... fuel your muscles for your workout focusing on fats rather than carbs for your fuel and then on your recovery days, cardio days and lower intensity days be in a calorie deficit. You will be spending more time in a deficit than in a surplus if you are calorie cycling with weight/fat loss goals in mind.