Bulking vs. Cutting: How to Get Started – Greatist

Bulking and cutting are strategic diet and exercise plans designed to help you build muscle and lose fat in cycles.
While bulking, you’ll eat more calories to gain weight and use resistance training to build more muscle. While cutting, you’ll eat fewer calories to lose weight and body fat.
Whether you want to bulk up or cut down, here’s the deal on these popular methods to get those muscles poppin’.
Bulking is all about gaining weight to increase muscle and typically involves:
You may have heard terms like “clean bulk” and “dirty bulk” too. A clean bulk means a regimented approach full of nutrient-dense foods, while a dirty bulk allows for plenty of junk food for a quick hit of cals. Either way, the goal is to up calories and boost muscle gains.
We’re gonna take a wild guess that dudes like the Rock and Arnold Schwarzenegger have done some bulking in their life (and then some).
Cutting is all about losing fat without sacrificing muscle mass. This typically involves:
Bodybuilders and some other athletes often go through a cutting phase following a period of bulking up to cut extra weight and fat they didn’t turn into muscle. Some folks also use a cut to lean out before certain competitions or sporting seasons.
Most people bulk anywhere from 1 month to over 6 months or longer, depending on their goals. Here’s how to start bulking:
When you’re bulking, focusing on foods that are high in nutrients and calories will help promote rapid muscle and strength gains.
Food to eat during a bulk includes:
Foods to limit include:
And if you’re wondering if your fave foods are off-limits during a bulk, the general answer is no. Go ahead and have the occasional slice of pizza, bowl of spaghetti, or baked good while you bulk.
Most of the time, cutting phases are shorter than bulks and usually last 2 to 4 months. Here’s how to start the cutting phase:
When cutting, your focus is more on high-nutrient, low cal foods. These support gradual weight loss while maintaining muscle.
Even though many of the foods on a cutting diet are similar to those on a bulk, remember you’ll be eating less overall. You’ll also eat less fat and carbs, and fewer calorie-dense foods.
Here’s what to eat while cutting:
Foods to limit include:
Both bulking and cutting are legit ways to achieve fitness goals when combined with a regular exercise regimen. Still, there are some potential downsides to both methods.
Due to all the factors involved, it’s a good idea to consider your unique needs and bod before making major changes to your diet or exercise routine. When in doubt, talk with your doc.
Here are the deets.
If you’re a little extra (🙋 same), losing weight and gaining muscle at the same time is technically possible. This process is actually called body recomposition. But research shows body recomposition usually only works if:
On the flip side, it’s actually pretty difficult for athletes who train hard and often to build muscle and fat at the same time. But with the right plan, it is possible.
Generally, it’s better to bulk first and then cut if your goal is to build muscle. But, again, it all depends on your goals. Bulking first and then cutting allows you to increase muscle mass and then cut down excess fat or weight you gained during the bulk.
It depends on how much muscle you want to gain and your current body composition. Folks often bulk anywhere from 1 month to over 6 months to get their desired results. Following up with a cut will typically be shorter, usually 2 to 4 months.
Since everyone’s different, what works best for you when it comes to bulking and cutting will be personal. In general, folks in the bodybuilding and fitness communities recommend these tips:
Bulking and cutting are strategies that bodybuilders and fitness aficionados alike use to gain muscle and lose fat.
Bulking means eating calorie-dense foods to promote muscle gain, while cutting focuses on lower calorie foods to stimulate fat loss. Both include a resistance training routine to stay fit and gain muscle.
Before making major changes to your diet or exercise routine, talk with your doc. Since both of these strategies come with potential cons in addition to the pros, it’s a good idea to get some expert advice.
Last medically reviewed on May 18, 2022
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