- Letisha Hodges
Bulk vs Cut: How to Know When to Cut to Lose Body Fat or Bulk to Gain Muscle?
Updated: Jan 19
There is a lot of talk about when the best time to bulk vs cut, but the answer isn't always so clear.
It depends on your current body composition, body fat, body weight, lean body mass, and your level of expertise with resistance training.
Even though you want to move forward and get started as soon as possible, you just get overwhelmed and avoid making ANY choice.
So which one should you choose? Bulk or cut? And more importantly, when is the best time to do it? Let's take a closer look.
Tell me the difference between bulking and cutting?
Bulking is a phase of the diet with a caloric surplus and weight training plan to gain weight and stimulate muscle growth.
As the bulk progresses, calorie intake increases further to continue to build muscle. You also may experience fat gain while you are in the muscle building process.
Cutting means starting a calorie deficit (eat fewer calories) to lose body fat and body weight as well as adding cardio training to increase total daily energy expenditure.
Although cutting promotes weight loss, it may also cause muscle loss if it is done improperly.
Typically people will switch between a bulk vs cut until they reach their muscle growth, body fat, and body fat percentage goals.
When Should You Start a Bulk vs Cut?
You start with a bulk to build muscle mass if:
You have a relatively lower body fat percentage already.
In order to gain muscle, you need to have a calorie surplus and a tailored and consistent weight training plan.
You will build muscle mass BUT you will also gain body fat which means you have to start another calorie deficit to lose body fat.
This should go without saying but you will gain body weight throughout this entire process regardless of how much body fat you also gain alongside of muscle mass.
A standard bulk can be difficult for many women to navigate and tolerate as your body weight and body fat increases as well as muscle mass. Your "dream" body may include a higher body weight and you will need to tolerate increased body fat percentage until you start another fat loss phase.
Because of this some women I have worked with had a difficult time sticking with their muscle growth plans so they tend to be inconsistent with their caloric surplus and weight training plans!
This will seem like they are unable to build muscle mass but it an issue of consistency, not genetics or destiny.
You should start with a lean bulk to gain muscle mass if:
You have a relatively lower body fat percentage already and you are scared to increase your higher body fat percentage alongside muscle mass.
Similar to a regular bulk, in order to gain muscle you need to have a caloric surplus and a tailored and consistent weight training plan.
The term lean bulking is a little redundant since most women I work are not interested in gaining body fat alongside muscle mass.
It does highlight the difference between a bulk where you have a large caloric surplus and you live every day like a cheat day where lean bulking includes a smaller and slower caloric surplus to gain muscle mass.
Lean bulking also includes a caloric surplus through minimally processed whole foods, especially carbs and healthy protein sources such as chicken breast!
Lean bulk do take longer but you will have less body fat to lose in the end. If you really hate cardio and calorie deficit, this may be a better fit for your muscle growth goals.
You may also have more success to gain muscle on a lean bulk if you are a little newer to weight training plans as women with more experience weight training may need to gain body fat in order to gain muscle.
You should start with a cut to lose body fat if:⠀
You have a excess body fat to start with regardless of your experience with weight training.