• Letisha Hodges

Bulk vs Cut: How to Know When to Cut to Lose Body Fat or Bulk to Gain Muscle?

There is a lot of talk about when the best time to bulk vs cut, but the answer isn't always so clear.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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If you are more experienced with weight training, it is even more important to start a calorie deficit to lose fat and lower body fat percentage before you focus on building muscle mass.


Once you are closer to your goal body fat percentage, you can start a caloric surplus to gain muscle mass.


Make sure you are following a weight training plan consistently and you have a high protein intake so you can hold onto your muscle mass while you are in a calorie deficit.


Remember to that the more you focus on how to lose fat faster, you may find that it is difficult to maintain muscle mass. ⠀



Is it possible to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time?

That is called body recomposition!

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A few lucky people will not have choose between a bulk vs cut to meet their body composition goals.


Body recomposition is slower process because it requires delicate balance.


In short, it involves a slight calorie deficit alongside a weight training plan to lose fat and gain muscle mass at the same time!


Start with a body recomposition to lose body fat & gain muscle if:⠀

You are new to weight training and you do not have a lot of muscle mass already or a lot of body weight to lose!

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It is a great fit for those who are "skinny fat" as much as I hate that term. But essentially that means someone who has lower lean body mass and higher body fat mass while having in a normal body weight.



Body recomposition is a great fit if you have excess body fat but it does not matter how high your body fat percentage is to start with.



Body recomposition tends to be a slower process to see results because you at eat maintenance calories or a small calorie deficit to boost muscle growth and lose fat at the same time!


What is your body fat percentage?

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If you are having difficulty deciding if you should bulk vs cut first, get your current body fat percentage tested!




In this test, you will be able to see how much body fat you have, your body fat percentage, and your lean body mass in order to better make the decision of whether to bulk vs cut.




Once received your body fat percentage and muscle mass results and you have decided whether you should start a bulk vs cut first, you will will also be able to track your progress while you are in a:

- calorie surplus to check your muscle growth

- calorie surplus to check whether your body fat percentage increases

- body recomposition phase to ensure that your calorie intake and weight training plan is working for your body fat and muscle growth goals

- fat loss phase to check how quickly you are losing body fat

- calorie deficit to ensure you are not losing muscle


Body Composition Grande Prairie

A slow metabolism can act as a barrier to lose body fat or achieve your body fat percentage goals as well as whether you should bulk vs cut.


As a result, one of the most important things to monitor is whether your metabolism has slowed down or whether your current fitness and diet habits are causing it to decline which is making it difficult for you to lose fat or gain weight. Read more about slow metabolisms and body fat here.


Similarly, a fast metabolism can act as a barrier for muscle gain during your bulking phase.

In order to build more muscle, you will need to know how many calories you need for your bulking diet.

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The PNOE metabolic analyzer and INBODY body composition analysis provides an accurate analysis of your metabolism beyond the body mass index, helping you act early and avoid the pitfalls of a metabolic slowdown for your health. You can test your metabolism and body composition at our office in Grande Prairie!


Our dedicated Registered Dietitians can also provide you with an tailored calorie intake goals or an accurate meal plan based on your body composition scan and metabolic scans complete with a grocery list and app after your appointment.


Our body composition scan and metabolism test in Grande Prairie will help you decide what type of bulk or cut is right for your body.


Bulking and cutting are two of the most popular methods for physique transformation or weight loss goals, but it can be confusing to know when to bulk or cut.


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When should you bulk vs cut? It depends on your current body composition, body fat, body weight, lean body mass, and your level of expertise with resistance training.




In order to make the best decision for your own body composition, you need to understand your starting point of body fat, body weight, and muscle mass. Our body composition test in Grande Prairie can help you do just that by revealing your lean body mass, body fat percentage, and how many calories you need.


If you have less body fat to start, you should start with a bulk to build muscle.

If you have a high body fat percentage, you should start with a cut for fat loss.

If you are new to resistance training, lower muscle mass, and have a high body fat percentage, you should start with body decomposition to build muscle and lose fat at the same time.


Once you have this information, you can consult our expert Registered Dieticians to create a plan that will help you reach your goals – whether that means building muscle, losing fat, or somewhere in between.


Ready to take the next step? Learn more about how many calories you need and book your appointment today!


What do you prefer - rapid bulk vs cut later or start low & go slow for a lean bulk? Let me know!


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