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  • Blog
  • Bulking vs Cutting: What is the Difference?
  • April 12, 2024 |

Bulking vs Cutting: What is the Difference?

Cutting vs Bulking blogIf you've spent any time in the gym or fitness world, you've likely heard the terms "bulking" and "cutting" get thrown around. But what do they actually mean? For newcomers, this lingo can be confusing. Don't worry, this article will break it all down in simple terms.

Both terms can sound rather intense, but here at Fitness 19 we want to simplify them and let you know which is best for your personal goals!

Simply put, bulking and cutting are used to describe two different common fitness goals. Bulking, in essence, is eating to support strength and muscle size gains. Cutting, on the other hand, involves dietary restrictions to lose fat.

Let’s dive into both in more detail!

What is Bulking? 

If you’ve ever intentionally tried to eat to support goals of getting stronger or hitting personal records, you’ve already gone through a bulk phase!

Bulking refers to the process of intentionally eating a caloric surplus to gain weight, with the goal of adding muscle mass. It involves consuming more calories than you burn through exercise and daily activities.

During a bulk, your body has the extra fuel it needs to build new muscle tissue and recover from intense weightlifting sessions. Often, people will approach a bulk by making sure they are eating enough protein, which gives muscles the fuel they need, and allowing themselves extra carbs and fat in the process.

What is Cutting?

On the flip side, cutting is the process of eating at a caloric deficit to lose weight, more specifically shedding excess body fat. It requires consuming fewer calories than you burn in a day. During a cut, your body taps into stored fat reserves for energy since you're not taking in enough calories from food.

Cutting cycles often follow bulking periods for bodybuilders and physique athletes. The bulk provides an opportunity to pack on as much muscle as possible, while the cut allows them to retain that new muscle while getting ultra lean to show off their hard work.

Bulking vs. Cutting Goals

Bodybuilders often use Bulking and Cutting alternatively to build the physical appearance they want. In this scenario, bulking is usually one phase of a cyclical approach, alternating with periods of cutting. The idea is to bulk up and put on as much lean mass as possible, then cut down to burn off excess fat while keeping those hard-earned muscle gains.

But these concepts aren’t just for bodybuilders or athletes, everyday gym goers may use either at any given time, based on their goals.

Let’s say you have a big ski trip in a few months, and you want to make sure your legs can handle the extra demands that a long day of skiing takes. You could intentionally eat an extra high-protein meal each day, along with leg-building exercises, to gain the strength you desire.

On the other hand, with summer coming up, many of us are focused on getting our “summer bodies” ready. This is the perfect time to watch what you eat. Aka “cut”.

While bulking and cutting involve opposite approaches to nutrition, they are complementary phases with distinct goals:

Bulking Goal: Build muscle mass and strength by providing a caloric surplus to fuel growth.

Cutting Goal: Lose fat and get leaner to better showcase new muscle gains from the previous bulk.

These cycles go hand-in-hand for maximizing muscle growth over time while keeping fat gains in check.

Tips for Healthy Bulking and Cutting

Regardless of your specific goals, there are a few universal tips for properly executing bulk and cut cycles:

Focus on nutrient-dense, whole foods for both phases - lots of lean proteins, veggies, fruits, whole grains, and healthy fats.

Don't take calorie surpluses or deficits to extremes; moderation is key for healthy, sustainable progress.

Incorporate resistance training like weightlifting to build/maintain muscle, along with cardio for overall conditioning.

Get plenty of rest, hydration, and recovery - your body needs it!

Bonus Tip: If you need expert guidance through the process, Fitness 19's certified personal trainers can develop a customized plan for your specific goals.

The Bottom Line

At its core, bulking simply means being in a caloric surplus to gain weight/muscle, while cutting is being in a deficit to lose fat. These are strategic diet and training phases, employed most notably in bodybuilding but applicable to anyone's aesthetic or performance goals.

Though the terms may sound intense, the principles are straightforward - control your calorie intake and macros, train hard, rest and recover. With patience, consistency, and realistic expectations, you can effectively bulk and cut your way to the physique you want. And Fitness 19 is here to help every step of the way!


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