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Bulking vs. Cutting: Which Is Right For You?
What are cutting and bulking, and how can athletes determine which is better for them? The truth is that everybody has a different answer, and many choose to alternate or combine these two techniques. If you’re on the fence between bulk vs. cut, the Jack City Fitness team can help you to figure out the plan that’s best for you!
When it comes to the age-old debate of bulking vs. cutting, athletes need to weigh the pros and cons of both to decide which makes more sense for their fitness goals. We’ll cover a lot of ground to give you the information you need to make that decision. If you have more specific questions about bulking vs. cutting, be sure to call us at (208) 999-1111. We would love to help you develop a routine that suits all of your needs and goals.
What Is Bulking?
The term “bulk” refers to something large. In terms of athletics, it has a similar principle. Folks hoping to gain muscle and strength undertake a process called “bulking” to make their muscles larger and enjoy more body strength. Bulking is typically carried out by optimizing calorie intake to create a surplus. This is done intentionally, with weight gain as the goal. Generally, athletes “work their way” up to a surplus.
As you may know, when folks consume more calories than they burn in a day, they gain weight. The idea with bulking is to gain weight that can then increase muscle mass. During this time, athletes still hit the gym, just not to the point of burning more calories than consumed. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a popular workout for bulking periods. Generally, athletes tend to eat high-calorie foods which are vitamin and nutrient-rich, like meat, nuts, eggs, and dairy.
You’re not alone if you are unsure how many calories would create an ideal surplus for you. It’s tricky business! That’s why we recommend working with a fitness coach while developing a bulking (or cutting) plan. They will be able to help you determine the best number according to your current workout routine, physical needs, and fitness level.
What Is Cutting?
In the world of athletics, the term “cutting” is the opposite of bulking. While bulking involves the creation of a calorie surplus to gain weight, cutting means creating a calorie deficit. This deficit allows athletes to lose body fat while maintaining their overall muscle strength mass. Many athletes undergo a cutting period directly following a period of bulking. As with bulking, athletes often “work their way” toward a calorie deficit that is healthy and safe for their needs.
While cutting is an important part of the fitness process for many bodybuilders and athletes, it’s important to note that working out while in a calorie deficit may feel pretty different. You may have less energy during this time and find intensive workouts like lifting more of a challenge. Don’t worry—when you are back to your standard calorie balance, you will feel like yourself again, and hopefully with an even stronger body than before.
Pros and Cons of Bulking
Now let’s get to the pros and cons of bulking! We’ve listed some of the most important ones here:
Gains for Days
Bulking can certainly help you gain muscle—after all, that’s the point!
As you gain weight and muscle, you will likely see increased power and strength.
Optimized Workout Recovery
When athletes bulk, they tend to eat a lot more protein than usual. Protein is a fantastic tool for post-gym muscle recovery!
Not Ideal for Fat Loss
Since bulking requires a calorie surplus, some athletes find that they gain a bit of body fat during this period. For athletes hoping to lose or maintain body fat, this can be viewed as a con.
Potential Effects on Blood and Insulin
Some athletes promote gains through “dirty bulking.” This refers to the process of creating a calorie surplus through less nutritional items, like fried foods and sweets. While this is a delicious way to create a surplus, it can potentially lead to high cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
This “con” is also more associated with “dirty” bulking than with the traditional version. Due to the high sodium and sugar levels found in many high-calorie, low-nutrient foods, athletes who consume them to bulk up may find themselves more tired and sluggish than usual.
Affected Athletic Performance
When you’re feeling sluggish or having low blood sugar, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to give your best athletic performance. This is why so many athletes forgo dirty bulking in favor of a nutrition-forward routine.
Pros and Cons of Cutting
Just as bulking comes with a set of negatives and positives, so does cutting. Here are the most important pros and cons of cutting for you to consider.
By creating a calorie deficit, you are likely to see some of your body fat slip away. For many athletes, this is part of their overall fitness goal and is a “pro.” However, for athletes hoping to maintain or gain body fat, it would be viewed as a con!
Many athletes find that their muscles start to “pop” during the cutting process. If defined muscles are your goal, cutting can certainly help you get there—especially if you’ve bulked beforehand.
Increased Athletic Performance
Many athletes enjoy a better athletic performance and find that they move with more ease during and as a result of their cutting period.
Potential Muscle Loss
While cutting can help define your muscles, it can also have the opposite effect. Some athletes find that their decreased caloric intake leads to a loss in muscle mass.
One of the biggest side effects of creating a calorie deficit? For many athletes (especially those coming off a bulking period), cutting can feel like food deprivation. Feeling physically hungry can be incredibly uncomfortable and distressing. Not only can this have a negative effect on your bodily sensations and overall mental health, but it can also make workouts more difficult. This is why it’s incredibly important to work your way up to cutting and plan it with a professional fitness coach or nutritional counselor.
Poor sleep is a common side effect of cutting and calorie deficits. This is due to a combination of reasons: feeling hungry at bedtime, having a fuller bladder due to increased water intake, and even feeling overstimulated from your workout routine. If you are experiencing insomnia during cutting, we recommend speaking to a professional about solutions. Your fitness coach and doctor will both have suggestions for you. Your overall health is the most important thing here!
Understanding the Difference Between Bulking and Cutting: What’s Better for You?
Trying to decide between bulking vs. cutting? Let us help you! At Jack City Fitness, we know that every athlete has their own unique needs and goals, and we are equipped and excited to help you meet them. We also offer our Partners access to the best nutritional counseling in Boise, so your calorie surplus and deficit plans can all be done in a healthy and delicious manner that aligns with your goals.
Call (208) 999-1111 today to speak with a member of our team about bulking vs. cutting and to discuss your fitness goals. Whether you’d like to enhance your cardiovascular endurance levels, train for an event, or just look and feel your best, we’d love to help you! When we hear from you, we’ll invite you to our Boise health center for a FREE fitness consultation, a tour of our facility, and a chance to meet some of our amazing coaches in person. If you like what you see, you can get started right away! We offer 24/7 access, heart-pumping classes, and customized training options to all of our Partners…it’s no wonder we’re Boise’s #1 choice for fitness!
Get started today! We can’t wait to meet you and help you smash your goals.