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Bulking Vs. Cutting: Best Way to Build Muscle

Bulk and cut are the two common approaches to bodybuilding, involving diet manipulation and training to gain muscle mass or lose fat. Let's find out the pros and cons of each!

Nicole Taylor
Bulking Vs. Cutting: Best Way to Build Muscle
Table Of Contents

You're in the gym, working hard day after day, week after week. You're doing all the right exercises, following all the rules. You're eating healthy and staying hydrated. But despite your best efforts, you just can't seem to gain any muscle mass. You see other people around you getting bigger and stronger, and you can't help but feel frustrated.

No one wants to be the skinny guy at the gym. We all want to bulk up and build muscles. But how do we go about doing that? First, we need to understand what muscles are and how they work. Muscles are made up of cells that contract when they receive a signal from the nervous system. This contraction is what allows us to move our bodies.

In order to build muscle, we need to put our muscles through a process called hypertrophy, where the cells grow larger and stronger in response to stress or strain. This can be done through weightlifting or other forms of resistance training. If you want to build muscle, make sure you're using proper form and lifting weights that challenge your muscles.

While weight lifting is essential to build up, it can not be the only contributing factor. A proper diet plays a critical role in sculpting your physique. And in the world of fitness, there are two primary schools of thought: cutting and bulking. In this article, we will have a detailed discussion around the two topics and see which of the two hyped processes is best for you!

Bulking Vs. Cutting

Bulking involves eating more calories than you burn, resulting in weight gain. The goal is to put on size and then cut down to reveal the muscle beneath the fat. Conversely, cutting involves eating fewer calories than you burn, resulting in weight loss. The goal is to lose fat and reveal the muscle beneath.

Bulking is the way to go if you want to add serious size. You can expect to gain anywhere from 2-5 pounds of muscle per month when bulking. However, you will also put on some fat during this process. This is why many people choose to bulk during the off-season and then cut during competition season. Bulking can be a great way to build muscle quickly if you don't mind carrying a little extra weight.

Cutting, however, is great for revealing definitions and hard work in the gym. The basic premise of a cutting diet is to consume fewer calories than you burn, which forces your body to burn stored fat for energy. Cutting diets typically involve eating plenty of protein and healthy fats while limiting carbs and sugar.

This macronutrient ratio helps preserve muscle mass while you're in a calorie deficit. In addition, cutting diets often involves the strategic use of cheat meals or refeeds, which can help boost metabolism and prevent weight loss plateaus.

But be warned: cutting can be challenging. You will have to be disciplined with your diet and exercise regimen in order to see results. And even then, you may only lose 1-2 pounds of fat per month. So if you're looking to get shredded quickly, the cutting may not be the best option for you. You can also add a fat burner supplement to your diet to enhance the efficiency of the results.

How to Start a Bulk?

Starting a bulk is simple, but it's not easy. Anyone can eat a lot of food, but it takes real commitment to eat the right kind of food day in and day out. Here's what you need to do.

First, you need to determine your maintenance calories — the number of calories you need to maintain your weight. Various online calculators can help you estimate this number. Once you have that number, you need to add 10–20% to your calorie surplus. This is the key to any bulk — adding more calories than you burn.

From there, aim for a daily protein intake of 0.7–1 gram per pound of body weight (1.6–2.2 grams per kg) to support muscle gain. The rest of your daily calories are made up of carbs and fats, though this depends on your preference. Some people prefer high-fat, low-carb, while others prefer a more balanced approach.

Track your progress daily. If the numbers on the scale won't budge, gradually increase your calories. You can also add high-intensity resistance training to your diet for more efficient results.

How to Start a Cut?

Whether you have an important event coming up or you're just not happy with your current weight, starting a cut can be a great way to drop some extra baggage.

It's helpful to determine your maintenance calories. This is the number of calories you need to eat daily to maintain weight. Once you know this number, you can begin to subtract calories each day to create a calorie deficit and stimulate weight loss.

For example, an average active man needs about 2,600 calories daily to maintain weight, whereas an average active woman needs around 2,000 calories. Of course, these numbers can vary depending on body size, genetics, and activity level. But as a general rule of thumb, consuming 500 calories below maintenance should help you lose weight at a healthy rate.

Losing weight is hard enough, but it's even harder when trying to maintain muscle mass simultaneously. However, new research suggests that there may be a sweet spot when it comes to weight loss and muscle maintenance. According to the study, a gradual weight loss of 0.5-1% per week may be best for maximizing muscle maintenance.

So, if you're looking to lose weight and keep your muscles, you might want to take it slow and steady. And, of course, don't forget to keep up with your protein intake and resistance training regimen. With a little planning and effort, you can reach your goals without sacrificing your hard-earned muscle mass.

Pros and Cons of a Bulking Diet

Bulking up has always been popular among bodybuilders and athletes looking to gain an edge. And while this approach can certainly help you achieve your goals, there are also some potential downsides to consider.

One of the biggest concerns is that a bulking diet can lead to excess fat gain. This is especially true if you're not careful about the foods you eat. In addition, a high-calorie diet can strain your digestive system and leave you feeling sluggish.

On the other hand, there are several benefits to following a bulking diet. For example, increasing your calorie intake can help you build muscle mass. And, since muscle tissue is denser than fat, you may even end up looking slimmer after bulking up.

In addition, a higher calorie intake can help increase your energy levels and improve your overall mood. It can also lead to a healthy boost in libido and increased bone density. Complementing your diet with a whey protein supplement would be a great choice to enhance muscle mass. So, if you're looking to add a little extra size, a bulking diet may be just what you need.

Pros and Cons of a Cutting Diet

There are many benefits to a cutting diet, including weight loss, increased energy levels, and improved digestion. But one of the most significant benefits is muscle gain.

If you're trying to gain muscle mass, a cutting diet can help you reach your goals by allowing you to eat more protein without gaining fat. Eating plenty of protein is essential for building muscle, but it's also easy to overeat and gain fat if you're not careful. A cutting diet can help you get the nutrients your body needs to build muscle without packing on the pounds.

A diet cutting can also help improve cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of obesity-related diseases.

However, there are some disadvantages to this type of diet that should be considered before embarking on it. One of the main drawbacks is that it can be very restrictive, and getting all the nutrients you need from food when you are on a cutting diet is often difficult. This can lead to fatigue, irritability, irregularity in sleep, and other problems. Additionally, cutting diets can also be very boring, as you often have to eat the same foods over and over again.

Foods to Eat and Limit

If you're trying to bulk up, you need to consume more calories than you burn. That means packing your diet with high-protein, high-fat, and high-carb foods. But it's not just about quantity; it's also about quality. You want to ensure you're eating the right kinds of foods that will help you build muscle, not just fat.

The same goes for cutting. When cutting down on body fat, you need to eat fewer calories than you burn. But that doesn't mean you should skimp on protein and other nutrients. You still need to eat quality foods that will give your body the energy it needs to work out and build muscle. So what are some good foods to eat and avoid when you're bulking or cutting? Here's a list of some of the best options:


Foods to Eat:

  • Lean Protein: Chicken, beef, eggs, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt
  • Fat: Avocados, olive oil, nuts, seeds
  • Carbs: Whole grain bread, oatmeal, quinoa, sweet potatoes
  • Beverages: Water, tea, coffee, diet soda

Foods to Avoid:

  • Processed Foods: Fast food, ice cream, chips, processed meats
  • Saturated Fats: Margarine
  • Beverages: Sweetened drinks, lemonade, soft drinks


Foods to Eat:

  • Protein: Chicken, fish, eggs whites, tofu, Whey Protein Powder
  • Fat: Olive oil, avocado, nuts
  • Carbs: Vegetables (spinach, broccoli, kale), fruits (berries), whole grain bread, whole grain pasta, rice cakes, quinoa,
  • Beverages: Water, unsweetened tea, or coffee

Foods to Avoid:

High-Fat Proteins: Pork fats, Bacon, Turkey, chicken wings

Processed Foods: Frozen meals, salami, cookies, cakes, chips, packed ramen noodles

Beverages: Soft drinks, lemonade, juices, sweetened coffee, and tea


1. How do I know if I should cut or bulk?

There are a lot of factors to consider, including your body type, current weight, and fitness goals. Are you looking to get shredded for summer? Or are you trying to bulk up for a competition? Your answers to these questions will help determine which type of diet is right for you.

If you're relatively new to lifting weights, you'll probably want to start with a cutting diet. This diet is designed to help you lose body fat while preserving muscle mass. Once you've managed to get rid of excess body fat, you can start thinking about bulking up.

2. How long should cutting or bulking last?

The time you spend in each phase will depend on your goals, starting point, and dedication. You may need to commit to several months (or even years) of hard work to make a significant change. However, a few weeks may be all it takes if you're just trying to make a slight adjustment. It is essential to listen to your body and ensure that you're giving it the time it needs to reach its full potential.

3. Can bulking and cutting be done at the same time?

You can technically bulk and cut simultaneously if you focus on gaining muscle while keeping your body fat percentage in check. That's because you're not necessarily trying to lose weight; instead, you're aiming to change your body composition. So, if you can build muscle while keeping your body fat percentage relatively steady, congratulations - you're successfully bulk-cutting!

4. Can you bulk without getting fat?

The key to doing it without getting fat is to create a calorie surplus by eating more calories than you burn in a day. This extra energy will be used by your body to build muscle, not store fat. Of course, this isn't an excuse to go overboard and eat junk food all day - you should still focus on eating healthy, nutrient-rich meals. But as long as you're in a calorie surplus, you can bulk up without worrying about putting on unwanted fat.

Bottom Line

So, which is better for building muscle: bulking or cutting? Well, the answer may not be as simple as you think. The best way to build muscle may be a combination of both bulking and cutting. By alternating between periods of increased calorie intake and periods of reduced calorie intake, you can help your body to build muscle more effectively.

Additionally, by focusing on quality nutrition and resistance training, you can maximize your results regardless of your approach. So, if you're looking to build muscle, don't be afraid to experiment with different approaches until you find what works best for you.

Reading List

Article Sources

  • Iraki, Juma, et al. “Nutrition Recommendations for Bodybuilders in the Off-Season: A Narrative Review.” Sports (Basel, Switzerland), vol. 7, no. 7, June 2019, p. E154. PubMed,
  • Hall, Kevin D., et al. “Reducing Calories to Lose Weight.” JAMA, vol. 319, no. 22, June 2018, pp. 2336–37. Silverchair,
  • Helms, Eric R., et al. “Evidence-Based Recommendations for Natural Bodybuilding Contest Preparation: Nutrition and Supplementation.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, vol. 11, no. 1, May 2014, p. 20. BioMed Central,

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Nicole Taylor

Nicole is a professional freelance writer specialized in sports nutrition and home based exercises. She publishes a website dedicated to home exercise and has contributed articles to magazines as well.

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