How to Cut After Bulking: Our 5 Most Useful Tips
One of the most basic knowledge that every bodybuilder must have is learning how to cut after bulking up. It is common knowledge in the lifters’ circuit that every serious bodybuilder observes a bulking and cutting phase like a farmer does to sowing and reaping seasons.
The usual practice for those who regularly participate in annual contests wherein their well-chiseled physiques are displayed and rated by a panel of judges is bulking up for most of the year, then switch to cutting 3 – 4 months before the event.
For many, the switch to cutting phase is torturous, as this is the time wherein you cut down on your food intake and increase your tedious cardio sessions. The manner and difficulty of the transition will likewise depend on how you bulked up in the first place.
While it is unarguable that you need to eat a lot or have a caloric surplus in the bulking phase, how those foods are translated to weight gain is another matter. Meaning, the individual percentages of lean muscles, stored fat, and glycogen that made up the added weight would determine the amount of effort you need for the cutting phase.
What are the different types of bulking?
There used to be only two categories known to man: Clean Bulk and Dirty Bulk, and no, the second one doesn't mean you forage food from the dumpsters. Clean bulk is what the legendary weightlifters from the golden era of bodybuilding do.
They pile up on whole foods while in training such as steaks, eggs, chicken, legumes, fruits, vegetables, potatoes, oats, etc. Dirty bulk, on the other hand, is what many of today’s bodybuilders are doing.
They gobble any conveniently available foods today, including a burger, pizza, deep-fried battered chicken, ice cream, cookies, a bag of chips, and other sugary or salty processed food.
While there are several other methods identified today such as slow bulk (unhurried weight gain), fast bulk (rapid weight gain), fat bulking (just letting go, I guess), and a few others, I don't think they are crucial enough for a lengthy discussion.
I am speaking here by the way, with the assumption that you know for a fact that bulking is not just about putting your appetite in overdrive.
The phase, of course, involves a tremendous amount of weight training as the actual goal here is gaining a higher percentage of muscle mass than fat and glycogen deposit.
How to cut after bulking? Well, since the main objective of cutting is shedding the extra fat you gained along with the muscle mass (which you wanted to preserve), here are some practical principles to live by:
5 Tips for Best Cutting Result
1. Be conscious of the physiological effects of your bulking technique
Before you can actually draw a plan on how to cut after bulking, you should have a clear picture of the physiology involved in your weight and mass gain. Science determined that you could only gain one to two pounds of lean muscles every month (0.25 – 0.5 lbs. per week).
Meaning, if you gained more pounds than that in the said period, chances are stored fats cause the extra notches on the weighing scale.
Another thing to take note is that your adipose tissues are primarily composed of adipocytes or fat cells, which store fat as reserved energy fuel for your body. While you can burn its contents, adipocytes are like indestructible bags that can be filled to utmost capacity.
But the really scary part is if your body runs out of these storage bags, it can produce more as needed, especially when you are still young.
That is why if you became overweight or obese when you are still a teen or a young adult, chances are you will have more adipocytes in your body than those who became overweight at middle age. It doesn't mean though that you can’t have a ripped bod, it is still doable with extra effort and discipline.
The only point I am stressing here is that you have to conscious on how you will bulk up. Are you building enough muscle mass with your jacked up diet or are you feeding, or worse, multiplying your adipocytes? Better stick to clean bulk and try to shun processed food as much as possible.
2. Have a sensible diet
If bulking requires you to pile on calories, cutting warrants the opposite. It doesn't mean though that you will starve yourself, you just need to make a caloric deficit. By cutting on your carbohydrate and sugar intake, which your body burns first for energy, your system will look for the next alternative fuel at its disposal.
The goal for is for your body to run out of energy source from recently digested food so that it will be prompted to use its energy fuel reserve, the fats stored in your adipocytes.
It is not just about counting calories but choosing wisely what is more beneficial for your body. A simple comparative sandwich test performed by scientists revealed that you get twice usable nutrients from a whole wheat bread with real cheddar cheese than a white bread (made from refined flour and sugar) with commercially processed cheese with the same mass and calorie count.
What does that tell you? Choose wisely what you eat. Pick unprocessed meat and fish over high-fat and high-sodium sausages and bacon, choose nuts and beans over fries and chips, opt for fresh fruits over candied ones. You get the idea.
Do not starve yourself during this phase. When your body has exhausted both the digested food calories and usable stored fats during intense training, it will look for other energy sources to sustain its efforts.
In which case, it will start catabolizing your muscles. So it is pertinent that you still get enough micronutrients especially protein to preserve muscle mass. It is also best to eat small meals with more frequency (6-8 times) a day.
3. Tweak your training program
Remember that you will be running on lesser energy fuel than you have when you were bulking. You also have a slightly different objective during cutting, and that is to shred the fat to reveal your newly developed pecs, abs, biceps, glutes, and more.
At this point, you need to concentrate more on muscle mass and strength retention than growth, as contrary to bulking phase. Your weight training must now be focused on resistance rather than repetition.
Since you are now working out with a carb deficit, extended training can now imperil the depletion of stored glycogen in your muscle fibers. It is highly advisable that you direct your effort on cycling compound movements such as squats, bench presses, deadlifts, shoulder presses and chin-ups in low reps (6-8).
You should also do more cardio but concentrate more on low-intensity steady state (LISS) exercises that will keep your muscles safe from accidental tearing or damage.
You can walk or swim for 30-60 minutes, 3-4 times a week. If you opt for lesser time, you can instead do 20-25 minutes of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) versions of running or swimming.
4. Hydrate and take supplements
One of the best ways to compensate for having lesser energy fuel from calorie deficiency is by drinking lots of cold water. Good old H20 should never be taken out of the list of important things when talking about how to cut after bulking. Besides giving you an energy boost, it also helps in fat burning. Plus, it is 100% calorie free.
You should also consider taking supplements, the safe kinds of course. Among the most recommendable are BCAAs, creatine, and full-spectrum multivitamins.
BCAA or Branched-Chain Amino Acid aids in muscle protein synthesis and post-workout recovery, while creatine helps supply energy to the muscles for improvement of athletic performance.
Both are available in powder form that you can dissolve in water to make up for a great intra and post workout drink. These supplements can also help prevent muscle catabolism.
5. Take your time
Hurrying up to lose the fat may also result in the reduction of muscle mass. Again, going back to the calorie deficit, your body will definitely find ways to compensate for any lack of energy fuel.
Remember that your target is that it only goes as far as using the stored fats in your adipose cells, which by the way, are mostly in your midsection. As much as possible, you don't want your system to get to the point wherein it also needs to catabolize your muscle cells to keep your body running.
As much as possible, allow at least 3 months for your cutting phase, or at the very least, 6-8 weeks. However, if you need to shed 20 pounds or more you might require longer time like 4 or 5 months.
How to cut after bulking is not at all complicated if you know both the science and practical aspects of it. Since it’s been widely practiced with great results since mid 20th century by numerous bodybuilders who are now considered legends in the sports, then it is definitely worth observing today.
Follow the principles presented here and combine it with the rudiments of a healthy lifestyle such as having a regular good night's sleep and staying away from vices, and you will definitely get optimum results in your cutting phase. Thanks for reading.