Bulk and cut cycles are extremely popular in the health and fitness industry, there are tons of products aimed at bulking like muscle gainer protein shakes and a ton of products aimed at cutting fat like fat burning enzyme tablets. Although that is just the tip of the iceberg, there is copious amounts of advice shared online about what to do when you’re bulking and cutting secrets. It’s hard to make sense of! You may be feeling overwhelmed by all the differing advice of how to complete your bulk and cut cycle effectively, but there is a simple answer for it: manage what you eat.
Macronutrients consist of protein, fat and carbohydrates. Each item of food is made up of one, or most commonly a combination of these macronutrients. For example beef is a protein but also has some fat, and potatoes are a carbohydrate but also contains some protein. When you are trying to make changes in your body whether this is aesthetic changes or strength changes, you need to be aware of how you are fuelling your body.
Too much of any of the macronutrients will result in a surplus calorie intake resulting in fat storage. Too much of one particular macronutrient will result in an energy imbalance, which can make you feel constantly hungry and lethargic. Creating a bulking and cutting meal plan prior to starting this cycle can be super beneficial to ensure you get the results you want.
Carbohydrates v Fats
It is helpful to gauge how your body responds to these two macronutrients: carbohydrates and fat. For example some people work best on a higher fat, lower carb diet and others work better on a lower fat, higher carb diet. This is completely dependent on the individual and your dietary needs - for example if you follow a ketogenic way of eating then you will be eating higher quantities of fat versus a vegan for example, who will be eating predominantly carbohydrate dense plant foods.
Manipulating your carbohydrate intake can have profound effects on a bulk and cut cycle. When bulking you are going to want to increase your carbohydrate intake and your overall calories to ensure your glycogen (energy) stores are replenished, which will result in higher energy levels and quicker muscle repair and recovery. Due to the calorie surplus that you’ll be in, you’ll be able to make strength and size gains which is the focus when you’re in the bulking phase!
When you enter your cutting phase, you will be moving into a calorie deficit in order to burn the excess fat gained during the bulk. To do this you want to be decreasing your total calorie intake so that you are burning more calories than you are taking in. Often, people decide to decrease their carbohydrate intake while keeping their fats moderately similar. When you don’t consume enough carbohydrates to convert into glycogen to use as energy, your body shifts into burning fat stores to use for energy. This will result in lower energy levels but quick and efficient fat burning.
Protein consumption should always be kept fairly constant, roughly 1 lb - 1.2 lb per every pound of body weight. So in a bulk, your protein intake will increase on the basis that your entire caloric intake will increase and the percentage of protein will stay constant, e.g. still 35% of total caloric intake. When you cut, your protein intake will still be 35% of the total, whilst carbohydrates may decrease from 50% of total caloric intake to 30% in order to burn fat.