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wells101

Do you bulk or cut first?

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So just curious here, continuing with my theme of not knowing how to eat.  My personal trainer isn't having me do this because my goals don't really include a 'cut' phase since I'm not worried about my overall physical appearance (I want to build good habits around getting in the gym, being aware of what I'm eating, etc first before I worry about doing more with it) but being introduced to the concept got me curious.


For folks new to strength training, would you recommend cutting or bulking first and why?  I'm interested to see if there are arguments to both sides, as I suspect there is and what those arguments are.

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If you're carrying around an excess of bodyfat, that has an association with poor insulin sensitivity, so it's often recommended to cut first (for guys, often until you start to see abs). If you're in your 20s that's the best time to put on muscle, and some folks will argue that you should just try to get stronger/bigger while minimising fat gain. The classic 'eat everything in sight' bulking is considered pretty old school these days, though if your priority is just getting as big as possible and you don't mind carrying around the extra cushion (and understand any possible health implications for you as an individual with that), straight up bulking typically gives you a crap-ton of energy and it's easier to add muscle & strength. Just taking a quick look through your old posts, I'd say that maybe 'slow & steady' would be the best for yourself, though I know you weren't really asking after that.

 

Personally, I'm a big fan of a 'recomp', rather than cutting & bulking. This is for a couple of reasons. For one, 'yo-yo dieting' can have some pretty icky effects on your metabolism long-term, even if you're doing it intentionally with bulk & cut phases. For another, I've personally never liked the idea of getting cushier for the sake of a bit of extra muscle, mostly because in order to LOSE that fat later you'll need to pause your 'gain training'. So eating at a gentle surplus to gain muscle (AKA. lean bulking) seems to be a good choice IMO if gaining muscle is the main goal. If losing fat is the plan, there's some pretty cool research coming out supporting cycling calories in order to mitigate metabolic adaptations. Strategies like the MATADOR diet most recently (two weeks @ 30% deficit, two weeks at maintenance TDEE, rise & repeat), 5:2 (two days/week at a significant deficit), or even various types of intermittent fasting (I prefer a 24hr fast once a week, personally) are all good options that would still leave you with fully fed days to get into the gym and work hard without feeling like you're running on an empty tank. Regular resistance training, sufficient protein intake, and recovery strategies really need to be dialled in for this type of approach to work well though, otherwise it can feel like you're just spinning your wheels.

 

That being said, I'm not a doctor, fitness professional, or expert of any kind - I'm just a random on the internet who reads too much. :P

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21 hours ago, wells101 said:

So just curious here, continuing with my theme of not knowing how to eat.  My personal trainer isn't having me do this because my goals don't really include a 'cut' phase since I'm not worried about my overall physical appearance (I want to build good habits around getting in the gym, being aware of what I'm eating, etc first before I worry about doing more with it) but being introduced to the concept got me curious.


For folks new to strength training, would you recommend cutting or bulking first and why?  I'm interested to see if there are arguments to both sides, as I suspect there is and what those arguments are.

 

There really isn't a right or wrong answer with this; it totally depends on overall goals and focuses.

 

For folks brand new to strength training, I wouldn't recommend either - I'd just recommend keeping calories consistent and focusing on building habits. Generally speaking, keeping calories consistent while introducing additional exercise will result in a loss of their weight or inches (or both!). After the routine has been established and consistent, it's really a personal decision around what overall goals are and if there are any reasons to do one versus another. Generally, bulking is going to help with lifting heavier, while cutting is going to help with physical appearance.

 

For me, I either cut or eat at maintenance. I haven't gotten to a point where my lack of additional calories is a detriment to my strength goals, at which point I may readjust. By that, I mean my goals aren't necessarily around lifting ALL THE WEIGHTS (I'm not a warrior), but around able to manipulate the weights I need to in the way I need to. So basically, as long as I can flip a tire or carry 50 lbs, I don't really care if I am hitting PRs. 

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On 8/9/2019 at 10:05 AM, Defining said:

If you're carrying around an excess of bodyfat, that has an association with poor insulin sensitivity, so it's often recommended to cut first (for guys, often until you start to see abs). If you're in your 20s that's the best time to put on muscle, and some folks will argue that you should just try to get stronger/bigger while minimising fat gain. The classic 'eat everything in sight' bulking is considered pretty old school these days, though if your priority is just getting as big as possible and you don't mind carrying around the extra cushion (and understand any possible health implications for you as an individual with that), straight up bulking typically gives you a crap-ton of energy and it's easier to add muscle & strength. Just taking a quick look through your old posts, I'd say that maybe 'slow & steady' would be the best for yourself, though I know you weren't really asking after that.

 

Personally, I'm a big fan of a 'recomp', rather than cutting & bulking. This is for a couple of reasons. For one, 'yo-yo dieting' can have some pretty icky effects on your metabolism long-term, even if you're doing it intentionally with bulk & cut phases. For another, I've personally never liked the idea of getting cushier for the sake of a bit of extra muscle, mostly because in order to LOSE that fat later you'll need to pause your 'gain training'. So eating at a gentle surplus to gain muscle (AKA. lean bulking) seems to be a good choice IMO if gaining muscle is the main goal. If losing fat is the plan, there's some pretty cool research coming out supporting cycling calories in order to mitigate metabolic adaptations. Strategies like the MATADOR diet most recently (two weeks @ 30% deficit, two weeks at maintenance TDEE, rise & repeat), 5:2 (two days/week at a significant deficit), or even various types of intermittent fasting (I prefer a 24hr fast once a week, personally) are all good options that would still leave you with fully fed days to get into the gym and work hard without feeling like you're running on an empty tank. Regular resistance training, sufficient protein intake, and recovery strategies really need to be dialled in for this type of approach to work well though, otherwise it can feel like you're just spinning your wheels.

 

That being said, I'm not a doctor, fitness professional, or expert of any kind - I'm just a random on the internet who reads too much. :P

 

This has given me a ton of information to read.  I did read the Rhabdo article, and I wasn't even aware it was tied more to the intensity than anything else.  That's really good to know,  as my trainer has me on a hypertrophy plan right now (8 to 12 reps/set) and I may ask him to switch with this in mind.  I'll have to read the rest of this later today, there's definitely some good stuff in there.  Thanks so much!

 

 
 
 
 
On 8/9/2019 at 11:20 AM, Sylvaa said:

 

There really isn't a right or wrong answer with this; it totally depends on overall goals and focuses.

 

For folks brand new to strength training, I wouldn't recommend either - I'd just recommend keeping calories consistent and focusing on building habits. Generally speaking, keeping calories consistent while introducing additional exercise will result in a loss of their weight or inches (or both!). After the routine has been established and consistent, it's really a personal decision around what overall goals are and if there are any reasons to do one versus another. Generally, bulking is going to help with lifting heavier, while cutting is going to help with physical appearance.

 

For me, I either cut or eat at maintenance. I haven't gotten to a point where my lack of additional calories is a detriment to my strength goals, at which point I may readjust. By that, I mean my goals aren't necessarily around lifting ALL THE WEIGHTS (I'm not a warrior), but around able to manipulate the weights I need to in the way I need to. So basically, as long as I can flip a tire or carry 50 lbs, I don't really care if I am hitting PRs. 

 

Yeah, this is what I ended up getting told by the trainer when I asked him about the difference.  According to him, the first four to six months are about habits and form over anything else.  You can't get stronger without having the good base to build on, so I'm going to keep that in mind.


Thanks a ton guys!

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