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Cutting/Bulking vs. minor long term deficit??


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So I was reading through some forums yesterday and I started reading a thread about a discussion of building muscle. The general tone was that building muscle at a slight deficit over time is healthier for lifestyle changes than cutting/bulking cycles. 

 

They called the build at a deficit positive nitrogen balance. Later the same person said that slight deficits bulks (250-400 calories) don't have an impact on health but the more severe cycles aren't healthy. 

 

I'm on my first cut ever and it's a very slight one (350ish calories from maintenance) so I'm not sure if I should up it a hundred or so calories and just not do a bulk or continue doing slight cuts/bulks.....I'm on information overload. Any help is much appreciated. 

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I'm not an expert and others may shoot me down here but I would just say that the human body is very adaptive. I would not have thought that cycling would cause any major problems and from my experience it is much easier to achieve than a constant slight deficit. Unless you're religiously counting calories (and probably even then) it would be difficult to know you are under maintenance when only reducing 200 calories or so.

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Sorry, do you mean slight surplus rather than deficit for long term muscle building?

 

Are you trying to cut fat or build muscle? If you're running a deficit then the main goal is to cut fat. 

 

I've gone for slowly increasing my calories over time. It's a painfully slow recomp process but I'm building muscle without gaining weight (whilst slowly increasing my metabolic rate). When I get to a point that I'm too lean to continue then I'll have to go up a weight class and bulk a little (which I'll probably again go pretty slowly with).

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I'm not an expert and others may shoot me down here but I would just say that the human body is very adaptive. I would not have thought that cycling would cause any major problems and from my experience it is much easier to achieve than a constant slight deficit. Unless you're religiously counting calories (and probably even then) it would be difficult to know you are under maintenance when only reducing 200 calories or so.

 

Extreme bulk and cut cycles can actually be detrimental to long term health, but I doubt anyone here would go to the extremes of bodybuilders on juice (who are the ones at the most risk of developing issues).

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I do mean deficit, not surplus- that's why I'm so flipping confused. Everything I've been going by and my whole understanding was that I needed a surplus to build muscle. But this random carb cycling theory says that it's slower, but easier to maintain a lesser deficit and build muscle while keeping a lower bodyfat rather than going through cut/bulk cycles.

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The idea is that you can build muscle at a moderate deficit if you're eating high protein and this is called positive nitrogen balance. I'm just kind of reeling because it's turning everything I thought about building muscle upside down. 

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The problem is that there are a hundred and a half different theories on weight loss/gain, muscle building, etc.  Every workout guru and scientist has their own hypothesis they're pushing to make a buck or be proved right.  Generally speaking there are a handful of tried and true methods that the masses have proven effective and these seem to be the most reliable and healthy methods for changing body composition.

 

It is probably safe to say that any gradual cycle for trimming weight off is healthier over the long term than radical cutting and bulking cycles.  But if you aren't a bodybuilding that probably shouldn't be a concern.  If you're anything like me, it's all an uphill battle anyways, one that will take months and months, and even then I won't be satisfied.  Maintaining a slight deficit of 200-300 calories is only the slower and steadier version of maintaining a steeper deficit and likely won't have the same impact on your extant lean muscle mass as the more extreme calorie deficits some people keep to.  I'm running approximately 500+ calories for deficit but I'm also taking in around 200g of protein to by 197lbs of weight with a liberal application of weight lifting to keep my muscle stimulated, and so far it's working just fine for me.

 

There will always be someone saying their way is better, but find what works for you. 

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The idea is that you can build muscle at a moderate deficit if you're eating high protein and this is called positive nitrogen balance. I'm just kind of reeling because it's turning everything I thought about building muscle upside down.

It's just another line of bullshit.

The definition of maintenance is that your body is using all available calories to fuel your body's energy requirements. It is physically impossible to take in less than your body requires to maintain itself and add muscle mass.

As nice as it would be, the human body uses fuel too efficiently for that to be possible. You can verify their claims by researching how the body actually digests protein (it is broken down into glucose and stored in bodyfat, too).

Carb-cycling circles are full of people desperately looking for a magic bullet. Their plans are always constructed so you don't have to do much actual work or exercise any willpower. This is not a coincidence.

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The definition of maintenance is that your body is using all available calories to fuel your body's energy requirements. It is physically impossible to take in less than your body requires to maintain itself and add muscle mass.

 

You can do a very, very slow recomp whilst "maintaining" because you will have short periods of deficit and surplus within that. It's painfully slow though. 

 

I agree with your second point, though. Generally any "muscle" added in a deficit will either be fluid retention or body fat reduction making muscles appear bigger.

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I do mean deficit, not surplus- that's why I'm so flipping confused. Everything I've been going by and my whole understanding was that I needed a surplus to build muscle. But this random carb cycling theory says that it's slower, but easier to maintain a lesser deficit and build muscle while keeping a lower bodyfat rather than going through cut/bulk cycles.

And you've seen someone with verifyable good results from this carb cycling theory, right?

Easier to maintain is very subjective. IMHO going slower is never easier to maintain, because results parlay into compliance (results breed results, and vice versa). Even going as fast as you can, you're still talking about a speed that is tiny fraction of growing grass.

"While keeping lower bodyfat" is basic fearmongering, preying on beginners who are afraid of poofing up like a balloon while in any sort of surplus, not understanding the absolute mountains of food that would be required to do so (remember, if you are properly bulking, you should be working your tail off in the gym). Most people's issue with bulks (at least in the NF demographic) will be eating enough and sustaining that intake long enough to actually gain; overeating and gaining fat way too fast is not likely to an issue with folks here, even though practically everyone bulking will be totally freaked about it.

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Maintaining a slight deficit of 200-300 calories is only the slower and steadier version of maintaining a steeper deficit and likely won't have the same impact on your extant lean muscle mass as the more extreme calorie deficits some people keep to.

This is pretty much a totally unproven fitness industry talking point. If anything, the science points to the opposite; as long as you are strength training an taking in adequate protein, the faster you cut, the more lean mass is spared (...for a given amount of fat loss). Loss of lean mass of more of an adaption to a long term deficit than anything else.

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You can do a very, very slow recomp whilst "maintaining" because you will have short periods of deficit and surplus within that. It's painfully slow though.

I agree with your second point, though. Generally any "muscle" added in a deficit will either be fluid retention or body fat reduction making muscles appear bigger.

Yeah, recomp is a real thing. It's one way to do it. You're right that it's painfully slow, too -- so slow that I don't really think of it as a viable option.

I think recomps are also marketed dishonestly. The (reputable) fitness figureheads that push them have tons of experience with nutrition and have the common anal/obsessive/disciplined trait that begets success. But most people who start a recomp plan are people with no experience, knowledge, or concept of how hard it will be.

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Yeah, recomp is a real thing. It's one way to do it. You're right that it's painfully slow, too -- so slow that I don't really think of it as a viable option.

I think recomps are also marketed dishonestly. The (reputable) fitness figureheads that push them have tons of experience with nutrition and have the common anal/obsessive/disciplined trait that begets success. But most people who start a recomp plan are people with no experience, knowledge, or concept of how hard it will be.

 

It really depends on what your goals are as to whether it's a viable option. If your goals are around getting stronger and you're in your first few years of lifting, then it's definitely a viable option.

 

If your goals are almost entirely aesthetic, then probably not.

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And you've seen someone with verifyable good results from this carb cycling theory, right?

 

Well it's the internet, so even with before and after photos it's hard to tell 1. if its even them and 2. if it is them if they got those results through what they're trying to peddle. 

 

I'm pretty new to fitness (Celebrating my first full year this week actually!) so I'm still trying to figure out the bs from the not bs. I do a pretty good job with the magazine fat blasting bs but when body building forums and people who have been at this for years more start talking about it I doubt every little thing I think I know. 

 

 

 

You can do a very, very slow recomp whilst "maintaining" because you will have short periods of deficit and surplus within that. It's painfully slow though. 

 

I agree with your second point, though. Generally any "muscle" added in a deficit will either be fluid retention or body fat reduction making muscles appear bigger.

 

Good to know. Maybe I'll do a  couple cycles and then try 6 or so months of this after a couple cycles and compare, as I said I'm still very new to all this and other than Cosmo lose 5lbs of fat in 3 days bs I'm still trying to figure everything out. 

 

Thanks for all the info guys good to see some smart conversations coming up :D 

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You can be looking at years rather than months to see a real difference in your shape with recomp at maintenance. I'm 15 months into a recomp and the changes are still pretty subtle to me.

On the plus side, I eat more than my male training buddy and it's only going up.

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Yeah, recomp is a real thing. It's one way to do it. You're right that it's painfully slow, too -- so slow that I don't really think of it as a viable option.

I think recomps are also marketed dishonestly. The (reputable) fitness figureheads that push them have tons of experience with nutrition and have the common anal/obsessive/disciplined trait that begets success. But most people who start a recomp plan are people with no experience, knowledge, or concept of how hard it will be.

 

Maybe not for you but i can think of lots of people who would rather do a long term recomp than bulking/cutting. In fact, once i've got to a muscle mass that is acceptable to me that is likely what i will do.

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Maybe not for you but i can think of lots of people who would rather do a long term recomp than bulking/cutting. In fact, once i've got to a muscle mass that is acceptable to me that is likely what i will do.

But you are discouting the other fact about recomping... it really is a thing for beginners (and people returning from a layoff). With every ounce of muscle you gain, gains become harder and harder. Once you've built a fair bit of muscle, you're looking at a ton of work to eek out even a tiny bit of muscle.

When you switch to recomping, with its inefficiencies, you really are switching to maintenence; any trading of fat for muscle will be irrelevant, even after years and years of trying. Growth simply does not come easy enough for recomping to work for someone with a good amount of bulk/cut experience.

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Ok so those of you who do cutting/bulking phases- how do you determine length? Do you pick an arbirtrary number of days (8 or 12 weeks) or weight (10-15 lbs)? Also, are either different for cuts/bulks? For example would you go on a 12 week cut but 8 week bulk or vice versa or gain 15 lbs lose 10? 

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I usually use an 8:2:1 plan, where I bulk for 8 weeks, gaining about 6 lbs, then cut for 2 weeks, losing about 4 lbs, then spend a week in transition back to bulking, overall gaining 2-3 lbs of muscle and losing 0-1 lbs of fat vs. my starting point.

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I usually use an 8:2:1 plan, where I bulk for 8 weeks, gaining about 6 lbs, then cut for 2 weeks, losing about 4 lbs, then spend a week in transition back to bulking, overall gaining 2-3 lbs of muscle and losing 0-1 lbs of fat vs. my starting point.

About what percentage of your body-weight is that? I'm pairing a long term low deficit cut while seeing if I could eliminate alcohol from my diet for 8 weeks and I've lost roughly a pound a week doing it (a little over 5lbs lost- the first half of that was the first week though, water weight). SLOW progress, but I THINK I'm making progress definition-wise. Just something to test out macros and start figuring things out. I was going to try maintenance for two or three weeks after memorial day before hopping on the bulk phase and trying the iifym formula for a slow gain. 

 

I'm not a very big person at 5'3" and floating between 110 and 115 now so when I read things that say 10 lbs either direction I'm a little lost trying to make the numbers work for me and figuring out a plan. 

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About what percentage of your body-weight is that? I'm pairing a long term low deficit cut while seeing if I could eliminate alcohol from my diet for 8 weeks and I've lost roughly a pound a week doing it (a little over 5lbs lost- the first half of that was the first week though, water weight). SLOW progress, but I THINK I'm making progress definition-wise. Just something to test out macros and start figuring things out. I was going to try maintenance for two or three weeks after memorial day before hopping on the bulk phase and trying the iifym formula for a slow gain. 

 

I'm not a very big person at 5'3" and floating between 110 and 115 now so when I read things that say 10 lbs either direction I'm a little lost trying to make the numbers work for me and figuring out a plan. 

 

6 lbs is 3% of my body weight.

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I usually use an 8:2:1 plan, where I bulk for 8 weeks, gaining about 6 lbs, then cut for 2 weeks, losing about 4 lbs, then spend a week in transition back to bulking, overall gaining 2-3 lbs of muscle and losing 0-1 lbs of fat vs. my starting point.

 Not sure if I understand this correctly.  If you gained 6lb over 8wks, you gain an average of 0.75lb/wk.  If you strictly believe the calories in - calories out = wt gain/loss, then 0.75lb/wk gain means you would need to eat an additional 2625cals/wk or 375cals/day over maintenance.  Did I figure that correctly or is there some other variable that weighs in to how many extra calories you consume to gain at an average rate of 0.75lb/wk.

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 Not sure if I understand this correctly.  If you gained 6lb over 8wks, you gain an average of 0.75lb/wk.  If you strictly believe the calories in - calories out = wt gain/loss, then 0.75lb/wk gain means you would need to eat an additional 2625cals/wk or 375cals/day over maintenance.  Did I figure that correctly or is there some other variable that weighs in to how many extra calories you consume to gain at an average rate of 0.75lb/wk.

 

Nope, that's dead on right.  Though usually I'm a little below that because +300 is such a nice round number for me (3K).

 

You would be hard pressed to find a soul on this earth that believes CI-CO more strongly than I do, I can gain or lose with precision, the results always align perfectly with what I expect.

 

The only other variable to be aware of is the transient 1-2 lbs and 1/8" that accompanies transitions (when you stop cutting, expect to gain a pound or two and 1/8" on the waist right off the bat, vice versa when you stop bulking).

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