“Balance is the key to everything.” Koi Fresco
Once upon a time bulking and cutting were terms exclusively used by bodybuilders depending on if they were in season or off season. Nowadays though, things have changed, and even the average gym goers are incorporating bulking and cutting phases. This is due to many factors, but one of the main reasons is that the average Joe tends to think that you bulk to maximize muscle growth, and cut to show it off. This makes sense on the surface Right? Build as much muscle as possible, then get as lean as possible and show it off. The problem though, is that these often lead people to extremes, and produce results that are not sustainable. Think about it, as a bodybuilder or workout enthusiast of any kind, we want to look and feel great all year, not just when we’re cutting. There’s this beautiful middle ground where we’re not shredded, but we are lean and building muscle. I call this the “sweet spot.” It takes experience to learn where this sweet spot is for you, but once you find it it’s a great place to be. You look great while building muscle, and don’t have to restrict calories, only to eat a sensible and balanced diet. In my opinion, this is the perfect place to be, and I’ve compiled a list of reasons explaining why and how to achieve this. So, grab a snack, kick back and enjoy. There are some golden nuggets here and you’re going to enjoy. Without further ado, let’s get to the list of reasons why bulking and cutting is overrated.
Reason 1: Most people overdue it. When bulking only a small caloric surplus is necessary. This will lead a person to put on a trivial amount of fat at most and perhaps retain a little extra water. Most people over shoot the amount of calories they need which leads them to putting on an excessive amount of bodyfat. This unwanted excess fat not only takes longer to get rid of, but also alters hormone levels in an unfavorable way. Also, when our bodyfat gets to high, we produce new fat cells, which makes it harder to get lean in the future. Additionally, when we get accustomed to eating a certain way, it becomes a habit, and is hard to break. This makes it harder when we switch to a more restrictive diet in the name of getting lean, is a problem noone wants to have, and it is easily avoidable by following a sensible yet flexible diet year round. This means not denying yourself a cheat meal once or twice a week. There is no need to be extreme, eat healthy the majority of the time, and eat for enjoyment often enough that you don’t feel deprived. This takes significantly less willpower and therefore is sustainable.
Reason 2: When bulking and cutting people generally tend to pay more attention to the scale. There is nothing inherently wrong with using a scale as a rule of thumb. For example, if your goal is to build muscle your weight probably shouldn’t be going down and vice versa. This can be helpful, however, the mirror is a much better gauge of the changes happening in your body. Full body pictures are even better. Save them and compare them side by side every two weeks. If you aren’t seeing the changes you desire, alter your diet and exercise program accordingly.
Reason 3: When cutting the goal becomes to get shredded above all else. This can lead to taking drastic measures like cutting calories significantly or consuming low to no carbs. This is only temporarily sustainable, and before long it leaves you feeling pretty crappy. The biggest reason cutting sucks, is losing muscle. When in a caloric deficit, unless you are on steroids, you are almost guaranteed to lose muscle.
Reason 4: It is unhealthy to overeat, or under eat on a consistent basis. Bulking is overeating. Cutting is under eating. Extremes such as these simply don’t last. Remember, balance is the key to long term success.
Reason 5: You just look better year round when you’re building muscle while staying lean. When bulking, your muscles smooth out and your face gets fuller hiding your bone structure. When cutting, your muscles flatten out and you look smaller. There are instances where cutting is a good idea, such as physique contests, or photo shoots, but in general, finding that middle ground is where you’ll look and feel your best.
So how do you find that middle ground? That sweet spot where you can see your abs well, but you’re not shredded to the bone. You use the mirror and pictures as your guide. Start with your current diet, and make minor tweaks from there. If you’re carrying more weight than you need to be, cut calories in the most convenient ways possible. Do you eat junk food? Start start by cutting down there. From here keep making minor tweaks until you find that perfect balance where you’re lean but still building muscle. Use the same technique if you’re very lean, but on the thin side, add in a bit more calories in the most convenient way possible. Add oatmeal to your smoothie. Add in a snack during the day. If you’re still not gaining any weight add another snack, add avocado to a meal. The options are limitless, and don’t have to be complicated at all. Some people call this lean bulking. I personally don’t like the term bulking at all as I feel it doesn’t accurately describe the goal. The goal is to become more muscular, not more bulky. We do not want to simply add size, but sculpt our bodies into a masterpiece. If we are too bulky we won’t be able to see the details in our muscles enough to know exactly what to work on. If we are too lean, we won’t be able to put on any muscle. Remember though, that extremes are fleeting and balance is key to longevity. This is a marathon, not a sprint, and we all want to be fit throughout our lives so let the extremes fall by the way side. Bodybuilding is not an extreme sport, it is an art, an act of self love. I will be discussing this more in my next article. Until then, remember that bodybuilding is life and vice versa. Much love.