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When to cut and when to bulk for the best results?

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by Yuan

There aren’t any definitive answers about when you should cut or bulk. There are pros and cons to each choice and there are also counter-arguments against these pros and cons. I’ll do my best to present all of the sides so that you can become even more confused so that you can make the best choice. Just don’t get stuck between cutting and bulking. You will fail to get any decent results (or get negative results) if you end up in ‘no man’s land’. Now let’s go over everything:

When to cut

Fat covers up progress: if you have a lot of fat, it will cover up signs of muscle growth. Muscle already grows at a very slow pace, with the extra fat, you won’t be able to see the progress and it may become even more discouraging.

Don’t track muscle growth: track your strength gains instead of muscle gains. As longs as your major lifts are going up consistently, you know that the muscles are growing. Strength grows significantly faster than muscle, it’s always more encouraging to track your strength.

Lower body fat = higher testosterone: studies show that a lower body fat and a slimmer waistline leads to more testosterone production. We all know that testosterone is a key factor that contributes to muscle growth. The reason women can’t grow muscle like men is because the average man produces ten times more testosterone than the average woman.

Does it make a difference: in medicine, there is the concept of an effective dose. This is a specific dosage that is required to actually make a difference. Unfortunately, it is largely neglected in the fitness/supplement industry. You’ll often hear that intermittent fasting raises growth hormones, but this increase is so tiny that it doesn’t make a difference at all.

If you’re around 15% body fat and you can’t see the abs clearly, is the slight increase in testosterone going to make-up for the time spent cutting?

If you’re on the chubbier side, a natural body recomposition should take place on a clean diet and good strength program with lower volume.

A little extra body fat: just 5 lbs of extra bodyweight is enough to provide a noticeable improvement in your leverages. A bit of extra body fat can be useful in your training and it’s not going to be detrimental to making progress.

3 scenarios where I recommend a cut:

  1. If you’re happy with your muscle mass.
  2. If the extra fat keeps bugging you. Just go on a dedicated cut and get it over it.
  3. If you’re very overweight, losing  the body fat can improve your range of motion and hormonal profile significantly.

When to bulk and how far you should go

The only time I recommend eating at a large excess is when you’re a beginner and especially if you’re a younger person. This is when your body can grow fastest. Your body is going through juvenile muscle growth until around the age of 25. Up to this age, your body will naturally grow more muscle without training (but at a much slower pace). So you have to eat to account for the juvenile growth and training induced growth.

In my post about the hardgainer bulking diet, I used the example of popular hollywood transformations. In their interviews, the guys all talk about how eating all day was the hardest part.

Once your newbie gains wear off and growth slows down, you can calculate your macros more carefully. At this phase, you can make lean gains more successfully because your body will not require as many calories to grow. Check out by article on counting macros to learn more about it.

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