Can you gain muscle while cutting? Find out
I'm sure you've heard the phrase "bulking and cutting." This is typically a periodized routine where someone will bulk up and gain muscle while also losing body fat when it comes to fitness. Then they'll cut down their caloric intake to lose the fat but maintain or even increase their muscle mass.
This post provides some insight into whether or not bulking and cutting can be done simultaneously and how to do it if you're considering trying it out for yourself.
The key to gaining muscle while cutting is being in a slight caloric deficit and having enough protein to fuel your body with the energy it needs to recover from workouts and build new muscle tissue. Let's look at how much you should be eating if your goal is to hold onto muscle while cutting down body fat levels.
This blog post discusses what bulking and cutting means in regards to fitness routines, why people choose one over the other, how often people should switch between them, what are some things that need careful consideration when doing so
Also Read: Gym essentials: what to bring to the gym
What is muscle gain while cutting?
It's pretty common for fitness enthusiasts to bulk up their muscles by eating more calories than they're burning, then attempting to lose the accumulated fat by reducing caloric intake and increasing energy expenditure. However, instead of cutting down on calorie intake while maintaining or even gaining muscle mass, some people prefer the alternative method known as "bulking and cutting."
Gaining muscle while cutting is possible if you have the proper tools, such as a lean protein-packed diet. Also you need to be in a slight caloric deficit (but not too big) otherwise, you won't be able to build any muscle mass) and make sure your workouts are consistent and challenging enough to induce muscle hypertrophy.
Start with a clean diet
For this type of training to work, you must have a clean diet with plenty of protein. You should make sure you eat enough calories throughout the day specially in breakfast and get over 1.0 grams of protein of body weight. In most cases, people who bulk up and cut do so on a 5 – 6 meal per day schedule, with each meal containing at least 30 grams of protein.
For example: Suppose your weight is around 180 pounds, then you'll need to eat at least 450 – 540 grams of protein over the day.
Each meal should contain a lean meat source, a complex carbohydrate, and vegetables or fruit. You can follow this clean diet, whether bulking or cutting. If you are bulking, your goal would be to eat more calories than you burn to gain weight and muscle. When cutting, you will want to eat less than you burn to lose body fat while maintaining lean muscle mass.
Take supplements for muscle growth
During this bulk and cut routine, you'll want to take supplements that will help give your muscles the nutrients they need to grow. You do not have to buy expensive supplements or "muscle enhancers" in order for this routine to work. A lot of the supplements that you buy at your local pharmacy or grocery store will be sufficient. Some of them include:
- Creatine: It is a popular supplement that helps your muscles create more energy for longer, harder workouts. You can take creatine during both phases of bulking and cutting.
- Nitric oxide – also known as NO2, this product works by opening up the blood vessels, allowing nutrients and oxygen to be delivered to your working muscles. This supplement can be taken during both phases of bulking and cutting.
- Whey protein: this particular supplement is excellent for helping muscles recover after a workout and helps give you all the nutrients you need to bulk up and gain muscle mass. It would help if you took whey protein throughout your entire routine, whether bulking or cutting.
- Multivitamin: as with whey protein, you should take a multivitamin during your entire routine, whether bulking or cutting. A multivitamin gives your body the nutrients it needs to function and operates as an all-in-one supplement for those who don't want to buy many different products.
If you're wondering how often you can take these supplements for best results, here's what you should do:
Take 1 – 3 servings (depending on the product) of creatine per day during your bulk phase. Take 1 serving of NO2 about 30 minutes before working out and then another serving after your workout. Take 1 – 2 servings of whey protein per day, preferably with one of your meals. Take 1 – 2 servings of a multivitamin per day.
Perform high reps and sets to build endurance and muscle mass
When bulking up and gaining as much weight as you can through clean eating, it's necessary to perform high reps and sets to build lean muscle mass. Doing so will help give your muscles the endurance they need during workouts and make them stronger. You'll also want to increase your calorie intake throughout this phase. Moderate rep and set ranges in the 8 – 15 range will be sufficient for bulking.
When cutting, you'll want to perform low reps and sets to lose body fat while maintaining lean muscle mass. It's believed that this type of training helps prevent your muscles from losing size during a cut. This means that you should stay within the 4 – 8 rep range while cutting.
Exercise using whole-body workouts during bulking
During your bulk, you'll want to stick to whole-body workouts that work out all of your major muscle groups to give them the endurance and strength they need. This will provide your body with the results it needs for it to bulk up. Some good examples of these types of workouts include:
- Plyometrics: This type of exercise uses your body weight to build muscle and improve coordination, balance, and speed. Popular plyometrics workouts include hill running, squats, tire flips, pushups with jumps or clapping between reps, squat thrusts, and other bodyweight exercises.
- High-intensity interval training: This type of workout alternates between high intensity and low intensity in order to improve cardiovascular performance while building muscle. Some examples of HIIT workouts include sprints, stair climbing, and jump roping.
- Resistance training: Also known as weight lifting, resistance training is a great way to strengthen your muscles and gain lean body mass. Some good resistance training machines include:
- Leg press – This machine allows you to push the weight away from your body using your legs.
- Shoulder press: This builds the shoulders, triceps, and upper back. Arm curl – this targets the biceps and forearms. Leg curl – this targets the hamstring area of the legs.
Exercise using compound exercises during cutting
When you're on a cut, you'll want to stick with whole-body workouts that incorporate only one major muscle group at a time to give muscles definition and reduce body fat. You should also avoid performing any high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts while cutting. Some examples of good compound exercises for this include:
- Squat: the primary muscles worked by a squat are the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves.
- Bench press: this primarily works the chest, triceps, and shoulders. Pull-ups/Lat pulldowns - this primarily works your back, biceps, and forearms.
- Reverse lunge: this primarily works the quadriceps and glutes. Dips – this primarily works the triceps and chest.
Do cardio on a low-carb diet during cutting:
When you're on a cut, it's best to do your cardio workouts on a low-carb diet to burn calories as much fat as possible. Doing so will help you lose body fat while maintaining muscle mass, promoting a leaner and more defined body. You'll want to stick with HIIT workouts during this phase as well, even though they aren't as efficient for burning fat as low-intensity cardio is.
Do cardio on a high-carb diet during bulking
If you're bulking up, it's best to do your cardio workouts on a high-carb diet. Doing so will promote muscle growth by giving you plenty of fuel for your workouts. It's also important to stick with moderate intensity, steady-state cardio workouts while bulking up.
Doing too much HIIT or low-intensity cardio might cause you to lose some muscle mass since the body burns through carbohydrates during these types of workouts.
Perform HIIT during both phases
Even though the bulk and cut are two separate processes, it's still important to perform some high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts. Doing so will help you burn through excess fat, allowing you to closely define each muscle group that gains size during your bulk.
You might also consider performing some low-intensity steady-state cardio workouts as well.
Focus on compound movements that work multiple muscles at once, such as squats or deadlifts
Suppose you want to bulk up and gain lean body mass. In that case, you'll want to do compound exercises that work multiple muscles at once – such as squats or deadlifts – instead of focusing on performing many isolation movements.
What's also important is that you focus on practicing good form when performing these types of workouts, as bad form can lead to injuries that could otherwise be avoided.
Perform isolation exercises to target specific parts of the body, such as bicep curls or triceps extensions:
If you're focusing on the cut and want to get leaner, more defined muscles, then your workout program should incorporate isolation exercises that target specific areas of your body.
Some good isolation exercises include:
- Triceps dips: This works the triceps and chest. Bicep curls – this is a great way to work out individual areas of the biceps.
- Leg extensions: this is an effective way to work out your quads, hamstrings, calves, and glutes -in isolation in order to promote lean body mass.
Lift heavy weights 2-3 times per week for maximum results in a minimal time frame
If you're looking to bulk muscles and gain lean body mass, you'll need to do heavy weight lifting up to 2 to 3 times per week to increase the size of your muscles. You should also avoid doing any high-intensity interval training (HIIT) since this type of workout can burn through your glycogen stores.
Get enough sleep - 8 hours is optimal
If you want to see the best results possible, then you must get enough sleep each night. A good rule of thumb is 8 hours per night for adults.
What's also important is that you don't deprive yourself of sleep through excessive food intake or dehydration throughout the day, as this can hinder your ability to sleep.
It would help if you also avoided overeating before going to bed since this can keep your metabolism from slowing down as you're sleeping, causing you to burn fewer calories throughout the night.
To recap, here are the best ways to bulk up and add lean body mass: Get at least 8 hours of quality sleep per night. Do moderate-intensity steady-state cardio workouts with high carbohydrate intake before and after workouts.
Perform both compound and isolation exercises with good form to avoid injuries. Lift heavy weights (for compound movements) and perform isolation exercises (to target specific areas of the body). Avoid using HIIT workouts during this phase.