Get big, stay lean: The bulking and cutting cycles

Get big, stay lean

Optimized body composition provides a competitive advantage in a variety of sports. Weight reduction is common among athletes aiming to improve their strength-to-mass ratio and aesthetic appearance. it is considered advantageous to achieve low levels of body fat while retaining lean body mass. The metabolic effects of this process have been given little contexts within athletics, such as physique sports (i.e. bodybuilding, figure), combat sports (i.e. judo, wrestling), aesthetic sports (i.e. gymnastics, figure skating), and endurance sports.

But the human body is an adaptive machine, it works on the fuel given, thus, staying on a diet for a very long period can actually make the body adapts to the low caloric intake and slow its metabolic rate. At this point, the diet is no longer beneficial for your body and health.

diet and metabolism

There are a number of factors that will influence how much the metabolism slows down in the face of a hard diet. Some of these factors include how much exercise is being performed while you are on the diet, how much body fat you currently have (leaner individuals will see their metabolism slow down at a much faster rate), the particular food choices you are consuming on your restricted diets (low carb diets can cause the metabolism to slow down more since carbs are heavily related to thyroid hormones), and how long you have been on that restricted diet.

Here comes the need for Bulking, long-term deficit eating can also lower BMR, eating more will help to raise it, as will adding more muscle. Most people come out of a bulk being able to lose weight at a higher level than they previously did, as their maintenance level has increased. (The longer the bulk, the more our body adjusts to higher calories levels = higher BMR…The longer the deficit, the more our bodies adjust to lower calories levels = lower BMR)

Bulking can help whether you’re planning on competing in a fitness competition, want to look muscular/”ripped” when you get to your goal weight, have reached a plateau, or just want to increase your metabolism. Many people get burned out or reach plateaus after eating in a deficit for a long time. They reach a point where nothing is working, they can no longer safely reduce calories, or maybe they are just tired of surviving on so little calories. This is when a metabolism reset is usually done: where a person has to up their calories, and stay there for a while until the body readjusts to the higher cal level (thus, creating a new maintenance). Then they can start to lose @ a higher cal level. Using this time to also “bulk” (add muscle while eating in the surplus) can make it a bit more purposeful for the person, vs just eating more w/no other goals (which can be a tough mental battle for a person who is trying to lose weight). It gives a new “goal”, to take the person’s mind off of “I’m trying to gain weight on purpose, am I insane?!” and gives those extra calories a job to do: build muscle. The building of muscle will also increase the body’s metabolism, as the muscle continues to burn calories long after the reset has ended. Thus making the metabolism reset process dual purpose, and a little easier to stick to.

bulking

Also, a person that is not at goal weight can do smaller “mini” bulks along the way to help keep metabolism raised and to add a little more muscle “insurance” to what will be seen as the fat is melted away. Bulking can also be used for the person that is reaching/at goal weight, but not getting the “cut” that they thought they’d have at “goal.” Since we can’t “cut” what isn’t there, this usually means that there is not enough muscle there to “tone,” bulk/cut cycles allows the opportunity to build the muscle, then go back to “cutting,” repeating until the desired result is reached. For all parties involved, bulking can give that added benefit of a higher metabolism & maintenance level calories.

Just keep in mind that bulking doesn’t mean to go out and load up on fast food thinking that you loaded up on calories and will get big. Well, you are right on one thing, you will get big, but the only measurement that will change will be your waist. We don’t want that. So even though we are consuming high amounts of calories, you’ll gain a considerable amount of muscle and a minimal amount of fat, and you’ll lose nothing (or close to nothing) but fat when you cut.

Woman eating fast food.

Thus, with each cycle of bulking and cutting, you’ll come out a little bigger, leaner, and stronger than the last.

Repeat this enough times and voila, you have the body of your dreams. It really is that simple!

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Zeina Kassas

Opex Certified Coach.
ISSA Certified Sports Nutritionist.
Co-founder, Head-coach and Nutritioniest of RahetBally Mama Transfomation Program.
Sports Nutritionist at The Trifactory.