People are often unsure whether they should bulk up or cut down when it comes to progressing in the gym. When people are looking to gain more muscle and size, they often overlook the factor of also gaining some fat. Yes, you will be putting on some lean muscle but avoiding fat gain is impossible. On the other hand, losing fat will also result in you losing some of your hard earned lean muscle.
Training Styles and Nutrition
If you are looking to build muscle and bulk up or to get lean and cut down, you will need to change up your training and nutrition programs. Muscle growth only occurs after muscle damage. After muscle fibres are torn during exercise, the nutrients from your food and supplementation will help them repair themselves and grow back thicker and stronger. Therefore, your training style and nutrition are important in order to attain your desired results.
When looking to build muscle, incorporating a mixture of heavy compound exercises and isolation will allow you to get stronger and target individual muscles. By doing compound movements, you are building a strong foundation to engage more muscle fibres, tear them and allow them to grow back stronger and thicker. Progressive overload is a common training technique used to maximise muscle growth. Putting the muscles under more tension and stress by increasing weight each week results in more muscle fibre recruitment which will lead to greater muscle growth.
To be big, you must eat big. This means you will need to increase your daily caloric intake to assist with training and fuelling your body. Initially, you’ll need to find out your maintenance caloric intake, which is how much you should eat to maintain your weight. Once established, you should slowly increase your total calories by 200-300 calories per day as a starting point. Find foods that your body will easily digest and not make you feel bloated. Track your food intake and make adjustments if required so that your nutrition is sustainable.
In order to burn fat, you will need to implement cardiovascular exercises into your routine. You should continue with your resistance training, but the addition of cardio will boost your caloric output and therefore help with fat loss. Research has shown that by increasing overall strength and muscle mass, you will also have a greater caloric output. This is because more strength will require more energy expenditure and muscle fibre recruitment.
Dieting for fat loss isn’t about restricting your caloric intake. You will still need to find your maintenance intake and from there, reduce it by 200-300 calories. This doesn’t mean you have to force yourself to starve and not eat but to eat smarter by having more fulfilling foods, such as vegetables, fruits and whole foods as they are filling but low in calories which will allow you to eat and not be restricted.
It is sometimes hard to consume enough food and get all your protein, fat and carbohydrates in. This is where supplements are great! Protein powder is convenient, tasty and will help you reach your protein intake. On average, 1 scoop usually has around 24g of protein, which is equivalent to eating a 150g of plain chicken breast. So, if you are ever in a rush or don’t have time to eat, this is a great alternative. Mass gainers are great for those who struggle to stomach a lot of food. 1 serving goes down nearly as easy as a cup of coffee and will provide you with anything between a few hundred to 1000 extra calories, which would be a lot of food volume if you opted for a solid alternative.
Supplements for fat loss, such as fat burners, are great to boost your metabolism. Fat burners will kick start your metabolism early in the morning giving you a dose of caffeine, which can grant you an energy boost of 3-11%. Working out after taking fat burners will help with fat loss, as your metabolism will be at its peak, meaning more body fat will be lost. However, the best way to lose body fat is to have a nice, clean and sustainable meal balance. These are supplements and should only aid you in achieving your goals.
Building muscle and losing fat is not an overnight achievement. It takes time and effort to see the changes occur. A bulking phase will usually last around 3-4 months, depending on what you are wanting to achieve. However, whether it’s a clean or a dirty bulk, expect to gain a bit of fat. After you have done your bulking cycle, you should switch over, aim to preserve your muscle mass and lose most of the fat. Just like gaining fat when building muscle, you should expect to incur some muscle mass loss alongside the fat loss. A cutting phase should last around 3 months and should commence once you are done with your bulk. This is when you will have the most amount of muscle retained.