Basics behind bulking and cutting

Katie Gallagher

We live in a world where anything and everything is possible thanks to social media and the immediacy of sources and information on any given topic. An area that appears to be building up strength by strength across all the social media platforms and taking the internet by storm is fitness and body building.

There isn’t a day that goes by where you don’t see a progress picture or ‘food prep’ on your news feed or more specifically, a lengthy post about a ‘bulk’ or ‘cut’. We thought we’d take a look into what these lifestyles entail and the basics behind them.

What is the phenomenon that is bulking and cutting you might ask? In its simplest form, bulking is adding size in the hope that a large percentage of the size will be muscle and cutting is dropping body fat to show off this muscle, according to personal trainer and nutrition advisor, Brian Mc Guinness.

However, in more scientific terms, bulking or “gaining” is a period of dietary adherence where one’s caloric intake is above their maintenance caloric requirement, creating a so-called ‘calorific surplus’ to ensure weight gain. 22-year-old Brion Mc Gowan from Co.Leitrim said while the concept is quite simple in truth, unfortunately there is much ambiguity surrounding the term due to a whirlwind of misinformation and ‘broscience’.

Brion, who disclaimed he has no qualifications in training or nutrition, began his own training over three years ago, where he began learning about cutting, bulking and the science behind it all with the help of YouTube.

“There are many respected sports scientists, researchers and personal trainers whose opinions are very much respected in many circles who make YouTube videos on a wide variety of topics, guys like Layne Norton, Jeff Nippard and Alan Aragon to name a few”, Brion said.

However, he also recognised that with the good comes the bad, and in this area misinformation can be shared to large social media audiences.

“What’s even more regrettable is the fact that some with training and certain qualifications still give poor advice that has no scientific backing. These people follow the “well it worked for me” approach,” he said.

With that being said, Brion stated that there are numerous social media figures, such as Rob Lipsett who share legitimate and proven advice regarding the matter, so it’s a case of sieving through to find the right source and asking yourself if it is reliable and trusted.

Ballyshannon based personal trainer and nutrition advisor Brian, who had been training for six years before taking it more seriously this year, advised to always speak to someone who has a proven track record of results and check that their methods are scientific rather than just ‘broscience’.

“I attended seminars and read dozens of articles written by the best in the industry before I completed my course,” he said.

Following extensive research and careful consideration, it is worth taking the time to determine whether it’s the right fit for your needs and what your ultimate end goal is.

“It’s worth stressing the fact that regardless of what our end goal is, we should always be aiming to maintain the healthiest and most sustainable lifestyle possible,” said fitness enthusiast Brion, who is a 5th year medical student in Bialystok Poland.

The first question would inevitably be whether to bulk or cut first, but this all comes down to your starting body composition so everyone will be different, according to experts. Without getting too heavily into specifics, the first step to find out your calorific needs is based on your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure).

“This is made up of a few components but essentially means how many calories our body burns on a day-to-day basis and can be very simply calculated by referring to an online TDEE calculator”, Brion said.

Typically, entering into the winter weather, the season of bulking or “off season” is usually in full swing, however it could be losing popularity according to up and coming PT Brian.

“Cutting probably has the edge on bulking at the moment. Abs seem to be the new trend whereas size would have been in the past. We see this a lot on Instagram where every model or fitness person has abs”, according to Mc Guinness, who plans to open his own ‘open gym’ in December.

When reading about this diet or lifestyle, especially bulking, there can be a negative outlook in terms of the ‘eat everything you see’ concept. However, it is advised that you maintain and healthy and balanced diet rather than indulging in ‘dirty food’ in order to bulk the smart way .  Realistically, whatever you bulk, you are then going to have to cut so don’t make the job harder for yourself by getting carried away.

Reflecting on the balance required, Brion, who has been training himself for over three years, recommends eating 90 per cent wholesome and nutritious foods but allowing for that other 10 per cent, stating that it’s not expected or recommended for anyone to just give up their favourite foods forever.

“Sure we slip up and fall off for a period of time here and there but we should always be seeking to make healthier choices for life, and creating a diet that is healthy, enjoyable and most importantly sustainable.”

Katie Gallagher

Image credit: Fitnessreview