To bulk or not to bulk?

Eoin Harte

Bulking and cutting is now a common practice among people interested in sports such as power lifting and bodybuilding.

‘Bulking’ is when you purposefully gain weight, while working out, ideally building a nice amount of muscle but inevitably gaining fat as well. The ‘cutting’ takes place when you purposefully lose weight, ideally losing the fat but maintaining the muscle you built in the ‘bulk’ phase.

Third-year Physics and Astronomy student Sean Goodwin has found the method to be particularly useful when it comes to achieving personal bests in powerlifting and particularly enjoys the bulking element.

“Bulking is way easier (compared to cutting), 100%, so that’s why everyone loves doing it in the winter. When you’re bulking, I’d be on 3000 at the moment, you can eat pretty much whatever you want, as long as it’s not too much.”

Although Goodwin is fond of ‘bulking’ he is well able to cut weight as well, losing 14 kilos in the space of six months when he first started going to the gym. “I used a fitness plan, so I was tracking all the food that I was eating, and I was eating a lot more than I thought I was. I was eating maybe 1700 calories a day for ages, like six months or something. I lost a good bit of weight doing that.”

“The heavier you are, or when you first start in the gym the faster you’ll lose weight, then you’ll start to plateau after a while, so I tried out cutting just to lose weight. I got down to 72 or 73 kilos. So I lost that weight and then I went up from 72 to build muscle and stuff, so I bulked up to 78 or 79.”

While Goodwin lost a lot of weight when he first joined the gym, he did say that cutting isn’t necessary for beginners looking to get into better shape.

“Starting off in the gym you don’t need to bulk or cut, to be honest. If you eat around maintenance calories what you’ll do is your body will go into a composition where it will burn fat and build muscle. You’ll see results really quickly when you’re starting off.”

Some ‘bulking’ enthusiasts like to take bulking to the extreme, with a method that is known as a ‘dirty bulk’. Participants would usually eat around four or five thousand calories a day (around twice the recommended amount for an average man). When asked whether he’d consider doing this, Goodwin was certain in his response.

“Definitely not, like you’d feel awful. I’d never do it, I don’t think it’s a good idea at all. It would be fun, for maybe a few days but then you’d start to feel awful and you’d just gain a load of fat really and nothing else.”

A measured approach to ‘bulking and cutting’ is thought by many to help improve people’s body in both appearance and strength. However, know that eating a huge amount of calories, while not worrying about the nutritional value as you would in a ‘dirty bulk’, is certainly not the healthiest way to go about achieving your personal goals.

Eoin Harte

Image credit: Live Healthy