The bulking and cutting cycle is an important routine when you want to build muscle effectively, but only when it’s done correctly.
When done incorrectly, you can end up packing on extra fat and then cutting inefficiently to the point you lose muscle mass, which is counterproductive and something you want to avoid.
Cutting doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself too badly, starve halfway to death, or lose any strength. You worked hard for those gains, so it’s a good move that you’re here right now, learning how to protect them.
Here are a few things you need to know to ensure you aren’t giving up your hard-earned strength and muscle when you’re cutting. There’s more that you can do if you really want to dig into things, but following the tips below will get you there without over-complicating anything.
Protein Is (Still) Your Best Friend
Most lifters already know that protein is their best friend, and that remains even more true when it’s time to cut.
Protein will keep you feeling more full, which makes it easier to cut back on your calories. The risk of reducing your calorie intake and not being mindful of protein is that you won’t be eating enough of it to fuel and maintain your muscles.
I actually recommend you up your protein in-take slightly when cutting to about 1.2g per lbs of lean body mass.
Destroy Some Sets
You won’t have as much energy as usual, but don’t let that stop you from getting in some hard workouts.
Doing compound exercises with heavier weight and lower reps will give you the most bang for your energy. It’ll be tougher to put in your usual time in the gym, so make the most of the energy you’ve got.
You won’t be packing on any significant amount of extra muscle mass during your cut, but you’ll be ensuring that you aren’t losing any muscle mass or strength, and frankly, that’s good enough.
If you make the mistake of lightening up in the gym or treating your cut like a vacation, you won’t be happy with the results.
tl;dr – Try and maintain the same amount of weight you normally workout with, but reduce the reps or sets to fit according to how much energy you have on a cut.
Cut Your Calories (But Not By Too Much)
While it is possible to lose a lot of weight fairly quickly if you’re willing to be a total savage and have a steep calorie deficit, it’s a bad idea because you’re also going to lose muscle.
If you follow the rest of these tips, and stick to a smaller calorie deficit instead of going crazy, you’ll be able to cut fat while maintaining your strength.
It’s never a good idea to cut on too low amount of calories at once, it will bite you in the ass.
The exact target for your reduction in caloric intake will depend on your body.
When you’re bulking up and putting on weight, that means you’re taking in excess calories.
What you want to do is dial that back ever so slightly to get to a point where you’re at a deficit (burning more calories than you take in) but without hitting that deficit too hard, because then your body will start looking for fuel wherever it can find it.
If you know your maintenance calories, you can aim to cut back by about 20%. If you aren’t someone who logs all of their macros very closely, just try to eat about 1/5th less, give or take.
Cutting and maintaining muscle and strength isn’t as hard as people make it out to be. Always remember to keep it simple and use common sense.
- Keep your protein in-take high
- Work hard in the gym but do lower sets and reps to account for lower energy
- Eat slightly less calories, 15-20% less than your maintenance calories
- Drink lots of water
- Get good sleep