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Should I be Cutting or Bulking?

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Cut or bulk? The age long question that is so much harder to decide on than most would expect. The goal more often than not for most people is to lose body fat and gain muscle at the same time, and while there are instances and periods in time where this can occur, from a biological standpoint, our body can only do one or the other. Trying to build muscle and lose fat at the same time is like holding your foot on the accelerator while pumping the break; neither function will be optimised leaving you in a stagnating point of maintenance, where progression is extremely slow in either direction. To make the most of either goal, we need to commit to one or the other, create a plan, and stick to it for the required duration in order to see the best results for your hard efforts.

The main reason we cannot optimally lose fat and gain muscle simultaneously is due to the contrasting pathways in the body that regulate either one of these adaptations independently. To lose body fat we need to stimulate AMPK, which put simply, is responsible for fatty acid oxidisation in the body. In order to build muscle however, we need to activate the mTOR pathway, which is responsible for cellular growth. These two pathways are like a light switch; you can only have one turned on at a time while the other is switched off. Both pathways have an ‘on’ and an ‘off’ like function in the body, and the one which is activated at any given time is dependant on the training and nutritional stimulus you’re placing on your body in that moment.

So as good as it all sounds in theory, cutting and bulking at the same time wont lead to significant progression in either direction. To best indentify which path to take it is important to assess where our current physique stands. Are you quite thin and wanting to build some mass? Or are you at the other end of the spectrum where your body fat may have slipped a little higher than you’d like? Be honest and real with yourself when making the assessment and focus on where physique needs improvement. Indentifying your weaknesses is a hard thing to do, but it is a crucial part when making the decision to cut or to bulk.

For a successful cut we need to place ourselves in a calorie deficit, meaning we consume less calories than we burn. Be sure when doing this to reduce calorie intake and increase exercise gradually and accordingly, implement cardio and supplementation incrementally when required as tools to help break past plateaus.

When entering a bulking protocol we want to create a calorie surplus in order to give our body the amino acids and fuel required to build muscle tissue. Be sure to increase caloric intake and reduce cardio at a steady pace to help mitigate excessive fat gain while trying to build muscle. When bulking, some fat gain is to be expected but remember we want it to be as minimal as possible, making the future cutting phase much more manageable.

The decision to either cut or bulk is one of the toughest decisions to make when trying to change your body composition… but patience is the key and good things come from hard work and consistency. Whichever endeavor you choose, give yourself adequate time to undergo the program and see true composition changes to your body. The grass always seems to be greener on the other side, but don’t let this steer you off the path you have chosen, regular swapping back and forwards between cutting and bulking is a trap many fall into, and it wont allow you to truly gain the benefits of either phase when done consistently. Pick your battle, tackle it head on and focus on improving your body by creating the best possible version of yourself you can.

Author Glen George from our Blackburn store – come ask him a question today or shoot us an email at service@musclecoach.com.au

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