Bulking vs. Cutting: What Is the Difference?

Bulking vs. Cutting: What Is the Difference?

People in the gym are usually doing one of three things: bulking, cutting, or maintaining. Even if you are not an elite bodybuilder or athlete, chances are you are keeping an eye on your weight. 

Bulking and cutting are fundamentally opposites, but they both require your attention on certain factors to make sure they are done correctly. Bulking and cutting are often both done by regular gym-goers to achieve different results throughout the year, and getting into a routine of regularly bulking and cutting in rotation can actually have several benefits. 


What Is Bulking?

Bulking is the act of increasing mass by increasing your caloric intake and adapting your workouts in the gym to match. Bodybuilders bulk up during the offseason when they can afford to pay less attention to their fat percentage and can instead focus on gaining muscle.

As a result, bulking increases body fat content as well as muscle mass. This is because it is much easier to eat the calories necessary for radical muscle mass increase when you are not trying to maintain a low body fat percentage. 

Powerlifters who are not judged on aesthetics will consume huge amounts of calories year-round to sustain a large amount of muscle mass. Some people who are focused on maximizing strength will not enter a cutting phase at all and only consume the calories necessary to maintain muscle mass or increase it. 


What Is Dirty Bulking?

Another well-known concept related to bulking is dirty bulking. Dirty bulking is when you increase calories by any means necessary without paying attention to the quality of the food you are eating. 

Dirty bulking includes foods high in trans fats and simple carbohydrates. While dirty bulking can maximize caloric intake, it also comes with the downsides of poor nutrition and the potential to gain more fat prior to a cutting period. 

The average person should always be cognizant of their health and make sure they consult a doctor before making a radical change to their diet. 


What Is Cutting?

On the opposite end of the spectrum is cutting, which is where you eat less and adapt your diet to reduce your caloric intake. People who go to the gym with the intent to shed a few pounds are participating in a cutting process. This is a very common weight loss method for people starting up at the gym or those with specific weight loss goals.

Competitive bodybuilders will begin to cut as they get closer to competition, so the muscle growth process ends and the toning process begins. They will begin to shed fat to make their muscles more visible. 

A typical person will eat foods with fewer calories, in some cases decreasing fat and carbohydrate consumption as well. While a number of diets exist for the sole purpose of cutting down, the basic math is that you eat fewer calories than you burn.

Some athletes, such as powerlifters, can cut calories just by reducing their normal maintenance calories, as they are normally consuming a lot to maintain a certain level of muscle. 


What Is Unhealthy Cutting?

Like bulking, cutting the wrong way also has consequences. To maintain a healthy lifestyle, it is essential to get all the calories your body needs to function. Cutting your calorie intake below healthy levels can lead to serious health issues as it will leave you malnourished and weak. 

A proper cut involves exercise to burn calories in addition to a lower-calorie diet. However, that cannot happen without proper carb and fat intake. 

If you are focused on losing weight, it is imperative to do so with a structured workout routine and diet plan that continues to provide you with all the nutrients you need on a daily basis. Cutting to the point of malnourishment will reduce your strength and make your workouts less efficient, which won’t help you accomplish your fitness goals in the long run. 


The Bulking and Cutting Cycles

So how do you use bulking and cutting together? Many people utilize a bulking and cutting pattern to gain muscle while regularly keeping their calorie content down. This allows individuals to continuously gain muscle while tempering the amount of fat they gain from the increased calories. 

Attempting to gain muscle on a calorie-restricted diet can be very difficult, which is why there is a benefit to both cutting and bulking separately. People who are looking to increase their muscle mass as quickly as possible will find bulking and cutting in rotation to be an efficient way to get bigger without tacking on too much fat. 

On average, people spend around four to six weeks in each cycle. This will vary depending on your specific goals. When bulking, you watch your macronutrients and do heavier weights with lower reps. With cutting, you cut calories and focus on lower weights with higher reps and more cardio.


Are These Practices for Everyone?

Bulking and cutting are not necessarily something that everyone should be doing. If you are trying to maintain your current physique, then there is no reason to bulk or cut. Doing either can throw you off rhythm and change your body composition. Likewise, if you are specifically looking to gain or lose weight in a general sense, then bulking and cutting together may not be part of the goal. 

You can increase your muscle mass without full-on bulking. It is a slower approach with minor changes to your diet that can get you where you want to be in a little more time. 

At the same time, many people want to lose weight and are not looking for a muscle increase to go with it, so the cutting period does not need to be accompanied by a bulk. Regardless of what your intentions are, consulting a medical provider is essential whenever trying a drastically new diet or workout routine. 



Bulking and cutting are opposing concepts that, when used together, can both be excellent tools to grow muscle and lean out. 

A person bulks by increasing caloric intake, thereby gaining weight in both fat and muscle. They then do a calorie cut and decrease their calorie intake and lose weight to shed the fat and leave the muscle behind. The full cycle allows for you to quickly gain muscle while also avoiding an excess of fat over time from the increased calorie consumption. 

What you take to the gym will differ radically depending on whether you are working to bulk or to cut. Make sure you have the tools you need for the job with a Haven Athletic Duffel Bag. Whether you are bringing your running gels or your protein bars to the gym, an organized Haven Athletic Duffel Bag will make sure you can fit everything in an efficient and intuitive way. 

Haven bags prioritize organization and ease of use, making sure that you never lose any of your gym equipment. Your tools and your diet need to adapt as the year goes on, so make sure you have a gym bag that can adapt with you. 



How To Bulk Up and Gain Muscle Mass | Men's Health

Dirty Bulking: Effectiveness, Downsides, and More | Healthline

Is Bulking and Cutting the Ultimate Way To Build Muscle? | BBC Food

Is It Bad To Lose Weight Too Quickly? | Healthline

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