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Serious bodybuilders are always in one of two states, either in a bulking phase or in a cutting phase.
During a bulking phase the main goal is to gain muscle size. Doing more intense weight lifting, combined with consuming a higher calorie diet than normal, typically does this.
During a bulking phase it is normal to increase your carb intake as this helps you gain more size, however the downside to this is that you often put on more fat.
This is why bodybuilders alternate the bulking phase with what is known as a cutting phase. During the cutting phase, you reduce your calorie intake (especially carbs) and increase the amount of cardio you do, which reduces your body fat percentage.
Difference between bulking and cutting
During the bulking phase you are trying to gain as much muscle size as you can, while minimising fat gain. Whereas during the cutting phase you are trying to lose as much fat as possible, while minimising the muscle loss.
The main difference between a bulking phase and a cutting phase is the amount of carbs you eat.
When you have finished your bulking phase and are ready to start cutting, the first thing you need to do is start crossing the complex carb products off your list.
This means things like sweet potatoes, whole grain breads and starchy vegetables have to go.
However, it’s not a good idea to suddenly change from a bulking diet that is loaded with complex carbs, straight into a cutting diet that has none. Try to slowly phase the carbs out of your diet over a 1 – 2 week period so that your body has time to adapt.
How many calories per day?
When you are in a cutting phase, you want to get your calorie intake down to around 500 calories below your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate).
After coming off a bulking phase where you are used to eating so much more, this can be extremely difficult. Most bodybuilders agree that the hardest part of a cutting phase is having the mental strength to stick with it for the course.
To make it easier on you, and to help your body get maximum utilisation from your reduced diet, you should increase the frequency with which you eat in a cutting phase.
If you can change your eating up to 8 – 10 small portions spread throughout the day, you will keep your metabolism up at it’s peak for maximum fat burning.
Time for more cardio
Apart from your diet, the next most important part of a cutting phase is cardio.
Incorporating cardio into your workout schedule during your cutting phase will strengthen your cardiovascular system and give your metabolism a major boost to ensure you keep burning fat all day long.
The key thing to keep in mind with cutting is that you don’t want to try to do it too fast.
If you reduce your calorie intake too much right off the bat, you will find that your lifts get worse and worse as you progress through the cutting phase.
This will result in you losing muscle mass, which you obviously don’t want, and will actually set you back from your goals in the long run.