Bulk and cut diets seem to be perennially fashionable. Especially if you read the muscle magazines. But is bulk and cut the best way to gain muscle mass or are your really hurting you body and worse; your family?
‘Hey man, I’m bulking’. You’ve heard it before. It’s normally said at the same time as food of dubious origin is being shoveled into an open mouth. Maybe even your own.
Can bulk and cut diets really turn you into a muscular Dad-Beast or is it an excuse to stuff your face or even a dangerous, metabolism wrecking fad? Keep reading to find out….
What is a Bulk and Cut Diet?
Hopefully I don’t need to go into too much detail on this. The internet is full of bulking diets and ‘cutting’ guides. The general premise is that, during the winter months you eat as much food as will fit in your mouth while lifting heavy weights and wearing massive, oversize hoodies.
The expected result is that you put on mass. Some of this will be fat, but a good proportion will be muscle.
You know, from all the steak and eggs you didn’t eat because you had cinnamon rolls for breakfast instead.
When the summer looms, you sharpen up the diet, cut the calories and watch those bulging muscles appear silently and slowly like Homer Simpson through a hedge.
By the time you get anywhere near a beach with the kids, you look like a cross between a Greek god and Arnold in Predator.
Does a Bulk and Cut Diet Really Work
In a word, yes. If you eat 4000-5000 calories a day, lift massive weights and do zero cardio, you will put on weight
But expect to gain at least one pound of fat for every pound of muscle. If you’re an endomorph like me, that could rise to two pounds of fat.
So even if you have a modest weight gain of a pound (about 0.5kg) per week, over the course of 20 weeks you could theoretically gain 20 pounds, 10 of which is body fat.
The trade off is that you are going to have to work hard to lose that fat. It takes a calorie deficit of around 3500 calories to burn just one pound of fat (or about 8000 for 1 kg).
Now this is OK if you’re a professional bodybuilder. You’ll have all the pharmaceutical assistance you need to lose this fat while maintaining most of (if not all) that hard earned muscle.
But if you’re just a regular Dad, that will mean hours and hours of sweating, dieting and general grumpiness due to your carb depleted state. Your wife and kids will practically beg you to go back on the bread.
Why are Bulk and Cut Diets Attractive?
1. You can eat whatever you want. Donuts, cake, pizza and chips are all back on the menu. Why? Because you’re bulking. You still eat your 5-6 meals out of a Tupperware. But in between times, those office cakes don’t stand a chance.
Plus, who needs a cheat meal when you can have a cheat month? This was the biggest incentive for me – being able to eat pretty much what I wanted for months at a time.
2. The muscle magazines advocate it. Pick up any muscle magazine and you’ll find shameless promotion of bulking diets, especially in the winter months or the ‘off season’. These mass gaining diets will be hyper-caloric and generally high carb. I’ve even seen ice-cream recommended for hardgainers trying to bulk up.
Naturally you think ‘Well if this Muscle Comic says it works, it must do. I mean look at all those ripped bodybuilders and fitness models’.
Turn the page and there it is – a big fat advert for the latest weight gainer shake: ‘Over 3000 calories per serving!!’ it shrieks.
Of course they want you to buy into the bulk and cut diet philosophy. They can sell you way more supplements that way.
When you’re fat, they can sell you fat burners. When you’re thin, high calorie meal shakes.
3. It gets results. Probably 90 – 95% of Physique athletes and professionals are on some kind of bulk and cut diet. And it works. Look at how shredded they are. They’re healthy, happy and have amazing lives. Who wouldn’t want that.
Dig a little deeper and you’ll see that many of these athletes look good enough for a photo shoot maybe once or twice a year. The rest of the time, they’re in ‘off season’ mode and can look bloated and softer than a mattress full of marshmallows.
Should You be Doing Bulk and Cut?
Life is full of choices. If you choose to do Bulk and Cut and it works then more power to you.
I choose not to. These are the reasons:
1. Dads don’t have an ‘off season’. Unless you’re a professional athlete or physique competitor, you don’t have an off season. I need to be fully fit and minimally fat 365 days a year. I don’t want to look chubby in Christmas photos or go through the horrendous mood swings of low carb hell.
I’m ‘on season’ all year round. That’s not to say I don’t focus my training on different objectives at different times but I keep my diet pretty much the same.
2. Fitness magazines don’t rule my life. I’ve been down that road before (see my earlier post). But now I think for myself. I’ve been lifting long enough to know what my body needs and doesn’t need. I’m building the physique I want, the way I want.
3. I’m not in a hurry. Anything worth doing is worth doing well. These days people want quick fixes. Bodybuilding and lifting doesn’t work like that. Everything comes slowly. Better to take time building a strong house that will last a lifetime. I’m content to see slow and steady gains week in, week out.
4. It’s healthier. Junk food is essentially that – junk. I love a burger and chips as much as the next Dad but I know that eating that stuff regularly is going to give me a one way ticket to multiple health problems. I’d rather eat healthily with the odd treat all year round.
5. I hate low carb diets and so does my family. After the last truly low carb diet, my wife said ‘never again’. After a week I was moody, emotional and generally a boor. I lost a lot of fat quickly but it was tough on her. I’ve never gone there again. She and my kids deserve better.
6. I despise the ‘Dad-Bod’ phenomenon. Actually one of the biggest motivators for me to start this website was the proliferation of the ‘Dad-Bod’ and its glorification among some sections of the internet. It represents everything wrong with male parenting culture today. I don’t want to be a soft, flabby dad. I want big traps, a small waist and thick quads. I want to be powerful – the epitome of masculinity.
I want to be able to run up stairs, jump, climb and wrestle without being out of breath. And I want to be around for as long as possible. Pigging out for several months at a time is not going to get me to where I want to be.
7. Gorging on junk foods sets a bad example. Hopefully if you’re reading this site, you want your kids to grow up fit, healthy, tough and resilient. Stuffing your face with junk in front of them and excusing it because you’re on some bizarre bodybuilders ‘off season’ diet is hardly going to teach them about intelligent food choices.
Do you have you’re own experiences of bulking diets? Maybe you disagree with everything I’ve written? Feel free to send me an email or post in the comments below.
P.S. Liked this? Check out my other fitness and nutrition articles: