There are two main ways to bulk and cut: bulk and cut simultaneously or bulk up and then lean down. The second method is much more traditional and still the prevailing model employed by professional bodybuilders, fitness enthusiasts and committed lifters.
- Determine body weight and caloric needs
Shoot for a caloric range that is roughly body weight multiplied 16 times. Consume at least 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. Devote 25 percent of caloric intake to fat, preferably mono- and polyunsaturated. Let the remainder of calories come from a fibrous, slow-digesting carbs like sweet potatoes, oatmeal and brown rice.
- Eat at night and after working out
The body's metabolism slows as evening approaches. It's during these times that retention of calories is more likely. Consuming quality protein, carbs and fats at night packs on pounds and stabilizes blood sugar, preventing midday cravings. In addition to a preworkout meal for energy, enjoy a post-workout meal replacement shake. It prevents catabolism, or muscle breakdown, and protects gains.
- Perform less cardio than usual or none at all
Cardio drains energy and utilizes calories the body requires for recovering from intense lifting sessions. It can slow gains dramatically or cancel them entirely.
- Lift three to four times per week
Do an upper/lower split or divide workouts by body parts, isolating weaknesses. Lift heavy, do fewer sets, and shoot for a low rep range for strength. If mass is the goal, do three to five sets of eight to 15 reps with moderate weight.
- Reintroduce cardio and restrict carbs and fat
Allow 11 to 15 weeks for a complete, successful cutting phase or a weight loss rate of 1 pound per week. Do 30 to 40 minutes of cardio on nonlifting days, plus a minimum of 20 minutes on lifting days. Drop carb intake to a half gram per pound of body weight, but don't limit fruits. Try to avoid saturated fat completely; obtain healthy fats from whole food sources. Or supplement with essential fatty acids and eat foods rich in EFAs. Eat every two to three hours.
- Schedule cheat meals or refeed days
Enjoy a cheat meal or a refeed day every three to four days. Eat anything. This ratchets up metabolism and tricks the body into thinking the diet is over. Upon returning to caloric restriction, the body inadvertently burns more fat than usual. This is an old pro technique.
- Add an extra day of lifting as needed
Add a fourth day to a three day split or a fifth day to a four day split. Switch exercises every two weeks to promote muscle confusion. Lower the weight amounts and raise the number of sets and rep range to heighten the fat-burning intensity.
- Tweak workouts, carbs and fat
If weight loss during the cutting phase exceeds one and half pounds per week, lower the amount of cardio, add a few carbs and a little more fat. Adjust each variable in this equation until achieving optimal fat loss of 1 pound per week.