Bulking and cutting – a double act that’s up there with Ant and Dec, Batman and Robin, fish and chips… but, just in case you aren’t familiar with these terms, we’ll give you the lowdown.
Bulking or gainer season in the fitness community usually begins from October and continues through to March. During this period, the priority is upping your calorie intake in order to gain muscle mass, sort of like stocking your body up during the cold winter months.
When March hits, the shred starts. Cutting season commencing means reduced calories, higher reps with lighter weights to keep muscle, and increased cardio to burn excess fat. In short, this is where the hard work really begins.
So, that’s the theory, but what about in practice? We teamed up with our ambassador Mike Diamonds for an insight into what it’s like to live through bulking and cutting seasons.
Who is Mike Diamonds?
First things first, we should explain why Mike’s advice is well worth listening to. Not only is he dedicated to fitness and bodybuilding, he’s actually in his third year of training at medical school. He prides himself on using his academic knowledge to transform his body using a “completely scientific and medical approach” – optimising training times and cardio to fit around his busy med school schedule.
Impressive, right? Over 200,000 other people think so too – Mike’s work and fitness ethic has earned him a massive following on YouTube and Instagram (@mikediamonds23).
Here’s what he has to say…
When do you start and finish each bulking/cutting phase?
I start cutting March 15th and that can last for 12-16 weeks. I then transition into a lean bulk for the rest of the year, with small mini-cuts integrated every 2-3 months just to make sure I minimise fat gain. So, in summary: March 15th – July 15th = cut, and the rest is bulk.
How do you make the transition from bulking to cutting, nutrition wise?
About two weeks before my cutting date I clean up my diet and start eating the foods I would on a cut, just in higher proportion. This allows my body to accustom itself to the new diet.
I also start consuming three litres of water daily, which is just to create the habit, and gauge my body’s metabolism. When the cutting date arrives two weeks later I start dieting properly and quickly see a weight drop as my body notices the calorie deficit.
Do you weigh yourself during phases? If so, how often?
In my bulking phase I tuck away all my scales, just to give myself a mental break, but I’ll measure weekly or biweekly at the gym just to see progress.
In my cutting phase, I do so on a daily basis, in the morning right after using the bathroom. I record my weight as the data can be really useful during cutting and for reference in future cuts.
How much cardio do you do whilst bulking?
I try walking as much as possible, taking stairs, just keeping active. If that doesn’t happen, then I’ll do a good 20-minute walk on the treadmill three times a week.
Do your supplements change during bulking/cutting phases?
How do you mentally cope with the cutting phase?
When it gets bad – calories are low and cardio is high – my team, Team Diamonds, are really supportive. Everywhere I look there’s plenty of motivational messages and posts. I find a feeling that I’m not doing it on my own, and I don’t want to let anyone down.
How long did your transformation take and what tips would you give to those starting their journey?
My longest one took a whole year, but now on average it takes me 16 weeks.
My biggest tip is consistency. Your goals – whatever they are – won’t be achieved without it, whether you’re looking to build muscle or decrease body fat.
In terms of diet, I highly advise to learn about macros and calories. Mastering them allows you to make dieting enjoyable which makes it sustainable. It’s hard to adopt this lifestyle and stick at it if you’re only ever eating chicken and broccoli.
So, now you’re clued up on these stock fitness phrases and you have the insider info from a veteran of the regime. If you’re feeling inspired enough to start your own cutting and bulking cycle, follow this link to find out the right way to go about it.