Cutting and bulking: The 2 stages of the process to make you stronger

Cutting and bulking: The 2 stages of the process to make you stronger

Cutting and Bulking are two English concepts, equivalent to the Spanish terms “definición” or “corte”, and “volumen” or “engorde”, respectively.

It consists of the most extended practice of bodybuilders for the improvement of body composition.

Discover all the secrets to optimise Cutting and Bulking this season!

What is Cutting and Bulking

Cutting, “slimming”, “expanding”, “cut”, “definition”, etc… These are frequent terms in the months of March-June; while from September to December you will only hear about the “bulking” or “volume”.

Both are stages in the process of improving body composition.

It is not clear which stage precedes the other, and it depends on the particular situation of the basic physical condition of the person completing them.

  • Cutting: the process of fat loss trying to maintain as much muscle mass as possible.
  • Bulking: process of muscle mass gain trying to gain as little fat as possible.

what is cutting and bulking

The general practice is to sequence both definition and volume stages.

Thus, to start again successively season after season, with an average duration per year of

  • 6-9 months of Bulking.
  • 1-4 months of Cutting.

What is the difference?

The difference lies in the objective pursued:

In bulking the goal is to gain muscle mass at the expense of everything.

Sometimes you come across a negative connotation with “Dirty Bulking”, which refers to the increase in caloric intake with the aim of gaining muscle mass, triggering fat gain due to poor management of the energy balance.

Cover of full day of bulking

Cover of a video by Jeff Nippard, Fitness Youtuber.

Cutting is aimed at losing fat while trying to maintain as much muscle mass as possible.

In contrast, this stage tends to have more moderate approaches (although the case should be analysed on an individual basis) as the bulking process is often perceived as too hard to be ruined by aggressive cutting

Bulking transformation

Bulking Transformation.

Both stages are sequenced, so that each time a new “Bulking-Cutting” cycle is started, the starting point is clearly higher than at the beginning of the previous cycler.

Overcompensation effect

Graphic representation of the phenomenon of overcompensation.

Cutting Stage

The Cutting stage, as we have already previously mentioned, is the period where the aim is to lose as much body fat as possible while maintaining as much muscle mass as possible.

Energy balance

Graphic representation of the (negative) energy balance and its contributors.

To do this, low-calorie diets are performed, i.e. energy intake is reduced along with increased physical activity/exercise to produce a negative energy balance. I recommend that you visit the following link for more details on this factor.

How can you do a cutting diet?

The most relevant factor of a Cutting stage is diet.

While training is a key part of maintaining muscle mass, if the diet is not low-calorie (the scale moves to the right), no body fat will be lost.

Under the premise of a low-calorie diet as a “sine qua non” condition, the other factors and the point at which this energy restriction is reached are variable and depend on the athlete’s strategy.

I’m going to show you a simple way to go on a cutting diet:

  1. Weigh yourself every day for a week and calculate a mean.(Let’s say 70kg)
  2. Establishes a daily energy intake of 35kcal per kg of weight (35*70=2450kcal per day)
  3. Weigh yourself daily and calculate the mean:
  • Have you gained weight -> You must lower your calories.
  • Have you maintained the same weight -> You must lower your calories.
  • Have you lost weight? -> How much?
    • 0,1-0,5% Body weight (70-350g) -> Maintain or lower calories.
    • 0,5-1% Body weight (350-700g) -> Maintain calories for one more week.
    • >1% Body weight (>700g) -> Increase calories.

Remember the rule:

Each 100g of weight gain or loss is approximately 90kcal of energy surplus or deficit, respectively.

Imagine you want to lose 0.5% of your body weight per week, and with the calories set (35kcal*kg CP) you have gained 200g this week.

You have a surplus of 180kcal per day (+200g) + you pursue an extra loss of 350g (315kcal):

2450 – (180 + 315) = 1955 kcal per day is the amount of calories for your cutting diet.

You should keep these kcal until you have not lost the desired amount of body weight for a period of about two weeks, at which time you readjust by doing the calculation again.

You can register your food to find out your daily energy intake on mobile apps such as FatSecret or My Fitness Pal.

Distribution of macronutrients

A high protein diet is preferable because of the metabolic benefits of this nutrient and the preservation of muscle mass.

Around 2 – 2.5 g of protein per kg of body weight.

The distribution of carbohydrates and fats is quite irrelevant as long as we reach the target caloric intake, although we could consider:

  • Keep carbohydrates as high as possible, to avoid some of the negative adaptations due to energy deficit.
  • Avoid keeping fats excessively low (~<0.6g/kg) for long periods of time.
  • Ensure adequate intake of essential fatty acids (Omega-3 and Omega-6).
  • Ensure approximate fibre consumption of 15g per 1000kcal.
  • In case of maintaining low carbohydrate diets, choose predominantly rich sources of fructose, trying to consume around 100g of this sugar per day.


Ulisses, Fitness model.

With these tips, maintained over time, you will get your body back on track, as long as you don’t skip the diet with cheat meals!

Bulking, gaining volume

Bulking is the most important period for many fitness professionals.

We already know that it is the stage where you gain the greatest amount of muscle mass of the whole season, and that sets the basis for global development and future cutting.


Physical transformation.

“Definition” without “Volume” does not give an aesthetic aspect nor is it associated with muscle development.

When is the perfect moment for Bulking?

In general, bulking in the winter months is recommended, but there is no biological principle governing this.

Then, why is it done?

Simply because you’re bulking up, you look worse (temporarily), and in the winter you don’t do as many shirtless activities where you show off your physique.


Bulking-cutting transformation.

However, there would be no problem in doing a bulking in summer, being aware that it is a stage incompatible with a “beach” definition point, which does not mean that we have to get fat either.

Strength is in the balance.

How long should you bulk for?

There is no clear time frame.

It is best to maintain a moderate approach:

Preferably longer in time to avoid excessive fat gain, as the ability to gain muscle mass is limited, and by eating more, we will not gain more muscle mass, but more fat.

Graphic 1

Changes in body weight (BW), fat mass (FM) and lean mass (LBM) in the group that consumed more kcal (NCG) compared to the group that had a more moderate intake (ALG).

Normally, between 6 and 9 months of bulking is recommended, being the longest stage of the cycle.

However, there would be no problem for a person with little muscle development, who starts training, to undertake a bulking stage of more than one year (and sometimes several years) in order to establish a good muscle base on which to work.

David Laid

Physical transformation of David Laid, Youtuber and Fitness Model.

Everything depends on the objectives of each person in training.

The general recommendation is to establish the bulking time in relation to body composition.
  • A man would stop bulking when he reaches 16-18% body fat.
  • A woman would stop bulking when she reaches 24-26% body fat.

Cutting and bulking infography

What foods should you eat for volume?

Those that you like best and allow you to reach your nutrient requirements.

Food selection is not a relevant factor for improvements in body composition, the “clean food” / “dirty food” dichotomy became obsolete years ago.

  • If you feel better eating clean,, then eat clean.
  • If you feel better introducing more processed foods, do it whenever it fits your needs.

The organism works with small molecules, oxidised substrates (REDOX), where the origin of these is irrelevant.

If you are not diabetic and the net amount you consume is the same, the effects on body composition and health will be identical.

Your blood will get the same glucose from ice cream or brown rice.

It is preferable to use a base of quality food, because of its higher nutritional density, presence of fibre, higher water content, satiety, etc.

Although in bulking, especially heavier people or “hard-gainers” who have to consume a lot of calories in order to gain weight, may recurrently use ice cream, pizzas, and in general, foods with higher caloric density so that their digestive system does not present problems associated with the consumption of large volumes of food and high digestion requirements.

Whipped foods are also a good option for limiting chewing, a factor contributing to satiety. Do you want recipes? Click here.

Supplements for Cutting and Bulking

There are many supplements for both stages, many depending on individual variables.

For example:

A vegan may gain muscle mass and lose fat with the same quality and quantity as an omnivorous person, but may at certain times require food supplements based on calcium, iron and/or vitamin B12 to prevent possible nutritional deficiencies that may hamper the process. I won’t go into this.

Evowhey 2.0

Evowhey can work perfectly for both volume and definition.

A general recommendation for supplements would be:

  • Creatine monohydrate for Bulking and Cutting, should be used all year long, at a rate of 3g or more daily.
  • Evowhey 2.0 / Evolate 2.0, could be used as food, if you do not reach your protein requirements, you can use it. Possibly in bulking it is less useful to you.
  • Amilopectina 2.0, could be used as food, if you do not reach your carbohydrate requirements, you can use it. Possibly in bulking it is more useful to you.
  • Evordx 2.0 for Bulking and Cutting, or other pre-workouts that will help you perform better in the session. Possibly in cutting you will find it more useful.
  • Caffeine for Cutting, additional because of its effects on fat loss and appetite, which can help achieve your goal more quickly. Evoburn  is a recommended option.

Lipolysis diagram

Figure X. Mechanisms of action that regulate lipolysis and anorexia due to caffeine consumption.

Bibliography References

  1. Garthe, I., Raastad, T., Refsnes, P. E., & Sundgot-Borgen, J. (2013). Effect of nutritional intervention on body composition and performance in elite athletes. European Journal of Sport Science, 13(3), 295–303.
  2. Harpaz, E., Tamir, S., Weinstein, A., & Weinstein, Y. (2017). The effect of caffeine on energy balance. Journal of Basic and Clinical Physiology and Pharmacology, 28(1), 1–10.
  3. Hector, A. J., & Phillips, S. M. (2018). Protein Recommendations for Weight Loss in Elite Athletes: A Focus on Body Composition and Performance. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 28(2), 170–177.
  4. Helms, E. R., Aragon, A. A., & Fitschen, P. J. (2014). Evidence-based recommendations for natural bodybuilding contest preparation: Nutrition and supplementation. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 11(1), 20.
  5. Schoenfeld, B. J., & Aragon, A. A. (2018). How much protein can the body use in a single meal for muscle-building? Implications for daily protein distribution. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 15(1), 10.
  6. Schoenfeld, B. J., Aragon, A. A., & Krieger, J. W. (2015). Effects of meal frequency on weight loss and body composition: A meta-analysis. Nutrition Reviews, 73(2), 69–82.
  7. Slater, G. J., Dieter, B. P., Marsh, D. J., Helms, E. R., Shaw, G., & Iraki, J. (2019). Is an Energy Surplus Required to Maximize Skeletal Muscle Hypertrophy Associated With Resistance Training. Frontiers in nutrition, 6, 131.

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Review of Cutting ad Bulking

What is Bulking? - 100%

What is Cutting? - 100%

Duration of each stage - 100%

Recommended supplements - 100%


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About Alfredo Valdés
Alfredo Valdés
He is a specialist in metabolic physiopathology training and in the biomolecular effects of food and physical exercise.
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