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Cutting it Out

4 minutes read  

by Harry
on 01 Sep, 20234 minutes read

Bulking and cutting efficiently and correctly takes planning, precision and consistency. Unfortunately, I skipped all three of those steps and took a hugely basic approach to the idea.

The bulk is certainly the simpler of the two phases - you consume more calories than you burn (with plenty of protein) and you work out a lot. In reality, there's more to it than that, but if you follow that basic concept you should gain muscle.

Now, I loved bulking. I felt energetic, strong and was building muscle with ease. Sure, becoming comfortable with eating 3200 calories a day wasn't easy at first, but once my body got used to it, bulking was breeze. I was always hungry, so I would happily eat whatever I wanted as often as I wanted and I put on about 5 kilos in a few months, and most of it was muscle. A good first bulk in my opinion.

But every bulk comes with a cut, and the bad definitely outweighs the good...

Having previously done a stint of intermittent fasting, I thought I'd be okay cutting my calories. But boy did I overestimate myself... I went from having loads of energy during my morning workouts and never feeling tired during the day. To now, where waking up at 6am has become a myth, the quality of my workouts has dramatically decreased and I'm tired all day long. I haven't properly tracked my calories or even kept a close eye on my macros. I haven't been sleeping anywhere near enough and I haven't been working out as much (I can't remember the last time I did a full rotation of my split).

Put that all together and you get a failed attempt at a cut. Instead of seeing fat loss while I maintained muscle mass, I saw a loss of muscle mass with very little change in my body fat. What's worse? I'm now weaker than I was 4 months ago, and had to drop the weight for nearly every single working set of every single lift in my routine...

So, I spent 6 months working really hard to build up muscle, just to lose a bunch in the space of 4 weeks because I didn't plan or educate myself going into the cut. Honestly, it feels like I just threw about half a year of gym progress down the drain.

Now, I can sit here and sulk about it or I can learn from it. Given I've already ranted for about 5 minutes, let's get onto the learning...

Here are the key mistakes I made during the cut, that I won't be making again:

  • Sleep: I shouldn't need a genius to tell me that 4 hours of a sleep is not enough, but apparently I do. There have been too many nights of 4-6 hours sleep that only led to one thing - fewer workouts and feeling drained during the day.
  • Diet - Part 1: Not only did I fail to monitor my calories, but I didn't prioritise protein anywhere near as much as I should have. So, I didn't know what calorie deficit I was in, and I know for a fact that I wasn't having enough protein to maintain muscle mass.
  • Diet - Part 2: Failing to monitor my calories was bad enough, but eating takeaways 3-times a week on average was not only expensive, but cost me much more than money. I'm convinced this is a huge factor in failing to lose fat.
  • Diet - Part 3: The worse part of my diet was consistency. Some days I would have breakfast, some days I wouldn't. Sometimes I'd have a big lunch, sometimes I'd have no dinner. My calories were always fluctuating and honestly, I reckon it was surplus some days.
  • Workout Consistency & Quality: This ties in to all the points above. Bad sleep, low calories and unhealthy dinners only kept me out of the gym and even when I did make it, the quality was far worse that it has ever been before.
  • Bulk-to-Cut Transition: When I decided to begin the cut, I didn't gradually transition into a calorie deficit. This is bad for a bunch of reasons, but to put it simply, when you suddenly cut your calories by a huge amount, your body goes into survival mode - clinging onto all the calories it can and being very stubborn when it comes to burning fat. Moving between the bulk and cut requires a very calculated and gradual approach so you don't shock your system with 1000 fewer calories than it's used to.

I've put myself in a difficult spot. I don't know whether to get the cut back on track and deal with the loss of muscle mass by trimming all the fat and seeing what the results are. Or, whether to get back on a bulk, do it all over again and cut properly when I get back to a good size. Well, with a beach holiday coming up in September, I think I'll stick with the cut but do it right for the next few weeks. Once I come back, it will be nearing October and the autumn/winter bulk will be starting for most of the community and I think I'll take another swing at the whole thing then.

The bottom line is - I didn't educate myself well enough and what's worse... I was careless with the things I did know. I recently put together a beginners guide to bulking and cutting for myself and anyone else looking to really nail the cycle and see the best results.

If you read this far, then I'm sorry for yet another rant.

See you for bulk round two in October.