T Nation

Knowing Whether to Cut or Bulk?


This question is for my boyfriend -- he asked me for advice and I didn't feel qualified to give it to him. Wants to know if he should be trying to lose fat or gain muscle. How do people make these determinations? Is it just as simple as "how would you rather look" or are there practicalities to consider?

Relevant info: he's been working out since last summer. No sports background. 5'8'', and I'm guessing weighs somewhere in the 160's. Squat 235, dumbbell bench with 75's, deadlift something like 275. He does have a small belly, but it doesn't show if he has a shirt on. I really didn't know what to tell him. (Especially as he's quite a bit better than me in absolute terms.)

In terms of food, he eats healthy but what looks to me like a colossal amount. He's been on and off with his workouts, but this month he's been very into it.

Does that give you any idea what he should be doing? I'm sorry -- this might not be the kind of question you can judge easily, but I'm just curious if anybody has views.


What is his goal? If he want to put on more weight in terms of muscle and/or strength just bulk. If he wants to have a beachboy look, cut.




That's the thing -- he wasn't sure, and he was kind of asking me what I'd prefer, which is awkward and hard to answer. Obviously heavier=bulk, lighter=cut. Do you guys have some kind of personal gauge when you say "Okay, that's enough muscle, time to cut"?


Whatever he does, just make sure he doesn't keep doing a bulk/cut/bulk/cut/bulk/cut, etc. Either cut down to a good BF, then spend years bulking well until you get as big as you want. Or Do the opposite. I've found the going back and forth endlessly is a big waste of time. And who enjoys cutting anyway? :stuck_out_tongue:


It sounds like he doesn't even really care that much about his body, and he just wants your opinion. If you just want your guy to be lean and "fit" then tell him, you aren't going to hurt his feelings. If you want him to be more muscular, again, telling him this will not hurt his feelings.

Normally when a guy DOES care about this sort of thing, he has personal goals he'd like to set, for example: 18 inch arms, a 350lb bench press, and a 48 inch chest.

You would bulk until you reached that point, or overshot it so that you would be there when you cut down.


First, help him pick a workout plan. Something simple like Bill Starr 5x5.

Help him stick with it for at least six months.

Then we'll have this discussion.



If he isn't sure what his goal is, he should figure it out on his own. It's the difference between social training or just as a hobby and training and eating for serious goals.

If you push him the chance is he will quit training because it's just fun and he doesn't take it that seriously. Or he can set his own goals and go for it, where you can facilitate and assist him.

In terms of bulking my personal gauge is my bodyfat and not the amount of muscle. If my bodyfat is higher than X% I will start a cutting phase.


more like 'ok i look like a fatass now, time to cut'


I concur. When you're hiding from mirrors or cashed after walking a few blocks, it's probably time to trim up.


Thanks; this is great.
I am not a bossy person, so no worries on that score; he's his own man and I'm not pushing him at all.
So, no flip-flopping, consistency in the gym, and set your own goals -- that sounds like good advice. (It's what I do myself.)

If I were the Supreme Dictator of Male Attractiveness I'd say more muscle. But jeez, it's awkward to say "This is how I want your body to look" to someone you care for. I'm sure those of you with girlfriends understand.


girls are a lot different though, I'd definitely find it hard to tell a girl that I'm not happy with the way she looks

I can't speak for all guys, but I'd totally want you to tell me, because I would make the change. It wouldn't "hurt my feelings" or anything like that. Actually, I'd kind of be pissed off if you didn't tell me, and if you did, I'd be wishing you'd told me sooner.


this is very true, whatever he choses he has to be fully committed till he's happy. But based on his numbers and my own presumptions I'm betting he should probably bulk.. But of course it's his decision on the end


Ok, two things:

1) He shouldn't be asking you what you want him to be physically. That indicates an insecurity and an immaturity in him. He should pick his own damn goal and have the faith that you like him based on more than just his physical appearance, because you seem to be the kind of girl that is not really superficial.

2) Whether you bulk or cut is dependent on your goal, which he needs. But the general idea is that bulking or cutting depends on where you are in relation to that goal. If your goal is 200 lbs, and you are at 180, you keep bulking. If you are 180 and putting on more fat than you should because of bad eating habits or if you are getting soft (not "not ripped" but "soft") then you can do a mini cut to kill off some of that fat, then keep bulking.

This mini cut is NOT a time to try and get ripped or get a 6 pack. It's just a (short) time when you focus on leaning out some of the extra pudge you've attained after a long period--or a shorter period of crappy diet--of bulking.

Also, he needs to stay in the gym to get either one of these goals so being off/on isn't doing him any good favors.

The same can also be said about cutting--if you're losing too much muscle while cutting OR if you're leaning out faster than you'd like (not a problem for anyone I know unless you're aiming for a contest date to be in peak condition at a certain date), you can do a mini bulk---which is not really a bulk so much as a maintenance phase or a brief re-building process with clean foods--to keep muscle loss at bay.


Thank you. That's very insightful. You're right, it seemed a little like a "does my butt look big in these pants?" type of question, which is something I've never liked to do because it seems like foisting off a responsibility that should be my own.