T Nation

To Bulk or To Cut?

I seriously need some advice because I’m losing my mind!! = D
Whats up everyone, before I begin I just want to say that I’m new here to T Nation and I’m loving it.

Okay so now heres my problem I’m 20 yo and currently, 6’, 175lbs, 19%BF and a 36 in waist. I’m like a skinny, fat guy and it sucks. I feel stuck between a rock and a hard place, the rock being bulking and the hard place is cutting. Let me explain.

To Bulk?
I obviously need size but I feel that I’m too fat to bulk because if I put on any more fat I’m going to be over 20% which is actually considered somewhat dangerous. I also feel that if I bulk now, when I finally get some size I can be proud of and want to cut, I’m going to have to cut so far that I’m going to lose a lot of the muscle I worked so hard for.

To Cut?
I have almost 20% BF and that’s a lot of fat (about 30 lbs to be exact) so I need to cut that down because I would like to be around 10% or preferably 9%. That would leave me at about 160lbs and everyone tells me that’d be too small but I think I’d rather look like David Beckham than Chris Farley.

At the same time everyone says that it’ll be much easier to cut down once I do have a solid muscle base and that without one it might be extremely difficult to get down that low. Also I see some people on here and BB.com that are so skinny that they are at 7% BF and you can still see nothing, they just look sick, they look like marathon runners, and that’s not exactly a look I’m going for (granted though most of the people I see like that are extreme ectomorphs and probably like 135 lbs = /).

I have been working out on and off now for literally a year. A year! and I have made no progress because I cut for a few weeks and say I think this is wrong, than take a few weeks off than start to bulk a few and say no. Its crazy and I need to just go in one direction but which one? Please people I’m losing my mind here lol, I need advise, I need direction, I need guidance! So please, what are your thoughts? I need as much advise as I can get and hopefully the results are unanimous in one direction = )Thanks in advance.

(Just as a side note, there is no way to gain mass and lose fat at the same time right? If there is, how?))

Neither.

Get a nail a solid diet as in food intake not cutting diet is simply what you eat. Then train HARD and dont do it on and off but be consistent with both for oh say a year or two. See what comes from hard work and consistency. You should be able to make a hell of a transformation with just keeping it simple.

There is NO way id tell someone your height and weight to cut. just work hard on diet and training.

Phill

Thanks Phil, so as far as a healthy diet is concerned, you’d say just eat clean, like fruits, veges, lean meats and whole grains kind of thing? Should I not even count my calories? Just cut the junk and go for it? Or should I eat in excess but do so cleanly?

I wouldn’t count calories if I were you. Keep it simple. Eat often, satisfy your hunger. Cut the junk. You know what healthy is. Don’t worry about gaining or cutting right now. Like Phil said, you need consistantcy both in diet and training.

Alright, definitely sounds like a plan! My biggest problem is obviously consistency and I have actually been thinking that I’ve been over complicating things. I’m going to focus my attention on lifting and trying to get stronger and thats its and we shall see where that gets me! Thanks again guys

I’m going to have to disagree with the other people that have posted here. The guy is 20 years old, the zenith of his life, and is in terrible shape. Sure he can spend the next year or two learning good diet and workout etiquette, but I don’t see why he can’t learn these things while simultaneously making a conscious effort to cut/bulk.

He’s wasted enough time as it is, and if I were him, I’d set a goal, and make a bee line for it. Then again, I’m the type of person that hates wasting time, and has to see progress every single workout.

To respond to your question itk0i…

If you’re like me, which is someone who lifts for general health and aesthetic reasons, and not a bodybuilder/powerlifter, I would suggest you cut up to a single digit body fat percentage first, and then bulk. The reason being that you’re already at 20% bf, and in a nutshell, when you start bulking, the fatter you are, the more fat you’ll gain.

Meanwhile, if you bulk from a low body fat percentage, you’ll make much more quality gains. I can attest to this, because I cut down from about 22% body fat to around 7% body fat, and now I’m bulking and up to around 11%, but I look nothing like I did when I was last around 11% body fat.

I look leaner, and the mass I’ve been putting on is quality stuff. Basically, when you bulk from a low body fat, you won’t look fat. Just built. Also, if you’re just an every day guy like me, not into competitions or anything, then you want to look good and attract the ladies year round.

If you cut up, granted you’ll look like a scrawny wimp for a while, but at least you’ll be cut, the shallowness of society won’t give you any problems (as being skinny is considered ok for some dumb reason), and there are women that still like that kind of stuff.

Conversely, if you bulk from 20% body fat, you’re going to become a bit of a slob in the eyes of girls, society, and most importantly, yourself.

Velz I think I completely agree with you. It makes sense and thats kind of what I was thinking originally when everyone was telling me that I’d be to skinny I say I’d rather look like Beckham than Farley. But everyone kept telling me bulk bulk lol, which started to make me feel like I was making a mistake cutting till I was so skinny.

My intentions are completely aesthetic and for health. I also felt that if I bulk when I’m skinny I will be able to see my progress every workout better than now when I’m fat because the muscle I’m trying to build won’t be so hidden and like you I like seeing progress every workout. I do think I’ll go with your advise.

I want to ask you now, you made awesome progress, how’d you do it? Did you follow any specific workout program or diet? how long did it take? I’m thinking I have to drop about 18 pounds, so if I do a 1000 calorie deficit it shouldn’t take me more than 10 weeks, but I’m not sure. So any advise on losing some fat as fast as I can?

Also what was your weight when you were up at 20% and how’d you look when you dropped down? Did you or do you have a 6 pack?

You see the problem I’m finding with bulking first is the fact that I already am kind of fat, but its a weird fat. Being I’m like 150 something underneath it all, my body when I’m in clothes is still relatively thin so people don’t think that I’m fat when they meet me and that’s good.

However my face has also gotten fat, and being that my face is not skinny lol my face looks pretty fat, and when I see pics of myself back in the day and than I see pics now, I look fat because of my face. And when I meet people I haven’t seen in a long time I always get, wow you got fat, and I’m like how am I fat! I’m only 175 lbs lol, but I know I am fat.

So the problem is if I bulk now my face will also get fatter with the rest of my body you know? and I am not planning on competing like ever, its just not in my plans, so I do this soley for the ladies.

Walking around with a fat face isn’t cool, so I feel like I’d be better off cutting first because atleast when I’m skin and bones I won’t look sloppy like a do now and if I bulk than I only have to let myself go back up to like 14-15% if even that much and that would be nice. Does that make sense?

I’m confused you just had great advice from phil, then someone comes along and tells you to do what you’ve been doing and not happy with and you say thats great and what you will do?

It’s not even that Velz is wrong he might be right in thinking but horrible in advice. He didn’t say if he lossed weight to get to that single digit % or gained muscle or how fast.

#1) It takes work to make notable progress in a short time in your body that you will be happy with. Being that you already have a slow metabolism your going to have to do some drastic things to keep yourself from your every 3 week cycle of switching phases.

Maybe it’s not your choice of what to do that is holding you back but what you are doing to bulk, and what you are doing to cut.

People need to understand that “bulking” does not imply adding bodyfat. It simply means supplying your body was enough calories that it can actually build up tissue.

I beginner like yourself is best of doing what Phill wrote, not worrying about cutting or bulking or whatever, get your diet in check and go lift weights, simple as that.

More experienced athletes do add bodyfat while they are bulking simply because its so easy to lose it again so they do not want to sacrifice any gain in muscle mass that would’ve occurred IF they were eating more, and since you have no way of knowing when you are actually getting enough calories other then a gain of fat if you consume a little too much, you simply eat UNTIL you notice a little gain in bodyfat, train hard until you’ve reached a certain goal (like a bodyweight or a number of pounds in a certain lift), that “cut” it down again.

For a beginner, these thoughts are simply not of any importance.

Go ahead and start lifting, get enough quality food and rest, stick with it for a year and you will see results, your body composition will change for the better, running around at 175something lbs being worried if you have 17 or 15 or 16.38732847% BF and whether your face looks fat or not will get you nowhere.

[quote]Airtruth wrote:

It’s not even that Velz is wrong he might be right in thinking but horrible in advice. He didn’t say if he lossed weight to get to that single digit % or gained muscle or how fast.
[/quote]

What do my accomplishments have to do with the advice I gave? I used myself as a subtle reference to show I went through a similar problem as he did. Didn’t know I had to go into detail and make it an autobiography.

Here’s the problem with situations like this as I see it and why I think Phil is on the right track. Cutting, bulking, whatever are not words guys who are this new to the game need to be concerned with. He doesn’t actually care what anybody calls it, if he were to be questioned closely, he just wants to get healthier and in better shape.

Tell him to cut and he’ll likely wind up eating way too little, doing excessive cardio and damaging his metabolism. Tell him to bulk, which Phil didn’t, and he probably won’t wind up getting much leaner which he can definitely afford assuming 20% is accurate.

Tell him to eat 6 clean, well balanced, moderately sized meals a day while working a basic beginners program and he will not have preconceived notions of cutting or bulking in his way as he begins to lose fat, gain some muscle and not suffer from the drawbacks of attempting to do what won’t probably help him for a year or 2 at least.

This guy is a textbook example of when losing fat and gaining muscle at the same time is not only possible, but the preferred method. Yes folks you heard me say that. The eternal longing of so many, getting leaner and bigger at the same time. New trainees who are soft and scrawny can and should do just that.

Goals are good, but he isn’t in a position to have very specific ones yet. Get to a certain weight? What difference does that make for a small soft guy. Get to a certain BF%? Here comes the preoccupation with calorie restriction, BF tests of dubious accuracy and probably the scale none of which will do him any good at this point.

No, eat intelligently and train like a man with CONSISTENCY and PATIENCE while watching the mirror. He can post back here with questions about adjustments as he sees how it’s going if need be.

Do what you want friend. You are at the simplest point in your lifting career. Not the easiest, but the simplest. Over complicate it now and it will take you much longer than it has to see eye popping improvements in your physique and health.

Not that I count as a qualified expert around here or anything, but after scouring these boards for months after not being happy with the results I was getting, I decided to take the kind of advice Phil put up for you, and couldn’t be happier.

You just have to understand that “cutting” and “bulking” are things advanced bodybuilders and performance athletes grapple with, not everyday schmoes like us. For the average guy who wants to be happy with his body, to lean up and get bigger/stronger, the important things are the basics.

Like tribulus and Phil said, eat intelligently, stick with it, and keep track of your progress. Believe me, if you just hit the weights with diligence and dedication and a little bit of planning and insight, you’ll be happy with the results.

[quote]Velz wrote:
Airtruth wrote:

It’s not even that Velz is wrong he might be right in thinking but horrible in advice. He didn’t say if he lossed weight to get to that single digit % or gained muscle or how fast.

What do my accomplishments have to do with the advice I gave? I used myself as a subtle reference to show I went through a similar problem as he did. Didn’t know I had to go into detail and make it an autobiography.[/quote]

My bad I saw about 5 paragraphs, I didn’t know saying “I dropped 14% in 6 months” is that difficult. I could’ve swore he said he did both a cut and a bulk before and was unsuccessful. So yeah you answered his question and he might skip Phil’s advice and take yours and cut.

Attempt to cut for a month instead of 2 weeks, then be upset because he still looks skinny fat and try then try bulk. Hmmm reminds me of what he did before.

As I said before you can be right you can be wrong, but advice wise all he got is the answer he wanted to hear which doesn’t always help. If you disagree then so be it, I’m just stating to the O.P. I side with phil, and the reason why.

Heres the issue:
You obviously want to look your best as soon as possible. I can’t blame you, I was the same way a couple of years ago. I thought, “hey, I’m tired of being a fat ass and staring at my fat face in the mirror.” I was 6’2" about 185 and probably around 16 - 18% BF. I found the hard way that cutting was not the way to go.

I started dieting and was getting around 2k calories/day. I lost 5 - 10 pounds, and wasn’t even close to looking how I wanted to; so I cut even more calories. I got down to about 1300 calories/day and 156 pounds. To tell you the truth I liked the way I looked at that weight compared to the 185, even though I looked like a concentration camp survivor.

I’ve always wanted to be around 210 and lean, and that was not the way to do it. The problem was I killed my metabolism, and would gain weight easily even with loads of cardio and weight training at 2500 calories a day! It sucked. I like to eat, which I’m guessing you do too.

Today I’m sitting at 185 w/ 7% BF. This took me years to do because I killed my metabolism. I went up to 190 six months after I was down to 156 and had about 14% BF. I had more muscle, but looked pretty much the same as I had before. The problem is you can only cut your calories so much, until you won’t see results anymore. Listen to Phil. Listen to Tiribulus.

I know the feeling of being fat and wanting quick results; however, the best approach is a slow and steady one. Your in a perfect position to keep your cals reasonably high (depending on the person I’m guessing maybe 2500 - 3000/day for you), cut out the junk food, bust your ass in the gym; results will come.

You will simultaneously build muscle and lose fat, albeit for a few weeks, maybe even a few months. I can eat about 3500 cal/day when I’m weight training (if I eat clean) and maintain my weight. I’m an endo/mesomorph. If I eat a bunch of junk food I blow up; I’m guessing you do to.

But then again, it’s really up to you. Yes you can go on a “cut” and lose fat and some muscle, and kill your metabolism. You’ll probably end up somewhat lean, and say, “hey, fuck those guys, I’m thin now and the ladies want me!” But then you will try to build muscle, and realize that you can barely eat 2k cals/day without gaining lots of fat.

It’s up to you, but if I had to do it again (I wish I was a T-Nation’r back in the day) I would have definitely stuck to what Phil and Tiribulus are telling you.

Good Luck,
Mark

[quote]Tiribulus wrote:
Here’s the problem with situations like this as I see it and why I think Phil is on the right track. Cutting, bulking, whatever are not words guys who are this new to the game need to be concerned with. He doesn’t actually care what anybody calls it, if he were to be questioned closely, he just wants to get healthier and in better shape.

Tell him to cut and he’ll likely wind up eating way too little, doing excessive cardio and damaging his metabolism. Tell him to bulk, which Phil didn’t, and he probably won’t wind up getting much leaner which he can definitely afford assuming 20% is accurate.

Tell him to eat 6 clean, well balanced, moderately sized meals a day while working a basic beginners program and he will not have preconceived notions of cutting or bulking in his way as he begins to lose fat, gain some muscle and not suffer from the drawbacks of attempting to do what won’t probably help him for a year or 2 at least.

This guy is a textbook example of when losing fat and gaining muscle at the same time is not only possible, but the preferred method. Yes folks you heard me say that. The eternal longing of so many, getting leaner and bigger at the same time. New trainees who are soft and scrawny can and should do just that.

Goals are good, but he isn’t in a position to have very specific ones yet. Get to a certain weight? What difference does that make for a small soft guy. Get to a certain BF%? Here comes the preoccupation with calorie restriction, BF tests of dubious accuracy and probably the scale none of which will do him any good at this point.

No, eat intelligently and train like a man with CONSISTENCY and PATIENCE while watching the mirror. He can post back here with questions about adjustments as he sees how it’s going if need be.

Do what you want friend. You are at the simplest point in your lifting career. Not the easiest, but the simplest. Over complicate it now and it will take you much longer than it has to see eye popping improvements in your physique and health.[/quote]

This was great advice. You need to put a year under your belt of learning how to make solid food choices (learn to embrace oatmeal, lean meats, fish, veggies, fruits, nuts, etc. and start cutting the cheeseburgers and pizza and soda down to just once in a while) and show up and put consistent effort into the gym when you are there.

To echo above, the shit is easy for you right now. Just little improvement go a long way. The biggest thing is, you really need to focus on is just nailing the basics. Learn the “7 Habits” of nutrition by John Berardi and get a good program on lifting and follow it diligently.

I was like you not too long ago. Not quite as high body fat but a skinny-fat and incredibly weak 165 at 6’4". A few years later and I’m about 11-12% at 220. So I’m no physique model yet but I’m stronger and in better shape than the vast majority of the population.

When I first started, I had the fortune of getting good advice and basically all I did was pick a training plan (I did WS4SB) and followed it exactly and tried to follow as many of the 7 Habits as I could. About 6 months later or so when I was doing that consistently, I started changing things up as I started learning.

The iron game is a looooong, gradual journey. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Master the basics for a year or two before you worry about bulking or cutting. You’ll make great improvements in your physique and will build a foundation for where you want to get to.

I’ll add my voice to the chorus supporting Phil’s advice (he’s one of the most helpful posters here), for reasons well-expressed already.

Don’t think in terms of bulk-cut, think in terms of lifestyle changes to diet and exercise. Clean up your diet and eat right, work smart and hard, keep at it, and the pieces will fall together. Worry about fine-tuning after you master the basics.

If you want substantial long-term changes it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.

[quote]Tiribulus wrote:
Here’s the problem with situations like this as I see it and why I think Phil is on the right track. Cutting, bulking, whatever are not words guys who are this new to the game need to be concerned with. He doesn’t actually care what anybody calls it, if he were to be questioned closely, he just wants to get healthier and in better shape.

Tell him to cut and he’ll likely wind up eating way too little, doing excessive cardio and damaging his metabolism. Tell him to bulk, which Phil didn’t, and he probably won’t wind up getting much leaner which he can definitely afford assuming 20% is accurate.

Tell him to eat 6 clean, well balanced, moderately sized meals a day while working a basic beginners program and he will not have preconceived notions of cutting or bulking in his way as he begins to lose fat, gain some muscle and not suffer from the drawbacks of attempting to do what won’t probably help him for a year or 2 at least.

This guy is a textbook example of when losing fat and gaining muscle at the same time is not only possible, but the preferred method. Yes folks you heard me say that. The eternal longing of so many, getting leaner and bigger at the same time. New trainees who are soft and scrawny can and should do just that.

Goals are good, but he isn’t in a position to have very specific ones yet. Get to a certain weight? What difference does that make for a small soft guy. Get to a certain BF%? Here comes the preoccupation with calorie restriction, BF tests of dubious accuracy and probably the scale none of which will do him any good at this point.

No, eat intelligently and train like a man with CONSISTENCY and PATIENCE while watching the mirror. He can post back here with questions about adjustments as he sees how it’s going if need be.

Do what you want friend. You are at the simplest point in your lifting career. Not the easiest, but the simplest. Over complicate it now and it will take you much longer than it has to see eye popping improvements in your physique and health.[/quote]

Great post

Phill

This is an awesome thread.

I’m inclined to believe it answers MANY questions beginners have on what to do.

[quote]Der Candy wrote:
This is an awesome thread.

I’m inclined to believe it answers MANY questions beginners have on what to do. [/quote]

There’s a lot of good information here but my concern is that the OP hasn’t bought into it yet. The last word from him was that he was going to try to cut as fast as possible. The rest of us know that he will wind you doing the yo yo thing and be in worse shape for it. I know.

I went from 216 & 30% fat to 198 & 30% fat, back when I was a beginner. You need to stabilize first. It wasn’t until I gave up the bulk/cut routine that I started to make real progress.

Stu