T Nation

When to Bulk Up?


I wanted to know what all your opinions are regarding starting a bulking cycle only when under 15% bodyfat. I am currently at 16.8% and heard that I will gain more lean mass and less fat if I first drop under 15% bodyfat before going on a bulking cycle. I personally would prefer doing this also as it will be easier for me to maintain a leaner look.



A little more info is needed such as..

how long have ya been training

how long have ya been eating for optimal body compisition

how old are you and whats your current height and weight

All of these things can effect the answer.


Your number for body fat percentage should NOT be what you base your moves on. I am truly tired of even hearing people's numbers. Unless you are obese, please stop focusing on your number so much. If you are a rail thin guy with 16.00008546% bodyfat, why the living hell would you DIET? OBVIOUSLY, if someone is gaining too much body fat while putting on weight, you simply cut back on the calories or increase activity. is it that simple? Yes, it damn sure is.


If you are a beginner who is soft but skinny (little muscle), you do not need to diet or 'bulk'. You should the rights foods with calories around estimated maintenance. This should allow you to build muscle and get leaner at the same time. Before too long, your body composition will be much improved and you'll be ready to do some serious mass-building. This is the best approach in my opinion.


I think eating a little bit of above maintenance is generally what I would describe not 5000 cals right away but to get the metabolism jump started.


are you new to lifting or what? It sorta seems like it.... if you are dont even worry about bulking or cutting, just eat alot and good and gain some damn muscle. Later on is when youll even have to worry about either one.


I'm 30 years old and have been training on and off for about 10 years. I'm 5'6, started at 120lbs and went up to 167lbs (at 22-23% bodyfat). I've done some bulking cycles in the past which definitly helped me get a good base but hated the amount of fat I was left with afterwards. Now that I'm back in the game, I decided to do things differently. Instead of eating everything in site, I decided to eat clean and see what I have to work with. I'm now at 153lbs, eating clean now for about 2 months, looking to gain some mass once again but without the huge gut. I want to feel good about myself when I take off my shirt which was not the case in the past at 167lbs. I filled out my clothes nicely but underneath, it just didn't look good (at least to me). This is where I'm coming from ...


Thanks for your input. I put my percentage on this thread to see what the general opinion would be. I agree with what your saying to a certain extent. At 120lbs, I decided to bulk as it was the obvious thing to do. Today, I could do exactly the same thing I did in the past once again and aim for more but I just hated the way I looked after my bulking cycle was over.

This time around, I want to put some mass again but still maintain a lean look in the process. My original question comes from the fact that I was told that I have a better chance to gain lean mass under 15% bf during a bulking cycle than lets say at 20%. Do you know if there's any truth to this ?


I personally don't believe it. I think someone who diets down (like Da Freak who dieted for his contest) is simply more likely to avoid gaining much fat again. Having already built a solid base of size, it simply gives the impression that he gains more lean body mass. The reality is, he has gained back around 30lbs in about two months after the contest. That is simply how I have seen the body work in terms of bulking and dieting and then gaining again. Your training of "on and off" is what stands out more than anything. You sound like nearly everyone else who is not consistent. I don't train on and off. I have trained consistently for years. Obviously, my body will respond to that if I were to diet down strictly. I have noticed significant gains in the past by doing so once returning to gaining and I wasn't always under 15% body fat when I went back to gaining size.

I think you "bulked" wrong in the past if you truly put on that much body fat. I am not the type of person who really cares about being under 10% body fat unless I was trying to compete. In fact, my personal limit is keeping my waist under around 40" when bulking. All else seems to fall into place. Obviously, our genetics are not the same. I have a large wide frame and you need to find your own limits as far as what you will deal with.

Beyond all else, someone who can't even train without it being "off and on" shouldn't be "bulking up" much to begin with. That action is for those who will still be in the gym a year later, not for those who do this as New Year's Resolutions only to drop out months later.


Also, your actions in the past don't make you a "former fat boy". You were fat because you ate too damn much, not because of some genetic predisposition. Labels like that may help sell books or brand name training programs, but very rarely do so many people fit these categories.


If you bulk the right way and not totally out of control you may never get to 20%. The idea of dieting down before you try to gain mass is a sound idea if the subject is obese but the OP isn't. He just gained too much fat last time he bulked. He needs to keep a closer eye on the scale and his pants size this time but anyone to diet at 153lbs sounds ridiculous to me.


In summary, it looks like everyone has a slightly yet similar opinion regarding when to get on and off a bulking cycle. Thanks for everyone's feedback. I will definitly do things a little different this time around.


Exactly. I've been bulking for almost half a year now (cleanly). I've put on 40 lbs. but not much extra bodyfat; basically 2" added to my waist compared to 4.5" added to my legs and 5" added to my chest - not to mention adding between 30 - 50 lbs to all my major lifts.

I'm averaging about 1 - 2 lbs a week going steady for about 6 months. I'm sure I could have put on more in this time if I was stuffing down things like ice cream instead of steak, but I'd prefer to finish my bulk with more muscle than fat.


The camps on both sides of this issue are both too extreme.

Research and observation of real world examples both support that the fatter you when adding weight, the easier it is to add fat with your muscle. This should be a simple question for anyone. Some would have you believe that you should bulk until you're 250 pounds before you even think of dieting off the fat. Others would never have you lose your six-pack.

The people that say bulk no matter what are as retarded as the 120-pounder cutting.

Simple solution:
Quite listening to everyone else's standard. If you are carrying more than 15% body fat and you don't mind, then bulk. If you look in the mirror and cringe, cut. There is no other criterion needed. It doesn't matter how much muscle you have, or what your BF% is, only appearance.

In summary, be aware of the fact that the fatter you are the more fat you will gain when bulking, and when deciding if to bulk or cut, just look in the damn mirror and decide.

If you're an athlete or obese, this obviously doesn't apply.



I would agree with this one.


Generally on point. But the reason that it does matter is that someone who is a beginner, or who had a long layoff, and/or never trained correctly as seems the case with the original poster, does not need to actively bulk or diet to improve body composition. They can simply lift hard on a good routine and eat good foods to the point of being satisfied and lose fat and gain muscle at the same time. They can begin an active bulk when leaner and more muscular which may not take all that long. Progress can be astoundingly quick when the proper approach is taken by someone who hasn't been taking it.


Agreed 100%


I must have missed it, but who said people should bulk until they weigh 250lbs?


For the record, I'm not advocating obese people should bulk or 120-pounders should cut.

I'm just saying that it is possible to bulk without adding 10% (or whatever) to your existing bodyfat percentage.