When reading about gaining muscle mass and losing fat most (almost all) sources seem to recommend an alternating sequence of bulking and then cutting.

Wouldn't it be simpler and more convenient to just train a lot and eat enough and have this progress towards an equilibrium?

3 Answers 3


For what most bodybuilders are after, you pretty much have to operate within a bulking/cutting cycle.

In order to gain muscle mass effectively a bodybuilder (especially one who's been exercising for years) must eat in a surplus and work out efficiently. In doing this, they will also accumulate fat to some degree. This depends on how "clean" their bulk was.
Then in order to lose this excess fat, they have to "cut" by eating fewer calories than they use. In doing this, they also lose a bit of muscle.

If one were to follow the method you propose, they would indeed notice muscle/strength gains as well as likely gaining fat depending on their intake. For most casual gym goers and the general population, this would be a more than acceptable regime.

However many people looking to get into working out research bodybuilding advice and therefore find themselves researching a bulking/cutting cycle. For most people, it's not needed. But for competition bodybuilders or those looking to make very large changes, it is the superior route to go.


That's called recomposition, and it works to a certain extent. Most people can probably do that for a couple years before it stops working. Then they need to do a bulking/cutting cycle as creating muscle becomes more difficult as time goes on.

Another reason to do the cycle is it's more intuitive for people. Recomposition requires constant tracking and recording to make sure you don't go over or under budget, unless you're really good at eyeballing food intake. Bulking (particularly a dirty bulk) is simple. You eat a lot. If you don't gain weight, then eat more. Cutting is the reverse of that. The bulk/cut cycle is a time-tested method that's worked for a lot of people.


Speaking from an anecdotal perspective, I agree with your statement. As a former competitive bodybuilder, I too would often follow the advice of the day: bulk, cut and repeat. I found that I was not as successful with that pattern of training. The pattern felt like yo-yo dieting to me because you inevitably gain fat with any muscle you're lucky enough to gain. And, during the cut phase, you have pay very close attention to detail and how you reduce calories to avoid losing any newly acquired muscle mass. Good luck with that.

I soon switched to a more linear approach and was much more successful. I would set an off season goal weight and not stray too far over it. That meant constantly monitoring caloric intake and macro nutrient distributions. This approach allowed me to maintain any muscular gains for a more extended period of time. It also allowed me to train worry free because I knew that I would not need to shed large amounts of excess fat gained during a “bulk” phase.

I think the bulk and cut philosophy has lingered due to the popularity of the sport of bodybuilding. It's very difficult to apply the philosophy and methodologies of professional bodybuilders to the average "Joe Fitness". The average fitness enthusiast does not need to mimic and train like a bodybuilder to achieve their goals.

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