If you’re new to nutrition, it’s difficult to know where to start. You have three options: maintenance, cutting, or bulking.
Eating at a maintenance level is a good place to start. This means you will be eating with the goal to consume just as many calories as you use throughout the day. Those just starting out in fitness and nutrition can use this phase as a recomposition which will be changing their current body mass from being composed of more fat to having more muscle. Recomposition takes time, lots of time. It is a slow, yet worthwhile process. This time allows you to build a base foundation of muscle. This muscle will then require more fuel to grow which will boost your metabolism and help you burn fat. Again, this is an extremely slow process. You will not necessarily lose or gain weight during this phase, but you will notice changes in your overall physique.
As you become more experienced in fitness, you will find that it is almost impossible to get lean and gain muscle at the same time. Many people bounce around from different fitness and nutrition trends seeing very short-term results that never last because most of these fitness trends can’t be sustained long-term. If you have experience and a basic background in nutrition, bulking or cutting would be better options for you.
If you find yourself at a place where you are content with your weight, maintenance is a good place to find balance. You can use IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros), calorie counting, or clean eating to do so. You can find your daily caloric output by calculating your basic metabolic rate. Click here for a step by step guide to calculate your metabolic rate!
Here’s a progression of my back while on maintenance for a year. No huge size difference but you can see slow progress as I lean out and gain a bit of muscle.
Cutting by definition is creating a caloric deficit by eating less than what your body requires. This is best done by finding your metabolic rate, then setting your nutritional goals slightly below it to encourage the use of stored fuels (body fat), thus helping you lose weight. This option is best for those that have a solid muscle base. If you don’t, I recommend you bulk first! In the case that you do have a solid amount of muscle, cutting will help you attain a toned and lean look.
Based on the time frame you are looking to achieve results within, you can set your daily goals. Start slow by cutting 5% of your daily calories and work down to around 15-20%. The more fat you have to cut, the longer this process will take.
Again, this takes time! Results will not be instantaneous. Keep in mind that you will only look as lean as the muscle base you started with. You will not gain muscle while on a cut, in fact, you will most likely lose a bit of muscle. If you don’t feel you are at a place to cut efficiently and effectively, I recommend you bulk first.
Here is a picture of my back at my leanest during a cut. You can see muscle but there really isn’t enough of it to see any true definition.
When it comes to bulking, the end goal is not just to gain weight, it is to gain muscle mass. When done correctly, bulking is not nearly as scary as the word makes it out to be. Nutritionally, bulking requires a caloric excess as well as an abundance of the amino acid building blocks that make up muscle tissue. The goal is to not only have enough calories and protein to make your body function throughout the day, but to have some extra left over to rebuild your muscles bigger than they were.
Don’t be afraid to let your body fat increase slightly when you are trying to bulk, it just ensures that you are hitting your goal of a caloric surplus. As you build muscle, your caloric requirements will also increase, which in turn will make it easier to cut off the small layer of fat that you may add in the bulking process. Avoiding “dirty bulk” habits like relying on junk food and binge eating will help you to maintain more leanness during your bulking phase. Try to increase the amount of nutrient dense foods you are consuming, and be sure to increase the frequency of consumption.
Here is a picture of my back mid-bulk. You can see a bit of muscle building with the extra calories my body has to build, repair, and ultimately grow!
There’s are no one-size-fits-all formulas when it comes to maintaining, leaning out, or bulking. Everyone has different genetics and corresponding metabolism, so like I said several times the best place to start is to calculate your metabolic rate, once you have that number to can add in variables like exercise and nutrition to find the best way to achieve your goals. Click here for a step by step guide to calculate your metabolic rate!
This post in no way is the exact science of nutrition and ways to manipulate it, it is basic information that I hope will help you! If you would like more help please Contact Me!
Related Post: Going Back To The Basics