Bulking up. Getting Cut. Shredding Fat—these are true terms in the life of a bodybuilder. While not all fitness enthusiasts plan to pose on stage, those looking to build a lean physique might want to follow their lead. There’s some science to sculpting a lean mean muscular machine, and that involves adjusting your diet and exercise regimen throughout the year. Here are some tips to help you learn the science of sculpting.
Tip #1: Changing body composition doesn’t happen overnight—it can take months of planning and training.
Bodybuilding happens in phases. When building muscle, it’s important to be fueling that growth with intense training and calories. This is the “bulking phase.”
Since the goal of the “bulking phase” is to build as much muscle as possible, it is important to overshoot nutritional needs so as not to fall short. As a result, you may tend to gain some unwanted fat weight. A key to a healthy bulk is optimizing muscle growth while avoiding excessive fat retention.
A “cutting phase” may follow the “bulking phase.” The goal of this phase is to maintain muscle while cutting off the fat to attain an extreme level of conditioning and muscle definition. In some cases, you may even build some muscle while initiating body re-composition; burning fat while building muscle.
Tip #2: Taking in extra protein, carbs and fats are key to bulking correctly.
Bodybuilding involves intense and well-coordinated training. Performing exercises to failure with emphasis on the eccentric or “negative” movement may help with efficient muscle building. While it can be a stimulus for growth, this also creates a certain amount of muscle damage which the body needs to repair. Therefore, your diet must supply the building blocks of muscle (enough total calories and protein) in at least some excess of your needs to prevent breakdown and support potential growth.
There are two sides of the equation for building muscle. Net muscle protein synthesis is a balance between preventing breakdown of muscle and turning on the muscle protein synthesis machinery. Extra protein, above and beyond the average diet, may help prevent muscle breakdown as well as support muscle protein synthesis. Further, you need to have extra calories from healthy carbohydrates and fats to fuel the growth machine. If you fall into an energy mismatch where you are burning more calories than you consume you will not be able to gain weight.
Tip #3: Don’t skimp on the intensity of your workouts during the cutting phase.
The goal of the “cutting phase” is to lose as much fat as possible while maintaining as much muscle as possible. There’s a misconception that this requires lowering the intensity of your weight training. Quite the opposite, you still need to hit the weights hard to retain muscle mass. However, losing body fat requires a caloric deficit which can make it harder to recover from intense training. Thus, you will have to adjust your training schedule accordingly.
Consuming an adequate amount of protein while reducing your carbohydrate intake may help maintain muscle while cutting. Unbeknownst to many, it may even be possible to build muscle while cutting fat when you have a lot of fat to burn. The less fat you have, the higher the risk of losing muscle with the calorie restriction. You must schedule this out to be a gradual process. Excess calorie restriction and rapid weight loss is a sure way to lose muscle.
Tip #4: Genetics play an important role.
Even with the same training and nutrition, different bodies will respond differently. Some men and women barely need to put forth effort to see gains, while others try every combination of training and nutrition to see results.
Unfortunately, it is hard to speak in specifics as to how a diet must change for bulking and cutting since everybody has different genetics, metabolism, appetites and propensity to gain, maintain or lose muscle and fat. If you struggle to gain muscle, you may want to consider consulting a sports dietitian and/or a personal trainer for a specific program. For those that just don’t have the appetite, adding extra protein and calories through a supplement like GNC AMP Mass XXX™ may tilt the scales in your favor.