“Should I bulk or cut?” is one of the most common questions that I get asked especially for those with a skinny fat body type. And to those of you in this situation wondering if you should cut or bulk first, I know that it can seem so confusing as to the optimal approach you should take, but it really is quite simple. No matter what you choose (i.e. cutting or bulking), all that your body needs in order to look “better”, is a combination of more muscle and less body fat. There are 3 approaches (i.e. bulking, cutting, and body recomposition) you can take to achieve this. I’ll discuss the pros and cons of each of these approaches (bulking vs cutting vs body recomp) in this video.

The first option between bulking vs cutting vs body recomp is to start with a “bulk”.

1. You’ll look bigger and better in clothes.
2. You’ll get stronger much faster.
3. Your workouts will generally be more fun.

1. You’ll accumulate more body fat than you currently have now
2. You have to be willing to go into a calorie deficit to strip off the fat afterwards.
3. Your risks for health ramifications increase when your body fat gets past 20%.

Ideal for:
– Those who are currently skinny with very little muscle
– Those who want to prioritize building muscle and strength first
– Those who have a relatively low body fat percentage of around 10-15%

Of course, the next option when it comes to cutting or bulking is a cut. Some individuals, primarily beginners, detrained individuals, or those at a high body fat %, may be able to build a little bit of muscle throughout this process.

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1. You’ll see results much faster
2. It puts you in a good position to gain afterwards if you’re starting out with a relatively higher body fat %.
3. If you’re at higher body fat or inexperienced, you’ll likely be able to build some muscle as you cut.
4. Once you do lean down, you’ll get a better sense as to whether or not you think you have enough muscle or would like to focus on adding more.

1. Your strength gains won’t progress as well.
2. Your workouts will likely be less enjoyable.
3. If you’re skinny, you’ll look leaner afterwards but probably not as much muscle as you’d like.

Ideal for:
– Those who have a relatively higher body fat % (over 15%)
– Those who want to first prioritize losing fat and getting lean rather than putting on more size

The last approach is what’s called a body recomposition. It technically means you don’t need to decide if you need to cut or bulk first (you’re doing both at the same time).

1. Build muscle and lose fat at the same time.

1. Highly individual (some see better success with recomp than others)
2. Difficult to measure.
3. Visual progress is quite slow.
4. Hard to tell how long it will last (usually a few months).
5. Many individuals can still build muscle & lose fat on a normal cut.

Ideal for:
– Beginners, detrained individuals, or those who have never trained/dieted optimally and are sitting at around 15% body fat
– Those who want to prioritize getting bigger and stronger while slowly getting leaner

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Still confused as to “Should I bulk or cut?”? Then first ask yourself these 2 simple questions.

1. What is your main goal and what are you most excited for right now?
2. What is your current body fat %?

If your main goal right now is to add more size, build muscle and gain strength, then a gaining phase is probably the best option as long as your current body fat % is around 10-15%. If it’s closer to 20% or above that, then start with a cut.

If your main goal and what you’re most excited about right now is to get lean and see visual progress quickly, then a cutting phase is probably the best option.

And then:

3. Am I eligible for a body recomp?

As we mentioned earlier, this is best suited for true beginners and detrained individuals sitting around 15% body fat with the main goal to build muscle and strength while slowly getting leaner.

Regardless, the end point is the same: a lean muscular physique with more muscle and less fat than you currently have. And you can eventually get their regardless of what approach you choose. So try not to overcomplicate things.

And for a step-by-step all in one program that uses science to not only start you out with the best initial approach for you and your body, but then also guides you through the different phases needed afterwards to achieve a lean and muscular physique just like it has done successfully for thousands of our members, then simply take the analysis quiz to discover which science-based program would be best for you and where your body is currently at below:

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48 thoughts on “Should You Bulk Or Cut? Building Muscle VS Losing Fat First (Based On Your Body)”
  1. What’s been your experience with “bulking” and/or “cutting” first? Comment below! Hope you enjoyed this one, let me know what other topics you’d like me to cover and I’ll get on it! Cheers!

    1. Covid time made me aware of what I eat even more. I came back to the gym looking the same. Saw people that were in shape before covid-19 looking like inflated balloons.

  2. “You look so thin, are you on a cut??” (Cries on a bulk)

    1. @Baseline Barbell // Fitness Grounded in Science how do you make those thumbnails with picture of you on another picture ?

    2. @PES LION KING thanks mate! I’m sure you’ll see us again in comments soon haha

    3. @PES LION KING Check out canva (a really easy-to-use graphic design website). And if you look up ‘background remover’ there are lots of sites that can easily remove the background of a picture in seconds

    4. @Baseline Barbell // Fitness Grounded in Science You do it on computer?
      How about on mobile?
      Do you know any apps that can remove backgrounds too?

    5. @PES LION KING I’m sure there’s ways to do it on mobile but it’s much easier to use a desktop. I think canva has their own bg remover but i think you have to use the premium version.

  3. I have being meaning to send this question to you when you ask for topics to be covered… Awesome stuff!

  4. I was skinny fat, the answer is really simple. Don’t cut and don’t bulk. All you have to do is train hard and eat good and you will gain muscle and lose fat. In my case I did a small bulk, I gained a lot of muscle but also fat ( 20% bodyfat) the biggest mistake to do imo is to cut because you have no muscle at all, you will lose time going from skinny fat to skinny.

    1. @Ku Ronerth thx for clarifying. MUFC confused me saying “don’t bulk and don’t cut” (by definition that’s a recomp). I found recomp was a complete waste of time and energy. Once I started EATING MORE the gains came. Slow bulk was the answer for me.

    2. @MUFC the confusion is you said “don’t bulk and don’t cut. But then you contradict yourself saying “maintain or slow bulk”. For me, recomp (maintain as you say) was a waste. I agree that slow bulk is the answer to be clear.

    3. @MUFC i am skinny fat with body fat % around 20-22 height 5’10” weight 65.5 kgs started going to gym on jan 1st this year..took me 2 weeks to figure out my diet.. So rn i am lean bulking and planning to go on a cutting phase after April i.e. 4 months of bulking then probably 3 months of cut.. So my question is will my muscle mass increase during the cut phase after April or will i only loose fat ? Rn although i am able to lift more than what i did initially but still all of the fat on my face and stomach is still there..

    4. @Gunner There is a difference between bulking and slow bulking, going on 500-1000 + calories is a bad idea, but 100-200 calories surplus can be good, and it’s nearly the same with maintening. Because you will gain muscle no mather what you do : slow bulk or maintaining

  5. Can you talk about the advantages/disadvantages of cycling between cut and maintenance phases vs. continuing on an extended cut?

    1. cycling cut n maintenance will take longer obviously but it helps preserve more muscle and less metabolism adaptations

    1. I agree with sensei Greg on most things, however, I’ve spent a lot of time spinning my wheels at 10% bodyfat trying to maingain as he recommended. The issue with main-gaining is if you’re already quite lean (under 12%) at least for me, the body does not want to cannibalize its limited fat stores in order to build muscle. Otherwise, theoretically if say you weighed 150 and started at 12% body fat, you would never be able to main gain your way to 5%, and you would hit a wall where your body simply refuses to add any more muscle.

      I think generally he is right that main-gaining is appropriate for most beginners and individuals with BF >15%, however for those of us who are already lean, better results can be seen by doing slow bulking/cutting cycles.

    2. @Jason Fournier I don’t have experience with that low body fat, I’m currently around 175 lbs at 16% body fat, I wanna do a slow cut to get the 12% summer body but don’t loose any muscle

    1. Don’t listen to that other person. Skinny fat for women is around 25% body fat. Anything much higher and you should probably cut first.

  6. I have been doing “Body Recomp” for 9 month.
    Started at 203 lbs (92kg) and now at 176 lbs (80kg).
    I bench pressed 132 lbs (60kg) and now i bench press max 220 lbs (100kg).
    I manage to do 2 Strict Pull Ups and now i just did 10 Strict Pull Ups.

    I have not been measuring exact calories. I just stopped eating any desserts. Trying to avoid wheat produkst and eat 5 times a day without eating too much at the time. I also eat a lot of fruits instead of sweets.

    I have been going to gym 4-6 times a week every week.
    Since now the Gyms are closed, I built my own Gym at home.
    No Excuses!

  7. Who else doesn’t really feel the burn in their back when they are training it?, lat pulldowns are the only exercise that makes it burn

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