The Difference Between Cutting and Bulking

The Difference Between Cutting and Bulking, Explained 

If you don't know what the difference between cutting and bulking is, you'll definitely want to read this article till the end.

Knowing the difference between these two concepts is literally the bread and butter of bodybuilding nutrition.

rope push downs

Anyone with the desire to build muscle, lose weight, and gain strength needs to fully understand what makes each of these dieting concepts unique.

Once you have a solid grasp of what it means to cut or bulk; you'll have no issues moving forward and building your physique.

What Is Cutting?

On paper, cutting is arguably the hardest type of dieting; used by bodybuilders to reduce their body fat percentage and increase muscle definition.

Cutting is a lot harder to do than bulking due to its intense nature that can push the body to dangerous extremes.

bulked up

The purpose of going through a cutting cycle is losing weight and acquiring muscle definition while maintaining as much strength and muscle as possible.

In theory, though, cutting is not that difficult. Reduce your calories, up your cardio, maintain your training intensity – and you should be good.

Cardio and Nutrition 

The biggest problem with cutting is not knowing when you're taking the diet too far or when you're not doing enough.

This is why it's extremely important to keep an eye on the macros and micros (nutrients) that are consumed.

If you eat too little, you'll destroy your metabolism and if you eat too much, you won't lose weight.

spinning bike cardio

The same thing happens with cardio.

If you do too much of it, your metabolism can be affected negatively. If you do too little, you won't lose weight.

The key to cutting successfully is consistency and patience. You need to slowly lower your calories while you steadily increase your cardio.

Common Misconceptions 

The most common misconception regarding cutting is that calories need to be drastically lowered in order to lose weight.

This is completely false and doing so will actually result in a non-functioning metabolism.

If you do this while also doing a ton of cardio (60+ minutes), you'll just be wasting your hard-earned muscle.

six pack

Your calories should be reduced slowly, cardio should be increased accordingly, and your training intensity should be kept the same.

Another popular myth is that -while training- you should lower the weight and do a ton of sets and repetitions to increase leanness.

If you want to keep as much muscle and strength while cutting, you'll need to maintain the intensity of your training sessions.

When Should You Cut? 

Back in the day, people cared a lot more about getting bigger and gaining muscle than being lean.

Today, it seems like younger bodybuilders care more about being lean and “shredded”.

It's not uncommon to come across online posts of people asking if they're ready to cut; while lacking the necessary size to do so.

back pose

In my opinion, someone should cut only when they've been training for a few years and built a decent amount of muscle.

Cutting is also valid for someone who wants to participate in a bodybuilding/fitness contest – but you'll need enough muscle to do so.

Cutting frequently or doing it too soon will only slow down your progress.

What Is Bulking?

Bulking is a form of dieting that's used to gain as much muscle mass and strength as possible.

There are two different ways to approach bulking; one of them being a lot riskier than the other.

dumbbell exercise

The safe option is known as lean bulking and it consists of intelligently increasing the daily caloric intake in an effort to maintain muscle definition and avoid gaining body fat.

The risky alternative is known as dirty bulking which consists of eating everything in sight with no caloric limit.

Bulking the Right Way 

There's no denying that bulking is a lot easier and more enjoyable than cutting, but it's also a lot more dangerous due to the repercussions that it can generate.

Bulking the dirty way -and taking it too far- will inevitably lead to unwanted results such as excess body fat, lethargy, and poor performance.

If you want to bulk, the best way to do so is by keeping it clean. This will allow you to maintain your shape and definition while you build quality size.

bicep flexing

You don't need to eat a ton of calories to gain muscle because your body won't know what to do with them and will store them as fat.

Instead, it would be smart to focus on slowly upping your caloric intake after you've stopped seeing progress with your current food consumption.

The last thing you want to do is gain too much body fat that can take months to wither away.


If you do it right, a bulking cycle can transform your physique for the better.

Weight training during bulking will always be productive because your strength levels will naturally improve; allowing you to go heavier and have more intense workouts.

The harder you train, the more nutrients you'll body will need to grow. Feed it the right foods, and your progress will take off.

Tricep rope extension

A lot of bodybuilders neglect their cardio while bulking and this is a huge mistake that you should avoid at all costs.

Doing cardio will help keep your body healthy and ready to perform at all times. Cardio will also assist you in maintaining your leanness.

If you want to read more on lean bulking, please be sure to check out our detailed article on the subject.

When Should You Bulk?

This question shouldn't be too difficult to answer, but it's still important to discuss – so I'll give it a go.

There are plenty of reasons regarding why someone would want to bulk. The first one off the top of my head is wanting to build muscle and strength.

A lot of people want to build size so they can play a sport or simply to look good and feel more confident.

muscles stretch

It goes without saying that if you want to do a bodybuilding competition; you'll have to bulk up before you shred down.

I know that some people are afraid of getting fat while bulking. Even though it is a possibility, you shouldn't have to worry about it, if you do it the right way.

Just have fun with it and try to be the best version of yourself.


The difference between cutting and bulking is nothing more than a caloric intake.

If you want to cut, you lower your daily calories. If you want to bulk, you increase them.

Regardless if you're bulking or cutting, you should always prioritize your training and never neglect cardio.

There is more than one way to build and sculpt a physique, but like with anything else in life – slow and steady wins the race.