By the time summer rolls around, everyone is Googling “how to lose weight for summer”, with one additional key word: QUICKLY. How can you lose weight quickly in time for swimwear season? Unfortunately, by the time it’s summer, it’s usually too late.
Summer physiques are built in winter, and shown in summer. That’s the premise of any good bulk and cut routine. Not everyone who works out will approach fitness this way, but many do. For any beginners, bulking and cutting is a strategy used by bodybuilders who move through cycles to optimally build muscle.
If you’re one of the many million fitness fans who follows a bulk and cut type cycle, or someone who simply wants to lose some weight in time for summer, this article is for you.
What is bulking and cutting?
Bulking and cutting are strategies used by bodybuilders to build muscle and lose fat.
Your body weight changes based on your energy balance. If you are expending more than you are intaking, your body breaks down energy stores to use for fuel, causing you to be in a negative energy balance; as a result, you will lose weight. If you are intaking more than you are expending, your body stores energy, causing you to be in a positive energy balance; as a result, you will gain weight. This is the basis of bulk/cut periodization.
During a bulking phase, you are in a positive energy balance - intaking more calories than you need and using the extra calories to focus on increasing your strength and muscle size. This is made possible because with extra food comes extra energy: allowing you to hit PRs, recover well and the circulating energy contributes to muscle protein synthesis for maximal muscle growth. The downside of bulking is that you’ll be eating an additional 500 calories more per day at a minimum, which may make you feel nauseous and heavy; also causing you to experience rapid fat gain.
During a cutting phase, you are in a negative energy balance - intake less calories than you are expending. Commonly, this is done through restricting caloric intake and increasing energy expenditure through increased exercise. During a cutting phase, your body breaks down the fat stores that were gained during the bulk, to show the muscular gains that were built during the bulking phase.
The goal of a cut and bulk routine is to optimize muscle growth.
How long to bulk and cut for?
There isn’t a set amount of time that you need to follow these protocols for. You will need to give it at least four to six weeks each, with most people following each for around three months to get the best results. The shorter amount of time you have, the more aggressive you have to be. This is not optimal, and can result in poor results.
For example, if you only have a four week cutting phase, you’ll have to be in a steep deficit. That is hard to maintain and can be miserable. What’s more, once you stop the deficit you’ll gain weight rapidly as your body is desperate to hold on to some of the extra calories.
So here’s the key: timing. During a bulk you will likely gain some excess fat due to increasing your total caloric intake. This can make you appear bulky rather than lean. As a result, your muscle gain is hidden under a layer of subcutaneous fat and your hard work isn’t visible. That’s where cutting comes in. When you cut, you will lose the layer of subcutaneous fat and your new muscle growth will be visible to all.
Ideally you want to bulk during the colder winter months and cut in time for summer.
When to start cutting for summer?
Wondering when to start a cutting phase? Work back from when you want to look your best. For example, if you have a vacation booked in July, workout eight to 12 weeks prior to this and time your cut to start then. Allowing at least three months of cutting is optimal, to ensure you lose weight sustainably.
During this period of time cutting, your body will slowly adapt to fewer calories without negatively affecting your metabolism. Your metabolism responds to the amount of food you are intake, and it has been used to a high caloric intake during your cut. When you slowly reduce your intake and keep your energy expenditure high, your body will burn fat stores and use it for fuel efficiently. The result: muscle mass maintenance and body fat burn.
It’s time for your summer shred
Looking for a summer shred program? There are hundreds of different programs you can follow to lose weight for summer. Here are some tips to guarantee you’re on a program that’ll get you real results.
- Slow build-up
Remember: slow and steady wins the race when it comes to fat loss. You don’t want to start with a 500 calorie deficit and more cardio sessions. Your body won’t have time to adapt.
- Focus on diet
Any cutting or summer shred program that focuses on exercise won’t get you to where you need to be. Abs are built in the gym and shown in the kitchen. That’s the point of the bulk/cut cycle. Start consuming high volume meals to avoid hunger. Do this by adding in low calorie, nutrient-dense veggies to meals to keep you satiated.
- Decrease weights
The bulk phase is for hitting PRs. The cutting phase is for maintaining muscle size and burning fat. Don’t be surprised if you notice a loss of strength during the cut. That’s because you have less energy. Instead, decrease the weights and increase the reps. This creates metabolic stress and mechanical tension to keep your muscles looking pumped throughout the cut.
- Sleep well
Many people complain of poor sleep during a calorie deficit. Carbohydrates are key for good quality sleep, and during a cut, this is usually the macronutrient that gets drastically reduced. Work around this by saving some carbs for the end of the day, this will help you sleep well and allow your body to recover optimally.