Cut or Bulk: Which one first for Beginners?

Confused about whether to cut or bulk first? We'll be breaking it down for you in this article. Learn the secrets of starting with bulking or cutting, and even dive into body recomposition.

Stepping into the world of strength training can be daunting, especially when you’re not sure whether to bulk or cut first. Both methods have their unique perks and challenges in achieving your ideal fitness goals.

This article will guide you through the ins and outs of bulking and cutting, offering you straightforward advice on which approach might suit beginners best. Ready for your transformation journey? Let’s get started!

Key Takeaways

  • Bulking is a phase where you eat more to build muscle, while cutting is a phase where you eat less to lose body fat.
  • Starting with bulking can help beginners increase their muscle growth potential and body fat percentage.
  • Starting with cutting may lead to potential loss of muscle mass but can result in a lower body fat percentage and improved muscle definition.
  • Body recomposition combines elements of both bulking and cutting, allowing beginners to gain muscle while losing fat.

Understanding Bulking and Cutting

Bulking and cutting are two different phases in a strength training program, each with its own purpose and objectives.

Definition and purpose of bulking

Bulking is about eating more food than your body uses. You do this to build muscle and get stronger. It’s a time when you eat plenty of good food and lift heavy weights in the gym.

Your body takes the extra calories from the food and turns them into muscle with help from your workouts. But be careful; too many extra calories can also turn into fat if you’re not working out hard enough!

Definition and purpose of cutting

Cutting is a phase in fitness where you focus on losing body fat while maintaining muscle mass. It involves being in a caloric deficit, which means eating fewer calories than your body needs to maintain its current weight.

The purpose of cutting is to reveal the muscle definition that you have built during the bulking phase by reducing your overall body fat percentage. This can help you achieve a lean and toned physique.

Cutting requires discipline and consistency in both your training and diet to shed excess fat while preserving muscle mass effectively.

Pros and Cons of Bulking First

Bulking first can lead to increased muscle growth potential, but there is also the risk of gaining excess fat.

Increased muscle growth potential

Starting with a bulk phase can provide beginners with increased muscle growth potential. During this phase, individuals consume excess calories to fuel their workouts and support muscle development.

Being in a caloric surplus gives the body the necessary energy and nutrients to build new muscle tissue. This is especially beneficial for beginners who may not have built a solid foundation of muscle yet.

With proper training and nutrition, the bulk phase allows for significant gains in strength and size. It’s important to note that bulking should be done strategically, aiming for a gradual increase in weight rather than excessive fat gain.

Potential for gaining excess fat

If you decide to start with bulking, there is a potential for gaining excess fat. This is because when you consume excess calories to build muscle, some of those extra calories can be stored as fat.

It’s important to remember that bulking does not mean eating anything and everything in sight. You still need to make smart food choices and focus on quality nutrition while in a calorie surplus.

Finding the right balance between consuming enough calories for muscle growth and avoiding excessive fat gain can be crucial during this phase.

Pros and Cons of Cutting First

Cutting first will result in a lower body fat percentage and improved muscle definition, but can also lead to potential loss of muscle mass due to the calorie deficit.

Reduced body fat percentage

When deciding whether to bulk or cut first, one of the advantages of starting with a cutting phase is the potential for reducing body fat percentage. Cutting involves being in a caloric deficit, which means consuming fewer calories than you burn.

This can help you lose excess body fat and reveal muscle definition. So, if your goal is to have a leaner physique with a lower body fat percentage, starting with a cut may be the right choice for you.

Potential for losing muscle mass

Cutting first may lead to the potential for losing muscle mass. When you are in a caloric deficit during the cutting phase, your body may tap into its muscle stores for energy, resulting in muscle loss.

This is especially true if you don’t have a solid foundation of muscle built through bulking. It’s important to prioritize building strength and muscle before focusing on fat loss to maintain the gains you’ve made during your fitness journey.

Remember, consistency with resistance training and proper nutrition are key to minimizing muscle loss while cutting.

Limited muscle growth potential

Choosing to cut first as a beginner may have limited muscle growth potential. When you are in a caloric deficit, which is required for cutting, your body may not have enough energy to build new muscle tissue effectively.

This means that your gains in muscle size and strength might be slower compared to when you are in a bulking phase. To maximize your muscle growth potential, building muscle through a bulk is generally recommended before considering a cut phase.

Factor to Consider in Choosing Between Bulking and Cutting

Current body fat percentage

Your current body fat percentage plays a significant role in determining whether you should start with bulking or cutting. If you have a higher body fat percentage, typically above 15-20% (25-30% for women), it is generally recommended to begin with a cut phase.

This involves being in a caloric deficit to lose excess body fat and reveal muscle definition. On the other hand, if your body fat percentage is lower and you lack muscle definition, starting with a gaining phase or “bulk” may be more beneficial.

During this phase, you consume more calories to build muscle mass. Ultimately, the decision depends on your individual goals and preferences as well as your current body composition.

Body Recomposition: An Alternative Approach

Body recomposition is an alternative approach that combines elements of both bulking and cutting, allowing beginners to focus on gaining muscle while simultaneously losing fat.

Definition and purpose of body recomposition

Body recomposition is an alternative approach to bulking and cutting for beginners. It combines elements of both phases to build muscle and lose fat simultaneously. The main goal of body recomposition is to improve overall body composition by increasing muscle mass while reducing body fat percentage.

This approach requires a high level of effort and discipline, as it involves following a structured training program and nutrition plan. Body recomposition is ideal for individuals who want to achieve a leaner physique without going through extreme phases of gaining or losing weight.

Achieving body recomposition

Body recomposition is all about a smart balance. To pull it off, you have to tweak your diet, aiming for a slight calorie deficit while bumping up your protein intake. Meanwhile, you hit the weights for strength training, which is key for muscle growth. You can also throw in cardio, but don’t go overboard.

Over time, you’ll see that fat melt away and muscles emerge. Remember, patience and consistency are crucial. 


Your personal goals and preferences play a crucial role in deciding whether to start with bulking or cutting. Think about what you want to achieve from your fitness journey. Are you looking to gain muscle mass and strength? Or do you prioritize losing fat and getting leaner? Consider your body composition as well – if you have excess body fat, starting with a cut might be a good idea.

On the other hand, if you’re relatively lean but lack muscle definition, beginning with a bulk may be more beneficial. Remember that it’s important to choose an approach that aligns with your goals and suits your preferences for training and dieting.


1. What is deficit calories and how does it relate to cutting?

Deficit calories means you eat less than your body needs each day. When you’re overweight, lowering calorie intake can help lose fat and start cutting.

2. How can a beginner maximize muscle gains during bulking?

A beginner can maximize muscle building by following an exercise routine and eating more than their daily caloric need, called lean bulking.

3. If I want to start bodybuilding, should I cut or bulk first?

The choice between cutting and bulking depends on your current size. If you are overweight, you might start with cutting by lowering calories; if not, maximizing gains through lean bulking could be the way.

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