This is the most common question I get from newbie lifters trying to get in shape. Should I bulk or should I cut?
The answer is actually simple. To look great, you need 2 things: higher muscle mass, lesser fat mass. And there are many ways to go about it.
If you are an obese individual, the approach is straightforward. Go on a caloric deficit by reducing your food intake and aim to lose between 1-1.5% of your bodyweight per week. At the same time, continue to get stronger at the gym. While this is technically a cut, people at higher bodyfat levels are also able to pack on muscle while leaning out.
If you are starting out skinny. You can see your abs but have minimal muscle mass and hence, zero shape to your physique. It's time to lean bulk. Lean bulking will keep you from gaining too much fat while letting you pack on quality muscle. Start off by eating about 250 calories over your maintenance. Aim to gain about 0.5kgs per week while you train hard at the gym.
If you are skinny fat, which is the case for a lot of people. This means you have minimal muscle mass but at the same time carry excess bodyfat. The approach here would be to lean out first with a SLIGHT caloric deficit. Aim to lose 0.6-1% of your bodyfat per week. A slight deficit won't hamper your strength at the gym. You will continue to pack on small amounts of muscle while leaning out slowly. Once you are lean enough, it would be time to start a lean-bulk.
I have also seen people have trouble with accountability issues. Despite knowing what to do, they still are unable to stay on track.
Here is a blog post to help you set up systems to make your fitness journey more enjoyable and to keep you consistent.
If you'd rather listen to it in a podcast format: here is the episode on: Spotify & Apple Podcasts.
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Founder, Workday Physique