Bulking Vs Shredding: Which One Should I Be Doing?

man inside gym

Bulking vs shredding, what’s the difference, and which one should you be doing?

This is a commonly asked and heavily debated question that many a new lifters have. With the influx of new gym bros coming into the fold post new years, I feel that as a seasoned lifter, it is my responsibility to educate and teach you, newbies, about the differences between bulking and shredding.

I know I could’ve sure used this advice when I first started out. Also, alongside the topic of bulking vs shredding, I will also be answering other questions, such as:

  • Should I bulk or shred first?
  • Is shredding better than bulking?
  • Which is harder bulking or cutting?
  • What is the difference between bulk and cutting?
  • Is bulking better than cutting?
  • Can you cut and bulk at the same time?
  • How long should you bulk before you cut?

With that let’s get into the article.

Bulking Vs Shredding, What’s The Difference?

To start, the main difference between bulking and cutting is the amount of food you’ll be eating. When you’re bulking, the main goal is to gain as much muscle and strength as possible, so you’ll have to be eating in a caloric surplus.

The goal with a cut is to look as lean and aesthetic as possible, usually resulting in a minor loss of size and strength due to having to eat in a caloric deficit.

To be frank, rather than bulking vs shredding, this whole thing should look more like bulking vs cutting vs shredding, as cutting and shredding do have their own differences.

Cutting is a more long-term, slow and methodical fat-loss approach that usually will never have you going below the 10% body fat mark, as to preserve as much strength and size as possible.

Shredding, on the other hand, is just getting as lean as humanly possible despite the consequences. Shredding is usually done with chemical assistance, as trying to get below the 10% mark as a natty will almost always lead to a host of negative effects.

Just ask natural bodybuilders. It’s not a good time and usually results in physique suicide for a lot of individuals. So let’s just say that right now, your only 2 options are either to bulk or cut.

Yeah I know the article should’ve been named bulking vs cutting, rather than bulking vs shredding, but bulking vs shredding is a much easier keyword to rank for, so just roll with it. Hey look I just shoved bulking vs shredding into this paragraph 3 times, that’s blogging for you folks.

So which one should you pick?

Bulking Vs Shredding: Should You Bulk or Cut?

Now should you bulk or cut? Well, that depends. If you have a body fat% lower than 20, you should bulk. It’s easily the best option for most novice lifters, as this will give your body the energy it needs to build muscle and strength.

It will allow you to have a very nutritious and varied diet. And it will give you an absolutely crazy amount of energy to use inside and outside of the gym.

Now, this bulking thing sounds pretty cool and all, but what does bulking mean? What’s the textbook definition? Well, my friend strap in as I give you a quick bulking crash course.

Bulking Vs Shredding: Bulking Meaning (What The Hell Is It?)

bulking vs shredding

To put it in bro terms bulking is essentially hibernation. In this whole bulking vs shredding vs cutting debate, bulking is easily the best option.

You eat, sleep, and lift. Now to put it in scientific terms, a bulk is a surplus of energy which is derived from food, i.e. a caloric surplus. Now you may be wondering, how do I know if I’m in a surplus? I mean, do I just eat a crap ton of food or what?

First of all, yes, you will have to eat more, but this isn’t an excuse to eat like a child. Your bulking diet should still be primarily made up of high-quality whole foods.

To know if you’re in a surplus, first figure out your maintenance calories; you can do that by using this online calorie calculator. Start off with the mild weight gain option, or 0.5 lbs per week.

Alright, next step, unless you want to give yourself a brain aneurysm writing down each calorie and macro with pen and paper, I would recommend that you download a calorie-counting app, AKA my fitness pal. You can get it in both the App Store and google play for you third-world android users.

It will be blue with a white under armour logo in the middle, you can’t miss it. Download this app and just edit your caloric goal to be the mild weight gain option from the online calculator.

Once that is done, you’re good to go, right? Well, not exactly. Regardless of this whole bulking vs shredding debate, one thing will remain consistent, which is having to constantly adjust your calories.

Adjusting And Adapting Your Calories

Online calorie calculators have a tendency to be inaccurate. They’re great for pointing you in the right direction, but you’ll probably have to make some adjustments.

It will take a bit of trial and error to find the best calorie allotment for your bulking needs. You may have to increase or reduce the number, but after a bit of tweaking you’ll get it right.

Here are some signs to know that you’re in a surplus, and properly bulking.

  • You’re gaining around a pound every 2-3 weeks
  • Your lifts are going up, and you’re progressing every workout*
  • You’re energy levels are good, and you have a very high sex drive
  • You feel, and look very full
  • Your physique looks a little more “fluffy”

I want you to mainly focus on those first 2, as those are the most important signs. If those first 2 things are happening to you right now, and the other 3 aren’t, you’re probably still in a surplus. If it’s the other way around, chances are you aren’t in a surplus, or your training just sucks.

And yes, before all of the little 16-year-old SARM goblin, Zyzz brahs get their panties in a bunch, yes, strength and size are heavily correlated. You can’t have one without the other.

So if your lifts are going up, and you’re gaining around a pound every 2-3 weeks, you are in a surplus. If those 2 things don’t apply to you, try adding 100 calories every 2-4 weeks until they do. Bulking vs shredding, bulking vs cutting, hell, even clean bulking vs dirty bulking, it doesn’t matter.

They all require a bit of good old trial and error.

Alright, cool, now you know how to bulk. Now for those of you who like twinkies a little too much(25%+ body fat) and weren’t bullied into losing weight during school like real Gs, let me teach you how to cut.

Bulking Vs Shredding: How To Cut (Without Losing All Of Your Gains)

bulking vs shredding

Step 1 get body dysmorphia. Step 2 think about how long you’re willing to suffer and then calculate your cutting calories or deficit. Now even though the title says bulking vs shredding, chances are you don’t have the genetics, or hormonal assistance to do a full-on shred.

For context, I consider a shred anything under 10% body fat, while a cut would be anything under 14%.

You should aim to lose around 0.5-1 lb per week. Your cut shouldn’t last too long and should be much shorter than your bulk. Your bulking phases can easily last a year or 2, while your cutting phase should only be around 2-4 months.

Now calculate your calories with the previously mentioned online tool, or within my fitness pal.

Either pick between the mild weight loss or weight loss options. My preference would be the standard weight loss option as I think 1lb per week is pretty doable and much faster than the 0.5 lb per week option.

Adjust and adapt as needed, add, or reduce your calories until you are where you need to be, which is 0.5-1 lb lost per week.

So yeah cuts are pretty simple. If you’re losing weight, at a controlled steady pace you’re doing things right.

However just because you do things right, doesn’t mean this will be a fun process. During a cut you may experience:

  • Low energy
  • Mood swings
  • Lower libido
  • Reduced strength
  • Food cravings
  • Trouble sleeping

Now before I forget let’s talk about cardio while cutting.

In all reality, you should be doing some form of cardio no matter what phase you’re in whether it be running on the treadmill, going on walks, or even pick-up basketball, as cardio has many great benefits.

Now as a lifter, there are some guidelines you should follow when implementing cardio into your regimen.

  • Weights are priority #1, if you have to compromise something always compromise cardio first
  • Sessions should never exceed 45 minutes (light to moderate)
  • High intensity cardio shouldn’t exceed 20 minutes
  • Try to do cardio on non lifting days
  • If cardio is done on a lifting day try to keep the sessions as far apart as possible
  • If you insist on combining your lifting and cardio into one workout always do cardio after you finish lifting
  • Try to only do cardio around 2-3 times per week

If you follow those guidelines you should be cool.

While cutting try to aim for 12-10% body fat. You can stop a bit short, or a push a bit further, but 12-10% body fat is pretty good goal for most bros.

Now is that it are bulking and cutting the be all end all of fitness? Is there an option for people who aren’t below 20% while also not being above 25%? What about a body recomp or main gaining(I hate that word)?

Body Recomposition

Alright, so here’s the magical third option, a body recomp. A body recomposition is where you gain muscle and lose fat simultaneously while eating maintenance. Woah, sounds pretty cool, right? Well, there’s a good chance that you aren’t eligible for a recomp.

If you are any of the following you’re eligible for a body recomposition:

  • An untrained individual/beginner (first 2-6 weeks in the gym)
  • Overweight (20-25% body fat, however not fat enough to need a cut)
  • A trained individual coming off of a long training layoff
  • Juice heads

If none of these apply to you, stick to bulking and cutting.

And for those of you who are in the in-between stage where you’re not big enough to cut, but not slim enough to justify a bulk, this should be your go-to option, followed by a bulk.

Now how long should you recomp for, to be honest milk it for all its worth. Recomp as long as possible, and stop once your lifts start to plateau. Once your lifts start to plateau enter your bulking phase and continue from there.

Bulking Vs Shredding: Is Bulking And Cutting Necessary?

Yes, bulking and cutting are very necessary. If you don’t bulk you’ll never gain any muscle or strength unless you are an absolute genetic freak, or on the juice. And well if you refuse to cut, you’ll just turn into mark Rippetoe or something.

So you really only have 2 options bulk and cut, or cash in your natty card. Even if you do go on the juice bulking, and cutting is still the most optimal thing to do. Yes, some of you can successfully perform a recomp, however, that will only last for so long, and eventually, you’ll be in the same boat as everyone else.

Bulking and cutting will get you to where you want to be in the shortest time frame possible, and it will always be the best way to build muscle and lose fat.

Bulking Vs Shredding: Bulking Vs Cutting Female? (Is It Any Different)

No, bulking and cutting isn’t affected by gender. Bulking and cutting, and lifting in general defies gender, race, and religion, as it is simply better than everything.

Now a female’s calorie allotment will be a lot lower than a male’s, and when using these body fat parameters always add 10%. So for example when I say you shouldn’t bulk past 20% for a male, a female shouldn’t bulk past 30%.

Or when I say to cut down to 12-10% body fat as a male, females should only cut down to 22-20% body fat.

20% body fat for a chick, is the equivalent of 10% for a male. A girl getting to 10% body fat, would be the equivalent of a man getting to 5%, it’s extremely unhealthy and potentially dangerous.

So if you’re a chick trying to get fit, and looking for a good goal to aim for, I would say if you get to a body fat of 25-20% while being able to bench 95 lbs, squat 225 lbs, and deadlift 275 lbs, you’d be considered an Athena, wonder women type.

In all honesty, you’d be mogging most men in the gym with the lower body lifts.

Bulking Vs Shredding: Which Is Harder Bulking Or Cutting?

They both suck. If this was bulking vs shredding the answer would be quite obvious, but since this is more bulking vs cutting it is actually a bit of a debate.

Let’s go over the negatives of bulking first. Keep in mind- I will be assuming you are bulking on primarily clean foods.

The Negatives Of Bulking:

  • It may require force feeding
  • You’ll spend a lot of time eating, and cooking
  • You may feel sick to the stomach
  • Your physique will be fluffier
  • You’ll gas out easier (this mainly applies to those who neglect cardio)
  • It can get expensive
  • It’s mentally draining

If you have a small appetite, this is gonna be a rough experience. However, if this is your first-ever bulk, you will make tons of gains, which definitely makes up for all of these negatives.

Now let’s go over the negatives of cutting. Let’s say you’re in a moderate deficit(500 cals).

The Negatives Of Cutting:

  • The food cravings become unbearable
  • Low energy
  • Low sex drive
  • Always feeling flat, and drained
  • Mood swings
  • Decreased strength, and size
  • Low nutrient intake
  • Both mentally and physically draining

Even if you have a small appetite(like yours truly), you will eventually get to a point where you will feel intense food cravings. If you have a big appetite, well safe to say you’re screwed. In my opinion the worst side effect is the decreased energy and strength.

It takes the fun out of working out, as no matter how hard you train your numbers just go down, and down. Everyday tasks are extremely draining and tiring. But it’s all worth it once you look in the mirror and see your sick shreds.

You also have this sunken-in model face to which is pretty cool. After experiencing both over my 4-year fitness journey, I would have to say that cutting is harder. This is the general consensus within the fitness community as although bulking can be a pain in the ass, it isn’t the absolute death march that cutting is.

Bulking Vs Shredding: Conclusion

Well, hopefully, you learned something here today. Although the blog’s name is SHREDDIT, you can tell that I am definitely basis towards bulking, as, well that’s how I made all of my gains. I didn’t go from 135 lbs to 185, by doing 5-minute ab workouts, and main gaining.

I made my gains with heavy barbell movements such as benching, squatting, and deadlifting while eating in a heavy calorie surplus. So yeah may be a bit biased.

Anyways hope you enjoyed the article, and feel free to comment your thoughts, and opinions below. Peace!

4 responses to “Bulking Vs Shredding: Which One Should I Be Doing?”

  1. […] contrary to popular belief in order to build mass you must eat. You must bulk! This will result in gaining some body fat, which depending on your current goals may be […]

  2. […] if you’re ready to build some muscle, shred some fat, and maybe even hit legs, let’s talk pre […]

  3. […] Magnesium will also help with your work capacity, and durability as well. It’s a great cheap little pickup that can really help you with the training side of things while bulking. […]

  4. […] people also consider any bulk that has you going over a caloric surplus of 500 as dirty, which I would also have to agree with, […]

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