To cut or to bulk? That is the question
The question many people have when getting started in bodybuilding and fitness is if they should bulk first and build muscle or cut first and trim off their bodyfat. This is something that depends on each person's initial physique, fitness level, and overal basic lean body mass. Let's go and explore both of these options.
Trim the fat first?
Cutting is basically in its simplest form taking in less calories than your body's "maintenance" requirement is. If your maintenance is say....2500 calories then if you eat 2500 calories in a day you will neither gain or lose weight. When cutting you will always want to be in a caloric deficit which means that your total daily calories must be less than your maintenance. So if your maintenance is 2500 calories you want to have less than that amount to be losing weight. As you eat less (or exercise more to burn calories) each day and have less calories you will begin to trim the fat and weight off your frame. Be careful though, since you will also lose muscle as well as fat if you don't engage in any weight lifting programs since your body is getting less calories than is require to maintain the weight. People who are overweight or extremely obese should consider cutting first before bulking.
When starting a cut, make sure that you have a plan set out for you before doing anything. Always consult a physician or doctor before beginning an exercise regiment. You want to be engaging in weight lifting of some sort to preserve muscle mass as you trim down the fat. You don't want to look like a twig when you slim down after all! Many bodybuilders debate if cardio is necessary for losing fat but it isn't. All cardio does besides help your cardiovascular fitness is burn more calories so you have a greater caloric deficit. The weight isn't lost on a treadmill, but in the kitchen. So make sure you lift heavy each week, usually once per week on each muscle group. Eat a lot of protein and try to cut back on carbs and fat a little bit. Continue this throughout your cut and you will see the fat disappear!
Build the muscle first?
Bulking is the opposite of cutting (of course). When you bulk you are not going to be in a caloric deficit, but instead a caloric surplus. What this means is if your body maintenance is 2500 calories per day, you will want to be over that number to put on weight and muscle mass. If you want to build muscle you have to have the calories necessary to feed that muscle and rebuild it when lifting. People have two different ways of choosing to go on a bulk. They can dirty bulk, where they eat like a horse and pile on the calories or clean bulk, where they only eat slightly over maintenance. The difference primarily has to do with gaining fat. When clean bulking you will minimize the fat gain when putting on muscle so the next time you cut there isn't as much work to do. When dirty bulking you just eat a ton of food to feed the muscle. You will see muscle grow faster with a dirty build since there's more calories but the cost is increased fat gain with it so one has to consider these two choices. If you are already skinny or slim then bulking is recommended
When starting a bulk always make sure that you have adequate protein and fat in your diet to feed the muscle and recover properly. After you lift heavy your muscles will be sore so make sure you aren't working them too hard and they have lots of rest before working them again. Eat over your maintenance and you will see the muscle grow back bigger and stronger. Continue to follow your bulk program until you are satisfied with the results and then it's time to go on a cut to get rid of the fat you gained!
Bulking and cutting are both part of the bodybuilding way. Whether you decide to bulk first or cut first, both will be used in your journey down the road of bodybuilding. Once you do one for a while and you are satisfied, then do the other. Continue this process and you will slim out and build up a nice amount of muscle!