Building muscle can be done in a few ways, but, without doubt, the most common way is to do it in cycles of bulking and cutting. This is known as periodization, when periods of time are spent on performing a specific task, before switching, to perform another task.
What is bulking and cutting?
Bulking is the single-goal process of actively overeating to feed the demand from growing muscles. During the process of bulking, a person will usually put on a lot of overall bodyweight, including fat. But, during the bulking phase, while a person may watch their fat levels and attempt to keep them low, they tend not to be overly concerned with fat gains to the extent they’ll try to lose fat.
A person can bulk for as long as they are prepared to bulk. Some can bulk and keep relatively lean for a long period of time, whilst others may put on a lot of fat over a shorter period, and decide sufficient muscle has been gained, and now the fat must come off, so they’ll then ‘cut’.
Cutting is the opposite of bulking, in a physiological context. You must actively under eat to cut, and the idea of cutting is to retain the muscle mass you’ve built, but to lose the unwanted body fat you’ve accumulated along the way.
Typically, the protein intake is upped whilst cutting, as a way of coercing the body into devouring the protein from food to make up the deficit not taken in from overall calories, rather than what would otherwise happen – protein in the muscles begins to be eaten.
When cutting, a person will always continue to lift weights – as this is key in reminding the body that you still need that additional muscle mass for ‘survival’.