Q) Hi Andy, am I lean enough to bulk?
A) This is something I help coaching clients decide on all the time.
If you’re past the point where you’re achieving both muscle growth and fat loss at the same time, you need to choose between cutting and bulking.
And if you’re on board with the idea that the way you’ll achieve your dream physique is by alternating fat loss and muscle gain phases over time, then there will come a point during a cut where you’ll start to wonder if you’re ready to transition to a bulk.
Now, the simplest way to figure this out is to ask yourself this:
If you gained 10 lbs of fat over the next 5-6 months, would you be ok with that?
If the answer is no, then you should get leaner. Yes, that might entail losing more weight than you’d ideally like and possibly even feeling a little skinny, but it’s better than stopping the bulk halfway through before you’ve gained a meaningful amount of muscle because you feel too fat.
Now, you might be wondering where this 10 lbs of muscle comes from.
“Andy, I’m trying to gain muscle here, not fat, bro!”
— I know, bro.
Allow me to explain.
Let’s say you’re somewhere between a novice and intermediate trainee, weighing somewhere between 140–180 lbs. Aiming to gain 1.5% of your body weight per month would be a reasonable target. That means you’ll gain around 2.5 lbs per month.
Now, if you do everything right, assuming average genetics, around half of that will be muscle and half of that fat. This means in 6 months you might gain 20 lbs, with 7.5 lbs of muscle, 7.5 lbs of fat, and an additional 5 lbs which will be a mix of water, gut content, and glycogen, that you’ll gain back in the first month when you transition from a cut to a bulk phase.
Now, you’re a busy human, with a job and perhaps family commitments, and now that you’re no longer dieting, you’re going to want to enjoy your freedom and eat out more. So it’s probably better to assume that you won’t be perfect and you’ll gain 2-3 lbs of fat more than that over a 6 month period.
And yes, this will mean an additional 2-3 weeks in a fat loss phase after your bulk, but you might consider this to be worth it.
This is where that “10 lbs of fat” number comes from.
(Obviously, it will be a little less for smaller people, or those that are genetically luckier than average.)
The point is, you need to ask yourself: if you gain 10 lbs of fat from here, would you be ok with how you look?
👉🏻 If the answer is no, then I suggest you continue to get leaner.
I know that this can be a tough pill to swallow. Everyone has more fat to lose the first time they cut properly than they think.
But you’ve got to adjust for the new now.
You can either get leaner than you’d ideally like before bulking, or fatter than you’d ideally like before cutting. But what you must not do is half-ass your cut and bulk phases, stopping them halfway through.
Because then you’ll end up in purgatory, never getting lean enough before you bulk, to bulk for long enough to gain a significant enough amount of muscle, before you feel too fat and want to cut again.
If you’ve been feeling trapped in purgatory, I’d recommend you check out my Diet Adjustments Manual 📙. It will take you through the theory and exact adjustments I made as I coached clients through this problem.
Here are some other resources:
Questions are welcomed in the comments below. Thank you for reading! 🙏🏻😊