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As we all know, it’s that time of year where everyone starts cutting, trying to get lean for the summer. Most guys are very bloated, looking the worst they have for a long time, and can’t wait to get lean.
There’s nothing wrong with this per se, especially if this fits into your long term goals and you’re genuinely happy at your body fat level, but the reality is that guys can’t wait to get lean because they are currently unhappy with the way they look. Most are at least a little embarrassed to take their shirts off. It begs the question:
Why do people focus so much on bulking and cutting cycles?
Specifically, do you not think you would be happier and more confident on a consistent basis if you avoided the bulk altogether?
I have a feeling you would be happier, especially if you’re past the beginner stage. Although I’ve seen plenty of beginners get quite chubby and consequently worse-looking as a result, so if you’re a beginner, you’re certainly not immune to the “bulking trap”. Leaner = Happier.
The Problem With Bulking & Cutting
The problem with guys bulking and just generally getting bigger, is that we tend to have a “Keeping-up-with-the-Jones'” mentality, mainly due to our enormous egos. We always want to be bigger, stronger and faster than the rest. Looking at this in isolation, it’s generally a good thing, and I’m as competitive as just about anyone out there.
BUT, and this is a big BUT, it’s not good when it starts to make you less happy. I value my long term happiness too highly. Bulking is great when you start to see strength and size gains, however bulk too hard or for too long and you will soon start to dislike the way you look.
Then when it’s time for your “Summer Shredding”, you will experience significant strength loss eventually, assuming you end up losing a load of weight. This strength loss will be very frustrating, possibly even heart-breaking for you to see all your hard work go to waste, and will detract from your happiness. This is on top of the bad moods, irritability and lethargy etc (you know how it works).
It makes for a rather miserable experience.
You will also be looking flatter than usual, and we all know that this really starts to play with your ego, and can have the potential to cause paranoia about muscle loss, and cause you to stall in your fat loss as a result, even though it’s just low glycogen levels.
Cycles Of Anything Are Unsustainable
Cycling your calories, carbs and bodyweight, will lead to suffering further down the road. It’s similar to steroid cycles in that respect. Why do you think there is such a concept? Why do people not just do a couple of cycles and then be happy with their physiques?
Is it because people get greedy, and are never really satisfied?
I think that’s part of the answer yes.
But you cannot maintain all of the gains you make on a steroid cycle. Just like you can’t maintain all of the strength gains on a big bulk where you gain loads of weight. Therefore, steroid users need to be on gear for the rest of their lives if they want to be satisfied with their physique. My advice to you is:
Don’t bulk up to a bodyweight that you can’t see yourself being happy to maintain for the rest of your life.
Why Staying Lean Is Better For Most
If you stay lean year round, you will have none of this. You will be confident taking your shirt off at any time. Your face will look good all the time. Liking the way you look will leave you feeling more confident in life in general. You won’t have much fat to lose to peak for a certain time of year/event, therefore you won’t be in a lethargic, negative “dieting” state for very long.
To summarise, you will be happier.
Now, if you genuinely prefer the way you look at 15-20% body fat to 10%, for example, then this article of course doesn’t apply to you. But you are the exception to the rule here. The vast, VAST majority of men prefer the 10% look, regardless of what they SAY. Deep down they are happier there, assuming they’re capable of maintaining it, and most, biologically-speaking are.
The only drawback to staying lean year round, is that the muscle growth will be a little slower over the long haul. Only a little though. Those who bulk up and then cut back down to their original weight tend to find themselves barely any better off, so the difference is minimal. The crucial determining factor for muscle growth is:
The length of time and the consistency of the calorie surplus.
Increasing the size of the surplus beyond a small threshold only makes you fat. When you cut back down, you realise this cold, hard truth. You only gained slightly more than you would have done if you stayed lean. Therefore, you can definitely achieve significant growth whilst staying lean, assuming you aren’t super lean and therefore damaging your hormonal functioning. But most guys have to be shredded to actually damage themselves in the long run.
This is different to being hormonally sub-optimal DURING a cut. It happens a lot during a cut.
But in order to be hormonally sub-optimal in a small calorie surplus and attempting to slowly gain muscle, you’ve got to be REALLY lean, trust me. Raising your calories to maintenance for a couple of weeks normally alleviates any issues from a hormonal and energy standpoint.
The take home message of this article is:
Staying lean year round will leave you consistently happier in the long run. There will always be someone bigger than you, so put your ego aside, and realise there is more to life than lifting.