How To: Cyclical Bulking & Mini-Cut Phases

INTRODUCTION

I am a huge advocate of taking a cyclical bulking approach in the long term effort of gaining musculature. Before we continue, understand my definition of cyclical bulking. Cyclical bulking is having shorter planned periods of muscle gain and fat loss, the duration is dependent upon the individual. THAT is a point that many people seem to get mistaken with as I have some clients who get away with a muscle gaining phase of 12-20 weeks before needing a fat loss phase VS other clients who can only handle 8-12 weeks before needing a fat loss phase. Cyclical bulking is far superior to the traditional form of bulking for many reasons:

1. Typical bulking is consuming excess junk food which results in an increase in inflammation and decrease in recovery (excess being the key word as moderation is fine and in many cases, essential.)

  1. Typically people will gain more fat than muscle decreasing overall anabolic hormone production and causing constantly elevated cortisol levels

  2. That drastic increase in fat cells will synthesize aromatase thereby converting free testosterone into estrogen

For those reasons, we are trying to stick within a reasonable body fat range that allows us to make progress without an over accumulation of fatty tissue. Obviously some fat will be gained in the process of building musculature but there’s never a good reason to go above 15% body fat in my honest opinion.

GOALS

Maintain/increase musculature

Maintain/increase strength levels

Lose fat tissue as efficiently as possible

TIMEFRAME

3-5 week duration

PREFACE

The main intent of this drastic mini-cutting protocol is to lose fat tissue more rapidly than would otherwise be done in a typical 6-12 week cutting phase while maintaining, and in most cases, increasing muscular strength and musculature no matter how small that may be. Performance in the gym is a major focal point within this protocol as you need to continue to train hard no matter what caloric intake or amount of cardio is required for the end result.

LIMITATIONS

This protocol is merely a template and guideline for you to use to structure your own modified drastic mini-cutting protocol. Everyone has different levels of lean tissue, metabolic demands, body fat levels, training programs, nutritional habits, and genetic variances. Unless you are working with a coach, it is up to you to learn and experiment with how your body responds so you can better adjust a template such as this. Given those differences, I have had some clients complete this protocol with lower percentage drop from fat intake within a 3 week timeframe while others needed to have higher percentage drop from carbohydrates within a 5 week timeframe. The percentages and calories given below are simply a range to work within but some may fall to the extreme higher or lower end of the spectrum.

This protocol will only work if you have a properly periodized training, nutrition, and supplemental protocol in place and are currently consuming enough calories to warrant a drop of this size. If you try to lower calories too much, you will slow down your metabolism and fat loss will not occur regardless of how you train.

THE PROTOCOL

Week 1: Drop 20-30% of overall calories + 3 HIIT sessions per week (4 intervals per)

Week 2: 4 LISS sessions (300 calories PWO in > 30 mins) + drop 100-400 calories on 2 days out of the week

Week 3: Increase HIIT to 3 sessions (5 intervals per) + drop 500 calories

At this point, assess progress with either progress pictures, scale weight, or a combination of the two. If you have not dropped the desired body fat, continue on to the following 2 weeks.

Week 4: Drop 100-300 calories + Increase LISS to 5 sessions (300 calories PWO in > 30 mins)

Week 5: Drop 200-400 calories + Increase LISS to 6 sessions (300 calories PWO in > 30 mins)

At this point, if you’ve followed the protocol correctly and adjusted for individual variances, you should be in the perfect position to optimize a slower increase in calories and set yourself up for a proper reverse diet (which I will focus on in a future article)

SIGNS THAT YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG

If you are:

  1. Losing strength

  2. Losing a dramatic amount of lean tissue

You are doing it wrong and picked too high of a drop. Correct the issue the following week by either picking the lower end of adjustments or make no changes at all.

CONCLUSION

Use this protocol, adjust it to your personal needs, and benefit from staying in a leaner state year round while allowing you to build muscle more efficiently, be healthier, and feel better.

References

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Dec 1996 v64 n6 p850(6) “Effects of dietary fat and fiber on plasma and urine androgens and estrogens in men: a controlled feeding study.” Joanne F. Dorgan; Joseph T. Judd; Christopher Longcope; Charles Brown; Arthur Schatzkin; Beverly A. Clevidence; William S. Campbell; Padmanabhan P. Nair; Charlene Franz; Lisa Kahle; Philip R. Taylor.

Barkan, Ariel L., Eleni V. Dimaraki, Stacy K. Jessup, Kathleen V. Symons, Mikhail Ermolenko and Craig A. Jaffe. Ghrelin secretion in humans is sexually dimorphic, suppressed by somatostatin, and not affected by the ambient growth hormone levels. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism Vol. 88, No. 5 2180-2184. doi:10.1210/jc.2002-021169

Biston P, Van Cauter E, Ofek G, Linkowski P, Polonsky KS, Degaute JP. Diurnal variations in cardiovascular function and glucose regulation in normotensive humans. Hypertension. 1996 Nov;28(5):863-71.

Greaves CJ, Sheppard KE, Abraham C, Hardeman W, Roden M, Evans PH, Schwarz P, Study Group TI. Systematic review of reviews of intervention components associated with increased effectiveness in dietary and physical activity interventions. BMC Public Health. 2011 Feb 18;11(1):119.

Inui A. Ghrelin: an orexigenic and somatotrophic signal from the stomach. Nat Rev Neurosci. 2001 Aug;2(8):551-60. Review.

The Journal of Nutrition, Sept 2000 v130 i9 p2356 “High Dietary Fat Intake Increases Renal Cyst Disease Progression in Han:SPRD-cy Rats. ” Shobana Jayapalan; M. Hossein Saboorian; Jeff W. Edmunds; Harold M. Aukema.

Karelis AD, Peronnet F, Gardiner PF. “Glucose infusion attenuates muscle fatigue in rat plantaris muscle during prolonged indirect stimulation in situ.” Exp Physiol 2002 Sep;87(5):585-92

Klok MD, Jakobsdottir S, Drent ML. The role of leptin and ghrelin in the regulation of food intake and body weight in humans: a review. Obes Rev. 2007 Jan;8(1):21-34. Review.

Pejovic S, Vgontzas AN, Basta M, Tsaoussoglou M, Zoumakis E, Vgontzas A, Bixler EO, Chrousos GP. Leptin and hunger levels in young healthy adults after one night of sleep loss. J Sleep Res. 2010 Dec;19(4):552-8

Van Cauter E, Shapiro ET, Tillil H, Polonsky KS. Circadian modulation of glucose and insulin responses to meals: Relationship to cortisol rhythm. Am J Physiol. 1992 Apr;262(4 Pt 1):E467-75.

Sofer S, Eliraz A, Kaplan S, Voet H, Fink G, Kima T, Madar Z. Greater weight loss and hormonal changes after 6 months diet with carbohydrates eaten mostly at dinner. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2011 Oct;19(10):2006-14.

Woods SC. The control of food intake: behavioral versus molecular perspectives. Cell Metab. 2009 Jun;9(6):489-98. Review.

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