Establishing clear-cut bulking and cutting cycles is the most effective way of achieving a ripped physique.
An important part of developing such a schedule is to get the timeline right.
If you bulk for too long, you might end up with excess body fat. If you bulk for only a short while, you might not have built enough lean muscle mass to make any significant difference in your physique and strength.
So, timing is key.
For many, bulking is the most difficult part. It is the period when bodybuilders start gaining weight through a strategic calorie surplus. The main goal of bulking is to build as much muscle mass as possible. In the process, you will undoubtedly pick up some fat as well.
But gaining too much fat is never favorable. That is why you need to know when to stop bulking.
If you can figure out the exact timeline of when you should stop bulking, transitioning to the cutting phase will become easier. Overall, you’ll see noticeable improvements in your physique, muscle size, and strength.
But that’s only if you know when to stop bulking and start cutting.
When to Stop Bulking?
Generally, you should stop bulking after hitting the maximum body fat percentage of 15%, as recommended by fitness experts. That is because, at this juncture, your body will start gaining fat at a faster rate than the speed of lean muscle tissue development.
If you follow this rule of thumb, your bulking period should last anywhere between 3 months and 6 months.
But a lot also depends on external factors like your age, genetics, at the point at which you started. Experts recommend that you keep your body fat percentage as low as possible before you transition into the bulking period.
That is because it will allow your body to build lean muscle more efficiently while gaining fat at a comparatively slower rate. On the other hand, starting your bulking period while having a higher body fat percentage will result in shorter bulking periods, which can restrict the amount of muscle mass that you gain.
The second thing that you need to consider is your age. Gaining fat can result in higher blood pressure, increased insulin resistance, high levels of cholesterols, and many other changes in your bodily chemistry.
If you are young and healthy, these changes will not affect you too much. But the older you get, the more difficult it will be for your body to cope with these changes. If you are older, your bulking phase should be shorter.
Genetics also play a role in determining the length of your bulking phase. Skinny people with a relatively higher metabolism can gain a few extra pounds. They can afford to push past the recommended limit of 15% body fat.
But if your metabolic rate is slow and you have always had a somewhat chubby build, it’s not a good idea to push yourself too hard while bulking. Doing so might result in health complications as well as a potential threat of rebounding.
In conclusion, the length and intensity of your bulking phase varies from person to person. The recommended limit is to stop after hitting the milestone of 15% body fat percentage.
From thereon, based on your individual anatomies and fitness goals, you can make some slight adjustments. For example, older people should stop bulking a little earlier at around 12%-14% of body fat.
At the same time, however, it’s important that you are clean bulking. Make sure that you reach a 15% body fat percentage after toiling for 3-6 months. Otherwise, you can easily eat a lot of junk food to achieve that milestone in a matter of weeks.
At What Body Fat Percentage Should I Cut?
Generally, it is recommended that you stop bulking and start cutting after reaching a body fat percentage of 15%. That is because our body optimizes nutrient partitioning when it has a body fat percentage that is lower than 15%.
So, what is nutrient partitioning?
It refers to the biological mechanism that dictates where the excess calories go when you are bulky. There are two options – the calories either get stored as fat or are used up for building muscle.
When the body fat percentage is below 15%, a larger amount of calories will be used in combination with resistance training for building muscle. Exceeding this limit, however, will result in excess calories mainly being stored in the form of body fat.
This happens because the skeleton muscle insulin sensitivity in our bodies is better at 15% body fat or below.
But it’s important to remember that you should not restrict yourself too much because of the 15% recommendation. You can go a little higher or lower, depending on external factors.
For example, younger and healthier people can be allowed to push themselves to 17-18% body fat percentage. Older people should try to be leaner and limit themselves to 12-14%.
Similarly, genetically leaner and genetically bigger people should determine their respective maximum limits accordingly.
How to Stop Bulking the Right Way?
There’s a clear difference between dirty bulking and clean bulking. If you want to see favorable results, it’s important that you go for the latter option.
Knowing when to stop bulking and how to stop bulking are two different things. Once you have figured out the timeline, you need to establish the actual mechanics and rules of your bulking period.
Here’s how you can stop bulking to yield optimal results:
Bulk Up Slowly
To finish your bulking in style, you need to be consistent throughout the performance. Try to keep your bulking phase last for at least 3-6 months to avoid gaining too much fat in a short window.
According to research, you should enjoy a calorie surplus of around 10-20% above your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE). For example, if you are a 175-pound man of average height, you should add around 250-500 calories to your daily intake.
Maintaining this consistency will allow you to stop bulking effectively without feeling too many hunger pangs or causing massive changes in your body’s biochemistry.
Plan The Maintenance Phase
Jumping straight to the cutting phase from the bulking phase might lead to unprecedented problems, especially if your body fat percentage is higher than 15%. That is because there will be changes in your body’s hormone composition once you change your dietary habits.
To minimize the drastic side effects of these sudden changes, it’s better to smoothen the transition by incorporating the maintenance phase.
As the name suggests, the maintenance phase involves consuming just the right amount of calories required to maintain your current body weight and composition. After a 4-12 weeks of maintenance, you can switch over to start the cutting period.
Increase Protein Intake
When you stop bulking and start cutting, you will drastically reduce the amount of calories that you consume.
As such, you need to compensate by increasing the amount of protein that you take in per day. It’s recommended that you have at least 1-1.2 grams per pound of your body weight per day.
Doing so will promote muscle protein synthesis and prevent muscle loss in a state of caloric deficit.
Tune Your Training for Cutting
When you are transitioning from bulking to cutting, it’s important that you maintain a cutting focused training routine.
So it will allow you to stimulate muscle retention during a state of caloric deficit, help you preserve strength, and make sure that you have a more defined appearance at the end of the process.
Bulking is an effective way of building up muscle mass and size. However, that will only be the case if you do it right.
It’s important that you know exactly when you should stop bulking to see optimal results.