It’s an age-old question that supplement companies and fitness gurus say they have found the secret answer to; “burn fat and build muscle so you can look the best you ever have”.
While the notion plays well to the emotions of a person (usually the impatient side), it simply isn’t that easy (unless you start taking drugs that not only give a thermogenic effect like no other, it’s also anabolic. Further note: if you chose to do this, consult with a doctor first. Not the lifer in the gym with gyno selling you stuff from his gym bag. He did it wrong).
So if you find yourself in position, “should I lean out or should I bulk”, I will help you out with this answer.
Recomp Ain’t For Everyone
You have read in previous posts about the body’s ability to do what is considered a “recomposition” which is burn fat while gaining muscle.
This is physiologically possible; however, it’s knowing who might benefit from this best.It has a lot to do with your genetic potential. If you are a new lifter, within the first year, your body has the ability to put on 20-25lbs of muscle with proper strength training. In the second year, your body has the ability to put on 10-12lbs of muscle. In your 3rd year of proper training, you have the ability to put on 5-6lbs of muscle. After 4 years, the rate drops. In this time of building muscle, your body, naturally, will use fat as fuel to repair and grow muscle.From a habitual standpoint, recomp can also work for those who have trouble getting their diet in order so cycling between leaning out and bulking may be out of the question at the very start.This allows you to focus on your training and eat.
The return of investment in this case though is minimal if you aren’t brand new to lifting so although it’s possible, you’re better off cycling between fat loss and bulking.
What Should I Do Then?
Well, let’s make it as simple as possible.
Look in the mirror.
Yup, that’s it.
Oh, and how do your clothes fit?
Usually, this is more than enough to tell you which goal to start with first.
If you know you have fat to loss, don’t shoot for bulking first.
Go in to a fat-loss cycle first and get as lean as you’d like. This will preserve the lean body mass you have and will also give you the ability to see the areas in your body you want to make better aka spot ENHANCE.
Since we know you can’t spot reduce (well physiologically, you can BUT it’s so so so so so so small that it basically isn’t even worth trying or you will be trying ), give yourself time to drop the fat you need THEN go in to a bulk.
If you are slim, going in to a bulk is the cycle you should start with. From there, you can put on size (even a little bit of body fat) and still be at ease mentally since you won’t have much fat to lose after your bulk is done (if of course, you keep your nutrition in order and don’t over eat).
Patience is a Virtue
Changing your body is a life-long process. You want to be lean. You want to be big. You want to be “toned”. You want abs. You want to be strong. You want all these things but when it comes down to it, you simply need to prioritize and this means being realistic in your approach and not having unrealistic expectations.
Dropping 50 lbs in 3 months would be nice but for 99% of the population, it isn’t going to happen nor is is realistic.
Gaining 30 lbs of muscle in 6 months is not realistic.
Give yourself a proper training regimen (doing as little as necessary to spark the greatest enhancement) and be patient.
Rome wasn’t built in a day. The Titanic took 2 years and 2 months to make (stupid iceberg ruined it). Your body will take a life-time to create so just enjoy the process.
McDonald, Lyle. ‘Whatâ€™S My Genetic Muscular Potential? : Bodyrecomposition’. Bodyrecomposition.com. N.p., 2015. Web. 23 Aug. 2015.