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Written on June 7, 2007 at 1:44 pm, by Eric Cressey
Those are definitely some statements with which I agree wholeheartedly, and I think that the more people that check out JB’s Precision Nutrition products, the less often I’ll have to encounter questions like this! Once people start to adopt these ideals, I really think that we’ll see a paradigm shift in the world of training-nutrition interaction for body composition improvement.
I, too, get really sick and tired of the “bulk and cut” mentality to which so many people adhere. And, as a competitive athlete myself who has to maintain reasonably strict control over my body weight – yet has still seen consistent improvements in body composition over time – I feel that I have a solid frame of reference from which to speak. In fact, as I look to drop a few pounds prior to APF Senior Nationals (June 2), my overall training and nutrition strategies aren’t changing much at all.
With that said, I’ve got several problems with what has seemingly become the “traditionalist” approach:
1. People adopt programs, but never habits. Consistency is more important than you can possibly imagine, but when you’re constantly shuffling back and forth between programs, you’re never really “getting it.” If you had the good habits in the first place, chances are that you wouldn’t have ever had to come to consider the extreme cutting or bulking, right?
2. Progress can be very tough to monitor in experienced individuals. Experienced natural lifters might be lucky to add five pounds of lean body mass a year. How realistic is it to really micromanage such subtle changes over a three-month period (assuming two bulks and two cuts per year)? Spread five new pounds out over an entire body and you’ll see that it isn’t readily apparent. Work with some guys who are 7-feet tall like I have and you’ll see that it’s even more hard to notice – especially when you see them on a daily basis.
3. Bulk/Cut is no way to live. Let’s assume that a year consists of two bulks and two cuts. So, basically, you’re spending one half of the year gorging yourself until you become a fat-ass, and the other half in misery until you get lean enough to feel crappier and look better. Toss in a few root canals, a colonoscopy, and a few Ben Affleck movies*, and you’ve got yourself a year to be forgotten. Yeehaw.
4. Think of the long-term consequences of the bulk/cut scheme. If you read the research on weight regain and body fat distributions in recovered anorexics, you’ll see that central adiposity is extremely common. Are severe cutting diets really that much different than clinical cases of anorexia? Taking someone’s thyroid out and stomping on it would actually be a quicker means to the same end.
5. Do we really want to adhere to guidelines that are predominantly geared toward professional bodybuilders who are so juiced to the gills that you can smell GH on their breath? They’ve got extensive anabolic arsenals in place to maintain muscles mass and optimize nutrient partitioning as they diet down, and thyroid medications to keep their metabolic rates up in spite of the reductions in calories. Indirectly, all these substances improve strength and stave off lethargy, making training sessions more productive in spite of caloric reductions. In the bulking scenarios, the nutrient partitioning effects are still in place, as these individuals are less likely to add body fat when eating a caloric surplus.
Now, put a natural lifter in the same scenario, and you’ll see right away that he’s immediately at a disadvantage. Drop calories too fast, and your endogenous testosterone and thyroid levels fall. You get tired and weak, and your body has to find energy wherever it can – even if it means breaking down muscle tissue.
I’m not trying to get on a soapbox here; I’m just trying to make people realize that they’re comparing apples and oranges. You need to do what’s right for you.
And what does that entail? Adopt admirable dietary, training, and lifestyle habits, and you’ll build a strong body that moves efficiently and just so happens to look good. Leave the quick-fix approaches for those with “assistance” and anyone silly enough to watch a fitness infomercial from beginning to end.
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