What is a Cutting Cycle?

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  • Written By: Jennifer Voight
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 15 November 2019
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Bodybuilders often consume lots of calories and train very intensely during a bulking cycle to build as much muscle as possible. When the bulking cycle is complete, the bodybuilder will have gained several pounds of muscle and a little fat due to excessive calorie intake. A cutting cycle includes lower caloric intake and cardiovascular exercise to burn excess fat and reveal newly gained muscle. Bodybuilders will often undertake a cutting cycle in preparation for a competitive event.

At first, it may seem counterintuitive to bulk up by eating a lot and gaining fat along with muscle. Bodybuilders do this because it is extremely difficult to build significant amounts of muscle while losing fat at the same time. Building muscle, especially the pounds of muscle that bodybuilders strive for, requires taking in more calories than are expended through exercise. Losing fat requires taking in less calories than are expended through exercise. Since achieving these two goals require opposite mechanisms, most people find it easier to follow bulking with cutting cycles.


Bodybuilders approach a cutting cycle by restricting calories, often drastically. Usually, carbohydrates, or carbs, and fat are also restricted, while protein consumption is maintained in the belief that eating protein will prevent muscle mass from being lost during the cycle. Sometimes bodybuilders will cycle their carbohydrates, meaning they cut carb levels for several days, followed by a day where carbohydrate intake is increased. The purpose of carb cycling is to provide the body with energy for intense workouts while keeping net carb consumption low.

During a cutting cycle, workout intensity is maintained or even increased. Since the body is taking in fewer calories than it is expending, it’s possible to lose a little muscle while losing fat. Bodybuilders want to minimize this effect. Maintaining strength workout intensity keeps the body from allowing muscles to atrophy during this phase. Bodybuilders will add cardiovascular exercise to burn as many calories as possible.

Some bodybuilders will add amino acid supplements, like glutamine, during a cutting cycle to help with protein synthesis and maintain muscle mass. Nearly all bodybuilders will supplement with protein powders and protein drinks If a bodybuilder utilizes anabolic steroids to build and maintain muscle, he or she may use a special combination of steroids during a cutting cycle to retain muscle and maximize fat loss.

During the days just prior to a competitive bodybuilding event, sometimes a cutting cycle becomes even more extreme so that all the striations and definition of the muscles are highly visible. Bodybuilders may restrict water for certain periods of time prior to the event. They may pump the muscles by exercising and pulling blood into the muscles to make them appear bigger.


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Post 2
You are absolutely right, Glasis.

Not to mention, any activity where success is based on the use of steroids should be avoided.

The long-term effects of steroids are familiar to most people and include skin problems, swelling of internal organs and reproductive issues to name a few.

If getting to be abnormally huge is so important to someone that they're willing to risk their health or even life, that is sad.

Post 1
This sounds like a perfect synopsis of why being a bodybuilder is far from healthy.

Sure, bodybuilders look like they are in tip-top shape because of the size of their muscles, but bodybuilders lift weights and gain muscle mass for aesthetics, not for strength or endurance.

You would be hard pressed to find a doctor or nutrition expert who would say that cutting out energy-producing carbohydrates and exercising more is a good idea.

Also, drinking almost no water is bad for anyone, let alone someone who spends hours each day sweating.

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