Every newbie, and a few experienced lifters, asks this question. Here's some hardcore advice.
Bulk, Cut, Look the Same
I still see guys who've been lifting more than a decade do traditional bulking and cutting phases, and it's perplexing. Add extra layers of blubber for a season, and sure, you'll end up with a little extra muscle. But even for advanced guys, the ratio of muscle gain to fat gain is way out of whack, and it's not worth it.
Then they spend the next few months in their "cutting phase" peeling off all of that fat to reveal what basically looks like the same physique they had before their bulking phase.
But Newbies Are Different
But what about the noob who just needs to pick a goal and go after it? The answer is, "It depends."
All newbies, at least for a little while, are in possession of the holy grail of weight training: the ability to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time. A new lifter can experience fat oxidation and build muscle at the same time. So what should they do with the limited time they have in weight training utopia? First, consider your age.
Noobs Over 40
If you're over 40, then leave the "bulk and cut" motto to the high schoolers trying to make varsity. Hormones in your 40's are not the same as hormones in your teens or 20's. They're going to be less responsive to training and nutrition than what someone younger will experience.
There's good news though. If you're a 40-plus noob, you're still going to get the benefit of being able to lose fat while building muscle during the first few months. But unlike the bulk and cut lifters, it's a bit more important that you use this time as the launching pad for something that's sustainable and contributes to your overall health and longevity.
What if you want to get massive? Your plan should be devised to enhance what's left of your life and increase the quality of it:
- A training plan that increases the strength and musculature of the hips and back is imperative. Visit a nursing home and you'll understand the importance of this.
- Focus on building the upper back for improved posture. Visit a nursing home for this one too.
- Create a nutritional strategy that improves your health and cultivates a highly functioning physiological environment. This means eating animal proteins, tons of fruits and vegetables, and eliminating overly processed foods. Visit the morgue to understand the importance of this.
If you're a younger noob, and you're overweight or obese and you feel lost nutritionally, stop reading bodybuilder articles on how to eat. Going straight from Captain Crunch and Pop Tarts to chicken and broccoli six times a day isn't a one step transition. But there actually is a formula that works for just about everyone. Try this:
Drink a protein shakes 15 minutes before a meal. Eat your protein in the meal first. Eat your veggies and/or carbs last. Do this four times a day. And eliminate high-calorie, low-nutrition snacks like candy bars, pop, pastries, cookies, chips, etc.
Don't worry about counting calories and macros and all that jazz at first. Just do these five things first. The shake 15 minutes before the meal tends to kick in because it satiates you by the time you're ready to fork it up. You'll end up eating fewer total calories as a result.
For the young noob that's on the other end of the spectrum and looks like a less muscular version of Tom Hanks at the end of Castaway, have three meals a day with 30-40 grams of protein and 50 grams of carbs. Add a tablespoon of olive oil to those three meals. Between meals have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich... or five. However many it takes to see the scale move by a pound a week.
No noob has the amount of muscle needed to get "all ripped up." And don't bulk if you're already fat.