Should You Bulk Up or Lose Fat First?

Achieving your dream physique is about acquiring muscle and dropping body fat. One without the other doesn’t really give you a complete look and leaves more to be desired when seeing yourself in the mirror. Since you want more muscle and less fat, this begs the question: Is it better to bulk up or lose fat first? We’ll explain the mainstream approach and the approach from the Kinobody perspective.

The Typical Bulk Up Diet

In a conventional bulking program, you normally go on a muscle building phase first. The idea is that you put on as much muscle as you can, while inevitably accepting some fat gain in the process. By the end of this phase, you may have acquired a solid 10 to 15 pounds of muscle with a near-equal or equal gain in fat.

This is the type of program bodybuilders follow. The muscle building phase is their routine during the off-season. During this time, they look almost unrecognizable from the way they appear on stage during competition. Just do a Google search for “bodybuilders off-season vs competition” and you’ll see what we mean.

The Kinobody Way

In contrast, we usually believe it’s ideal to lose fat first before transitioning to a lean bulk phase. The reason for this is because it generally takes longer to build muscle than it does to lose fat.

Most men would like to pack on at least 20 pounds of muscle. This is a slow process that takes at least a year, if not longer. By contrast, it takes about a month to drop about 2% of body fat. This is assuming, of course, that you’re following a Kinobody program like our Aggressive Fat Loss or Warrior Shredding Program.

If you were, say, at 14% body fat level, then it would take about three months to hit 8%. You can then transition to bulking while maintaining the shredded physique. While you may gain back some body fat in the process, it would only be by about 1% to 2%. Even at 9% or 10% body fat, you would still look pretty shredded especially when you have an extra 15 to 20 pounds of muscle.

If you did a bulk up first (at 14% body fat), then you would be at about 15% to 16% body fat by the time you’re done with the phase. At that level, you won’t have much definition. You’ll have more of a powerlifter physique. The hard-earned muscle won’t look dense and will definitely lack the sharp angular proportions.

When you lose fat first, after the first three months, you’ll look chiseled, and the results will even be more noticeable in your face. You’ll at least have the body of a male model, which is always nice even if you don’t yet have the desired muscle mass to go with it.

Lose Fat First for More Testosterone

Body aesthetic isn’t the only reason to lose fat first. Having less body fat actually elevates testosterone levels, which helps you during the bulk up phase. The more body fat you have the more estrogen your body produces, and vice versa. The reason for this is because fat cells contain the estrogen-storing enzyme aromatase.

Estrogen, as you may know, is the dreaded female hormone that’s absolutely detrimental to testosterone gains. In addition, when you’re leaner, the body is also better able to process carbs and use the macronutrient for energy.

What if You’re Too Skinny?

Some people, though, fear that they’ll look too skinny if they lose fat first. This is especially true for people prone to the skinny fat physique or those who were grossly underweight in the past. These people may already appear lean in the arms, face, and other parts of the body except in the midsection where they have a noticeable girth. For some men, the fat stores in the belly is the last part to go.

If this is you, then we still recommend cutting up first to lose the belly fat. Don’t be so focused on how you look now and keep your eyes set on how you’ll look in six months. Don’t make a big deal out of it if you look pencil thin for the first few months.

When to Bulk Up First

We don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all approach. This is why we believe there are exceptions on the lose-fat-first paradigm. We actually believe it may be beneficial to bulk up first if you have already lost a sizable amount of weight from following some other diet program. In this case, it may be best to go on a lean bulk just to give your body a break from the constant calorie deficit. This also allows your testosterone and leptin levels to go up, not to mention your metabolism. Once you’re done bulking up and transition to a fat loss phase, the fat will also come off easier since your body is in a more optimal hormonal state. Plus the Kinobody Aggressive Fat Loss and Warrior Shredding Programs are specifically designed for you to lose body fat while retaining your muscle content. This is attained through the proper caloric restriction, proper resistance training and will be important to show your sculpted body once you shed the additional body fat.

By this point, you can probably also take a break – both physically and psychologically – from the lengthy dieting you just underwent. The bulk up will allow your body to replenish itself. Furthermore, if you continue to lean up, there will come a point where the body adapts to the calorie deficit, thereby lowering your metabolism.

Why Losing Fat First Is Ideal

Typically, shredding up is physically and psychologically more strenuous due to the lesser food intake. The goods news, though, is that you really only need to do it once. Once you reach your ideal body fat levels, you don’t have to go back to this phase again. This is unless, of course, you gain the fat back due to completely going off the Kinobody program for whatever reason.

In general, though, we recommend shredding up first so you can get the hard part out of the way. Once you bulk up, you can eat more which makes the whole process more enjoyable and less psychologically taxing.

Take the Kinobody Survey

In any case, every person has a different fitness goal. This is why Kinobody is made up of multiple courses rather than a single one-size-fits-all program. To determine which program is right for you, take our Kinobody survey. By answering a few simple questions, you’ll instantly know which course is suitable for achieving your desired physique.