In this article, we will explain how to bulk and cut with calisthenics, so that you can achieve your goals. This article will be based on the experience of Yerai Alonso. The idea is to carry out a contrastive analysis that reflects the consistency and the true physical change after the whole process.
From an aesthetic point of view, by having muscles, little fat and stay shredded, your physical appearance will be quite good. If what you want is to simply have an aesthetic body, the fastest way is to train so that you build muscle and keep your diet on track so that it is hypocaloric and you keep a low percentage of fat.
BUILD MUSCLE WITH CALISTHENICS
Of course, you can build muscle with calisthenics. The first thing to keep in mind is that to gain muscle mass the important thing is not the way you train, but giving the muscle an adequate growth stimulus. This can be achieved in different ways, including with calisthenics. If you want more detailed information on how to gain muscle mass with calisthenics, here you will find another article about it.
THE IMPORTANCE OF TRAINING
Another controversial topic is the importance of training related to the importance of diet. Many people want to improve their physical appearance and build muscle. However, they only focus on training, leaving the diet aside. This is unproductive because while training is a necessary requirement, diet is what regulates the effects of that training. With the diet, you control if what you are going to do is gain muscle, lose fat or stay as you are. If you do not track the diet, what will happen is that your results will be random: sometimes you will gain muscle mass, sometimes you will lose it, sometimes you will gain fat, sometimes you will lose it… However, you will not be able to have a clear idea of what aesthetic goals you are heading towards.
Many people bulk and cut without counting calories or they make a rough calculation. They focus on eating a lot when bulking and eating little when cutting. Nevertheless, this will not give you the results you are looking for.
The positive side of counting calories is that you can adjust how hypercaloric your diet is when bulking and how hypocaloric it is when cutting. In such a way that you can adjust how quickly you gain or lose weight. This is key to obtain better results, but also to maintain an aesthetic appearance during the bulking. Another advantage is that by losing weight in a controlled way, you avoid losing too much muscle mass.
To count calories, we recommend using a digital scale and an app (MyFitnessPal, for example), where you can add the food you eat and monitor your daily intake. At first, it may seem a bit tedious to be weighing and writing down everything you eat, but when you have done it for a few days it becomes part of your daily routine. You just have to get used to weighing the amounts that you put on your plate and then, write them down on the app. Just be careful with foods such as pasta, rice, or legumes, since it is different if you weigh them before cooking or after, so keep that in mind and use the correct option on the app.
Regarding the issue of macros and according to Yerai Alonso's experience, the important thing is that there is a daily protein intake, which in his case with his diet and the protein shake he takes every day; it is usually between 70g. to 120g. per day, which is equivalent to a range between 1g per kilo of weight to almost 2. Despite what is usually recommended in traditional bodybuilding, with those numbers it is more than enough to build muscle and take care of your health.
Regarding carbohydrates and fats, studies have shown that for weight gain or loss goals, the important thing is the total calories, while the distribution or percentage of carbohydrates and fats is not so relevant. For this reason, Yerai Alonso's diet is slightly higher in fat than is usually recommended. Normally the carbohydrates in his day to day fluctuate between 40 and 60%, while the fats vary from 30 to 40%. All this obviously within the context of a healthy diet, with an occasional cheat meal a week, which is also registered in the app.
HOW MANY CALORIES?
This is one of the first questions that usually arise: how many calories should I take to start? The app itself (MyFitnessPal) asks you some questions the first time you use it about whether you want to gain or lose weight, your personal data and then, it gives you an estimated amount of calories. The important thing is not how many calories you start with, the important thing is that over time you adjust them to achieve your goals, so do not worry too much about this issue.
KEEP IT STEADY AND SLOW
One of the keys for this process to be successful is to keep it slow. In bulking phase, we are interested in gaining weight, but without being too abrupt, since this would mean accumulating too much fat, which is self-defeating for us calisthenics athletes since we train with our own body weight.
In the case of cutting phase, if the weight loss is very fast, it will make us lose more muscle than desired. Therefore, it is advisable to adjust the calories as much as possible so that the weight gain and loss are very progressive, with the follow-up method that we will explain below. This is the best way to maintain an aesthetic look throughout the entire process.
WEIGHING AND DATA COLLECTION
Now let's talk about how to track your weight and calories. The key is to weigh yourself frequently, and if you can monitor the percentage of fat, even better. Today there are bioimpedance scales at affordable prices, which will help you have a reference to evaluate your progress.
Obviously, bioimpedance is not the most exact method to measure body fat, but it is a good reference to know your evolution, since, although the absolute value is not reliable, the changes of this value are reliable.
We recommend that you weigh yourself and measure your fat just before starting, and then weigh yourself again every 2 weeks, to evaluate if the calories you are consuming are correct. To obtain more reliable data, it is best to always weigh yourself first thing in the morning and on an empty stomach. One possible method is to write down everything in Excel (weighing date, weight and percentage of fat and calories consumed). This way you can easily control your evolution.
BULKING PHASE LENGTH
Another key for this process to be successful is that the bulking phase needs to last a long time, at least 6 months. In Yerai's case, his first bulking phase lasts almost a year. The problem with making bulking of 2 or 3 months is that the weight that you are going to gain is going to be practically the same that you are going to lose later in the cutting phase, with so little time it is difficult to build an amount of muscle mass that can later be appreciated. Making a longer bulking phase ensures that later when you cut you will have new muscles and you will have satisfactory results.
Regarding the duration of the cutting phase, it will normally be shorter than the bulking phase, and it will last as long as necessary for you to reach a percentage of fat as low as seems ideal (normally be between 8 and 12%). Once we have reached that point, we recommend raising your calories a little, so that you do not starve and stay a few weeks the same, with your most epic physical appearance. Then start over with the next bulking phase.
Regarding the issue of whether to do cardio in cutting phase, Yerai's opinion is negative in this regard: «My method is based on gradually modifying the calories to achieve the different objectives, while the training remains practically the same. Those who watched my video on my workout planning will know that there is a bit of cardio in different forms in my routines, but I do not worry about there being more when I'm in cutting phase. What I do is to lower the calories and let that decrease be the one that makes me shredded, while I continue to train hard towards my goals of strength, endurance, health and so on».
THE ETERNAL CYCLE
As you can see, the bulking and cutting phase is a cycle that is repeated continuously, and with which it is pursued to gain muscle in the bulking phase and then eliminate fat in the cutting phase, but the key is that you weigh more and more in your best moment of cutting. This will mean that you have more and more muscle each time.
THE CONS OF BULKING AND CUTTING (HUNGER AND SATIETY)
We are now going to talk about some of the negative parts of this process.
Eating without hunger: there are times in the bulking phase when you are completely full, without any hunger at all, and maybe you still have to take 500 or 600 calories, so you have to eat without wanting and without hunger to complete daily calories. In these cases, many foods such as nuts, nut creams or avocado are very helpful because they are quite caloric and have a nice flavour.
Hungry: in the cutting phase, it usually varies a lot depending on the peculiarities of each person. Although it is true that you go hungry sometimes and you cannot allow yourself many "treats", the hunger that you get to experience in this phase is just a feeling in the belly, it is not extreme suffering or something that will kill you, so it can be overcome. In this part of the process, dishes like vegetable creams and roasted vegetables are quite convenient, since they have very few calories in fairly large quantities.
WHAT ABOUT THE TRAINING…
Regarding the effect of these stages in training, the truth is that it is quite offset by the fact that in calisthenics we work with our body weight. In bulking, you will notice more energy, but you will also feel a little heavier; while in cutting, you will not have as much energy, but you will feel lighter.
Regarding cheat meals, it is up to you. In the case of Yerai Alonso, it was balanced: “I don't like to go to extremes in which to achieve your goals you stop having a social life. I prefer something more practical, so I tried to eat a strict and healthy diet most days of the week, and then at some weekend meal I would cheat if the occasion required it." It is advisable to write down the cheat meals in the app and balance them with the calories of the day, so that it does not affect your goals too much. Luckily, the app has practically all the foods and meals you can imagine, so you can usually put this cheat meal without problem, either exactly or by making a rough estimate.
TO SUM UP…
In Calisteniapp you can access different routines of different levels beginner, intermediate or advanced. In addition, the Smart Progress section of the app offers you a cardio routine that adapts to your progress. Moreover, it should be added that all this is complementary and that, of course, strength or hypertrophy routines are also valid.
Written by Johanna Suárez Hernández