Should I Add Mass, Recomp Or Cut First?

Should You Add Mass, Recomp Or Cut First?

Building muscle whilst losing fat. Every fitness enthusiast’s dream. Possible? Yes. But only for the small minority. Read on.

For a successful physique transformation, and not to get caught in a vicious circle for years, you should first work out whether you should be adding mass, losing fat or recomping.

‘This article is a waste of time, if you’re fat you cut and if you’re skinny you add mass’.

This is what these guys pictured below thought, until they began to work with me…

On the surface, it does look black and white.

But when you factor in different genetics, body fat starting points, muscle maturity along with decision self-doubt with the choice you made:

“Get in, I’m losing weight and looking leaner. But wait. Look at me. I’m skinny AF. Back to the bulk I go”.

Multiply that by the conflicting information you’re faced with daily and a very simple ‘black and white’ question turns into a complete mind-fuck and in the end your wheels are spinning faster than Lewis Hamilton’s.

What you’re about to read is real life transformations of my clients, their starting points and what we agreed to do in terms of going forward and why what the mainstream fitness magazines say is complete and utter bu***it.

But first…

Fat Loss: What it is and what it isn’t

Inevitably with every physique comes a dissatisfaction that brings with it lack of confidence and bouts of anxiety. Weirdly, stripping unwanted, excess body fat tends to help with this.

Understand that with fat loss you’re unlikely to be adding mass (unless you recomp – see later). Don’t worry about this, it all helps in going forward as you’d have now dieted down to a base ready to gain some serious mass.

The way I explain this to my clients is: why look to add more body fat to a frame that’s already holding onto some body fat?

You’ll just end up looking worse and unhappier with your physique. Trust me on this one, I’ve been there myself.

On the flip side, don’t think of every fat loss phase where you come to the end of the phase looking your absolute best the first, second, heck maybe even third time round. You may have to go through a few fat loss cycles before you come to the end thinking:

‘holy shit, look at me. I’m ripped’

Bulk: What’s the point?

Precisely my thoughts. I mean, who wants to look fluffy whilst feeling a sense of dissatisfaction and anxiety when faced in a public place, having to be topless?

Look, to bulk is to intentionally increase muscle mass whilst keeping fat gain to a minimum.

If you’re lacking the muscle mass (think the skinny guys with abs) – then focusing on gaining muscle should be your priority.

I know, I know, abs are cool yet the harsh reality is that if you’re not holding onto enough muscle mass in the first place, you won’t look your best due to a lack of muscle mass.

Chances are you have solid muscle definition, meaning adding more size to your frame whilst minimising fat gain and you’ll look incredible with time.

Recomp: Am I eligible?

The holy grail of fitness. Adding mass whilst losing body fat.

A recomp will happen if:

  • You’re completely new to training – think less than 3 months of training
  • You’ve never followed a structured training program for over 6 months
  • You’re coming back from a long lay off/injury
  • You’re taking anabolic steroids

Taking this approach if any of the above are applicable means you can afford to be in a slight caloric deficit whilst gaining mass.

However, I’ve seen guys who have been training for a few months recomp, just like my client who was holding onto body fat, where he started in a caloric deficit to reduce body fat, before entering him into a bulk, before stripping him down again. This is a whole 15 months worth of progress with 2 cut cycles as mentioned earlier in the article.

But, how long should I be cutting for?

As a rule of thumb it depends – haha.

Sorry, I can’t give definitive answers as it’s totally subjective to the individual. Generally speaking, a cut in order to reach a solid base to start adding mass shouldn’t really last longer than 6-9 months due to psychological and hormonal matters.

Differently, a cut that takes someone to stage or photoshoot can prolong for anywhere up to 12 months as each individual will be starting their cut at different body fat set points.

My photoshoot cut took 6 months.


Should You Add Mass, Recomp Or Cut First?

Hopefully this gives you a realistic timeframe as to how long a cut, when done correctly takes – patience really is a virtue.

The skinny, ripped guy.

Look, if you want to add size consider the following:

  • It’s a painfully slow process
  • You will gain some body fat

Similar to cutting for the first time, you won’t look your best after your first bulk. Below is a clients 6 month bulking period. If you look similar to the photo on the left, relatively lean yet lacking muscle mass, it’s best to gain mass.

So what about a bulk? How long should that last?

As a beginner, you must take advantage of this gaining period. You have potential to gain 20-30lbs in the first 12 months of training. And no, that’s not 20-30lbs of pure muscle mass but a combination of both muscle mass and body fat.

I’d recommend gaining as much muscle mass and weight before you even consider cutting. As long as you’re gaining anywhere between 1-3lbs of mass per month whilst still seeing the outline of your abs, continue to bulk.

Another example at to whether you should be cutting or bulking is demonstrated below. Already relatively lean, yet rather skinny which is why we added mass whilst minimising fat gain.


So when should I look to cut body fat?


Examples of my clients who needed to cut first before looking to gain size.

Remember I mentioned about adding fat (which will inevitably happen when bulking) to a frame already holding excess body fat? That’s the case here.

As a result, if your physique is similar to the guys on the left before they dieted down before looking to gain size, it’s best to cut.

The FREE Training & Nutrition Blue Print:

If you want to fast track your results, to learn the three phase system that’s allowed my clients to lose 10kg’s of body fat, whilst adding 20kg to their squat, bench and deadlift in as little as 84 days you can download that blueprint here.

Hopefully, this post has given you some more clarity on what you should be doing, bulking, cutting or recomping. I hope it’s also given you some realistic expectations of what timeframe to expect results in.

Your physique journey won’t always have you looking lean and pretty.

Cycling your cutting and bulking periods and adding size through building your base is going to shave off years of frustration and spinning your wheels, preventing you from dieting down to skin and bones.

Did you enjoy that? If you did, feel free to share it with a friend or even betteremail me: dan@theflexibledietcoach if you have any further queries 🙂