Over the last two years, I’ve completed three rounds of bulking and cutting, a system where you eat an excess of calories while lifting weights for a few months (I’ve done the Starting Strength program), and then cutting calories while training metcon/crossfit for the same amount of time. This method is supposed to max out your strength gains while ridding you off excess fat after your gain period is over. My results after three rounds of bulking and cutting: squats from 90lbs to 215lbs, bench from 65lbs to 120lbs, deadlift from 45lbs to 235lbs, weight from 160lbs to 180lbs. That’s right: I’ve had no problems doing the bulking part, but the cutting part has left me 20lbs heavier.
Each time I’ve thought it was just me. I’ve not gone the distance, pushed hard enough, been meticulous enough. So I try again, and add another few pounds to my butt. Two things happened during Christmas that put this view in perspective. First, my man and I both did our four month weigh-in and measurements after doing the same training program and diet plan. He’d lost 7lbs and 3inches around his stomach in the four months of cutting without restricting calories. All he did differently was change his training program. I had lost nothing. Four months of metcon, running and semi-low carb eating had left me without results.
Cue self-pity, right? No. Cue research mode. I talked to a Norwegian friend of mine who competes in powerlifting. I asked her about diet and her methods for gaining muscle without gaining weight (important since she wishes to stay within her weight class). She said that she’s given up on bulking and cutting. Why? Because, in her experience, women struggle more with losing weight than men. Even if we have a high metabolism due to being active and muscular, women have a harder time shedding excess fat. This fit well with what I’ve experienced. For the first time, I heard another active woman say what I’d thought was just me being
unmotivated: it is hard to cut.
It felt good to know that maybe my lack of results aren’t because I’m lazy, but because of actual physical differences between men and women. The system of bulking and cutting is designed by men, for men, and even though I love the starting strength program, I might have to skip the gallon of milk next time. Instead, I’ll follow the advice of my friend: eat healthy all the time, and focus on gaining strength without gaining fat.
What does this mean for me? Well, in the next four months, I’ll be trying to cut without losing muscle, but this time I’m doing it woman style. So stay tuned for my training program and diet plan.