The right time to stop bulking is different for men and women. Men should stop bulking when they have achieved 15% body fat and women can keep bulking until they gain 25% body fat. This is the ideal stage to stop bulking because it prevents further fat deposition. 15% or 25% body fat is the stage when you still look great and won’t mind taking your t-shirt off in a gym or for photoshoots. If your body fat crosses the 15% or 25% mark, you will start to lose your muscular physique. And, cutting may become significantly more difficult at this stage.
Understanding when to stop bulking and start cutting is the key to building a visibly stronger, attractive, and impressive muscular body without suffering any side effects of a calorie-rich/calorie-deficit diet. If you miss the mark, you may fail to build enough new muscles despite trying repeated bulking/cutting cycles.
Read below to understand when to stop bulking and what will happen if you don’t do that. I have also briefly covered how you can stop bulking the right way.
📖 Related Article: Are you in the bulking phase? You might be interested to know if you can keep running while bulking.
Our Body Fat Calculator
Note: We use the Navy Method for body fat calculation with this calculator.
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Why 15% body fat is the right time to stop bulking?
Many people assume they need to stop bulking when their muscles have become large or when they have become big/heavy enough. These are vague parameters as they do not give you any clear idea about when to stop bulking. If you continue bulking beyond a certain limit, things could get out of your hands. You may start looking puffy and bloated instead of lean and muscular.
Although there is no concrete evidence available so far, experts claim that 15% body fat for men and 25% body fat for women is when you should stop bulking. A higher body fat than this will boost the production of aromatase. Aromatase is an enzyme that converts androgen to estrogen. A high level of estrogen is often related to the development of male boobs, belly fat, low sex drive, erectile dysfunction, and many other diseases. In women, a higher estrogen level can cause development of breast lumps, adverse PMS symptoms, mood swings, etc.
Another reason why over-bulking is your enemy is that it decreases the secretion of leptin, an enzyme that controls your hunger. Decreased leptin level is associated with increased cravings and I don’t need to explain what cravings can do to your fitness goals. Over-bulking also increases the risks of heart disease, type II diabetes, strokes, etc.
📖 Related Article: If you have already gained higher body fat, you may have got noticeable man boobs. Here is an interesting article on How to Lose Man Boobs Quickly.
How to measure body fat to know when to stop bulking?
There are numerous ways you can determine how much body fat you currently have. The easiest one is to use our body fat calculator. This calculator uses the U.S. navy fitness formula, so you can expect a high accuracy level. Remember to use a body tape like MyoTape Body Measure Tape to get the most accurate measurements. The standard tapes that you have at home are not comfortable and accurate enough to use for measuring your body.
Skinfold calipers are also an inexpensive and reliable way to measure body fat percentage. Products like MEDca skinfold calipers are relatively easy to use. It is a handheld tool that measures the thickness of fat accumulated in various areas of the body. After you have taken the measurements, you need to do some basic calculations mentioned on the product label and it will give you your fat percentage. Various studies have concluded that skinfold calipers are the most reliable way of measuring body fat percentage.
If you can afford to spend, Rogue Fitness Garmin Index™ S2 Smart Scale is a rather simple way of measuring BMI, body fat percentage, bone mass, body water percentage, and a few other factors.
💡 Quick Tip: Dedicated athletes and bodybuilders need a simpler method of measuring body fat percentage because measuring tapes are time-consuming. If you are one of them, you should invest in Omron HBF-306C Handheld Body Fat Loss Monitor. The manufacturer claims that its bioelectrical impedance technology provides the most accurate results within seconds.
Omron HBF-306C Handheld Body Fat Loss Monitor
How to stop bulking the right way?
When it's time to stop bulking, even the pros get anxious. And, why wouldn’t they? After all, the cutting stage of muscle building is quite challenging and disheartening. But, the most overwhelming part is the transition phase. This is the stage when many people tend to make mistakes and ruin their efforts.
Here is how you can stop bulking the right way.
Give yourself enough time to stop bulking
You are in a bulking phase for weeks now and your body is used to a high-calorie diet. If you drastically cut down your calorie intake within a day, your body will enter into starvation mode. Your metabolism will slow down and you will end up losing muscles instead of building them. Be realistic; you can’t lose all your extra weight within a few days without messing up your body’s functioning. So, go slow and reduce your calorie intake gradually.
Ensure proper nutrition when you stop bulking
You only need to reduce your calorie intake; the rest of all nutrients must be consumed as usual. But, that's the most challenging task to do when you are on a strict diet. Before you start cutting, make sure you have a diet plan ready. Go for a diet plan that satisfies your taste buds and yet helps you stick to your calorie restrictions. Plus, you can always include cutting formulas that are scientifically designed to help you transition smoothly. XTEND Ripped BCAA Cutting Formula is one of the best-rated options I have come across.
💡 Quick Tip: When you stop bulking, you increase the chances of losing muscles. To minimize such risks, you should include supplements like Jacked Factory N.O. XT Nitric Oxide Supplement for Muscle Growth.
Jacked Factory N.O. XT Nitric Oxide Supplement
Don’t exercise too hard when you stop bulking
Now that you need to lose the extra fat and weight, you might feel tempted to do a lot of cardio and strength training. But, mixing too much cardio with a low-calorie diet all of a sudden can make you feel fatigued physically as well as mentally. The best approach to stop bulking would be to start with low-intensity exercises such as walking and yoga. Once your body has almost adjusted to the cutting phase, you can gradually increase the intensity of your workouts.
Deciding when to stop bulking can be tricky but you will get used to it in some time. Not just bulking, you also must know when to stop cutting because staying on a calorie-restrictive diet can have adverse effects on your health. Ideally, you should stop cutting when you have reached about 8% body fat.
I hope this article has answered all the questions you may have regarding when to stop bulking and start cutting. If I have missed something, please leave a comment or email me.