As an endomorph, training is likely not the issue when it comes to physique development. Endomorphs are naturally strong and can build muscle very quickly.
The issue many will face is what to do when it comes to dieting. While it’s true that endomorphs can build muscle quickly it’s also true that they tend to gain body fat at an ever quicker rate. This often leads to a difficult goal of deciding what goal you should pursue at any given time.
Do you want to take advantage of your muscle growth potential and accept the excess fat gains that might come with this or do you commit to a cutting plan and try to get leaner. The answer is actually already decided for you and it comes down to your current body fat percentage.
Should Endomorphs Bulk or Cut? If an endomorph has a body fat percentage of 15% or greater than they should go on a cut with a body fat percentage target of 10%-12%. If however they are relatively lean already at around the 12% body fat percentage level then they should go on a lean bulk.
This might seem very simple and straightforward but when it comes to improving your overall body composition this is a hard and fast rule that most people should be following regardless of whether or not they classify as an endomorph, ectomorph or anything in between.
Should Endomorphs Bulk or Cut?
Just to be clear, if your goal is to get as strong as possible then this article probably isn’t to you. I only produce content for people that are looking to improve their body composition and therefore if you have found this article then you either want to build more muscle or lose some body fat.
You can do both in the long term and as a complete beginner (less than 6 months training) you can even do both at the same time but in order to find this article you must be looking for a way to improve your physique.
This is why the body fat percentage rule is so crucial and should be used as a guide when deciding on either a muscle growth or fat loss phase.
Your body fat percentage will dictate your hormone balance (insulin and testosterone), nutrient partitioning (whether calories are utilized more by the muscles or whether they go towards fat storage) and to a large extent what your next 3-6 month training plan will look like.
To use an extreme example, I sometimes see people asking in the Quora and Reddit forums whether they should bulk at a body fat percentage of 20%. It’s easy to see strongmen and powerlifters who are strong and look like they need a higher amount of body fat to support heavy lifting and muscle growth.
It’s a fair assumption to make but under no circumstances should you be considering a bulk if you are at a body fat percentage above 15%. I’m being very lenient with the 15% recommendation as well because this is the absolute top end of a bulk.
This isn’t just an arbitrary number that is based on personal opinion either so let me first cover when an endomorph should go on a bulk.
When Should Endomorphs Bulk
As mentioned I consider a body fat percentage of 15% to be the absolute top end for a bulk regardless of your body type classification.
The simple reason is because the more body fat you have, the easier it is to gain more body fat as a result. It’s a harsh cycle and similar to how you will hear phrases like “money makes more money” or “one good deed leads to many”.
It’s similar to a snowball effect whereby, once you head in a specific direction, you gain momentum and it becomes easy to gather pace. Much like a snowball rolling down a hill will gather more momentum and get larger as it goes.
You might think I’m going completely off on a tangent here and wonder what snowballs have to do with gaining body fat but it’s very relevant and comes down to human biology and thermodynamics.
The human body requires a certain amount of calories on a daily basis to survive, this quantity is different for everyone depending on individual characteristics, lifestyles and genetics.
This is where energy balance is important to understand and the calories consumed vs energy expended equation is the best way to demonstrate it.
Calories in vs Calories Out
Let’s say you need 2,000 calories per day to maintain weight, if you consume more calories that you burn off then you will gain weight, likewise if you consume less calories than you burn off then you will lose weight.
The reverse is also true, if you expend less energy than what you consume in calories you will gain weight and if you expend more energy than you consume in calories than you will lose weight.
Therefore if you need 2,000 calories to maintain your weight but then suddenly start to consume 3,000 calories per day whilst also sitting on a sofa watching tv for 12 hours a day then you will gain weight. This is your typical person living a highly sedentary life.
Let’s say you then have a busy working mom (stereotypical comment but I do have a point) who needs to consume 1,800 calories per day to maintain weight. She wants to lose some weight and sees a juicing advertisement guaranteed to lose weight (this is a specific target done by “health” companies).
She goes on this juicing diet consuming 500 calories per day and guess what, she loses weight! This is why fad diets work, it’s calorie restriction but not the magic of juicing or whatever the latest guaranteed dieting fad is.
These two examples both come down to energy balance.
Why You Shouldn’t Bulk With a Higher Body Fat Percentage
You probably already understood that bulking and cutting revolves around calorie surplus and calorie deficits but it’s important to have that base knowledge base when I say that a higher body fat percentage will just lead to you gaining more body fat on a bulk.
The more calories you consume over your maintenance calorie requirements (the amount you need to maintain weight) the more difficult it is for your body to optimally utilize these calories and the more likely it is that you will then store them as body fat.
This is triggered by a range of factors including calorie demands due to working out but also insulin sensitivity and this is the big one. A person blessed with good genetics and insulin sensitivity will find that they can consume large meals (carb heavy) and the majority will be converted to muscle glycogen.
A typical endomorph however, will consume a carb heavy meal and the majority of it will go towards fat storage instead. This is just the cards that you have been dealt in life and it’s something you need to be aware of.
If the body is already in the habit of storing body fat then the more calories you consume on a ‘bulk’ the quicker it will be stored as body fat.
It’s not all bad news though, if you are at a lower body fat percentage (around 10%) and are engaging in resistance training lifting some heavy weights and depleting muscle glycogen and also keeping energy levels high with cardio then you will start to convert these calories, particularly carbs more optimally for muscle growth.
I’m not saying you’ll be an efficient machine but this is your best and most optimal place to start a bulk. If you bulk at a higher body fat percentage then your body is far from primed to be able to optimally utilize the surplus of calories and you’ll gain fat at a similar rate to the snowball rolling down the hill!
Just to demonstrate my point there are supplements aimed at improving nutrient partitioning and this article summarises the studies around the optimal body fat percentage for bulking so you don’t just need to take my word for it.
How Do Endomorphs Bulk Up
You might have been reading this and wondering “how can an endomorph bulk up”, it seems that you would be destined to gain body fat whatever you do. That is certainly true if you take an uneducated approach to bulking but there are of course ways to minimize excess fat gain.
Starting from a lower body fat percentage is your first priority. You need to be in a fat burning state that comes with a calorie deficit and increased energy expenditure required to get to a low body fat percentage in the first place.
This will translate to better nutrient partitioning as your body starts to prioritize your muscles’ demand for calories to support weight training and cardio. Therefore starting from a low body fat percentage is a major contributor to bulking up successfully as an endomorph.
Secondly you need to be training your calories just a diligently as you would during a cut. For an endomorph tracking your calories is arguably more important when bulking than it is during a cut because the margin for error is much higher.
If you over consume during a calorie surplus then there is a greater chance that you will put on excess body fat as a result. It’s a harsh reality but you’ve got to work with what you’ve got, don’t forget that on a successful bulk you will also pack on lean muscle mass at a quicker rate as well so it’s not all negatives.
Finally you need to keep your calorie surplus low and only increase it in small increments if you stop seeing results. A calorie surplus of 100kcal – 200kcal will be enough to support muscle growth while also being low enough to reduce excess fat gain.
It’s important to note that the rate of muscle growth is slow (1lb-2lb per month) and therefore you should not be looking to rush this progress and place too much focus on the scale weight. If you are getting stronger in the gym then this is a very good indicator that you are going in the right direction.
If you see minimal movement after a month then increase the surplus by 100kcal – 200kcal at a maximum and assess it again. These small increments are crucial when it comes to minimizing excess fat gain whilst still providing you the surplus required for muscle growth.
When Should Endomorphs Cut
Hopefully the above stance will give a good indication of where I’m going to go with a cutting recommendation?
An endomorph should cut if they are over 12% body fat (to start with) or once they get to 15% body fat during a bulk.
These are two very important differentiators. If you are just getting started training and want to build your physique then unfortunately the majority of endomorphs out there won’t be primed to start optimally building muscle.
It’s always going to come back to their poor carb tolerance, high insulin sensitivity and tendency to gain fat at a quicker rate.
Therefore before starting any sort of bulk you need to put yourself in a prime position to utilize the surplus calories for muscle growth and this will come at a lower body fat level after a prolonged period of time in a caloric deficit.
The purpose of this article is to give you clear goals to work towards when it comes to body composition, therefore even though you might be in a hurry to build muscle you’d need to make fat loss your first priority if you have a higher body fat level.
As mentioned earlier, even when cutting you can still build muscle as a beginner during a calorie deficit. The load and volume or your sessions will be much lower and the new stimulus will give your body a reason to adapt.
It’s only after a year or two of training when you are lifting significantly heavier weights that your calorie demands will increase and as such you won’t be able to build more muscle during a calorie deficit (for 99.9% of people).
If you are currently bulking and started from a lower body fat percentage then you have a bit more flexibility and go bulk up to a body fat percentage of 12%-15%. I wouldn’t put 12% as the cut off because you would never give your body sufficient time to build muscle.
At which point do you decide to revert back to a cut? Ab visibility will be a good indicator of this. You can use scales to measure your body fat percentage but they will never be accurate (do use them as an estimate though) and therefore your ab visibility will be a good indicator of body fat levels.
If you are bulking and can no longer see your abs then it’s likely your body fat percentage has gone too high and you will start to see diminishing returns on your calories consumed to muscle building potential.
Endomorphs unfortunately have more of a balancing act when it comes to cutting and bulking, an ectomorph might find it hard to build muscle but it will take a long time for them to get to 15% body fat which means they can keep pushing the calorie surplus.
And endomorph will need to take more of a lean bulking approach and will need to keep the calorie surplus smaller. For a good guide you can check out my article on lean bulking here.
I’ve also made a guide for the ideal cutting and bulking macros for endomorphs which you can check out here. Both guides will get you started once you’ve analyzed your current body composition and decided whether you need to bulk or cut.
Just to round off the article I’ll list out one final time the basic guideline for whether you should bulk or cut as an endomorph.
- Body fat percentage >12% = Cut
- Body fat percentage <12% = Bulk
- Body fat percentage >15% when bulking = Cut
This is a very straightforward guideline but will give you a clear direction of where you need to go based on your current body composition.