Engagement in bulking and cutting is associated with symptoms of eating disorders

NewsGuard 100/100 Score

A new study, published in the journal Eating and Weight Disorders – Studies on Anorexia, Bulimia and Obesity, has found that nearly half of men, and one in five women, transgender and gender non-conforming participants, engaged in a "bulk and cut" cycle in the past 12 months.

"Bulking and cutting" -; a dietary technique characterized by alternating between periods of consuming surplus calories (bulking) and restricting calorie consumption (cutting) in order to optimize the growth of lean muscle mass and reduce body fat -; is a practice that aligns with current body ideals. It is especially prevalent among adolescents and young adults, particularly those within the fitness community and those who are striving to achieve a more muscular and toned body.

Analyzing data from over 2,700 Canadian adolescents and young adults, the researchers found that engagement in bulking and cutting was connected with a greater desire to become more muscular, among all groups of participants, underscoring the link between this dietary method and desires to change one's body.

Bulking and cutting is a common practice within the fitness community, and is popularized by social media. Given body ideals that focus on bulk muscularity and leanness in boys and men, it is not surprising that this dietary method was highly common in our sample, but it should also be noted that girls, women, transgender, and gender non-confirming participants, also face unique pressures to adhere to specific body types. For girls and women, this ideal is transitioning away from the thin ideal to a toned and fit ideal."

Kyle T. Ganson, PhD, MSW, Study Lead Author and Assistant Professor, University of Toronto

Few studies, however, have explored and characterized engagement in bulk and cut cycles, or whether this dietary method is linked with the drive for muscularity and eating disorder and muscle dysmorphia psychopathology.

"Our findings also showed that engagement in bulking and cutting was associated with symptoms of eating disorders, as well as muscle dysmorphia, which is characterized as the pathological pursuit of muscularity, for men and women in the study," says Ganson. "These findings are particularly salient given the documented increased prevalence of eating disorders and related behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic."

The study illuminates the importance of greater awareness of this unique dietary method, which may go unnoticed by healthcare and public health professionals.

"It is important that healthcare professionals screen for a vast array of dietary practices that may be harmful for young people, not just clinical eating disorder behaviors, like food restriction," Ganson says. "We need to continue to research these forms of muscularity-oriented behaviors to better understand them and implement effective strategies to protect the health and well-being of Canadian young people."

Journal reference:

Ganson, K. T., et al. (2022) “Bulking and cutting” among a national sample of Canadian adolescents and young adults. Eating and Weight Disorders - Studies on Anorexia, Bulimia and Obesity. doi.org/10.1007/s40519-022-01470-y.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
Post a new comment

While we only use edited and approved content for Azthena answers, it may on occasions provide incorrect responses. Please confirm any data provided with the related suppliers or authors. We do not provide medical advice, if you search for medical information you must always consult a medical professional before acting on any information provided.

Your questions, but not your email details will be shared with OpenAI and retained for 30 days in accordance with their privacy principles.

Please do not ask questions that use sensitive or confidential information.

Read the full Terms & Conditions.

You might also like...
Low vitamin D tied to belly fat and weak muscles in women