Every fitness enthusiast dreams of a lean physique. But, a lean physique is impossible without cutting!
After obtaining crazy bulky muscles with hard work this winter, it is time to burn all that extra flab you gained during the extreme workouts. However, be aware, if not done right, a cut could ruin all the progress you’ve made so far!
That’s why, in this post, I’ll provide complete guidance on cutting to help fitness lovers acquire that lean physique they desire. An important thing to remember before we begin with the guide is that cut does not just consist of changing the workout routine by adding cardio. Cardio exercises are obviously important, but mainly the nutrition is changed and the training routine is revised.
As getting lean can be very complex, I’ll make the process simple for you! So let’s get right into it.
Generally, there’s a misunderstanding about two fitness terms — bulking and cutting. Bulking means increasing caloric intake to achieve muscular mass. Cutting involves losing the extra fat that’s accumulated during the bulk.
Is Cut Always Necessary?
People commonly focus on cutting to get rid of the extra fat on their arms or belly. Obviously, to achieve a lean physique, losing fat is important. However, it’s not always ideal to lose weight. Especially for men who have only gained a few pounds and want to show off their six packs in the summer.
Cutting is for people who have gained considerable weight and can afford shredding the extra fat. It simply does not make any sense to consider cutting if you haven’t even built a strong muscle foundation. First, focus on building your body, once you have attained weight and muscle mass, you’ll be in the perfect position to shred extra fat.
Plus, an important point to note is that when you’ll eat healthy and exercise more; you’ll boost your metabolism. This will leave a lasting impression on your body and you’ll be burning more calories. So, don’t worry about minor fat, you’ll burn that without cutting.
Timelines for Cutting
The time of a cut depends on the amount of fat you wish to lose as well as the composition of your body. You don’t want to lose your muscles, so rushing things is never a good idea. Common timelines that can be followed for a cut are:
- Less than 5 pounds or 5 pounds: 4-6 weeks cutting
- Less than 10 pounds or 10 pounds: 6-12 weeks cutting
- 20 pounds or greater: 20-24 weeks cutting
Remember the Nutrition
During your cutting, your goal should generally be to lose an average one pound weekly. But to achieve that, you’ll have to get into a caloric deficit — burning more calories than consuming them. For a caloric deficit, you’ll either have to reduce the intake of calories or simply add exercises. It’s best if you do both: but it is important to first understand the total amount of calories you’ll have to consume to maintain your weight. Calculate that and then eat accordingly to maintain your weight.
While you focus on caloric deficit during cutting, it is vital that you provide your body with the nutrients it needs! If you eat less food, your body could suffer from a lack of vitamins and you obviously don’t want that. Eating less for cutting means consuming fewer calories; it doesn’t mean reducing the nutrition required by your body.
For nutrition, I recommended you to take a multivitamin once a day. If you’re already taking a multivitamin, boost your dosage. But, consult your doctor first to make sure that your body won’t have any side effect of increasing the dosage. You do want to lose extra pounds from your cut, but at the same time, you don’t want to have a negative impact on your health.
In addition to multivitamins, I also recommend protein shakes for nutrition during your cut. You might already be taking them and if so, you’re already aware of how good they’re for your body. Replace a daily meal with a protein shake and you’ll be able to reduce the fat you consume everyday while providing the required calories to your body.
I have also seen branch-chained amino acid (BCAA) do wonders for my clients and these acids will give you the extra energy you need during workouts. As we lack energy during cutting, BCAA prove extremely useful for recovering from workouts and boosting the energy levels. There are other things as well that can help in your cutting phase such as fish oils and glutamine.
It is important to mention that you should stop taking weight gainers while you’re cutting. Weight gainers aid bulking, so, you must remove them from your diet when you work out for a cut. If you take weight gainers regularly, don’t just stop suddenly stop consuming them, reduce your daily intake slowly, so that your body can handle it.
While eating at a caloric deficit and providing supplements to your body is important, you must get your macronutrients right as well. If you go too low with macronutrients, you can be in for a disaster.
So for macronutrients, begin by setting up your intake of protein. Protein is crucial during the cutting phase as it helps with retaining muscles when you shred the extra fat. Moreover, a high protein diet keeps you full. I recommend setting protein at one gram per pound of your desired body weight. For example, if you weigh 200 lbs and are looking to get to 165 lbs then you should eat 165g of protein every day.
You should set fat intake at 25 percent of total calories. There’s a reason for that. Fat is caloric dense and diets high in fat significantly reduce food volume. Just think; there are 120 calories in a spoonful of oil. Furthermore, fat cannot replenish muscle glycogen that depletes from training. When muscle glycogen depletes, the risk of losing mass increases. Lastly, a diet high in fat doesn’t support growth of muscles. For calculating your fat intake, simply multiply calorie intake by 0.25 and divide the number by 9 for your fat in grams per day.
At the end, we come to carbohydrates. Carbs are a dominant nutrient of the cutting diet, and make 40-50 percent of total calories. I recommend this for several reasons: With a higher intake of carbohydrates, you’ll get the strength for muscular workout and they will help with recovery as well. High carbohydrates will promote relaxation and improve quality of sleep. Moreover, carbohydrates also support a hormone known as ‘leptin’ that helps in regulating metabolism and appetite. Diet low in carbs leads to a ravenous appetite and low powered metabolism. Finally, carbs also support growth and maintenance of muscles. Insulin released by carbohydrates helps with muscle growth.
For calculating carbohydrates, you have to multiple your protein intake (grams per day) by 4 and fat intake (grams per day) by 9. Add these numbers together. Now, subtract the number from your total calories. Take the new number and divide it by ‘4’ and you’ll have your grams of carbohydrates per day.
Now that you know your fat intake, protein intake and carbohydrate intake, it’s just about hitting those numbers with your diet and you should be all set for cutting!
I recommend cardio trainings to everyone, even those who’re bulking. Cardio training helps improve our cardiovascular system. But note that contrary to popular belief, cardio is not the only viable option for losing fat. Sure, cardio helps in burning fat so it can help you lose weight. However, you must know that cardio can lead to significant muscle loss as well.
Therefore, I suggest you pay more attention to the nutrition during cutting and not the cardio exercises. Reduce the amount of cardio from your routine workout to make sure that you don’t lose significant muscle mass. If you run 2 miles two days every week, reduce your running distance to one mile or less.
Preserving Muscle When Going for a Cut
Preserving muscle during cutting means that your caloric intake must be reduced progressively every week. You can think about reducing 200 to 400 calories. The phase of cutting varies according to the body of a person. Some people see changes by just decreasing 200 calories while for others, the change will only come when they’ve decreased 500 calories. It is about trying and checking what works.
Every week, you must track your progress to see how well you’re doing. If you’re quickly losing a lot of weight, you must increase your caloric intake slightly to make sure you don’t lose muscle. If you aren’t losing weight, continue decreasing your daily caloric intake.
Since you’re cutting on the daily intake, you won’t have the same energy as you had when you were bulking. So, your routine workout will be changed accordingly.
For those who include heavy weight lifting in their routine and work to break their limits by lifting as heavy as possible, I recommend changing their workout to lighter weights and increasing the reps. It makes sense doesn’t it, since you don’t have the energy to lift heavy, why burden yourself?
If you did 60 reps with a 30- pound dumbbell (an example), then during your cutting phase, change it to 30 reps with 20 pound weight. This way, you’ll be able to add definition to your muscles and maintain them without losing mass.
Remember, the goal during the cutting phase is not to increase muscle mass. You are working to maintain the muscle you have and add definition to them for a chiseled appearance.
For people building muscle mass, I recommend compound exercises while for those who are going for a cut, isolation exercises are the best as they help to add definition to the muscles and also fix their imbalance. During the bulk, I recommended that 80 percent of all exercises should be compound exercises while the remaining 20 percent; isolation exercises. But during cutting, I recommend my clients to have 60 percent of compound exercises while 40 percent of isolation exercises.
Several groups of muscles can be targeted with compound exercises, which will allow you to burn calories. Then with isolation exercises, you’ll be able to add extra definition to your muscles.
The length of routine workouts has always been an issue for my clients who I’ve helped with cutting. You might exercise for one or two hours usually, but during your cutting, you’ll feel that you can’t just go on for this long. That’s simply because of the fact that you lack the energy that was there during the bulking phase. Besides that, working out for a long period can lead to muscle loss as well.
This is why I recommend shorter workouts during cutting. With shorter workouts, you’ll be resting less between exercises and this will help in burning more calories.
Remember there’s the right way to cutting that gives you a lean physique and there’s a wrong way that leads to muscle loss. Listen to the advice of the experts and follow this guide if you wish to avoid losing muscle while cutting. Begin the cutting phase with a small reduction in calories before you try hard to reduce by 500 calories or even more.
If you’re able to shed 1 pound per week by reducing your intake of calories by 200, stick to that. Don’t try to reduce your calorie intake more as it can lead to muscle loss that you, obviously, don’t want.
Note: As I said earlier, this personal trainer’s guide is for people who have build significant muscle mass and now wish to shred off extra fat and add more definition to their muscle for a more pronounced and chiseled appearance. If you have not built enough muscles yet, don’t switch to cutting, just carry on with bulking until it’s the right time to change to the cutting phase.