Monday, December 26, 2011
9:13 PM OoFaP 9 comments
Whether you are a competitive bodybuilder, want to look better at the beach, or just want to shed a few pounds before you continue your bulk, you will be forced to go on a cut at some point. Believe it or not, cutting is actually a pretty simple process. Despite the process not being too difficult, it is imperative to know how to properly cut to avoid disastrous results.
Rate of Weight Loss
Unlike bulking which is a very slow and tedious process, cutting is actually much quicker. Not too quick though. You should aim to lose between 1 and 2 pounds per week. Ideally, you should lose 1 pound per week. This will keep any potential muscle loss to a bare minimum. However, most people have a weight loss deadline to meet so the good news is that you can safely lose up to 2 pounds per week without worrying too much about muscle loss. Do not lose anymore than 2 pounds per week unless you are over 25% body fat and substantially over weight. The leaner you get, the closer to 1 pound per week you should lose. As you get leaner, the risk of muscle loss increases.
Believe it or not, you do not need to do any cardio to lose weight. You can do it through diet alone but I would not recommend doing so. Cardio is simply a tool to burn calories. You should use it to help you reach your desired calorie deficit. If you choose not to do any cardio, then you will need to eat even less to hit your calorie deficit.
As a general rule, I would aim to hit 50% of your calorie deficit through diet and 50% through cardio. This means that if you are trying to lose 1 pound per week, you should burn roughly 250 calories per day through cardio and the other 250 should be from your diet. Although 500 is the average calorie deficit per day, the more important number to hit is your overall calorie deficit for the week which would be 3,500 if your goal is to lose 1 pound per week. This means your daily calorie deficits can vary as long as the weekly deficit is the same. (Throughout this article, I will talk in terms of calorie deficits per day just because I think it is easier to visualize it daily rather than weekly). Since your weekly calorie deficit is more important than your daily calorie deficit, you don't need to do cardio everyday. Instead, you can aim to burn twice the amount of calories per cardio session but do them every other day.
The type of cardio you do doesn't really matter because the goal is simply to burn calories. You can do HIIT, low intensity, moderate intensity, or a combination of both. Focus on burning a certain amount of calories and then stop. Fasted cardio is a bad idea though. You should always have a meal in you prior to cardio. Fasted cardio puts you at a greater risk of burning muscle and doesn't burn any extra fat. In fact, it may even burn less.
As I have stated in every article regarding diet so far, macros are the single most important factor in reaching your goals. Since you should be aiming to lose between 1 and 2 pounds per week, you need to create between a 500 and 1,000 calorie deficit per day. You can do this through diet alone or a combination of diet and cardio.
Before you can figure out how many calories to eat for a calorie deficit, you need to know what your maintenance calories are. If you don't already have a general idea, here is a calculator to get you started. You can never trust an online calculator so you should just use it as an estimate. Using this number, subtract your desired calories to reach your deficit. For example, if your goal is to lose 1 pound per week and you are burning 250 calories from cardio per day, then your deficit should be your maintenance minus 250. Meanwhile, you should weigh yourself without clothes on in the morning once a week to see what your weight is doing. If you didn't lose any weight, then your initial maintenance estimate was probably off and you need to create a larger deficit by either subtracting more calories, doing more cardio, or both. If you lost more than your desired amount, it is probably best to keep everything the same for an additional week or two since your body usually drops a few extra pounds the first couple of weeks while transitioning into a cut. This has a lot to do with losing water due to eating less carbohydrates and less sodium. If after two weeks you are still losing more than you hoped, you can add some calories back in or do a little less cardio to slow down the weight loss. To do all of this this, it is extremely important to have a reliable scale. I recommend this one.I've gone through five scales over the last couple of years and this is the first one that gives me consistent readings. It's not expensive and pretty aesthetic looking too. You don't even need to tap it to turn it on.
Once you have your target number of calories, you should figure out your macros very similarly to how you would if you were bulking. Your protein should be either the same or slightly higher and your carbohydrates and fat should be lower. Aim for 1.25 grams of protein per body weight and .4 grams of fat per pound body weight. The rest should be carbohydrates. Let's take a 180 pound male who's maintenance calories are 2,500 as an example. If he wants to lose 1 pound per week, he should burn 250 calories per day through cardio. That means there is a 250 calorie deficit through diet which puts him at 2,250 calories per day. He should eat 225 grams of protein and 72 grams of fat. That leaves 175 grams of carbohydrates. Keep in mind these numbers are very general. Some people do well on low fat and some do well on low carbohydrates. Feel free to adjust the numbers to see which you like more. As you get deeper into your cut, you should subtract calories from your carbohydrates and fats. I personally subtract fat first. Once I my fat reaches .3 grams per pound of body weight, I leave it the same and only subtract carbohydrates from that point forward.
You don't need to eat 6 small meals per day but you can if you would like. The frequency of your meals won't have any effect on your progress. When cutting, you are going to be hungry most of the day. For this reason, I rather eat fewer, larger, more satisfying meals than a bunch of smaller meals that leave me hungry. It's personal preference though.
Just like meal frequency, nutrient timing will not have an effect on your progress. You can eat carbohydrates when you wake up or before you go to bed. Your progress will be the same. However, I do recommend eating a larger portion of your carbohydrates around your work outs. This will provide you with more energy so you get the most out of your work out. I'd recommend having approximately 30% of your carbohydrates before your work out and 30% after. The remaining 40% can be spread out however you would like. Although eating carbohydrates before bed won't hurt your progress, I would avoid eating them then simply because there is no reason to give your body fuel before you go to sleep. Save those precious carbohydrates for during the day when you need the energy.
Work Out Routine
During a cut is not the appropriate time to switch routines. Whatever routine you used to build your muscle is the routine you should use to keep your muscle. Commonly, people start doing higher reps and give up the heavy weights. This is the biggest mistake you can make. You need to continue lifting heavy if you want to keep your muscle. You are already eating in a calorie deficit. If you combine that with lifting light weights, you aren't giving your body any reason to keep your muscle. It is important to continue lifting as heavy as possible in order to give your body a reason to keep your hard earned muscle.
Don't bother with fat burners. There aren't any over the counter fat burners that will give you any noticeable fat burning effects. The only additional supplements I would add on a cut are a pre work out supplement if you don't use one already and BCAAs. The pre work out supplement will give you an energy boost when your diet is failing to give you the energy you would like for an intense work out. A couple of pre work out supplements I recommend are Controlled Labs White Flood and MusclePharm Assault
BCAAs can help to prevent muscle loss. You can drink them during your work out as well as before cardio. I would recommend either Scivation Xtendor AI Sports RecoverPro. One serving during your work out and another serving 5-10 minutes before cardio is enough.
To sum everything up, cutting really isn't too complicated. Cardio is very beneficial but not required and your macros should be similar to your bulking macros but with less carbohydrates and less fat. As you get deeper into your cut and your weight loss stalls, you should subtract calories from your fat and/or carbohydrates and increase your calories burned on cardio. Your weekly calorie deficit is the most important number to hit but it may be easier to break it down daily instead. Meal frequency and nutrient timing is irrelevant and entirely personal preference. You should not change your work out routine and continue lifting heavy to give your muscles a reason to stay put. Additionally, fat burners are unnecessary but pre work out supplements can be helpful to provide some extra energy and BCAAs can help in preventing muscle loss.
If you have any questions or need anything clarified, feel free to leave a question in the comments.