Whether it is for spring break, summertime beach visits, or your winter bulk that has been going a little too well, “cutting” might be exactly what you are looking for. Cutting is a necessity that is felt by gym goers at some points in the year so that extra definition is shown in their physique. To be completely honest, for me, it is sacrificing a little bit of size in order to get abs that rival those that are seen on a Calvin Klein billboard. When I first started working out, I thought that in order to cut all I had to do was do more ab workouts. Unfortunately I was wrong about this. In order to get a quality cut you must adjust your diet and you must start doing cardio. Cutting is a little more than throwing in a couple crunches at the end of your workout and I find it way harder than bulking. But you know what they say: “Nothing good comes easy”. Here are some tips that I found helpful when cutting.
It helps to think of your diet as a budget to which you are making cuts to. Document what you usually eat on a daily basis and calculate the calories and macronutrients that it adds up to. From here, there are websites you can use to calculate what your macronutrient consumption should be in order to achieve your desired weight. To achieve the calorie consumption you need, try eating less. Cutting your portions down is an effective way to cut calories from your diet. In order to do this, it helps to increase the number of meals that you are eating, but decrease the overall quantity of food that you are eating. In order to stick to your diet be sure to plan out everything. As I have said in the blog post “You Call That a Resolution”, planning out every meal will leave nothing to the urges that may throw you off your diet plan. Ensure that you are not cutting down so much that you are making yourself go hungry, but enough so that it is less than what you usually eat. It is recommended that you do not lose more than 0.2lbs/day or about 1 to 1.5 pounds per week, as doing so will cause you to lose more muscle mass than fat. When you starve yourself, your body reacts by storing fat and burning muscle mass and to be honest that is the complete opposite goal of cutting.
Another thing to help keep muscle mass is to ensure that you are consuming a sufficient amount of protein in your diet. I like to ensure I am consuming about 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. Also be sure to plan out one cheat meal a week. Your thought at the beginning of your cut would be that a cheat meal would be counterproductive and why would I do such a thing? My answer to this is that cutting is a marathon not a sprint. You could eat clean every day but this is very difficult to do and requires a lot of discipline. If you incorporate one cheat meal into your weekly diet you are only adding a small amount of extra calories to your weekly calorie consumption. That one cheat meal can be used to motivate you to stick to your diet. The satisfaction that it provides will motivate you to get back to eating clean right after that. It is said that your physique is 30% training and 70% diet. Just remember that the next time you think you can quit on your diet plan and still get ripped.
As much as it sucks, you are going to have to do cardio. Cardio helps to burn calories faster than lifting weights do because when you are doing cardio you are constantly exerting your self for an extended period of time, whereas with weights, you are taking a break. Adding cardio to your workout plan allows you to consume more calories in your diet while still being able to lose weight. So this does not mean you have to burn 1,000 calories on the treadmill because you are cutting. But it is a nice added calorie burner that will help you to slim your physique. You could skip cardio and still cut down by cutting additional calories from your diet. However this also means that the other foods that you eat in your diet must add up to fulfill your macros while remaining under your calorie count. Doing this is harder than simply doing some cardio at the end of your workout. There is some speculation as to whether you should increase the number of reps to help shred your physique. My take on this is that you should not change your lifting routine just because you are cutting. You are cutting to maintain muscle mass while cutting fat, so to maintain that muscle mass keep doing what you have been doing in order to gain those muscles. To see if your cut is working, take progress photos once a week. Seeing your physique get more shredded will motivate to you to continue to cut until you hit your desired weight.
So clearly cutting is a game of burning calories versus consuming calories in a way that best preserves muscle mass. Key things to remember are: do not cut too many calories at once, you do not have to change your lifting routine to get more shredded, and it is not always going to be easy - temptation to cheat is around every corner. Remember, results are not going to be instant but good things come to those who are patient.