The Cutting Plan combines both early morning cardio with an afternoon weights session. The food consumed will be low in carbohydrate but carbs are not totally eliminated from the diet. They are focussed around weight training and at breakfast but are not eliminated totally from other meals.
What is cutting?
‘Cutting’ is a term in bodybuilding generally referring to the reduction of body fat whilst maintaining the maximum amount of lean body mass. This is achieved by way of a diet that ensures a suitable calorie deficit, albeit with adequate nutrient balance, coupled with a programme of cardiovascular exercise designed to maximise fat burning, while preserving muscle tissue.
Cutting is generally undertaken following a phase of bulking, during which both lean tissue and some fat is gained, as a result of training and consumption of calorie excess, again, with adequate nutrient balance. Whilst bulking may lead to fat gain, there is no need for this to be excessive in order to gain significant lean body mass. For further information, see the articles on bulking. The following cutting phase strips away the excess body fat gained during bulking, while preserving the hard earned muscle mass.
Weight loss or change of body composition?
While cutting, aim to lose no more than 2 lbs a week. While more may be lost in the initial stages of cutting, after the first few weeks, dramatic weight loss should be avoided, as this will become catabolic, resulting in loss of muscle mass.
Weight may be lost by simply reducing calories by around 500kcal a day (depending upon body mass, muscle mass and activity levels). However, this will produce a smaller body overall with the same composition. The aim is to reduce body fat levels, while maintaining the lean tissue, i.e. to alter body composition.
Should carbohydrate be eliminated from the diet?
The key to cutting is to keep carbohydrate intake low but not to eliminate carbs totally from the diet. Try to keep the carbohydrate from good sources such as basmati or brown rice, wholemeal pasta, sweet potato, fruit and vegetables. Some bodybuilders may feel that the sugar in fruit and some vegetables may hinder fat loss. However, while there is natural sugar present in fruit and vegetables, the overall energy density is low and the small amount of sugar consumed is more than offset by the presence of vitamins and minerals. Starchy vegetables, like carrots, potatoes and sweet potatoes can still be eaten but in smaller portions.
Reserve medium to large portions of starchy carbohydrate for pre- and post workout and keep the portion sizes small at the remaining meals. This allows hard workouts to be adequately fuelled while still allowing for relatively lower levels of carbohydrate to be consumed overall. Not only does this allow for effective fat loss, it also provides a diet that is easier to stick to than a very low carbohydrate diet.
At the same time, protein intake should remain high, to help maintain muscle mass during the period of calorie restriction. Fats should be included in the diet but it is best to focus on healthy fats from sources such as flax and olive oils, avocado, oily fish, nuts and seeds rather than saturated fats in processed foods.
Cutting is person specific.
The response of the body to diet and training will depend on a number of factors, such as body weight and body composition. Some of these factors may be genetic and some may depend upon the lifestyle of the individual. As a result the cutting diet, its composition, meal timings and portion sizes will be person specific. Therefore, the diet shown below can only be treated as a guideline. It is important to monitor the process of cutting and adjust the intake and training accordingly to ensure optimal weight loss.
The duration of the cut will depend upon the amount of weight loss desired, the success of the diet and the dedication of the individual on what can be an increasingly restrictive diet. It is important to include treats in the diet, both to improve mental attitude and to prevent metabolic rate from dropping too far, thus hindering weight loss. Many people will have a weekly ‘carb up’, for example, a pizza at the weekend. The importance of a treat meal should not be underestimated. However, it should be kept to a maximum of 1-2 treat meals a week. As the cut progresses, slowly reduce the portion sizes to avoid the weight loss plateauing.
The fat-loss diet plan is a guideline for a non-competing bodybuilder cutting to achieve fat loss with minimal loss of muscle mass. Those bodybuilders who are competing may start off in the same way but closer to a competition will require much more sophisticated dietary manipulation.
Exercise is indicated (cardio in the morning, unfuelled, and weights in the evening) with pre- and post workout meals as directed. If exercise is performed at different times of the day, then meals will need to be rescheduled, to ensure that the weights workout is sufficiently fuelled and the post workout nutrition accounted for.
It is possible to cut without the use of any supplements. However, whey protein or equivalent may be a useful addition, as may some protein snack bars. However, with commercial protein bars, look out for the amount of sugar and saturated or trans fats present.
Some bodybuilders may also use fat burners, such as the ephedrine-caffeine-aspirin (ECA) stack. These are by no means essential and the diet and exercise must be spot on before resorting to such supplements.
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