It might sound better to call this a ‘dietary regimen’ but since the term “dietary” itself means ‘regimen’ already, it is probably more appropriate this way. We could also call it ‘cutting diet’ but that sounds awkward. Term ‘weight-loss diet’ gives us the creeps, so it’s best to stick to the name ‘goal oriented’. So let’s see the design of a cutting diet!
Cutting needs a diet. Full stop.
Here it come for the 1000th time: You will NEVER get shredded if you fail to eat accordingly. Cutting regimen, diet, or (taking a deep breath, eyes closed) weight-loss diet – call it whatever you want. A diet is essential for shredding.
‘Weight-loss course’ would be a harmless little term but there is one really nasty thing about it: the word ‘course’ is included – inexperienced people might think that it’s enough to follow it for a certain period and then all problems would be solved. Unfortunately doing an 8/10/12/any weeks long diet would not guarantee you to keep the well-defined body achieved (if you achieved it in the first place). You don’t need to do a weight-loss diet. You need to follow a regimen that allows for an aesthetic, shredded body on the long run.
Designing a cutting diet
Two basic requirements of fat-loss
If you have read our article on weight-gaining, you might already know that there are two main aspects of designing a regimen that should be observed – whatever your goal is:
- your daily intake of calories,
- the ratio of macronutrients.
To decrease your body-weight, you need to take less calories than the amount your body uses up. This forces your body to fill the calorie-gap by using up “itself”. For this you need to monitor your overall daily intake of calories.
If you are lucky enough, your body handles this deficit of calories you created by releasing the fat stored. Unfortunately our body is pretty reluctant about this, and it is much more eager to burn carbohydrates, or even its own muscles as fuel, than to burn fat. To make it happen anyhow, you need to really focus on the ratio of macronutrients consumed.
Your cutting diet will work only if both of these aspects are observed!
What will make you lose fat, and how can you retain your muscle?
Think of a little summer house, or a cottage, that you heat up with a gas stove. Then you run out of gas on a cold night, so you need to make fire from whatever you can find around the house. So the basic element in the story is that there is no gas – no source of energy that is easy to access, while you need the heat.
There are many pieces of valuable wooden things in the house (e.g. furniture, articles of personal use, etc.) that would be easy to access, and heating the house up would be simple and fast – all you need to do is shoving these things into the stove. On the other hand there is a shed locked tight in the backyard, and that shed contains some scrap wood piled up over the years unnoticed, and that wood would be pretty nice to use up for this occasion. There is a problem though: using these pieces of wood you need to get them out of the depths of the shed, and you need to carry them into the cottage – so you need to work on it.
So you always start using gas, right? If it is right there, the idea of burning furniture, or tinkering away with scrap wood would not even pop up.
Let me share a secret with you: your body works the same way. It won’t look for alternatives until it runs out of easily accessible carbohydrates (e.g. gas). If you don’t take extra care, it will eat up your hard-earned muscles (e.g. the furniture) as those are easier to access than fats stored in fat cells (e.g. scrap material deep inside the shed).
So what do you need to do to make the scraps disappear from the shed?
- You need to cut off the gas supply (e.g. lower the carbohydrate intake). It is obviously not a realistic situation – no-one likes a cut-back on carbohydrates. Raise your hands if you do... I told you. ;)
- You need to convince your body not to start with burning the furniture first even if it looks the most handy solution (e.g. do not burn up the muscles you worked so hard for) but make it enter that locked shed, get that difficult-to-reach scrap heap, and then let that burn in the stove (e.g. the fats stored in the fat stores). This is what specialized regimen, training, and fat-burning supplements do.
- You pile up some emergency stash of fire-wood from a neighbor to prepare for the worst in case you can’t get enough wood from the shed so that you can leave the furniture alone (e.g. you take extra amount of amino acids, and proteins to prevent muscle loss).
So your task is to:
- create a deficit of calories,
- lower your carbohydrate intake,
- increase your protein intake so that you are still low on calories.
These are the main aspects of a basic cutting diet. If these are not observed, you won’t get shredded – no matter how smart your workout routine is, or how advanced fat-burners you take.
What amount of protein is to eat during a diet?
Your protein intake should exceed 2 g/kgbw whenever you are on a diet. You’ll need that much to prevent your body eating up your muscles during calorie-deficit periods. Let’s put this in context with the example above: think of it as if you could burn a limited amount of scraps only, so that you definitely need some pieces of furniture as well – your goal is to minimize this, and here comes that fire-wood from the neighbor. You can not avoid losing some muscle, but you can keep it to the minimum. When your carbohydrate intake is higher, you might also need a higher animal protein intake too, but increasing the amount above 3 g/kgbw won’t do any good for natural body-builders.
We consider animal products as best sources of protein. Lean meat, fish, some light dairy products (e.g. cottage cheese), eggs. Vegetable protein sources are processed with lower efficiency, so they play a secondary role in a real body-building diet (and let's not exclude others: animal proteins tend to be more productive in any sports).
What amount of carbohydrates to take if you need fat-burning effects?
Well, that depends on your body type. Some people can lose weight taking 3 g/kgbw carbohydrates a day, while some others even gain mass at level, and need to lower the intake to extra low levels. We recommend you to start your diet at 2 g/kgbw carbohydrates if you tend to gain weight fast, but if you are basically lean (having some extra pounds on you) then start your diet at 3 g/kgbw carbohydrates a day.
OK, but in what form? Focus on consuming complex carbohydrates like rice, potato, whole meal grains, and vegetables. Avoid eating fruits if possible as their fructose content should not be part of your diet.
Exclude all bakery products and all pastas made out of white flour, and also exclude all sugars (except for a moderate amount of post-workout fast-absorbing carbohydrates in the early stages of the dieting period).
What amount of fat should you allow for yourself?
If your goal is to get shredded, you need to be wise about high-energy fats as a consuming a small amount represents huge energy intake (1 gram of fat contains 9 kcal, while proteins, and carbohydrates provide 4 kcal per gram). Generally we can conclude that the fat found in low fat protein sources (with the addition of some essential fatty acids) is needed and is sufficient for a traditional diet.
You can get the essential fats from sea fish, oil seeds, linseed-oil, or specific food supplements, oil capsules. On one hand they serve as energy-sources, but essential fats have a range of health-maintaining functions too – from the protection of the cardiovascular system to antiphlogistic effects and to the enhancement of fat-metabolism.
Let’s see an example 120 kg bw diet for an iron pumping work-out!
You can see that about 3 g/kgbw carbohydrates, and about 2.5 g/kgbw animal protein is gulped a day, with some linseed-oil as fat (apart from the fat content of the food). This is how a fat-burning, cutting diet should look like – in the beginning. Then as weeks go by, you need to lower your carbohydrate intake gradually. You’ll just feel it when this becomes necessary, because your weight-loss loses momentum or halts as soon as your carbohydrate intake gets too high for your body weight.
We recommend you to keep the carbohydrate levels of pre-workout and post-workout meals constant as long as possible. Try lowering the carbohydrate content of the other meals but do it gradually and with reasonable steps. If you lose more than 1 kg body weight a week try to increase your carbohydrate intake a bit, or you can even meddle with the fats. If you lose less than 1 kg/week then you probably need to decrease your carbohydrate intake a bit further. That’s the whole point: watch yourself, and modify your regimen according to your body’s reactions to those modifications.
This regimen is designed for an afternoon workout routine.
You can also do your workout in the morning – to tell you the truth there are very few things as effective as some iron-pumping on an empty stomach when it comes to promoting a leaner body. Taking some BCAA, or whey isolates before workouts is okay or even advisable. But in that case you need to give up on carbohydrates in your evening meal. Your carbohydrate intake is complete by noon or by early afternoon, so you’ll eat vegetables, protein and meat in the evening. Let's see what we've got!
We hope that this article could help those who were unaware of the basics or the importance of a cutting diet, and now they are one step closer to achieveing the ultimate physique!
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