Fitness Cutting Guide

How to lose fat without losing muscle

Getting a lean physique is the goal of every fitness lover; this is where cutting takes place. After obtaining a crazy amount of muscle during your winter bulk, it’s time to burn the extra fat you gained. However, a cut can ruin all your progress if it’s not done right. In this article we will help you lose fat without losing muscle.

A cut doesn’t not only consist of adding more cardio to your workout routine. Obviously cardio exercises will be added to your routine, but your nutrition will be the one that will mainly change and your training routine will be revised. Since getting lean seems very complex for certain people, we will simplify the process for you.

What’s a fitness cut?

There are two primary phases that are known to help achieve your fitness goals:

  • Bulking: It means increasing your caloric intake (caloric surplus), in order to gain weight and build muscle.
  • Cutting: It’s when you want to lose the fat you accumulated during your bulk, so you do a caloric deficit during a certain period of time.

“What’s the difference between a fat loss and a cut?” In fact, none. Cut is simply the term used just after a bulk. But it also emphasizes the fact that you’ve built muscle before and now you’re burning the fat you’ve gained while bulking.

A cut is not always necessary

It’s very common to hear people who want to cut, simply because they have a little bit of fat in the belly or in the arms. Obviously, we all want to lose fat in order to obtain a better looking physique. However, it’s probably not the right time to do it.

I emphasize this for the men who gained a small amount of fat and wants to show their abs during the summer. A cut is designed for people who have a decent amount of muscle and want to shred the fat. Some fitness models started a cut after 2-3 years of training. Simply because it makes no sense to make a cut if your muscle foundation is not already built. Focus on building this body, then when you attain your desired size you will be able to shred the fat.

Plus, keep in mind that the if you exercise and eat healthy; you will boost your metabolism, which will lead you to burn more calories on the long run. So if you have a little amount of fat, don’t worry you will burn it without the need to do a cut. However, if you’re overweight and don’t have a good amount of muscle.

The length of a cut

It depends on how much fat you want to lose and your body composition. Keep in mind that you want to avoid muscle loss, which means that you don’t want to rush things.

Here are some common timelines you can follow for your cut:

  • 5 pounds or less: 4-6 weeks of cut
  • 10 pounds or less: 6-12 weeks of cut
  • 20 pounds or more: 20-24 weeks of cut

There is a general cutting guideline that people follow in order to achieve your goals; lose body fat at a pace of 1 pound per week.

Nutrition while cutting

As mentioned above, your goal will be to lose averagely 1 pound weekly. In order to achieve this goal, you will have to be in a caloric deficit; burn more calories than you eat.A caloric deficit can either be achieved by reducing your caloric intake or simply adding exercises (often cardio trainings). You can also do both; but first you need to understand how many calories you need to consume in order to be in caloric maintenance (maintain your weight). 

Then, you will need to decrease your caloric intake on a weekly basis. Which means that you want to track your progress every week with the help of a scale.

How To Preserve Muscle While Cutting

Preserving muscle while cutting means reducing progressively your caloric intake every week. The number you want to reduce can vary between 200 to 500 calories.

Here is an example of how to track your progress every week:

  • Jack wants to cut 5 lbs of fat. He planed his cut on 6 weeks, he wants to averagely loose 1 pound every week. His caloric maintenance is: 2700 calories (it’s an example). Let’s say he wants to decrease by 300 calories this week in order to lose fat; so now he aims for 2400 calories every day. At the end of the week, he will weigh himself and if he lost 1.2 pound, he will keep going with this caloric intake (2400 calories). One week after he will probably lose 0.5 pound, so he will decrease his caloric intake of 200-300 calories, then repeat the process.

The cutting phase is different for everybody. Some people will need to simply decrease 200 calories to see changes, others will have to decrease of 500 calories. At the end of the day, it’s trial and errors.

The important thing here is to keep track of your progress every week:

  • If you lose too much weight too soon, increase slightly your caloric intake (100-200 calories) in order to not lose muscle
  • If you lose slightly more than a pound weekly, keep doing what you’re doing for another week and re-check
  • If you didn’t lose any weight, continue to decrease your caloric intake

Cardio trainings are recommended for every person, even if you are bulking. Just a simple, moderate cardio training can help you improve your cardiovascular system.

But when it comes to fat loss, many people think that the only option is to add cardio to your training. Indeed, cardio helps you burn more calories so it can lead to weight loss. But every lifter knows that too much cardio can also lead to muscle loss.

When it comes to cutting, you first need to take a look at your nutrition before anything else. For example, fitness models only do 1 or 2 cardio trainings weekly, simply because they want to burn extra calories.

Why? Because they know that your nutrition is everything, it’s very easy to lose fat when you’re on a caloric deficit.

Adjust your fitness routine for your cut

Since you’re in a cutting phase, you have to understand that you won’t have the same amount of energy that you used to. Therefore, you should change your workout routine accordingly.

Here are three main things to consider when it comes to your workout routine while cutting:

  • Lifting heavy: Some of you (I hope) include heavy days during their routine. However, during your cutting phase you won’t have the same amount of energy as usual. Therefore, it would clever to change your heavy workout routine to something moderate/lighter.
  • Compound exercises and isolation exercises: If you’ve read the beginner’s workout routine guide, you know that compound exercises are very recommended to help you build more muscle mass. While on the other hand isolation exercises help you add more definition to your muscles and fix muscle imbalances (a biceps smaller than the other). During your bulk, we’ve recommended you to have 80% of your exercises to be compound exercises and the other 20% isolation exercises. During your cut, we recommend you to have 60% of compound exercises and 40% of isolation exercises. Compound exercises will allow you to focus on several muscles groups at the same time, which will help you burn more calories. Then isolation exercises will help you get the extra muscle definitions that you need during a cutting phase.
  • The length of your workouts: You’ve probably been used to exercise for 1 hour or more, but during a cutting phase you will feel that it will become harder and harder to do this. Simply because you don’t have the same amount of energy (muscle glycogen) than during your bulk. Besides the energy aspect, it can also lead you to a catabolic state (muscle loss) if you try to exercise for too long with not enough muscle glycogen. By doing shorter workouts, you will also force yourself to have less rest between your exercises, which will help you burn more calories.

Supplements while cutting

You already know that supplements are not required but highly recommended, especially if you’re serious about fitness. We’ve already given you the top 3 most effective fitness supplements for fitness.But let’s filter our choice according to a cutting phase (ordered by priority):

  • Multivitamin: Always the top #1. Since you will be eating less than usual, you will definitely lack of vitamins and minerals. Your multivitamin will help you get your daily micronutrients in order to keep you healthy during your cutting phase.
  • Whey protein: If you took a look at our nutrition plans, we explained you that you will increase your daily protein intake. So your protein shakes used as a snack will help you reach this daily caloric intake, not everybody can eat 6 meals containing chicken on a daily basis.
  • BCAA (Branch-chained amino acid): These amino acids will allow you to get extra energy while working out and also help recovery. This can be very useful during a cutting phase, because our muscle glycogen is lower than usual.

We could have added more supplements like glutamine, fish oil and others… But the three mentioned above will definitely help you obtain a successful cut.

Here’s a workout you could use in your cut:

In summary

Here is a little summary of what we’ve just learned:

  • If you’re a beginner, this is probably not for you. Check our beginner’s articles.
  • Don’t cut if you don’t have a good amount of muscle mass.
  • It’s recommended to do your first cut after 2-3 years of training.
  • The length of your cut depends on your weight goal.
  • Losing 1 pound per week is reasonable.
  • Don’t rush things, you don’t want to lose muscle during the process.
  • Calculate your caloric intake for your weight maintenance.
  • Your weight maintenance is the starting point of your cut.
  • Decrease your number of calories by 200-500 weekly in order to lose fat.
  • You will learn how your body works with experience.
  • Add 1-2 cardio trainings to your routine.
  • Change your workout routine.
  • Some supplements can be used, but your nutrition is key.

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