It’s the New Year and you want to start it off strong with a great looking bod.
Get rid of that extra body fat that accumulated over the holiday season and finally get back to that lean, toned figure that will have you look and feeling your best.
You’re not alone.
Whether you simply want to shed those last few holiday pounds or are entering a major bodybuilding competition, a cutting diet will help you achieve the incredible body you know will have you performing at your highest level.
And what is a cutting diet?
A cutting diet is a specific diet that allows you to both cut down on your body fat while maximising your lean muscle mass.
Read: get lean, toned and look amazing naked.
And the best way to get cut is through a combination of a properly planned cutting diet and quality cutting workouts plans.
You’ve probably heard the saying, “abs are made in the kitchen.” And it couldn’t be more true.
Regardless of what type of training you’re doing, if your diet isn’t in line, you aren’t going to see the results you want.
So how do you get cut?
How many calories should you eat a day to shred?
What should you eat to cut fat?
And what foods should you avoid on a cutting diet?
Are some carbs okay? What about fats — should we eliminate those altogether?
Worry not, we’ll get to the bottom of all these questions and more in this article.
Ready to get cut?
How To Get Cut?
How to get started on a cutting diet?
Your cutting meal plan is specific to you and your unique nutritional needs.
Here are some of the things you need to figure out to get started.
How many calories should I eat a day to shred?
To lose weight, you need to be burning more calories than you’re taking in.
The amount of calories you need to cut back will vary from person to person. The first step to start a weight cutting diet is figuring out your calorie intake.
1. Calculate your calorie intake
The number of calories you should eat per day to lose weight depends on your weight, height, lifestyle, gender, and exercise levels.
There are a number of free calorie calculator bodybuilding tools online.
In general, women need around 2,000 calories per day to maintain their weight but 1,500 calories to lose 1 pound (0.45 kg) of fat per week. An average man needs around 2,500 calories to maintain his weight or 2,000 calories to lose the same amount.
A consistent, even rate of weight loss — such as 1 pound (0.45 kg) or 0.5–1% of your body weight per week — is best for weight cutting.
If you decrease your calorie intake even more it’s possible you’ll cut weight faster, but research has shown that it also increases your risk of losing muscle. This is obviously not ideal for a cutting diet.
2. Determine your protein intake
Making sure you’re getting enough protein is super important on a cutting diet.
Numerous studies have found that a high protein intake speeds up your fat loss by boosting your metabolism, reducing your appetite and preserving your lean muscle mass.
When you’re weight cutting, it’s critical to keep this up otherwise your body might start turning to its protein sources for energy which could end up in you losing muscle tissue.
When you’re on a cutting diet, you need to eat more protein than if you’re just trying to maintain your weight or build your muscle mass. That’s because you’re getting fewer calories but exercising routinely, hence you’ll need more protein.
Concentrate on getting lean sources at every meal to help balance your blood sugar levels and help you feel more satiated.
Most studies suggest that 0.7–0.9 grams of protein per pound of body weight (1.6–2.0 grams per kg) is enough to conserve your muscle mass on a cutting diet.
For example, a 155-pound (70-kg) person should eat 110–140 grams of protein per day.
Before bed, try and include a casein protein source. This will make sure you have a steady supply of amino acids for your body to feed off of over night. Cottage cheese is probably the best option here.
3. Determine your carb intake
The next part to plan out is your carbohydrate intake.
You’ll want to make sure the carbohydrate sources you’re eating are complex for the most part. This is so that you’ll have a slower releasing source of energy that decreases your chance of your body storing it as fat.
Complex carbs will also give you the most nutrients. This is important, as you want to get the biggest nutritional bang for your buck when you’re on a calorie-reduced diet.
Some good sources to focus on:
- Sweet potatoes
- Brown rice
- Whole-wheat pastas or bread (make sure to check the ingredient lists on this one)
Carbs will also give you the much needed fiber to help fill you up and keep cravings in check. They give us an abundance of nutrients while offering very little calories. The staple of your carbohydrate source while cutting should come from vegetables.
Some people are okay with eating fruit during their cutting diets while others chose to completely cut this out.
If you’re going to have fruit, try and time it so that you’re eating it around your workouts. This is when you’ll need a faster releasing source of carb.
The timing of when you eat carbs is important if you want to succeed with your cutting diet.
Since carbohydrates are your body’s main source of fuel, you’ll want to have them when you’re going to be most active and most likely to use up the energy they give you.
This means eating larger amounts before and immediately after your cutting workouts when your body is recovering. Generally, eating the majority of your carbohydrates around your training and in the morning is the best approach.
Later in the evenings, you’ll want to start tapering down your carb intake and focus more on vegetable sources.
4. Determine your fat intake
The last macronutrient to consider is dietary fat.
Wait a minute, don’t I want to be reducing my body fat?
Yes, but here’s the kicker: dietary fat (the fat we get from foods) and what translates into fat on our body are very different things.
Your body needs some healthy fats in order to maintain its immune function, vital organs, keep good cholesterol levels and keep up a healthy appearance of your skin and hair. So including these in your diet is a necessity!
Healthy fats also help regulate your insulin levels and will keep you feeling more satisfied after a meal than if you had just eaten carbohydrates and protein alone.
Since you’re going to be reducing your carbohydrate intake as the day goes on, a good idea is to start focusing more of your later meals in the day around protein and fat instead.
For example, have your first three or four meals mostly coming from protein and carb sources (say breakfast, pre-workout, post-workout and lunch). Then your last two or three focusing around protein and fat (mid-afternoon snack, dinner and possibly one evening meal).
This will set your body up for optimum fat burning throughout the entire day as well as throughout the night.
You’ll also help to better regulate your insulin levels and keep growth hormone (GH) levels where they should be. GH is the main player that helps you to maintain your lean muscle mass and reach your goals.
What should I eat to cut fat?
As mentioned previously, you’ll first need to work out your calorie deficit with an online calorie calculator.
You’ll want to have macronutrient ratios of around 30-50% calories from carbs, 30-40% from protein and 20% from good fats.
The cutting diets below are adjustable depending on how many calories your deficit allows you to eat. With that in mind, we’ve listed options and approximate calories from each part of the day.
Cutting Diet Plan Examples
Breakfast options (select one from the below each day)
- 50g wholegrain porridge, handful of blueberries and a protein shake (approx. 340 cals)
- 4 scrambled egg whites, 2 slices wholemeal toast (approx. 410 cals)
- Ham, mushroom and spinach frittata (approx. 230 cals)
- Asparagus soldiers with soft boiled egg (approx. 186 cals)
- Breakfast smoothie with banana, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, water + honey (approx. 130 cals)
- Whey protein pancakes (approx. 111 cals per pancake)
Morning snack options
- Banana (approx. 100 cals)
- Any single piece of fruit or handful of berries (cals vary)
- 1 cup edamame beans (approx. 250 cals)
- Handful of nuts (approx. 160 cals)
- Protein bar (approx. 200 cals)
- Chicken, brown rice and broccoli (approx. 300 cals)
- Extra lean ground beef, cauliflower and brown rice (approx. 300 cals)
- Grilled courgette, kale, pepper and hummus wrap (approx. 332 cals)
- Chicken wrap with tomatoes, cucumber, olives and hummus (approx. 243 cals)
- Chilli with quorn mince (approx. 275 cals)
Post-workout snack options
- Apple and almond butter (approx. 270 cals)
- Almonds (approx. 160 calories per 22 almonds)
- Protein shake (approx. 240 calories for a 2 scoop serving)
- Greek yoghurt (approx. 59 calories)
- Tuna steak, two sweet potatoes, broccoli and asparagus (approx. 350 calories)
- Chicken burger with wholewheat bread + fried egg (approx. 500 cals)
- Chicken stew with quinoa and beans (approx. 330 cals)
- Beef stir-fry with brown rice (approx. 400 cals)
- Low calorie chicken korma, replacing cream with yoghurt (approx. 376 cals)
- Singapore noodles (approx. 415 cals)
Example day on a cutting diet
50g wholegrain porridge, handful of blueberries and a protein shake (approx. 340 cals)
Banana (approx. 100 cals)
Chicken, brown rice and broccoli (approx. 300 cals)
Protein shake (approx. 240 cals)
Chicken stew with quinoa and beans (approx. 330 cals)
Total approx. cals: 1,310
Obviously, depending on your calorie deficit you can either include more food or snacks in your day, or cut down.
But before you set off on your cutting diet plan, there are a few key guidelines you’ll need to keep in mind if you want to cut weight and lose fat successfully.
How Can I Lose Fat Successfully On A Cutting Diet?
1. Up your water intake
For starters, water helps starve off hunger. Having a few glasses before a smaller meal will fill you up and allow you to get by without feeling pangs even though you’re having less calories.
The added hydration will also help give you energy during workouts, so you’ll be able to push a little harder and ultimately burn more calories.
Thirdly, drinking water as opposed to soft drinks means you won’t be adding empty calories to your already restricted calorie limit. Essentially, water is a ‘free’ drink whereas soda or sugary drinks cost you precious calories that you could’ve eaten as a meal instead.
2. Meal prep and cook your own food
Most bodybuilders and those that simply care about the food they’re putting into their body become familiar with their kitchens as a matter of necessity.
Whether you can quickly master taste or not, cooking your own food means you know everything going into it.
During a weight cut, extra salt or sugar in ready-made meals and takeaways can take away from you cutting weight. Planning and preparing your own food will help eliminate any risky meal choices.
3. Proper timing
Proper timing is one very key element in a cutting diet.
You need to know what types of foods to eat and when. If you follow a proper protocol it’ll have a huge effect on your performance level and how you feel in general.
The first part you need to take care of is that you’re eating at least 5-6 times a day.
This will keep your metabolism running more efficiently and help you burn more calories throughout the day. It also signals to your body that it’s receiving a steady supply of food and therefore doesn’t need to hang on to its fat stores in case of a famine.
Space your meals 3-4 hours apart and try to eat your first as soon as you wake up. Your last should be about an hour before bed.
So for example, eating at 7, 10, 1, 4, 7 and 10 would be a good schedule. Obviously this may not suit your particular needs, but try and stick with somewhat similar spacing.
4. Avoid catastrophising cheat meals
What you’re doing isn’t easy.
Consistently eating less calories than you’re spending will be challenging.
There will be a point where even the most seasoned bodybuilder will ‘fall off the wagon’ and have an over-the-top cheat meal or “cheat” during the week.
If this happens, the key is to not fall into what psychologists call catastrophising, or thinking the worst. Just because you cheated on your cut, don’t tell yourself, “okay I’ll get back to my diet tomorrow / 3 days from now / next week.”
This kind of thinking will mean repeated cheat meals until you get back on track. Forgive yourself quickly for the mistake and then get back on your cutting diet.
5. Increase your calorie deficit with cardio
By doing hard cardio, you’ll increase your metabolic rate and burn even more calories.
This means that you’ll lose weight faster and can also make up for days where you’ve overeaten and need to burn extra.
6. Increase your lean muscle tissue to help you get cut
Building muscle also helps burn fat.
The heart of your cutting workout plan should be heavy weight, low rep exercises designed to build your mass and lean muscle tissue. This tissue raises your metabolism, which again increases the rate you burn calories.
To put it simply, the more lean muscle you build, the better your cut will go. Ditch the idea of shrinking your body and instead think of reshaping it.
7. Be ready to deal with hunger
There’s no getting around it.
If you’re serious about getting properly shredded, you’re going to feel hungry.
A cutting diet will test your patience and your endurance. You’ll begin feeling hungry when you’re bored and at random parts of the day.
Don’t be tempted to cheat on your diet with mindless snacking or eat more than you should.
At the end of the day, you’re choosing to cut on your own free will because you want to look incredible. Remind yourself of the outcome you want to achieve and practice the mental discipline that’s needed to achieve anything exceptional.
What Foods To Avoid While Cutting?
One of the best ways to cut is to choose low GI (Glycemic index) foods.
With that in mind, you should cut out sugary, high GI foods like white rice, white bread and pasta. Replace them with low GI carbs like brown basmati rice, wholegrains and fruits like apples and berries. Sugary drinks or any obviously sweet desserts should be a clear avoid-at-all-times.
There are good and bad fats, but in a cutting diet you want to try and taper down on all kinds.
Fats are an inefficient energy source compared to carbs and are what affects your body’s physical appearance of body fat. With that in mind, aim for 20% or less of your calorie intake from good fats.
3. Excess cooking oil
Cooking oil is very high in trans fats.
If you’re one of those people who lather it into your pan and on your food, you’re adding more calories than you realize. Cut down on the amount you use each time you hit the kitchen.
Ready to get cut?
Whether your goal is to start the New Year in a lean, toned and hot looking bod, or are working towards a specific bodybuilding competition, there are aspects of a cutting diet that you can implement in your own diet even if your health goal is to simply eat cleaner, more nutritious food that helps you look and feel your best.
Don’t leave your cutting success or health to chance. By health education, planning and discipline, you’ll be able to execute and achieve the body of your dreams – whatever that might look like.
And remember, as Mindvalley instructor and creator of the transformational nutrition program, WildFit, Eric Edmeades, explains, our bodies and diet are only tools to help us look and perform our best lives.
‘DIET’ DOES NOT MEAN ‘TEMPORARY ALTERATION OF YOUR LIFE FOR SHORT-TERM GAIN,’ IT MEANS ‘WAY OF LIFE.’
— ERIC EDMEADES AUTHOR OF MINDVALLEY’S WILDFIT PROGRAM
Do you feel you’re ready to start your cutting diet? What foods and changes do you need to make to get cut? Let us know in the comments below!