How To Cut: The Basics
Summer is finally here, which means so is cutting season. Cutting involves lowering body fat percentage through adapting the diet. However, cutting differs from regular dieting in that the aim is to maintain muscle mass whilst losing fat.
As with any weight loss regime, to cut you will need to be in a calorie deficit, consuming less calories than you expend. One pound of body fat is equal to approximately 3,500 calories, now, while this does not factor in the complexity around fat loss, it is a useful benchmark to keep in mind. It is possible to safely lose 1 pound of fat a week without extreme dieting, which means eating at a deficit of roughly 500 calories per day. Here are some tips to cutting when starting out.
Sugar is quickly consumed by the body to be used as energy and any excess is stored as fat. Try and cut down on sugary foods and instead opt for foods high in protein and fibre. Protein is important for building muscle, which is metabolically more active and burns more calories than fat. The higher your muscle mass, the higher your resting energy expenditure, therefore you’ll burn more calories whilst resting. Keep your protein intake high to preserve muscle mass as you continue eating at a deficit.
We tend to underestimate the importance of sleep. If you’re tired your body compensates by burning fewer calories the next day. A lack of sleep also creates an imbalance in the body that increases ghrelin levels and decreases leptin levels, which can cause you to feel hungrier and in turn consume more calories than usual.
Up Your Water Intake
Filling up on water can help to stave off hunger, similarly, drinking a glass of water before and during a meal will fill you up more. Aim to replace soft drinks with water or herbal tea so as not to add empty calories.
Adding cardio to your workouts can help to burn additional calories and may allow you to eat slightly more on those cardio days. This should be done alongside weight training.
Refeed days involve eating more carbs to increase energy and improve performance, as those days of higher carb intake will restore the body’s glucose stores. A 2017 survey found that participants could achieve better fat loss and muscle retention by incorporating refeed days. If you are planning a social meal at a restaurant, use that as your refeed day. For more on this, check out our post on how to remain healthy when eating out here.
Prepare & Plan
Fail to plan, plan to fail. When starting out it can help to plan out your meals for the week, or even to meal prep in order to avoid opting for unhealthy quick fixes when you are hungry. It’s easy to forget about those pesky calories consumed while snacking, so using a calorie tracking app, like MyFitnessPal, can be helpful. Regularly tracking your calories will also allow you to familiarise yourself with the number of calories pertaining to various mealtime staples.