This past quarantine is probably the most serious I’ve ever gotten about my diet. I had the ambitious goal to lose 20 pounds over a period of a couple months, and I wanted to do it in the safest, healthiest and most natural way possible. I spent hours and hours doing research into cutting, trying to find the best macro splits (the percentage of calories coming from carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) and exercise plans to do. Then, as with any good workout plan, it was trial and error, trying different diets and macro splits until I found the combination that worked best for me specifically. All this hard work paid off as I went from 176 pounds and 20.2% body fat in May to 160 pounds and 15.6% body fat in August!
I’m not just here to brag about my accomplishments though, I now want to provide you with some tips and tricks about cutting so that you can meet your goals as well! I even included the exact blueprints of how I ate and exercised this past summer so you can get a better idea of what to do. However, keep in mind that that meal and workout plan was made specifically for me and it probably won’t be the ideal plan for you, so just use it as a template to base your own plan off of and fine tune it as you go!
Okay, now to the fun stuff; learning how to cut healthy and lose weight. Fair warning though, being in a calorie deficit is no fun and it is certainly hard work, so be prepared!!
As explained in the bulking blogpost, maintenance calories are the number of calories a specific person needs to fulfill their daily energy requirements. Eating less than this number of calories means you are in a calorie deficit and you will therefore lose weight. However, in order to ensure you are losing mostly fat and not muscle, you need to make sure you are also still working out and eating correctly. It is also important to remember that everyone is different and will have a different maintenance calorie requirement, so DO NOT compare yourself to others and just focus on your own goals and progress.
While cutting, my goal was to eat 2000 calories, which is a 600-calorie deficit for me. This is a big drop in calories, so a good way to ensure you are not constantly starving is to eat frequently every 2-3 hours rather than three times a day. I ended up eating 6 meals a day, with the first one being as soon as I woke up and the last one being a couple hours before bed.
The biggest change in your macronutrient split is going to be with carbohydrates. Carbs are your main source of energy and eating a low-carb diet will force your body to tap into its stored fuel--fat—and you will start burning and losing fat. I was getting 40% of my calories from carbs during my cut (as opposed to the 50% I usually aim for while maintaining weight). The carbs you are eating should be complex carbs, like oatmeal, sweet potatoes, and lots of vegetables. Fruits are not the best source of carbs, and if you are going to eat fruits, it's best to eat them before a workout when you need the faster source of energy (Clark, 2018).
Carbs in general should be eaten in the mornings and around your workout, so that you efficiently use up the energy they provide, and your body will still need to tap into fat stores later in the day for energy. During my cut, I worked out first thing in the morning with a high-carb meal pre and post workout, and then had low carb meals for the rest of the day.
Protein is also an extremely important macronutrient while cutting, since eating a good amount of protein will ensure that your body is not breaking down muscle for fuel. I had 40% of my calories coming from protein during my cut, and it is also good to ensure you are getting a good source of protein at every single meal, all throughout the day. Cottage cheese, which is high in casein protein, is a good snack to have before bed as it will release in the bloodstream slower and provide the body with a steady stream of amino acids while you're sleeping (Clark, 2018).
Lastly, we have fats. I know what you're thinking, “why would I eat fat, if I’m trying to lose fat? That’s dumb!” It's not dumb, everything in moderation! Your body still needs healthy fats in order to function properly. During my cut, I still had 20% of my calories coming from healthy fats and these fats should be eaten more towards the end of the day. Growth hormone has been proven to help increase fat loss in obese persons and it is mostly released during the night and with high protein, low-carb intakes (Health engine, 2008). Therefore, having your low-carb meals being in the evening with your energy coming from fats is ideal for fat loss and growth hormone release while you sleep (Clark, 2018).
Although this is a meals blog post, I also want to mention two quick important ideas about mindset and muscles while cutting. For mindset, it’s important to remember that cutting is very stressful on the body and that you will most likely feel tired and hungry for good portions of the day. It is best to be cutting during less stressful times of your life (like over summer break and not in the peak of finals season) and it’s also important to allow yourself one cheat meal a week. This will help you stay motivated and on your plan without hindering your progress. In regard to muscles, I’m not going to say much about this now, but a good circuit workout plan is best for fat loss, where your heart rate stays high the entire time. I have attached the circuit workout I did during my cut with dumbbells and bodyweight exercises for reference.
In summary, cutting is a good way to healthily and safely lose fat and maintain lean muscle. It is done by being in a calorie deficit with an optimum macronutrient split—the one that worked best for me was 40% carbohydrates, 40% proteins, and 20% fats. This may be the best split for you as well, or you may need to try something slightly different. No matter what split you do decide on, it is best for your high carb and protein meals to be in the morning and your high fat and protein meals to be in the evening. I also found morning workouts to be ideal for me, with circuits and HIIT cardio to be the best for fat loss. I wish you luck on your weight loss journey as I know it's not easy! Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions about cutting and/or macro splits.
PS. For more information about macronutrient splits and tracking calories, check out my IIFYM blog post!
Clark, Shannon. “CuttingDiets: How To Successfully Lose Fat!” Bodybuilding.com,Bodybuilding.com, 17 Apr. 2018, www.bodybuilding.com/content/cutting-diets-how-to-successfully-lose-fat.html.
“Growth Hormone for WeightLoss.” HealthEngine Blog, 15 Nov. 2008, healthengine.com.au/info/growth-hormone-for-weight-loss.
A special thank you to all my friends and family who have not only supported me on my journey but have helped along the way. None of this would be possible without them. Remember to take time to appreciate those in your lives!
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