Every diet or regime feels more manageable when you have a period that you’re planning on ending, right?
The same can be said for embarking on a cut. Cutting is a fat-loss phase that many fitness enthusiasts, bodybuilders, and anyone who wants to look their best for an event or show can undertake to get as lean as possible in a controlled amount of time.
Typically, a cut would be done before starting a bulking or shredding gym routine where you build muscle after losing fat.
But what exactly constitutes a cutting diet? And how long should you consider doing one for?
Cutting diets can seem pretty restrictive and hard to follow, so it’s sometimes a good idea to have a date in mind where you know you’ll be finishing, as this will probably help you stay motivated to keep on pushing through until the end.
Keeping your aesthetic health goals in mind can also be a beneficial way to keep on going with your cutting diet and motivate you to power through the inevitable parts where you want to throw in the towel.
Read on for a detailed guide to cutting diets, and how long you should stick to one.
What Is A Cutting Diet?
A cut is usually used by those looking to shed some weight and excess body fat over a controlled amount of time whilst maintaining their muscle mass.
The key difference between a cut and a regular weight loss diet is that a cut is catered to an individual’s caloric needs and tends to have a higher focus on protein and carbs so that muscle mass doesn’t diminish throughout the diet.
A cut is also usually accompanied by weight lifting or other exercises that can promote muscle growth whilst you cut calories.
How To Do A Cutting Diet
A cut is tailored to each person’s requirements and first and foremost, you must find out what your nutrition requirements are.
Unlike a traditional or ‘fad’ diet which gives you a strict template in a ‘one size fits all’ program, a cut is meant to work with your body and match up to the amount of exercise and energy that you expend daily, which of course differs from person to person, especially if you are an athlete of expending large amounts of energy.
As with any diet, losing weight and fat relies on one principle above all else- calories in versus calories out.
If you are in a calorie deficit over a long period (you are consistently burning more calories than you are consuming), you will lose weight.
Below are a few of the basics to get you started on doing a successful cut.
Calculate Your Current Caloric Intake
Fat loss will naturally occur when you are consistently burning more calories than you are consuming.
The number of calories you should be eating per day depends on your weight, height, gender, exercise levels, and fitness goals.
For an average woman, for example, 2000 calories is the RDA to maintain weight, but cutting to 1500 calories per day will lose 1 pound (0.45kg) per week.
Remember- a cutting diet is not meant to be a super strict weight loss diet where you do not have the energy to perform your workouts and sporting activities.
The main aim is to lose body fat, not muscle mass, and whilst a larger calorie deficit will get you quicker results, it will also decrease your muscle mass as you do it, which is not ideal for this sort of diet.
Whatever your current caloric intake, reduce it by 300-500 calories per day. Again, this is entirely personal and will depend on your physique, and what you currently eat.
Calculate Your Current Caloric Burn
Wear a smartwatch or something similar to track the calories that you burn during an average day, including your usual gym routine.
To lose any weight, that number burned throughout the day needs to be higher than the number of calories you are consuming by at least 300-500 calories, sometimes more.
Some people suggest upping your caloric burn so that you have a deficit as high as 1000 calories per day, and as stated before, this is entirely up to you on whether you want to take that differential out of your food, or up your exercise.
Once you have worked out how many calories you need to burn daily and how many calories you need to eat daily, you can start creating a diet plan that fits into these parameters.
Maintaining your protein intake is essential if you want to keep your muscle mass. High protein diets are very effective in curbing hunger and preserving muscle mass.
Most studies suggest that you need to eat 0.7-0.9 grams of protein per pound of body weight to conserve your muscle mass. So, a 155-pound person (70kg) should eat around 110-140 grams of protein a day.
Whilst we are trying to lose body fat in a cut, that doesn’t mean you should stop eating them altogether.
Whatever you have worked out your ideal caloric intake to be, between 15- 30 percent of it should be coming from fat.
As your body prefers to use carbs as an energy source over protein, eating a good amount of carbs can help to prevent muscle loss.
They also help fuel you during your workouts, which will in turn help you to reach your caloric burn goals.
After you have worked out the ideal amount of fats and proteins to eat in a day, the remainder of your calories should go towards carbs.
How Long Should A Cut Last?
A cutting diet should last anywhere from 2 weeks to 3 months. It is best used before a big event or motivating goal that can keep you in check as you stick to your diet.
As the focus is on the types of foods you consume, you can switch up your diet when you get bored.
The focus should however always be on hitting those macronutrient goals that you have set out for yourself. That way, you will be guaranteed to lose weight and keep your muscle mass as you do so.
Focus on high fiber, and whole foods, and you’ll find yourself feeling full and being able to stick to your macro goals much more easily.
Cutting diets can last anywhere from 2-4 weeks, up to a period of a few months. Not only does it depend on your goals, but also on how strict you are with your calorie deficit and your macronutrient goals.