A cutting diet involves calculating your calorie, protein, fat, and carb needs to reduce body fat and maintain muscle mass. Paired with weightlifting, it’s usually done before a major athletic competition.
Cutting is a fat-loss phase that bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts use to get as lean as possible.
Typically started a few months before a major workout plan, it involves a weight loss diet that’s meant to maintain as much muscle as possible.
This article explains how to follow a cutting diet for weight loss.
A cutting diet is usually followed by bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts to cut body fat while maintaining muscle mass.
The key distinctions from other weight loss diets are that a cutting diet is catered to each individual, tends to be higher in protein and carbs, and should be accompanied by weightlifting.
Lifting weights regularly is important because it
A cutting diet lasts
A cutting diet is tailored to each individual and requires you to determine your nutritional needs.
Calculate your calorie intake
Fat loss occurs when you consistently eat fewer calories than you burn.
You can estimate the number of calories you need to consume daily to maintain your weight using an online calorie calculator. To lose 1 pound (lb) or 0.45 kilograms (kg) per week, simply subtract 500 calories from this number.
Alternatively, a registered dietitian can help determine how many calories you should consume daily, depending on your goals.
A slow, even rate of weight loss — such as 1 lb (0.45 kg) or
Although a larger calorie deficit may help you lose weight faster, it can increase your risk of losing muscle, which is not ideal for this diet.
Determine your protein intake
Maintaining adequate protein intake is important in a cutting diet.
If you’re on a cutting diet, you may need to eat more protein than if you’re merely trying to maintain weight or build muscle mass. That’s because while you’re getting
Most research suggests that
For example, a 155 lb (70 kg) person should eat 150–210 grams of protein daily.
Determine your fat intake
While it’s common to reduce fat intake on a cutting diet, not eating enough can affect the production of hormones like testosterone and IGF-1, which help preserve muscle mass.
Experts suggest that, on this diet,
One gram of fat contains 9 calories, so anyone on a 2,000-calorie regimen should eat 44–67 g of fat per day on a cutting diet.
If you do intense exercise, the lower end of that fat range may be best because it allows for higher carb intake.
Determine your carb intake
Carbs play a key role in preserving muscle mass while on a cutting diet.
Because your body
On a cutting diet, carbs should comprise the remaining calories after you subtract protein and fat, or around
Protein and carbs both provide 4 calories per g, while fat stands at 9 calories per g. After subtracting your protein and fat needs from your total calorie intake, divide the remaining number by 4, telling you how many carbs you can eat daily.
For example, a 155 lb (70 kg) person on a 2,000-calorie cutting diet may eat 150 g of protein and 60 g of fat. The remaining 860 calories (215 g) can be taken up by carbs.
Meal timing is a strategy used for muscle growth, fat loss, and performance.
Although it may benefit competitive athletes, it isn’t as important for fat loss.
That said, this isn’t necessary for the cutting diet.
Instead, you should focus on eating whole foods and getting enough calories, protein, carbs, and fat throughout the day.
If you’re hungry frequently,
Cheat meals or refeed days are commonly incorporated into cutting diets.
A higher carb intake can have
- restoring your body’s glucose stores
- improving exercise performance
- balancing several hormones
Although you may gain weight after a cheat meal or refeed day, this
Following an overly restrictive diet plan with no room for cheat meals may negatively affect your relationship with food.
Therefore, it’s best to work with a healthcare professional, such as a registered dietitian, when planning your diet. This can ensure that you’re meeting your nutritional needs and help you avoid falling into overly restrictive eating habits.
Here are some helpful tips to keep your goals on track on a cutting diet:
- Choose more fiber-rich foods: Fiber-rich carb sources like non-starchy vegetables tend to contain more nutrients and
can helpyou stay fuller for longer while on a calorie deficit.
- Drink plenty of water: Staying hydrated may
help curbyour appetite and temporarily speed up your metabolism.
- Try meal prepping: Preparing meals ahead of schedule can help save time, keep you on track with your diet, and avoid the temptation of high calorie convenience foods.
- Avoid liquid carbs: Sports drinks, soft drinks, and other sugar-rich beverages lack micronutrients, may increase your appetite, and
aren’t as fillingas fiber-rich, whole foods.
- Consider cardio: Aerobic exercise — especially high intensity cardio —
may furtheryour fat loss when used alongside weightlifting.
How long should a cutting diet take?
A cutting diet is meant to maximize fat loss while maintaining muscle mass. However, you’re only meant to follow it for a few months before an athletic event and should combine it with weightlifting.
What diet is best for shredding?
In bodybuilding, a shredded diet is another term for a cutting diet. To understand what you should eat, calculate your daily calorie, protein, fat, and carb requirements in order to reduce body fat while maintaining muscle mass.
Should I bulk or cut first?
Whether you should bulk or cut first depends on your goals. If you already have all the muscle mass you want and your goal is to get leaner, then there’s no need to go through a bulking phase.
However, if your goals include gaining additional muscle, then adding that mass will require a surplus of calories to promote muscle growth. This means cutting is a secondary step.
That said, bulking is not the same as overeating. As someone gains muscle mass, if they manage their calorie intake well and eat only the additional calories needed to add muscle, they can do so without gaining too much additional body fat.
A cutting diet is used to lose fat while maintaining muscle mass. It involves calculating daily calorie, protein, fat, and carbohydrate needs based on weight and activity level.
If you want to try this diet, it’s a good idea to work with a trainer or healthcare professional first. This diet should only be followed for a few months prior to a sports competition while supplementing it with weightlifting.