Ready To Cut Without Losing Muscle And Strength?
Unless you’re brand new to the gym and are making the most of your newbie gains it’s worth noting that you won’t be able to build muscle and lose fat at the same time (although some other gurus will tell you otherwise, unless you’re on performance enhancing drugs it’s a no go).
The #1 goal while losing fat is to maintain as much muscle mass as possible, the shift of priority goes from building muscle to muscle preservation.
After recently completing a 5 week reasonably aggressive cut I was able to maintain what I’d deem to be 98% of my muscle mass, in previous cutting phases over the years I have lost a significant amount of muscle because I simply assumed if it ate less, did a lot of cardio and lifted in the high rep range I would get those abs and veins popping while all the girls chase after me at the beach. How wrong I was.
If you follow the principles I’ve listed below you WILL be able to cut without losing muscle and strength, however if you stick to the old Men’s Health & Fitness ideology of dropping carbs and getting on the treadmill for an extensive amount of time you’re in for a shock as your hard earned mass withers away.
Don’t Overdo The Cardio – Keep It Short & Intense
Cardio burns calories which in turn will burn fat, yes.
However the law of diminishing returns comes into full effect quite quickly – you should not be spending more time doing cardio than you are lifting weights.
Long cardio sessions every day or every other day will result in a decrease in muscle mass.
The key to cardio while cutting is to keep it short and intense – I advise 2 – 3x per week of 20 minute intervals (sprints, skipping, burpees, cycling – the possibilities are endless and the choice is yours!).
Keep Your Deficit 500 Calories Or Less
When you’re at a 500 calorie deficit (eating 500 calories less per day then your body requires to maintain its current condition) you will be losing 1 – 1.5lbs per week.
If your opt for a deficit of 800 – 1000+ calories you will lose fat at a faster rate, however you will also be starving your body and muscle wastage will be apparent – the only time I would ever 0pt for a severe deficit is if I’m given less than 2 weeks to prepare for a photo shoot or event at which I need to look my best.
Besides losing muscle the other major issue with being in a large calorie deficit (also known as crash dieting) is the damage you will be doing to your metabolism – over time your metabolism will begin to get slower and slower as it attempts to adapt to the starvation. Repairing a damaged metabolism (aka. speeding it back up again) is a lengthy process and definitely something you want to avoid.
Don’t Neglect Carbohydrates
When it comes to cutting this is one of the biggest misconceptions out there – dropping carbs will induce effortless weight loss.
At the end of the day it’s a game of calories, not carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates are PROVEN to assist performance – if they’re going to help you lift more and endure your workouts why be so quick to cut them out?
Lower protein and fat intake slightly before you think about lowering your carbohydrate intake (and never drop it to severely!) as I can guarantee the numbers you are lifting will begin to decline…
Perform Compound Exercises in the 4 – 7 Rep Range
In order to maintain your muscle while dieting you need to utilize your muscle – focusing on your squat, bench press, deadlift and overhead press is the way to do this.
Lifting weights that are 80+ percent of your 1RM (1 rep maximum) for your working sets is the perfect way to do this.
If you’re focusing on isolation exercises like biceps curls, triceps kickbacks etc. you’re in for a rough ride as these exercises simply can’t stress your muscles (or as many muscle groups) as the main compound movements that have stood the test of time.
Reduce Volume And Intensity As Required
As you’re in the later stages of your cutting phase your body is under a lot more stress – having been in a calorie deficit for a number of weeks.
At this point increasing the rest between your sets (2 minutes) as well as eliminating isolation movements or slightly reducing the number of working sets you are performing is going to be necessary to maintain that strength and size you’ve accrued. 40 sets per body part as well as copious drop sets.
In short you need to ensure you are lifting as heavy as possible by attempting to maintain the exact weights/reps you were getting before you started your cutting diet – reducing volume and intensity by increasing your rest time is one technique that I find to be useful when doing this.
Don’t Rely On Supplements
You can’t slack on your diet or training and expect some pill or powder to melt the fat off you while maintaining your lean muscle mass, yes – every other supplement on the market claims it can *easily* help you achieve this however because you’re reading this I’m sure your eyes have now been opened to the snake oil salesmen whom are the CEOs of these big supplement companies.
Caffeine and green tea extract are the only supplements that I use to assist with fat loss, these 2 supplements have been around for years and have had numerous studies conducted on them which draw the conclusion that they do indeed assist with burning fat.
Monitor & Pivot
What works for me won’t necessarily work for you and vice versa – there’s no cookie cutter plan for anything relating to bodybuilding, training, dieting etc.
Therefore you should be recording your training as well as your diet – look over it regularly and review how you’re progressing. If you are losing too much muscle mass while being in a mere 500 calorie deficit chances are your body type is an ectomorph and you may be able to burn fat while maintaining muscle with only a 300 calorie deficit.
- Make changes (one at a time) if necessary, this comes down to your results.
- Rinse and repeat.