We should all be confident enough to hit the beach after bulking season to show off all the mass we cultivated. You worked hard, and you pumped some serious iron over the winter.
However, whether you’re prepping for a competition, or just want to look a little slimmer in your swim suit, you may eventually have to cut some weight.
Unless you’re some kind of masochist, no one likes cutting season. It means lots of cardio, high volume, and a Youtube fitness channel inspired diet plan. It’s not fun, but it’s the circle of gym life.
To make it all a little easier for you, I’m going to break your cutting plan into two different categories: Food and Workouts.
If you caught our article about bulking, the first step to setting up your diet plan is finding how many calories you burn every day. The first number we’ll look at is your Base Metabolic Rate, or BMR.
Your BMR is simply the amount of calories you burn by existing. If you lie in bed all day, this is what you need to survive. The easiest way to find it is to use a BMR calculator, but if you have a desperate desire to do math, this is the formula:
Women: BMR = 655 + (4.35 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) – (4.7 x age in years)
Men: BMR = 66 + (6.23 x weight in pounds) + (12.7 x height in inches) – (6.8 x age in years)
From here, you’re going to use the Harris Benedict formula to find your actual calorie consumption. Find what category you fit into below, and use the multiplier on your BMR.
Little to no exercise: BMR x 1.2
Light exercise 1 to 3 days a week: BMR x 1.375
Moderate exercise 3 to 5 days a week: BMR x 1.55
Hard exercise 6 to 7 days a week: BMR x 1.725
Hard exercise twice a day, or an extremely physically demanding job: BMR x 1.9
With cutting, more so than bulking, it’s important not to oversell yourself. Be honest, and if anything, under estimate how much exercise you get.
Staying right on target is hard, so this will allow you some wiggle room with your calories.
So for me, at 185 lbs, 6’2”, and 25 years old, my BMR is 1988.35. I workout 4 to 5 days a week, and my job is fairly inactive, so my multiplier is 1.55. That puts my actual calorie consumption at about 3,081.
To find out your calorie intake for cutting, all you have to is subtract 250 to 500 calories.
Since I know I love to eat, I’m going to aim lower to accommodate for my lack of will power. So my calorie goal for this cutting season is 2,581 calories.
Calorie wise, that doesn’t seem too hard right? Just wait for the macros. There’s no exact number, as some people struggle to burn fat more than others.
For protein, up it to 30 to 35% of your calories. Carbs can hover anywhere from 30 to 40%. Fats, but only healthy fats, can make up the rest.
If you find yourself sluggish and low on energy, up your carbs and lower your fats.
Workouts During a Cut
The fitness community seems to be torn on working out for cutting. Some encourage two workouts a day, one dedicated to cardio. Some say if your diet is on point, you shouldn’t have to change your routine. I suggest a happy medium.
Unless you’re prepping for competition, don’t worry about changing your splits. If you like 3 full body workouts, go for it. All that needs to change is your rep scheme.
While bulking, you were likely going for high weight, low reps, trying to up your numbers. Once you start cutting, your weights will drop. Start adding in more volume. Instead of 5x5s, go for 3x10s. 8 to 12 reps is the optimal range for muscle growth. It’s a good balance between strength and hypertrophy.
As far as cardio during a cut goes, avoid doing too much steady rate. It builds up too much of an appetite, and you end up eating way more than you burned. Instead, go for high intensity interval training (HIIT).
HIIT means using short bursts of maximum effort, followed by a rest period. The best example is running on a track, sprinting the straight-aways and walking the curves. What this does is spike your heart rate much higher than a moderate jog would.
Since it’s so high, it doesn’t have time to come all the way back down before you spike it back up. A 15 minute HIIT session can burn more than 30 minutes of steady rate, and it doesn’t build up as much hunger.
The best wisdom I can impart on a cutting newbie is to measure and track EVERYTHING you eat. There are plenty of apps out there, like MyFitnessPal, that can actually tell you how many calories are in a food. However, that isn’t worth crap if your measurements are “a handful of chips” or “a boatload of peanut butter.” Be precise, and be honest. You’re not cheating anyone but yourself.