The first thing that you should understand is that “cutting” isn’t quite the same as “dieting”. I do not diet. I eat less than my body needs, but at the same time enough so that my body can burn as much fat as possible and as less muscle as possible at the same time. A healthy way of losing fat is to lose around 500g per week and AT MOST 1kg per week. Loosing more than 1kg per week means that the body has started losing muscle. STILL, this is different from a person to another. The more body fat a person has, the more easier it is for him/her to lose it. But, a healthy way is to do it gradually.
To lose between 500g and 1kg of fat per week means that you (or I in this case) must first calculate your TDEE – Total Daily Energy Expenditure – which quantifies the number of calories you burn in a day. This means the more you move your body and you work your muscles, the more greated your TDEE is. In a more easier way to explain it, TDEE is how many calories you need to eat in a day to maintain your weight.
After calculating my TDEE I will substract around 20% of that so that I can get a number which means how many calories I need to eat in a period of 24 hours to start losing fat.
So lets say that my TDEE is 3000 calories. I substract 20% of that, which is 600 and I am left with 2400 calories. This is how many calories I need to eat so I can lose fat at a healthy rate and spare as much muscle as possible.
After this, these calories must be divided into macro-nutrients, which are protein, carbohydrates and fats.
Protein is probably the most important macro-nutrient when it comes to maintaining muscle on a diet. Protein is broken down into amino acids during digestion which are released into the bloodstream where they may then be taken up by muscle cells and for protein synthesis to occur.
The standard protein intake (when it comes to bodybuilding) is around 2.2g per kg. Meaning that if you weigh 80kg, you should eat a minimum of 176g of protein per day. When it comes to cutting, you should increase the intake, this helping your body to spare as much muscle as possible. The target now depends on your body type. For an ectomorph, the minimum should be at around 3.5g of protein per kg. For a mesomorph, the minimum should be 2.8g per kg. For an endomorph, the minimum should be 3.3g of protein per kg.
Some may say now that you should not eat fat if you want to lose fat. Fat makes you fat, right? Not really. You need a minimum amount of fat especially for testosterone synthesis. Lowering them too much will have a huge hit against testosterone production, thus limiting your gains and “screwing up” your hormone balance. However, dietary fat is also stored easily as body fat. Therefore there should be a balance.
To balance everything, one should eat between 25-35% of his/her calories from fat and NOT go below 15% so that testosterone levels can be high enough and to not stop the progress of lowering body fat.
One should not lower carbs too much. Nowadays, most of the weight loss diets are against carbs and tell you to eat as few as possible. If you were to not lift weights at all, maybe it might be true, but you need energy and the best energy comes from carbs. Carbohydrates are transformed into glucose by the body and glucose is stored as glycogen in the liver and in the muscle. If you eat too few carbs, then the body will take it’s energy NOT from fat, as many think, but from the amino acids stored in the muscles, which means there won’t be enough amino acids in the muscle afterwards to maintain muscle tissue, meaning of course that muscle will be lost.
So how many carbs should one eat in a day? Well, let’s calculate.
1g of protein has 4 calories, 1g of carbs has 4 calories and 1g of fat has 9 calories.
Let’s choose an 80kg mesomorph which has a TDEE of 3000 calories and wants to lose fat at a healthy rate, meaning he will have to eat around 2400 calories. I said above that mesomorphs should eat at least 2.8g of protein per kg. That means 224g of protein, which means 896 calories. When it comes to fat, let’s say he will eat 30% of his calories from fat. 30% of 2400 calories is 720 calories (which is 80g fat). We are now left with 2400 – 720 – 896 = 784 calories, which can be filled with carbs – 196g carbs.
As long as you hit your macros and eat the required calories, you will lose weight, so do not worry.
Now you know how many calories to eat and how many macro-nutrients. That should be enough, right? Well, not really. For some might be enough. Some people may tell you that this is enough, that it does not matter where you if it fits your macros – or IIFYM – that’s all you need to do. I recommend not going with that belief. Yes, the most important thing is to eat the required macro-nutrients, but aim to eat as healthy as you can. That means as many whole foods as possible and as less processed as possible.
The list below will show you the best foods from where to get your macro-nutrients.
- Chicken, Turkey
- Low fat beef
- Whey, casein, soy protein
- Milk, cottage cheese
- Brown rice
- Sweet potatoes
- Fruits (but not too many because they contain fructose)
- VEGETABLES (yes, caps-lock; you know why)
- Olive oil
- Nuts (a handful a day is enough)
- Fatty fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel)
- Peanut butter (IF it does not contain hydrogenated oil)
When cutting, you CAN eat sugars as long as it fits your macro nutrients
Also, you can have a cheat meal every once in a while, for example every week (a slice of pizza, a burger etc.), but you should not eat over the required calories and you should fit the cheat meal into your macro-nutrients. So if you eat a slice of pizza which has, let’s say, 15g of fat, 40g of carbs and 10g of protein, add those to your macros and eat less fat/carbs at the other meals so you can fit it in properly.
Next post will be on supplementation and the basic supplements that anyone needs when weight lifting and training.