Fat Loss Checklist To get lean, we need to diet. You know that and I know that but what you might not know is how to do it correctly. Make no mistake, dieting isn’t easy for experienced bodybuilders let alone new trainees. It can cause a great deal of stress and anxiety because you know that what you’re doing is difficult and, if done incorrectly, can lead to the loss of muscle mass.
Leading up to contests I see many bodybuilders make the same mistakes. They diet too fast, they don’t eat enough (especially carbs) and they don’t take in adequate amounts of protein. Aside from these common mistakes, the one that really makes me shake my head is when I see people trying to diet while taking in too much cardio. Taking in excessive amounts of cardio will only accelerate muscle loss because it puts you in a catabolic state. To avoid any unnecessary muscle loss, let’s take a look at some guidelines for fat loss diets:
Nutrition For Cutting Phases
The single most important factor in bodybuilding is nutrition. Is it possible to build a great physique without paying close attention to what you eat? Of course, but why make things difficult for yourself when proper dieting will give you the best results and be easier on your body as well. When we’re cutting up (or “shredding” as the fitness industry likes to call it), our overall caloric intake will be lowered compared to a mass gaining phase. In fact, your daily caloric intake could vary from as much as 20-25% less than what you consumed during your mass gaining phase. This is due to the simple fact that fewer calories are needed when you’re not trying to fuel a large body frame. In addition, the carbs you take in should be reduced slightly from your mass gaining phase while protein and fat intake should stay relatively constant year round. A good rule of thumb is to keep your protein intake at 1g per pound of bodyweight no matter what phase of training you’re in while keeping fat intake between 0.25-0.5g per pound of bodyweight.
cals/kg = your weight in kg * 20
When dieting it’s important to keep your carbohydrate intake high enough to prevent muscle loss but not so high that you gain fat. A good analogy is balancing a broomstick on your hand – you don’t want the broomstick to move at all, you just want it to be perfectly still. In terms of carbohydrate intake, we want a small but visible movement. Therefore, while on a cutting diet I recommend anywhere from 1-3g per pound of bodyweight in carbs while keeping daily intake no higher than 4g per pound of bodyweight.
Since the only way to increase your muscle mass is by increasing protein intake, you might be wondering why fat intake is even mentioned. Simple – dietary fat helps fill you up and it’s more metabolically costly for your body to store than carbohydrates or protein (meaning it can help prevent weight gain). Thus, I recommend anywhere from 0.5-1g per pound of bodyweight in dietary fat while keeping intake no higher than 2g per pound of bodyweight.
As I stated earlier, protein intake is the key to maintaining muscle mass during a cutting phase. It also takes quite a bit of energy for your muscles to digest so it’s metabolically costly to keep protein intake high. For these reasons I recommend at least 1g per pound of bodyweight, but probably more if you’re doing lots of cardio. After all, the higher your cardiovascular output is during training, the greater the chance of muscle loss will be so it’s wise to take in extra protein when necessary.
I could probably write a book on cutting diets and hopefully I’ll have the chance to do so in the future. For now, I hope this information will give you enough insight into making your dieting experience as easy and pain-free as possible, but if you need more help then be sure to check out my e-book Practical Programming for Fat Loss .