Cutting

Cutting Season 1 Episode 1 – 19% Body Fat


If you’ve been reading the blog you may know that last year I started cutting with a goal to get down to a more “decent” body fat percentage, and I failed mostly because of the winter holidays which really threw me off track in terms of nutrition. I also took 2 weeks off from training….in fact I took 2 week off from dieting as well, I literally ate anything I wanted, how much I wanted, spent some quality time with the friends and family, had some fancy diners, you know the drill. Long story short, my cut was high jacked by the winter holidays. Of course it was a stupid thing to plan my cut so that it would overlap with the Christmas season, but that’s that.

Anyways, I’ve been back on the grind for the past 4 weeks now (my first goal for 2016 is to get leaner) and I just wanted to get you guys up to speed with how things are going, what I’ve been doing and what works for me.

Here are the starting stats and my target

Starting point Week 4 stats
Planned cutting period: 17 weeks (January 4 to May 1) Measurements date: 30 January
Starting weight: 90.6 kg (@ 184cm) Current weight: 86.8 kg
Starting body fat: 18 % (caliper method) Current body fat: 16-17 % (caliper method)
Starting waist: 94 cm Current waist: 90 cm
Target body fat: 10% Target body fat: 10%

Let’s look at what I’ve done in terms of dieting and training in the past 4 weeks.

Negative energy balance

I can’t stress enough how important the energy balance is regardless if you want to lose weight or gain weight.

Our bodies will lose or gain weight primarily on how much we eat, not what we eat.

Therefore in the first 4 weeks of his cut I was in a 15-20% caloric restriction, which is not as aggressive as you would expect since most fitness and nutrition professionals recommend cutting back 20-25% of your calories in order to lose 1-2 pounds a week. My metabolism is not super-fast and cutting back 25% is something that I can’t stick with over long periods of time.

SCIENCE TIP: Caloric restriction is the most consistent, natural, drug free way of increasing life expectancy? [Source]

On top of that, for me particularly, staying in a moderate or minimum deficit allows me to benefit from the newbie gains and still make both muscle and strength progress. Depending on how long you’ve been training for, this might not be the case for you and you would be better off with getting into a more aggressive caloric deficit such as 20-25% and try to lose fat as fast as possible and then go back into bulking mode.

In fact I’ve recently read about this study where scientist tested how body composition changes in trained individuals who follow a moderate calorie restricted diet versus aggressive calorie restricted diet and the results showed that aggressive calorie restriction diets increase fat loss without affecting muscle mass. There you have it.

I know that my weight stays pretty much the same when I eat about 2,200 kcal – 2,300 kcal a day and train 5 days / (4 to 6 hours) per week, so getting into a negative energy balance was very easy and simple to implement for me from day one.

Knowing your caloric maintenance level is mandatory an effective cut or bulk.

The total daily energy expenditure is composed of the basal metabolic rate, thermic effect of foods and activity levels. The actual weight of each of the 3 components will vary for different individuals, mainly based on the activity levels, but these generally speaking the distribution should be something like this:

  • BMR 60-75%
  • TEF: 10%
  • Activity: 15-30%

With the activity weighing more or less based on how frequency and how intense you train. The BMR is fairly stable and TEF as well although the thermic effect of the foods you eat will be influenced by the macronutrients distribution. A high protein diet will require more energy to get digested and processed by the body.

Thermic effect of foods based on macros (percent of energy consumed):

  • Protein: 20-35%
  • Carbohydrate: 5-15%
  • Fat:5-15%

Based on my activity levels and macros distribution my guess is that my energy balance would look something like this.

The numbers on the BMR, TEF and Activity might be a little bit off because you can’t really estimate those individually very accurate, but the total IN versus total OUT should be pretty accurate, I think.

Macronutrients

I really didn’t focus on hitting a specific radio of protein, carbs and fats. My only concern was to get at least 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram each day and just split the remaining calories between carbs and fats randomly based on what I felt like eating. This, combined with the tiny deficit of 10 to 15% made my diet very easy to follow and actually enjoyable until now.

There is no reason to go into really deep details with the carbs/fats split unless you are hitting a weight loss plateau or you are trying to get down to very low body fat percentages. Just make sure you get your proteins and enjoy the rest of your foods without getting really crazy with it constantly.

Here is the average distribution of the macros in the first 4 weeks of my cut (I’ve been tracking the carbs and fats even though I did not set specific targets or them).

Nutrient timing

Nutrient timing refers to eating specific foods or taking in specific supplements as certain time intervals relative to workouts, with the goal of maximizing muscle growth and fat loss. I don’t really focus on it that much.

I enjoy training on an empty stomach, therefore I get my first meal at about 11 am – 12 pm which is 2-3 hours after my training, then I have another meal at 3 – 4 pm and the last meal of the day (and usually the most consistent) is at about 7 pm.

As you can see I am fasting for about 16 hours. This is not something that I beat myself to do, but it’s more of a schedule that I got used to, but studies show that intermittent fasting has benefits on fat loss.

Foods I ate

I thought it would be helpful for you to include in this post some of the foods I included on my diet. It’s not really diversified because once I find foods that I like I can eat them every day and still enjoy them for months.

  • Greek yogurt mixed with fruits (banana, apple), Cottage cheese, Milk 1.5%
  • Homemade bread, Pasta, White rice, Sweet potatoes, Regular potatoes, Vegetables
  • Chicken, Pork, Tuna, Beef 93/7, Eggs
  • Chocolate, Crackers
  • Apples, Banana, Kiwi
  • Coke zero

I have a whole article on foods that you should buy and should not buy when your cutting, so make sure to check it out over here.

The only supplementation I did was with creatine monohydrate 5 grams a day, each day regardless if it is a training day or not.

Training

As you may know I am now doing a 5 day split program and I hit every muscle just once a week. My workouts revolve around compound movements, using heavy weights.

My rep range is 5 to 8 reps on the compound movements and up to 10 reps on the isolation exercises.  Rep count and weight used is so that I go to failure on the last set or the last couple of sets (I am doing straight sets).

It’s really important to use heavy weights if your goal is to get bigger and stronger. Training using the same weights over and over ago will not promote muscle growth.

The volume I do is quite high, with the total rep range per muscle group totaling 130 to 170 reps each week. I normally do not do so high volume. I am trying this out as an experiment (sort of speaking) and see how doing very high volume weight lifting, without doing any cardio training affects weight loss.

Yes, I am not doing any type of cardio at the moment, even if I’m cutting. I want to lose fat but also focus as much as possible on getting stronger and make more muscle gains that is why I am putting all my time and effort into lifting the weights. So, far it looks like it is going great. I am tracking my strength (e.g. number of reps per exercise at specific weights) and see some improvements, even in a deficit.

Take away

This post ended up being both a status update on my cut, but also and a small collection of cutting tips which I would like to summarize below:

  • Getting into a negative energy balance is the key to weight loss and fat loss
  • Training using heavy compound movements will preserve muscle mass even with a caloric restrictive diet
  • You can cut without including cardio in your training routine
  • Restrict up to 20-25% of you calories
  • You can build muscle and strength while cutting if the calorie restriction is moderate and you have little muscle mass compared to your maximum genetic potential
  • Make sure you get at least 2 grams of protein for each kg of bodyweight and don’t worry too much about cabs and fats.

Hope you’ve found this informative and helpful, don’t forget to reach me out by using the comment form below or by email at chris@gainsthetics.com.

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