Here is a sample meal plan for cutting phase to help you set up your macros and calorie total. Cutting (also called bulking or trying) should be fun. You get to eat a little bit of everything, enjoy life and still see results. As long as you have time, and have the right program, it’s possible to bulk on good food and still get that healthy body you’ve been dreaming about.
The Ultimate Bodybuilding Cutting Diet
Ever wondered what bodybuilders eat to get those rock-hard abs, and super-cut physiques? Well, we created a blueprint.
If you’ve stacked on gains and you are ready to cut, then you’ve come to the right place. Pre-contest prep requires commitment, hard work, and consistency. But above all, nutrition and diet are the cornerstones to your results, and just eating clean isn’t going to cut it, pun intended. If you want to learn more about bodybuilding cutting diet, or how to lose body fat and maintain muscle mass, then keep reading.
Bodybuilding Cutting Diet Goals
The goal of a bodybuilding cutting diet is simple – body optimization. Lose as much body fat and retain as much muscle mass as possible is the name of the game. That means that your diet and your training is going to look very different than when you’re in the building or bulking phase of your training program. Workout volume is going to increase, calories are going to come down, and your cardio is going to increase.
Influences on Body Composition
Whatever your body type, or composition happens to be, there are certain factors that are at play.
- Genetics, namely your body type. Are you an ectopmorph, mesomorph, or endomorph.
- Metabolic rate, meaning how fast your metabolism is another genetic factor.
- Calorie consumption will be a crucial factor that will influence overall outcomes.
- Quality of Diet is a concern, if you want to bring the best package to the stage. What you eat matters. If you can get away with eating candy and running on energy drinks, and still have a six pack that’s great for beach season, but not great for a show.
- Exercise program is also crucial to defining the results you want to achieve.
Cut With Control
When you’re ready to start cutting down weight, the first thing to remember is that when you cut, you will lose some muscle in addition to body fat. It’s inevitable. That’s why you’re going to want to cut at a slow yet consistent pace, so that you can maintain as much muscle mass as possible without too much muscle wasting. You’ll need to calculate how much weight you need to lose to get to your target goal, based upon how many weeks out you start your cut. For example, if you’re ten weeks out, and you need to cut 10lbs, then 1lb per week should be the goal. In a traditional 12-week cut however, you never want to lose more than 2-2.5lbs per week, otherwise you’ll lose too much muscle mass.
When your body is in a caloric deficit, muscle loss can and will most likely occur. The key here is cutting slowly and with control.
Tracking your macronutrients and weighing your food will be crucial to presenting the best package when you step on stage. You need to have your food, diet, and macros down to a science. It’s proven that when you don’t track your food intake, caloric intake is greatly over or underestimated. The last thing you want it to assume how much you’re eating without accurately tracking your progress and food intake.
Nutrient Timing/When To Eat
How often you eat is almost as important as what you eat. Most competition diet prep will start 12 weeks out and during this phase, you’ll actually be eating more often. You’ll most likely be traveling everyday with your meal prep ready to go no matter where you are and eating every 2-3 hours. You’ll need to use a food scale and keep careful track of what and how much you eat.
When you strictly diet a long period of time, while you’re turning up the training volume, your body will be deprived of the essential vitamins and nutrients it needs for optimal function. You’ll be eating high protein, low carbohydrates, and minimal fat at around 20% of total calories. Supplementing with complex carbohydrates, protein, omega-3 fatty acids like krill oil, and amino acids will be crucial for your overall success on stage.
Now, let’s talk macronutrients.
Protein is responsible initiating the muscle building process, otherwise known as muscle protein synthesis. Protein is crucial to maintain muscle mass during your cut. Protein is broken down into its simplest form amino acids when ingested. Amino acids are released into the bloodstream then utilized to maintain and build more muscle. Therefore, maintaining a positive amino acid balance is key, to inhibit from muscle catabolism (break-down) and rebuild and repair your muscle.
If you’re unable or want to get more protein in your diet, consider supplementing with Whey Protein Isolate. Isolate is the best type of protein to use when on a bodybuilding cut, due to the cold-filtration process, removing any excess lactose, fat, and carbohydrates, leaving you with a purified form of fast digesting protein and amino acids.
Here is a list of acceptable lean protein sources you can include in your bodybuilding cut – chicken, beef, turkey, pork, white fish, egg whites.
Cutting carbs is a necessity when you’re trying to achieve a caloric deficit and lose body fat, but not cutting all your carbs. Including complex carbohydrates in your bodybuilding cutting diet is going to be important to retain muscle mass and energy. Cutting down calories and your carbs will leave you feeling lethargic and tired. Glucose the sugar derived from carbohydrates is a primary fuel source for your brain and body. When you’re low on energy, your body will try to produce glucose from amino acids. Carbohydrates will prevent this from happening since they are easily broken down for fuel sparing more muscle tissue.
Complex carbs digest much slower than simple carbohydrates, due to their longer-chain molecular structure. Complex carbs are also sugars, but they do not spike blood insulin, keeping your blood glucose levels stable, and provide a long-sustained energy release. These types of carbohydrates or clean carbs work best for prolonged training, improving endurance, building more muscle mass, and optimizing body composition. Complex carbs slow the absorption of sugar, slowing down digestion, which results in lower cholesterol levels and keeping you fuller for a longer period of time.
Great examples of some complex carbohydrates for a bodybuilding cut, would be oats, quinoa, brown rice, basmati or white rice, sweet potatoes, or Swolverine Clean Carbs
Your fat will be especially low during your cut. Now, with that in mind, fat does have a substantial effect on your hormonal balance. Several studies have shown that diets low in fat, below 15% of total caloric intake will significantly decrease testosterone production, while diets higher in fat increased serum testosterone levels
Although testosterone production will be lower, too much fat can contribute to greater amounts of adipose tissue, and therefore, for purposes of cutting need to be kept between an optimal level between hormone maintenance and reducing body fat.
Bodybuilding Cutting Macros
Your macros will be calculated and based upon your specific body type and conditions. However, in general we’ve included some basic information to calculate your macros and where they need to be to cut.
Here’s what you will need to know before calculating your macros:
- How many calories do you eat in a day (roughly, we’ll use 2300 calories for example)
- Determine your ideal ratio of protein, carbs, and fat (we’ll use 50% carbs, 25% protein, 25% fat for example)
- Multiply your daily calories by your percentages
- Divide your calorie totals by its calorie-per-gram number
Here’s how to calculate your macros based on 2,300 calories per day
- Carbs:2,300 x 0.50 = 1,150 calories from carbohydrates
- Protein:2,300 x 0.25 = 575 calories from protein
- Fats:2,300 x 0.25 = 575 calories from fat
Here’s how to calculate your macros into grams
- Carbs (4 calories per gram): 1,150 divided by 4 = 5g carbs
- Protein (4 calories per gram): 575 divided by 4 = 75g protein
- Fat (9 calories per gram): 575 divided by 9 = 8g fat
Although these are general parameters, we highly recommend working with 1:1 with a nutrition coach from The Swole Kitchen to eliminate the guesswork and get the results you want to be show ready.
What’s The Best Macro Calculator?
If you don’t feel like going through all the trouble, you can get a pretty accurate reading by entering in some quick information into an automatic macro calculator.
Go check it out for yourself and calculate those macros!
Fat loss and muscle maintenance are the main goals during a bodybuilding cut. A lower carbohydrate and high protein ratio will tend to accelerate fat loss efforts. Bodybuilding cut macros will tend to be between
40-50% protein – 10-30% carbohydrates – 30-40% fat.
There are ways that you can accelerate fat loss efforts such as carb-cycling, intermittent fasting, fasted workouts, and increasing the amount of cardio on a weekly basis. That being said, what you eat (your macros & ratios) are going to have the largest influence on positive or negative results
What To Drink During A Bodybuilding Cut
During your cut, you’ll want to keep your calories low especially the calories coming from what you’re drinking. First and foremost, water will be your drink of choice 99% or even 100% of the time. You can have other low calorie beverages such as green tea and coffee, if you want.
Supplements For Bodybuilding Cut
Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA)
Contest dieting is a high powered version of a conventional clean diet, but more strict, which includes high protein, to maintain muscle mass and reduce body fat, low carbs, and low fat, with increased amounts of aerobic exercise. Your body will be severely nutrient deprived, making supplements extremely crucial to your success.
We already mentioned two important supplements while cutting, which are whey protein isolate, and clean carbs. However, BCAAs will also be crucial during your cut to maintain a positive amino acid balance to inhibit muscle mass breakdown.
Remember when I said protein is composed of amino acids?
As you digest macronutrients, such as protein, they are broken down into their simplest form – amino acids. This is why branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) are often referred to as the building blocks of protein. Branched chain amino acids are composed of three essential amino acids, leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Your body does not naturally produce these amino acids; therefore, it is essential to obtain them from the foods you eat, or from supplements.
Research suggests, that BCAAs have a positive impact on muscle protein synthesis, the muscle building process. BCAAs also prevent protein degradation or muscle mass breakdown. In order to build muscle your body must be in a net positive amino acid balance. If the rate of muscle protein breakdown is greater than the rate of muscle protein synthesis, your body becomes catabolic and breaks down muscle tissue for energy.
BCAAs assist to keep your body in an anabolic state, while performing prolonged exercise bouts, or during a cut. By supplementing with BCAAs you ensure your body is in a positive amino acid balance, which will support muscle growth, repair, and reduce muscle soreness post workout.
The second recommended supplement for a cut, is going to be creatine, namely buffered creatine, or Kre-Alkalyn. Normal creatine monohydrate can cause bloating, and water retention, because it has poor bioavailability. Kre-Alkalyn is pH corrected, absorbing quicker and negates the need for loading.
Over 90% of the creatine in the human body is localized in muscle, in teh form of creatine phosphate. Creatine phosphate serves as an energy system in your muscles, providing a reserve of high energy phosphate for your workouts. This supplement is really a necessity for bodybuilding as it increases, strength, size, and power.
Omega-3 (Krill Oil)
Your fat intake during your cut, is going to be extremely low, making dietary and health fats extremely important to supplement. Essential fatty acids help the body with recovery, athletic performance, and immune resistance.
Krill Oil is derived from tiny shellfish that are packed with Omega 3 fatty acids (EPA & DHA). They also contain the world’s most powerful and potent natural antioxidant called “Astaxanthin” which gives the oil its “reddish” color. Compared to Fish Oil, Krill Oil is absorbed 68% better than fish oil and is metabolized within 2-3 hours, whereas Fish Oil is utilized between 48-72 hours.
The Ultimate Bodybuilding Cutting Diet: Takeaway
The most important factor when you’re starting a cut, is discipline. You can have all the motivation in the world but if you lack discipline, you’re not going to get very far. In addition to your diet, training, and supplementation are important as well to bring a solid winning package to the stage. If you’re not sure where to start and need more guidance, I would seriously consider hiring a certified nutrition coach to help you with your cut.
Contest dieting is a high powered version of a conventional clean diet, but more strict, which includes high protein, to maintain muscle mass and reduce body fat, low carbs, and low fat, with increased amounts of aerobic exercise. This can leave you feeling lethargic and depleted, making supplementation crucial to your success.
- There are a few rules to follow and live by when you’re on a bodybuilding cut
- Create a detailed and specific diet plan, tracking your macros, water intake, and supplementation. If you can’t then hire a nutrition coach.
- Use a food scale, measuring cups and spoons, to ascertain the calories an grams of protein, carbs, and fat in whatever you eat.
- Eat every 2-3 hours
- Meal prep and carry them wherever you go to ensure you’re getting the food, calories, and nutrients you need. Invest in a cooler or back pack.
- Take all necessary supplements, whenever necessary, including protein, carbs, vitamins, essential fatty acids,
- Drink a ton of water, and aim for at least 4-5 liters per day
Are you ready to cut some body fat while maintaining muscle mass? Well, if that’s the case, this cutting diet plan is perfect for your needs.
When you think of losing fat, you imagine yourself on a treadmill or spending hours at the gym. The truth is that exercise isn’t the only way to lose weight.
As a bodybuilder, you can get rid of body fat through spring cleaning by cutting your diet. Spring cleaning is flushing out the bad parts of your diet or eating habits and strengthening the excellent characteristics. For instance, you can cut out processed or junk food in your diet plan and add more fruits and vegetables to get lean.
However, in this article, we’ll focus on how to spring clean by strictly cutting your diet.
WHAT IS CUTTING DIET
A cutting diet is a weight loss strategy that helps cut body fat or reduce body weight without sacrificing muscles to get lean.
It’s not long-term, but it’s usually taken by those who want to lose a few extra pounds before an important event or by bodybuilders and athletes preparing for bodybuilding, boxing, or mixed martial arts competitions.
A typical cutting diet plan consists of a high-protein, moderate-fat and low-carbohydrate ratio that helps you preserve muscle or achieve desired goals like weight loss, building muscles, increasing endurance, or gaining strength. In addition, these diets usually have lower calories.
However, it is not a good idea to follow a cutting plan diet for the long term. Why? Because your body needs carbohydrates to provide energy, it may also need some amount of fat to produce or absorb specific vitamins.
WHEN TO START CUTTING DIET
There are a lot of factors determining at what point you should start cutting your diet. Your muscles’ condition, current weight, and activity level all play into when you should begin cutting calories and what kinds of foods to eat.
Trying to lose fat when you’re already in a calorie deficit is usually a recipe for failure. That’s why most bodybuilders go through the bulking phase before cutting on a diet.
You should perform the bulking phase whenever you are in a calorie surplus. Typically, this would be consuming 500-1000 calories above maintenance level, but it can differ depending on goals, age, metabolism, and training history.
Bulking involves consuming many calories, a protein-rich diet, and heavier weight lifting to gain lean muscle while cutting body fat.
During the bulking phase, it is vital to eat more calories than your body needs to maintain its muscle and use the excess calories to build new muscle and preserve the already existing lean mass.
This phase can be broken down into three distinct goals:
- Eat more calories daily to put on weight
- Use this excess stored energy (from carbs and fat) to build new muscle
- Create metabolic debt by lifting heavy weights
After your bulking phase, you cut down on calories and increase the intensity of your workouts to lose the fat you gained while bulking.
The main difference between cutting and bulking is that you aim to gain weight and muscle mass during the bulk, while during a cut, you are trying to lose fat and preserve your lean mass.
BEST TIPS FOR MAINTAINING STRENGTH DURING DIET CUT
Toning up without losing mass is one of the most challenging aspects of cutting your body fat. However, with a few clever tweaks to your workout regimen, you no longer have to choose between getting lean and maintaining your strength — with a few strategic changes to your training program anymore, you can keep your muscle and shed fat simultaneously. Here’s how:
SET YOUR GOAL
Figure out what you want to achieve. It will determine what kind of foods you need to be eating on your diet plan. If your goal is to build muscle while losing fat, then you’ll need a different diet plan than someone trying to lose fat alone.
For instance, during cutting meal plans, athletes take proteins and carbohydrates in almost equal quantities not to reduce their muscle mass also try to eat natural foods like lean meat, eggs, fruits, and vegetables. This way, they can satisfy their hunger without taking so many calories.
It’s crucial you decide your goal before starting any diet or nutrition plan to know what results you’re working towards and build a meal plan with those results in mind.
DETERMINE YOUR CALORIC INTAKE
Your caloric intake is one of the essential parts of any meal plan because it determines what weight loss or weight gain results you’ll get and how quickly those results will show.
When losing weight, you use more energy than you have. Therefore, you should determine your caloric intake by knowing how many calories you need daily based on your gender, size, and age.
Also, during the cutting period, your body mass decreases and metabolism adapts. Therefore, you will have to adjust the number of calories you take to account for these changes.
The table below shows nutritional suggestions you can use for cutting meals. The recommendations are based on a 2014 study examining how people prepare for bodybuilding competitions.
NUTRITIONAL RECOMMENDATION IN CUTTING DIET
|Carbohydrate||55-60%(of the total calories or the remaining calories after calculating your protein and fat requirement )|
|Proteins||2.3 to 3.1% grams/ kilogram|
|Weight loss per week||.5 to 1%/week|
According to research, meal periodicity should be balanced for bodybuilding, with 3–6 meals a day, each with approximately 20 grams of protein.
For any other person, you should consume proteins at an interval of 3–4 hours throughout the day and inside 2 hours of exercise, according to the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN)Trusted Source.
You can use online pp such as Lose It! MyFitnessPal or Macro calculator to help you with an IIFY plan that can guide you in planning your nutrition and automatically keep track of everything that goes into your mouth.
STICK TO HIGH PROTEIN FOODS
Make sure you eat at least 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight each day. It will help make your muscles not break down while cutting fat. Protein helps build lean muscle mass, which raises your metabolism even while you’re at rest so that you can burn more calories throughout the day. It’s also simple to digest, so you won’t feel stuffed immediately, which can help keep your hunger pangs away.
DON’T CUT WEIGHT TOO FAST
Going too fast when cutting weight is the worst you can do. This might seem counterintuitive, especially if you’re struggling to shed those last five pounds before a competition or photo shoot, but going too fast will only make it harder on yourself.
When you cut weight too quickly, your body enters into “starvation mode,” and it will begin to hold onto every last calorie it gets to survive. That implies that even if you eat healthy, nutritious foods, your body will turn them into fat instead of muscle.
It is essential to drink enough water before, during, and after your workout routine. Drink at least 1 gallon (4 litres) of water each day when cutting calories and losing weight.
Water helps us digest food, transport nutrients around our bodies, make hormones, and flush toxins from our bodies. When we don’t drink enough water, it slows down all these functions which can cause us to feel tired and lethargic.
Avoid caffeinated beverages as they dehydrate your body. Also, try adding fresh fruits like strawberries and oranges instead of drinking fruit juices.
TREAT YOURSELF TO CHEAT MEALS
You don’t have to be perfect while bulking, especially since you’re trying to maintain strength while adding muscle mass. Schedule one cheat meal per week — anything goes at this meal except junk food — and allow yourself this treat so you can stay focused on eating clean the rest of the time.
TAKE PROTEIN SUPPLEMENTS
Protein supplements can help keep your gains coming. To build muscle fast, your body needs lots of protein in addition to healthy fats and carbohydrates, according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE).
Protein shakes make it easy to get the right amount of protein without having to figure out the right amount of calories or prepare protein-rich meals every day.
STICK TO YOUR TECHNIQUE
Keep doing what you usually do. Maintaining your regularly scheduled strength program is a great way to objectively measure your cut’s progress.
If you stick to it and find that you are keeping the old strength numbers while losing weight, that means you are getting stronger. This also allows you to make balanced strength gains while maintaining good technique and joint health.
Trying to emulate others’ programs can be disastrous for your shredding because your body responds uniquely to training stimuli, and what works for someone else might not work for you.
MEAL IDEAS FOR CUTTING PHASE
It is important to consume protein-rich foods, fiber and nutrient content while at the same time staying away from the “bad” carbs and fats that can cause weight gain. The following are some foods that you should include in your cutting Phase:
- Lean poultry (Chicken breast) – 57.7 grams of protein per 100-gram serving
- Fish – tuna, salmon and other fish high in protein (100 grams’ equals about 3 ounces of fish)
- Eggs –both whole and white eggs are one of the most incredible foods in existence. They contain all nine essential amino acids, vitamins A, B6, B12, D and E, while one whole egg contains 78 calories, 5 grams of protein
- High fiber cereal – Grape-Nuts with skim milk provides 23.5 grams of fiber per 1 cup serving
- Vegetables – Broccoli, asparagus, spinach and other leafy green vegetables are rich in nutrients with few calories
WHAT SUPPLEMENTS SHOULD YOU TAKE DURING A CUT
When we cut, our bodies need more protein and carbs. Meaning you should consume them in higher quantities than expected, depending on your weight. If you are trying to cut fat while keeping muscle mass, the following supplements can help:
Creatine Monohydrate: Creatine is very effective at increasing muscle mass. It allows you to train harder and longer, which will cause more muscle growth.
Whey protein – Whey protein helps build muscle mass and burn body fat. It is one of the most popular bodybuilding supplements on the market today because it is inexpensive, healthy, and easy to consume. Whey protein is available as a powder; you can mix it with water or milk to make shakes and smoothies (recommended for better taste).
Glutamine: Glutamine is an essential amino acid necessary for muscle repair, growth, and recovery after workouts. This supplement will reduce soreness, improve muscle recovery and help prevent catabolism. It has glutamine has been shown to prevent muscle loss when cutting calories for those individuals who aren’t exercising as much.
Sunifiram: Sunifiram is a nootropic that improves memory formation and recalls by increasing choline levels. It also increases dopamine levels and enhances mood by decreasing anxiety and depression.
Rhodiola Rosea: Rhodiola Rosea helps increase energy levels in the mind and body to aid in workouts. It also helps control stress levels during a cut by boosting serotonin levels in the brain (the happy chemical).
This plan is the perfect way to cut weight healthily and sustainably. Adopting these rules will allow you to go to the gym with a clear goal, fix your mind on your desired transformation, and stick to it for good. It’s flexible enough to adapt it every week if you can’t follow it 100%.