For gym goers, the approach of summer means it’s time for all that muscle mass you’ve earned during the year to have its moment in the sun.
After a long hard period of bulking - accumulating mass through a hefty muscle-feeding diet and heavy lifting - you’re often left with excess weight from the season of mass consumption.
Now comes the period many gym goers use to slim down to an athletic, toned physique, which requires a new style of training and different nutritional needs. It’s known to many as The Cut.
What is cutting?
Cutting can be one of the more challenging aspects of dedicated weight training.
Adding muscle mass usually requires a calorie surplus. This means consuming more calories than you use both at rest and during your workout in order to promote muscle growth through recovery and repair.
This process is usually known as ‘bulking’, a period of heavy lifting and big eating that adds muscle quickly. However, the additional calories can often contribute to the unwanted accumulation of body fat.
The ‘cut’ period aims to vanquish this post-bulk fat, revealing and defining the toned musculature underneath. During a cut, training continues, but often with more focus on cardio, while a caloric deficit is introduced – this means expending more energy than contained in the food you’re consuming.
How to best approach a cut
Eating fewer calories than you burn sounds like straight-forward subtraction, but the equation is a little more complex than it first appears.
Continuing to train while reducing your calorie intake can make you physically fatigued, while a mismanaged diet can also make you feel mentally drained.
You need to be careful about what foods you’re reducing or removing from your diet, ensuring your complete nutrient needs are met.
To counter the fatiguing effects of cutting while ensuring they are still consuming healthy levels of essential vitamins and nutrients, many experienced gym goers supplement their spartan spring diet with a range of targeted products designed specifically to support them during the cut.
They’ll also change up their training regime to turbo-charge fat loss to achieve that shredded physique.
If you're new to gym nutrition, check out our extensive guide below:
What sort of diet should I adopt for my cut?
There is a vast range of diet options, and it’s worth carefully researching the right option for your training needs.
What’s most important is finding a diet that you’ll stick to, and one that fits your schedule. If you like to hit the gym in the morning, then a diet with a light – or even, without - breakfast might not be the right choice.
You’re much more likely to stick to a diet that fits around you, not the other way around, even if it's less effective than stricter diets.
Guidance on creating a calorie deficit varies too, but a generally accepted approach begins with establishing your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) - the calories your body needs for basic functions such as breathing, blinking, walking or talking. Surprisingly, this resting metabolic rate accounts for 60 to 75 percent of the total calories you burn a day.
How to calculate your BMR
Calculate your BMR by multiplying your weight in kilograms by 10. Add this total to the sum of your height multiplied by 6.25. Now multiply your age by five and subtract that from the total so far. Finally, add 5 if you're male, or subtract 161 if you're female.
Men BMR = (10 × weight in kg) + (6.25 × height in cm) - (5 × age in years) + 5
Women BMR = (10 × weight in kg) + (6.25 × height in cm) - (5 × age in years) – 161
For example, a 5’11’’ tall, 39-year-old man weighing 86kg could calculate his BMR as…
Men BMR = (10 × 86) + (6.25 × 180cm) - (5 × 39) + 5 = 1795 calories per day
Once you have your BMR, add the amount of calories you use during physical exercise. From this total, subtract a percentage (usually around 10%) to arrive at an amount of daily calories you should consume to create a calorie deficit.
Note that you don’t have to maintain a deficit every day. Many try to average out their deficit over several days.
Keeping track of the amount of calories you consume versus those expended can be complicated, but a quality activity monitor, such as the Garmin Vivoactive HR GPS Smart Watch, can do much of the heavy lifting for you.
Will cutting result in a loss of muscle mass?
This is a complex area, but the short answer is that with care and attention to detail you can avoid losing any of that hard-earned lean muscle.
By gradually introducing your cutting programme, maintaining your lifting and hybridising it with HIIT approaches and cardio, all while taking care of your nutrient requirements, you can minimise muscle loss.
What are the best cutting supplements?
Training while on a cut means not only maintaining your energy levels, but also compensating for a reduced calorie diet with a boost of extra vitamins and nutrients.
A range of supplements have been specially created to meet the demands of a cutting diet, capable of boosting your training output while overcoming the restrictions of your nutritional input.
Have a look at the products below, categorised by the areas they target to help you find the best products for your needs.
Weight management supplements contribute to the fat burning process. Some contain stimulants that can help you overcome the fatigue associated with cutting, while others simply aid the body’s conversion of fat into energy.
Bio-Synergy Acai & Green Tea capsules are a combination of the Brazillian super-fruit acai berry, a rich source of antioxidants. Its green tea element provides polyphenols and a natural source of caffeine. The unique combination has been shown to assist with wellbeing, energy and weight management.
The key ingredient in Thermogen is yerba mate which, a herb traditionally consumed in South America where it’s known for its energy-boosting properties and antioxidant properties. Tests have also shown it to have fat burning properties, increasing the percentage of total energy expenditure coming from fat instead of carbs or protein increasing by up to 24% during sub-maximal (150-160 bpm) training.
This cutting edge, stimulant-free weight management supplement uses break-through patented Dual Release Technology®, involving an outer and inner capsule designed to deliver its patented active ingredients.
Killa Ketones from Grenade is a powerful weight loss solution for women who work out. When combined with a controlled, high-protein diet, these tablets containing raspberry ketones, CLA and L-Carmine are geared toward female physiological needs. Research shows women store fat in different parts of the body to men, and so the Killa Ketones aims its weight-loss ingredients at attacking those areas.
Cardio forms a big part of the cutting training programme. It's more efficient and effective at reducing fat and toning the physique, but difficult to maintain with depleted energy levels. Caffeine supplements have proven to be particularly effective in countering this.
Black Ops is a weight management system developed by the multi-award-winning R&D team at Grenade. Its stimulating effect is designed to enhance mental and physical performance, particularly during High Intensity Interval Training.
Bio-Synergy Caffeine Boost capsules are a convenient and easy to use high-strength caffeine supplement. A number of studies have shown significant performance increases in various endurance disciplines following caffeine supplementation.
Amino Fusion is for anyone that wants to support their exercise routines with a convenient and healthy source of amino acids. It also contains zero sugars and provides a caffeine kick while tasting great at the same time.
Vitamins & nutritional supplements
Tightening the diet may mean you get fewer of the important nutrients that benefit mind and body, so it's important you supplement any deficiency.
Puori 03 Ultra Pure Fish Oil is a great way to get your daily dose of omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA - supporting a healthy diet. Ultra pure and highly concentrated, each serving contains 2000mg of omega-3 and each batch is third-party tested by IFOS for freshness and purity.
Xendurance Omega provides balanced fatty acids which are essential for normal brain function, cardiovascular health, joint movement, immune function, healthy skin and anti-inflammatory benefits.
Bio-Synergy Performance Omega 3,6 & 9 is a high strength and easy to use supplement that can support your wellbeing and even improve mental focus, both of which can be invaluable when feeling the effects of a cut.
Reflex Nutrition's Nexgen® Sports Multivitamin is produced using advanced technologies to incorporate important minerals and ingredients to maintain nervous and immune systems before, during and after each workout.
Lean protein supplement
Lean protein supplements are especially useful for maintaining muscle mass while avoiding the excess calories that will undo your weight-saving efforts elsewhere.
Bursting with protein and chocolate flavour, the Carb Killa Spread from Grenade is a popular lower-sugar choice for the post workout protein hit.
Lean & Green is a ground-breaking innovation, being the first vegan protein to be free from soya and hemp. The unique, raw, plant-based protein with a complete amino acid profile is exceptionally rich in Arginine, Lysine, Leucine, and branched chain amino acids, necessary for energy and well-being.
HMB, the key ingredient in Bio-Synergy Beta Performance, has been the subject of numerous in-depth studies which have concluded that its combination of metabolite amino acids maintains lean muscle by preventing muscle breakdown and can increase VO2 max.
Wiggle's top tips for making the cut
- A proper cut is not supposed to be a gruelling test of will. Make sure you don't under-eat and cause excessive muscle loss.
- Monitor your progress closely. Check your weight, how you look, and how you feel after seven to ten days. Make adjustments at this point if necessary.
- Caffeine, taken in moderation, can be a huge help, capable of offsetting hunger and keeping you active. But be careful if you're also using a creatine supplement - taking both can make you very thirsty.
- Up your water intake in general. This should also help alleviate hunger during the cut and keep you alert and training hard.
- Cook your own food. This is a big one, and where many people fall down by failing to appreciate the hidden calories they're taking on.
- Increase your calorie deficit with cardio. When cutting, you’ll have already worked out what your calorie level is and be eating at a deficit in order to lose weight. By performing hard cardio, you’ll heighten your metabolic rate and burn even more.
- Maintain your protein intake. While you'll miss carbs most when cutting calories, protein is important to maintain your muscle mass, which will keep your metabolism high.
- Fibre is an important food group. Eating raw vegetables helps you to mix up your diet and provides a great way to snack without adding many calories.