When do I get into a cutting phase?
A cutting phase is when you’re wanting to start shaping/toning up your body for either; holidays, contest prep, a photoshoot or maybe just for yourself. To determine when you need to start you need to be looking at a few things:
- How much fat you’re holding – If you have done a bulking stage beforehand and you’ve held onto fat while growing, or even just not been on a plan before and want to grow muscle, if you have excess fat then it’s time to cut
- How long you have for the cut – Make sure you have enough time to do a decent cut down because that will determine how the next stage goes in terms of growing muscle or toning up
- How digestion is – Are you getting indigestion/heartburn? This can be a sign that your body isn’t coping with the amount of food you’re eating at the moment
- Energy levels – Are you sluggish and tired? This can be because your body is telling you it needs to lose the excess weight
All these aspects can determine if your body is ready for a cut and it’s really important to listen to your body. It’s very clever and knows exactly what it needs.
How do I work out my calorie deficit?
How to Calculate a Calorie Deficit | 3 Steps
- Men: BMR* = 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (years) + 5
- Women: BMR = 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (years) – 161
- 500 calorie deficit per day = 3,500 calorie deficit per week
- 700 calorie deficit per day = 4,900 calorie deficit per week
(*BMR: Basal Metabolic Rate)
Or use the UltraFlex Calorie Calculator.
What foods are best?
If you’re wanting to do a clean/lean bulk and put the least amount of fat on as possible, then you want to be eating lean meats (5% mince, steak, fish, chicken, turkey), vegetables and whole grain foods (pasta, rice, potatoes). At the same time you want to be able to enjoy the food that you’re eating. So, make sure that when you are planning your meals, that you consider the foods you enjoy as when calories get high you want to be able to enjoy eating them still.
How do I workout my macros?
Each macronutrient corresponds to a specific calorie amount per gram:
- Carbohydrates have 4 calories per gram
- Fats have 9 calories per gram
- Proteins have 4 calories per gram
Then you need to know the ratio in which you need each macronutrient:
- 45 – 60% carbohydrate
- 20 – 35% fats
- Remainder from protein
Now you know what macros are and how many calories they have. Next, you’ll need to do some maths. That’s because your intake ratio is written in percentages, but nutritional information is provided in grams. I’ll use my macro intake as an example:
- First, you need to know how many calories you eat (or want to eat) each day. I eat roughly 2,300 calories per day
- Next, determine your ideal ratio. I like to eat about 50% carbs, 25% fat and 25% protein
- Then, multiply your total daily calories by your percentages
- Finally, divide your calorie amounts by its calorie-per-gram number
Here’s how I would calculate my calories for each macronutrient:
- Carbs: 2,300 x 0.50 = 1,150. I eat 1,150 calories worth of carbs each day
- Fats: 2,300 x 0.25 = 575. I get 575 calories from dietary fat
- Protein: 2,300 x 0.25 = 575, so I also get 575 calories worth of protein
To calculate the actual gram amounts:
- Carbs (4 calories per gram): 1,150 divided by 4 = 5 grams of carbs
- Fat (9 calories per gram): 575 divided by 9 = 63.8 grams of fat
- Protein (4 calories per gram): 575 divided by 4 = 75 grams of protein
How much water do I need to drink?
The recommended amount of water to drink a day is 2 litres. Personally I think you need more, especially if you’re training, as you’re sweating out your fluids and you need to retain that water back. I drink 5-6 litres a day. Basically the more water you drink (you can over drink – so no more than 7-8 litres) the more water you get rid of. Drinking water helps get rid of the toxins in your body and helps hydrate your body so that blood can flow better through the veins and arteries. It also helps to keep your skin clear and helps reduce a bloated stomach.
Do I need to do cardio?
This is person dependent. Ideally you need to get yourself a coach or someone who knows about either dieting or contest prep just so you don’t over do it on cardio, as this can lead to muscle loss, tiredness and mentally struggling. Yet in the same breath, make sure you’re doing it enough. You need to figure out a timeline of how much you want to lose. If you have dropped your daily calories to start with by 500 and the weight is coming off at 2-3lbs a week, then I’d say no, cardio isn’t essential. However, when you get further into the cutting phase your body starts to become stubborn and this is when you need to think about reducing calories or adding in cardio.
On the other hand if you enjoy cardio, then you need to bring it in because you need to be able to enjoy what you’re doing. At the end of the day you can’t hate what you do, as you will stop and not carry on.
Do I need to eat before training?
I’ve been there, done that, by getting up in the morning and going straight to the gym without eating. No benefit has come from this. If you have ever done this then you burn out quickly on exercises, don’t get a pump, ache more after training and there’s no personal bests are there?
Eating before training helps fuel your body. If you eat carbohydrate food before, this is your main energy source. Glucose (sugar) is rushed into the bloodstream giving you energy to train/workout.
What should I eat before training?
You need to definitely eat before doing weights (usually giving at least 40-60 mins for the food to digest), this way you’ll have more energy to actually train. If you are doing cardio on the other hand I wouldn’t eat beforehand as it will benefit weight loss doing this fasted (so before food).
Here are some examples:
- Bananas – These are a great source of natural sugars, simple carbohydrates, and potassium
- Chicken, Rice & Vegetables – The stereotypical healthy meal: chicken, rice and vegetables. This is a classic pre-workout meal
- Protein Bar – If you’re on the go and looking for a quick top-up before the gym, then a protein bar is a great option
- Porridge and Oatmeal – This makes the ultimate pre-workout breakfast. This pre-workout food contains complex carbohydrates and is also a great source of the soluble fibre, beta-glucan.
What shall I eat afterwards?
After training you need to refuel your body as you’ve just killed it off (or should have). When you do a workout you’ve basically torn the muscle fibres, this is why you get DOMS. The best thing to do after training is making sure you fuel your body with carbs and protein, ideally straight away but at least no longer than 2 hours afterwards.
Does my weight training need to be different?
This is a bit controversial. If you’ve got cardio within your cutting phase, ideally you need to be doing this away from your weight sessions as this can impact on how well you lift. Weights during a cutting phase are crucial; this is where you can really start to tone and shape the muscle that you have underneath. Again, ideally you want to be getting a personal trainer/coach to help you design your plan, that’s their job. They can then give you different techniques to use like drop sets, muscle rounds… I could go on forever. These techniques can help you tighten, tone and shape your muscle during a cutting phase, depending on your level and years of training.