As we move in to spring time the majority of us start turning our attention away from bulking and on to ‘cutting’ in order to look our best in a pair of shorts during the summer months. Cutting is the process of losing as much fat as possible, whilst sparing as much muscle mass as possible. Getting rid of that unwanted body fat obviously relies heavily on an excellent nutrition plan; so it should come as little surprise that what and how you eat can have a huge impact on your success. Accordingly this is where we will begin.
There are a wide variety of dieting techniques on offer to you including a Ketogenic diet. The Ketogenic diet is probably the most effective way to lose the greatest amount of fat in a short space of time. However as you reduce carbohydrates to practically zero this diet will not maintain an optimum amount of muscle mass. Consequently I would advise simply moving in to a calorific deficit in which you reduce carbohydrates but keep them high enough to utilise their muscle sparing benefits, while still losing body fat. I will look a little further in to the importance carbohydrates when cutting later on.


The aim is to diet as slowly as you can. The extent of your calorie deficit will, significantly, determine how much muscle you retain or lose. By and large, losing 1 lb of bodyweight per week will permit you to retain most of your muscle mass. You can probably lose about 1.5 lbs per week and retain most muscle mass but once you start moving above this mark muscle loss definitely becomes an issue. Therefore you try and give yourself enough time to lose between 1lb-1.5lb of body fat per week. If you’re naturally ectomorphic (find it easy to shed the weight) a time period of around 10-14 weeks would be ideal whereas if you’re naturally endomorphic (find it harder losing weight) then you should extend the dieting period to around 15-21 weeks. Mesomorphs should therefore be somewhere in between.



To be able to produce the macronutrient totals for the diet, it’s essential to calculate how many lbs per week you will need to lose to be at the desired body fat percentage. This isn’t 100% accurate; however we can still produce a decent enough estimate.

Here is a brief example:

A mesomorph of 200lbs is 14% body fat. He wants to achieve a physique of 6% body fat for summer. Therefore he has to drop 8% body fat. This means he has to lose roughly 16lbs. At 1 lbs per week it will then take 16 weeks.

A calorific reduction of 600 kcals from your diet (give or take) will result in a sufficient amount of fat loss without any real affect on muscle mass. This will be coupled with further calorie reduction due to cardiovascular exercise of about 300-450 kcal, 3-5 times a week (which I will get on to later).

Here is the strategy in more depth:

Firstly you have to find your calorific baseline (an estimate of the energy (calories) you require for your normal daily routine or the calories you can consume each day and maintain your weight, assuming little or no exercise).

  • Mesomorphs – bodyweight x 15.

  • Ectomorphs – bodyweight x 16-17.

  • Endomorphs – bodyweight x 13-14.

So for our subject; 200 X 15 = 3000 kcals per day. This is the subject’s caloric baseline (roughly). So if he wishes to lose 1 lb per week from dieting with a caloric restriction of 600 kcals per day the calculation is as follows, 3000 – 600 = 2400 kcals per day.

-Protein Intake

A general rule for bodybuilders is 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight however this will need to be increased during a cutting phase. I’m sure I don’t need to elaborate on the importance of protein when looking to gain muscle or maintain it.


  • Mesomorphs – 1.2g/lb – 1.3g/lb.

  • Ectomorphs – 1.4g/lb – 1.6g/lb.

  • Endomorphs – 1.4g/lb – 1.5g/lb.


For our subject, this results in a protein ingestion of between 240-260 g protein per day. So if we take the average at 250g of protein per day this means 1000 kcals have been devoted to protein (as 1 gram of protein equals 4 kcals), leaving us with 1400 kcals for fat and carbohydrate intake.

Suitable protein sources include: chicken, turkey, tuna, salmon, eggs, lean beef, low fat pork, cottage cheese and a number of protein supplements such as Whey or Soy.

-Carbohydrate Intake

Carbohydrate intake is potentially the most crucial element to a cutting phase and for that reason requires extra care and attention.

Carbohydrates are vital during a cutting for several reasons, which I will now elaborate on. I won’t go in too much depth here but just present some basic facts.


  1. When the body is in a low energy state, it may try to produce energy by converting amino acids to glucose. Carbohydrates stop this since they can be easily broken down (and converted if need be) to glucose molecules. 


  2. Carbohydrates are also muscle sparing because they are a source of insulin release. Insulin inhibits protein breakdown and amino acid oxidation, thus encouraging muscle preservation or increase. Insulin release also inhibits the action of cortisol (which is the primary catabolic hormone that is released when one lifts). By preventing its release from the pancreas, carbohydrates spare muscle tissue from cortisol’s catabolic effects.


  3. Carbohydrates act to preserve muscle mass while dieting by preserving cellular osmotic pressure and cell volume. When cell volume is high, protein synthesis rates amplify.


  4. The body stores carbohydrates inside cells as glycogen. Low glycogen levels have been connected with increased fatigue and reduced performance in athletes. *We do not want to lose any intensity in the gym*


I would advise that 35%of your daily calorie intake should come from carbohydrate sources. Therefore 35% of 2400 kcal is 840 kcal, which works out as 210g of carbohydrates (as 1g of carbohydrate equals 4 kcal).


The timing of when you eat these foods can also play a large role in how their energy is used. Some may say that not eating carbohydrates at night in an attempt to reduce gaining fat is just ‘broscience’ but why not be on the safe side. As a result 50% of your daily consumption of carbohydrates should be eaten at breakfast and after working out, as these are times when the energy stores within the muscles are depleted from sleeping overnight and from after working out (this only concerns weight training). The remaining 50% will be split over the first half of the day, with fewer carbohydrates towards the end. This keeps you fuelled all the way through the day when energy production is in greater demand.


All carbohydrates are eventually broken down into sugars within the body, but it’s the speed at which this happens that determines whether the body will use the sugar as fuel or store it.sugar is the should be avoided at all costs as the effect of high amounts of sugar within your diet will enable the body to store energy as fat much easier than if sugar was kept to a minimum.


Suitable carbohydrate sources include: Sweet potatoes, porridge oats, wholegrain rice, fibrous carbs (vegetables), oat and bran cereals, wholegrain bread, beans, fruit (limit to a couple of portions).



-Fat Intake

After the protein and carbohydrate intake have been calculated fat intake should take up the rest of the calories consumed.

So if we add up the 1000 kcal from protein and 840 kcal for carbohydrates we get 1840 kcal. Take this away from the 2400 kcal and we are left with 560 kcal. 1g of fat equals 9 kcal, therefore we need to consume 62g of fat. This roughly equates to 23% of total calorific intake, which is just right as drastically lowering your fat intake is detrimental to testosterone production since fatty acids are the substrates for cholesterol synthesis and therefore are also the substrates for testosterone synthesis. Therefore you don’t want drop fat below 15% of daily calories and don’t go above 30%, as fats are easily stored as body fat.


Fat should be distributed evenly throughout the day in each meal to ensure the body gets enough essential fatty acids essential for roles like the construction and repair of cell membranes.


Bad fats to watch out for are the trans and saturated fats that can generate heart problems as well as surplus weight gain. These are found in the form of animal fats, as well as cream and butter and must be steered clear of.


Suitable fat sources include: Omega 3 oil (capsules), flax seed oil, olive oil, oily fish (especially salmon), nuts (limit to 1 serving a day). All other fat should come as a by-product of protein and carb intake.


-Re feeding

You should also incorporate re-feeds into your diet plan. Re-feeds help increase a hormone called leptin, which is the supreme fat burning hormone. As you diet, leptin levels fall in an effort by the body to spare body fat. Re-feeding is able to lift leptin levels and assist you in burning fat at the best possible rate. If you are already of a low body fat percentage then perhaps a re-feed twice a week would be adequate, if you’re around an average body fat then once a week and in to the mid teens of body fat once every 10 days to two weeks.


On re-feed days increase calories to maintenance level and increase carbohydrates by at least 50-100% (depending on your body type) over normal diet levels. Keep fat as low as possible during re-feed days and consume as little fructose as possible. 


-Meal Frequency

The frequency of meals is roughly set for every three hours but varies depending on your body type as shown below. Meals are consumed like this due to the rate of protein-turnover, meaning that the body will make use of the amino acids within the protein over the three hours. Subsequent to this all protein will be synthesized and the body will need more protein intake to remain in a positive nitrogen balance in order to build tissue.


  • Mesomorphs – eat every 2.5 – 3.5 hours.

  • Ectomorphs – eat every 2 – 3 hours.

  • Endomorphs – eat every 3.5 – 5 hours.





If you’ve built all that muscle mass by lifting heavy in the 6-10 rep range don’t suddenly cut the weight and start doing higher rep ranges with the wish of burning more fat. Your muscles developed into that size because they adapted to lifting heavy weight, if they don’t have to lift that heavy weight any longer they will reduce in size.

Heavy weight training will also help your EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption). This produces a greater rise in your resting metabolic rate compared to lifting lighter weights for more reps, letting you burn fat for hours after a workout.

*Also To maximize fat loss rest less than a minute between sets*.



With cardio there are two prominent options when it comes to fat burning; one being high intensity interval training (HIIT) and the other low intensity steady state cardio (LISS). HIIT consists of short, intense exercise intervals coupled with low to moderate intensity work. An example being a 30 second sprint followed by a 4 minute steady pace walk to cool down and bring your heart rate back to normal, then repeating this. LISS consists of purely low-moderate intensity work for an extended period of time; an example being riding a stationary bike and being able to hold a conversation.


HIIT is quicker, proves to be more effective for fat loss and is very good at preventing muscle loss. Also you essentially alter the muscles metabolism and this boosts your metabolism because you increase the mitochondria density of your muscle, so you augment the muscles oxidative capability and you really do burn more calories, even hours after your done. However you can’t do HIIT 5-6 days a week because ultimately it will have a negative bearing on your weight training and hinder growth due to the sheer intensity of the workouts.


LISS still plays a part for fat loss in moderate amounts. LISS is also safer, being the recommended option if you have orthopaedic or cardiac problems. However your metabolism quickly adapts to LISS and you will start having to cycle longer distances to gain the same fat loss as previous. This will obviously be detrimental to maintaining muscles mass as once the glycogen stores are depleted the body will start using protein as its source of energy, thus I would not advise going over the 40 minute mark for LISS cardio. At this stage it would be beneficial to swap the LISS for HIIT for a certain amount of time.


Both have specific advantages thus I feel that it is best to utilise both, either combining them or using them on a rotational basis when looking to burn fat.


You want to aim for 3-5 sessions a week, with each session burning around 350 calories. Although due to a 9-5 working lifestyle for many it isn’t possible, the ideal time to do this cardio is in the morning on an empty stomach. You will have not eaten anything at night so you will have reduced levels of sugar accessible in the bloodstream, consequently your body will instantly take from fat stores for fuel. 



When dieting water helps keep your appetite under control and also has a positive effect on resting metabolism as your body works to process the water. It also helps hydrate your muscles, which keep ATP (your muscles energy source) levels high.


Without sufficient water your kidneys will not function correctly, if this happens, some of the filtering is transferred to the liver. The liver’s major function is to metabolize stored fat for energy. If the liver is carrying out both jobs it will process less fat.


I would advise you to drink roughly 1 gallon (or 3.7 litres) of water spread throughout the day, with an appropriate amount drank during your workout.



There are a number of good ‘fat burners’ on the market which shouldn’t be overlooked. These will definitely assist in the fat loss process, but are called a supplement for a reason; they will only supplement your diet and training regime. There are also other supplements such as CLA which is known to have aid fat loss; apparently targeting fat around the abdominals (although we don’t know this for sure).


If you feel slightly lethargic from the reduction in carbs in your diet it may be a good idea to purchase a pre-workout supplement like the popular No-Xplode to give you the necessary energy to maintain focus and intensity during your workout in the gym.



You have to remember that this is only a guide. It is vitally important to listen to your body, get a good feeling for how your body responds to the new regime and then adjust it accordingly.