Getting Cut for the Warmer Weather
Snow is disappearing, the days are getting longer, and flowers are beginning to bloom. For many bodybuilders, this signals the end of a long winter bulk and the beginning of cutting season.
But even those leading less hardcore styles want to look good for the beach. But if you’re short on time and used to the joys of bottomless bulking dishes, how can you make sure you’re shredded for Spring Break? Easy, just keep reading.
The word “cut” can instill fear in the heart of even the toughest bodybuilders, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Cutting can be hard work, but it isn’t as impossible as some make it out to be. In fact, the transition from cutting to bulking can be relatively simple – think of it as bulking in a deficit.
This may seem counter-intuitive, but your bulking routine doesn’t need to change that much to become a cutting one. In fact, if you’re lifting at least four days a week, I’d recommend keeping it nearly identical. Three days per week probably won’t be sufficient, as you’ll want to increase your caloric expenditure, and an extra day in the gym is an easy way to do that.
During a Cutting Phase it’s important to combine cardio with weights
The actual split is up to you, although I love Push/Pull training. You can also use a split that has one day for Upper body, one for Lower, another for Legs, and a “weak point” or specialization day. The only thing I would stay away from is a high number of isolation exercises. When cutting, you want to create a caloric deficit to drop fat; therefore, exercises recruiting a lot of muscles, such as deadlifts and squats, are great additions. Compound lifts give your metabolism a boost and are efficient muscle builders.
Compound exercises boost your metabolism
One thing that may be a major change to your routine is the addition of cardio. I’d recommend doing 30-40 minutes of cardio on two of your non-lifting days, leaving one complete off-day. It’s also a good idea to add at least 20 minutes on lifting days.
And if you’re not a fan of cardio, you’re not alone, because I can’t stand it. Don’t worry though, it doesn’t have to be a painful endeavor. The best thing you can do is High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). This is a very efficient form of cardio that involves a warm-up period followed by intervals of normal and maximum speed and then a cool-down period. HIIT is quick, effective, and keeps boredom at bay.
HIIT is a quick and efficient way to burn calories
One way I’ve learned to cope with cardio is doing it first thing in the morning, so I have the rest of the day free. I wake up, have a drink of MUSCLEPRIME for some energy, endurance, and muscle-sparing amino acids, and get to the stationary bike.
MUSCLEPRIME provides the energy and endurance required to get through cardio
Some other ways to keep cardio interesting are: varying the equipment used (stairclimber, bike, treadmill, etc); doing cardio while watching TV, a movie, or playing video games; splitting cardio into blocks and interspersing them throughout your weight-lifting session; and doing cardio outside.
This is where things start changing dramatically. Instead of eating a surplus of calories, you’ll want to create a deficit of about 500 calories. This may not seem like a lot, and one might think that a more dramatic cut will produce better results. However, too few calories will actually cause the metabolism to slow and horde fat. Also, keeping a reasonable level of calories allows you to bring more intensity to the gym – hard work that will pay off.
Try to create a deficit of about 500 calories
So what to cut? Well, you certainly won’t want to cut protein, as protein will help you maintain muscle in the caloric deficit. You also don’t want to drastically cut fats either, as they are essential for hormone production and bodily function. By process of elimination, that leaves carbohydrates.
But some simple switches can save you a lot of calories without sacrificing taste. For example, swap sugar in recipes for a non-caloric sweetener such as Stevia. But if that doesn’t satisfy your sweet tooth alone, reach for something that will but is still good for you. My favorite treat is ISOFLEX Chocolate Peanut Butter– whey protein isolate that tastes like dessert, yet boasts only two grams of carbohydrates and 118 calories per serving, which features 27 grams of high-quality protein. Replacing carbohydrates with protein is a great idea, as protein has a higher thermic effect, meaning that the body burns more calories digesting it. Protein also increases feelings of satiety.
ISOFLEX contains 118 calories and 27 grams of protein per serving
Fiber is also your friend. Instead of rice as a side dish, opt for fibrous vegetables such as cauliflower and broccoli. And don’t think you need to give up your morning oats – oat bran packs more fiber to keep you fuller longer and has a higher volume, so it’ll look like and feel as though you’re still eating a lot even when you’re not.
Looking your best takes hard work, but keep the above suggestions in mind and you’ll be fine. Just remember – the harder the work, the greater the reward.