How to Properly Enter the Cutting Phase Without Losing Gains
When and how to get shredded without losing your size and strength
When it comes to cutting weight and unveiling all of that hard earned muscle mass that you put on while you were bulking, there is a certain way to go about it without sacrificing too much strength and muscle mass. No one wants to lose everything that they have gained, and too often do bodybuilders and strength athletes sacrifice their muscle and strength by entering the cutting phase improperly. So, how do you properly cut to avoid sacrificing your gains?
Let’s break down what exactly a proper cutting phase entails.
What is a Cutting Phase?
A cutting phase is a time period when your goal in the gym is to cut weight. Typically, the weight being cut is supposed to be body fat, while the muscle mass is preserved. However, the issue that many people run into when cutting weight, especially for a bodybuilding prep, is losing muscle mass as well as strength. Who wants to deal with that? No one.
Now there are ways to avoid this, and even possibly build muscle while cutting fat. No, we are not talking about taking steroids or other performance enhancing drugs, but rather adjusting your life choices, such as your diet and training regimens.
When to Cut Weight
The first thing to discuss is timing your cutting phase. So many people will bulk during the winter and as soon as the temperature gets above 50 degrees they will immediately start cutting, but this may be holding them back. You do not want to end your bulk and immediately enter a cutting phase, as that can contribute to losing your strength and size. Instead, you want to maintain and train at that body weight for a good amount of time before entering a cutting phase, and even get stronger and put on more muscle mass.
For example, if you are 160 pounds at the start of your bulk, then you bulk for maybe four months and end up at 190 pounds, you do not want to immediately start cutting, as that will just get rid of all your progress. If you were 160 pounds to start and ended at 190 pounds, you are going to have more strength, so the smartest thing you can do is train hard at that new body weight. Not all of the weight that you put on during your bulk is muscle, there is going to be a little fat, but you will still have more strength at this new found weight. So, it is best to incorporate progressive overload, find out your new one rep maxes, and really try to put on muscle mass at this new weight. This phase can be known as maingaining, or body recomposition.
Training at that new body weight with heavier weights, more reps, and more intensity can truly help you add muscle mass before entering your cut. This phase can really go anywhere from two months to six months before the cutting phase starts.
How to Diet on a Cut
Let’s get it out of the way now, the diet will be the most important part of your cut. You know what they say, “abs are made in the kitchen”, and quite honestly that is pretty true. A good diet will help you to cut fat and properly recover, so you are able to build muscle mass after training.
When you start the cutting process, your calories will decrease. Now if you drop them too fast, you may find yourself losing more than you’d like to, and feeling even worse. The proper way to go about it is to taper down slowly, mainly on carbohydrates as when your body lacks carbohydrates, it will burn fat as a substitute for energy. Your heaviest carbohydrate meals should be right around your training time as well.
Aside from carbohydrate intake, you will want to keep your protein intake high to prevent hunger, as well as help to build and maintain muscle mass during this phase. Another thing to note is to keep your fat intake decently high, as fat helps to regulate hormones, such as testosterone, which is a crucial muscle building hormone.
To properly calculate the proper amount of macronutrients, it is best to find a good calorie calculator to help you plan out meals during the day.
Supplements to Help Cut
Diet definitely plays a large role in your cut, but in order to properly maintain and even build muscle mass during this phase, supplementation can be huge. Here are some of our favorite supplements to keep in our gym bag during a cutting phase:
Creatine- To help maintain size and strength
Protein Powder- To help hit macros and build muscle
Energy drinks or Pre-Workouts- To help keep energy levels high, maintain good pumps, and even help to burn fat, as caffeine is a natural fat burner.
How to Train During a Cut
Training during a cutting phase can be pretty grueling depending on how far you take it. You go from throwing around heavy weights like nothing while you are bulking, then not being able to lift as much during a cut, it can be pretty defeating mentally. However, you do not have to lose all your strength just because you are cutting.
When it comes to your training during a cut, finding or constructing a proper program to keep you on track can really help you maintain and even gain strength. Remember to incorporate a good amount of compounds like squats and the bench press to maintain that strength base, and the proper accessory movements to help with the process of fine tuning the muscles.
Lastly, cardio is going to play a large role during a cutting phase, as it helps to burn body fat. You do not have to be doing hours and hours each day, but steady, light cardio either fasted in the morning or after your weight training sessions can help you lose that body fat without sacrificing too much muscle.
Overall, entering a cutting phase involves much more than just cutting calories and hitting a treadmill. You need to take many factors into consideration, such as your diet, training, supplementation schedule, and more. Don’t just rush into a cut!
If you are looking for programs to help you during your cut, checkout the Boostcamp App, as it holds over 50 free programs for you to choose from. You also can create your own program, track your progress, and stay on track!
Images courtesy of Ivan Escott (@depth.vader)