As you proceed along the bodybuilding lifestyle path, at some point you will want to display your physique in the best way possible.
It doesn’t matter if your goal is to compete, look better at the beach or at a special occasion, be more attractive to the opposite sex or take pride in your hard work and accomplishments, nutritional manipulation through dieting as well as dedication to a rational plan remains the best route to revealing the fruits of your hard work in the gym!
There were lots of studies done, and there are some nutritional tips to have in mind when you start cutting and when you are ready to show your lean gains!
The fitness industry is overflowing with numerous dietary strategies, promising rapid weight loss with more or less conventional eating patterns. Some of the diets advocate the opposites, and so you may come across advice to eat most of your food in the morning or to skip breakfast; to avoid fat like a plague or to go carbohydrate-free for life; to eat 6 times a day or to eat once a day.
So… which option is the best for you? Here’s a list of top 5 nutritional tips for a leaner you:
1.) Introduce a Calorie Deficit
The core principle of any fat loss programme is creating an energy deficit – a state when you expand more calories than you ingest; eating fewer calories than burning off. The most obvious way to achieve that state is a calorie restriction diet.
All food you eat provides some amount of energy, expressed in kilo-calories. Your body uses some of these calories to run basic processes, allowing your heart to beat, lungs exchanging oxygen and so on. That is your basal metabolic rate – the amount of calories you use at rest. On top of that your body uses calories via physical activity. Combined basal metabolic rate and physical activity energy expenditure gives total energy expenditure. That is the amount of calories you need to eat to keep your weight as it is. It doesn’t mean that every day you need to eat that amount. It’s enough if over the course of several days you average out at that level.
2.) Get the Right Amount of Nutrients
Just as with bulking, not only the amount, but what you are getting will play an important role in your progress when cutting. For starters your high-carb days are over. Invariably on any diet the amount of carbs should be restricted because an overdose of carbs is readily stored as fat and in times of deprivation fat-storage increases.
Also carbs spike insulin, and insulin increases sugar cravings, wanting you to take in even more carbs. This is vicious circle best avoided by simply restricting your carb-intake. Moreover, by letting the amount of carbs drop below the daily amount of protein will cause the body to produce cortisol. When bulking cortisol is your enemy, here it is your friend you love to hate.
Cortisol will increase glycogen storage and decrease blood sugar, but at the same time prohibit glycogen from being used as fuel. That means it will switch to burning protein and fat instead. The latter is what we are looking for, the former is an unwanted side-effect.
Protein consumption stays important. The percentage of protein will increase in the diet, but since calories drop the actual amount will be the same or slightly less (1 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight).
Keeping enough protein will be essential to maintaining a positive nitrogen balance, avoiding catabolism by allowing the dietary protein to be burned instead of it being robbed from muscle protein and to repair any damages suffered from training or cardio.
Not only that, you’ll want to keep a steady supply of protein throughout the day to avoid muscle being burned at the most catabolic times of day. That means at least some protein every 2.5 hours. The protein remains the most important part of your diet and is now also the larger part of your diet.
Fats should be increased, percentage wise, to make up for the loss of carbs. First of all there is the anti-catabolic issue. Fats can be used as an alternative fuel and supplying ample fats for the body to process can teach the body to use fat as fuel more readily, which will aid in the burning of adipose tissue as well.
Secondly raising the amount of fats can make you reach satiety sooner, helping you limit calories, and will decrease carb-cravings, helping you limit your sugar intake. One of the many reasons fat should be increased on a diet. Many people shy away from fats on a diet because they are 9 calories per gram, which is a lot. But if they help restrict overall calories that will aid your diet.
Fats also form cholesterol needed to make steroid hormones such as testosterone and Vitamin D. This too will optimize the protein sparing effect and assure proper repair of damaged tissue. And the fact that fats are also beneficial to hair,nails and skin is a bonus too. The thing to watch here, if you are increasing fats, is that you increase calories from healthy fats such as flax or olive oil, canola, sunflower or safflower oil and fresh nuts. Saturated fats, the kind commonly found in processed foods, increase bad cholesterol, increase the risj of cardiovascular disease and have very little use in the body.
But clean fats, meaning unsaturated and poly-unsaturated fats increase the good cholesterol and contribute to health and in this case fat-loss. Taking two tablespoons of a healthy oil prior to a meal three times daily can go a long way in this.
The optimal ratios for cutting are a hot topic of discussion. I usually recommend 40-40-20 (carbs-protein-fats) for the skinny by nature and up to 25-50-25 for heavier individuals. As a given I recommend 35-45-20 to most people, since that will have some effect to some extent on everyone. The important thing to notice is that carbs decrease and fats increase percentually.
The best way to do this is by dropping carbs from your diet when you start dropping calories, that way you’ll automatically move into this position since protein and fat will percentually increase to carbs eventhough you aren’t adding protein or fat to the diet.
READ ALSO: Clean Bulking: The Best Foods To Eat
3.) Provide Essential Nutrients
As previously explained, cutting diet will require some calorie reduction. However, increasing calorie deficit creates a risk of essential nutrient deficiencies. You eat less and the chances are that the food you’re missing out was providing some important fatty acids, minerals and/or vitamins… on top of making you fat. Risk of nutrient deficiencies is especially high if your diet is not varied, for example if you eat fish and broccoli six times a day. Also going below 1000kcal a day or removing entire food group (e.g. low-fat and no-carbs diets) is likely to cause some problems.
You should always do you best to meet all nutritional requirements from food. Nevertheless, it may be worth it to invest in several supplements; making sure that your body has everything it needs to function properly.
If you decide to follow a very low fat diet you may want to consider investing in fatty acids supplement Omega 3 6 9. Unlike other fatty acids, omega-3 and 6 cannot be synthesised from other nutrients by the human body. Going virtually no-fat will likely wipe out most sources of omega-3 and 6 in your diet.
If you decide to follow a low carbohydrate/ketogenic type of diet you may want to consider investing in a Vitamin B Complex and a fibre supplement such as Whole Psyllium Husk. By removing all grains and cereals, you are effectively getting rid of the primary sources of B vitamins in your diet. In addition to that, low carbohydrate/ketogenic diets tend to be low in fruit and vegetables, leading to poor fibre intake. Although, strictly speaking not essential, dietary fibre plays a crucial role in many health aspects.
4.) “Step-Up” Dieting Preserves Muscle & Promotes Fat Loss
Although reducing dietary fat and carbs results in fat loss, keeping carbs down for a prolonged period (more than seven days) can deplete glycogen (stored carbs) reserves in muscle. Low glycogen can trigger the burning of metabolically active muscle tissue. Increasing carb intake by 100-200 grams once each week should replenish glycogen reserves sufficiently to avoid muscle loss and may even increase the metabolism.
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5.) Maintain (Reasonable) Gym Performance
Even though bodybuilding is focused primarily on aesthetics, your cutting diet should never dramatically impact your workouts. Your performance in the weight room is what keeps your physique afloat. Once the poundage begins to down and your recovery starts to suck so will your physique. Some degree of strength loss can be expected but it should not be rapid or large.
Notably low-carbohydrate/ketogenic diets can drag your performance down very quick. Large reduction of carbohydrate can lead to depleted muscle stores of glycogen, which won’t allow long training sessions at regular intensity. It does not mean that these types of diets should be completely avoided. They can still be used effectively, warranted that your training programme will focus more on intensity rather than volume – short brutal training sessions.
Also be wary of any fasted resistance training recommendations. While it may provide some fat burning advantage, this strategy compromises muscle growth and recovery. Get your priorities straight – you lift weights to build muscle, not to burn fat. Cardiovascular exercise is more effective at doing the latter.
Don’t forget that even with good nutrition, rest and sleep is still important for recovery.