It’s that time of year again, the sun is out and people are thinking of one thing. Need to get the body looking cut and lean. We’re all guilty of it and all will have varying degrees of success and knowledge whilst implementing a cut. This article will use scientific knowledge to advise the best way to achieve this and highlight the top supplements to aid this process.
Let’s begin. Many people have a lot of trouble losing fat. One of their biggest worries is that they'll lose muscle too. We're here to prevent that from happening. The most common mistake when undertaking a cutting period is having too large a calorie deficit and disregarding carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are not a bad thing and are imperative for muscle function, hormone balance and energy. Upon working out your energy expenditure (see energy balance article) we need to then create a deficit. For this we will usually take away 500-750 calories this can be done by (reducing food or upping cardio) of our total for the day. By doing this we will lose around 0.5-1kg a week. We don’t want to be losing any more than this a week as we will begin to be losing the hard earned muscle we have accumulated over the winter opposed to just fat!
Now we have our calorie aim for the day we can now begin to plan how to best use these calories for our aims. The five key areas we need to look at when doing this are: Carbohydrates; proteins; fats; water and supplements.
There are a few key points to note here. As mentioned earlier we need carbohydrates for energy, hormone control and muscle function, this is why carbohydrates are limited to 2-3g per kg of body mass. For an 80kg individual, we are looking at consuming between 160-240g of carbohydrates a day. This number allows for all the functions that carbohydrates do to be done without any problems but also limits the amount of insulin released with downregulates the production of hormone sensitive lipase which is a key part of fat metabolism.
This brings us nicely onto the next point. Try and ingest the majority of carbohydrates post-training in the form of low GI carbohydrates such as oats. This is advised as exercise engages the GLUT4 transporters (these bring carbohydrates into the muscle) without the need for insulin to be released, which as we know slows down fat metabolism.
Here we need to increase our protein intake to between 1.8-2.3g per kg of body mass. For an 80kg individual, we are looking at 144-184g of protein a day. Protein needs to be at this high level to avoid any chance of proteolysis of our lean mass. Also by increasing our protein to this high level, it will increase our satiety, leaving us feeling fuller and not having any sugar cravings. As protein has a complex makeup of different bonds and structures its harder for the body to break down. This, in turn, means that 24% of the grams ingested is used to break the protein down in the body, thus leading to an increase in calories burnt and increasing gluconeogenesis (the creation of glucose in the liver by fat). This can only be a good thing as I’m sure everyone would prefer to eat meat or have a shake to lose weight than some celery!
Want to know more about how much protein you should have per day? Here is an in-depth article on protein content.
Before we discuss this section I need to make it clear fats are good! Don’t be fooled into believing by the media that they are bad, evils things because they’re not and are in fact is an integral part of the creation of new muscle cells. We need to increase our fats to around 25-30% of our total calories. So if we were taking in 2500Kcals a day we are looking at 625-750kcals from fats. We increase fats to this level as fats actually increase the rate of fat oxidation (I know, crazy, right?). This is because of the hormone sensitive lipase I mentioned earlier. Fats up-regulate this hormone meaning the process of fat metabolism is increased, which is the opposite effect it has to carbohydrate. The influx of extra fats is also used in the process of gluconeogenesis (the creation glucose in the liver).
When eating fats it is important to remember to eat healthy fats found in nuts, oils etc... and not from a KFC! This is because processed food is full of trans-fats, which are genetically modified fats, which stop the food going off as quickly. As they have been modified our body cannot break them down and will just store them as body fat, not ideal on a cut! Increase dairy intake as this helps Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness (DOMS), as well as with muscle tissue and bone strength.
Do not underestimate the importance of water during a cutting phase. Aim to drink 2-3L a day and weigh yourself before and after exercise to assess dehydration. For every 0.5kg lost during exercise, you will need to replace this with another 1L of water. If you are dehydrated your muscle cell shrinks and loses sodium, chloride and potassium. In order to replace this, the cell will turn to carbohydrates and proteins to replace this, which decreases your lean body mass, again not what you want on a cut! By making sure we are constantly hydrated, this will stop this and limit any muscle breakdown.
Now we get onto the supplements, which will aid our new eating regime and help us to lose fats and hold onto our lean muscle. CSN's four supplements for this are (in no particular order); whey protein, BCAA’s, Fat burners and Vitamin D.
We have all heard the wonders of whey protein and the benefits it has so I will not bore you by rambling on about the mechanics behind it, but will give you my rationale behind its inclusion. As highlighted earlier we need to increase protein intake and this is a quick, simple way of increasing this without the need of constantly cooking! The protein is also fast realising which is what is needed to avoid any loss in muscle. Each serving has between 20-25g of protein depending on the brand and I recommend whey isolate protein such as: Reflex Instant Whey or Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey.
I cannot sing a high enough praise for these. Again these are perfect when on a calorie deficit as they stop lean muscle from being used (see BCAA article for full breakdown on mechanics). They contain only a few calories and are perfect to use on a fasted workout when you want to burn fat not muscle. Look for a BCAA supplement that contains Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine as these are not produced in the body and are needed in muscle production and preservation of muscle. We should be supplementing with between 5-15g of these a day. Products such as SciVation Xtend or Dedicated BCAA Sensation are perfect as it contains these BCAA ‘s and also tastes out of this world.
We can use these to strip that hard to move fat off us, which will undoubtedly come in time. When choosing a fat burner look to see that they included caffeine and green tea. These are well research supplements and have proven time and time again to aid in fat loss. A product such as Project AD Shredabull Untamed is ideal.
This brings us onto our last supplement, Vitamin D. Not many people have heard the benefits of this supplement. Most people will be Vitamin D deficient because it is produced by sunlight and we only see the sun twice a year! Vitamin D increases protein synthesis, which is important when on a high protein diet and reduces muscle atrophy again important when on a calorie deficit. Vitamin D also increases bone density which is important when lifting weights and exercising. My recommend Vitamin D product is PurePharma, vitamin D3. By implementing this strategies and supplements it will enable us to lose weight but most importantly tailor the plan individually to ourselves and lose fat not that all-important muscle mass.
That about covers it on cutting correctly. As always Team CSN are here to help, call or email us today and we can give you professional, unbiased advice on all your nutrition and supplement needs.