With Summer having arrived, every keen gym goer is sure to have one thing on their mind... ‘Get Shredded for Summer!’. Everyone wants to drop some fat and show off all of those lovely gains they’ve been making over the winter months, and of course we all want to have a flawless six pack for summer holidays. The question is how do you go about doing that?
There is actually a very simple answer to this:
Essentially all you need to do to lose fat is put your body into a caloric deficit. This means you are burning more calories than you are taking in through your diet. Simple as that. If you are in a caloric deficit then your body isn’t getting enough calories to fulfil its metabolic functions and therefore it has to delve into fat stores in your body to fill in that deficit. This is when your body burns your fat stores for energy, which results in burning body fat.
So how do we create a caloric deficit:
There are two ways to induce a caloric deficit on the body:
Eat Fewer Calories (Reduce your calorie intake throughout the day)
Burn More Calories (Increase cardiovascular activity)
Essentially then you can either diet and consume fewer calories, you can exercise more to burn more calories, or use a combination of both.
Many people opt for extra exercise option as their main route to achieving fat loss. They spend half an hour, maybe an hour on the treadmill trying relentlessly to burn as many calories as possible, to lose that bit of fat covering up the abs. While this option will of course create the deficit required to burn fat, it is also very hard work.
The easier and actually the more effective way to create a caloric deficit is actually the first option, to diet and eat fewer calories. Think of it this way, how easy is it to eat a snickers chocolate bar? Very easy and a cool 300 calories. Then how long on a treadmill would you have to spend to burn off those calories? Somewhere around 20-30 minutes typically. That's a long time to be doing the same thing repetitively and takes up a large chunk of your workout. However if you had just not eaten that snickers, there would be no need to hit the treadmill.
So you can see how much easier it is to create a deficit simply by eating less. Simply by reducing your carb and fat intake slightly can create the same deficit that would take about an hour on the treadmill to create! Don’t get me wrong cardio is excellent and has many great health benefits, but in my opinion it should be used as a tool to enhance the deficit created by diet, with diet being the foundation for your fat loss.
That’s just my advice though and doesn’t necessarily suit everyone. Training should be all about doing what is BEST for YOU. So if you enjoy cardio then sure go for it! Use cardio as your tool to create a deficit. But if you do you still have to take your diet into account as not matter how much cardio you do, it easy to eat over into a surplus if you aren’t careful!
To sum up then all you need to do is to eat fewer calories and do some more cardio? Great, sorted!
… Well unfortunately it isn’t quite that simple...
This is because your body as well as metabolising fats for energy use, it can also turn to muscle, especially when it is looking to build up muscle (Due to weight training). If inadequate nutrients are being absorbed through the diet, it will break down muscle in order repair the damaged muscle from the workouts.
This is where you need to cut calories from the right sources to make sure you retain as much muscle as possible during your cut. Nobody wants to be losing all those hard earned gains that they’ve made throughout the bulk! Three main factors help you to retain as much muscle as possible, they are:
Making sure you keep protein intake high. You want to make sure you are eating just as much protein as you were on your bulking phase, anywhere between 1-2 grams per KG of body weight depending on what suits you best. There are many calculators available online for this.
Make sure you’re deficit isn’t too great a deficit. This one is common sense really, if you’ve been eating 3000 calories before cutting, then if you then drop down to 1700 calories a day, then your body simple isn’t going to cope. It will break down anything it can get its hands on including muscle. So you want to make sure you are eating with a deficit of anywhere between 100-300 calories a day depending upon your personal goals, time frame etc.
Keep lifting hard and heavy! By keeping up your weight training as you usually would during your bulk, you will force your body to realise that it needs to keep hold of that muscle. Along with this weight training also burns a lot of calories, which can aid your fat loss.
So now that you know you need to eat less and maintain protein intake, this then means that to reduce calories you’re going to have to consume fewer carbs and fats. The ratio at which you cut these is going to vary on your own personal preferences, but you don’t want to totally cut either out altogether.
My personal choice is to keep fats relatively high and then restrict carbs to my two meals either side of my workout. This means my workouts don’t really suffer from dieting and increases insulin sensitivity by keeping blood sugar levels low throughout the rest of the day which on its own has massive benefits with regards to muscle development and fat loss. To further this, I just want to add that whatever method you choose to cut calories I always say it is absolutely necessary to have carbs in your post workout meal. You need that insulin spike post-workout to get all the nutrients and proteins to the muscles. If you want to learn more about insulin sensitivity,
There are many other options when choosing a diet that fits you, with many dieting ‘Fads’ available on the internet and every ‘fitness guru’ on YouTube will tell you a different way of going about it whether it be ‘Intermittent Fasting’, ‘Ketone diet’, ‘Carb Back-loading’, ‘Carb Cyling’ and many others.
The truth is they all have their own benefits and will most likely all help you cut calories and lose fat. The point is that you have to find what works for YOU. If you don’t mind not eating for long periods of time then maybe intermittent fasting will be best for you. If you cope well without carbs then maybe a Ketone diet is best for you. It all comes down to what regimen suits you best, and this usually comes either with the help of someone like me who has tried them all to determine what’s best for you when I know information about you, or it comes from experience yourself by trying different methods and seeing what works best. But ultimately all cutting is doing is eating fewer calories than you are burning in a day simple as that!
If you want to take things really seriously and want to count your calories or macros, then the best way to work out how many calories to consume is by finding an online calorie or macro calculator, where you will fill in your statistics and it will give you a rough guide as to what your cutting calories/ macros is. However this should only be used to start you off as a guide as over the coming weeks you should adjust it to suit your needs, goals and progress.
The best way then to create the caloric deficit needed to lose fat to me is by dieting and restricting the amount of calories you consume in the day. Its the most sensible way to create a deficit. Then you want to keep hitting the gym as hard as possible, trying to maintain your strength. This will not only burn a lot of calories, but will also help to make sure your don't lose any muscle mass. On top of this you can use cardio to either make the deficit greater, or just for overall health and to give you the extra room to eat a few more calories!
That's just my personal advice though, give it a go and see what works out best for YOU!
Supplements to Help with Cutting:
As you may have realised by now losing fat and maintain all of your muscles is very tricky! So supplements can come in useful. Here are a few possible options for you that may help you reach your goals.
Whey Protein- A great way of getting in that extra protein without using up too many calories. I personally use MyProtein, as I think it’s the best for value and quality. Follow the link to get to the MyProtein website to choose amongst the many flavours! http://tidd.ly/259dd615
Creatine- One of the few supplements we use all year round, helps increase output of muscles, which is particularly useful when they may be lacking slightly in calories.
Fat Burners- These contain usually herbal ingredients that are all designed to increase the heart rate and therefore increase your metabolism and burn more calories. We sell a fat burner that has worked great for me on our website, https://www.evolvemuscle.co.uk/product-page/thermoburn-fat-burners-60-caps
L-Carnitine- Helps to free up fatty acids in the body into energy via the mitochondria, thus it facilitates fat loss. Used this on the biggest cut I’ve ever done and got terrific results.
BCAA’S- I think that these are highly beneficial during a cut to stop your body breaking down its own muscle fibres and so can be great at helping you maintain muscle mass.
Green Tea- Similar to fat burners it is a herbal remedy to try to speed up the metabolism. I would recommend that if you enjoy green tea, go ahead and drink it, but purely for metabolic purposes, any other caffeinated low calorie hot beverage will yield similar results.
In general as I say I always advise usi