Do you want to get competition-ready?
Or are you preparing to show off your physique this summer?
If you said yes to either of those questions then this is just what you need to read.
It is always nice to look and feel good throughout the year. However, as every adult knows, life usually gets in the way.
However, regardless of how much little time you have to get shredded, this bodybuilding cutting plan will help you get what you want.
In it, we share all the basic information you need to know about how cutting works and the diet that will work best for you.
We also share information about the fundamental principles to have in mind to ensure that your diet follows research-backed facts and practices.
The information you will learn from this guide is useful for both male and female bodybuilders.
Why is there a need for you to have a bodybuilding diet?
Amateur bodybuilding competitions are on the rise across the world.
In some major cities and towns, there can be over 20 such events throughout the year.
This has seen an increase in the number of people wishing to put themselves on a bodybuilding diet for maximum success.
Following a bodybuilding diet is an important part of success because eating the wrong foods during the bulking or cutting phase can prevent one from achieving his or her goals.
In addition to putting oneself on the right diet, there is a need for increased strength and cardio training.
But for the purpose of this guide, we are going to focus on the diet part alone.
Now there are many bodybuilding diets out there.
Some are science-based while others are just experiential.
We are not going to waste time sharing with you bodybuilding dietary information based on experiences.
We are different.
We will share with you science-based facts and principles that can help you to truly peak and then define your muscles.
The Definition of a Cutting Diet
Proper bodybuilding has two phases: the bulking and cutting.
The bulking phase is all about working out and eating to gain muscle, while the cutting phase is all about training and eating the right way to cut out fat.
Both phases require proper planning and dieting.
The food that is eaten during the cutting phase and how it is planned and timed is what is referred to as the cutting diet.
In contrast to the bulking diet which involves eating more, the cutting diet is a calorie deficit diet.
It has been argued by many people that the cutting diet is usually the hardest part of bodybuilding to follow.
But this should not discourage you.
In fact, it should inspire you to do the part right for success.
Moreover, we are going to help you to create an exciting cutting diet that will be difficult for you not to follow.
7 Best Cutting Diet Tips
- Create a caloric deficit for effective cutting
To lose fat weight, you must create a caloric deficit (consume less than what you expend).
For it is when you consume less that your body will have to turn to its fat reserves and use them as energy.
You can create a caloric deficit in three ways; by reducing your caloric intake, by increasing your caloric expenditure (training more), or by doing both.
It is best to do both if you intend to significantly reduce your body fat percentage.
But there is one thing you should know about reducing your caloric intake – you should not overdo it.
Since your aim is just to lose fat weight, you should not eat significantly less than what your body actually needs.
Otherwise, your body may end up consuming muscle protein as energy resulting in the loss of lean body mass. Which is something we are sure you are most likely not looking forward to.
- Include enough protein in your cutting diet
This probably explains why most beginners love protein based cutting enhancement supplements.
Most do not associate protein consumption with the cutting phase.
This is because they are unaware of the fact that adequate protein consumption 1 is necessary to prevent muscle protein degradation.
They are also unaware that adequate protein consumption supports cardio training.
In other words, without adequate protein consumption, you cannot achieve the best results in your cutting phase.
And when eating protein make sure it is the right protein (lean protein) from sources such as fish, ground meat, skinless chicken breast, and so on.
You can take protein supplements and shakes but they should not account for more than 40% of your daily protein requirement as they are usually not complete proteins.
- Do not forget to eat the right carbs
High carb diets have for quite a long time been known to improve athletic performance.
They do this by replacing exercise-depleted energy reserves.
It is recommended 2 that bodybuilders should consume between 4 to 7 grams of carbs per bodyweight kilogram for optimal performance in the gym.
Therefore, eating the right carbs like those on the list provided earlier will give you enough energy and power for the fat burning exercises necessary for cutting.
- Maintain an adequate fat intake
Fat has been demonized by many news reports and nutrition/ diet blogs and articles.
Hence many people naturally assume that avoiding fat in their diets can help them to stay healthy.
Many bodybuilders also assume that since they are cutting, they should eliminate fat entirely from their diets.
However, both assumptions are wrong.
This is because one cannot stay healthy or cut weight effectively without consuming fat.
There are good fats and bad fats.
The good ones including olive oil, omega oil, and nuts can help to balance hormones, can boost testosterone levels, and can preserve lean body mass according to Eric Et al. 3
Simply put, you need goods fats to stay healthy, to stay powerful, and to ensure your cutting phase does not eat away your lean muscle mass.
- Time your meals properly
Without proper timing, you are unlikely to achieve maximum success in your cutting phase.
One of the most important things to decide is how many times you should eat per day.
The number of times should be between five to six times a day, although there are super bodybuilders who are known to eat up to 8 times a day.
Eating six times a day is best because it keeps the body’s metabolism working efficiently and enables bodybuilders to burn calories throughout the day.
Once you decide how many times you should eat a day, write down the actual times you will be eating and stick to them.
Make sure your meals are spaced at least three hours apart so that your body always has energy and sees no need to store more fat or to hang on to its reserves of the same.
- Eat fruits and veggies
Eating enough protein, carbs, and fat is not enough for a balanced diet.
You need to eat fruits and vegetables.
Fruits and vegetables provide micronutrients such as vitamin A, iron, and zinc which are important for optimal health.
For cutting, they provide fibrous carbs that help suppress appetite preventing overeating that may hinder progress during the phase.
They also boost the metabolic rate forcing the body to use stored fat for the provision of energy.
So fruits and vegetables are very important for the bodybuilding cutting phase.
- Drink plenty of water
This is probably the easiest to follow cutting tip.
Water is life and you need to drink plenty of it for optimal health. So if you want your metabolism to function optimally, you need to hydrate.
You also need to hydrate to create satiety. This will help reduce your caloric intake.
The Best Foods for a Bodybuilding Diet
Knowing the best bodybuilding foods will put you in a better position to create a healthy and effective bodybuilding cutting plan and diet.
A bodybuilding diet should not be very different from a normal diet.
In other words, it should be balanced, it should be ‘clean’, and it should include you drinking plenty of water.
A balanced diet is one with all the macros/ macronutrients.
They include protein, carbs, and fats.
With regards to protein, lean protein is the best protein as it has minimal saturated fat.
Best lean protein sources for bodybuilding include canned tuna, salmon, ground turkey, ground beef, egg whites, low-fat cheese, skinless chicken breasts, mixed nuts, navy beans, sardines, whey protein, soy protein, low-fat dairy, and Greek yogurt.
All other sources of protein are good if they have minimal saturated fat and carbs.
You need lean protein to build a lean muscle mass during the bulking phase and to maintain that muscle mass during the cutting phase.
With regards to carbs, the best carb sources for bodybuilding include whole wheat bread, veggies, sweet potatoes, brown rice, beans, peas, corn, sweet potatoes, pasta, oatmeal, and fruits.
You need carbs to restore energy used up in high-intensity workouts for effective recovery.
All other carb sources are good except those that are refined and those that are enriched.
They usually have a lot of sugar and hidden calories.
They include cookies, pastries, and cakes.
With regards to fats, you should go for the right ones. The best fat sources for bodybuilding include salmon, egg yolks, nuts, olive oil, flaxseed oil, peanut butter, and omega oil.
You need fats to absorb certain nutrients and to keep your hormones balanced.
You also need them to feel full between meals, which is important especially during the cutting phase.
The Best Supplements for Cutting
Many bodybuilders take supplements for cutting to prepare for competitions.
Athletes and regular gym goers also take cutting supplements to shred their fat weight after completing their bulking phases.
Cutting supplements are not supposed to replace having a proper cutting diet.
They are supposed to help accelerate the cutting and not to be relied on for cutting.
The best cutting supplements include creatine, BCAAs, Citrulline Malate, Glutamine, and Caffeine. Some of these supplements are sold individually.
However, most of the times they are included in more sophisticated bodybuilding cutting formulations.
Creatine is regarded as the only legal and safe 4 ergogenic aid.
Creatine supplements have been found to significantly increase physical performance. This is important especially during the cutting phase to help you do more in the gym to reduce your body fat composition.
BCAA supplements are widely used by bodybuilders. One of the benefits of taking them is that they’ve got Leucine which triggers muscle growth and development during bulking.
The cutting phase usually entails reduced strength training and more cardio training.
Reduced strength training could lead to muscle protein degradation. However, by taking BCAA supplements this can be avoided and reversed.
A recent study 5 has also shown that BCAA supplementation can help decrease body fat percentage, which is the main objective of the cutting phase.
In short, taking BCAA supplements can help you immensely during the cutting phase.
Supplementation with Citrulline malate is very useful during the cutting phase.
Several studies including a recent one 6 revealed that the supplement can increase energy during workouts, reduce muscle soreness considerably, and reduce body fat percentage.
All of which are effects that can shrink your body fat percentage.
Caffeine is a very effective pre-workout stimulant for both the bulking and cutting phases.
Supplementation with the stimulant can help to improve strength training and cardio performance.
And because cardio is an important part of the cutting phase, you can easily why caffeine is one of the best supplements for cutting.
In addition to the above supplements, you also need to take supplements with micronutrients such as vitamins, iron, magnesium, zinc, and calcium.
This is because such micronutrients are usually deficient in bodybuilding diets despite being important and necessary for optimal health and accelerated bulking and cutting.
How to Count Calories When Making a Cutting Diet
Anyone looking to realize their bodybuilding goals should definitely consider calorie counting.
Whereas counting of calories is mostly associated with individuals that are wanting to shed off some weight, it is equally useful and viable for those individuals that are interested in building more muscle.
The difference between the two groups is that those individuals looking to lose some bodyweight want to ensure that they are actually ingesting fewer calories than their daily maximum…
…whereas bodybuilders want to ensure that what they are ingesting is more than their daily minimum requirement.
There are several ways of counting calories.
One of the ways is literally counting the calories displayed on food labels.
This method, however, is nor really helpful if your meals are mainly made up of fresh vegetables.
What’s more, always doing the math before every meal could be tedious.
The easiest way of doing this is noting down all the food that you’ve consumed during the day (additives, spices, and cooking oils included) and then record their respective quantities on an online calorie counter.
The counter will let you know exactly how much calories you have consumed.
So, here comes the big question that’s in the minds of most bodybuilders, “How many calories do I need?”
Remember that we are all very different and so the amount of calories required by our bodies differs as well.
The amount of energy burned by your body all depends on your weight, level of activity, and age.
The total amount of energy burned by the body is referred to as your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE).
Know more about your total daily energy expenditure using this calculator.
To use the calculator, simply record your statistics and then choose “fat loss” to be your goal.
Select a level of activity that matches your activeness.
If you insinuate that you are more active than you actually are, this calculator is going to give you a higher daily calorie requirement, and you will eventually end up gaining weight.
It is only after knowing how much calories your body needs that you could figure out what types of food to eat to obtain those calories.
We could assist you in quickly figuring out those numbers and even get you on diet plans that will help you to lose that body fat.
Below are some important points to note for those individuals on a cutting diet;
- Reduce your calorie count in such a way that you are ingesting lesser calories than you are burning (the ultimate rule to successfully losing body fat);
- Stay away from refined carbs because they are quite high in calories and do not keep to full for long, which leads to over-eating;
- Limit your fat intake. Even though fats are good for the body when in reasonable quantities, they actually contain a lot of calories;
- Consume lots of vegetables. They are quite low in calories;
- Include cutting supplements in your cutting plan to assist you in shedding your fat weight.
How to create a cutting diet
Step 1: Come up with a short-term goal
Even though having a long term goal is important, coming up with short-term goals that short term goals will help you achieve your main goal.
You could, for instance, get started in a cutting diet.
A cutting diet is simply a weight loss plan for burning fat and getting shredded while maintaining your muscle mass. It is all about the consumption of less food.
Cutting allows you to observe rapid progress.
And apart from overall quicker results, you will also experience muscle gain whilst burning fat!
Step 2: Approximate daily calories
The maintenance level can be described as the number of calories that you consume and burn daily.
One of the important aspects of any successful bodybuilding meal plan is knowing exactly how much calories you need to consume daily.
Remember for cutting, you need to eat below your maintenance level; lesser calories than you actually burn every day.
You can use the bodybuilding equation below to calculate the calories you should be eating to lose weight
For a cutting diet: Multiply your weight x 12 calories
Step 3: Approximate your lean body mass (LBM)
You need to have a rough approximation of your LBM to correctly determine your protein intake.
Luckily, the calculation for LBM is quite simple
It is simply your bodyweight (BW) minus your body fat weight (BF)
LBM = BW – BF
And how exactly can you know how much your body fat weighs? That is simple! To determine the weight of your body fat, multiply your bodyweight to your body fat percentage
BF = BW X BF%
I know you are now wondering how you are meant to know what your body fat percentage is! Don’t worry!
It is important to remember that we only need a rough approximation of your lean body mass. This implies that you do need an exact measurement of your BF%.
To obtain a rough approximation of your BF%, simply make use of an online body fat calculator and plug in the value into the equations above.
Step 4: Set your protein consumption
Your protein consumption needs to be 1.1 to 1.4 grams per pound of your LBM. Some consider this value to be low but these numbers are backed by both anecdote and research.
In fact, according to research, these numbers might even be more than what is requires to maximize muscle gain or minimize loss of muscle.
Our recommended protein intake for those individuals who are on a cutting diet is 1.2 grams per pound.
Step 5: Set your fat consumption
A fat intake that is roughly 20 percent of the total ingested calories works quite well for the bodybuilding diet of an average individual.
This value, however, varies for different individuals.
You could use 20 to 30 percent to of your calories intake to calculate your fat intake for the time being and later change it if need be in step 10.
There are those individuals who perform better with low-fat meal plans, while there are those who perform better with high fat, low carb diet plans.
Step 6: Set your carbohydrate consumption
Once you are done setting your fat and protein intake, simply meet the rest of your caloric needs with carbs.
In case you decide to take the low carb meal plan route, we recommend that you take a quick look at this list of low carb foods for shopping and planning of your meals.
Step 7: Eat something pre- and post-workout
Pre- and post-workout meals are very crucial to any bodybuilder’s diet.
Below are some important guidelines on the two.
- Pre-workout meal guidelines:
The ideal protein intake is 0.25 grams per pound of the total bodyweight and so is the ideal carbohydrate intake.
Fats are not a must; they are optional.
This can be consumed as a shake or as a solid meal and should be taken an hour or two before your workout.
- Post-workout meal guidelines:
The ideal protein intake is 0.25 grams per pound of your total body weight, while the ideal carbohydrate intake is 0.25 to 0.5 grams per pound of your total body weight.
Once again, fats are nor a must.
You can choose to consume this either as a solid meal or a shake and should be taken within an hour and a half of completing your workout.
We recommend shakes because they are more convenient and can be drank immediately after the workout.
Step 8: Meals and food
There is no set number of meals that should be eaten per day. Eat as often as you wish provided that you fulfill all of your calorie requirements.
Most of the food you eat ought to come from healthy sources if you are looking to meet your macronutrient and calorie requirements. You should not forget your mineral and vitamin needs as well.
Step 9: Drink water
One of the most important and often overlooked parts of most bodybuilding diets is hydration. Water intake is quite important especially for those who are looking to lose weight.
Some guidelines and tips for proper hydration include:
- Replenishing; drinking more water on workout days particularly during and after training.
- Avoiding thirst; thirst is an indication of already being dehydrated. There is no better way of avoiding thirst than making it a habit to sip water all through the day.
- Don’t worry if your urine is clear; one of the best indicators of hydration is the color of urine. Slightly yellow or clear urine signifies good hydration. However, increase your water intake if your urine is yellow.
Step 10: Test and tweak
You will most likely have to slightly adjust your calorie intake depending on how much weight loss or gain you experience.
When on a cutting diet, aim to lose approximately 1 to 2 pounds weekly.
And in case you are not losing enough or any weight, lower your calorie intake by 10 to 20 percent per week until you are finally losing about 1 to 2 pounds weekly.
Sample 4-week cutting diet
Our 4-week cutting diet plan can be adjusted based on how much calories your deficit permits you to consume.
Bearing that in mind, we have created a template which you can use to create a 5-times a day cutting diet for the next four weeks.
You will, nonetheless, have to manually determine your calorie deficit using an online calculator.
You will also want to keep macronutrient ratios of about 30 to 50 percent calories from carbohydrates, 30 to 40 percent from protein, and 20 percent from healthy fats.
Breakfast choices – choose one from the list every day
- Protein pancakes (roughly 111 calories per pancake)
- Smoothie with banana, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, water, and honey (roughly 130 calories)
- Boiled egg with asparagus soldiers (roughly 186 calories)
- 2 slices of whole meal toast and 4 scrambled egg whites (roughly 140 calories)
- A protein shake, a handful of fresh blueberries, 50 grams of whole grain porridge (roughly 340 calories)
Morning snack choices
- A cup of edamame beans (roughly 250 calories)
- Banana (roughly 100 calories)
- Any single fruit (calories vary)
- Chicken wrap with cucumber, tomatoes, hummus, and olives (roughly 243 calories)
- Grilled courgette, pepper, kale, and humous wrap (roughly 332 calories)
- Lean ground beef, brown rice and cauliflower (roughly 300 calories)
- Broccoli, brown rice, and chicken (roughly 300 calories)
Post-workout snacking choices
- Greek yogurt (roughly 59 calories)
- Almonds (roughly 160 calories for every 22 almonds)
- Almond butter and apple (roughly 270 calories)
- Singapore noodles (roughly 415 calories)
- Brown rice with beef stir-fry (roughly 400 calories)
- Chicken burger and a fried egg (roughly 500 calories)
- 2 sweet potatoes, asparagus, broccoli, and tuna steak (roughly 350 calories)
By mixing up the above meals, you could come up with a variation for every single day. Below is an example of how a day might look like:
2 slices of whole meal toast and 4 scrambled egg whites (roughly 140 calories)
Any single fruit (calories vary)
Broccoli, brown rice, and chicken (roughly 300 calories)
Greek yogurt (roughly 59 calories)
Brown rice with beef stir-fry (roughly 400 calories)
Don’t be afraid of experimenting with different cutting diets.
Remember, this is a trial and error method to determine what actually works best for your body.
So, get to know what your needs are, come up with a plan, and execute it.
All the above ten listed steps are crucial I any effective cutting diet plan.
However, what you need to take away and always remember from this post is:
- Always fulfill your protein and calorie needs. Provided that you are consuming your target amount of protein and calories, then you will definitely make good progress.
- Eat the foods that you enjoy. You need to stay on your diet plan for it to be effective. Accordingly, including foods that you enjoy is important.
- Start with the end goal in mind. This will enable you to stay focused.
Remember, discipline is key. Discipline in your meal plan will definitely get you that shredded look you want so bad!