Not all of us want to bulk up and get huge. A lot of us are looking to cut down after a long bulk or looking to get lean in general. However, dieting can be tricky and can be hard to do properly if approached incorrectly. Here are some tips that may help you get the physique you desire.
1. Macronutrient ratios and number of calories are equally important: There are two ends of the spectrum here, people which ignore the optimum ratio for carbs, fats and protein, and people which give it too much importance. Rule number 1 is that you must eat more calories than you must spend on your day to day work to gain, and eat lesser than what you burn to lose. This rule isn’t enough to live by, but it remains true in all cases.
Now we come to the matter of where the calorie comes from. For optimum growth, the total calories should be in 5:3:2 ratio of calories from carbs, protein and fats respectively. The sort of carbs that are optimal for a given period of time have been covered in a previous article.
This doesn’t mean you’ll gain muscle if you eat lesser than what you burn or that you would lose fat if you eat more than that amount. You must stay under/exceed that amount of calories in any case, ratio being optimal or not. A man eating 100-200 calories above maintenance level will lose no fat, even if he cuts out all the carbs and vice versa.
2. Keep your training the same: If heavy compound movements are what built the muscle in the first place, why would you switch to light weights and worthless exercises? Most people answer with “to get more defined” or “to get cut up”. WRONG. Isolation exercises won’t change the shape of the muscle or make it look striated. Train hard and heavy, and try to maintain the amount of weight you were lifting. If your squat or bench press weight falls significantly in the first week of cutting, you’re doing something wrong.
3. Do it gradually: Often you see people cutting out all carbs in the first week of dieting, or maybe cutting down the calories way too much. It is extremely important to pace yourself and take baby steps in cutting down. Start with lesser carbs during the late half of the day, and then gradually get down to however much your plan suggests. Don’t just get down to zero immediately or you’ll burn out and lose strength.
4. Understand hormones: This is an extension of the macronutrient ratio effects. For example, a high carb, low fat diet might burn off weight due to caloric depletion, but it would burn off the wrong sort of weight, i.e. muscle. That is because if you have a large amount of carbs and not enough total calories, your insulin levels will stay high and actually protect your stored body fat. This is why moderate/low carb diets are more effective. In the same way, testosterone and growth hormone levels can be manipulated with the right diet and supplementation (covered in an article before.)
5. Manipulate your metabolism: If you can afford them, fat burners can be effective in increasing calories burnt and BCAAs can be a great tool in protecting muscle. Supplementation is even more important when cutting down as certain products are tailored to protect muscle and burn fat.
6. Don’t diet the entire time: Nobody wants to watch what they eat the entire year. Dieting involves mental preparation, and it’s hard to feel motivated if done over a long period. Instead of driving yourself over the edge, breaking down and eating far too much again, schedule a day in a week or two when you let go and eat what you want. This helps to refuel your muscles with glycogen, replenish metabolic rates and provide you with the mental satisfaction to eat to your heart’s content once in a while. If you do the diet correctly, you’ll surely appreciate the break.
7. Keep hydrated: Water fills you up and keeps you going. It suppresses that empty stomach feeling and helps you get past mental barriers. Drink as much as you can.
We understand that cutting down can be an unpleasant experience, but its benefits are fitting. Whether it’s a powerlifter trying to switch down a weight class or a regular guy trying to look better, it’s something most of us must do at some point. We hope this article helps.
Train hard, eat right, and stay lean!