Winter is bulking season for most lifters. The weather is cold, your body is usually covered up by several layers, and food is plentiful throughout the holidays. But warmer weather is right around the corner.
Along with it comes pool parties, beach vacations, shorts, t-shirts, and wearing less clothing in general. Now is the time to start taking off the body fat so you can show off all the muscle you built during hibernation. Below are a few cutting tips that can help.
Ease Into the Cutting Process
One of the most important cutting tips you can remember is to start slowly. Too many bodybuilders try to make too many changes that are too drastic all at once. It’s too big of a shock to the system, and the body will often respond unfavorably by slowing down the metabolism. In addition, because the changes are so significant, you haven’t built up the discipline to stick with them for the foreseeable future and may end up succumbing to excessive cheat days.
You’re better off easing your way into losing your body fat. Incrementally decrease your calories and increase your activity over the course of several weeks. It may even behoove you to only alter one thing at a time.
For instance, cut snacks out of your diet first, but allow yourself to eat as much clean food as you want. After that, slightly reduce your caloric intake. After that, you can start to change around your workout. Changes won’t happen as rapidly when you take this approach, but it’s a plan you’re more likely to stick to and have more long term success with.
Never Go to the Grocery Store Hungry
Though this might seem like the most abstract of cutting tips, it can benefit you more than you might want to believe. Think to the last time you went grocery shopping while hungry – you likely not only came home with more food than normal, but most of it was likely unhealthy.
This is because your willpower is lower than normal and everything looks more yummy than usual when you’re hungry. Before you know it, your cart is full of food you know you shouldn’t be eating, but have convinced yourself to buy, anyway. If you don’t bring it home, you can’t eat it, so go grocery shopping when you’re not full of cravings to make sure the sweets and snacks stay at the store.
Keep Protein Intake High
If you’re going to start losing body fat, you have to eat less calories. Though cutting calories will be required, ensure that your protein intake is kept high. Anywhere from 1-1.5 grams per pound of body weight can work well.
Part of the reason for this is because you’re going to cause the body to consume itself for sustenance, and muscle is often broken down more easily than fat. Keeping protein intake high can help ensure that a maximum amount of muscle mass is retained during the fat loss process.
At the same time, consuming more of your calories from protein can actually burn more calories itself. This is because different foods have a different thermic effect. Simply put, the body burns more calories digesting foods that come from protein sources than it does carbohydrate or fat sources.
In fact, a study at Physiological Reports Open Access shows that up to 35% of a protein source’s calories are burned up just via the digestion process. However, calories coming from carbohydrate or fat sources burned during the digestion process are usually in the single digits.
That’s not the only study that points to higher protein diets leading to improvements in body composition. In an abstract published at Science Daily, when a high protein diet is consumed, as much as 45% of any excess calories are stored as lean tissue. On the other hand, if a low protein diet is consumed, as much as 95% of excess calories are stored as fat.
What this means is that all other things being equal (activity level, current body composition, total caloric intake, etc), if a diet is comprised more of protein than it is carbohydrates and/or fat, the body will naturally want to build more muscle. However, if the diet is switched to higher carbohydrates and/or fat and lower protein, the body will naturally produce more body fat.
Shorten Your Rest Breaks
One of legendary bodybuilding trainer Vince Gironda’s best cutting tips was to keep rest breaks between sets very short. When Gironda wanted one of his bodybuilders to focus on improving a particular body part or cut fat for an upcoming show, he’d often put them on an 8×8 routine where 8 sets of 8 reps were done on a single exercise per muscle group.
Over the course of several weeks, Vince would push his athletes to continually decrease rest periods. His eventual goal was to have his trainees only resting 15-20 seconds between sets. This kept his bodybuilders working so hard and resting so little, that an enormous amount of calories were burned during training. It wasn’t uncommon for Vince’s trainees to be some of the most ripped competitors at a show, yet having done little to no cardio in preparation.
You don’t have to take it quite to this extreme, but still make an effort to shorten your rest breaks. Instead of the 2-3 minutes you may have been taking, shorten it down to 90 seconds, then 60, then 45. You might have to lower the weight a little so as to let the CNS recover, but that’s Ok. Worry more about fat loss this time of year than putting a few more pounds on your one rep max.
You can also make this more manageable by supersetting muscle groups. Doing this doubles your localized rest time. So if you were pairing up barbell curls and pushdowns, you’d alternate sets of each exercise back and forth. This allows your biceps to rest while your triceps are working, and vice versa. Because of this, you may be able to minimize your rest breaks even more to 30 seconds or so.
These cutting tips are not that drastic on their own, but when you put them all together, you’ll end up seeing significant changes. Shopping at the right time will ensure you have the right foods at home – preferably mostly from protein-based sources. This takes advantage of the thermic effect of food and potentially increases muscle mass. Shortened rest periods will make workouts more efficient and burn more calories. Slowly increase how strict you are in each area, and body fat will come off quickly.