As a follow on from our recent article ‘How many calories do I need when bulking?’ we thought we would visit the opposite end of the spectrum and look at how much you should be eating in order to shred that unwanted body fat and get the lean physique you’ve always dreamed of.
|Table of Contents
|What is cutting?
|How to lose body fat – the basics
|Eating for fat loss
|Fat loss calorie calculator
|How much weight should I be losing
|Fat burning foods – what should I eat?
|Fat loss tips?
|How do I lose body fat without losing muscle
|The final say
You’ve probably heard the term ‘Cutting’ being used by fitness enthusiasts. This is the phrase used to describe a phase of training they are currently in, and it means to be training and eating in such a way to lose body fat.
The purpose of this article is to provide you with knowledge of the best way to cut boy fat - that is, by managing how much calories you're eating daily.
When you try and lose body fat you need to remember one simple factor and that is, if you want to reduce your body fat percentage, you need to be eating fewer calories than the body burns on a daily basis.
Calories expended during the day need to be higher than calories consumed or you will never lose body fat.
Some people go on diets where they stop eating carbohydrates completely in an attempt to lose body fat, and instead replace them with fatty foods, such as avocado, eggs, salmon etc (because that’s what they have been told to do) and get frustrated when they don’t lose any weight.
But fat has more calories per gram than carbohydrates, and 9 times out of 10 the individual who has gone on the diet is still not in a calorie deficit so it’s impossible for them to lose weight/body fat.
To lose body fat you need to be in a daily deficit. A deficit of 300-500 calories each day is considered optimal to shed the unwanted fat whilst at the same time maintaining the lean muscle you have worked so hard to build.
If you believe that you're in a deficit yet you’re not losing body fat, then you are clearly not in the deficit you thought you were – so you either need to burn more, or eat less!
The next section will detail how you should go about calculating how much you should be eating.
To begin with, you need to work out your maintenance calories. This is the number of calories you need to be eating every day to maintain the same weight and body composition.
For this process, you will need two things:
1. You will need to download a calorie counting app such as MyFitnessPal on your phone so that you can track how many calories you are eating each day.
2. You will need to invest in a decent pair of scales so that you can monitor your body weight. This will help us understand how our calorie intake affects our weight and fat loss.
To work out our maintenance calories we have 2 options available:
Option 1 is the fat loss calorie calculator. Simply enter your details in the calculator below and the calculator will spit out how much you should be eating to maintain weight or lose fat.
The column in the middle shows the estimated number of calories you should be eating each day to maintain your current body composition (Maintenance calories). We recommend eating this number of calories each day for 2 weeks.
We should also make sure we measure our weight on day 1 and day 14 of this 2-week period so that we can understand how calorie intake impacts our body weight (More on this in a second!).
Option 2 involves eating normally for the first day, during which you will use your calorie counter to measure how many calories you ate during the day.
You'll take this number and try and eat the same amount of calories each day for 2 weeks.
Again we should measure our weight on day 1 and day 14 of this 2-week period so that we can understand the relationship between our calorie consumption and our weight.
Please note – there is no magic starting point, everyone is different and everyone burns calories at a different rate, this is down to factors such as height, body composition, age, gender occupation etc, what’s important is that you have a starting point.
If your weight increased over the 2-week monitoring period then it’s obvious you were eating over your maintenance calories (calorie surplus), if this is the case, drop your calories by 200 each week until your weight doesn’t change.
Similarly, if you lost weight after the 2-week period it’s obvious you’re eating less than your maintenance calories (calorie deficit). If this is the case, you’ll then need to up the calories by 200 each week until your weight remains the same.
Once you’ve got to a stage where your weight no longer changes, make note of how many calories you are consuming, this is our maintenance calories!
We can now move onto the next stage.
So let’s use the
Let's assume we entered all our details in the calorie calculator above and it calculated we needed to be eating 2625 calories each day to maintain our weight.
We then ate 2625 calories each day over 2 weeks and sure enough, our weight stayed the same - we maintained.
As mentioned earlier in the article, to lose body fat, you will need to be in a calorie deficit of between 300-500 calories. So for the person in question to successfully lose body fat, they will need to be eating 2125 calories daily (this is 500 calorie deficit).
2625-500=2125 daily calories.
But how should these 2125 calories be divvied up to the 3 macronutrients? Don’t worry, we have the answer!
Studies have shown that during a phase of fat loss you will need to be eating between 1.8 – 2.4 grams of protein per kg of bodyweight. So for this example, we’ll go down the middle with 2.1 grams of protein per kg of bodyweight.
75 x 2.1 = 158 grams of protein
As there are 4 kcal (calories) per gram of protein it will work out as 158 x 4 = 632kcal
So this individual would get 632kcal from protein sources.
One pound of fat is equivalent to 3500 calories, so a deficit of 500 calories for 7 days should yield a fat loss of one pound per week (0.45kg).
Ideally we want to try and lose between 0.5-1% off our body weight each week. With the start of the fat loss campaign seeing losses towards the higher end of the limit, and then tapering off after roughly a month.
If you haven’t lost any fat over a week period then you should reduce the calories by an extra 200, monitor yourself over the following week and if you still haven’t lost any, then again reduce the calories by a further 200.
Remember that everyone is different and some people will shed body fat at a quicker rate than others. Don’t compare yourself to others, as long as you're making progress, that’s all that matters.
When it comes to losing body fat it’s important to be eating nutrient-dense foods to ensure we get all the necessary vitamins to remain healthy and promote fat loss. We have compiled a list of foods you should try and incorporate into your diet.
It's true, fat loss isnt easy. It requires dedication, persistance and adherence. While there's no magic fat loss supplements, there are some supplements availble to give you a helping hand along your journey.
Our recent aritcle "Top 5 fat burning supplements" dives deeper into the science behind each supplement, but below you can find a brief summary.
1. Caffeine - There's no need to buy a supplement, a simple cuppa once or twice a day can do the trick!
2. Green Tea Extract - Buy Here
3. L-Carnitine - Buy Here
4. Protein Powder - Buy Here
5. BCAA's - Buy Here
The supplement that narrowly missed out on a top 5 position is creatine. Creatine is not directly a fat loss supplement, but it can help with fat loss in several unexpected ways. To learn more, read our recent article linked above.
Eating less runs the risk of nutrient deficiencies, make sure that you eat nutrient dense food and get lots of fruit and veg to maintain normal immune system operation. Keep the diet varied to ensure the body gets the vitamins it needs.
Just because you’re cutting it doesn’t mean you should lift less weight, yes as a result of eating less you may not be able to move as much weight, but you should try and keep lifts as heavy as possible to preserve the muscle you worked so hard to build.
You may have seen some people cut their entire carbohydrate intake in a bid to lose body fat. This is not a good idea as the body needs carbohydrates to function properly.
Furthermore, carbohydrates provide you with energy, so if you don’t have enough carbohydrates then your workout is going to suffer.
You are also running the risk of breaking down muscle to provide you with energy as you have nowhere else to get it from, this is not ideal especially as you’ve taken all that time to put muscle on!
There is no need to do cardio in the early stages of the cutting phase; the calorie deficit along with the weekly weight training should be enough to warrant that 0.5-1% fat reduction you are looking for.
Cardio should be introduced when you reach a plateau in you cut to promote further fat loss, or if you are struggling to eat the low amount of calories you can introduce cardio which will allow you to eat that little bit extra (as your now burning more calories).
Cardiovascular exercise should be used as a tool to burn extra calories but should not be at the forefront of your training program, getting good quality weights sessions in and keeping nutrition on point should be your main aim. If in the later stages of your cut you hit a plateau, then it's worth considering upping the cardio, or introducing sessions that are great at burning calories - such as high intensity interval training (HIIT).
One of the most important factors in your cutting phase but is commonly overlooked is sustainability.
The diet and training need to be sustainable or you will never stick to it. Keep both training and nutrition varied to prevent boredom and reduce the chances of falling off the wagon.
Many fitness professionals promote different ways to lose weight, such as no carbs after 8 to prevent them turning into fat stores whilst you sleep or doing fasted cardio first thing in the morning.
These are just examples, and although there may be some evidence to back up the theories if they don’t suit your lifestyle; don’t adopt them.
When the time comes to shed body fat, we want to do our best to maintain the muscle we have built. After all, it takes a long time to build muscle, we don’t want to put all of our hard work to waste.
The first step in ensuring we keep hold of the muscle we have built during a cutting phase is by not losing weight too quickly. An ideal cutting phase would see weight loss of around 0.5-1% a week, with the early stages being towards the upper end and the latter stages being towards the lower end of that limit.
If we lose weight quicker than this, then it’s likely we’re losing muscle as well as fat. The reason for this is that our calorie deficit is too aggressive (too big) and the body needs to break down muscle for energy. Try upping your calories by 100 at a time until you reach a stage where you’re losing the desired 0.5-1% a week.
The second step to make sure we keep hold of well-earned muscle is down to our fat loss workouts. Many people are under the misconception that during a cutting phase you need to increase the number of reps you’re doing per set and increase the number of sets you’re doing per workout.
It’s kind of the opposite. Think about it, you’re now eating less than you previously were, so you’re not going to have the energy to perform more work in the gym. If your body is struggling for energy, then it will result in breaking down muscle to provide it.
Secondly, we want to keep our lifts heavy to preserve our well-earned muscle. If we start lifting with lighter weights, then we’re not placing the same stimulus on our muscles then there’s no reason for them to be the size they once were.
We recommend combining heavy sets 3-10 reps with moderate sets 8-18 reps for the best muscle retention/fat burning effects.
There’s no denying a fat loss campaign is difficult. It requires dedication, persistence, and hard work. We could have the best training plan in the world, but if we’re not in a calorie deficit, we’re not going to lose weight – it’s that simple.
On the other hand, if we have a mediocre training plan yet we were in a calorie deficit, we will lose weight.
The calorie deficit really is the most important factor when it comes to fat loss, so let’s implement it.
If you're not in the market for counting calories, don't worry. You can still implement a calorie deficit without tracking everything you eat. Check out our article 'How to lose weight without tracking calories' for the full break down.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this article and learned a thing or 2. Good luck in your fat loss campaign and if you have any questions, I will be more than happy to answer them, head over to our Contact Page and drop us a line!