You look into the mirror. It’s that time of the year… After gobbling down disgusting amounts of food during the holidays and having a long winter bulking-session, it’s time to start cutting before summer comes.
But how you cut actually matters. Will you be successful and get a summer beach-body, or will you overdo it and look like a living skeleton? Will you see results and stay motivated, or will you be disappointed in the whole process and give up altogether?
Most people start cutting – or dieting as they call it – and lose motivation after a few weeks. They don’t see any result of starving, doing hours of cardio, and spending a small fortune on magical weight-loss pills. They stand on the scale every morning disappointed in their progress – or rather the lack of it.
Now, I don’t want you to be one of those people. I want you to melt fat off your body as quickly and as efficiently as humanly possible – while keeping your hard-earned muscles and maintaining your mood- and energy-levels! So, I’ll give you my top five tips that I use for cutting.
1. Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting is when you neglect food for most of your day, and have an eating-window of a few hours each day. Less scientifically, I could just say that you skip breakfast, and eat lunch and dinner like normal – but it’s a little more complicated than that.
Aim for an eating-window of a maximum of 8 hours each day (but a window of 6 hours works even better), and only allow yourself to consume calories within that time-frame. Stay consistent here: instead of randomly opening and closing your eating-window, determine a time-frame that works the best for you, and stick to it every day!
Intermittent fasting has several major benefits when it comes to burning fat. Scientifically speaking, it has been proven multiple times that intermittent fasting is more efficient at burning fat than traditional caloric restriction diets. Secondly, by not allowing yourself to eat all day, it will become physically difficult to eat too much food in your relatively short eating-window. Finally, I’ve found that by skipping my first meal – and having only a cup of black coffee without sugar as “breakfast” – I become more productive and energetic in the first few hours of my day.
Intermittent fasting can be a little hard to get used to – but if you’re serious about losing fat, you should definitely give it a go!
You’ve probably seen – and maybe even talked to – desperate people doing hours of cardio each day, hoping to burn a little more fat. They’re the ones who think that by spending more time on the treadmill, cross-machine, or at an aerobics class doing low-to-moderate intensity cardio, they will burn more fat while preserving more muscle in the process.
But they couldn’t be more wrong! Sure, low intensity activities – like walking, biking, or even jogging – do have their purpose, but they are far from effective when it comes to cutting down. Instead, have a HIIT-workout 1-2 times a week, implemented into your regular workout routine. These workouts should take about 25-30 minutes (including your warm-up), and will absolutely destroy you – while melting your body-fat away.
A typical HIIT-workout consists of 10-20 rounds of about 20-30 second intervals of maximum intensity cardio (sprinting, speed-biking, or burpees for example), followed by a low-intensity exercise (walking, jogging, or light shadow-boxing) for the remainder of the minute. Do this for 15-20 minutes (after a proper warm-up), and you won’t have to waste your time on ineffective and boring methods – while chasing the false hope of burning more fat.
3. Meeting your goals
I’m talking about your macronutrient-goals, as well as your caloric targets for the day. Cutting is not about starving yourself! Your body still needs nutrients to function properly, and a sufficient amount of calories to fuel you throughout the day.
Protein is especially important when cutting. Consuming enough protein – about 2 grams per kg of bodyweight every day – is enough to keep muscle-loss to a minimum (you will inevitably lose a little muscle when cutting). Now, besides looking good, keeping your muscles will actually help you lose fat faster: the more muscle-mass you have, the more fat your body is able to burn.
Your caloric intake also matters: while you do want to be in a slight caloric deficit – around 10%-15% below your maintenance levels – you don’t want to starve yourself. Starving yourself will just cause you to have less energy (resulting in less intense workouts), and it will eventually slow your metabolism (making it almost impossible to burn more fat). Also, if you consistently starve yourself, you will constantly feel tired and grumpy, causing you to lose motivation – and eventually give up!
4. Don’t… Ever… Skip… Leg-day!
I’ll be honest here…
I absolutely hate leg-days! Training legs is not only extremely demanding on my body, making me feel exhausted for the rest of the day – but suddenly everyday activities (like walking, taking the stairs, or riding my bike) become a challenge.
Still, training legs is a must for anyone who’s serious about their physique. This is even more true when you’re cutting. You see, your legs are your biggest muscle group in your body. This means, that by recruiting your leg-muscles to do intense compound movements, you will burn significantly more calories than you would by hitting any other muscle-group.
Another major reason you should get a good leg-workout in at least once a week (or alternatively, if you’re doing full-body workouts, you can train legs 2-3 times a week) is that leg-days boost your testosterone-levels like no other workout. Higher testosterone-levels will cause you to keep more muscle-mass, have more energy, and burn fat more efficiently.
To get the most out of your leg-workouts, I recommend focusing on heavy compound movements – such as deadlifts, squats, lunges, or hip-bucks.
5. Decrease your appetite
Let’s face it: if you’re cutting, you’ll be eating less than what your body needs – there’s no way to go around that; you can’t out-train a bad diet! Still, you might be tempted to have gigantic meals to satisfy your hunger – ruining the whole process. While I’m not promoting starving your body in any way, there are a few scientifically proven methods to regulate your appetite to avoid going over the top with your food.
First of all, you should get your body ready for each and every one of your meals: if you ease your hunger beforehand, you’ll be less tempted to eat insane amounts of food. Therefore, you need to make yourself feel fuller (or at least less empty) before having a meal. My top recommendation is to have a huge glass of water, and a teaspoon of chia seeds about 10-15 minutes before all of your meals. Water is an easy way to temporarily ease your hunger, while chia seeds are especially high in fibers – expanding in your stomach, making you feel less empty.
Secondly, you should avoid foods high in sugar. The worst thing about sugar isn’t the fact that it’s really high in calories; it’s the insulin-spike that makes your cut feel like living hell. When you eat something that’s high in sugar, your body produces a high amount of insulin – a hormone that helps your body regulate the metabolism of various macronutrients (with glucose at the top of the list). Due to the high levels of insulin in your blood-stream, your blood-sugar levels will eventually drop drastically, causing you to feel hungrier than you were before eating. For this reason, avoid having meals that are high in sugar!
Finally, eat slow, and enjoy every single bite of your meal. Trust me, when you’re cutting, you learn to appreciate food so much more! But that’s not why I’m suggesting you take your time finishing your food… By eating slow, you allow your body to process the fact that food is entering your system. You will actually feel full when you are full – instead of gobbling a huge plate of calories, overeating, and feeling like throwing up 15 minutes later.
Follow these steps to melt your body-fat away for the summer! Did you find this article useful? Let me know in the comments! Also, don’t forget to follow Vikingfinity – I write posts just like this every Tuesday and every Friday, and you don’t want to miss them!