It’s coming to that time of the year when we are looking to drop a little extra around the waist as things get hotter (at least in the southern hemisphere) and the biggest worry for the guys that have been working hard through the year is; how do I drop that extra fat without losing the strength and muscle I have gained during the year.
Unfortunately, most have only added more fat and inflammation from overeating and calling it “bulking”. But for the guys that have put in the work and want to know how to dial it in properly let’s give you some guidelines.
You need to have an idea of your volume and the training phase you’re in for this one. Like I’ve mentioned in recent posts but before you start dropping calories you need to look at adjusting your work volume and catering it more towards fat loss. So improving the DENSITY (rest times between workouts) and FREQUENCY (how many times you train that muscle).
While I can’t give you an exact protocol here because it will leave you more confused than before as it needs to be tailored to the client, I can tell you that focusing on improving your workout intensity, rest times and output before simple dropping cals with GREATLY improve your ability to maintain muscle and strength throughout your cut.
A nice progression if you are happy with your current program is build up your intensity first over a few weeks to know where you performance sits, then drop 10sec or so off your rest times till you get down to 45-60sec (depending on movements) – this will be HARD if you do it properly and most will be amazed how much time they are wasting.
This is really number 1 on our list but I knew you wouldn’t read this far unless I gave you something more “gym” related first ;).
In order for your body to be burning fat effectively, you need to be healthy to allow these many processes to work effectively.
- This means not relying on caffeine for energy (this can be useful but if you’re already relying on it before leaning out you’ll really struggle).
- Getting rid of foods that cause you to bloat, feel tired or gassy, and removing toxins wherever possible from cooking oils and process foods (especially the fats you digest!)
- Blood tests, sauna therapy and movement assessments are all very useful here.
This is not an easy one but can be the difference between you struggling with every kilo you drop OR breezing through this training block to reach your desired body composition.
Are you something that tends to not get things done till you’re stressing about it? Do you work your butt off all week only to collapse in the weekend to catch up? Do you eat your lunch at your desk and not take 10mins at lunch to “unplug”? If any one of these sounds familiar, this point may just be the BIGGEST area of improvement that could change the game for you. This has 100% been me (many times) and the best way to move forward is to plan out your week or write down your to-dos or even thoughts to clear space for creative or productive headspace. Then if you have a coach or someone you respect in your corner you can talk through this routine or headspace and even saying it aloud will likely open up a whole new insight!
Once you have put those first three points to work you should already be seeing MASSIVE changes in your body fat, energy, performance, recovery, and mood – if not you need to send me a message so I can send you in the right direction.
Yet if you still have more to go or you’re really pushing towards some low single-digit numbers then we can start to look at macros. Now again this can be massively variable as your body fat, training style and metabolic demand can change this drastically but a good starting base is to identify a base level of protein and fats that are going to cover your recovery demands and hormonal processors.
So assuming you have a good amount of fats and proteins in your diet, and you’re running along nicely here then some manipulation of (usually) carbohydrate can be very effective. But at no point should you be dropping any macronutrient out completely if performance is your goal and in many cases, if you’re doing things properly you might even increase carbs due to improving the first 3 points above!
Too many guys and girls drop the cals all together and run into pretty major issues with hormonal and metabolic shutdown from this blanket approach – it’s worth having a (qualified) professional in your corner if you’re attempting a cut bigger than 5kg. But do your homework as the wrong coach can cost you a lot more than the coaching investment in the long run. Just because they have muscles or a big Instagram account doesn’t make them a decent coach…
Last section I need to add here is that I want to emphasize that adding in a new fancy supp has no part in the major adjustments you need to make in losing body fat while keeping your hard-earned strength. It certainly has its part in gut health and re-calibrating the body when you are low but this is not one of the foundations. No fat burner will elicit big changes unless you address the above points. The only direct “fat-burner” I regularly recommend is Acetyl L-carnitine that up-regulates fat burning by helping fat cell conversion to energy (lipolysis) and is a cheap effective supp that does what it should once you have the rest in line.
So other than the adjustments of moving to healthier or more suitable options for your unique gut I don’t recommend calories being your go-to option if you want long term sustainable options however having an idea of your macros along the way is useful and will become more important, the more drastic the drop is.
Last note is that keeping track of your key lifts for you (not just bench or squat if that doesn’t fit you – the ones that feel great and make sense to progress) is important at knowing you’re on the right track. Dropping more than 20% of your strength during a cut should be avoided as this will almost certainly mean you are losing muscle and dropping a little quick.
I hope this shone light on some key points to peeling off the stubborn layer of fat and doing so effectively without spending hours in the gym or starving yourself.