Written by: gbrice75 for Steroid.com

Dieting 101: Cutting, the Dont's

So you've been a bit lazy over the past year and woke up one morning to realize you've acquired quite the gut. Or maybe you've been trying to gain as much muscle as possible, but managed to add a bunch of bodyfat in the process. Or maybe you've always been the fat kid and are finally fed up and ready to take charge and change yourself once and for all. In any case, I intend to cover the bare essentials that will help to get you started and eventually realize your goals.

First, let's talk about what NOT to do. Starving yourself won't work. It seems simple enough at a glance - eat very little, lose weight! Well, unfortunately it isn't that simple. At least not for people whose goal is to have a lean muscular physique, as opposed to simply 'losing weight'.

Severe Calorie Restricted Diets

You've been eating like a pig and have decided once and for all that you've HAD IT!!! Tomorrow, all the junk goes in the garbage and you will start eating very light. You'll have a cup of yogurt, a few egg whites and a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast. At lunch, you'll have a few slices of turkey breast w/ mustard on whole grain bread. For dinner, a small portion of grilled chicken breast and a small mixed greens salad. You might even allow a snack - maybe a low-fat string cheese. Before, you were eating 5000 calories/day, now you've figured this new plan to put you somewhere in the 900-1100 calorie range. Since you've used our formulas and figured out that your body requires 2500 calories/day to maintain weight, you'll be losing a TON of weight between this diet and all the exercise you plan to do!!! Perfect, right? WRONG!!!

Severe caloric restriction will eventually lead to a slowed metabolism. Once your metabolic rate has slowed, eating the same amount of food that once allowed you to maintain your weight will now cause you to GAIN weight! This is because you have trained your body to function on a lower caloric level. In our example above, you were able to maintain your current weight at 2500 calories/day. After X amount of time (everybody is different, there is no set rule) eating at 900-1100 calories on your new diet, your body has lowered your metabolic rate to cope with this new lowered intake. When you ultimately crash and binge eat (I guarantee you will, because a diet based on extreme caloric restriction isn't sustainable for any appreciable length of time, and you will be irritable and miserable with no energy), you will gain weight and/or bodyfat even faster than before!

Another disaster that can result from eating at a very low caloric level is your body going into 'starvation mode'. There is alot out there about this and it's way overblown IMO (people missing a single meal and freaking out because they think they'll be in starvation mode). This isn't something that will happen over night, or even in a week, but it can eventually happen, and will wreak havoc on your body! Your body senses that it isn't being fed adequately. Besides slowing your basal metabolic rate as mentioned above, your body may also hold on to its fat stores. It will even create NEW fat stores from dietary fats (fats consumed in your diet). Basically your body says "hmm... I'm slowly being starved. Instead of metabolizing this dietary fat and using it for immediate energy, I better store it for use later in case I'm starved even more!" We as a species have adapted to cope with times of famine, which is a great thing - when there's risk of famine. I think it's safe to assume that anybody reading this article on their computer while flipping through an $8 Muscle and Fitness mag doesn't anticipate facing famine anytime soon, so for us, it's NOT a good thing. So you see, you're starving yourself in an effort to lose bodyfat, and in response your body is not only holding on to that bodyfat (while breaking down muscle to compensate, more on that next), but it's actually storing additional/new bodyfat! Completely counter-productive!!!

Possibly worst of all is what I mentioned above - the breaking down of muscle tissue/LBM (lean body mass). Your body requires more energy to maintain muscle mass than it does body fat, because fat isn't considered 'active' tissue, while muscle is. When your body isn't getting sufficient calories, it doesn't want to use energy for anything non-essential (breathing, organ function, etc would be considered essential to life) and having big muscles is NOT essential - so which do you think is going to be the first to go, fat or muscle? You got it - muscle tissue. I've seen it happen. People go on severe calorie restricted diets and use nothing but the scale as their guide. They see that they're losing 4, 5, sometimes 6lbs a week. "OMG, that's GREAT!!!" A few months later, they wonder why they don't look like that lean, cut, muscular person they thought they would when they started the diet. Well, they basically lost alot of muscle and a little body fat. They simply look like a smaller version of the same person they were before. This is called 'skinny-fat'. It's dreadful. Trust me guys, i'm speaking from first hand experience, I've been there. The good news is it's possible to drop bodyfat with very little affect on muscle mass.

So if you're ready to take charge and be accountable for what you put into your body, let's stop talking about what you shouldn't do, and get into what you should.

Dieting 101: Cutting, the DO's

First, you need to figure out your TDEE. I won't go into detail here - you can find this information in Jimmyinkedup's sticky. CLICK HERE TDEE stands for 'Total Daily Energy Expenditure'. We'll refer to it as your 'maintenance level' at times. Let's say your TDEE is 2500 calories/day as an example. In theory, if you ate exactly 2500 calories/day, you will neither gain nor lose weight. This is a very oversimplified description and there are many other factors at play, but this is the gist of it.

Note: Before we go further, I want to make one point. We generally track our calories by the day, i.e. a 24 hour period of time. We will say "my TDEE is 2500 calories per day", or "I ate 500 calories under my maintenance level today". Understand that time is a human concept. It's an extremely useful tool that allows us to track and limit things we do in our daily lives. However, your body isn't aware of the concept of time. Your body does not wait until the end of the day to add up that day's food intake. Your body is constantly breaking down and buildling up. It's an endless process. People think they need to be in a constant state of caloric deficit, surplus, or maintenance. The point I'm making here is that your body goes through all 3 states, all at different times of course.

Now that you know your TDEE, you need to get over to the Bodybuilding Foods Macro nutrients Chart <-- CLICK and start making some food choices that you plan to use for your diet. Don't worry about portion size yet; we'll cover that shortly. For now, select some foods that you like. We will fill them in as we go through a sample cutting diet.

How many calories should I eat?

So your TDEE is 2500. You know that if you eat 2500 calories per day, you should maintain your weight. You also know that dropping calories too low is a terrible idea. So, what is the answer? The fact is, there is no set answer as we are all different. However, the general rule of thumb is to start with a deficit of 300-500 calories. You will need to monitor yourself closely and continue to adjust until you hit your 'sweet spot' (you'll know when you do). In my example, I'm going with a 500 calorie deficit, so my daily intake will be 2000 calories per day.

You can widen your deficit even further by adding additional activity. This would be my choice as opposed to reducing calories further. We will cover aerobic and cardiovascular activity later. Let's focus on the diet itself for now.

How many meals per day should I eat?

This is a hotly debated topic in the bodybuilding community. My answer is - there are many ways to skin a cat. Some people can eat 1 large meal/day and get great results. Some fast for several hours/day, then go through a feeding phase. For the purpose of this article, we are going to stick with the generally accepted standard of 6 to 8 smaller meals per day. I try and keep my meals about 3 hours apart. If you can only do 2 hours apart, do it. If you have a gap of 3.5 to 4 hours in between a meal, don't sweat it - it will have no bearing on your diet. The important thing is to hit your macros for the day, i.e. be concerned with eating what you're supposed to, and less concerned with eating every 3.122323424 hours.

I've figured out my TDEE, but have no idea how much protein, carbs, and fats I should eat to reach that number!

For our sample diet, we're going with a TDEE of 2500 calories, with a 500 calorie deficit - therefore our diet will be 2000 calories/day. There are countless macro percentage splits (macros = macro nutrients - you know, the stuff that makes up your food? i.e. protein, carbs, and fats), but a widely accepted starting point is 40% protein, 40% carbs, and 20% fats, shortened to 40/40/20. So 40% of 2000 calories = 800 calories (2000 x .40 = 800) - that means 800 of your calories will come from protein, and 800 will come from carbs. 20% of 2000 = 400. 400 of your calories will come from fats. protein and carbs each contain 4 calories per gram, and fats contain 9 calories per gram, therefore this diet will consist of 200g protein, 200g carbs, and 45g fat (if I have to show you the math for how I arrived at these numbers, you have bigger issues than cutting bodyfat... just sayin!).

From this point, you can play with the numbers a bit to your liking. You may want to adjust slightly to make it 250g protein, 150g carbs, and 45g of fat. In so doing, the total of 2000 calories hasn't changed, only the macro split has. If you are at a relatively high BF% (high teens and up), these minor tweaks won't make a huge difference IMO, but I digress.

There is another method I like to use instead of percentages. I like to calculate protein needs first based on LBM, then fill in the other 2 macros accordingly. I like 1.5g protein/lb of LBM. So let's take a 200lb male at 20% bodyfat. His LBM is 160 (200 x .20 = 40. 200 - 40 = 160). 160 x 1.5 = 240g protein. Notice that the number is relatively close to the 40/40/20 example - so either way, you're covered. 240g protein = 960 calories, leaving you 1040 to split accordingly between carbs and fats. I would keep fats lowest, and carbs a bit higher. Play with the numbers and use common sense, or until you know what you're doing, stick with the percentage method.

But I don't know how I should combine my proteins, carbs, and fats. What should I eat, and when?

Great question! Now you know you'll be eating 2000 calories/day, at 40/40/20, then modified a bit to bring us to 250g protein, 150g carbs, and 45g fat. In our example diet, we will break this down across 6 meals, spaced 3 hours apart.

There are plenty of opinions on when to eat what, but one that I think everybody will agree on is to have a protein source in every meal. To make our sample diet easy to follow, I am going to break our 250g protein down evenly across our 6 meals. Note this isn't the 'right' way, i.e. some will prefer to have a bit more protein in the morning, and/or pre and post workout. It's up to you. Remember, this is just a sample. So 250g protein / 6 meals = roughly 40g protein per meal. When the fat macro is relatively low like in our example, I would do the same - break it down evenly across all meals. So 45g fat / 6 meals = 7.5g fat per meal. That leaves us with carbs, the biggest 'variable' and arguably most controversial of the macros.

On a diet where cutting bodyfat is the primary goal, I like to keep carbs focused around your high energy activity, namely, your workout. Pre and Post workout is an ideal time to consume the majority of your carbs. Your first meal of the day is also a great time for carbs for other reasons, but we'll save that for another article. For now, stick with me. We will have carbs in meals 1, pre, and post workout. 3 meals - i.e. 150g / 3 meals = 50g carbs per meal. You're ready to construct your diet!!!

Workout Day Sample Diet (macros only)

6:30am - wake up

7am - meal 1 - 40g protein, 50g carbs, 7.5g fat

10am - meal 2 - 40g protein, 7.5g fat

1pm - meal 3 - Preworkout nutrition - 40g protein, 50g carbs, 7.5g fat



4pm - meal 4 - Post workout nutrition - 40g protein, 50g carbs, 7.5g fat

7pm - meal 5 - 40g protein, 7.5g fat

10pm - meal 6 - BEDTIME MEAL - 40g protein, 7.5g fat

All you need to do is plug in the proper foods and quantities from Jimmyinkedup's list, and you're off and running with your diet!!! Easy enough. Note this is a very basic sample. There are many tweaks that can and should be made from this point. I don't want to get too far into that here as this is a basic guide, however I may rob a few grams of carbs from meal 1 and add them to meals 3 and 4, I may remove most fat from meal 4 and split it over meals 5 and 6, etc. I will address tweaks and such in a Q & A within this thread. Every diet should be monitored for progress, and adjusted accordingly. As your body composition changes, your diet will need to be adjusted.

My thoughts on some debated topics

These are just some random thoughts that I wanted to share. Some will agree, some will not. Don't take my word alone; do your due diligence, research, and draw your own conclusions. Experiment on yourself and find what works best for you. I've said it before - we are all different, and as such, we will all handle things differently. i.e. what works great for me might not work very well for you. Keep this in mind any time somebody is giving you advice.

PWO Nutrition - the 'magic window of opportunity'

We've all heard of it. After a grueling workout in the gym, you're COMPLETELY catabolic, your muscles are literally STARVED of nutrients, and are optimized for nutrient uptake. If you don't get that whey shake in IMMEDIATELY, that window is going to shut, and you've missed your opportunity to make leet gainz. Right?

Wrong. Kind of. Supplement companies and muscle mags have brainwashed us into thinking this way, and the fact of the matter is, as far as I'm concerned, it's way overblown.

Firstly, if you are eating a proper diet, and especially in the case of a good preworkout meal, you will not be catabolic in the sense you are led to believe. First of all, look up the definition of the word 'catabolism'. As per Dictionary.com - destructive metabolism; the breaking down in living organisms of more complex substances into simpler ones, with the release of energy

When you workout, you are breaking down muscle tissue. When you eat food, your body is breaking it down. These are both catabolic activities. Remember earlier when I said that your body is constantly breaking down and building up, all throughout the day, every day, 24/7? This is what i'm talking about. Look at the end of the definiton - 'with the release of energy'. Food is broken down in order to be used to rebuild tissue. Tissue is broken down and repaired via the nutrients from the food. It's all a process the body is always going through. So catabolism, by definition, is not this horrible demon that we've been brainwashed into believing it is.

Now that we're clear on that point, let's get back to PWO nutrition and the 'magic window of opportunity'. After a workout, you are catabolic by TRUE definition. Are your muscles STARVING? Overstatement IMO. Are your muscles primed and is nutrient uptake sensitivity heightened? Yes, i'd say so. Does that automatically stop after exactly 1 hour? Definitely not. In fact, studies show that sensitivity INCREASES several hours after your workout. The point here is this - don't be so anal and worried about getting that PWO shake in the second your workout is over. Do your cardio. Take your shower. Take your time getting dressed. I assure you you're not missing out. By the way, if you're eating every 3 hours or so, you'll have a constant supply of aminos in your bloodstream and do not need to worry. If you're still concerned, sip on some BCAA's during your workout, or right after. It'll put your mind at ease if nothing else.

Consuming fats and carbs together

You will see alot of people recommending you separate your carb and fat meals. i.e. make your meals either protein/carb, or protein/fat, but not all 3. I used to preach this but have become more relaxed. Today i'd say I agree with this general principle (on cutting diets), within reason.

Both carbs and fats are broken down by your body for use as immediate energy, and/or are stored for future use (as glycogen or fat in the case of carbs, and fat in the case of dietary fats). However, glucose (what carbs are ultimately broken down into) is your body's preferred energy source and will be used first whenever present. If you eat a meal that's relatively high in both carbs and fat, your body will use the glucose (carbs) first, and what do you think is likely to happen with the consumed fat? It will very likely be stored as bodyfat. I should also point out here that dietary fat is much more likely to be stored as body fat than dietary carbs are.

So, I will usually have a small amount of fats in meals containing carbs. In meals containing trace amounts of carbs (i.e. a few grams here or there from protein powder, cottage cheese, etc), I may be more forgiving with supplementing some additional fat. A general rule of thumb is that you'll get all the fats you need by default from the foods you eat. Protein powders, meats, etc. With the exception of fish oils/ omega-3 EFA's, you shouldn't really need to supplement additional fats. Note: some people do well on higher fat, lower carb diets. You will see alot of people adding nuts, nut butters, avacado, etc. While the aforementioned foods have a decent fat profile, they are not factored into this sample diet. We are aiming for a relatively high protein, moderate carb, low fat diet in an effort to shed the most bodyfat possible.

Nighttime Eating and Catabolism

There goes that catabolism demon again, eating up all your muscle while you sleep!!! Thank GOD the supplement companies invented the Casein protein powder fairy!!! Here's the real scoop: if you are eating a sufficient meal late in the evening (by sufficient, I mean a slower digesting protein source, beef would be ideal as a last or 2nd to last meal before bed), you do not need to worry about burning through muscle while you sleep, or waking up on purpose to slam a shake. Number one, you're sleeping - while that still requires energy, it doesn't take much. Yes your body is most efficient at repairing damaged muscle tissue while you sleep. That's because it has nothing else to do, i.e. you're not moving around, requiring energy for anything else. Like I said earlier, if you are eating throughout the day every few hours, you ensure you'll have a steady supply of aminos in the blood stream, even during the night's 'fast'. Your body doesn't dump a huge amount of amino's into the bloodstream after you consume a meal, then an hour later you're on empty again. Think of an IV in the hospital and how it trickles - your body works more in that fashion. Digestion is a process that takes several hours (sometimes 12 or more depending on the foods). I always find it funny hearing about a guy who has a 10oz steak for dinner, then realizes before bed he was out of casein powder and starts freaking out, lol!!

There is a thread open for discussion on this subject click to HERE comment