Many athletes, bodybuilders and people with health implications often follow a cutting diet to lose weight in a short period of time. But are cutting diets good for your health?
The purpose of a cutting diet is to cut body fat while maintaining lean muscle mass. Cutting diets encourage dieters to eat in a calorie-deficient manner (burning more calories than you consume) while maintaining a rigorous training program that incorporates cardio and resistance training.
Cutting diets are highly controversial. Advocates say it’s a quick way to get in shape, while critics say the restrictive nature of the diet makes it unsustainable. Below, we’ll explain what a cutting diet is, who should try it, how to safely incorporate this diet into your lifestyle and two alternative diets.
What is a Cutting Diet?
Cutting diets are often used by bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts to cut body fat while maintaining muscle mass.
The key difference from other weight loss diets is that a diet is tailored to each individual, tends to be higher in protein and carbohydrates, and should be accompanied by weight lifting.
Lifting weights regularly is important because it promotes muscle growth and helps fight muscle loss as you begin to lose calories.
A cutting diet lasts 2-4 months, depending on how lean you were before the diet, and is usually done on occasions such as bodybuilding competitions, sporting events or holidays.
Who Should Follow a Cutting Diet?
You don’t have to be a competitive bodybuilder to follow a cutting diet.
Maybe you enjoy building strength and muscle as a hobby and now you’ve decided to lose a few pounds of fat to get in better shape.
Or you may have a photo shoot, beach trip, wedding or high school reunion scheduled.
If you meet most of the following criteria, then the diet may be right for you:
- You already live a health and fitness lifestyle. Cutting is a bad idea if you’re a total beginner, so don’t set yourself up for failure.
- You’re relatively lean already. Cutting can take you from “fairly lean” to “shredded.”
- You’ve got above-average levels of muscle mass. Cutting is about showing off your muscular physique. (If you don’t have much muscle yet, then practice).
But losing fat quickly can have drawbacks, the biggest being a greater risk of losing lean muscle.
Honestly, most people who want to lose fat shouldn’t rush into it.
Here are the telltale signs that a cutting diet is not for you:
- If you recently added a lot of muscle. Wait a few months instead of cutting immediately, or lose fat gradually.
- If you’ve got more than 20 pounds of fat to lose. Cutting diets are not sustainable in the long term, so it is not a good choice for long-term fat loss. If you want to lose more weight, start slowly.
- If you deal with mental or physical health issues. Cutting puts extra stress on your mind and body. It can also affect a woman’s fertility and menstruation.
If you’ve been living a health and fitness lifestyle for at least a year and you have 20 pounds or less to lose, cutting is worth a try (but it’s certainly not mandatory).
Otherwise, start with a more sustainable method of fat loss. Even bodybuilders who have more than 20 pounds of fat to lose should start slowly.
You can consider a total cutting diet later in your fat loss journey.
In the meantime, there are still many valuable lessons to be learned from weight loss diets though.
What to Eat for Cutting Diet?
Sports nutrition guidelines recommend a nutritionally complete and balanced diet.
A person should eat a varied diet to ensure they are getting the necessary vitamins and minerals from their food. In addition to supporting general health and well-being, essential nutrients are vital for energy and recovery.
Foods that should be included as part of a weight loss diet are:
- lean meat and poultry, oily fish, and eggs
- milk, yogurt, and low fat cheese
- protein powders such as whey, hemp, rice, and peas
- beans and pulses
- nuts and seeds
- avocados, olive oil, and olives
- whole grains such as brown rice and pasta, oats, whole grain bread, barley, and quinoa
- different colored fruits and vegetables
- leafy greens
People should also make sure they are adequately hydrated.
How do I Cut down on My Diet?
If you want to shed a few pounds, cutting back on your diet can sometimes be beneficial.
But it must be done in a safe and healthy way. Some of these tips may help you reduce:
- Count your calories to make sure you are in a safe calorie deficit (while consuming enough food to keep you in a constant state of exercise).
- Cut back on the condiments as these calories can add up without you realising.
- Try not to drink sugary drinks, stick to water, black coffee and green tea where possible.
- Avoid takeaways as it can be harder to know how many calories are in them.
- Try using smaller plates to prevent overeating if you can’t sense your fullness cues.14
- Pack your plates with plenty of veggies.
Cutting Diet Alternatives: 2 Methods To Achieve Fat Loss
If you want to lose weight or lose fat, there are healthier ways than the standard cutting diet. Not only are these methods more sustainable than dieting diets, but they have been scientifically proven to promote weight loss.：
1. Intermittent Fasting
If you think that intermittent fasting is a dietary fad, you are sadly mistaken. Since ancient times, humans have often refrained from eating for long periods of time, making intermittent fasting a part of everyday life.
Today, studies show that intermittent fasting can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and certain types of cancer. In addition, studies have shown that doing short intermittent fasts a few days a week is equally effective in reducing calories.
2. The Keto Diet
When it comes to fat loss, a keto diet is no different than a cutting diet. Instead of following a low-fat, high-carb diet, you’re eating higher fats and less than 20 grams of carbohydrates per day. This means removing grains, legumes and starchy vegetables – all of which are included in the cutting diet – and replacing them with high-quality fats, proteins and leafy greens.
Studies have shown that following a high-fat keto diet can help people lose up to 2 kg more per year than a low-fat diet. In addition, on a keto diet, you don’t have to count the number of calories you eat (although it’s recommended to count macros, especially initially). In addition, while low-calorie diets (such as cutting diets) are known to cause muscle loss, keto diets have been shown to be effective at maintaining muscle mass.
While losing fat fast may sound tempting, cutting diet has many drawbacks for the average person.
You can still learn from cutting diets, but unless you’re on a tight schedule, it may be wiser to give yourself more time and take a less extreme approach to weight los