COMPLETE Guide to Cutting for Athletes
Cutting is an area of athletics that is still foggy. There are a lot of mistakes and misconceptions surrounding cutting for athletes. Thing is, while cutting can be a tool to enhance your performance, cutting mistakes can hurt your performance. Worse, they can lead to lower energy levels, muscle weakness, strength losses, and more.
I want to help you avoid these mistakes…
I want to give you a complete guide to cutting for athletes…
And remember, nutritional parameters for athletes are different than those for bodybuilders, powerlifters, and regular dieters. Athletes have unique nutritional needs, and need to go about achieving their body composition goals without sacrificing performance, and without losing muscle.
You’ll find all that valuable info below.
Here’s a complete cutting guide for athletes:
Find Your Baseline
Just like with bulking, before you can cut, you have to find your baseline, or caloric maintenance. In case you forgot, your caloric maintenance is the amount of calories you need to eat to maintain your weight. This means you’re neither losing nor gaining weight. You’re keeping your weight steady.
There’s a lot that goes into your caloric maintenance, including your activity level, sport, height, weight, and more.
However, there’s an easy way to find your caloric maintenance. All you need to do is track your calories over 7-14 days. During this time you’ll weigh yourself regularly to pinpoint your caloric maintenance. Once your weight is steady for a couple days, you’ve found your caloric maintenance.
Once you’ve found your caloric maintenance, you can move on to cutting.
Get Into A Caloric Deficit
The next obvious move you need to make is to cut calories. You being an athlete, the goal here is to maintain as much muscle mass as possible while losing fat. This said, you want to be as conservative with your cut as possible.
A good goal is to lose .4% of your bodyweight a week.
If you’re a 200 pound athlete, you’ll multiple .004 by 200 pounds and you’ll get .8 lbs a week. Find whatever the goal number is for your weight.
Next, you’re going to multiply that weekly goal by 3,500. As I said in a previous post, 3,500 calories equals one pound of body fat. When you multiply 3,500 times your weekly goal (.8 in the example above), you’ll find your weekly caloric deficit.
3,500 x .8 = 2,800. So, in the example above, that athlete would have to have a WEEKLY caloric deficit of 2,800 to lose .8 pounds each week.
From there, you’ll divide your weekly caloric deficit by 7 for the 7 days of the week. In the example above, the athlete will be in a caloric deficit of 400 calories a day.
As a quick recap:
Your goal is to lose .4% of bodyweight a week.
Take your weight x .004 to find your weekly weight loss goal (WWLG)
Take your WWLG x 3,500 to find your weekly caloric deficit (WCD)
Take your WCD/7 to find your daily caloric deficit (DCD)
Subtract your DCD from your maintenance calories to find your cutting goal.
Adjust Your Macronutrients
When you’re in a caloric deficit, your body is shedding body fat. And it doesn’t discriminate between fat and muscle. Sometimes, depending on your eating, you can actually eat in a way that causes your body to shed muscle. But, by the same token, you can also eat in a way that limits your muscle loss.
One way to do this is by raising your protein intake. A good number to increase your protein by is 10%, while reducing carbohydrates by 10%.
This is a good number to signal your body to maintain muscle mass.
When you cut calories, and more, carbohydrates, you have a tendency to feel lower energy, sluggish, sometimes tired. This is normal, but there is a way to combat these feelings… With meal timing.
When it comes to cutting for athletes, you need to be more tactful in your nutrient timing. Specifically, you’ll want to consume more carbohydrates around your workouts and practices to fuel your performance.
This way, your gas tank is full for your performances. For the rest of the day, you can consume the rest of your fat and protein.
Cutting for Athletes
As a quick recap, here’s how to cut as an athlete:
- Find your caloric maintenance
- Get into a caloric deficit (aim to lose .4% of your bodyweight a week)
- Raise your protein by 10% to maintain muscle mass. Lower carbohydrate intake by 10% of lower fat and carbohydrate intake by 5% each
- Time your meals so you consume the majority of your carbohydrates around workouts, practices, and games to fill your gas tank
For more nutrition help, and a complete guide to eating as an athlete, you can check out Performance Nutrition.
At the time of this post, it recently dropped, and there’s already a mass of athletes gaining a competitive edge by optimizing their nutrition.