Four Biggest Cutting Mistakes
A lot of people are starting their cutting for summer so this is a great time talk about the four biggest cutting mistakes that people make. If you screw up your cutting, one of two bad things will happen. The obvious one is that you wont lose the fat, a cut where you don’t lose fat is obviously a failure. The not so obvious result of a bad cutting plan is that you’ll get ripped but you will lose a lot of muscle in the process.
Now lets look at the four mistakes that cause these undesirable results. Most people who are bulking/cutting are pretty knowledgeable about nutrition so typically the problem is not getting enough protein or eating the right kind of foods because they know they need to eat clean.
- The #1 biggest problem is setting incorrect caloric target. Less calories is not better! You need to eat less calories than your maintenance to lose weight but cut them too much and you lose muscle. If you have good, clean nutrition a 20% deficit is safe. A 25% deficit might be safe and any more is not safe. For cutting as fast as possible without losing muscle I recommend a 25% caloric deficit. If you need help setting your cutting targets, please use my cutting-meal-planner.
- The #2 biggest cutting mistake is not weighing your food. The problem is that the margins are very tight. The average person needs about 2500 calories to maintain their weight and 2000 calories a day to optimally cut. You need to get your daily calories to within a hundred calories of that 2000 number and there is now way in hell you can do that by eyeballing your portions. You have to weigh everything because as I mention before if you cut too much you lose muscle, don’t cut enough and you don’t lose any weight at all. WEIGH EVERYTHING!
- Chasing the scale needle instead of holding your course. Here is what most people do. They start cutting. The first 5 days go well and they lose a bunch of weight. Day 6 their weight goes up so they panic and cut way back on calories. Day 7 their weight is STILL up so they cut their calories even more. Every few days they end up panicking and adjust their calories up or down – Chart a good course and HOLD it for at least 3 weeks without alteration! There is a really good reason for that. When you change your eating habits it can take a LONG time for your body to reach a new equilibrium, especially if you change your macros as well as lowering your calories. A lot of the weight you lost in the first week will be water only so its no wonder your loss rate slows down. Hold your course. As some of you know, I am cutting for a mens physique competition this spring, lets look at my actual daily weight readings so I can show you how useless weight is in gauging progress. The first week I lost eight pounds and for the next three I basically didn’t lose any. Having faith in the meals generated by my cutting-meal-planner I held my course without altering it. So how do I know I did the right thing? Glad you asked! That leads to cutting mistake number 4.
- Not monitoring your progress properly – The scale by itself is meaningless! Let me repeat that! The scale by itself is meaningless! To know if you are losing bodyfat or not you need to do two things, measure your waist and measure your bodyfat. To do this all you need is a $2 measuring tape and a $6 plastic skinfold caliper. To see how to use the tape measure, see how to measure progress and to see how to use the skinfold calipers to get your bodyfat, see my body fat calculator. NO you CANNOT use an electronic bodyfat measurer NO NO NO. The reason is that measuring the thickness of the fat layer under the skin is a direct measurement of what is hiding your definition. Not only that, despite what people claim the electronic ones are NOT accurate. So lets look at the result of the first four weeks of my cut again, this time looking at the bodyfat and the waist measurement. Remember that if we just looked at my scale weight, my cutting would be a failure because my weight has been flat for the last 3 weeks. Lets look at my waist size. Look at this, it started at 35″ and went down to 32.5″ in nearly a straight line! That is CLEAR indication that my bodyfat is going down. Now lets look at my bodyfat. I started with 24 pounds bodyfat and have dropped to 15 pounds bodyfat, again, in nearly a perfectly straight line! Bodyfat going down, waist size going down – 100% success! So why did the weight mislead us? Lots of reason but as I mentioned before, it takes a long time for the body to reach a new equilibrium when you change macros. In my case, I went from nearly 60% carbs with all the beans I was eating down to about 25% carbs – thats a very drastic change and its taken my body a long time to reach an equilibrium. This charting also tells me that I have lost no muscle mass at all during my 30 days of cutting!
By the way, I’ve never mentioned this but I do a lot of posting to Facebook. I post about my contest prep and things I am learning from it. I post my cardio works as I prepare for my half ironman and I try to post useful stuff that can help you. Anyway, if you want, follow me on Facebook.