Man lifting weights

The Complete Guide To Cutting

Cutting and bulking are both crucial parts of a bodybuilder’s cycle. In this blog post, we’re taking a deep dive into cutting. We’ll begin by answering the question ‘what is cutting’, before sharing when to cut and useful tips for how to do a cut. Let’s begin.

What Is Cutting?

As mentioned above, there are two key parts of a bodybuilder’s cycle: the bulking phase and the cutting phase. If you’re new to bodybuilding or are wondering ‘what is bulking and cutting’, then keep reading as we’re sharing the answers below.

Bulking is a process that consists of gaining as much quality muscle as possible. During the bulking phase, bodybuilders take in more calories than their body needs, with the excess allowing them to gain muscle mass. Bulking is usually performed during the off-season.

The second period is the cutting phase, where bodybuilders reduce overall body fat while still maintaining muscle mass. A cutting diet usually lasts 2–4 months, depending on how lean a person is before they begin dieting. This diet is normally timed around bodybuilding competitions, athletic events, or occasions such as holidays.

How To Cut

The most important part of the cutting phase is enabling a calorie deficit (Energy Expenditure > Energy Intake). In simple terms, you must burn more calories than you consume. The main reason why people fail during the cutting phase or don’t achieve optimal results is that they do not estimate their energy output and intake. This blog post will share top tips on how to do a cut, to help rectify these mistakes and support you in accurately measuring both parameters.

The three most important methods to lose body fat are:

  • Diet
  • Resistance Training
  • Cardio

We will discuss these methods below. We will look specifically at energy expenditure & calorie deficits, macronutrients & meal timings, along with cardiovascular exercise & resistance training.

Energy Expenditure & Calorie Deficits

In order to cut, it is crucial to be aware of how much energy your body uses and consumes. This can be done by working out your energy expenditure and then enabling a calorie deficit.

Calculating Energy Expenditure

Energy expenditure is the amount of energy your body uses throughout the day. Many websites provide a free TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) calculator, where they estimate your TDEE using your height, weight, gender, age and activity levels. Some people prefer to manually calculate TDEE, however this can provide less accurate results.

Calculating A Calorie Deficit

Firstly, you must know your body weight. This can fluctuate up to ~3-5lbs due to many factors but mainly due to water retention. The most efficient time to weigh yourself is first thing in the morning after your first bowel movement. To find an accurate measure of body weight, you should weigh yourself three days in a row in lbs or kg and average the three readings (Day 1 + Day 2 + Day 3 / 3 = Body Weight).

Once you know your body weight, it’s time to calculate your calorie intake. This will depend on the amount of body fat you want to lose per week. Usually, 1 to 2 lbs per week is a good starting point. This will mean you will be in a calorie deficit of 500-1000K/Cal a day. It is important to note that 1 lb is approximately 3500K/Cal.

For example: If you weigh 80kg, eat 2500K/Cal a day and are aiming to lose 2 lbs a week, this would mean you would need to have a daily energy expenditure of 3500K/Cal (deficit of 1000K/Cal). 1000K/Cal X 7 = 7000K/Cal = 2lbs.

Historically, calculating how many calories you consume has been a very challenging and time-consuming process. Due to advancements in technology, this is no longer an issue, as calorie-counting apps such as ‘My Fitness Pal’ have made it much easier to calculate your overall calorie and macronutrient intake.

Macronutrients & Meal Timings

Macronutrients are the nutrients that provide us with energy and are consumed in larger quantities. They include fats, protein and carbohydrates. Measuring your macronutrient intake as well as your calorie intake is key in preserving muscle mass and recovery following cardio and resistance training. Below you will find information about protein, fat and carbohydrate intake, which will be extremely useful for considering how to do a cut.

Protein Intake

Protein is arguably the most important macronutrient during the cutting phase. Protein is responsible for the repair and growth of muscle fibres following resistance training and cardiovascular activity, therefore is a crucial component for recovery (1). Additionally, it has been found to support fat loss by increasing your metabolism and reducing your appetite (2).

The majority of the scientific literature recommended ~1.6-2 grams of protein per kg of body weight for conserving muscle mass during the cutting phase (3, 4). For example, an 80kg person should be eating 128-160g of protein per day.

Fat Intake

It is a common misconception that fats should be eliminated during a cutting diet. However, they play an important role in hormone production, such as testosterone and IGF-1, which help to preserve muscle mass.

Having said that, some studies suggest that as long as you consume enough protein and carbs, the drop in testosterone levels may not lead to muscle loss. Academics recommend that on this diet, fats should take up 15-30% of your total caloric intake (5).

For example, one gram of fat contains 9 calories, so anyone on a 2500K/Cal a day diet is recommended to eat 42-83g (375-750K/Cal) of fats per day.

Note that if you do a lot of high-intensity exercise, it is recommended that you choose the lower end of this scale to allow more room for carbohydrate intake.

Carbohydrate Intake

Carbohydrates are key sources of energy that help fuel your performance, especially during periods of exercise. This increase in performance will increase calorie expenditure and may enhance overall fat loss (6).

To calculate your carbohydrate intake, it is recommended you add together your protein and fat intake then subtract this number from your target calorie intake. Carbohydrates should make up the majority of your diet when cutting. Keep in mind that carbohydrates and protein both contain 4 calories per gram while fats contain 9 calories per gram.

For example, an 80kg person on a 2,000 calories cutting diet may consume 140g (560K/Cal) of protein and 50g (450K/Cal) of fat. The remaining 990K/Cal (248g) can be made up of carbohydrates. Remember, measuring macronutrients is an important part of the process when considering how to cut.

Meal Timing

If you are a competitive athlete, meal timing is very important, but on a cutting diet, not so much. During this diet, you should focus on sticking to your calorie and macronutrient intake.

If you find that you are regularly becoming hungry during this diet, a good trick is to have a high-calorie breakfast as this may help keep you fuller throughout the day.

Importance Of Refeed Days

During a cutting diet, refeed days are commonly used and are more commonly classed as “cheat days”. These refeed days are a chance to treat yourself to a higher calorie intake following a strict calorie deficit. They are used to increase your carbohydrate intake usually once, and sometimes twice a week. This carbohydrate intake has many physiological benefits. It has been found to balance several hormones such as leptin, restore your body's glucose stores and improve exercise performance.

Refeed days also have a psychological advantage and have been found to boost morale and mood. However, if a refeed day isn’t properly planned, it can majorly hinder progress. Many people overindulge during these days and consume so many calories that it balances out the calorie deficit you have been on the days before.

The key to a successful cheat day is to be on a calorie surplus of only 300-800 calories.

Cardiovascular Exercise & Resistance Training

Along with diet, cardiovascular exercise and resistance training are important when considering how to cut.

Increasing Cardiovascular Training

When used alongside weight lifting, cardiovascular exercise could help increase your fat loss. This is especially true for high-intensity cardio. It is important to keep in mind that you should not push your body too far when increasing training.

Increasing Resistance Training

Resistance training helps to preserve muscle mass when on a cutting diet. Resistance training can be done in various different ways. Resistance bands are a great choice with various options available for different levels, ie beginners, and advanced. Weightlifting is another way to increase resistance training and can be done by using barbells and other home gym equipment.

Additional Tips On How To Cut Bodybuilding

  • Drink plenty of water - Staying hydrated may help curb your appetite and temporarily speed up your metabolism.
  • Try meal prepping - Preparing meals makes it easier to count calories in advance, saves time and keeps you on track with your diet, helping you avoid the temptation of unhealthy foods.
  • Avoid liquid carbs - Sports drinks, soft drinks and other sugar-rich beverages lack micronutrients, may increase your levels of hunger, and aren’t as filling as fibre-rich, whole foods.


Now that you’ve read our guide to cutting, you should have a better insight into what it is and how to cut. To recap, a cutting diet is widely used to maximise fat loss while preserving lean muscle mass. A necessary component of cutting is calculating your calorie and macronutrient intake (protein, carbs and fats) based on your body weight and lifestyle.

Please keep in mind that if you are intending to do this cutting diet, you should consult your trainer or a medical professional to see if the diet is right for you.

If you need help finding the correct gym equipment for your requirements, get in touch with Exersci today. Our friendly team will be happy to help you choose the best equipment for your requirements, whatever stage of the cutting journey you are on.


  1. Paddon-Jones, D., Westman, E., Mattes, R., Wolfe, R., Astrup, A., & Westerterp-Plantenga, M. (2008). Protein, weight management, and satiety. The American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition, 87(5), 1558S-1561S. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/87.5.1558s
  2. Pesta, D., & Samuel, V. (2014). A high-protein diet for reducing body fat: mechanisms and possible caveats. Nutrition & Metabolism, 11(1), 53. doi: 10.1186/1743-7075-11-53
  3. Helms, E. R., Aragon, A. A., & Fitschen, P. J. (2014). Evidence-based recommendations for natural bodybuilding contest preparation: nutrition and supplementation. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 11(1), 1-20.
  4. Helms, E. R., Zinn, C., Rowlands, D. S., & Brown, S. R. (2014). A systematic review of dietary protein during caloric restriction in resistance trained lean athletes: a case for higher intakes. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism, 24(2), 127-138
  5. Helms, E. R., Aragon, A. A., & Fitschen, P. J. (2014). Evidence-based recommendations for natural bodybuilding contest preparation: nutrition and supplementation. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 11(1), 1-20.
  6. Kerksick, C., Harvey, T., Stout, J., Campbell, B., Wilborn, C., Kreider, R., ... & Ivy, J. L. (2008). International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: nutrient timing. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 5(1), 1-12.