Summer Cutting Guide

How To Get Your Body Summer-Ready Without Losing Your Mind

Actors, models, and bodybuilders-you know, the guys with bulging biceps and flat stomachs that are out of reach for the average person-have a dirty secret: they don't look like that all year round. In fact, in many cases, they only have a few weeks out of the year to keep their body fat levels low. Think about it: everyone only has one brief moment when they have to look their best - for a photo shoot, a movie scene, or a fitness competition. For the rest of the time, they may not indulge, but they're not going to drive themselves crazy weighing food and counting every calorie, either.

If you're like many people, you have an inherent off-season in your life: winter. What's the point of keeping your body fat low during the coldest months of the year if the only benefits of keeping it low are a weakened immune system and a slightly slimmer figure in snowproof clothing? The natural change of seasons has given rise to a popular concept in the fitness world: summer cutting (or "summer shredding," if you prefer the rhyme). Summer dieters use the winter months to build muscle and (hopefully) gain muscle by consuming a caloric surplus. The winter months become valuable not only because you can't expect to gain much muscle without those extra calories, but also because psychologically, it's easier to go through a period of caloric restriction (the dreaded diet) if you're prepared for a period of unrestricted eating.

Hence the summer cut.

Here are our helpful tips to help you successfully lose weight in the summer without losing your mind. First of all, it involves developing a strategy and action plan that you both understand and can stick to. While it's great to tell yourself that you'll cut your intake by 1,000 calories a day, if you end up not being able to stick to the plan and end up alleviating guilt by eating junk food, then your plan is doomed to fail. Getting Started. Again, once you have a plan in place, you need to know what steps you can take to ensure its success.

So here is your guide to the perfect summer diet.

Summer Cutting Guide
#1 - Developing a Strategy

This is the boring part and involves some math, but bear with me. You need to know some basic facts about yourself: how much you weigh (use a scale), what your body fat percentage is (use calipers, a fitness scale, or just ask a friend or an online fitness community - you just need a rough estimate), and how many calories you need each day to maintain your weight (basal metabolic rate, or BMR). You can calculate that last number by entering your age, gender and weight into an online calculator.

Now that you know these things, it's time to plan your fat loss pace. In order to lose fat and retain muscle at the same time, it is best not to over-restrict calories. The consensus seems to be that a daily intake of less than 500 calories is ideal; if followed correctly, this should allow you to lose about a pound of fat per week. Let's say you calculate a BMR of 2500 - this is how many calories your body needs per day to maintain its weight (assuming no exercise). Subtract 500 from that and you have your daily calorie goal: 2000 calories.

Next you need to think long-term. If you're a 200-pound male with an estimated 20 percent body fat and you'd like to get down to 10 percent (the point at which most people see visible, well-defined abs), you'll need to lose 10 percent body fat, or 20 pounds (10 percent of 200 pounds). At a rate of 1 pound per week, it will take you 20 weeks to reach your goal. That may seem like a long time, but staying conservative on your limits, first of all, ensures that you don't lose too much muscle mass as you lose weight, and, as an added bonus, makes you less likely to cheat on your diet.

#2 - Go grocery shopping

As you prepare to transition from winter bulk to summer cuts, take a moment to clean out all the junk food in your kitchen and pantry. That half-finished peanut butter? Get rid of it, because chances are, it's too tempting for you to give up when you start restricting your calorie intake. The same goes for ice cream, soda, white bread-anything with a lot of calories but little nutritional value.

The next thing to do is to head to the grocery store, where you'll buy tons of foods like spinach, lettuce, rice, Greek yogurt, and lean meats. Eggs and egg whites are also staples. If you're a member of a place like CostCo, you can always stock up on tons of lean meats that you can freeze when you get home.

Psychologically, there are two main benefits here. First, by spending a lot of money on healthy foods up front, you are committing to a healthy diet. No one likes to waste money, and wasting food is a waste of money. Next, by getting rid of those easy-to-eat, diet-destroying snacks in your kitchen and replacing them with healthier choices, you'll give yourself no choice but to eat healthy, and pretty soon your reward circuit will Once you get started, you'll feel good about sticking to your diet.

Summer Cutting Guide
#3 - Calculating your macros

Once you have calculated how many calories you want to consume each day, the next thing to calculate is your macronutrient requirements, i.e. the ratio of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. For our purposes, the most important is protein, but carbohydrates and fats are also very important. As a general rule of thumb, you want 15% to 30% of your total calories to come from fat, and you need about 1 gram of protein per pound of fat-free body weight. So, in our hypothetical above, a 200-pound man with 20% body fat would need about 160 grams of protein per day. The rest of the calories come from carbohydrates, so calculate 15% of 2000 (fat) and multiply 160 (grams of protein) by 4, since each gram of protein contains 4 calories. The total number of calories from protein and fat is 940, leaving 1060 calories from carbohydrates, or about 265 grams of carbohydrates per day.

Summer Cutting Guide
#4 - Adjust your workout program

When there is a calorie deficit, something funny happens to the body. Your primitive brain won't know that you're intentionally depriving your body of food, so it goes into starvation mode. If you want to keep your hard-earned muscle, you have to go against your body's instincts. This means reducing the total training volume (fewer repetitions), but increasing the intensity (using near-maximal weights). The heavier weights will force your body to preserve muscle mass, which is more likely to draw energy from your fat stores.

On the other hand, if you continue to punish your body as if you're burning more calories, it's only a matter of time before fatigue, exhaustion or even injury sets in. Your ability to work out in the gym depends heavily on the food you eat, so when you cut back on your workouts, make sure you slow down your fitness sessions accordingly.