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Finding a balance between a healthy diet and workout routine, so that you can keep muscle mass whilst cutting down the fat, can be tricky.
Often people want to trim down in specific areas, such as the abdomen, without losing the definition of muscles they have worked so hard to create.
You can’t just cut down on calories and expect to maintain your muscle mass and strength. The body needs fuel to maintain the muscles you have gained.
Therefore finding a balance between your diet and your workouts is essential in trying to preserve your muscle mass whilst cutting.
Make sure your diet is right
First it is important that you pay close attention to your diet. You may not need the high calorie diet you were on to bulk up, in fact you will need considerably less if you want to cut, but you still need the essential nutrients to maintain your muscle mass and provide you with energy.
Protein is of key importance, it provides the body with the essential amino acids it can’t synthesise itself.
Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and proteins are what form the foundation of muscle tissue.
The body utilises the protein you receive in your diet, in the production and maintenance of muscle fibres. So even when cutting, it is vital that you consume enough protein to maintain your muscle mass.
During a cutting phase it is best to gain your protein from low fat complete protein sources such as lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs and low fat dairy, or from combinations of incomplete proteins such as whole grains, legumes, beans, seeds and nuts.
Don’t forget about fats
Fats are also very important in the preservation and maintenance of muscle mass.
Yes, during a cutting phase you want to cut down on extra calories to lose the unwanted fat, but good fats actually assist in burning adipose tissue (fat) and keep your metabolism functioning at its optimal level. It also plays a vital role in balancing hormones, such as testosterone.
Even though reducing your carbohydrate intake is an effective way of cutting, carbohydrates still play an important role in the basic functions of your body, including the maintenance of muscle mass.
Try to cut your carb intake down to around 2 grams per pound of body weight and cycle your carb intake.
Split the week up into low, medium and high carb days, alternating from about 0.5 grams to 2.5 grams per pound, making sure you have more low and medium carb days than high carb days.
It’s also important to ensure you are getting your carbs from healthy choices, so avoid breads and pastas and instead opt for brown rice, oat, sweet potatoes, green vegetables and green apples.
Exercise is also obviously still an important factor in the cutting phase, not only to assist in cutting fat, but also in maintaining your muscle definition.
Maintaining the same heavy loads and medium reps is important, because using lighter loads will encourage the body to adjust and will result in loss of muscle mass.
Increasing your cardio training will also aid in cutting fat, just make sure you fuel the body well so that it doesn’t have to resort to using muscle tissue for fuel.