Blueprint to Cut

Blueprint to Cut

Your 12-week program to get lean and mean!

Wait, isn’t this the ‘off-season?’

You guys must have screwed up, you’re thinking. Maybe you meant to post this next spring? Traditionally, bodybuilders do follow a seasonal pattern in which their physique goals mirror the climate. We tend to adjust our training and nutrition toward the goal of adding muscular bodyweight and strength in the colder months of the year, and look to trim off the bodyfat and get ripped up as the skies are sunnier and the temperatures get warmer.

This makes the most sense for those who choose not to compete, as the summer months are their only opportunity to show off their hard work in the gym and at the dinner table. When it’s cold outside with grey skies and ice and snow on the ground, we tend to cover up in layers of long sleeves and pants.

Why would anyone want to get lean in the fall or winter? Simple. More and more of us no longer wish to only look good a couple months out of the year. There’s nothing healthy or attractive about carrying 20-50 extra pounds of bodyfat. As far as no one seeing what we look like most of the year, that was true in the past. Now we have social media, so you are seen 365 days a year on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and many other platforms.

You can always choose to remain in stealth mode if you prefer, but you’re also free to post pictures all year long if you like. But forget about the whole attention and validation thing. Hopefully you do all this for you. If you want to look and feel your best, that’s accomplished by being lean. This Blueprint to Cut is going to tell you everything you need to know to shed your unwanted bodyfat, because if that’s what you want, you should be able to do it any time you damn well please!

Decide to focus on getting lean

Having the best cutting plan in the world to follow won’t matter one iota if you haven’t adopted the proper mindset, and that is this: your goal is to get lean, not to add muscle mass. I know, I know, you’re not as big as you’d like to be. Unless they call you Big Ramy, who among us is? As such, it’s exceedingly difficult to wrap our heads around the concept of training to maintain our muscle mass, not trying to build more, for any length of time.

This is true even for those of us who haven’t added any new muscle tissue in years. We still feel as if we should always be doing everything in our power to get bigger. This presents a real problem when it’s time to get lean. Self-sabotage is rampant. We hesitate to cut calories and carbohydrates, because we need those to grow. We rationalize doing less cardio or doing it with the lowest intensity possible, because we’re terrified it will ruin ‘our gains.’ In some cases, we might even decide based on our sketchy self-evaluation in the mirror that we are ‘flat,’ and need a couple pizzas to combat the perceived catabolic catastrophe in progress.

Please get this through your heads: you can’t focus on both gaining muscle and losing fat at the same time unless you’re a raw beginner.  One involves eating more than you need and resting a lot, the other requires you to eat less and move a lot more. Hopefully you can see how these are at cross-purposes. Attempting to do both at the same times means you will accomplish neither goal. It’s like saying you’re going to drive to New York and Los Angeles at the same time – you’ll end up stuck in Nebraska!

So when you see the Blueprint to Cut here, don’t go rogue and decide to pile on the carbs or skip all the cardio because you want to make sure you’re still able to grow. Trust me when I say that millions of bodybuilders have found the best way to make gains is to include true cutting phases in which your calories are restricted, and your activity level is increased. Those prime your body to grow when you eventually reintroduce more food and cut back on the cardio. If you stay in permanent off-season mode, your body becomes quite accustomed to that and typically ceases to respond. But that’s a tale for another day. Let’s get you ripped now!

What should I eat?

If you don’t have a solid grasp of what it means to eat ‘clean,’ here’s the quick version. Keep in mind that although many things aren’t technically unhealthy for you, they will make it harder to lose bodyfat. Let’s start with the things you should not be eating.

  • fried food
  • fast food
  • butter and sauces
  • white bread, rolls, pastries, donuts
  • cookies, cake, candy, sugary cereal
  • fruit juice
  • alcohol

Easy enough, right? It’s mostly common sense. Here are the things you should be eating. Bear in mind that a healthy food choice like a chicken breast becomes bad news if you fry it in oil. It should go without saying that chicken nuggets and fast food chicken sandwiches are poor choices compared to grilled or baked chicken. Fish is good when baked or grilled, fish is bad if you fry it in batter. Plain oatmeal is good, packets of flavored oatmeal loaded with sugar are bad.

Clean protein sources:

Chicken breast and thigh, turkey, extra lean ground turkey, eggs, lean cuts of beef, extra lean ground beef, pork tenderloin, fish

Clean carbohydrate sources:

White potato, red potato, sweet potato, yam, white rice, brown rice, oats, cream of wheat, vegetables

Clean (healthy) fat sources:

Salmon, mackerel, egg yolks, raw nuts, almond butter, macadamia nut oil, olive oil, avocado

What should my macros be?

Though I don’t believe ascribing a percentage to macronutrients is the most effective means to get leaner, there is a rough ratio that seems to work well for most people. That’s about 40 percent protein, 35 percent carbohydrates, and 25 percent fats, those coming from healthy fat sources as listed above rather than saturated fats found in fatty cuts of beef, lamb and pork, chicken skin, whole-dairy products like milk, cream, and cheese, butter, ice cream, lard (found in cake), and coconut oil.

Rather than focus on trying to keep those macro numbers in the proper proportions, think instead of taking in only enough carbs as needed. Even when you’re eating clean, you still must expend more calories than you are taking in to lose fat. It’s basic math: calories in vs. calories out. Carbohydrates are the easiest macronutrient to overeat, as our species as a whole craves them. They are the preferred energy source for our bodies.

That’s why doing cardio with copious amounts of carbs in your system is a fail. Your body will choose to use the glycogen (what the body converts all forms of glucose into) stored in your liver and skeletal muscle tissue first. Only once that has been fully depleted will it tap into stored bodyfat. If you’re eating a lot of carbs, it could literally take you hours of cardio before you even begin burning any bodyfat.

How many carbs should I eat, and when?

Keto diets have become extremely popular for two reasons. One, they show rapid results. Carbohydrates attract water molecules, so when you cut carbs out of the diet you always lose substantial water weight in the first week or two. Second, keto diets are moron-proof. As long as you know which foods are carbohydrates and you don’t eat those foods, you’re in compliance.

I have found that most bodybuilders don’t do well on keto diets in the long term, as they begin seeing a loss in lean muscle tissue along with fat. The method I prefer is to lower carbs to only what you require. You do need a certain minimal amount of carbs for normal brain function, so carbs with breakfast are a mainstay.

Beyond that, you really only ‘need’ carbs in the meal before training, which for many of you may already be your first meal/breakfast. This is to provide the fuel for a good workout. Having protein after the workout will preserve muscle mass. But as long as you don’t have a great deal of bodyfat to lose, you should be okay with having carbs in both your pre and post-workout meals.

Cardio

Ah, the dreaded C word! You might hear about some people who claim they got shredded without doing any cardio. Those lucky few are about as common as people who get huge muscles without lifting weights. Since eating very low calories would definitely lead to muscle loss, we use cardio to tip the caloric balance into a deficit while still eating a substantial amount of food.

How much you need to do will vary depending on how much fat you have to lose as well as your particular metabolic rate. For most males, a fat-loss program requires a minimum of 5 cardio sessions per week to see satisfactory results. The best times to do your cardio are in low-glycogen states, such as before your first meal of the day and immediately after training.

If you choose to do your cardio after the weights, wait until the cardio is complete before having your shake. Finally, don’t think leisurely, low-intensity cardio is going to burn the fat off your frame. Put some work into it. Get your breathing and your heart rate up and work up a real sweat! The ‘talk test’ is a perfect barometer of intensity. If you can comfortably hold a conversation with someone, your intensity is too low!

Got all that? Good. Now, here’s a 12-week blueprint to cut for you to follow. You will note that in each successive 4-week phase, your carbs and calories come down while your cardiovascular activity is increased. By the end of the 12 weeks, you should be looking sliced and diced!

Phase 1: Weeks 1-4

Cardio:  4 sessions per week, 30 minutes each

Meal 1:

3 whole eggs, 3 egg whites, 1 cup (dry) oats, handful of berries or packet of Splenda

Meal 2:

6 oz turkey breast, 1 cup vegetables

Meal 3: (pre-workout)

6 oz chicken breast, 1 cup (dry) rice

TRAIN

Post-workout:

40 grams blend whey and casein protein

Meal 3: (post-workout)

6 oz white fish, medium sweet potato

Meal 4:

6 oz lean ground beef, green salad with lite dressing or vinegar

Meal 5:

6 oz salmon, 1 cup vegetables

Phase 2: Weeks 5-8

Cardio:  5 sessions per week, 35 minutes each

Meal 1:

3 whole eggs, 3 egg whites, 3/4 cup (dry) oats, handful of berries or packet of Splenda

Meal 2:

6 oz turkey breast, 1 cup vegetables

Meal 3: (pre-workout)

6 oz chicken breast, 3/4 cup (dry) rice

TRAIN

Post-workout:

40 grams blend whey and casein protein

Meal 3: (post-workout)

6 oz white fish, small sweet potato

Meal 4:

6 oz lean ground beef, green salad with lite dressing or vinegar

Meal 5:

6 oz salmon, 1 cup vegetables

Phase 3: Weeks 9-12

Cardio:  6 sessions per week, 40 minutes each

Meal 1:

3 whole eggs, 3 egg whites, 1/2 cup (dry) oats, plain or with packet of Splenda

Meal 2:

6 oz turkey breast, 1 cup vegetables

Meal 3: (pre-workout)

6 oz chicken breast, 1/2 cup (dry) rice

TRAIN

Post-workout:

40 grams blend whey and casein protein

Meal 3: (post-workout)

6 oz white fish, small sweet potato (note: if you aren’t close to your bodyfat goal by the start of this final phase, have vegetables instead of the sweet potato)

Meal 4:

6 oz lean cut of steak such as sirloin, green salad with lite dressing or vinegar

Meal 5:

6 oz salmon or 4 whole eggs, 1 cup vegetables

Christian King
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