Many bodybuilders use a cyclic diet in order to build mass and then lose fat to expose the muscle developed during the mass-building phase. The mass-building phase is often referred to as bulking, while the fat-loss phase is known as cutting. Cutting is the more difficult aspect of this process for many people due to the calorie restriction necessary to achieve fat loss.
During the bulking phase, calories are increased in order to give muscles energy and increase their mass. Athletes and those following a demanding training program require a minimum of 23.6 calories per pound of body weight, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. That would mean a 200 pound man with a rigorous exercise routine requires at least 4720 each day in order to increase muscle mass. The type of nutrients consumed are also important, and bodybuilders should aim to consume between 500 and 600 grams of carbohydrates each day, along with .68 g of protein per pound of body weight to properly fuel muscles and encourage growth.
A cutting diet consists of consuming fewer calories than you burn through metabolic processes and physical activity in order to create a calorie deficit. This calorie deficit is what causes weight loss. On a cutting diet, the main goal is to lose body fat while conserving as much muscle as possible. In order to do this, protein levels need to remain at the same level as the bulking phase.
In fact, increasing protein consumption from .68 g to .81 or .9 g of protein per body pound can allow you to gain muscle while losing fat on a reduced calorie diet, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. Maintaining intense resistance-training during this time is crucial to avoid losing muscle mass or strength gained during the bulking phase.
Staples of a proper cutting diet include lean meats, such as chicken or lean cuts of beef with all visible fat trimmed away. Egg whites are a low-calorie, high-protein food choice and can be prepared with vegetables to create cutting diet-friendly omelets. Avoid simple carbs, such as bread, and high-fat foods including cheese, processed meats and whole milk during this phase. Complex carbs found in sweet potatoes and oats will provide you with enough energy while limiting processed sugars. Green vegetables should be eaten in abundance as they provide nutrients and will help you feel full while maintaining a calorie deficit.
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