Now that the clocks have sprung forward, the nights are starting to getting lighter and summer is (almost) upon us.
Summer evening BBQ's, pub garden sessions, festival season and holidays abroad are all incoming.
You now start to realise that if you really are going to have the shredded summer body you desire - it may be time to start losing some of the excess weight gained over the last few months.
Whether that is down to lack of diet discipline, Christmas over-indulgence or the cycle of your 'dirty bulk', you will want to start mapping out your journey to a lower body fat percentage and a more aesthetically pleasing appearance.
Starting with plenty of time in hand allows you to achieve your body transformation results more naturally and with plenty of margin for safety.
This prevents the scenario of you having an excessive starvation period come May when you realise you are way behind your ideal schedule.
Before we get into it, let’s look at some of the ‘Broscience Myths’ which tend to circulate with regards to losing fat:
- No carbs after 6pm
- Eat 6-8 small meals each day
- Meal timing is key
- Adjust your training to do high reps
You do not need to follow these guidelines ❌
These instructions form as part of the ‘bro-science culture’. This is essentially cliché gym and diet Information passed on and continually digested without logical thought.
You can freely subscribe to the bro-science way of training, however, it is a lot of specific and complex effort for no greater reward.
The truth is that losing fat isn’t an overly complex procedure. Especially not to the extent it can so often be made out. It ultimately comes down to one key calculation -
Calories In vs Calories Out
Everyone is different, meaning that we can't all eat 2000 calories a day and expect to lose the same amount of weight - some may even gain weight.
Everybody has their own “Caloric maintenance level” which is determined by their own genetics, body type, daily activity and metabolism.
Therefore, the first thing you will want to do is work out your body's calorie maintenance level - that is the number of calories your body maintains its current weight at:
Weight in lbs X 14 (to) 16
This will give you a scale of the higher and lower end of your calorie maintenance. Higher if you are more active day-to-day, lower if you are less so.
(It is a trial and error procedure which will require altering along the way)
From here, all you need to consider is that anything below will result in a calorie deficit (weight loss) whilst calorie intake above that level will impact in a surplus (weight gained).
Subtracting 300-700 calories from your own daily maintenance level will get you started in the right direction - depending on your timescale and intended aggression towards your cut.
The key to success is the long-term consistency of a sensible calorie deficit through the combination of diet and activity.
Of these calories and your own unique maintenance level, you need to break them down into macronutrient categories/allowances to find your daily grams ideally for:
- Protein 🍗
- Carbs 🍞
- Fat 🧀
To calculate your protein intake (g):
Body Weight lbs x 0.8 (to) 1.2
The leaner you are in terms of body mass, the higher your protein intake will want to be (1.2). If you have more body fat %, then less protein initially (0.8).
To calculate your daily fat intake (g):
Body weight lbs x 0.3 - 04
Using what you have already worked out - you will need to use the calorie qualifiers per-macro:
Fat - 9 calories
Protein - 4 calories
Carbohydrates - 4 calories
To calculate your carbs intake (g):
'Fat grams' x 9
'Protein grams' x 4
Cutting calories ( - takeaway) Fat + Protein calories (as above)
Divided by 4
This will give you your recommended carb intake in grams.
You can track all of you Macros using the MyFitnessPal application which includes a deep and detailed database of foods and their nutritional content.
In order to qualify that your formula is working and you have your numbers correctly balanced, weighing yourself and noting the outcome at the same time, daily, is crucial to get you started.
Follow your initial calculations and adjust based on the success or lack of progression.
Remember - IIFYM - If It Fits Your Macros, Eat It.
If you do not want to be this specific, that is fair enough.
In this case, as long as you have a clear picture in your mind of your calorie maintenance level and can work to achieve a calorie exchange in a deficit, you can still lose weight successfully.
Simple lifestyle changes initially such as switching from full sugar to zero-calorie drinks, full-fat oil to oil spray and using skimmed milk will make a difference and will get the ball rolling with regards to gradually reducing calorie intake in the early stages.
Alongside this, if you can introduce a consistent increase in physical activity, it will lay the foundations for the ongoing months of steady weight loss.
Let's assume you plan to begin your next phase at the start of February and you are aiming to hit peak condition (personal end goal) for the start of July.
This gives you 5 months or just over 21 weeks to work with.
Realistically, during a cutting phase, you should aim to lose 1-2 pounds a week, giving you the potential to lose up to 40 pounds or 17kg in that time.
Therefore, work out the percentage of this amount which you want to lose and it will give you your own time frame to work around.
With regards to weight training, you have three different options based on your priority, nutrition, current body type and time frame. These are:
- Continue to put on weight, build further muscle and have a shorter cutting window
- Prioritise fat loss, losing muscle but maximising what is visible post-shred
- Diet/Nutrition periodisation - maintain as much muscle as possible with more gradual fat loss
The main thing to observe is your strength for your primary exercises. As long as you can maintain your strength, or potentially increase it, then you are on the right track.
Make your main priority compound lifts, and then move onto isolation exercises and machine work after these:
- Bench press
- Overhead Press
Continuing to bulk/mini bulk period -
If you are continuing or choosing to bulk for the next couple of months, in order to try and build more muscle, (as you have a body type which is not too far away from your ideal fat %), then you want to maximise the potential of the time you have left.
This means eating in a calorie surplus and training as intensely and consistently as possible.
By taking this route, you may naturally have to accept that the shredded look might be sacrificed to some extent, depending on the time you choose to leave for your cut - But that is all down to your own preference and ideal look.
Growth is just stressing your muscles and feeding them adequately over and over again. There really isn't a lot else you can do to accelerate the process.
The only supplements that will help fast track your gains are anabolic steroids.
Regarding legal options, it is only about supporting yourself to meet nutrition goals - ie protein powder or a multivitamin - but all of this can be attained through diet, depending on your meal versatility and convenience.
A pre-workout may also be considered if you require additional energy to produce the required power. But do not go spending £100's of pounds on fancy supplements thinking they will give you an overnight miracle.
Fat loss priority -
If you feel that you really need to begin leaning down at a significant rate already to reach your ideal body fat %, then there are a few things you will need to consider.
In a cutting phase (calorie deficit), your gym performance is not going to be optimal and you will suffer a lack of energy.
The weak gym performance is a result of massive demands on glycogen stores (source of energy during workout) which are often depleted due to the inadequate calorie intake.
Low glycogen stores during a workout prevent you from training with the intensity required to maintain muscle cells.
The body can tolerate this for a few sessions but you’ll soon leave the gym feeling physically and mentally drained.
The natural way to prevent this is to decrease intensity in the gym, consequently, you can’t maintain muscle during this period.
Everyone will lose muscle at alternative rates and it is not an overnight thing.
Essentially your weight lifting activity is an attempt to combat the situation and maximise the potential of the visible muscle post-shred.
Since your carbohydrate intake will have reduced, perhaps ensure you consume a certain amount of your carb allowance before you go to the gym to boost your energy levels.
You can also invest in a pre-workout supplement or drink black coffee.
It is something to be aware of and therefore manage your expectations with when training and choosing to prioritise fat loss vs having a more muscular size.
Diet/Nutrition periodisation -
With time in hand, this option allows for absolute minimum muscle loss while burning maximum fat, all whilst potentially gaining strength (not muscle) at the same time. For this approach, it's important to get the idea of a daily calorie deficit out of your head.
The body views calories in a weekly way. Therefore, having a set number of calories as a weekly target (daily maintenance x 7) allows you to borrow calories from one day to use on another.
As long as the total weekly target is set, it doesn't matter how you've reached it and fat loss will be the same.
Through strategic planning, you can cycle nutrition while staying in an average caloric deficit. Note average.
Using a periodisation approach you only need 2 or 3 days in a deep deficit to maintain steady weight/fat loss.
This way you can eat more (increase glycogen stores) on your intense gym days so that you can optimally fuel the muscles to train with the intensity required to maintain size and strength.
The main thing to observe is your strength for your primary exercises. As long as you can retain your strength, or potentially increase it, you are on the right track.
As you get deep into the cut, you will notice that the rate at which you are losing weight is reducing, this is where you may have to reduce your caloric intake further or even incorporate some form of cardio.
Just remember, cardio doesn’t necessarily mean running on a treadmill for 45 minutes a day, there are many different forms of it, try and find one which you enjoy. Here are a few options:
- Football ⚽️
- Boxing 🥊
- Hill Sprints 🏃🏻
- Swimming 🏊🏻♀️
- Tennis 🎾
We all want to be able to achieve our results without a significant disruption to our social lives. So If you eat out quite a lot, this isn’t a major issue, however, you may want to make a few adjustments.
Most places tend to offer low-calorie meal options but if it isn’t your fancy, then it may have to adjust your macros or alternatively use a cheat day.
This can be a psychological gateway which allows you to indulge and acts as a temporary release from your discipline.
But cheat days, also known as ‘refeed’ days, are actually worthwhile. With the idea being when you've been in a caloric deficit for x amount of time, they allow you to take in an unusually large amount of calories (relative to your current diet) and have your body convert the calories into something useful.
Your body is in starvation mode so there is usually rapid uptake and virtually zero fat gain.
However, do not allow cheat days to take control. They should be few and far between - not the norm.
Ultimately, it is just about taking precaution and being sensible - all in moderation.
One factor which can be a downfall to many people is alcohol. Calories from drinks, even non-alcoholic can be overlooked massively.
For example, a pint of beer can have anything from 200 calories (potentially 15-20% of your maintenance) upwards. So a “quiet one down the pub” can be detrimental, depending on the frequency.
5 low-calorie alcoholic (or alternative) drinks - 🍻 🥂 🍷 🥃 🍸 🍹
- Vodka lime soda
- Low-calorie mixer + spirit
- Whiskey on the rocks
- Coors Light
- Mocktail 🤔
Alternatively, you can always improvise by increasing your cardio to compensate for the session you are about to endure.
5 Elite Tips For Shredding Season
- Train with someone whose company you enjoy and is reliable
- Create an addictive music playlist which you keep frequently updated for cardio sessions
- Find a low-calorie sauce you enjoy to add flavour to bland food
- Experiment with Intermittent Fasting
- Stay motivated - remember, why you started and what the alternative is