Once you’ll build satisfying amount of muscle mass you might notice that you’ve also gained some fat. Unfortunately this is how it works – if you eat more calories that you burn (above maintenance) you will gain a bit of fat along with muscle. If you eat clean and/or perform some aerobic training like playing football, basketball or simple cardio sessions along with your bodybuilding training, fat increase should be minimal or quiet small. However if you go on dirty bulk – eating much pizzas, burgers, chips or other takeaways during hypertrophy (muscle building) cycle; you might gain so much fat you won’t be able to see your muscles at all. Basically you’ll be looking fat and not very impressive.
One way or another after finished muscle building period you might want to burn some fat to uncover your hard earned muscles. This bodybuilding cycle is called ‘cutting’ or training for ‘definition’. In this article I’ll describe briefly how to burn fat – basic rules that will help you to understand the whole process of building muscular body with very little fat on it – aesthetic physique.
1. Eat less that you burn.
The most important thing in cutting cycle is the diet. If you want to burn fat you have to simply eat less calories that you use each day (below maintenance). We do so by eating less carbohydrates (bread, pasta, rice, potatoes). We can add a little bit more protein and vegetables instead; to fill our stomach.
To simplify it I will explain it with an example:
- instead eating 3 slices of bread with 2 eggs, eat 1 slice of bread with 2-3 eggs;
- instead of 6 scoops of potatoes with steak, eat 1 scoop with steak and a half;
- instead of 2 cups of rice with chicken breast, half a cup with 1,5 breast.
Again these are just examples. I will cover this subject deeper in the future articles.
2. Lift weights.
You still have to perform weight training to exercise muscles that you have built. Without lifting weights your muscles will be getting smaller when you are on a cutting diet. During this bodybuilding cycle you want to burn fat while maintain as much muscle mass as possible. Unfortunately when we are in a calorie deficit state (catabolism) our body will want to burn some muscles along with body fat to save energy; however heavy weight training with high protein diet should spare most of our musculature.
3. Add aerobic training
Our body burns fat (use it as energy) when we perform low intensity aerobic training. In other words when we walk, jog slowly or ride a bike or play some sort sports. That’s why it’s beneficial to add one or two sessions of this type of activity to help the fat burning process.
Very effective and the simplest form of fat burning aerobic activity is walking, especially at morning before breakfast – with an empty stomach (in a fasted state); however playing soccer or low intensity cardio session at your gym (bike, treadmill, etc..) once a week will be good as well.
For most individuals 45-60 minutes session once a week is enough. People with fast metabolism or busy lifestyle don’t really need much cardio. They will burn fat even without it. On the other hand guys with slow metabolism or much body fat might want to do 2 or even 3 aerobic sessions per week.
When we are on a diet for a longer period of time our body will adapt to it. Basically it will start to use less energy and won’t burn as much fat as it used to. To avoid this situation we have to cheat from time to time. To do so we will simply eat a normal meal – with loads of carbohydrates in it. It’s called a cheat meal. We can also have a cheat day when we consume loads of carbs throughout whole day. The purpose of cheat meals/days is to confuse our body. We want to make it think we are not on a diet any more so it will start to burn more calories again.
If we are on a diet for very long we can stop it and eat normally for the whole week. It can cause gain of 1-2 pounds at the time but in a long term it will help us to avoid stagnation and burn more fat over all.
To be honest, that’s it. This is how you burn fat. Diet is the most important thing. Without cutting carbohydrates and eating below maintenance level you’ll not burn much fat. Doesn’t matter how hard or often you train.
Weight training is essential to maintain muscles you’ve build before. First you don’t want to lose them, second the more muscles you have the more calories your body is burning (more energy it needs).
Adding cardio session each week is another basic and important rule during fat burning cycle however don’t perform too much of this kind of activity. Too many aerobic trainings can decrease muscle mass.
Have cheat meals, days or even weeks from time to time. It might sound like a step back at the time but in a long term it will make you feel better and help to avoid plateaus.
Cutting cycle or training for definition is a last step of any bodybuilder preparing himself for competition. After gaining loads of strength and size during off season he wants to burn as much fat as he can (often drops to as little as 5% of body fat) to uncover the definition of his muscles along with striations, vascularity and separation between them.
Even if you don’t plan to start in any bodybuilding contest it’s nice to have lower body fat, especially for a summer. People with lower body fat generally have more testosterone, energy and look fitter than guys with big beer bellies. Additionally you will appear far more muscular and better looking athlete.