Lose Fat

Death to the Bulk and Cut Diet

Stop the never-ending yo-yo of packing on size, then stripping away fat to get ripped. Try this recomp diet to get bigger and leaner simultaneously.

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Muscle

Traditional bulk-and-cut diets are antiquated, inefficient, and just plain stupid. You’ve probably heard it a million times: “I’m going to eat a ton of calories and put on all this muscle mass, then I’ll cut all my fat away and look shredded and huge.” You know what really happens? Your bulk ends up leaving you looking like the Michelin Man, and your cut leaves you looking like a marathoner. You don’t need to add layers of fat to add muscle, nor do you have to burn muscle to lean out.

Bottom line: You can work toward muscle gain and fat loss at the same time (aka recomposition, or “recomp” for short), even though you’ve been led to believe differently. What’s the secret? You work with your body. You fluctuate between periods of caloric deficit and caloric surplus, maximizing the anabolic response of training on workout days while facilitating fat loss on off days. By playing off the interaction between these anabolic and catabolic processes, you can work toward building the best physique of your life.

To be clear, your body doesn’t care how lean and muscular you are. It cares only about survival. If gaining muscle were easy, we’d all be walking around looking like Arnold. Muscle building is hard, and it takes time. If your training and nutrition aren’t spot-on, you’ll just be spinning your wheels. This is where the old bulk-and-cut routine fails you. Sure, it’s fun to eat everything in sight, and it can be effective, but there’s a big difference between effective and optimal.

Your diet should place you in an environment where your food goes toward building muscle, not being stored as fat. The traditional bulking diet does the opposite of this: By always staying in a caloric surplus, your body becomes used to storage. The fatter you get, the fatter your body allows you to become.

During the typical bulking period, body fat increases, which leads to a cascade of negative hormonal effects. Increased body fat leads to a decreased ability to feel full, reduced carbohydrate metabolism, more testosterone converted to estrogen, and less metabolic flexibility. All these factors lead to less-than-optimal nutrient repartitioning (or, in layman’s terms, where your calories go when you eat them), whereas the goal of any diet should be to improve how efficiently your body uses nutrients.

On the opposite end of the spectrum— the cutting phase—if you’re always
in a caloric deficit, you’ll experience a decrease in thyroid hormones and thus metabolism. Your hunger will increase and your testosterone will decrease, cueing the onset of a host of other undesirable side effects. A diet lacking the proper amount of calories and macro- and micronutrients will also lead to suboptimal muscle gains. The key is finding a proper balance between the two.

Bacon

Bacon

The saturated fat and cholesterol in foods like bacon fuel testosterone production. Bacon is also high in choline—which aids memory—plus zinc, iron, and magnesium.

Enter the Fast

It’s time to break your vicious 24/7 eating cycle. This is where some short fasting— abstaining from eating for 12–24 hours— comes in handy. Before you dismiss it, open your mind and consider the logic. What happens when you don’t eat for a few hours? With no food, your insulin levels are low. When insulin is low, the body shifts to using more stored fat for energy; this is why fasting can be so useful in stripping body fat. Fasting has also been shown to increase carbohydrate metabolism, lower your risk of heart disease, reduce inflammation, and provide other anti-aging and longevity benefits.

But isn’t not eating...catabolic? The short answer is yes. But, do you think we would have survived and evolved as humans if we couldn’t endure some stretches of low food intake? Although many people have become terrified of the word “catabolism,” it actually serves many useful purposes. For example, the breakdown of fat for energy is a catabolic process. Still scared of it? The body needs these periods of reduced food intake to regulate itself and clean up the junk we constantly fill it with. In other words, you need to give your body and your digestive system a chance to reset.

But what about muscle loss? You’ve been told that if you don’t have a constant supply of protein, your muscle will shrivel and die. This is absurd. As long as you consistently aim for a positive protein balance, where protein synthesis is greater than protein breakdown, your hard-earned muscle will be at the very least retained, if not increased. You can do this just as easily by having all your protein

in three meals as you can with six meals. There are also plenty of mechanisms that occur during fasting that actually protect muscle, like, for example, increases in growth hormone.

A short fast will actually decrease bodyfat stores, improve your carbohydrate metabolism, protect muscle, increase your metabolism (shown in fasts up to 36–48 hours), and help you live longer. That said, in the diet that follows, you’ll reserve fasting for off days, as you need a full supply of energy on training days to ensure an effective session and full recovery. Your workouts need to stay productive so the body sees muscle as something necessary to keep. Fat stores will be a bit more expendable because your body will want to preserve muscle to keep up with your workouts.

Greens

Greens

Leafy greens such as spinach, collard greens, and Swiss chard are high
in beta-carotene, plus folate, which can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and depression.

Peri-Workout Nutrition

Dieting really is simple. Any reasonably thought-out plan the dieter can adhere to will work, assuming there’s proper caloric intake and macronutrient ratios. But you want your diet to do more than just “work.” There are certain tools you can use and manipulate to ensure you’re reaching your desired goal. Two of the most effective tools are fasting, as discussed, and altering peri-workout (pre-, intra- and post-workout) nutrition.

While there are a couple of effective ways to change your peri-workout nutrition, avoiding carbs post-workout may be the most surprising one to gym rats. Now, before you spit out your protein shake in objection, consider the following facts:

Normally, you finish a workout and rush home to slam a shake consisting of protein and fast-acting carbs. Are these carbs truly necessary post-workout? A recent study found that protein and carbohydrates post-workout did not further increase protein synthesis when compared with consuming only protein post-workout. Not only that, but the protein-only group showed a higher net-protein balance, which is just as important as the level of protein synthesis, if not more important.

Despite what you‘ve been told, carbs really aren’t needed post-workout, and may actually diminish some of the benefits of your training. You need carbs only to fuel high-intensity activity and to recover if you’re training multiple times per day, as a pro athlete would. For everyone else, post-workout is a perfect time to jump-start fat loss, because stored carbs (glycogen) at that time are low, so fatty acids are the primary energy source.

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