Cutting Diet : What to Eat, What to Avoid

Updated on March 12th, 2020
cutting diet

Bodybuilders follow a cutting diet with the ultimate aim of cutting down the body’s fat and building on the muscles. Unlike many generic weight-loss diets, one can tailor a cutting diet to their bodily needs.

It involves a significant intake of carbs and proteins, while completely cutting down on fats, and must be accompanied by weightlifting to help with the muscle growth. The weightlifting helps when you start cutting calories, which in most diets, are often consumed in more significant numbers to build on muscles.

Bodybuilders are among the leanest and fittest of athletes. Men can drop down to as little as having 10% of body fat, while women can come as low as 12%. A cutting diet often lasts anywhere between 2-4 months. The duration is determined by how lean the individual is before the beginning of the diet. The diet is concentrated within such a short period to prepare for bodybuilding events or competitions.

Did You Know!

A cutting diet is tailored to every individual’s body and subsequent needs, unlike several fat-loss or weight-loss plans.

Rules of a Cutting Diet

1. Count Your Calorie Intake

An individual’s calorie intake often depends on their age, weight, height, and lifestyle. However, when it comes to a cutting diet, you should be mindful and eat fewer calories than you generally burn to eliminate the body’s fat effectively.

On average, a man or a woman needs to consume 500 calories lesser than their ideal daily calorie intake to aid the process of fat loss. However, ensure that it’s only the fat that is done away with while building on the muscles.

2. Maintain a High Protein Intake

High Protein Foods

High protein intake is necessary to follow a cutting diet as the body must be kept away from tapping into its protein sources to gain energy. As this can lead to the eventual loss of muscle, it is essential that you up your daily protein intake to aid with muscle-building(1).

On average, an individual must consume at least 0.7 to 0.9 grams per pound of their body weight in order to sufficiently counter the cutting down of the fatty sources from the diet.

The best means, aside from including proteins in your daily meal plan, is to consume a high source of it at night, so the protein can work on repairing and building your muscles while you’re asleep. This doubles the rate at which the body can develop its muscles.

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3. Consume Adequate Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates form an essential part of the cutting diet routine. As your body needs the energy to perform its daily tasks, it mustn’t be forced to tap into the body’s protein intake in order to provide itself with this energy. The body often does this when the fatty sources are cut off from the diet while also being accompanied by an inadequate intake of protein.

Thus, consuming adequate carbs to fuel your body’s daily functions is a must. In fact, apart from helping the body meet its basic energy requirements(1), a sufficient intake of carbs can also help boost one’s performance while working out.

4. Determine Your Fat Intake


While it might sound convenient to cut down on the intake of fats completely, it must be noted that a certain amount of healthy fats are essential for the body. Healthy fats can provide the body with a part of the energy it needs to perform its daily tasks, while also regulating insulin levels.

It’s recommended that while the first few meals of the day are rich in carbs and proteins, the meals consumed in the second half of the day can be rich in fats to effectively aid in the process of its burning and provide the body with an energy bank.

[Read: Morning Banana Diet]

5. Keep a Check on Your Cheat Meals

Following a diet as strict as a cutting diet often leads to intense cravings, especially when you’ve lowered your calorie levels. To avoid giving in to a stream of food that doesn’t form a part of your cutting diet, give yourself one cheat meal a week.

You could do this on the weekends when you’re out with friends or family, and you can allow yourself to eat whatever you want. While one cheat meal won’t lead to an imbalance, it’s recommended that you do not go overboard,  as that could come at a cost to your diet.

Cardio can be extremely useful in burning fat when included in tandem with a cutting diet.

Meal Plan

Building your muscles involves religiously sticking to the following meal plan week after week, for a few months. The following are the foods that you should include in your meals throughout the entire period.

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1. Proteins

Eggs, ham, chicken, mutton, fish, cottage cheese, and protein powder are some of the best sources to incorporate protein in your diet. You can also include some varieties of cheese in moderation.

You can space these out through the various meals in a day; for example, you could have eggs and ham for breakfast, the protein shake post-workout, the meats and cottage cheese in your subsequent meals, and so on.

2. Carbohydrates


Whole-wheat bread, sweet potatoes, oatmeal, brown rice, and yams are excellent sources of carbs to incorporate in your daily dietary routine.

Just like proteins, you can include them in your diet in varied combinations and recipes, keeping in mind your calorie goals for the day.

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3. Fats

Almonds, walnuts, almond butter, hummus, and so on make for great sources of healthy fats that your body needs to fuel itself for the day’s tasks.

You could incorporate all of the above in your diet as salads, or curries, or in the form of steak if you’re consuming a lot of meat.

A cutting diet is beneficial for bodybuilders and athletes, especially when preparing for an event or competition. It involves lowering your calorie intake to below the number of calories burned in a day, while primarily consuming a combination of carbohydrates and proteins.

Religiously following such a routine while simultaneously working out every day can significantly help you prepare for that all-important competition.

[ Read: Foods High in Selenium ]


1. Is It Okay If I Have a Cheat Day?

While a cheat day might be counter-productive, you can undoubtedly have a cheat meal to compensate for those intense cravings.

2. Does a Cutting Diet Require Me to Cut out on Fats Completely?

No, while they are to be consumed in moderation, healthy fats are necessary for the body to fuel their daily activities.

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