As bodybuilders we are concerned with body composition rather than body weight. Put bluntly, we want to be huge and ripped! So after a period of adding muscle, it's time to shed the fat. So what's the best way to lose fat while maintaining our precious LBM? First- know your body! Find out what works for you. Sounds simple, but this can take a considerable amount of experimentation and time. That's why other people's plans sort of work generically (for the masses).use them, but adapt or tweak them to your own needs.
Second- what worked yesterday, doesn't always work today- or say the next time you cut- or after a few weeks and the body has adapted to a program. So have a Plan A, B, C..., the same way you change up your workouts to recruit more muscle fibers- you alter your cutting, maintaining or bulking program to keep you body from adapting and slowing progress! This is why mini-cycles of 3-4 weeks work so well, especially to stay lean (i.e. 3 week bulk- 2 week cut, then repeat. or cut, then tweak, then tweak harder etc)
Now the part you have been waiting for: Use those clean carbs to fuel your metabolism at your (I repeat your) level to bulk, add in enough protein for positive nitrogen balance, and then fat and fiber to slow insulin and digestion down so that you don't go thermo when bulking (this is also why we use clean-slow burners). If your carbs are not high enough, your body does hepatic gluconeogenisis (makes glucose not amino peptides) with your protein, that's also why high levels of protein give you a little edge on muscle building if you are carb deficient.
There is a difference between lean and ripped. The secret here is to turn your body into a FAT OXIDIZER. This requires a short transitional period that is kind of uncomfortable. But after a few days of adjustment, performance can even improve. When cutting, your body prefers to burn glycogen (glucose) and protein (muscle) for fuel. It does not want to tap into your fat stores because it thinks you are starving. As BB's we try to circumvent this by using meal frequency and small 200-500 calories adjustments, however it is more critical to make macronutrient changes. You have to change the body's fuel preference away from carbs and protein and towards fat. How? Limit carbs- without carbs the body must chose between fat and muscle. We use anti-catabolics to preserve LBM at all costs, so if there is less glycogen, and muscle is spared, then what becomes the preferred energy source - FAT!!! This requires eliminating ALL sugars- even from supps- and even post workout! It also means raising your fat intake in order to teach the body that this is the new fuel source- tell it to GET USE TO IT! So now, even though you are eating more fat, you still want to maintain a level slightly under the body's energy requirement- this is when you turn to your FAT STORES- the new preferential fuel source! Where do the CLEAN carbs play into this? Well, every so often you need to replace some glycogen in the liver and muscles, this prevents ketosis and ketoacidosis which can cause LBM loss.
What's a clean, slow burning carb? Generally we take into consideration where a carb sits on the Glycemic Index, it's fibre content and how rapidly it will convert to sugar once in the body. Slow-burning carbs include sweet potatoes, yams, old fashioned/steel cut oats, scotch/Irish oats, long grain brown rice, apples, berries, peaches, grapefruit and dark green veggies such as spinach and broccoli.
We all work very hard for our gains, therefore our first job is to preserve those LBM gains at all costs. Each pound we preserve can burn 30-50 more calories, potentially fat calories.
SO, PLEASE EVERYONE, ESPECIALLY THE LADIES, STOP BEING SO CONCERNED ABOUT BODY WEIGHT - BE CONCERNED ABOUT BODY COMPOSITION. A firmer toner and leaner (ladies) or ripped shredded (men and lady BB's) body depends on BF% levels not poundage!
To preserve LBM we all know we use glutamine. What preserves glutamine in the body? Aminos! They are vital for protein synthesis and repair.
You can get aminos from increased protein intake and or supplement with high quality aminos at mealtime and or during the W/O (3-5 grams at meals or 15-30 during W/O). BCAA's are even more specialized as they convince the body to spare glycogen (tells the body that muscle has already broken down-so shift energy sources) and burn fat. A recent study showed a decreased amount of Visceral Abdominal Fat (VAT) (belly fat) in subjects with higher BCAA intake. (use 10-15 grams 10 minutes pre W/O).
CLA is still a fresh topic. It blocks fat storage (the lipoprotein lipase enzyme) and keeps fat from returning post cut. (3 grams a day).
I also believe in high quality liver tabs. The iron and B-12 seems to enhance the appetite and metabolism. More red blood cells greatly enhance oxygen transport, facilitating endurance, growth, and recovery (4-6 grams with each meal).
Lastly, a word about thermogenics. While I firmly believe in thermogenics, especially their ability to target adipose tissue, I've done enough of these to be at negative body fat levels. Currently, I just use them for the amps on leg or shoulder day. While they do enhance your metabolism, (even a one degree increase in body temperature will result in burning 7 percent more calories) after your period of 110% metabolism, the body tends to compensate with a period of 90% metabolism. The net effect is not all that great in some people. For the hardgainer, I believe that they are detrimental, not allowing the maximum nutrition from food and supps to reach the muscle (remember glucose conversion from fat and protein to fuel the metabolism- gluconeogenesis). Stated another way, increase the body's speed- you need more and more fuel to maintain, this makes it harder to gain!
So now you’re there and the next question is."How do I maintain low levels of body fat?" You will find that, as you get more cut, your body will change every four to six hours in the mirror. You may lose a cut here or a vein there, only for it to return later with friends. Sometimes it goes away for days before returning. This can cause quite a lot of psychosis, especially in women (I'm not sexist!). Many that I know will eat a cookie and then do an hour of cardio to compensate. So here are tips to maintain low levels of body fat until your next bulk:
1. Drink plenty of water. The more you drink, the dryer you become...hence more cuts, the less you retain. Why store it, the body thinks you will give it more, your lips crack, your cuts stand out etc. (there is a scientific explanation with diuretic and anti diuretic hormones involved, but that is not my specialty).
2. Make lifestyle changes. Try to avoid sugars and use slow-burning carbs (possibly cycled),and good nutritional practices for the duration of the "looking good" period. Slow burners are carbs that enter the bloodstream very slow, keeping glucose and insulin low so that you can burn more fat!
3. Avoid excessive cardio.
4. Take CLA, not only will this help you get lean, but studies indicate post diet, it will limit the redeposition of body fat (3 grams daily). CLA is an EFA that animals use to produce more, now it comes from sunflowers, but occurs naturally in meat and dairy in small quantities. It has some great antioxidant qualities, but we take it to block lipo-protein lipase, an enzyme that causes fat storage. It can help reduce your BF and keep it from coming back after a cut!
5. Limit bars. There is more in a bar than appears on the label (until recently). Most of the low carb bars have about 40-70 unexplained calories of glycerine (glycerol), This is a sugar alcohol and does not have to appear in the carb count, it both moistens and sweetens the bar at 4.3 calories per gram. The trouble is, when you store fat, the body converts triglycerides to glycerol to fat. Could this be why glycerol doesn't raise insulin levels? So why give your body something that is one metabolite away from fat? Everyone I know gets immediately leaner when they give up bars! Additionally, usually the second ingredient is hydrolyzed gelatin, this is garbage protein!
As you can see, there's no real secrets- just persistence and consistency!