How Do Bodybuilders Cut? The Ultimate Guide to Shredding!

Bodybuilders are known for their impressive physique, and achieving that kind of body takes a lot of hard work and dedication. One of the key components of a bodybuilder’s regimen is cutting. In this ultimate guide to cutting, we will go over everything you need to know about the process and how to achieve your shredded physique.

The Basics of Cutting

Before we delve into the details, let’s first talk about what cutting is all about. Simply put, cutting is the process that bodybuilders go through to lose body fat in order to achieve a leaner and more defined look. To do this, they must create a calorie deficit by eating fewer calories than they burn. Doing so forces the body to use stored fat for energy, which leads to fat loss.

Learning to Count Calories

The first step to achieving the perfect cut is to learn how to count your calories accurately. This means knowing how many calories your body needs at rest and burning added calories through exercise. Building a calorie deficit will allow your body to tap into the fat reserves, and you will begin to notice a change in body composition, particularly in the abdominal area.

To calculate your daily caloric needs accurately, you must first determine your basal metabolic rate (BMR). You can use any BMR calculator online, and the estimate will give you the calories you burn by simply existing.

  • Men: BMR = (10 × weight in kg) + (6.25 × height in cm) – (5 × age in years) + 5
  • Women: BMR = (10 × weight in kg) + (6.25 × height in cm) – (5 × age in years) – 161

Once you have your BMR, you factor in your activity level by multiplying your BMR by the appropriate factor:

  • Sedentary (little to no exercise): BMR x 1.2
  • Lightly active (light exercise 1-3 days/week): BMR x 1.375
  • Moderately active (moderate exercise 3-5 days/week): BMR x 1.55
  • Very active (hard exercise 6-7 days/week): BMR x 1.725
  • Super active (hard exercise every day or training twice a day): BMR x 1.9

Now that you have your daily caloric needs, you can determine how many calories you need to remove from your diet to create a calorie deficit, which in turn will lead to weight loss.

Macro Nutrient Ratios

It’s also essential to make sure you have a clear picture of your macronutrient ratio. This involves consuming the right amount of protein, fat, and carbohydrates.

  • Protein is vital for muscle recovery and growth. Aim for 1-1.5 grams per pound of body weight.
  • Fat is necessary for hormone regulation, and it’s recommended that you obtain 0.25-0.5 grams per pound of body weight.
  • Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy and should be timed strategically to give your body the energy it needs for the day.

Carbohydrate intake is the most flexible of the three macros and can be cut down significantly during the cutting phase. Bodybuilders typically maintain lower carbohydrate intake to speed up weight loss.

The Different Types of Diets for Bodybuilding Cutting

Bodybuilders use a variety of diet plans to achieve the perfect cut. Below are some of the most common diets you can follow during the cutting phase:

Low Fat, High Protein

A low-fat, high-protein diet requires a focus on lean types of protein that include chicken, turkey, fish, and lean red meat. You can complement these with lots of green vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, and kale.

This diet is an excellent way to maintain your muscle mass while losing body fat. You’ll want to avoid foods high in fat, carbohydrates, and sugar. Be sure to monitor your calories and protein intake.

Ketogenic Diet or Keto Cutting Diet

A keto cutting diet is a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet that encourages the body to burn fat stores for fuel. The diet is high in protein and healthy fats and low in carbohydrates.

The body’s primary fuel source is glucose, which results from consuming carbohydrates. This diet, however, restricts carbohydrate intake to 30-50 grams per day, forcing the body into a state of ketosis—the point at which it burns stored fat instead of glucose for energy.

The Carb-Cycling Diet

The carb-cycling diet is a more advanced technique used by bodybuilders that alternate between days of low-carbohydrate intake or no carbohydrates with days with high carbohydrate intake.

Bodybuilders often use this diet during competition prep, as it helps reduce water weight and leads to sharper muscle definition. It involves consuming the majority of daily carbohydrates before and after working out to help support muscle energy and function, which means you can train more effectively.

Tracking Your Progress

Tracking your progress is essential when cutting, as it allows you to monitor your progress and adjust your program accordingly. Consider downloading a food tracking app like MyFitnessPal or Lose It.

These apps allow you to log meals, track calories burned during workouts, and chart your weight loss progress. Additionally, take regular photos to give you a visual reference of your progress, and it’s also an excellent way to identify any muscle loss.

The Best Workouts For Cutting

When cutting, you should focus on high-repetition, low-weight workouts. High-repetition workouts feel less taxing on the muscles and allow you to burn more calories during shorter periods while maintaining lean mass.


Your cardio training should be a mix of different types of cardiovascular exercises, including:

  • High-intensity interval training (HIIT)
  • Steady-state cardio
  • Swimming
  • Running
  • Cycling
  • Rowing

The idea is to participate in challenging forms of cardiovascular training to burn more calories while maintaining lean mass. Vary the type of cardio you do if you feel that a workout has become too easy.

Weight training

Resistance training is also essential in the cutting phase. It challenges the muscles and helps maintain lean mass.

During the cutting phase, you should increase the volume of your workouts by performing more reps with lighter weights. This will allow you to burn more calories and get a good cardio workout while maintaining your strength.

The Importance of Rest and Recovery

Rest and recovery are just as important as the workout itself. Continuous high-intensity workouts can easily lead to burnout, injuries, and illnesses.


Be sure to get enough sleep as it allows the body to restore and recover. Aim for about 7-9 hours of sleep every night.

Active Recovery – Yoga

For more active recovery days, try incorporating yoga into your routine. Yoga provides the body with low-impact exercise while also stretching the muscles, increasing flexibility and circulation, and allowing the body to relax and recharge.

Off days

It’s important to schedule rest and recovery days. These days allow the muscles to recover from the intense workouts, reduce the likelihood of injury, and prevent burnout.

Understanding Water Retention

Bodybuilders are susceptible to water retention, also known as edema. It’s essential to understand water retention so that you can adjust your diet and exercise routine if you notice symptoms.

Edema can occur due to several factors, including high salt intake, hormonal changes, and dehydration, among others. Symptoms include swollen legs, nausea, and bloating.

To help reduce water retention, increase your water intake, limit your salt intake, and adjust your calorie intake accordingly.

The Bottom Line

The cutting phase is a challenging but necessary part of every bodybuilder’s regimen. By following the tips in this guide, you can ensure that you achieve a lean, well-defined physique while maintaining your hard-earned muscle mass. Just be sure to take rest and recovery seriously and monitor your progress along the way.

FAQ’s About Bodybuilder Cutting

1. How long does the cutting phase last?

The cutting phase duration varies depending on your goals and your body. A typical cutting phase lasts between 4 and 12 weeks. However, for more significant weight loss, it could take up to 24 weeks.

2. How many calories should I cut?

To determine how many calories you should cut, consider your daily caloric needs, and subtract around 300 to 500 calories from that. This creates a calorie deficit, leading to weight loss.

3. Can I still build muscle while cutting?

Yes, you can still build muscle while cutting, but it may take longer than usual due to your calorie restriction. Ensure you continue to work out effectively and consume enough protein to support muscle growth.

4. What should my macro nutrient ratios be when cutting?

You should maintain a diet of 20% fat, 40% protein, and 40% carbohydrates. However, carbohydrate intake is the most flexible of the three macros and can be cut down significantly during the cutting phase.

5. How can I deal with hunger cravings when cutting?

Ensure you eat small but frequent, healthy meals throughout the day, and snack on healthy food options such as fruits, nuts or veggies. Eating protein, fiber, and healthy fats will help you feel full and satisfied.

6. Can I resort to crash dieting while cutting?

Crash dieting is not the solution to weight loss. It leads to a slower metabolism, making it increasingly harder to lose weight. Instead, focus on creating a sustainable calorie deficit with quality nutrition.

7. How much weight can I expect to lose during cutting?

Expect to lose between 1 and 2 pounds of body fat every week during a cutting phase. However, keep in mind that everyone’s weight loss will be different depending on their body composition, diet, and physical activity levels.

8. When should I stop cutting?

Stop cutting when you reach your desired body fat percentage. For bodybuilders, this percentage ranges between 4 to 7%. Alternatively, you can stop cutting when you feel that you have lost too much muscle mass.


1. “How to Cut: Lose Fat and Keep Your Muscles,” – Healthline.

2. “The Ultimate Cutting Diet – Devised By Pro Natural Bodybuilder Layne Norton,”

3. “Nutrition for bodybuilding cutting,” – Science Direct.

4. “Bodybuilding Diet: How to Create the Best Muscle Building and Fat Loss Diet Plan,”

5. “How to Cut After Bulking for Bodybuilding,” Verywell Fit.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *