Q: How do you keep muscle through the cutting phase? Since you are doing less heavy lifting do you find your muscles soften up? As much as I love the “get ready for summer” routines, I always find this happening to me.
A: The same thing happens to me if I do the “summer ready” (aka circuit heavy) rotations for too long. There's really a fine line between having that muscle and then “losing” it. I say “losing” because technically the muscles are still there, but due to the type of workouts you're doing, you don't see them. It's similar to what competitors and fitness models experience when dialing it in for a show/photo shoot. Everything factors in, and the timing is crucial on eats, training methods, etc.. If you stay in cut mode for just a week past your “peak,” you could fall completely flat (your muscles that is, and you seem to be back to square one). But at the same measure, if you move through this phase too quickly (losing weight more rapidly than necessary), then you really could be losing quite a bit of muscle. This is especially true when you are eating at an extreme caloric deficit. Some studies have shown that 25% of your weight loss on a very low cal diet, comes from muscle. Sucks, huh? This is why it's recommended to build as MUCH muscle as possible, because it's so much easier to lose it than it is to gain it.
Also, just because you're cutting doesn't mean you need to drop the heavy weights. Let the eating/cardio do their work, but keep your weights as heavy as they can be for that particular rep range (you can honestly cut at any rep range on the right diet). That way you can preserve as much muscle as possible and hopefully lose fat and gain muscle.
Q: I always struggle with my carb/sugar intake over the summer months because I'm a fruit-a-holic when it comes to summer fruit. And because it's around for such a short period, I like to take advantage. So, I wondered how you deal with summer fruits? Are you still in your cutting phase at that point? How long does your cutting phase typically last for?
A: I typically cut for 12-15 weeks, but plan for twelve. I garden, and also love taking advantage of fresh fruit, from farmers markets, etc.. I do a lot of green smoothies, which use a ton of fruit, but because of the greens, keep the blood sugar regulated. I also eat the fruit plain, or in fruit salads.
Different people respond to fructose differently. I've heard of a lot of people say that it's detrimental to their cut, but I haven't really found that to be the case for me, or my clients, unless they are diabetic or otherwise carbohydrate sensitive. I just try to make sure that I choose fruits higher in fiber, so that it doesn't cause a huge insulin (sugar) spike, and also eat it with enough protein. If I just eat fruit alone, I notice that I'm starving in like 30 minutes. So my philosophy with all sugars (regardless of type) is to eat them with fiber to help regulate digestion. So whether it a coffeecake, muffins, brownies, or fresh fruit, I figure out a way to incorporate that extra fiber (i.e. eating raspberries vs bananas, or using bananas only in green smoothies or after workout shakes, using whole wheat flour vs white, etc.).
I say eat the fruit, if you notice that its holding you back, then adjust. I pay more attention to my fiber intake in my macros than my sugar intake…I won't really look at cutting out fruits until maybe the last couple weeks or so of my cut, and that's ONLY if I'm not happy with where I am and want that extra edge. Which is usually never.
Q: So, basically when you go into cut mode, you're just decreasing the amount of calories you eat and still working out the same?
A: Yes and no. I actually may do more than 2 days of cardio (yes, shocking!). I eat the same…but…better, lol. The cal reduction typically comes from carbs/fat, while trying to keep the protein steady. I'm a little too carb/fat happy during my bulk, just because I can be. The thing that suffers because of that is the belly. And since it's the first thing to go, and the last thing to come back (next to my arms) that's what the cleanup really helps. I could actually keep my cals exactly the same, but lower fat/carbs & get decent results. But since I enjoy my them, and my meals are insanely boring without them, I just eat smaller portions/better choices (sweet potato vs white, berries instead of bananas, etc.) of them, with my protein in order to compromise with myself. That's why I could probably never compete, I love food too much, and tend to settle at getting cut “enough.”