How to Cut After Bulking Without Losing Muscle

If you don't want to lose the gains you worked hard for, but want to get lean then you have to learn how to cut! A cutting phase is the opposite of a bulking phase. It involves cutting back on the number of calories you eat to obtain a calorie deficit for weight loss, more specifically, fat loss, to occur.

To lose fat without losing muscle, you have to strategize. In this article, we'll show you how to navigate the cutting phase effectively to achieve a leaner physique while preserving your muscle mass.

Why Should You Cut After Bulking?

Anyone can enter a cutting diet plan to lose body weight or fat, but it's especially beneficial for those getting out of a bulking phase to do so. Cutting after bulking is crucial for shedding excess fat gained during the bulking phase and revealing the muscle definition you've worked so hard to build. By entering a structured cutting phase, you can refine your physique and achieve the lean look you desire.

However, to some it may be counterproductive to cut because doing so can lead to losing muscle. That's why strategizing your cut is crucial! Going on an extremely restrictive, low-calorie diet can lead to more muscle loss than fat loss. To prevent that from happening, you have to strategize and make sure your cut gets you the results you want - a reduction in body fat, and maintaining lean muscle.

How To Cut Effectively

Follow these proven strategies to effectively cut after bulking:

Find the ideal caloric deficit

You want a calorie deficit big enough to produce fat loss, but not so big that it causes muscle loss and possibly even binge eating!

So, how much should you cut back on your daily calories?

To lose fat at a consistent pace, and avoid muscle loss and other adverse effects of low-calorie diets, set your deficit at 20-25%. Meaning eat 20-25% less than your maintenance calories.

To avoid doing the math yourself, and so you have a more accurate deficit, use a macro calculator to calculate your macros! A macro calculator takes into account your activity level, current body weight and fat, fitness goals, and so much more. This helps give you a better estimate on how many calories you should be eating to reach your goals, but not only calories! It'll also detail how many macronutrients you should be eating, which brings us to our next point...

Track macros, not only calories

Calorie counting is the go-to weight loss method, but it's not effective if you're trying to lose weight and change your body composition. Counting calories works because it helps keep you on track with your deficit, however, it's not ideal to pick the foods you eat based on calorie density. The nutrient density of the foods you eat are even more important than the amount of calories because those are the nutrients that help give you energy, improve muscle recovery, and help keep you overall healthy!

Tracking your macros will allow you to to stay on track with your calorie intake, but also ensure that you're eating enough protein, carbohydrates, and fats to sustain your high-intensity training! Basically, it'll help you prioritize a nutrient-dense diet that helps maintain your muscle-building efforts, but also help you achieve your fat loss goals.

Fill up on protein

Although your main goal isn't to gain muscle, you should still prioritize protein and keep your intake high! Remember, you're trying to preserve the muscle mass you've gained, not lose it. Increasing your protein intake is the best way to do that, in fact, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published in a recent clinical trial that showed just that! They found that a daily high protein intake while being in a calorie deficit helps preserve muscle, especially when combined with resistance training.[1]

That said, make sure you're eating a high-protein diet to maintain your results and keep you full and satisfied at the same time. Always prioritize whole foods, but protein can be hard to nail on the daily, so if you're having trouble hitting your daily protein intake consider getting a high-quality protein powder! Protein powders can contain up to 30 grams of protein per serving, so you can easily increase your intake with just one scoop. Plus, finding a great tasting one can be a game changer! Just avoid protein powder supplements with potentially harmful fillers, and one that has at least 20 grams of protein per scoop - like 373 Lab's Protein Powder!

Save your carbs for post-workout

You don't have to give up the carbs to lose fat! Carbohydrates are a very important macronutrient for many reasons, one of them being that it helps replenish your glycogen stores which is the body's main fuel source. However, if you want to have a positive impact on body composition then make sure you're eating healthy carbs and try to consume them after or before your workouts.


Carbs are metabolized differently throughout the day. So, the carbs you eat in the morning, before, or after your workout are going to have a different impact than if you were to consume them before bed or when you're being sedentary. Consuming carbs when you're using less energy, like late in the evenings or on rest days, can cause them to be stored as fat instead of being used up for energy.

Aim to eat them in the daytime, before or after your workouts. However, stick to healthy, and mostly unprocessed carbs. Fill up mostly on complex carbs like potatoes, whole grains, quinoa, and other leafy greens and fruits!

Come off of your cut periodically 

Dieting can really affect your mental health, and impact your training performance, so to help you achieve sustainable results in a way that doesn't deprive you - take a break! This does not apply to anyone who is competing or working with a nutritionist – it's more so for the average person who's looking to lose fat and wants sustainable results.

You can take a break from your deficit by using refeeds or calorie cycling throughout your cutting phase to help prevent all the adverse effects mentioned earlier.

Here's how you can do that...

  • Refeeds: A refeed is a planned day in which you increase your calories. This can be done weekly or bi-weekly to give your body a temporary break from the calorie restriction. Just plan your refeeds carefully. Increase your calories for maintenance, but fill up on healthier foods as opposed to only unhealthy stuff.
  • Calorie cycling: This method involves cycling your calories so that they're slightly higher on your training days, and lower on your non-training days. Research has linked calorie cycling to helping with weight loss by improving people's abilities to stick to a diet, reduce hunger, and reduce the negative hormonal and metabolic effects of a normal weight loss diet.[2]

Maintain your regular strength training routine

You might not be training for muscle gain anymore, but that doesn't mean you should ditch the heavy weights! Despite popular belief, weightlifting is one of the best fat-burning workouts you can do.


Strength training helps you build muscle and strength, and building muscle mass helps increase your resting metabolism which helps you burn calories for up to three days after your workout!

Cardio is important too

Lifting heavy weights is great for maintaining muscle, burning calories, and losing fat, but don't neglect cardio either! Cardio keeps your cardiovascular health in good shape and helps you burn extra calories which can help with your caloric deficit.

Many think HIIT (high-intensity interval training) is the best type of cardio to do to burn fat, and don't get us wrong, it's great. But it's not the only type of fat-burning cardio! If HIIT is too high-impact and intense for you, stick to steady-state cardio like inclined walking or cycling.

Find the cardio workout that you like best and aim to do it 2-4 times a week for at least 20-40 minutes.

Mastering the cut after bulking is a strategic process that involves balancing nutrition, training, and recovery. By following these guidelines, you can achieve your fat loss goals while preserving your hard-earned muscle mass, leading to a leaner and more defined physique.

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