I want to get cut, how do I go about doing this? Do I just drop my calories and do a lot of cardio? Or, is there a supplement that I can take to get lean?
First of all let me begin by saying that the answer to your question is not simple, nor short, in fact there are entire books on this very one subject. So, let me recommend two ebooks that we promote here at IM:
Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle
Muscle Building Nutrition
Okay, first and foremost you need to get your diet in order. I am not talking about going on a “diet”, I mean a solid nutrition program that you can maintain, not a fad or starvation type diet. This will entail some additional research on your behalf, the two aforementioned ebooks would have all of this information laid out for you. Let me give you an example of my current ‘cutting diet’:
Meal 1: 1/2 Cup Oatmeal & 1.5 Scoops Whey Isolate Protein Powder
Meal 2: Optimum Pro Complex Protein Bar
Meal 3: Deli Cut Chicken Breast and 1/2 Whole Wheat Pita, 1 Small Apple & Cucumber slices.
Meal 4: Optimum Pro Complex Protein Bar
Meal 5: (Post Work-Out) 1.5 Scoops Whey Isolate Protein Powder & 1 Scoop CytoMax Recovery Drink.
Meal 6: Lean Steak or Chicken Breast, Green Veggie or a Green Salad.
Meal 7: 1 Scoop Whey Isolate Protein Powder & 1tbsp Natural PB.
* I also use Fish Oil caps, Dressing and Almonds for EFA’s.
(this is only an example, I am not recommending this diet)
As you can see I eat every three hours, these are relatively small meals that are high in protein. There are a couple reasons that you want to eat small, frequent meals: 1. It keeps your metabolism running efficiently, my analogy to this is a fire. To keep a fire burning you continue to put small pieces of wood on it frequently, if you put a bunch of wood on your fire all at once you will smother it, and if you do not put any wood on your fire it will burn out. Your metabolism is the same way in this respect, if you continue to feed it small amounts of food frequently it will run very efficiently, if you eat 3 big meals per day you will smother your metabolism, and of course if you starve yourself your metabolism will come to a halt. 2. It’s important to keep your body in a state of positive nitrogen balance, by eating 6-8 small meals per day with each one containing quality protein you will accomplish this, and you will help prevent any muscle breakdown or catabolism.
Personally, I utilize a low carb diet, not an “Atkins diet”, but I do limit my carbohydrates to around 150grams per day. However, every 7 days I will “carb-up” to replenish glycogen stores (stored sugars). I am not recommending any type of diet or macro breakdown here (protein/carbs/fats), I am just explaining briefly what I do. There are literally dozens of methods that be used and that is where you will need to do further research as well as some self experimentation to find out what works best for you.
One important aspect of getting lean in regards to your diet and nutrition is what we call “eating clean”, this means not adding unnecessary garnishments to food and eating quality food sources. An example would be you could eat a chicken breast and a salad, however a chicken breast smothered in cheese sauce and a salad with cheese, croutons, ranch dressing and other garbage is not eating clean. That sounds pretty bland, however you could add a small amount of salsa to your chicken breast and a light oil dressing to your salad for added flavor.
Let me address dropping calories, when I go on a cutting diet I drop my calories a little bit, but not much. I stop eating starchy carbs at 1pm everyday, and overall my calories are reduced a small amount due to less carbs, but not that much. The first thing that many people do when they want to lose weight is they stop eating, or they eat very little, this is the worst thing that you can do! Ultimately what happens is you lose as much muscle as you do fat and your body will go into a “starvation mode”. This is where your metabolism shuts down to deal with the lack of food. After a month or two of this type of dieting you end up with about a 50% loss of muscle, which in turn slows your metabolism even more because muscle tissue is an active tissue that burns calories 24/7. As soon as your start eating again your body will store every last calorie you give it as a defense mechanism in case it ever gets starved again. So, you end up gaining all your weight back very rapidly, a slower metabolism due to the muscle loss, and more body fat than when you started. So, simply dropping calories is not an effective means for getting lean or cut, in fact it will not even work, you will lose weight, but you will not end being lean.
Fat loss supplements are effective, and they can be an aid to losing body fat, but they are not a solution by themselves. Once you have a solid diet & nutrition plan in place, a training regimen incorporating both weight training and cardio, and you have followed this for at least a month, then you can add a fat loss supplement. To rely on just a fat loss supplement is not only ridiculous but you’re setting yourself up for failure because by itself the effects will be very minimal, if any at all.
As I mentioned above these are very basic answers to your questions and you really need to do further reading on your own, please consider one of the following ebooks: