I just finished up a cutting phase, as I had to lose 4 pounds to make weight for my powerlifting competition last weekend. I thought this would be a good time to talk about some important points about how to cut in general, and how to apply these points as a vegan athlete. Whether you are cutting to make weight, for a bodybuilding show, or just want to get leaner, this should help you figure out how to get there.
Check out our latest video to see what I ate on my cut!
Cutting, on a basic level, consists of eating fewer calories than you are expending. So when you start a cutting phase, you will reduce the amount of calories you consume, increase the calories you burn, or a combination of both.
One super important point to keep in mind is protein consumption. When you are cutting, you will have to cut your calories, but you don’t want to cut protein much, or at all. (Unless you were eating an extreme surplus of protein.) I recommend staying around .8g of protein per pound of bodyweight. Keeping your protein high will help maintain your muscle mass through the cutting phase. When it comes to protein, especially when cutting, you should spread your protein consumption out throughout the day. Getting some protein in every 3-5 hours is ideal.
So if your protein remains the same that leaves carbs and fats to cut. Fats are essential to our diet, so cannot be eliminated completely. The minimum fat intake should be 10% of your body weight in grams. For example, a 150-pound person should not cut fats below 15 grams. This is a pretty low number, and should be easy to fit into your diet throughout a cut.
Carbs, on the other hand, don’t necessarily have a minimum intake requirement, but they are extremely important for fueling our bodies the best possible way. If you are working out, you want to use carbs to fuel your workouts. This is especially important if you are cutting for a sport. Carbs are also important for maintaining muscle while cutting. For these reasons I recommend keeping carbs as high as possible while consuming a caloric deficit and fats above their essential level.
Because carbs will have to be lowered during a cutting phase, timing them appropriately becomes even more important. In order to best fuel your workouts and prevent muscle loss you should consume the majority (or all) of your carbs in your pre and post workout meals. If you don’t do this you will likely see a decrease in performance, and increase your risk of catabolism.
Now what makes cutting on a vegan diet a little trickier is the fact that our protein sources are not pure protein. Eating chicken or fish allows you to add as much as you need for protein without affecting the other macronutrients. Plant-based protein sources will all have some fats or carbs that come along with them. For example, almonds have 14g of fat for every 6g of protein. Black beans have 18g of carbs for every 7g of protein. These are great sources of protein, but if you can’t afford the extra fat or carbs they may not fit your diet.
This means that you need to be conscious of your protein sources, and they may need to change as you progress with your cut. If you are looking to cut fats you can move to beans and legumes, which tend to be more carb heavy. If you are looking to cut carbs you can move to more nuts and seeds, which tend to be more fat heavy. Foods like tofu, edamame, and seitan are really great options, as they have more protein and less carbs and fats per serving. Plant-based protein shakes can also help increase protein without much affect on the other macros, but try to get the majority from food!
To sum up, make sure you are firstly controlling your total calories. You will not lose weight if you are not in a caloric deficit. Next, make sure you are getting enough protein, and spacing it throughout the day. Then figure out fats and carbs with however many calories you have left to spare. And finally, as a vegan, pay attention to the macronutrient make-up of your protein sources, and adjust them accordingly.
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