Hardcore Bodybuilding Cutting Meal Plan

Chicken breast with green salad
Chicken breast slices on top of lettuce. (Image: vikif/iStock/Getty Images)

When preparing for a bodybuilding competition, you need to enter a "cutting phase" during which you attempt to lower your body-fat levels while maintaining your muscle mass. Ideally, you should start to do this well in advance of your contest, to make sure that you have time to get to your desired standard. However, if you have left it late, or haven't gotten the results you were hoping for, you can try a short-term, hardcore cutting diet to get you into top condition.

Calories

The first, and most important diet variable to consider is calories. In order to cut fat, you need to consume fewer calories than you burn. This is known as a calorie deficit. While many general weight loss plans will recommend simply consuming one or two hundred calories below your maintenance level, this won't work for a hardcore bodybuilding cut. Instead, sports nutritionist Dr. John Berardi advises multiplying your body weight in pounds by 10, and eating the resulting number of calories per day. If this seems low, remember that this is a short-term diet, designed to get quick results.

Protein

Protein is vital in bodybuilding, as it aids in building and repairing muscle tissue, helps with chemical reactions in the body, and is anti-catabolic, which means it will prevent muscle breakdown when your calories are reduced. Bodybuilding diet coach Shelby Starnes recommends eating a high amount of protein -- around 1.5 g per pound of body weight when cutting, to help preserve muscle mass. Look to get your protein from meat, fish, dairy products, eggs and protein supplements if necessary.

Carbohydrates and Fats

You should cycle your carbohydrates on a day to day basis. On training days, eat 1 g of carbohydrate per pound of body weight, and on non-training days, stick as close to zero carbs as possible. Your only carbs should be in trace amounts from dark green vegetables, nuts and seeds, and dairy products. Your fat intake should make up the rest of your calorie allowance, and should be inversely proportional to your carb intake -- the higher your carb intake, the lower your fat intake, and vice versa. Your training day carbs should come from fruits, whole grains and starchy vegetables, and your fats from meat, oily fish, nuts, seeds and oils.

Considerations

This hardcore diet is very tough, and may leave you feeling lethargic and not able to train at full intensity, but it is only short-term. Try it for 10 days, then take a break. If you get your desired results, then go back to your usual maintenance diet. If you feel you still have some way to go, then have four or five days off before attempting another 10-day stint. Because your calorie consumption is fairly low, try to eat lots of low-calorie, nutrient-dense foods such as lean meats and green vegetables to fill you up.

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