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How to Lose Fat Without Losing Muscle: Optimal Cutting Guide

There’s one goal here bro… cutting fat without losing the jacked muscle mass you’ve worked so hard to build over the last few months.

Bulking season’s coming to an end. RIP.

Over the last few weeks you’ve been balls deep in a high-calorie diet, busting out huge volume strength workouts and generally enjoying life. You’ve cultivated some huge mass… but now it’s time to get dick-skin shredded and show off your hard work.

It’s time to ditch the bluff, shred the fat and get those abs shining.

Let’s get peeled, bro.

Brodown: Article preview

  • Setting realistic but challenging goals is key. You can’t wing it this time bro
  • Knowledge is power. Educating yourself on training, calories and the right foods boosts your shred success
  • Cutting fat is a lifestyle. Live it or leave it – it’s up to you.
  • Strength training is essential when cutting – especially if you want to retain muscle mass.
  • Don’t sit on your ass. Walking and general activity are a secret fat-smashing weapon. 

Setting Your Goals

At the heart of a successful cutting plan is a rock solid game plan and unbreakable goal.

Not all stories start with a sexy clickbait chase scene or explosion-filled action sequence. Some start with a basic, boring but essential message.

But they’re important nonetheless.

And that’s where we’re starting here bro.

Before you whizz past this section or scroll down the page at hyper-speed, bear this in mind – goal setting might not be uber-cool… but it’s the key to this whole plan.

So, pull up a chair, make yourself a protein shake and get ready to make a start…

Bottom line… goal setting is the difference between success and failure

Cutting fat without losing muscle mass takes planning. Try to cheat your way to single-digit body fat and you’ll soon lose the mass you worked hard to grow. 

Either that or you’ll completely bomb, staying in perma-bulk until next year.

Bodybuilders, athletes and strongmen all set goals. They have to in order to keep on track. Setting goals is like opening your eyes when driving on the highway. You see the bigger picture…

Keep them closed and you’ll soon be smashing that face of yours on the dash, bro.

Goals setting can be as basic or complicated as you want it to be. One thing’s for sure though – changing your behaviour to instill good habits is crucial when on a cutting diet.

You need a plan, bro.

The main man Kai Greene scribbling down his fat loss goals in preparation of getting peeled as fuark

Dieting ain’t easy; you’ve got to control your environment

Weight loss stats are abysmal – like, only 20% of people actually lose the fat they want to. And just 10% keep it off. That’s pretty damn awful when you think about it.

According to research statistics, the main reason people fail is a lack of direction [1]. Without a plan you can’t control the behavioral, environmental or personal challenges that can derail your gains.

Don’t set ‘easy’ goals; make it a challenge

There’s an old school approach to fat loss – a slow and steady diet works best.

Bullshit, bro.

Aggressive, short and rapid fat loss cutting diets are stupidly effective. Get the working parts right and the fat will drip off you faster than your girl’s panties at the sight of your shredded abs.

Even Government policies are taking note of what expert nutritionists have been saying for years – aiming to drop 10% body weight [2] or get to a peeled single-digit body in just a few weeks is totally doable.

You’re a motivated dude who’s ready to pull up his sleeves and get balls deep in this cutting diet.

Here’s a bunch of questions you should ask yourself before starting this plan:

  • Realistically, how much weight/fat do you want to lose?
  • How long are you giving yourself?
  • Will you hitting the gym or relying on diet alone to get shredded?
  • Are you playing it safe or really being aggressive with your goals?
  • Will you set medium term targets to make sure you’re on track?

You should also make a note of any barriers that could roadblock your gains. For example, do you work long hours, have little time to work out or suffer from poor motivation?

Once you identify these barriers you can put coping strategies in place to overcome them.


Cutting Fat Rule #1: Set your goals bro. Planning is your priority if you truly want to cut the fat this season.


Nutrition: The most important part of a cutting fat plan

The foods you eat can make or break a shredding diet; especially if you’re trying to keep hold of your muscle mass.

Once your goals are written in blood and your path is clear and unbroken, the most important next step is nutrition.

You can 100% drop fat without setting a strict diet plan. but it’s only when you optimize the foods you eat that you sling shot your way to ripped freak status.

Here’s what you need to know…

Calories control fat mass

The inescapable truth is that achieving a super-lean physique isn’t easy. Rely on guess work and you’ll fail faster than Lindsay Lohan’s drugs counselor.

To lose fat you have to be in a calorie deficit.

Fact, bro.

Now here’s the deal. We want you to etch out solid abs in the fastest time possible. Not just because you see results in the quickest time possible; but because it reduces the chance of your body switching to muscle as fuel.

Like a ninja, we want you to get in fast, slice the f*ck out of your fat cells and get out before anyone even notices what’s happening.

Let’s get aggressive

Typical diets suggest a 20% deficit for slow and comfortable fat loss. But we’re coming in hard on this cutting fat diet with a 40-50% drop in calories.

An aggressive calorie cut will help you drop fat in the fastest time possible [3].

We’re looking at maintaining low cals for 1-2 weeks before taking them back up to maintenance for a day or two to recover… then you’re back on it hard again.

You’ll follow this system for a few weeks (or as long as you can) until you’re striated as fuark and more peeled than a monkey’s lunchtime snack.

Dieting like this will result in huge fat loss, guaranteed. But science shows it far more effective at retaining muscle mass than a longer, more drawn out diet.

Now here’s the thing bro, it won’t be easy. You’ll be hungry most of the time, low in mood and even lower in energy. But dude, if you want the lifestyle you’ve gotta put the work in.


Bro Point: If you’re here to cut fat without losing muscle, an aggressive diet works best.


There’s no such thing as ‘metabolic damage’

“Bro, diet too hard and your metabolic rate will nosedive”.

You ever hear this?

It’s the perfect example of someone not keeping up with the science. Like that skinny dude that tries to tell you how to squat properly because he did a weekend course 10 years ago.

Once upon a time we presumed a low-calorie diet would kick the body into ‘starvation mode’. That somehow your fat cells had the ability to hold onto their energy and fat loss would grind to a halt.

That doesn’t even make sense. If it were true it’d be impossible to starve to death.

New research shows that metabolic rate doesn’t change much during an aggressive diet [4].

However, what does happen is a down-regulation of adrenal gland hormone production (epinephrine etc.), resulting in lower available energy. It’s your body’s way of trying to stop you burning fat).

This is a process called metabolic adaptation. 

All that happens is you find it harder to kick out of first gear. If you push yourself to be more active during metabolic adaptation, the fat will pour from your body.

athlete using barbell complex workouts for conditioning


Cutting Fat Rule #2: Control calories with a large energy deficit and your fat cells won’t stand a chance.


Know Your Macros

The macronutrient building blocks of your diet can be used to carve out a lean structure that performs as well as it looks.

At this stage, you’ve set your goals and gone full-on Hawking by calculating your calorie intake for the next few weeks.

If you’re still here, the next part of the puzzle is to fill in the calorie gaps with macronutrients.

In case you didn’t know, macronutrients are the only sources of energy used by the human body:

  • Carbs
  • Protein
  • Fats

Prioritize protein and retain your mass

Here’s the most important thing you’ll read in this beautifully crafted, science-led guide…You HAVE to follow a high-protein diet if you want to cut fat while keeping muscle mass high.

Muscle mass uses protein as fuel.

There’s a significant amount of evidence to show that during low calories diets, reducing protein accelerates muscle loss [5].

So, what’re you going to do? Yep, up your protein.

This way you’ll retain (and maybe even grow) lean muscle while cutting fat.

Time your carbs around your training

Once you’ve filled up your calories with protein you won’t have much left to play with. Being strategic with your carbs and fats should be your next priority.

Where possible, keep your carbs low when you’re not in the gym throwing iron around. It’s easy to over consume carbs, so by keeping them low you’ll be able to hit your deficit with ease.

However, carbs provide a first-step source of energy. If you ditch them altogether, you’ll find your endurance and strength plummet.

Carb cycling is a technique used regularly by the pros as they dial into a show. It gives them the benefits of a low-carb approach, with the flexibility to take in carbs to fuel good-quality workouts.

The idea is to eat a carb-rich meal before or after training, which helps with energy and recovery.

Here’s a bunch of low carb snacks to help you on your cutting diet.

Don’t ditch your fats altogether

Did you know that testosterone is created from fat? Yep, that’s right bro. That’s why you need fat in your diet.

Having at least some fatty foods (oily fish, butter, eggs for example) in your diet, creates an optimum anabolic environment.

Men with higher natural testosterone are leaner and more muscular – so hijacking your hormones with a diet containing moderate fats is a great way of creating jacked aesthetics.


Cutting Fat Rule #3:

  • Set your protein at 1.3-1.8 grams per kilogram of body weight
  • Divide the remaining kcals up between fats and carbs
  • Time carb intake around training if it helps optimize energy for your workouts
  • Maintain a moderate fat intake to boost anabolic hormone production

#3. Supplementation

The right supplements slingshot you to a leaner, stronger physique with less effort.

Technically, a bro can get jacked without supplements.

It’s totally possible.

But… and it’s a big BUT…

Supplements help you reach your goals with the power and ferocity of a nitro-boosted Mustang GT. And who doesn’t want to drive one of those bad boys?

A good whey protein helps you top up your protein intake when you’re on the go. And the pre workout supplements supercharge your muscles and nervous system so you can bend some bars and crush your goals with ease.

Other supplements that have power-boosting effects on your physique include fat burner supplements and testosterone boosters.

Fat burner supplements help you strip off stubborn fat faster than diet alone. They use high-quality ingredients that:

  • Boost energy
  • Curb food cravings
  • Increase thermogenic fat oxidation
  • Speed up lipolysis

Testosterone boosters smash fat in the face by obliterating adipose cells, ramping up muscle mass and dialing up your maximal strength to 11.

Powered with vitamin D3, D-aspartic acid and a range of vitamins and minerals, these are the most popular alpha-male hormone optimizer supplements around.

To find out more about the most bioactive, effective physique transforming supplements, check out the SMB ‘Best of’ series:

#4. The Lifestyle You Ought to Adhere to

To live the dream, you’ve got to follow the lifestyle.

Quick check time, bro…

At this stage you should have nailed your goals, calculated your calories and reigned in your macros. You’re nearly there.

We’ve just got two more things to sign off.

  1. Daily activity levels
  2. Strength training

man doing cardio by jogging

Lead the lifestyle: Burn fat outside the gym

An undervalued tool at your disposal is walking. Okay, might sound like the fitness hobby of a bearded wargamer still living in his momma’s basement.

But keeping a high daily step count is a pretty effective way of scorching fat cells to death.

Being more active speeds up results. Bottom line.

Research shows that those who’re more active outside the gym are leaner.

Walking is classed as a non-exercise activity thermogenic activity [6] – one that’s low intensity but a powerful fat burner.

Remember, earlier in this guide we talked about metabolic adaptation – the reduction in adrenal hormones that force you to be less active.

This is your opportunity to fight back.

When calories are low, diet is on point and strength training is part of your fitness regime, walking is the icing on the (gluten free, no-sugar) cake.

Strength training peaks protein synthesis

Lifting weights when you’re bulking results in armor-like gains that hang from your frame like badges of war.

But when you’re cutting you’ve got to look at strength training differently.

The key here is to lift heavy and frequently – not to grow muscle, but to keep it.

Here are the main things you need to follow:

  • Train each muscle twice per week
  • Lift heavy for 6-10 reps over 2-4 sets
  • Keep your rest times long. You’ll burn out otherwise
  • Focus on large muscle groups and build the fancy isolation exercises around it
  • Remember you’re low on calories. You won’t be at your best, but you’ve got to work through it

Cutting Fat Rule #4: Lifting weights will spike protein synthesis, leading to better muscle retention. And being active outside of the gym will boost your daily energy burn and shred through stubborn fat.


#5. The Workout

Follow this workout 2-3 times per week for optimal results

ExerciseRepsSetsRest periods
Bench Press6-102-43-5 minutes
Leg Press6-102-43-5 minutes
Seated Cable Row6-102-43-5 minutes
Lying Leg Curl6-102-43-5 minutes
Military Press6-102-43-5 minutes
Standing Calf Raises6-102-43-5 minutes
Lat pulldown6-102-43-5 minutes


You’ve got the tools of the pros, bro. It’s all you from here on.

Bring your A game and follow this plan like a religion and before you know it, you’ll be the one getting worshiped.

Good luck and we’ll see you on the lean side.

You pumped up to learn more? Check out these related knowledge bombs:


[1] Cullen, KW et al (2001). Using goal setting as a strategy for dietary behavior change. J Am Dietetic Assoc. 101(5): 562-566

[2] Koenigberg, MR et al (2004). Facilitating treatment adherence with lifestyle changes in diabetesAm Fam Physician. 69: 309316

[3] Helms. E et al (2014). Evidence-based recommendations for natural bodybuilding contest preparation: nutrition and supplementationJ Int Soc Sports nutr. 11: 20

[4] Trexler, ET et al (2014). Metabolic adaptation to weight loss: implications for the athlete. J Int Soc Sports nutr. 11: 7

[5] Phillips, SM (2016). Protein and exercise in weight loss: Considerations for athletes. GSSI

[6] Levine, JA (2002). Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT)Best Pract Res Clin Endocr Metab. 16(4): 679-702

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