With the sun soon setting on cold, dreary weather, the mind turns unavoidably to the approach of warm summer days and, for many of us, beach season. With it comes the excitement of prepping your body for that bikini, board shorts—or if you're daring, Speedo—you purchased months in advance. You focused on building muscle mass over the winter, but soon enough, it'll be time for all that sexy to come out of hibernation.
How to structure your cutting program is one question. When to start is another, and in some ways, it's just as important. Unfortunately, there's not a single answer I can give you since, as you might expect, it depends on your unique body and lifestyle. What I can do, however, is help you plan out a healthy approach to cutting weight that won't leave you scrambling for answers or feeling miserable with a crash diet.
Answer these five questions in the order I have them here, and you'll be well on your way to chiseling a body that's worth a double- or even triple-take.
A general guideline that works for many people is to aim to lose body fat at a pace of 1 pound per week without resorting to extreme dieting.
One pound of body fat, you may have heard, is equal to approximately 3, 500 calories. That number doesn't do justice to the full complexity of the systems involved in human fat production and loss, but it's a surprisingly effective benchmark—provided you use it right. The more pounds in fat you want to lose, the greater amount of time you will need to safely and truly shed fat weight, not mere water weight, or even worse, muscle.
A general guideline that works for many people is to aim to lose body fat at a pace of 1 pound per week without resorting to extreme dieting. That means eating at a deficit of approximately 500 calories per day. Set your calendar accordingly. If you have 10 pounds or fewer to lose, you should start at least 2-3 months out. If you have more than 20 pounds to torch, begin your cutting phase 4-5 months prior.
Sure, a more aggressive diet can achieve weight loss in a fraction of the time, but research and experience have shown there are limitations to how deep in calorie debt you can get before you wreck your metabolism.