Q. I'm looking to get super shredded this summer, but I'm worried I'll lose all my muscle mass in the cutting process. What do you suggest?

I get this question a lot. You just spent a lot of time and effort putting on muscle—who wants to waste all that work for a little more definition? Getting lean and retaining size is a difficult task to say the least. But, it's definitely not impossible.

When you transition into a cutting regimen, remember a few crucial factors:

1. Progress Slowly

On day one of your new cutting program, it's easy to do too much too soon. The last thing you want to do is drop your calories to minimal rations. Incorporating this dramatic change at one time will help you drop weight quickly, but will almost certainly sacrifice some of that hard-earned lean muscle mass.

Begin by dropping calories by as little as 200 per day for the first week, and build from there. When attempting to reduce body fat, shoot for a goal of around 1-1.5 pounds of actual weight loss per week. This may vary per individual, but the objective isn't to lose all the weight in a week or two. Slowly reduce your body fat over time for long-term success.

2. Don't Overdo Cardio

Cardio is a tool to help reduce body fat, but not the only tool. Spending hours on the treadmill each day is never the right plan.

If you find that you need hours of cardio each day to reduce the necessary body fat, then most likely your metabolism is damaged due to improper dieting (starvation dieting) and excessive cardio.

Bottom line: If you allow ample time to cut down, diet properly, and hit the weights at 110 percent, you should not need hours of low-intensity steady-state (LISS) cardio to lean out.

3. Do High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

HIIT is an awesome tool for getting lean and building muscle tissue. Adding one or two HIIT sessions per week can maximize fat loss and boost your body's natural fat-burning metabolism, especially when your diet is on point.

Increasing the tempo and intensity of your weight training sessions can have a similar effect. The easiest way to do this is to take less rest. Try resting for only 30 seconds after each set. You'll definitely feel the difference.

4. Eat!

I've seen male competitors eat fewer than 1,800 calories trying to reduce their body fat. This is not the way to get shredded. If you cut your calories this much, you will end up losing significant lean muscle mass and severely damaging your metabolism. If your metabolism is damaged, any variation from your get-lean diet will result in rapid fat gains.

Obviously, everyone is different and requires a different caloric intake and macronutrient breakdown. The first time you try a cutting diet, you might have to do a little research and a little experimentation. That's OK; starving yourself is never the answer to losing body fat.

There's nothing wrong with listening to your body and allowing it to function as well as it can. You can't get shredded in a day, so take the time to do things right and your body will thank you!

About the Author

Ryan Hughes

Ryan Hughes

Ryan Hughes was one of the first men to qualify as an IFBB Physique Pro. He works as a personal trainer and fitness model in New York City

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