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Ray’s Cutting Diary – Programme Review

Dumbbell rack

The time has come! After a gruelling twelve week cutting programme this final post will take a look at the endeavour as a whole and pick out the good and the bad. What did I like, what didn’t I like, what lessons have I learned etc.

The Good Stuff

I can do it!

Seriously. I wanted to experience what it was like to ‘cut’, and to see if it was something I could do. And I did, and I could. And that ain’t nothing. Along the way I increased my experience and understanding of both training and nutrition – and oh yeah, I lowered my body fat enough to bring the abs through. Success!

What I really like about this paragraph is it shows that “cutting” isn’t just a one dimensional process. It’s not just about the abs. You learned about nutrition and training yet again. You also learned more about yourself and what you are capable of.

Room for Improvement

Cutting requires greater discipline than bulking, in my opinion. When you’re bulking if you eat less than ideal, but still hit a surplus – well, it’s just not as clean as it should have been but you still bulked. When you’re cutting, if you go over your limits then you’ve failed. There’s less room for error.

I’d agree. Cutting is the harder of the two – though there are those people who do really struggle to eat all the food they are told to to ensure a surplus for them. I personally would agree that keeping consistently to a Calorie deficit and hitting your macros with quality foods is harder for a long period of time.

Throughout this programme I had little dips where my discipline would drop and I might overdo it. Not too many, but it happened now and again. But the bigger problem was making sure I was properly prepared. It sounds a simple thing, but even preparing my snacks for the day. There was a week or so where I just stopped taking my snacks to work with me. For no real reason. And this meant I didn’t really have anything to snack on during the day, and as a knock on effect I found my mood dropping.

You’ve hit the nail on the head – your mood. The lack of snacks meant your blood sugar dropped. This leads to your mood dropping, which leads to a lack of productivity at work and (if it’s easily available) a hand going to the biscuit tin or sweet jar. Preparing the foods to take with you, to eat before you let the blood sugar levels drop is imperative. A lesson you learned and anyone reading this can now be aware of and avoid.

Similarly, it wasn’t until relatively late into the process that I finally decided to ditch milk from my shakes. I needed the Calories elsewhere – drinking them was a waste. Next time I’d do that from the off, as it allows me to enjoy bigger portions of food elsewhere and keep me fuelled more evenly throughout the day.

It’s funny, when bulking, drinking Calories can be a real help just to enable the amount of food needed to be ingested. Cutting, the reverse is true! Total yoghurt becomes 0% to lower the fat and save Calories for elsewhere. Porridge (if previously cooked with milk) becomes water based, as do shakes; to again save Calories for elsewhere. It’s learning these things for yourself and what works best for you, your lifestyle and your tastes.

Looking back at 2015

It’s been a very solid year. I completed my first bulk/cut cycle. I’m bigger, I’m leaner, I’m stronger – and most importantly – I’m healthier. Brilliant. Could I have made even more progress? Sure. But I haven’t been in the game very long; there’s still plenty of lessons for me to learn, take on board and use to make sure that with each passing year I get better and better.

Want to know a secret? You’ll be learning forever. It never stops. No-one knows it all. There is always someone who knows something you don’t. There is always something new to try or learn. You may even find in 2 years time that you disagree with some things you’ve written here; you mind find drinking Calories during a cut is the best thing since sliced bread. But like a relationship, you change. Circumstances change and thus what works might change. It is, and always will be, an ever evolving process.

For me, the major thing is that you gained muscle while bulking and lost fat while cutting. More importantly (as you state) you have become more healthy. This is (and always will be) the most important part for everyone. I am certain you will live a longer and more disease free life because of this.

Truth be told, I actually finished this programme back in the middle of November. Since then I’ve been training off the cuff, and have actually relaxed my diet a tad. I’m no longer eating to a deficit, for example. This has worked reasonably well; the sessions have had good internal logic, although there hasn’t been too much thought given to the overall week-to-week strategy. As I said, it’s been off the cuff. Not a properly structured programme.

Active rest. Needed to let your central nervous system have a break. To let the body and mind recover from the stress of building and then working to a deficit. By taking this break, when you start again, with a specific, progressive and intense programme; you will be able to do it properly. Fail to take this rest period and you will undersell yourself during the next periodised part of your long term plan.

As the year has drawn to a close I’ve found myself enjoying too many treats. Don’t get me wrong, the majority of my meals are still healthy, but without the structure of a programme I find it easier to give in and scoff a chocolate or two.

Which is natural. And healthy. The difference is that you now know how to make the main meals healthy. You drink enough water. You ingest enough protein. You get fruit and veg and if not multivits. An extra few Kcals from sweets and chocolate (especially if you are around maintenance kcals) won’t do too much harm. It’s one of the benefits of creating extra muscle; you can take more Calories, some of which can be more treat based!

What I can take from this is that I’m truly at my best when I’m doing a programme, especially where the nutrition is concerned. I find that using MyFitnessPal almost gamifies the process. I’m spurred on by a desire to ‘win’ another day by hitting the macros spot on. Without a structure in place (i.e. outside of a programme), there’s no losing when I indulge in a treat. So it happens more often. Obviously this isn’t ideal, but Sean always stresses that you should Know Thyself. And at this point I know myself better than ever. I know how I work in a programme, and out of a programme. My strengths, weakness etc. This year has taught me a lot, and will serve me very well moving forward. Speaking of that…

I can’t add to this. What you have said sums it all up. Well done.

What next?

It’s time to get big! Back on the bulk, piling on the pump. I’m going to take the lessons I’ve learned over the past year or so and put everything into practice. 2016 will see me become the biggest and strongest I have ever been.

And to help, I’ve come up with a programme designed to add failure into the muscles far more than before. Instead of GVT based volume, we are starting the year with compound sets based on pre-fatigue and failure. Let’s see how it works…

Here’s to a great year!

Ray Wilson - Author

Ray has worked with Sean on a number of projects across film, web, and health and fitness. In 2015 he completed a bulk/cut cycle, blogging about his experiences with weekly input and advice from Sean.