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Knowledge Gains: The 5 Most Common Cutting Mistakes

Are you dieting for a show, shoot, or summer holiday? Avoid these easy mistakes – and get shredded!

Once you make the decision to diet down to a shredded physique, it can feel like the pressure is on – especially if you’ve set yourself the deadline of a social event, photoshoot, or even a bodybuilding show. But there’s only so much the body can do with the tools of time, energy expenditure, and diet. Make sure you’re working with your body – not against it – by avoiding these common dieting mistakes.



You need to be realistic about what you can achieve in a given timeframe. Some people will be able to lose 1-2kgs per week with minimal impact on lean mass, but smaller and/or more sedentary people might struggle to lose 0.8kg. And don’t forget that fat loss will inevitably slow down as the diet progresses. Build in time for plateus, slip ups, and planned diet breaks too. What we’re saying is, don’t try to get stage lean in 12 weeks unless you’re already pretty lean and carrying a decent amount of muscle. Be honest with yourself.


If you’ve been dieting down in previous years, you will have a good idea of how quickly you get lean and how long it takes you to get to your goal. Be honest about your starting point. If you’re 10kgs over your previous “start of a diet” weight, then you will need more time than usual. So either start earlier, do a “pre diet-diet”, or choose a later show date. You can’t cheat time (and if you try, it will backfire on you either during the diet or in a rebound).


Inexperienced dieters can fall into the trap of slashing caloric intake right from the starting gate. Whilst this can lead to a pleasing amount of weight loss in the first few weeks, it doesn’t leave you anywhere to go. What will your next plan of attack be if weight loss slows down or if you find the harsh deficit too much to cope with? A better plan is to eat in as small a deficit as you can whilst still maintaining fat loss, and continually manipulate it downwards as you progress.


This is similar to #3. People will often go at it all guns blazing: low calories AND high amounts of cardio. This leaves you with no tricks up your sleeve, and it will highly likely to lead to burn out or mental fatigue. Employ cardio as a tool to assist with the calorie deficit, and consider using different forms of cardio to create the activity (like walking).


There’s no need to suddenly change your dietary beliefs when you start a cutting diet (unless your core beliefs are in the twin gods of doughnuts and stuffed crust pizza). If you usually eat a balance macro split, don’t suddenly go low carb. If you usually sleep better with a serving of carbs before bed, don’t ban all carbs and try to run on fats instead. The key to losing fat is a calorie deficit, with protein intake close behind. Once you’ve got those two sorted, there’s no need to drastically alter your approach to carbs and fats (other than to chip away at them to create the necessary deficit).

- The Letterbox Gains Team