The Best Diet for Cutting But Keeping Muscle

Looking to cut body fat while maintaining your hard-earned muscle? You’re not alone! Knowing how to work out and what to eat can be a challenge. Discover the best diet for cutting but keeping muscle!

Quick facts: Best Diet For Cutting But Keeping Muscle

✅ A study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that a diet comprised of 30% protein, 40% carbohydrates, and 30% fat can be effective for muscle maintenance and fat loss.

✅ High-protein diets that include 1.2-2.2 g/kg of protein per day can help reduce body fat and maintain muscle mass, according to a study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.

✅ The same journal also found that athletes consuming a diet high in protein, low in carbohydrates, and moderate in fat were able to maintain muscle mass while losing body fat.

✅ A study from the British Journal of Nutrition found that a diet high in protein and low in carbohydrates can be effective for muscle maintenance and fat loss.

✅ According to a study in the Journal of Nutrition, a diet low in carbohydrates and high in protein can preserve muscle mass even during periods of calorie restriction.

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When it comes to dieting for muscle retention, macronutrients are an important factor to consider. Macronutrients include proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Each of these plays an important role in helping to maintain muscle mass and prevent muscle catabolism during a cutting diet.

Let’s explore the specifics of the macronutrient components in the best diets for cutting but keeping muscle:

Understand the role of protein

Protein is one of the most important macronutrients when it comes to body composition. It helps build and maintain muscle mass, while boosting fat loss. When cutting, it’s essential to get enough protein from your diet in order to maintain your muscle mass during weight loss.

An adequate amount of protein occurs when you consume 1-1.5g of protein per pound of body weight, or 2-3g/kg. Achieving this intake can often be difficult on a calorie restricted diet or with food intolerances, so supplementing with a high quality protein powder can be helpful.

As well as ensuring an adequate intake, the type of protein we consume can also be important for fat loss and muscle growth. Whey protein is one of the best forms for improving lean body composition due to its high level of leucine; an amino acid that boosts muscle growth and repair when consumed after exercise.

Understand the role of carbohydrates

Carbohydrates provide the body with energy, help with digestion and play a role in many metabolic processes. Carbohydrates are contained in foods such as starches, fruits, vegetables, grains and dairy products.

The body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose and then either uses it for immediate energy or stores it as glycogen in the liver or muscle. When cutting calories, it is important to ensure that you are consuming enough carbohydrates to fuel your body and metabolism during exercise. Consuming too few carbohydrates can cause a decrease in performance and issues such as fatigue.

When following a diet for cutting but keeping muscle, aim for about 50-60% of your total caloric intake from carbohydrates spread out throughout the day.

Understand the role of fats

Fats are an essential macronutrient, and a critical component of any diet designed to help you cut while keeping muscle. Fats should make up roughly 25-30% of your total caloric intake while cutting. Fats provide an important source of energy and play a role in hormone production, protecting against inflammation, assuring adequate absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, maintaining the structural integrity of cell membranes and more.

For cutting diets, aim to consume mostly unsaturated fats like those found in olive oil, avocados and nuts. Try to limit or avoid saturated fats or trans fats found in processed foods like fried foods or baked goods. Additionally, consuming omega 3 fatty acids (found in fish oil) can benefit overall health.

It’s important to remember that fat calories add up quickly; try to stick within the recommended amount for best results.

Calorie Management

Calorie management is an essential part of a diet for cutting but keeping muscle. It involves tracking your calories consumption and making sure you stay within your daily caloric limit. Calorie management helps ensure that you get the essential nutrients your body needs while ensuring you don’t take in more calories than necessary.

Let’s look at how calorie management can help you when it comes to dieting for cutting but keeping muscle:

Calculate your daily calorie needs

Calculating your daily calorie needs is a key factor in ensuring that you are able to reach your diet and fitness goals. This step is also necessary to begin cutting body fat without sacrificing muscle. The formula for calculating your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE), which determines how many calories you need to consume each day, is based on several factors including age, gender, height, weight and activity level.

To get an estimate of your TDEE, consider using online calculators or a nutritionist who can help tailor the requirements based on your individual health parameters.

Once you have an estimate of your TDEE, it’s time to decide how many calories you should be consuming each day for effective calorie management. A good rule of thumb is to start out at about 10-15% below your TDEE in order to create a calorie deficit and begin cutting body fat with minimal muscle loss. Monitor how quickly you are losing weight and adjust accordingly. If needed, slowly reduce the number of calories until the desired body composition is reached while making sure not to cut too much too quickly or put yourself in starvation mode by dropping below an extremely low caloric intake (<1,200 calories).

Track your calorie intake

Calorie management plays a crucial role in any cutting diet plan. Tracking your calorie intake means you know whether you’re consuming the correct number of calories for not only reaching your cutting goals, but also for maintaining energy levels throughout the day. Cutting calories too drastically can cause a drop in energy levels and make it more difficult to stay motivated, which makes meeting your goals much harder. That’s why it’s important to keep track of your calorie intake—so you know if you’re eating enough to meet your goals without sacrificing too much energy.

There are many apps available that help with tracking calorie intake such as MyFitnessPal, Lose It!, and Calorie Counter & Diet Tracker by MyNetDiary, but there are also other methods. For example, tracking calories manually by counting them with pen and paper or writing down what you eat every day can help give an accurate assessment of how many calories you’re actually taking in. Tracking your calorie intake is an essential part of any successful cutting diet plan!

Adjust your calorie intake as needed

Adjusting your calorie intake is the most important part of calorie management when attempting to cut and retain muscle. Depending on your goals, fitness level, dietary preferences, and body composition, the caloric intakes will vary greatly. The best way to adjust your calories is to monitor your weight weekly or bi-weekly and evaluate what needs to be changed in order to reach the desired results.

Keeping careful track of calories can be a challenge if you are not used to it. However, with the tools available today such as app-based calorie trackers, there is no excuse not to monitor one’s caloric intake closely. Pay close attention to what you are eating and how much of it you are consuming – over or under consuming can hamper progress when trying to both cut fat and maintain muscle.

Meal Planning

Meal planning is an important part of any diet, especially when it comes to cutting while still keeping muscle. Planning your meals ahead of time helps ensure that you are getting the right balance of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and other important nutrients. Additionally, it cuts down on time spent grocery shopping, as you can plan your meals and shop for the ingredients in one go.

Let’s look at how meal planning can help you reach your fitness goals:

Create a meal plan

Creating a meal plan is a great way to help you achieve your goals of cutting body fat while maintaining your muscle mass. Start by calculating how many calories you need daily. Once you’ve determined your calorie needs, determine how many meals and snacks you need to eat each day to meet your daily caloric requirement.

Then, make sure those meals are balanced to provide you with the ideal combination of macronutrients – protein, carbohydrates and fat. Make sure the quality of these macronutrients come from quality sources such as lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats and whole foods as much as possible. Choose sources that are nutrient-dense, have plenty of fiber and contain minimal processed ingredients.

Finally, don’t forget to include lots of fruits and vegetables in every meal or snack that you eat – they are packed with essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that will help fuel your body for optimal performance.

Create a grocery list

Meal planning is a great way to make sure you have the meals and snacks you need for cutting but keeping muscle. It’s important to plan out your grocery list in advance so that you don’t run into any mistakes or last-minute changes.

When creating your grocery list, make sure to include a variety of lean protein sources such as skinless chicken, turkey breast, fish fillets, and plant-based proteins like tofu and legumes. Also include healthy fats such as nuts, seeds, avocado, and extra virgin olive oil. Don’t forget to stock up on complex carbohydrates like quinoa, sweet potatoes, wild rice and oats; plus plenty of fruits and vegetables like leafy greens and colorful produce. Finally add any condiments or seasonings you’ll use during cooking.

By creating a comprehensive grocery list at the start of the week, it will be easier for you to stay on track with your cutting diet while still getting enough protein.

Meal prep to save time

Meal prepping is a great way to save time and ensure that you’re always eating healthy. Meal prep involves setting aside time each week to plan out meals, buy groceries, and prepare or partially prepare meals or snacks that you can easily grab when on-the-go.

Preparing food ahead of time means less time spent in the kitchen, which can cut down on the temptation to give into unhealthy cravings when hunger strikes. Meal prep also helps to keep portion sizes in check by allowing you to measure out servings ahead of time so you don’t end up overeating. It also helps cut down on food costs since it encourages buying in bulk and cooking from scratch instead of buying expensive prepared meals.

Finally, meal prepping ensures that all meals are balanced so your body has the nutrients it needs to stay energized and maintain muscle mass while cutting fat.


When it comes to cutting but keeping muscle, supplements can be a great way to reach your fitness goals. Supplements provide your body with extra protein, which is essential for building and maintaining muscle. Additionally, certain supplements can help you burn fat faster and more efficiently.

Let’s look at some of the best supplements for cutting but keeping muscle:

Consider adding protein powder

Protein powder is an easy and convenient way to add protein to your diet, especially if you’re looking to build or maintain muscle. Adding a high quality protein supplement to your diet can help you reach your daily protein goals, which is important for helping you both maintain and build muscle.

Protein powders come in a variety of flavors and types; the best type for building muscle depends on your individual needs. If you’re looking for a post workout shake, opt for a fast-absorbing whey protein isolate or blend. However, if you want something more sustained-release, casein may be the better option. You can also consider vegetarian options like pea or rice proteins if you don’t eat animal products. Additionally, many protein products contain added vitamins and minerals that can help with overall health and vitality.

Talk to your doctor or nutritionist about which type of protein powder might be best for you.

Consider adding BCAA’s

BCAA stands for branched-chain amino acids. These essential nutrients make up a large portion of muscle tissue and are important for maintaining muscle growth and health. It is recommended that when cutting, you consider adding BCAA’s to your diet in order to maximize muscle retention while cutting calories. BCAA’s may also help reduce fatigue during intense workouts, and can help speed recovery since they contain Energy-System-Promoting branched chain fatty acids (BCFAs).

The recommended dosage of BCAA’s is between 2-6g per day, taken pre or post workout. Make sure to check with your physician before taking any supplements, as some may interfere with existing medications or have other adverse effects.

Consider adding a multivitamin

Multivitamins are a great way to ensure proper nutrition when trying to lose weight and keep muscle. A multivitamin can help fill nutrient gaps that may not be met through diet alone. They typically contain key vitamins and minerals.

If you’re looking to add muscle, some multivitamins also include ingredients like creatine, which is one of the most studied supplements for promoting muscle growth. Depending on your individual goals and diet choices, a daily multivitamin may be beneficial in helping you meet your vitamin and mineral needs as you strive for cutting but keeping muscle.

Be sure to speak with a medical professional before adding any supplement to your regimen.


Exercise is an important part of any diet plan for cutting but keeping muscle. The type and amount of exercise you do will directly affect your body composition and muscle building goals. The most effective way to cut but still retain muscle is to combine a proper diet with an exercise program that is designed to help you reach your goals.

Let’s explore the different ways you can incorporate exercise into your diet plan:

Incorporate weight training

Weight training is an important part of the best diet for cutting but keeping muscle. This type of exercise is especially beneficial for those looking to lose fat without sacrificing muscle mass. Weight training causes a release of hormones that stimulate muscle growth and help promote fat loss. Additionally, weight training helps create an overall more defined look by sculpting and toning muscles.

This type of exercise regime should include:

  • Compound movements (squats, presses, and rows) that target multiple muscle groups at once.
  • Isolation exercises that focus on a single muscle group (biceps curls, leg extensions).

It is best to incorporate three to four total body workouts each week and split body parts over the different days (i.e., chest and triceps on Monday; legs and back on Tuesday; shoulders on Wednesday). Lastly, be sure not to overexert yourself or train any single body part more than twice per week as this could lead to overtraining.

Incorporate HIIT

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is an effective exercise technique used to burn fat and build muscle. HIIT is a highly efficient way to build muscle that involves performing brief, intense bursts of activity in between periods of rest or lighter activity. This type of exercise allows your body to work at a high level of intensity for short periods of time, followed by a rest period.

During the HIIT sessions, muscles are pushed to their limit without overworking them and cause exhaustion or injury. Depending on the program you choose, HIIT can range from 30-second sprints or cycling sessions up to 7 minute intervals with exercises such as squats, push-ups, jumping jacks, plyometrics and more. For example, you could do 30 seconds of burpees followed by 30 seconds of rest and repeat this cycle for 10 minutes with no rest in between each set if desired.

The combination of both anaerobic and aerobic exercises within HIIT makes it the ideal choice for both cutting fat and keeping muscle during dieting phases.

Incorporate cardio

When it comes to cutting body fat while maintaining muscle mass, it’s important to incorporate cardio into your routine. Cardio helps to burn more calories during exercise than strength training alone, which can help you create a caloric deficit and shed unwanted body fat. It also increases your heart rate and mobilizes fat stores for energy production. Additionally, aerobic exercises such as running, swimming and biking can help raise levels of hormones like endorphins which not only act as natural painkillers but can boost mood as well.

To maximize fat loss, try to perform one longer session of moderate-intensity cardio (like jogging) several times per week, in addition to shorter interval-based HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) workouts like sprints or Tabata sets.

FAQs about: Best Diet For Cutting But Keeping Muscle

Q1: What is the best diet for cutting but keeping muscle?

A1: To cut but keep muscle, try to focus on a diet that is high in protein and low in carbs. Make sure to include plenty of healthy fats and complex carbohydrates. Additionally, focus on nutrient-dense, whole foods that are high in vitamins and minerals. Try to eat five to six times a day, with meals spaced out every two to three hours to keep your metabolism active and your energy levels up.

Q2: How much protein should I eat while cutting?

A2: Generally, you should aim to eat 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. For example, if you weigh 180 pounds, you should aim to eat between 180 and 270 grams of protein per day.

Q3: What types of food should I be eating when cutting?

A3: When cutting, focus on lean proteins such as chicken, fish, and lean beef. Other healthy sources of protein include legumes, nuts, and eggs. Additionally, include plenty of complex carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes, brown rice, quinoa, and oats. Also, don’t forget healthy fats such as avocados, nuts, and olive oil.

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