Every year, as spring begins drawing to a close and the first signs of summer are on the horizon, you can count on two things: The evenings will get longer and lighter, and gyms will start filling up with people looking to get “beach body” ready.
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Now, as we come out the other side and summer fades into our rear-view for another year, the majority who failed to achieve their goals will start bringing out tired tropes like “there’s no point now” and “next year.”
The question you need to ask yourself though is, “Why wait?”
In order to ensure that you do, in fact, reach your beach body goals by next summer, it’s essential you work out exactly how long you need to achieve them.
That’s why, today, I’m going to help you determine exactly when to start cutting for summer, so you don’t find yourself in the same position this time next year.
What Exactly is “Cutting”?
Cutting refers to the removal of excess body fat through a combination of exercise and diet.
The term originates from bodybuilding, where competitors would focus on bulking up and building muscle throughout the year, before entering a cutting cycle to shed fat and make the definition of their muscles more clear in the build-up to the competition.
These cycles have since permeated into the routines of everyday fitness enthusiasts, as building muscle without gaining fat is incredibly challenging.
Therefore, it’s more convenient for them to focus on a single goal at a time, making their progress more linear in the process.
The YouTube channel Picture Fit does a great job of explaining the definition in the video below.
The Problem With Bulking And Cutting Cycles
While the logic behind this approach is sound, the execution outside of dedicated bodybuilding circles can be a little less effective.
Bodybuilders will follow incredibly strict diets, whether bulking or cutting.
This means that when they come to cut, they have accumulated very little body fat and are essentially putting the finishing touches to their physique.
Everyday lifters, on the other hand, will be a little less strict.
I’m sure we’ve all heard people use the excuse “I’m bulking” to justify making poor dietary choices. They see bulking as a period in which they simply need a massive amount of calories to grow, regardless of where they come from.
This is half true, as you do, in fact, need an excess of calories to build muscle.
The problem is if you achieve that in such a way that it dramatically increases your body fat, you’re giving yourself a much more substantial task when it comes to cutting it back off.
How Long Do I Need to Cut For?
As you will hopefully have realized by now, there’s no single answer to this, as it largely depends on where you are currently, as well as where you intend to get to.
That’s why I’m going to break it down into 3 different, easy to identify categories, to give you the chance to work out which one best fits your personal situation.
Small Cut, Elite Physique
This category is for those who have very little fat to cut off.
You’re still relatively lean, but you just need to shed off that last little bit of fat to improve vascularity and make the striations and separation of the muscles more visible.
If you’ve already put in the effort on your diet and training to achieve a well built, muscular physique with very little fat, this is where your hard work pays off.
The first week or so of a cut are always the most dramatic.
Changes in your diet and training, as well as the loss of excess water, will allow you to lose weight at a faster rate than any other time. When you combine those facts with the small amount of work you’ve left yourself to do, it makes for pleasant reading.
People in this situation can realistically allow a mere 6-8 weeks for a cut. While some may need a little longer, this realistically allows you to drop around 10lbs, which should be plenty for someone who is already at an elite level.
Medium Cut, Intermediate To Advanced Physique
Of the three stages on this list, this is probably the option most serious lifters will end up using.
If you’ve built a solid base but have accumulated a reasonable amount of fat along the way, this will give you sufficient time to cut it off.
Likewise, a serious bodybuilder will benefit from this as, even though their body-fat is likely low, to begin with, it allows them time to remove it gradually.
This is important, as too great of a reduction in calories, to lose fat quickly, can also lead to an unwanted loss of muscle mass at the same time. Strength loss during workouts are common too.
The recommended length for a cut of this type is usually 12-16 weeks and can help you drop up to 20lbs if done correctly.
This provides plenty of time to remove the fat at a rate that won’t negatively affect your physique. It also provides the additional benefit of not taking too long, so you have plenty of time to concentrate on continuing to build your physique, rather than just cutting it down.
Long Cut, Beginner Physiques And First Cut Cycles
This is easily the longest of the three options.
It’s aimed at those with a substantial amount of fat to lose, where muscle mass is less of a concern than toning up.
If you’ve never done a cut before, have a habit of bulking up using poor food sources, or quite frankly just want to lose weight without really following bodybuilding, this is the option for you.
In this category, you’re realistically looking at cutting anywhere from 5 months and upwards.
While this may seem a long time, your goal in this group will be almost exclusively weight loss, with limited emphasis on muscle building. That being said, if done correctly, you should still be able to limit muscle loss, so you’ll maintain the majority of the gains you’ve already made.
The amount of weight you can expect to lose in this option isn’t as predictable, due to its open-ended nature. A good rule of thumb to work with is a loss of 1lb per week with the exception of the first 1-2 weeks.
When Should You Start Cutting for Summer?
Hopefully, this should have shown you exactly how long you need to put aside for your cut to ensure you achieve the results you’re looking for. To recap, it’s:
- 6-8 weeks for a short cut
- 12-16 weeks for a medium cut
- 5 months + for a long cut.
Now when going back to our original question, let’s consider the start of June as the beginning of summer. That means if you only need a short cut, you can get away with starting in early to mid-April, while a traditional cut will have you starting at some point in February.
Again, a long cut is a little more vague, but if this is what you feel you need, make sure to start no later than the turn of the year.
Now, with this knowledge in hand, finding yourself looking for excuses as to why you didn’t have your body ready for summer should be a thing of the past.
When To Start Cutting For Summer FAQs
When should I start summer cutting?
If you only need to lose a small amount of fat, you may start cutting for summer by April. But if you need to shed a significant amount of fat, you’ll probably need to do a medium cut of about 12-16 weeks or a long cut that can last for 5+ months.
How long should a summer cut be?
How long your cut for summer will depend on how much body fat you currently have. So your summer cut may range from 4 weeks to 5+ months.