My Mini Cut- By Asha Khan
I have mentioned in the past that I had (and to some degree, still do have) a bad relationship with food and body image. A brush with anorexia during high school has acted as a bench mark for me to measure my health and happiness regarding food and exercise. I refused to weight myself for nearly 6 years but this year I decided I was in a better, more mature place, so I hopped back on the scales.
I was up about 4-5kgs from the last time I weight myself, which was to be expected given that I had been working hard to build muscle. I did briefly get sucked back down the rabbit hole and began monitoring for fluctuations but thankfully this didn’t last long, and I was able to get a grip again! After doing some serious strength training while I was away in Toronto – putting on another 1-2kg – and working hard to build my back squats and deadlifts, I started doing a mini cut. I started this cut on Sunday October 6th as an experiment to see how my body would respond to a change in calories. So far it has been successful in 2 ways. After 1 week, I was down 1.3kg but still full of energy and feeling leaner and secondly, I wasn’t spiralling out of control!
This is a vegan diet and while I have been working hard to reach 100g of protein every day, it has been somewhat challenging to do in a caloric deficit. So, I would not suggest following an exact replica of my diet but to tailor it to your own energy needs. Read my guidelines below to see how I tried to combat this.
1. 90% whole food and 10% sanity food.
2. 1500 calories per day.
3. Drop intensity of training back slightly to make sure I can maintain this caloric deficit and still have energy.
4. Measure in grams as opposed to tablespoons and teaspoons, for greater accuracy.
5. Meal prep lunch and dinner.
6. 1 re-feed day a week.
Why 1500 calories per day?
In order to see a drop in body fat you need to be in enough of a caloric deficit for your body respond and begin to change. I estimated my maintenance calories to be 2000/day and given that it takes a deficit of 3500 calories per
week to lose half a kilo of body fat, I knew that if I dropped my calories by 500 a day I would be in enough of a deficit to see change. You can chose to undulate your calories during the week (some high and some low days), or you can stick to a moderate deficit across all days. Remember that it is the deficit across the entire week that will stimulate a drop in body fat.
I prefer the idea of a re-feed day over a cheat day for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I always think that cheat implies that you are doing something wrong or shameful. I also think that generally people use cheat days to eat mainly foods with little nutritional value. Re-feeds work better for me because I see them as an opportunity to increase my carbohydrates and my overall weekly protein intake given that in a caloric deficit, I find it harder to hit my protein goal. Increasing carbohydrates on re-feed days helps spike the metabolism, stimulate repair in muscle tissues, decrease the inflammation from the drop in calories and also helps with the mental side of eating less. For my re-feed I focus on refuelling my body. I don’t track my calories or go overboard on junk food but I do track my protein and carbohydrate intake. I estimate my intake for re-feed days to be around 2000 calories and +120g protein and +/- 350g carbohydrate. This is a standard re-feed day for me:
Breakfast: A larger portion of my usual porridge. Dried dates instead of sultanas, a bit of
extra peanut butter. An orange and an apple. Coffee with oat milk (higher calorie than soy or almond)
Snack: Whatever I feel like! Usually more fruit, some coconut yoghurt or vegemite
Lunch: My usual lunch (recipe below) plus another coffee and maybe a sweet treat.
Snack: If I am hungry and want something extra before dinner (I didn’t last week because the extra food had me full!) then I will have some cashews and dried dates, hummus or a protein ball.
Dinner: Pizza! With soy-based fake meat for added protein, a whole bunch of veggies and some tea and maybe a little more peanut butter before bed.
Click here to see 3 full days of eating while on 1500 calories.
Tips to survive and thrive during a cut.
- Find replacements for foods you love but that might not make the cut. I swapped regular pasta for Eco Organics Chickpea Fettuccine because it has 42g protein per serving. The serving sizes are enormous, so I dropped it back to 60g serving and still got a whopping 25g of protein in the form of everyone’s favourite carb!
- Don’t track your energy expenditure. This can lead you to overeat if you have a calorie value for how much you burned during the day. Trackers can often be off by 200+ calories!
- Train smarter. Focus on getting your heavy compound lifts done and work hardest on the day of and day after a re-feed. You will have more energy and replenished glycogen stores! Prioritise exercises that work multiple muscles outside the major 3 lifts e.g. hammer curl and press, clean and press, heavy hip extensions and walking lunges.
- Help yourself succeed. Plan out and calculate your food the day before. This way you have wiggle room if you decide you want an extra coffee or a piece of toast to get over the afternoon slump! Meal prep and portion out your
lunches and dinners. Take your food for the day with you to work.
- High volume foods are your friends. Focus on foods that will make you feel full! If I am feeling peckish, instead of grabbing nuts which are super healthy but high in calories, I will steam an entire broccoli and add some (portioned out) pesto and
cheese to it.
My recipes for red lentil dahl, vegetable chilli and protein pasta sauce can be found on my MFP profile. Search for my name or email (firstname.lastname@example.org). More of my easy vegan recipes can be found in the 23W vegan eBook!
Where to from here?
After completing 2 weeks on 1500 calories a day, my energy levels are pretty stable! I have dropped body fat and I am able to maintain performance on back squat, deadlift and bench press. After 2 weeks were up (Monday October 21 st ) I increased my calories to 1800 a day and will maintain this until I go to Noosa at the beginning of December! I don’t plan to track on holiday. Holidays are for relaxing and being in tune with what my body needs, not for counting. 1800 calories a day will still have me in a deficit but not such a harsh one, so I expect to continue to drop body fat but at an easier to maintain rate. With these
extra 300 calories I can focus on retaining muscle and absorbing as many nutrients as possible.
Ange Drake is an personal trainer, women’s empowerment coach and fitness blogger in the northern suburbs of Melbourne. She is the director of one of the few womens’ only strength training gyms in Melbourne, 23W. Ange helps women to learn how to use strength based training, nutritional strategies and a positive mindset to transform their bodies, relationship with food and mind.
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