After a good bulk, you’re mighty eager to unveil the lean muscle you just worked so hard to build! We all know that cutting back on food after a bulk can be torturous. Are there ways to make it less torturous? Yes! Welcome to our guide to choosing the best supplement for cutting without losing muscle.
In this guide, we share:
- Top 10 Cutting & Shredding Supplements
- How to Choose the Best Shredding Supplement
- Bonus Tips to Accelerate Your Journey
|#1) Vintage Fat Burner
|#2) Evlution Nutrition Lean Mode
|#3) Evlution Nutrition LeanBCAA
|#4) MuscleTech Nitro Tech Ripped
|#5) Xtend Ripped BCAA Powder
|#6) Burn XT
|#7) Atrafen Elite
|#8) RSP AminoLean
|#9) Keto BHB
|#10) Genius Test
How to Choose the Best Shredding Supplement
Understanding the concept of bulking and cutting is the first step to choosing a good cutting supplement. If you’re new to bodybuilding or the concept of bulking/cutting, there’s one key consideration to make first. Calories.
Calories are king for both bulking and cutting. Before you choose any supplement for cutting and shredding fat, you have to understand that none of them will work effectively if you consume significantly more daily calories than you burn. It’s that simple, and there’s no way around it, at least not with a supplement that costs under $50.
Step #1 – Understand Your Calorie Intake
Before you start cutting or choose a cutting supplement, get in the right calorie mindset. Know that you must consume fewer calories than you burn to effectively lose weight. It seems counterintuitive to think of reducing calories while building muscle, right? That’s why it’s critical to make each and every calorie count.
Loading up on unnecessary carbs, high-calorie drinks, and empty calories is a surefire way to fail out of the gate. That’s why whey protein isolate is a great source of calories while cutting. The key is to avoid catabolism (muscle breakdown) while losing weight with the help of the supplements in our Top 10.
If you’re new to calorie counting, an excellent resource is calculator.net. There, you’ll find all the information you need to quickly get a foundational understanding.
Once you get the hang of it and understand your diet, you’ll no longer need a calorie counter, but it’s a great place to start and pick up the tips you need to get an accurate measure of your calorie intake.
- To avoid losing muscle while cutting, do not lose more than 1% of your total body weight per week
- Use the calculator at Calculator.net to compute your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) in calories
- Consider the weight loss recommendations shown by Calculator.net to determine how many calories per day will keep you safely under 1% total body weight loss per week
Recommended Weight Loss Example
Below is an example I just ran on Calculator.net. For this example, I used the stats in the screenshot below. I input intense exercise 3-4 times per week since that’s how many times per week I lift (screenshots below are credited to calculator.net):
The screenshot below shows my calculated results and weight loss recommendations:
First off, props to calculator.net for providing one of the best free resources and best calorie counters.
Using the results above, I can calculate my daily calorie intake to stay within the safe range for maintaining lean muscle while losing weight.
The safe range is no more than 1% body weight loss per week, and the optimal range is .5% to 1%.
165 x .01 = 1.65 lbs per week. Now divide that by 2, and it equals .825. The safe range of weekly weight loss in this example is .825 to 1.65 lbs per week for a 165-lb man.
According to my calculator.net results, I should eat between 2,284 and 1,872 daily calories. I had to break out my own calculator for this one. What I did is calculate that each 1/2 lb of weight loss equals 9.25% of the total calories to maintain weight.
I then divided the .825 and 1.65 figures by .5 to calculate the % and times those percentages by 2,696 to arrive at 2,284 and 1,872.
To lose .5% of my weight weekly, I would eat 2,284 calories daily.
To lose a full 1% of my weight weekly, I would eat 1,872 calories daily.
Be sure not to forget to adjust the calories to account for the weight you lose each week.
Calculator.net goes a step further by offering a Zigzag Calorie Cycling schedule and Food Energy Converter.
For additional tips, we recommend reading under the heading “Calorie Counting as a Means for Weight Loss” after you calculate your recommended weight loss calorie intake.
Step #2 – Track/Boost Your Protein Intake
There’s a TON of misinformation out there revolving around recommended protein intake for bodybuilders and building muscle. We’ve seen inflated recommendations such as 2 grams of protein per pound of body weight. This is entirely too much for most people while cutting. You end up dumping money down the drain on protein supplements when you overdo your intake.
The safest bet is 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. Lean meats such as chicken and fish are excellent sources of protein while cutting.
You may also want to add protein powder to your cutting diet. In our experience, the best protein supplement for cutting is Nitro Tech Ripped. It provides 30 grams of clean whey protein isolate per serving, almost zero carbs, and most importantly, zero creatine.
Beware of protein powders with creatine since creatine causes fluid retention, particularly in the muscle cells (*). This effect of creatine is undesirable while on a cutting diet.
Whey protein isolate is also easier to digest and a lot less likely to cause bloating that wreaks havoc on any chance of unveiling your shredded six-pack while cutting.
Another feature we like about Ripped is it’s nearly sugar-free. It also contains some good fat burners including Green Coffee Bean Extract (C. Canephora robusta), CLA, Green Tea Extract, and L-carnitine L-tartrate. Overall, it’s better than its competitor, BSN ISOBURN.
Step #3 – Time Your Carbs
It’s still necessary to consume clean carbs while cutting to provide your body with fuel. The key is to eat your carbs at the right time. Obviously, you don’t want to eat any carbs before bed or eat before bed in general while cutting.
The best time to eat carbs while cutting is before or after your workout. Since you burn the most calories during exercise, it makes sense to give your body the fuel it needs before exercise to power through your workouts.
The last problem you want is to run out of energy during your workout.
Post-workout is also a good time to eat carbs because of the afterburn effect, meaning your body continues to burn more calories than at your normal resting rate after exercise.
One interesting study (*) found that high-intensity exercise results in more post-exercise oxygen consumption than steady-state endurance exercises, such as moderate stationary cycling.
For this reason, you may want to consider incorporating more high-intensity interval training or HIIT into your routine while cutting to enhance the afterburn effect.
Step #4 – Choose Your Supplement
Now that you have a basic understanding of a cutting diet and how to monitor your calories for optimal results, let’s move onto the fun part.
Not everyone who’s cutting wants to get shredded. A lot of people are looking to burn fat and lose weight first. It’s of the utmost importance to identify your cutting and shredding goals before choosing a supplement.
The supplements in our Top 10 cast a wide net that will help everyone who’s cutting and/or shredding reach their goals. We put together several lists below to help make your decision easy-peasy:
The Best Supplements for Cutting Without Losing Muscle
- Vintage Fat Burner
- Evlution Nutrition Lean Mode
- Evlution Nutrition LeanBCAA
- MuscleTech Nitro Tech Ripped
- XTEND Ripped BCAA Powder
- RSP AminoLean
- Genius Test
The Best Supplements for Cutting Fat & Weight Loss
- Burn XT
- Atrafen Elite
- Keto BHB
What makes these supplements different? The supplements in the first section feed your muscles while helping you lose weight at the same time.
Types of Cutting Supplements: Do they work?
You may be wondering how cutting supplements help you to lose weight while maintaining muscle or get that shredded physique. If one thing is for sure, the supplements don’t enter your body and eat fat. It’s still up to you to make them work, which is why step #1 is to get a basic understanding of how to enter a caloric deficit minus catabolism.
With that out of the way, cutting supplements do work. They’re best for people who want to make it easier on themselves to reduce calories while cutting. The last thing you want is any unwanted stress to hike your cortisol levels or to feel like you’re starving yourself.
Appetite suppressants do exactly what they say they do: suppress your appetite. Appetite suppression makes it a whole lot easier to survive a cutting diet or intermittent fasting routine. Most stimulants, such as caffeine, work well to boost mood and suppress appetite.
We drink a lot of green tea and practice intermittent fasting. Green tea gives us energy and suppresses our appetite while in the fasting state. It’s how we get most of our work done since we don’t like to work after eating. Who does, right?
Did you notice that a lot of cutting supplements contain Green Tea Extract and Green Coffee Bean Extract? These ingredients boost the metabolic rate and suppress appetite. Those are just two of the reasons they’re so effective for cutting and shredding.
Thermogenic Fat Burners
The term “thermogenic fat burners” is all the rage right now, but like most catchy phrases in the fitness world, it’s nothing new. Thermogenesis is nothing more than the production of heat in the human body. A hike in thermogenic activity = more calories burned throughout the day.
For this reason, thermogenic fat burners are effective for entering a caloric deficit while cutting. Vintage Burn is currently our favorite thermogenic fat burner on the market because it works, the ingredients are safe, and it’s all-natural.
It’s also great for men and women, which is one of the reasons we chose it as our #1 best cutting supplement. Vintage Burn was formulated by experts, specifically to burn fat while preserving muscle with proven-effective ingredients.
If you’re looking for a more hardcore thermogenic fat burner, Burn XT and Atrafen Elite both contain caffeine along with thermogenic fat burners for the ultimate calorie-burning effect.
Keto Fat Burners
Ketosis is another fancy term similar to thermogenesis. Ketosis is nothing more than the process of the body burning fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates. We prefer intermittent fasting over the Keto Diet, but the Keto Diet does work by limiting the number of carbs and increasing the amount of fat a person eats to encourage the body to use fat for fuel.
The reason we like intermittent fasting more than the Keto Diet is that we don’t like fad diet names, but we do love common sense. Interestingly enough, when the body is in a fasting state, it naturally begins to use fat for fuel instead of carbs (*), which is the ultimate goal of the Keto Diet anyway.
The top keto fat burner on the market is Keto BHB (beta-hydroxybutyrate). The main benefits of Keto BHB for a cutting diet are metabolism support and inducing/encouraging a state of ketosis. Of course, the supplement is a lot more effective while on a Keto Diet.
Stimulant-Free Fat Burners
Reaching for a caffeine-free fat burner may sound great in theory, but you’re leaving a lot on the table when you cut caffeine out of a cutting diet. The reason we drink green tea over coffee is the natural theanine in tea and the lower % of caffeine per cup. We can get our caffeine on while the theanine makes sure we enjoy a jitter-free rush.
The key point is to consider how you respond to stimulants before you choose a cutting supplement. If stimulants such as caffeine give you the jitters or any negative side effects, there are superb stimulant-free choices in our Top 10.
For example, Lean Mode and LeanBCAA by Evlution Nutrition are both stim-free supplements for cutting. Genius Test is also caffeine-free. Always check the label before you buy a shredding supplement.
If you’re unsure about the ingredients, all reputable supplement companies clearly state whether the supplement is stim-free or caffeine-free on the label or in the product description. Never buy a supplement from a company that hides the ingredients label.
Low testosterone and belly fat go hand in hand. It’s the reason a lot of older men are lugging around those spare tires in their guts. For this reason, we added Genius Test to our list of best cutting supplements, mainly for men with low testosterone who want to gain lean muscle while burning fat.
Even the U.S. Army agrees that low testosterone levels and belly fat are linked. Boosting low testosterone comes with a slew of benefits that can literally turn a man’s life around. If you think low testosterone is holding you back from being successful with a cutting diet, Genius Test is worth a look.
BCAAs + Glutamine
BCAAs for weight loss are nothing new. BCAAs or branched-chain amino acids are the most productive amino acids for maintaining lean muscle and preventing catabolism (muscle breakdown). BCAAs contain no carbs or sugar. They’re muscle-building fuel at their finest and the overall best supplement for shredding.
We love LeanBCAA and Xtend Ripped BCAAs because they combine the power of amino acids and fat burners in a single supplement. We also love how Xtend took things a step further by adding glutamine, which is also one of the top supplements for shredding.
Bodybuilders utilize a lot of glutamine while working out. Problems can occur while cutting since you’re consuming fewer calories. Sufficient glutamine stores in the muscles are essential for preventing catabolism. Insufficient glutamine can lead the body to use glutamine from muscle tissue, which can lead to catabolism.
For this reason, Xtend Ripped is the best intra-workout supplement for cutting because it promotes faster muscle recovery, fat loss, and lean muscle gains.
Let’s not forget how important of a role energy boosters play while cutting. You still need to lift while cutting, right? Eating fewer calories, especially carbs, may lead to significantly less energy in the gym. Cutting supplements with caffeine and other stimulants are desirable for people who want an energy boost with their cutting supplement.
The key benefits are more calories burned, harder workouts, positive mood, and appetite suppression. Caffeine not only increases energy and alertness but it’s also been shown to increase serotonin levels (*). Serotonin is thought to play a key role in mood and appetite regulation.
The drawback is not everyone responds well to stimulants, and they can negatively affect the quality of sleep if taken too late in the day.
The last type of weight loss supplement that may be useful for people who are having trouble limiting their calories is diet pills that block fat. The diet pill, alli, is an FDA-approved weight loss pill that actually blocks the absorption of about 25% of the fat you eat from food.
The biggest complaint is the funky bowel movements that often occur with this supplement after eating a fatty meal. Overall, this is the last type of cutting supplement to consider since there are far better options for maintaining muscle while losing weight.
Additional Tips on How to Maintain Muscle While Cutting
At this point, you know about all the best cutting supplement brands and the top supplements for shredding. Are there ways to further enhance the effectiveness of these supplements and the overall quality of your cut? Yes.
Below, we put together several more tips to help you maintain those muscles you worked so hard to get!
Don’t Forget Your Vitamins
Micronutrients are in shorter supply when you reduce macros for cutting. This goes back to what we mentioned about making every calorie count. If your diet isn’t full of nutritious foods including fruits and vegetables, you may want to add a multivitamin to your cutting diet to ensure you don’t get low on any essential vitamins and minerals.
Focus on the Best Multi-Joint Exercises
The best multi-joint exercises for fat loss are barbell workouts. Barbell workouts help to build muscle while burning fat. They also allow you the opportunity to focus on retaining as much of your strength as possible while losing weight, which you more than likely already know is no easy task.
Incorporate more of the following exercises into your workouts:
- Barbell Squats (variations including Front Squat)
- Bentover Row
- Overhead Press
- Bench Press (incline)
One of the biggest mistakes people make while cutting is to skip these workouts. Multi-joint barbell exercises will also help to prevent your metabolism from slowing while you’re eating fewer calories.
Another tip we follow is to jump to (or near) our max target weight for each lift after a single warm-up set instead of wasting energy on lower-weight, high-rep sets. In other words, there’s no reason to work your way up the ladder to your max weight.
When you focus on low-weight, high-rep sets to “burn more calories,” all you’re really doing is training your body for endurance. Since your goal (we’re assuming) is to get a shredded physique that’s packed with lean muscle, it’s essential to stay in strength-building mode while cutting to continue building lean muscle.
Lastly, start your workout with the lifts above and more weight to avoid flipping on the endurance switch.
Choose HIIT Over Steady-State Endurance Exercises
High-intensity interval training is the superior cardio workout while cutting to maintain lean muscle. HIIT has shown promise as the preferred cardio workout for increasing lean muscle mass and quality while burning fat. The best part is HIIT sessions are much shorter than long steady-state sessions on a treadmill or bike.
A home cardio machine such as the Assault AirRunner is an excellent choice for HIIT workouts because it allows the user to seamlessly transition from an all-out sprint to a slow walk. Airdyne or Air Bikes are also excellent choices for HIIT training. If you’re feeling brave, you may want to consider a SkiErg for an intense upper-body cardio session that’ll undoubtedly shred your shoulders, back, triceps, and abs.
Low-intensity, steady-state cardio such as jogging on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike is less desirable while cutting.
Optimize Your Workouts
With fewer calories to work with, it becomes important to maximize every minute you spend in the gym. This reinforces the reason why multi-joint exercises and HIIT are the preferred choices while cutting.
A big mistake I used to make – and one I always see people make – is spending too much time in the gym while cutting. Try to incorporate more drop sets and supersets into your workout to minimize downtime and make your workout shorter/more productive. Higher intensity at the beginning of your workout is another solid measure to follow.
It’s important to remember that endurance exercises and longer workouts in the gym equal more cortisol, which is a particularly unfavorable bodily response for bodybuilders. Cortisol is a catabolic hormone, and in excess, it decreases lean muscle mass. It also increases appetite, which can lead to an increase in fat mass (*).
Don’t take this tip lightly!
Never Sacrifice Rest and Sleep
You’re already taxing your body by reducing calories, engaging in high-intensity cardio, and lifting heavy, so rest becomes even more important to keep cortisol at bay. Be sure to get a sufficient night’s sleep every night and take some time to relax your mind and body. We love meditation and naps.
There’s one important thing to remember about sleep, Quality > Quantity. While most healthy adults require 7 – 9 hours (*) of sleep per day, the quality of those hours is just as important as the quantity.
Sleep deprivation is another surefire way to increase cortisol, and there’s evidence showing that it may also lead to weight gain. Studies found that sleep-deprived individuals had higher cortisol levels later in the day, which can signal the body to store fat and use muscle tissue for fuel (*). Scary stuff to stay the least.
Below are several final considerations to make when choosing cutting supplements.
Top supplements for shredding and cutting shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg. All of the supplements in our Top 10 are affordable and depending on your budget, there are options to fit even the smallest budgets. The great part about cutting is that you’re spending a lot less on food anyway, so why not use a small chunk of those savings to enhance your results?
Most cutting supplements, especially fat burners with high doses of caffeine, aren’t meant to be taken long-term. Always follow the serving suggestion instructions carefully and use caffeinated cutting supplements temporarily instead of long-term.
For long-term cutting and weight loss, the stimulant-free supplements in our Top 10 are far better options. There’s also the option to stack stimulant-free supplements with caffeine and other safe stimulant supplements.
The keyword here is supplements. Supplements are made to supplement an already-effective cutting diet to enhance results, not to do the heavy lifting.
Always, always, always check the ingredients label on a supplement before you buy it. Since everyone is different, supplement companies can’t possibly accommodate everyone’s needs with a single supplement. It’s up to the user to consider the ingredients and possible allergic reactions.
Supplements are loosely-regulated compared to pharmaceuticals, which allows supplement companies to get away with offering enticing benefits with simple disclaimers. One thing supplement companies must do (at least in theory) is to list all of the ingredients on their product labels.
Are you ready to get shredded? These are the best cutting supplements for shredding on the market. Since you made it this far, we’re confident that you know how to choose the best supplement for shredding and how to do a cutting diet the right way.
Whether you’re a bodybuilder, someone who wants to get toned, or simply want to lose weight, there are options in our Top 10 for you. Now it’s time to start shredding!