Can I Eat Pasta While Cutting? Yes, But Here’s How to Do it Right!

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I’m sure you know that you need to be wary of your calories when cutting.

So, there’s typically certain foods that you tend to avoid.

Pasta is generally viewed as a great food for both fuelling and recovering from your workouts.

Plus, it’s ideal when you’re bulking.

However, should you be eating pasta while cutting?

Allow me explain “the rules” to eating pasta while cutting.

Yes, you can eat pasta while cutting, as long as it fits in with your daily calories and macronutrients. The main issue with pasta is that it’s extremely calorie dense, so it’s very easy to overeat. You would be better off making pasta a side dish, while filling your plate with protein and vegetables. Additionally, even though pasta has more calories per serving than many other carbs, it typically has a lower glycemic index. This means that it is less likely to cause a spike in blood sugar levels.

Why Does Pasta Get Such a Bad Rap?

two forks with spaghetti twirled around them

We’ve had a weird relationship with pasta over the years.

Firstly, who doesn’t love a great pasta dish, smothered in sauce and with plenty of meat, fish, or veggies?

But, taking pleasure out of the equation, there was a time that pasta was viewed as part of a healthy-living fad.

Basically, we all saw cyclists, swimmers, and various sports people chowing down on huge portions of pasta, so we followed suit.

I mean, look at the physiques of some of these competitors who are consuming buckets full of pasta.

But alas, all this additional pasta eating simply led to many of us becoming fat, tired, and bloated.

Suddenly pasta became the enemy.

Okay, let’s look at the facts.

Pasta is an extremely calorie dense food.

By this I mean that for every gram of pasta there are a lot of calories.

And in truth this is mainly carbohydrates.

Yes, there’s a small amount of protein, fat, and fibre per serving, but nothing to write home about.

Therefore, you could almost say that pasta is ideal for anyone who wishes to put on weight, so basically if you’re bulking.

You could in effect view pasta as the nemesis of cutting.

However, I think pasta gets a bad rap, and it is perfectly feasible to eat while you’re cutting.

Okay, you’ll definitely need to be wary of exactly how much pasta you’re consuming.

But it can actually help when you’re trying to burn body fat or lose weight.

I will add that I typically view pasta as a side dish, as opposed to the main event on your dinner plate.

Realistically, if you have an equal (sensible) serving of pasta, protein, and vegetables on your plate, you need never worry about consuming pasta when trying to lose fat.

It’s All About Calories & Macros

Whether you’re looking to bulk, cut, or maintain your weight, the most important factor in nutrition is the calories you consume.

If you eat more calories than you burn on a daily basis you will put on weight.

If you eat fewer calories than you burn on a daily basis you will lose weight.

And if you eat the same amount of calories than you burn then you’ll maintain your weight.

It’s actually an extremely easy formula and yet so many of us get it wrong.

You can also add the macronutrients, protein, carbs, and fats into the equation.

Basically, if you’re looking to produce a lean, muscular, and athletic physique then your split of macros is extremely important.

We know that protein is essential to help build muscle and help to stay feeling satiated.

Carbohydrates provide the fuel to help us power through our workouts while aiding recovery.

And healthy fats are extremely important for various biological processes.

Yes, I understand that there are numerous diets that will limit or even completely cut out certain macronutrients.

But, in my opinion, we need a good mix of them all to maintain a fit and healthy mind and body.

So, when it comes to cutting you simply need to ensure that your caloric intake is slightly lower than your calorie expenditure.

Plus, you need to manage your macros within your daily calorie limit.

Jamie Eason: "Life is too short to deprive yourself of your favorite foods. If you love pasta, fit it into your meal plan in a way that works for you. Portion control and mindful eating are key."

The Calorie and Macro Split

However, the split you choose will very much depend on factors like your body type, metabolism, and level of physical activity.

So, a cutting macro split for a mesomorph (someone who’s naturally muscular and athletic) could be 30% protein, 40% carbs, 30% fats.

Someone who’s naturally skinny (ectomorph) can afford to eat more carbs (55%), while reducing their protein (25%) and fat (20%) intake.

Whereas, someone who is naturally broad and thick (endomorph) should reduce their carbs (25%), while slightly increasing their intake of protein (40%) and healthy fats (35%).

With that being said, regardless of your body type, you can still eat pasta while cutting as long as it fits in with your macro split and daily calories.

Be Wary of the Gluten

Something else you should be wary of is the gluten content in pasta.

Now, there is no actual scientific evidence of a link between gluten intolerance and weight gain or weight loss.

However, if you are struggling with gluten this can lead to a vast array of digestive problems.

And this in turn may cause issues with both cutting and bulking (or even maintaining your weight).

Gluten is the protein found in wheat, barley, and rye.

Therefore, most pasta varieties will contain gluten.

Admittedly, only a fraction of people worldwide have a gluten intolerance, although there are newer wheat varieties being produced with a higher gluten content.

This is possibly why you hear more-and-more about people stating that they are suddenly gluten sensitive.

The main reason I mention this is because many people complain that they feel terrible after consuming pasta.

They often do this as a “cheat meal” while on a cut, but end up feeling fat, bloated, and lethargic afterwards.

So, whereas pasta may not have a massive impact on your cut, gluten sensitivity can certainly cause other health issues.

Glycemic Index & Insulin

Now, pasta may be one of the most calorie dense carbohydrates, and indeed foods in general.

However, what’s interesting is that it is a lower glycemic index than many of its “competitors”.

In fact, pasta has a lower glycemic index than bread, rice, potatoes, sweet potato, pumpkin, and even sweetcorn.

So, how does this help you exactly when you’re cutting?

The glycemic index assigns a value to different foods on either how slowly or quickly they increase blood sugar levels.

Whenever you eat food the body will break this down into sugar and send it to the cells.

And it is insulin that helps to move these sugars from the bloodstream into the cells.

However, the higher your blood sugar levels the more insulin the pancreas needs to produce in order to transport the sugars to the body’s cells.

So, if your blood sugar levels are excessively high then eventually the cells can stop responding to insulin.

This can ultimately cause insulin resistance.

And unfortunately the high amounts of insulin being produced, which may lead to insulin resistance, can also lead to weight gain.

Foods with a high glycemic index will typically cause a spike in blood sugar levels (which means that more insulin production is required to deal with this).

So, the more often you eat these types of foods, the higher the likelihood of potential weight gain.

However, as I’ve mentioned, pasta is a lot further down on the glycemic index scale than many other carbohydrates.

And these are probably carbs that you’ll typically eat in favour of pasta while cutting.

When Are You Eating Pasta?

Charles Poliquin: "The best diet is the one you can stick to consistently. If you love pasta, don't force yourself to ditch it. Find ways to make it work for you and your fitness goals."

The timing of your pasta eating is actually very important when you’re cutting.

Basically, your body is far more receptive to carbohydrates after a workout.

Your body will generally use your glycogen stores to fuel your workouts.

So, in effect, your glycogen stores become depleted during exercise.

How quickly will depend on the type of exercise, as well as the intensity.

However, it’s a pretty safe bet to eat carbohydrate-rich food after a workout.

This won’t actually have much impact on your cutting goals.

Plus, it’s a great way to replenish your glycogen stores.

In truth, you probably have up to two hours post-workout, although some will claim that you must consume protein within 30 minutes of exercise.

This is often referred to as the “anabolic window”, but many people believe this is a myth.

The actual duration of the anabolic window has never been definitively proven, but 30 minutes in the most oft-quoted number.

With that being said, the anabolic window is seen by many as the perfect opportunity to take on protein and carbs.

The aim here is to increase protein synthesis, decrease muscle protein breakdown, and obviously to replenish glycogen stores.

So, if you’re going to eat pasta while cutting then aim to eat it soon after your workout.

This is especially true if you’ve performed an intense and gruelling strength workout.

Addressing Common Pasta & Fat Loss Concerns

“Will Pasta Sabotage My Cutting Goals and Make Me Gain Fat?”

"Pasta has been unfairly demonized in the fitness world. It can be a perfectly healthy part of a cutting or bulking diet as long as you portion it right and pair it with protein and vegetables." - Layne Norton

Not necessarily! The truth is, any food can fit into a cutting plan as long as you manage your overall calorie intake. 

To be honest, the negative perception of pasta for fat loss often stems from its carbohydrate content. 

While carbs do provide energy, they don’t inherently equal fat gain. 

The key lies in moderation and ensuring your calorie intake stays in a deficit for weight loss.

Here are some additional tips for eating pasta while trying to lose body fat:

Portion control: Stick to appropriate serving sizes, like 1 cup of cooked pasta (about the size of a tennis ball).

Whole-wheat wins: Choose whole-wheat pasta for its additional fiber content, promoting satiety and slower digestion.

Pair with protein and veggies: Build balanced meals with lean protein and fiber-rich vegetables to round out your nutritional intake and manage blood sugar spikes.

“Are There Better Carb Choices Than Pasta For Cutting?”

While pasta can work well in a cutting plan, other carb sources offer slightly different benefits. 

Brown rice, quinoa, and sweet potatoes boast higher fiber content than refined pasta, leading to increased satiety and potentially delaying hunger pangs.

However, the “best” carb choice is subjective and depends on individual preferences and dietary needs. 

Experiment with different options and find what works best for you in terms of taste, satisfaction, and fitting into your overall meal plan. 

“Can I Eat Pasta Every Day While Cutting?”

While pasta can be part of a healthy-cutting diet, variety is key for long-term success and nutrient diversity. 

Relying solely on pasta may limit your intake of essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber found in other food groups.

Here’s how to ensure pasta variety in your cutting plan:

Alternate carb sources: Rotate between brown rice, quinoa, sweet potatoes, or whole-wheat bread to keep your meals interesting and your body nourished.

Focus on lean protein: Pair pasta with protein sources like chicken, fish, tofu, or tempeh to prioritize muscle building and satiety.

Don’t neglect veggies: Fill your plate with colorful vegetables like broccoli, spinach, or peppers for essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

“I Love Creamy Sauces! Can I Still Enjoy Pasta With Them While Cutting?”

A plate of creamy pasta with shaved truffles

Now, this is definitely my personal nemesis.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve lived off bodybuilding staples like chicken, rice, and broccoli, but, I love my sauces and gravies, basically the wetter my food the better.

However, while creamy sauces can be delicious, they often pack a hefty calorie punch due to their fat and carbohydrate content. 

But, that doesn’t mean you have to give them up entirely!

Here are some healthier alternatives to savor your pasta without the calorie overload:

Lighter cream versions: Opt for low-fat milk or fat-free yogurt-based creamy sauces for a satisfying taste with fewer calories.

Nut-based sauces: Try pesto or a cashew cream sauce for a flavorful and nutrient-rich option.

Broth-based sauces: Experiment with herb-infused broth or tomato-based sauces for a lighter and flavorful base.

“What if I Get Pasta Cravings During My Cutting Phase?

Cravings are a natural part of any dietary change, and a cutting phase is no exception. The key is to manage them strategically without derailing your progress.

Here are some tips to satisfy your pasta cravings healthily:

Reach for healthy alternatives: Snack on fiber-rich vegetables like carrots, celery, or bell peppers with hummus or Greek yogurt.

Plan ahead: Have healthy pasta-free meals prepped and ready to go for those moments when a craving strikes.

Don’t demonize: Allow yourself occasional “splurges” on a smaller portion of pasta with your favorite sauce. Just ensure it fits within your daily calorie budget.

Final Thoughts

So, as you can see, there should be no issues with eating pasta while cutting.

Regardless of what you eat, if it fits in with your daily calories and macronutrient profile then you can burn body fat or lose weight.

It may be easier to view pasta as a side dish, which will help you keep your portion sizes at a desirable level.

You should also be aware that pasta has a lower glycemic index than many other carbs.

This means it is less likely to spike your blood sugar levels and cause insulin sensitivity.

All of which can lead to weight gain.

Finally, if you aim to eat pasta soon after your workout it will have very little impact on your cutting goals.

And now for another firm favourite, discover what I had to say about eating peanut butter while cutting.

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