T Nation

Calorie Floor when Cutting


I just read this in a Paul Carter article:
“The lowest level I’d ever advise anyone is bodyweight x 10. That would mean you’ve moved over into “I’m going to get shredded” land, and at that point, I’d advise an increase in activity level per day/week in order to achieve more fat loss instead of a further drop in total calories.”

So, my maintenance level is just under 12cal/lb, lifting 4-5x/ week (I sometimes put my HIIT on leg day, other weeks they are separated). I was at 11cal/lb for eight weeks, and now have been just under 9.5 cal/lb for about five weeks. I am at about 16% BF right now, aiming for 10-12%.

So, something doesn’t add up. Either Paul is biased living in a world of SWOLE, I am a really bad metaboli outlier, or both. Anyone care to comment?


What doesn’t add up?


Brick, sorry if I wasn’t clear. I am not in the “going to shredded land” category yet. I have a long way to go. I’ve been assuming I’d need to eventually get my calories down by more than 400/day below maintenance just to keep the cut going, and I read that 450/day cut is the minimum (I gain weight above 2300cals, and I am down from 201 to 184 since September.)

Obviously I need To keep raising my metabolism as much as I can, but short of taking a job w a lot of manual labor (I write code for a living) I am not sure I could get that much more than 2-3xHIIT and 4-5x LISS. I am continuing to add time to these sessions as I progress. Started a 20min each working toward 60min each.


How much cardio are you doing?


Paul Carter has gotten stage-ready before. If you go to his IG page, you can see he got cut to ribbons.

I believe he is speaking generally, because 1) he is writing an article for the masses, and 2) ten calories per pound is damn low. However, there are people who will have to go as low as 8 calories per pound to lose weight in some situations. And thank god I didn’t have to do that! Actually, I would never do that, even if it meant getting leaner.

At about 11 calories per pound while at the tail end of my prep, the last four to six weeks, and in the low 180’s, headed toward the ultimate aim of 170#, with a two-on, one-off lifting schedule, daily 50 minute walks before breakfast, and two interval sessions once every six days (followed by 25 min LISS at both sessions), I was out of my fucking mind! At that point, after four months so far of prepping, with a little more than a month to go, there was indeed a floor! We were not going to raise activity or decrease calories any further. That was it. One can’t compete from the hospital or their bedroom ya know. :slight_smile: And yes, the reason there was so much LISS, is because we wanted to preserve muscle and physically function. But I must say, at that point, fat was literally melting off my freaking body. Even the elastic on my tighty whities didn’t fit anymore. Not to mention how damn flat I was from eating only 60 to 100 grams of carbs per day at that point. My feet hurt and when I sat, I was sitting on muscle and bone. I felt really freaking weird, like depersonalized, and things that normally affected me, good or bad, just didn’t. It felt like low-level sociopathy–no kidding! So I can see why Paul Carter wrote that.

I don’t think you should focus on BF percentage numbers, but just the scale and mirror. I mean, who the heck really knows their body fat percentage without using a DEXA, and what’s the point of knowing it anyway? When you are lean or shredded, you’ll know it. You will feel good being lean and you will feel like shit when headed towards and being shredded. I don’t advise anyone to get shredded unless they’re doing a show because it’s a condition that shouldn’t be held long term.

It seems you are doing things correctly. Are you doing carb rotation? How are you going about this diet and macro wise? Yes, you can increase LISS to 60 minutes over time.


Super helpful.

I threw in a BF estimate to give you all a rough idea that I am not very lean yet. I have veins I’ve never seen before, which is awesome, but I also have a long way to go. I was joking last night that after 15weeks I am almost to the point of the “before” pics from you guys that compete.

I have been cycling carbs. 5 days per week I am at 75g fat, 80g carbs and 210g pro. One day at 65g fat and 120g carbs. One day at 30g fat, 150g carbs, protein still 210g. I started that low fat day three weeks ago, and my progress kicked up a notch.

My main goal is to get lean enough to “earn my carbs.” I have some mass from my powerlifting days so I am not scrawny. I’m all quads, delts and tris. I’d like to balance out, but every mass gain I’ve had has been inefficienct. I just wasn’t nearly lean enough when I started.

About a year ago I started an elimination diet and saw for the first time I could get leaner and preserve (gain?) mass. This fall I took it to the next level, doing more HIIT and LISS, counting my carbs, and driving my glycogen lower. Eating like a real BB.

I don’t have the LBM you had, (based on your prep thread). I was thinking that Paul Carter’s limit of 10cal/lb. was based on a guy already being single digit BF. If I think about 10cal/lb of LBM, instead, then I still have some room to go lower if needed. The last three weeks I am starting to get the irritability and weird cravings. This week I am seeing my lifts suffer. So I know I am dipping into the zone now.

The other part has been managing external stress. Some really tragic events involving some of my daughter’s friends have required my priority over this BB pursuit. No cheats, but I did miss a couple meals. I’m not sure what crying w your kid does to cortisol and insulin sensitivity, but guessing it has contributed to my lack of strength this week.

How did you manage stressors? Did you try meditation or anything like that?


This seems really low, like, really low carbs, to be cycling from 80g-150g, and to be at 80g 5 days a week, that’s rough. Protein also seems high. It might be good to lower protein, lower fat, and raise carbs a little more. It doesn’t seem like you’re giving yourself much room to keep cutting if you’re already at those low carbs.

I bet! Since you don’t have a show coming up or something, it might be good to go back to maintenance or ease up on the dieting for a week or two and recover, I bet your metabolism might have some good recovery as well.

I would recommend lowering fats and raising carbs if you’re feeling that way. Carbs are FINE and don’t need to be avoided so much, provided you’re having quality carb sources. Save the higher GI stuff around your workout, but thinks like Ezekiel bread, fruit, oats, these are all great to eat at other times of the day. You don’t want to overdo it with the carbs, but for someone who is 184lbs, those numbers seem very low. You could lower fats to 20% of your daily cals and sub carbs for the rest. [quote=“orcrist, post:6, topic:224507”]
The other part has been managing external stress. Some really tragic events involving some of my daughter’s friends have required my priority over this BB pursuit. No cheats, but I did miss a couple meals. I’m not sure what crying w your kid does to cortisol and insulin sensitivity, but guessing it has contributed to my lack of strength this week.

How did you manage stressors? Did you try meditation or anything like that?
Very sorry to hear this man, no doubt that will raise the cortisol. I know Brick will have his methods, personally during the end of my prep when things were in “everything sucks” mode, I would try to keep cortisol at bay by making sure I got enough sleep (sleep sucks in a hard diet, but doing things like not watching TV before bed, getting my Z12 and minerals in, working the pre-bed ritual certainly helped), hitting the therapy pool/steam room/sauna in my gym (fortunately my gym has these things), relaxing with my feet up when the opportunity presented itself and trying not to worry about things I couldn’t control.

I will say that if you feel cortisol is affecting you this much, for a non-contest dieter, you should really elevate your carbs and pull back the diet for a week or two. In an effort to get lean, it’s easy to become carbophobic, and it only gets harder once the body starts fighting you that hard. Protein at 1g per pound, 20% fats and the rest from carbs is a great diet, I’m pretty sure I saw Paul Carter post that ratio recently as well on a T-Nation article. I’m using that ratio for my prep now and it’s going very well.


Brick & Rob hit some very good points.

People think you can just keep taking away #s and you get leaner, but I always like to stress that the real weight (fat) loss should come from the metabolic effects of your time spent in the gym. If you’re not getting enough grub (and sleep of course), your gym time will be pointless.

I’ve seen male competitors or average weights who have eaten less calories than I had my wife eating when she competed (and she was 104 lbs onstage!)

Do I think there’s a floor you shouldnt go below? Sure, but I wouldn’t ever want to throw one out at the expense of all of the other factors involved. When we started throwing in a lot of LISS for Brick’s prep, it was because we didn’t want to add stress from HIT, and we didn’t want to drop his calories lower (for fear of suffering performance in the gym). Obviously if we had more time on our side, we probably could have ridden things out a bit with less LISS and/or more cals, but each situation is different.



Stu, Brick, Rob,
You guys are pure gold.

Carbophobia is a real thing. It’s easy to let water weight fool you. I try not to let that get into my head.

I will definitely switch up the low carb for 20% fat and keep my calories the same. I have some go-to’s figured out for this formula for eating. I think I will swap out more of my low carb days, one at a time so I can see how my body reacts.

It’ll be nice to get a little more pop in my training.