T Nation

Confusion Over 'Cut' Duration


I've been trying to transition to <10% body fat, having started at around 16% BF, and the cut has lasted for 3/5 months now (~15 weeks).

I'm concerned though about what the consequences might be of continuing to cut, in terms of a long-term reduction in metabolic rate/thyroid function. I'm not sure that this kind of thing happens if you're cutting slowly and sensibly, or whether it's a risk when you're extreme dieting?

You see a lot of advice from people regarding cut duration, and they tend to fall into either (a) cut for x weeks or (b) cut until you're happy. I'd estimate that I'm around 12-13% BF currently, so if possible/healthy I'd like to continue cutting until I'm <10% as planned. However as mentioned I'm concerned about the impact this might have long-term.

So my options as I see them are as follows:
(a) Continue cutting until I'm happy, however long that may be.
(b) After 4 months, have a maintenance phase of a few weeks to 'normalise' my metabolism, then start again.
(c) After the 4 months go back to a slow bulk and then just cut 'better' next time.

I think it's relevant to note that I've been cutting on ~2,500 calories a day, using mainly sprints for cardio and a fairly basic upper/lower split. My strength has not decreased during the cut but has maintained steadily (perhaps even adding a rep or two here and there).

Any help is appreciated.


IMO a cut should ony last 8-12 weeks at most. any longer than that and you are risking muscle loss and start to feel like shit. I'd even go with 8 weeks. if i were you I'd stop and bump my cals back up to maintenance for 6-8 weeks then start again.


I'd say more importantly than this, you need to look at what you've been doing, as far as diet and training, if you've been cutting for 15 weeks and you've went from 16% BF to 12-13% BF. And I know both of those are estimates, but still that is very, very slow.


What are you cutting for determines how long your cut is?
If your cutting for bodybuilding then you should have a goal and a direction better than just I want to get under 10%.
If it's just for looks then you should still have a reason, which well help you determine a better goal. If you want abs for the summer. Then you probably started your cut too early to take off, because now you may get sloppy and start eating too much and have to start another cut later.

After 4 months you should have an honest assessment of how much discipline you have this year. I say this year because it gets better and easier as you get older. You should plan your cut according to how disciplined you are, your diet and training program.
What long term impact are you worrying about?


  • Agreed.

  • How much do you weigh (at the start and right now)

  • In my opinion, weather you should continue cutting or not depends largely on how you're feeling right now after 15 weeks. Are you feeling sluggish? Are you getting quality workouts? Do you feel cold all the time? These are classic symptoms of your metabolism slowing down and if you are experiencing them then I think you should take a break form dieting before you get back to it. If you are feeling fine (which could very well be the case since you haven't been too restrictive with your diet) then you could go longer. I think these assessments are more important than sticking to a strict direction of how much a diet should last that someone gave (most likely originally as a guideline and not to be taken to the letter anyway).


That is a long period to remain on a restricted plan. However, if the above is true I think you are fine to 'carry on'.


I'm of the opinion that if it isn't broke, don't fix it.

2500 calories isn't too restricted, so as long as you are maintaining strength and you feel like your metabolism isn't sluggish, then keep at it.

I dieted summer/fall 2010 for 6 months. No detrimental effects as far as I know and it helped me get the leanest I have ever been by far. Plus, when I switched to a lean mass gains phase, it was easier to stay lean.

I approached that diet cautiously, only losing about 1 pound per week. (30 pounds lost over 26 weeks).

During prep for my first contest, I started December 9th, 19 weeks before my show. Things are going great thus far and I believe they will continue to go great as long as I don't do anything drastic, i.e. sudden blitz of cardio or a huge drop of calories. Slow and steady wins the race.





I think it's interesting that you will hear some people say that prolonged dieting will lead to muscle loss, while on the other side, you have so many top natural competitors doing prolonged cuts in order to preserve more muscle mass.

IMO It's not a matter of cut duration that can be problematic, it's a matter of reaching a point of diminishing, which can be avoided if you're smart about it. I dieted for 21 weeks last Spring, and stepped onstage at my heaviest contest weight so far. Certainly didn't seem like I dieted too long.

Keep an eye on your strength levels, daily energy levels, and weight stagnation. Also, how well you're sleeping at night can be an indicator of pushing too hard, for too long as well.



Great info.


Once a person reaches their goal bf%, and their goal is to resume gaining lean mass, what should their diet look like after dieting for so long?

Should the person gently ease up their calories? Over how long? Say a person finishes a cut at 2000 calories, and their maintenance is 3000.


That's interesting! I'm guilty of recommending short cuts lol. Do you recommend breaking it up in any way? Or just spiking/cycling cals when you start running out of options?

What would you advise when these signs start to show?


Also curious.


from your reply i can see you are a fan of true intellectual debate. but still,

let me quote CT (basically what i said):

"Warning: In my honest opinion, no one who's trying to get muscular should follow a restrictive fat loss diet for more than 16 weeks in a row. And most people would be better off using 8-12 weeks of dieting.

More than that and you're bound to lose muscle mass or at least limit your capacity to gain muscle mass. If you haven't gotten to the degree of leanness you wanted after 12 weeks of dieting, take 4 weeks "off" of your diet (continue to eat a good clean diet, but increase your calories) and then go for another dieting period."

Stu: this is the kind of discussion we need here. good post.

side note: whole new ball game when on AAS. we are talking about a true natural BB. if you KNOW your body and how to diet you could probably get away with it (i.e Stu). I still think that the non competitive BB would be better off with 8-12 weeks. the average guy does not want to diet down to sub 5% bf.