Considering a Mini-Cut But Could Use Some Advice

Hi, I’m currently 172lbs at 5’9, 26 years old.

I’ve been gaining for about a year but started to track everything seriously three months ago (beginning of December 2022). I’ve gained roughly 8 pounds since that time so about 2.6lbs per month. Only been seriously lifting for just over a year.

Stupidly I’ve lost my measurements from the beginning of 2022, but I made the decision to do a 12 week cut in January 2022 to March 2022, and got down to what I’d estimate was about 15% body fat. I can’t really tell what body fat percentage I’m at now, but I’ve gained some in the last three months.

In three months, my measurements have gone up quite considerably. My arms have gone up from 14 to nearly 15, and having measured every body part, I seem to have gained about an inch everywhere.
My hips and waist have gone up as well – I’ve put just over half an inch on my hips (love handle area) even though I do still have visible abs.

Having assessed, I think I’ve gained slightly more than I should have considering I wanted to do a lean bulk. From everything I’ve read, 1% of weight gain is recommended for minimal fat gain which would be under 2lbs a month for me.

I want to continue gaining but I would like to drop back a couple of body fat percentages, so I was considering doing a mini cut and then jump back into bulking.

I’m quite worried about doing it, though. I was watching a video the other day by Natural Hypertrophy where he was discussing bulking, and he said that people can end up gaining too much and getting fat but with the illusion that they’re getting more muscular because they’re getting stronger.

I’d always assumed strength correlated with muscle gain, but I’m worried now I’ll cut and find out that I barely gained any muscle. I’ve been progressing in reps and weight virtually every workout on my lifts, but how will I know whether it’s due to muscle gain or just overall weight gain?

I mean, I presume I’ve gained a fair bit of muscle. My arms going up nearly an inch must be some muscle gain as they look lean and I don’t imagine have gained a lot of fat. But then there’s other stuff like water weight to consider.

I’d ideally like to do a mini cut for about six weeks, but I do feel I’m playing with fire a bit. I’ve worked really hard for the eight pounds I’ve gained over the last three months, and I don’t want to find that at the end of the cut, I’m somehow pretty much back where I started.

When I did the first cut back in January last year I didn’t really have anything to lose – my focus was on getting fairly lean to give me space for my bulk.

I could just carry on bulking but with an altered, slower surplus approach where I’m gaining under 2lbs a month, but I feel If I gain any more fat than I have now I’m not really going to like it.

Any advice? Don’t want to end up spinning my wheels. Thanks!

How so? You’re 26 years old. Lets say worse case you DO lose some muscle mass. You have plenty of time to get it back. Obviously I don’t know what you look like, a picture is better at assessments. However, I would say go for the cut. Do so conservatively. IE drop calories about 10%, no cheat meals since its only 6 weeks, and see how it goes. Set a goal to lose about 1-2 lbs per week. If you’re losing more than that you are being too aggressive. The first week may see more loss due to water shed.


Post a picture


I think you’re worrying too much and neither choice is a life sentence.

You’re looking at specific metrics and internet standards to gauge how you’re doing. How do you look? How do you feel? What’s going to bring you closer to your ultimate goal? What do you just simply feel like doing?

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Hey man, are you a fan of the band “Filter”?

@LG18 an 8lb bodyweight gain is going to be a lot of water, a good amount of glycogen, some food mass in the gut, some muscle and some fat.

As a fellow 5’9 trainee, I didn’t really look like I lifted until I hit about 185lbs of bodyweight. If you don’t want to end up spinning your wheels, my strategy would be to focus on TRAINING, not chasing scale weight. How are you lifting in order to achieve a goal of physical transformation? For me, my best growth has happened when I chased after very ambitious training goals and had to eat to achieve them, rather than chasing after ambitious eating goals and trying to train to turn it into muscle.


So getting more fat and evading the truth in the proverbial pudding is the answer?

If you think you’re getting too fat, lean out and assess progress. If you haven’t made any progress (which 3 months isn’t the realm for a LOT of progress), then it’s time to assess your training and diet.

Or you could just keep getting fat and hoping that you’re building muscle… your choice =)


without knowing what you look like it’s hard to say.

open to posting a pic?

how are your macros setup right now?

tell us about your training over the course of a week. be detailed sets, reps, movements.

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For the information you desire, it would be best for us to see you training to note your strength, form, your appearance. A pic would be at least one step in the right direction.


If you’re over 15% you could lose 10lb+ in a month and experience no muscle loss whatsoever. The science is out there, most people either aren’t lean enough to worry about 1-2lb/week or they have to lose an amount of fat where these big deficits simply aren’t sustainable. Bill Campbell, Lyle McDonald, and even our resident genius Christian Thibaudeau (he calls them fat loss sprints and believes unless you’re at 10% or under you ain’t gonna lose jack) have talked about mini-cuts. If you psychologically can’t handle a more aggressive cut, then 1-2lb is perfect and has it’s own positives.

Besides, if you did lose anything we’d be talking amounts that probably aren’t even measurable if you continue to train hard and get your protein in. If that were to happen it’d come back super quickly anyway.

FWIW I recently lost 16lb in 26 days (take a few lbs off for water weight) and my lifts stayed right where they are and for the most part are higher since returning to the bulk last week.

There was a time I was paranoid muscle would just drop off too, but it’s the 3rd time I’ve done this and as soon as I started eating again, I was as strong as I was before.


the answer is in the question.


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Just post a pic so all this talk can mean something. We are discussing a visual thing without the visual.


Thanks for all the replies – appreciate the volume of responses already.

I’ve actually been into lifting since 2014, but I kept stopping and starting. Made a relatively big transformation doing 5x5 back in the day and went from 120lbs to 145lbs with only very marginal changes in hip and waist measurements. I certainly didn’t look fatter after that weight gain because I was already under weight.

After that I just wasn’t consistent. I’d keep picking the sport up and then stopping and just pretty much maintained a weight of around 155 in my early 20s. I was kind of in the skinny-fat realm at that point. It’s only this last year I decided enough was enough and I wanted to dedicate all the time required to getting bigger and stronger.

Found some old stats from 2020:

Weight: 157lbs
Waist: 34”
Hips: 35.9”
Arms: 13.5”
Chest: 38”
Shoulders: 45”
Thighs: 22”

Workout 06/07/2020

DB Bench: 17.5kg: 8,8,8,5
DB Rows: 25kg: 8,8,8,8
Split Squats: 30kg+BW: 10,10,10
DB Shoulder Press: 15kg: 8,8,8,5

Once I finished University, I started lifting properly again and consistently. I decided I wanted to cut some fat and start with a leaner base, so I hoped to recomp somewhat and then go into a bulk. This pretty much worked and I got both leaner, stronger, and a little bigger.

By the end of June 2023, I’d cut as much as I thought I needed. This was how I looked:


Unfortunately, I only have the above pictures from that time period and no measurements.

I took proper measurements for the first time when I got a log book last December, which I have updated today for this post. Here’s the comparison between December 2022 measurements and today:

And here are some pictures of me now. Tried to take them in the same places as the June ones:

Here are my lifts at the start of December last year:

Bench: 90kg: 5. 85kg: 6,5
DB Press: 40kg: 7,7. 35kg: 10,6
DB OHP: 27.5kg: 7,4. 20kg: 8,7
DB Row: 45kg: 8,8,8,5
Leg Press: 165kg: 12,12,10,7

These are my lifts now:

Bench: 90: 7,7. 85: 8,7
DB Press: 40kg: 8,8,7. 35kg: 10
DB OHP: 27.5: 8,8,8,6
DB Row: 60kg (with straps): 10,10,9,9
Leg Press: 170: 15,15,12,8

I’ve always trained full body 3 times a week and enjoy it that way. Have only shown compounds but all my isolation stuff has improved too. I track all my progress in a log book and haven’t missed a workout since august I think, so my consistency is good. Diet has been tracked everyday for the last year using myfitnesspal. I’m currently on 3500-3600 calories per day.

So basically, picture comparisons between last June and now, and measurement comparisons between last December and now.

My hope with the mini cut was to get back to around the bodyfat percentage I was in June while retaining the muscle I (hope) I’ve gained. I suppose I’m just a bit afraid of it because I’ve really put everything into it and have been proud of my unswerving consistency, which I always sucked with before.

Because I’ve been progressing well strength wise every workout since June, I thought I must be on the right track, but this idea that you can get stronger but just have gained mostly fat is worrisome – especially considering I’ve probably been gaining a little too quickly.

Any thoughts appreciated, thanks!

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Sorry my replies are a little short today - not a ton of time.

  • Personally you’re heavier than I’d like to be or where I think you need to be.
  • You’re not so heavy that I think you’re in panic mode.
  • You’re taking in hardcore bulking calories (20+x BW).
  • You track everything and seem to like tracking (this makes life easy if it’s working for you!).
  • You’re getting stronger.

I would probably:

  • Dial those calories back without getting too aggressive into a pure cut. Maybe get down to 15-16x, so you’re at 2500 - 2600.
  • Keep lifting to get stronger.

I’d imagine you’ll see a real recomp, and that’s enough of a drop from where you currently are that you’ll be psychologically hungry. You could even take it to 18 calories x lbs/BW, if you’re too hungry, which would be 3100; I think you might keep gaining weight there, though, so that wouldn’t be my move.

A case can certainly be made to get aggressive and get that fat off, I just don’t think it’s needed right now. I’ll bet you lose a few lbs. quickly. Other folks could definitely argue the above approach has you spinning your wheels, but I think you’re in a place to dial those calories back and continue getting stronger. Just don’t confuse muscle weight with pure scale weight and I think you’ll be good to go.

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Thanks a lot for the tips! No worries if you don’t have time but I do have a couple of follow up questions.

  1. Am I able to just go straight into this? Like could I drop straight from 3600 to 2600?

  2. Is it likely that I will get stronger, then? I’m guessing if I’m able to successfully recomp I should be able to keep my lifts pretty much the same, meaning I’ll be relatively stronger because I’ll be at a lower body weight.

  3. Do you think I look like I’ve gained a decent amount of muscle even if I’ve gained too much fat?

Thanks again!

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I don’t think you can go wrong either way. Cooler heads would say drop 10% a week, so that drop would take you nearly a month. I worry you’d still be in a surplus for two weeks, then dropping slow enough your metabolism just adjusts with it. I’d personally go ahead and take the plunge. @jskrabac is super sharp here so I’ll phone a friend.

It’s hard not to, if you keep lifting hard. The expectation of getting weaker comes from bodybuilders getting stage lean in their final weeks of prep. That’s simply not your situation here.

Probably? It’s really hard to judge that stuff even when all conditions are the same (leanness, for instance). What’s a decent amount to you? If you’re getting stronger over time, you’re adding muscle. I wouldn’t stress too much. You are putting in the work and you just have to go with the process. It takes years to put on appreciable muscle.


I could definitely get on board with this. Now that we have further info, that’s not a body size that needs 3600 cals, or even 10% less. Also, you clearly have put on extra BF from the bulk. I hate to say you looked better before… but damnit you may have.


I use an approach a little different (or I did in my competitive years).
When I am trying to put on muscle and not gain fat, as in, my off season training weight, I try to stay at that weight and get stronger (if possible.)

What I don’t want to do is lose strength. That is where I have a strength metric. I use a feedback system. If I am losing strength, I eat a little more.

Another desire is to not add fat. Here is where I use two metrics, an empirical metric (the scale for body weight), and a subjective metric (the mirror looking to maintain or increase muscle separation.)

In other words I am aiming to maintain my body weight while gaining strength, thus muscle.

If you are not in a rush to look more conditioned, I would maintain your current weight and get stronger. If you are working out for cosmetic appearance and not strength competitions, you are most interested in your 8 to 10 rep strength to increase.

You need a strategy to increase your 8 to 10 rep strength that might include some lower rep training. But ultimately your 8 to 10 rep training sessions will increase muscle volume faster than low rep training sessions (which will help develop absolute strength.)

I do believe you are currently carrying too much fat, but if you are currently making fairly steady strength increases DON’T switch to trying to burn fat. Ride the wave as far as you can.

I cannot help much on diet other than to say eat right at 1 grams of complete protein per pound of body weight. (I ate about the same macros every day. I used the feedback system here too. Depending on whether I was wanting to gain, lose, or maintain body weight, I would eat depending on the scale. I call that my idiot diet, because any idiot can do it.)

I wish you the best. Just remember you are in this for the long haul. There is no rush at your age


Are you eating when hungry or forcing the food in to meet calorie targets?

How many working sets per body part per week?


I just think you’re overeating in general. At your age and beginner strength levels, there’s really no reason to be thinking about bulking or cutting. FWIW, you are eating 1100 calories more than my maintenance! I’m 5’11" 185-190 and sit around 10% year round. I will rarely flirt with low 3000 on calories, but that’ll be when I’m doing intense metabolic conditioning training 5 days a week and walking like 6 mi a day. I usually cut in the 1900-2300 cal range. So yeah, absolutely 2600 cal feels appropriate. It would be very jarring to just cut 1000 calories right off the bat though. I’d recommend something like 200 cals drop a week until you get too a comfortable place around 2500 and you’re not feeling hungry all the damn time.


I’d been using home-made weight gain shakes using oats and soy milk so that I didn’t have to force feed.

Working sets per week is around 15 to 20 per muscle group factoring in indirect work. It’s a lot I know, but I recovered well and progressed fast, probably because of the sheer amount of food I was eating.