Wise words, thanks for the post. Realistically I would like to be a bit leaner at this point, but this approach also seems good. So I’m guessing you would try and drop calories to maintenance and keep pushing strength from there?
Thanks for the replies everyone. So the consensus is that I’ve put on too much fat. Pretty clear that I’ve bulked too hard.
@blshaw , @TrainForPain , @jskrabac : you’re each proponents of slashing calories by roughly 1000. I hadn’t seen @RT_Nomad 's suggestion until now, which may be an equally viable option, but over the last few days I went ahead and dropped the calories.
I did cut straight to 2500-2600 rather than having a more tempered approach, but to be honest I feel fine with that – I’m actually glad to not be eating so much. It’s been five days and I’ve dropped a couple of pounds of water weight so far, so presumably I’m heading in the right direction.
I guess that’s the simple part, the next question is whether my proposed idea of a six-week mini-cut will be sufficient and how I should alter my training. I know it’s hard to estimate, but do you think this many calories within the mini-cut window of six-weeks will get me lean enough to resume gaining afterwards?
I was watching a Mike Israetel video on mini-cutting, and he said the whole point was to slingshot you into a gaining more mass – so for people who have a relatively small amount of fat to lose.
He also discussed dialling back volume to resensitize your muscle to growth, so that when you do go back to gaining after the given number of weeks and ramp volume up again, your body is primed for growth; so I’m not quite sure what to do with my training if this is the case.
I’m unsure if the six-week mini-cut approach is the best option, but the prospect of a longer cutting phase doesn’t seem a good choice either. @RT_Nomad makes a good point about riding the strength gains while I can, and as you said @jskrabac , perhaps thinking of stuff in terms of bulking and cutting isn’t even the best strategy.
@TrainForPain , you mentioned I should hopefully see a recomp occur, which would be great, I just have to make sure I set things up right in regards to training (volume) and the right length of the diet.
My understanding of this video was that mini cuts are 1-2 weeks and used only during a bulk phase to 1) give yourself more ‘runway’ on your bulk before getting too fat and 2) increase your nutrient absorption so when you go back to bulking - it’s more effective. Not that the purpose of mini-cuts were to actually cut.
I do not belive this aligns with what Mike Israetel was talking about, for points mentioned above. That being said, cutting for 6 weeks could help you lean out - but it will miss the actual purpose of re-sensitizing yourself to the benefits of a caloric surplus a la “mini-cut”.
If your goal is to lean out, then focus on actually leaning out. Don’t follow a minicut plan if you aren’t doing a minicut. Expect/aim for not more than 1% weight loss per week, and you may find yourself where you want to be in 6-8 weeks.
Also, when you go back on bulk… don’t over-bulk you don’t need that many calories in excess to get you where you want to go.
For the lurkers:
Glad it’s working for you! I’m honestly surprised you’re not hungry; I figured that kind of drop would hurt a little.
So, to be clear, I wouldn’t consider 2500 calories for you a “cut” by any stretch (and I don’t think you need to cut). That’s likely somewhere around maintenance. I think you need to stop gaining weight, first. The recomp thought comes from you getting stronger with sufficient, but not excess, nutrition - I’d anticipate you have room to “grow into” your current weight.
For what it’s worth, I get up to ~205 on 5’11" and a bit leaner than you currently are. I’m also 41 and don’t have the metabolism I once did, so that’s a variable. I don’t typically start losing any bodyweight until I get below 2000 calories. I wouldn’t use that as a direct comparison for your own situation, but just to point out that what you think your calories should be don’t always work out in real life.
I wouldn’t either. A lot depends though. A friend of mine is my height (a tad over 5’10") and I outweigh him by 40 lbs and my bodyfat is a bit less. He eats a lot more than I do. Mostly because he works for Amazon. He says it is typical for him to walk over 10 miles on a shift.
It is tricky to figure out calories for cut, maintenance, or gain without tracking to some degree. I find those calculators to be too vague on their exercise level choices. I could interpret myself to be exercising lightly to vigorously with their descriptions. The former recommends me around 2600 calories, the latter around 3300. It would be nice if they had actual examples of the exercise for each level.
Absolutely. I think one really has two practical choices to figure out their maintenance:
- Count every calorie
- Eat essentially the same thing every day
Once you get it down, you can make like substitutions (egg whites for chicken breast); that baseline is a little tricky, though.
That makes sense, guess I misinterpreted it, then. Thanks for the tips!
And no, certainly won’t be making the heavy bulk mistake again!
Got ya, thanks.
So with the recomp, is the idea that I’ll gradually use some of that extra fat to provide the energy surplus needed to progress?
I understand what you mean regarding cutting calories. A few years ago I did a hardcore cut when I really shouldn’t have. I’d put on a little muscle but wasn’t happy with my current level of body fat, so decided to cut to give me room to bulk. What I should’ve done is have shot for maintenance, I guess, in an aim to recomp, considering I was well within noob-gains period.
But I didn’t, and was obsessed with getting that sub-15% look before considering gaining properly. I can’t remember how much I weighed at that point but it was a lot less than I do now. I remember hitting what I presume was around 15% (pretty lean with visible ab definition) but simply not being able to go beyond that because I couldn’t deduct anymore calories than I was doing.
By the end of it, I think I was on 1300-1400 calories or something, with the majority of it being protein to make sure I wasn’t losing any muscle, and the rest being vegetables (and a couple of omega-3 capsules). I learned then that it was near impossible to achieve the 10% look without running myself into the ground, because I didn’t have enough mass to have a reasonable calorie intake while cutting that low.
I remember back then using a load of calculators, too, each telling me I could eat way more and still lose fat, but it wasn’t happening.
Regarding formulas, I found Lyle McDonald’s one to be most accurate. He suggested 12-14cals per pound of body weight or something, and said you might need to go down to as low as 8cals per pound to get as lean as you want to be sometimes.
I learned a lot during that exercise, and have now learned an equal amount from doing the opposite! Hopefully this time I’ll get it mostly right.
I think if you did it in waves you could be successful. By that if you’re starting at 20%, get down to 15%, then maintain there with a bit higher calories, maybe even gain a bit of fat to 16%, then do that process to get to 13%, repeat until under 10%.
Sub 10% isn’t a goal of mine though. It requires a lot of discipline, and I actually prefer the look at 12% better. Unless one has really good genetics (or are using gear, or both), they typically look just small in clothes at under 10%. The way I see it, you look better for a few hours at the beach, worse all other times, and suffer to do it. Not worth it IMO.
I’ve been pretty lean a couple times (and still never stage lean); I think it just sucks. There’s no way to get to that really low point without suffering a bit, like @mnben87 pointed out. It just is what it is. You can still see some abs without insane hardship, though.
That said, I don’t know take that “missing noobie gains” stuff real seriously. All roads lead to Rome, eventually. I think you’re good.
You’re on the right track with the recomp idea. I just don’t think you’re at a point where you have to go hardcore in a direction. I think you should take this time to discover you can progress at a more moderate calorie point, and the next question (“do I go for lean?” “do I add volume?” Etc.) will reveal itself.
I agree, I have no goal to be 10%; as you say, I actually prefer the look at a higher but still lean percentage. I’d like to hover at around 12 to 15 percent ultimately if I could. Just out of curiosity, what sort of percentage would you call it quits for a bulk? Obviously I’ve gone too far this time.
When I say it was near impossible for me to achieve 10% at that weight, I just lacked muscle I think. Had I been the weight I am now I would’ve had a much better chance because I have more muscle and presumably higher cutting calories. Cheers.
Yep. As I said to @mnben87 , I’d ideally like to be between roughly 12% to 15% if I could pick a look. I have considered aiming to compete in bodybuilding one day now that I’m fully focussed on my training, but honestly the levels of leanness required puts me off somewhat.
For sure. Would you say the ability to recomp diminishes with each year of training? I know it’s very common for total beginners, and while I still consider myself a beginner in terms of the mass I have, I reckon must have slightly under a year-and-a-half of actual muscle gains on me.
I progressed great for about five months in 2014 and then my mental health got the better of me and I was inconsistent with my training for many years, not really progressing in any direction because I kept stopping and starting. Then since that cut in July I’ve been bulking up until now.
As you say, hovering around maintainace for a bit and seeing if I can still progress strength-wise is a good decision, and I can make a decision from there.
Appreciate all the advice!
From my perspective, this changes everything.
You need to determine if you are willing to be uncomfortable for from 4 to 6 weeks. And I do mean uncomfortable.
If competition is your desire, I recommend competing in the near future.
I fully support this even if competition is in the near future. You need to be capable of getting stronger and adding muscle if you hope to compete fairly successfully.
Yes. There’s a law of diminishing returns with anything. It’s also going to get to a point where noticeable differences in muscle mass or leanness get harder to come by just as you develop more of each. That’s just a side effect of getting more jacked. It’s easier to go from 3-7 than it is from 8 to 9 (on a scale I just made up in my head).
I’ll defer to @RT_Nomad for all things competition.
What would you say is the near future? To be honest, it isn’t something I’ve thought too seriously about yet. I figured I don’t have anywhere near enough muscle at the moment anyway.
So do you think this method of essentially recomping is a better method than bulking and cutting in general? Or is this even what you mean when you suggest staying the same weight but getting stronger?
I guess I’m a little confused about the distinction. As I understand it, recomp is where you’re losing fat and gaining muscle at the same time, but is what you’re referencing something different? – Whereby you don’t exactly lose fat, but because you’ve added muscle your actual body fat percentage goes down.
I was watching another Mike Israetel video on the topic, and his take was that while possible to eat at maintenance and get stronger, progress is incredibly slow compared to bulk-then-cut. Then again, he was discussing recomping in the sense of losing muscle and fat at the same time.
Here’s the video for anyone interested (not sure how to imbed): Lose Fat While Gaining Muscle | Nutrition Myths #10 - YouTube
Within the next year (2024)
You must start somewhere. And if you are planning to wait until you have the perfect physique, you won’t know that until you get below 10% body fat.
If you compete the cutting is happening. That is different.
Competing is “Bulk and cut” by definition. You’re not getting below 10% without cutting and then afterward you will be bulking back up.
The question is: How much bulking. I’d say you should stay within 8 weeks out from a contest at your heaviest. Many might disagree. But if I saw a show posted, I wanted to have the flexibility to compete in it if I so desired. (I usually competed in 3 shows a year, but focusing on one major show)
Bottom line: Get more muscle, but strive to maintain muscle separation. Look like a bodybuilder, not an aspiring powerlifter in whatever class you fall.
He is nowhere near having enough muscle to compete. He should drop some fat and then spend the better part of a year gaining.
Competing for experience is just a big waste of money as prep and the competition can get pricey.
8 weeks away from a contest? That is unsustainable especially for a natural. Unless you think the conditioning in the 50s and 60’s was good but, that is going to look terrible on stage compared to others.
I see both sides of this. I went straight to competing. I got to see my weaknesses first hand and began to make adjustments.
I also see that OP might need much more muscle, but IMO, it’s for OP to determine if he has enough muscle to compete.
If a person plans to compete, IMO, you need to make the playing field as level as possible. I never accepted a handicap. If the competition is using AAS, then I am too.
Then again, OP could decide to only compete in natural contests. Then IMO, he certainly doesn’t want to have rather high % body fat. I think 8 week out still is possible.
I never saw or competed in the 1950’s or '60’s, so I cannot say.
Possible but not ideal by far. I think for a newbie to stage you would need a longer cut period of 12-16 weeks. If natural, definitely on the long side as to preserve as much muscle as possible. Admittedly I don’t have a fraction of the knowledge or experience that you do with these types of competitions.
I suppose my point is if you want to compete, find out the reality of the requirement is.
I came in dead last in my first contest and that was in a field of over 15 competitors.