T Nation

Cutting Fat and Keeping Muscle


I'm kind of a beginner at this. Well, I've been working out for about a year, so I guess in the long run I'm still new. I've put on about 30 pounds, which I am happy with, but which was not ALL muscle. I ate everything in sight. Now I gotta figure out how to cut the fat and keep the muscle. Any tips?


Read the beginners thread its going to be 90% diet. Id suggest checking out t-dawg 2.0 very easy to follow and effective diet

nice progress by the way



Good job on putting on the 30 lbs hopefully significantly from muscle. I don't see any stats so it is difficult for me to offer advice. I will however question whether you are certain that you have developed the muscular size to warrant a cutting phase. If you really are a beginner and have only been training for a limited amount of time, I would be sceptical that you could have developed muscularly to anywhere near your potential.

It might be advisable to try to remain in caloric surplus, but do so primarily by eating clean foods and see where you get over a somewhat extended period of time. This is of course highly dependent on your goals which you have not made clear.

If you are worried about fat gain, eating clean and training hard and smart will go along way to shifting your weight gain principally to muscle. However, if you insist on cutting (perhaps prematurely) and your primary concern is sparing muscle, I would first focus on my diet. Make sure you keep your protein intake up (let's say roughly 1.5g/lbs of bodyweight) and not to put yourself into too significant of a caloric deficit.

Secondly, you may find that your energy level in the gym will drop some too. When this happens drop your training volume a little bit, but increase your intensity (intensity is defined as a percentage of your 1RM, that is, maxing is intense, but that "intense" 100 rep set is not). In short, make sure to lift heavy. Lifting heavy will go along way to keeping that muscle.

A word of caution, too much volume will induce a catabolic state when you are dieting so be careful. Similarly, too much cardio can be problematic if the goal is to maintain LBM.


Ok, I am 5 foot 9, 180lbs and 21% body fat. I am also 30 years old. I just started eating cleaner (less fat, high protien, vegetables). When you say "(intensity is defined as a percentage of your 1RM, that is, maxing is intense, but that "intense" 100 rep set is not)" do you mean like 1-3 reps very heavy?

I feel like I eat constantly, so the caloric intake is there, but I thought high calories were not good for fat loss. Maybe I just don't know that much about diets.


Check out CT's Refined Physique Transformation article.

Its gonna take some experimenting, but hitting a low carb, high fat, moderate protein diet should work wonders. Lift heavy, and if you can afford it, supplement with a large amount of branched chain amino acids. Take your fish oil, and most importantly, find the calorie level that allows for fat loss without much muscle loss.

But check out that article man, its a nice one. Good luck.


You have interpreted the meaning of intensity correctly, but just to be clear I am not advocation solely exercises in the 1-3 rep range. I am simply suggesting that as you feel that you are losing energy in the gym due to caloric restriction that you shift moderately to a higher intensity from higher volume. Throwing in a 1-3 rep set every now and then is fine or even doing like 8 singles to change things up a bit is cool. Still, you don't want to reduce your muscles time under tension too much. I would suggest maybe the 6-8 rep range in general playing around with your lifting tempo to make sure you are giving your body sufficient stimulus.

It is true that a caloric surplus will not permit you to lose weight or fat. However, it sounds like you have used your bulk as an excuse to eat unhealthful calorie rich foods. The advantage of eating lots of protein, healthy fats, and limited but strategically timed carbohydrates, is that you will find that your body will tend to put on more LBM rather than fat. Of course it is difficult to eliminate fat gain entirely.

I still think you need to look in the mirror and decide if you have reached the level of muscular development to warrant cutting lest you never realize your potential to put on muscle mass. At 180 lbs and 5'9'' I doubt this is the case.

Also, if you start cutting to say sub 10% bf you will weigh something like 160 if you lose no muscle at all. Since this is not likely to be the case, my guess is you would weigh 150-155 if not less. Is that really your goal? Do you really lift weights so you can look like a muscular adolescent? My guess is that if you reach your dieting goals you will have another bulk in your future.

My advice is to get strong and big and not be unduly concerned with bf percentages. On a bigger more muscular frame you will likely carry your bf better anyway. Good luck with whatever you decide.


I see what you mean..... i would probably be pretty unhappy with this situation. Thanks for that eye opener. I will not focus on diet so much as I will just pump harder and eat cleaner and let whatever happens....happen. However, I am not the greatest with "good fats", by this I mean knowledgable. I don't eat deep fried foods and I always avoid trans fats. What fats should I be trying to engulf? Do you guys know of a good site (or article) that throws a list of foods out there?
The info I obtain from this site is invaluable, so thanks for all of the help.


how much cardio are you doing? If you gained significant muscle in that 30 lbs its not going to all disappear in a cut long as you keep lifting weights. Depending on how slow you lose you may even gain muscle. While its possible you may lose a little, you will probably still look alot more muscular than you do now.


Alright I found a couple of good references for you to familiarize yourself with what "good" fats are.


I am sure there are ones on T-Nation as well, but they eluded my search.


I struggle with this issue as I am always on the road for work and a regular schedule for feeding is rarly possible. Over the winter I also put on about 30 lbs of which 75% was pretty solid. My problem was that my diet has always been this way only my intake went from about 2500 cal/day to at least 4000.

Many of these were from shakes and really anything I could get ahold of, so the fats were pretty high. I felt great and my lifts went up, but I also watched my bodyfat peak out at 24%. Lifting is the easy part. I have been a loyal fan of this site for a few years soaking up the wealth of experience available.

I have surpassed several goals with my lifts and workout strategies. This is my first attempt at leaning up, and I will need all the knowledge I can get. Thanks for the info.