T Nation

Cutting to 10% BF


Hi all, just want to ask, I have been cutting since August and have made a lot of progress in terms of losing fat.

I had bulked for 23 months straight before that and ended up making a lot of dieting mistakes, using the gym as an excuse to eat ‘dirty’ and overeat. I was not watching my diet closely enough and even though I was gaining a good amount of strength, aesthetically I looked terrible. I was powerlifting and doing some hypertrophy work but I was planning my diet badly. I ended up looking like this:

Today I am around 18-20% bf I think and I want to get to 10% bf. I weigh 167 pounds. My pictures (please mind my seasonal eczema):


After my cut I would never want it above 15% again, ever.

With my calculations I should be 10% bodyfat at 152 pounds after my cut. I am 167 pound at the moment, so that will be around 15 weeks of cutting. I anticipate that I may be 145-150 pounds before I get to 10%bf in a worst case scenario.

Assuming I am at 150 pounds at 10% bf, I will need 15 pound of lean body mass to get to my physique goal. I want to stay as close to 10% bf as possible. I am happy to get up to 15% bf in a bulk. If I aim for 0.5 pounds of gains per week, that would put me at 2 pounds a month. So to add 15 pounds of lean mass with very minimal fat gains, it will take around 6 months and a few weeks.

My long term goal is to get to 8-10% bf at 165-170 pounds,sort of like the physiques on the left and right:

Would this be an ok plan? Or would you take a different approach to reach my goal. I know I have fucked up badly and at 23 months of lifting I should have done better, I have always had diet discipline problems.


I am unsure as to what your question is. It appears you’re asking if losing fat and gaining muscle will improve your physique, but I may be misunderstanding you.


I would say you’re closer to 25% than 20%.

There are a few active threads right now about guys within 20 lbs of your weight trying to get down to 10%. Look at those threads in Bigger Stronger Leaner and the Supplements and Nutrition forums and come back with a plan.


Since bodyfat percentages are tricky, at best (and even those examples use different methods including the very scientific “estimated”) I’m going to interpret this as, “My long-term goal is 165-170 with defined abs.”

Keeping that in mind, and given your current condition (167 with no abs), what does your current training and nutrition look like?

Also, for reference, what are your current bests in the squat, deadlift, bench, and overhead press? I’m looking to compare where you were versus your last thread in December, where you were 10 pounds heavier and talking about strength loss.

Sounds like you’re talking about the stereotypical “bulked up and got fat, going to cut, then going to bulk ‘smart’” approach. I think you’re getting tripped up trying to nail down specific timeframes for things that haven’t happened yet. 15 weeks for this, then 6 months for that, when all you’ve really done so far, from what we’ve seen, is drop bodyweight (not saying dropped bodyfat, because I’m pretty sure you burned plenty of whatever muscle you had along the way).

I’d suggest thinking more globally and shooting for a “re-comp” or whatever the kids are calling it nowadays. Eat smart (maybe trim carbs on non-training days), hit the weights and hard conditioning with a good pre-designed routine, watch for strength in the gym to go up (including in the moderate rep range) while bodyweight stays close to the same, take weekly or biweekly pics to assess progress and fine-tune as needed.


I think the biggest problem here is your ‘bulk phase’. You spent 2 full years trying to add muscle, with obviously no regard for fat gain, and you’re going to end up with what looks like zero appreciable muscle mass. I don’t think you have a clue how to train with weights.

Once you’re done cutting to 10% bodyfat, assuming you get that low, you need to take a good, hard look at your plans going forward. I think you’re right that you shouldn’t exceed about 15% bodyfat moving forward. But you need to figure out HOW you’re going to do this, and add muscle at the same time, considering the fact that you really didn’t add much muscle when you weren’t restricting calories. Basically, I’m saying educate yourself. Read as much as you can. Find a training program that suits your goals, and attack it with intensity and consistency. I cannot be convinced that you have already done this.


My current training is a bodypart split over 4 days a week. I start off with compound movements then do higher rep isolation exercises.

So Chest day:
Bench press: 5x5, working up to max set of 5.
Then some dumbbell work on incline db’s. A few sets.

Squats: 5x5: working up to a max set of 5.
Then some machine work.

Shoulders : OHP 5x5: working up to a max set of 5
Then dumbbell work.

Back: Deadlifts 1x5
db row 3x 6-8
bb row 3x 6-8

My diet: 500 cals below maintenance : 1750 calories. 1g protein per pound of LBM.

When I was 195 pounds in August my bests on my lifts:
140kg 1x5 Squat
160kg 1x5 Deadlifts
90kg 1x6 Bench Press
65kg 1x5 OHP

77.5kg 1x5 Bench press
112.5kg 1x3 Squat
140kg 1x3 Deadlifts
57.5kg 1x5 OHP

I know I have fucked up. I gained way too much fat on my bulk and bulked for too long. I want to fix things though and will follow how I am advised. I have no idea on where to go from here. I think I really screwed up with the bulk in the first place because I gained too much fat for the muscle and strength that I did gain.
Then when I cut I lost a fair bit of muscle along the way.

So, where do you think I am at bodyfat wise at the moment? 25% bf? So you think continuing cutting is a bad idea as it will lead to looking even worse? (Like a concentration camp victim)

I am willing to listen to your idea about a recomp? How would that work?


I think the problem was I did too little to limit the fat gain. I was eating too much and did not track my calories well enough. I just took the number myplate’s calorie calculator gave me as gospel and did not assess week by week, month by month. I should have taken more frequent progress photos.

I also blindly followed programmes like Rippetoes/ICF 5X5 for months on end. And worked too much on trying to add weight to the bar and not looking in the scales every week. I think I should have done a more bodybuilding based routine from the start.

I am really lost on what I should do next but I am willing to learn, i don’t want to keep making the same mistakes.

I also keep getting different assessments of my bodyfat levels now, some say 18-20%, some say 20-25% bf.


Don’t get too hung up on percentages. Sure, it gives you a rough idea, but really how you look in the mirror is a zillion times more important.

Your main focus right now should be getting your diet locked down, as nothing you do in the gym will make any difference in terms of body composition without getting that sorted.

I’d look into some kind of carb cycling approach if I were you


Btw everyone, this was my progress in April 15, last year. I think at this point I should have tried to lose some fat:


I should have kept discipline with my diet and training with my coach instead of eating rubbish and skipping training for 2 months in August and September. I got fatter and fatter.


I can’t see this sort of routine creating nearly enough demand to actually result in some muscular growth.

Were I in your situation, I’d do 5/3/1. There are a million different variations to do. Since you’re lifting 4 days a week, you could do the 4 day a week versions, OR you could train full body 3x a week and do some conditioning work on a 4th day, or you could start training 5-6 days a week and really put in some time.


Ok, i have decided to man the fuck up and realise I did wrong. I should have cut earlier around April last year.

Alright, i will shoot for 5/3/1 as it is tried and tested. Which variation would you choose which fits with my goals? Ideally I would want to gain back my strength whilst cutting the fat, something which would be very difficult at a caloric deficit.


I think the original 5/3/1 with the BBB assistance work is a great starting point. You could do First Set Last or 5s progression or something like that if you’d want. Really, you can’t go wrong with any of the one’s Jim Wendler has put out, it all works.

I’d make sure to get in some conditioning work as well. Prowler, sled, hill sprints, loaded carries, just something to get you moving.

I personally would work less about cutting fat, gaining muscle, etc etc and focus more on this point on building sustainable and healthy nutritional habits. Focus on eating some green veggies with every meal. Focus on getting your protein from meat and eggs. Focus on sticking with potatoes and rice as carb sources. Just get back to seeing food as fuel rather than getting obsessed with bulking and cutting.

This is my go-to reference for diet.


Again, at this juncture I do not feel it would be of the best benefit to be fixated on bulking, cutting, recomping, etc. I would focus more on developing some healthy and sustainable eating habits and then work from there.


Hi, in the article you linked it says this :

A typical 200-pound male following this plan should lose 1-2 pounds a week of mainly fat. Use the stomach/waistline as a progress guide – over time it should get smaller and noticeably leaner.”

However, this does not really specify the amount of calories that the hypothetical person would eat at.


Exactly. Again, use this as a baseline to guide your nutritional decisions, not as a weight loss diet.

The message to get from it ISN’T “eat this way to lose weight”; it’s “eat this way”.

Like, basic question, how many meals do you have per day with a vegetable in it?


Yup, I agree, the message I get from the article is that it means I will be way less likely to start eating crap like cookies and potato chips that pushes my progress back. It means that I will have a plan because I will know what foods I will eat that will be healthy.


That actually wasn’t a rhetorical question I asked.


Oh, right. One meal per day with vegetables at the moment.


So right there you can already see an example of how following the principles laid out in that article can start moving you toward better habits, and once those are established, it’ll be much easier to manipulate your diet to meet your goals. From my own observations and experience, it’s much easier to manipulate the bodycomp of a trainee who has a more holistic understanding of nutrition than one who thinks purely in terms of macro nutrients.


Calories are a bunch of shit anyway.

Information on boxes/website/etc is up to 20% off.
Even when folks weight stuff their estimates are up to 20% ooff the mark.
Then those expenditure estimators are always well off the mark.

That means in the worst case scenario you can be like 50% off your target either way.

It’s basically like trying to find your way around New York with an atlas.