Decision to Make: Cut Calories or Gain Muscle?

So I’m a 15 y/o freshman, 5’9, 167 pounds. I’m a bit heavier than I’d like to be, and I want to lose some fat. However, I lift every week and I still want to gain muscle from it. So, do I cut down on calories in order to lose weight but risk losing muscle mass, or do I stay at a higher caloric intake and continue gaining muscle while not losing as much weight as I would like? Or is there something I’m missing, such as a special diet plan or exercise plan that would allow me to complete both? I’m super lost, and I feel like at this point I’ve tried everything I can think of, which is why I’m here trying to get better advice from more experienced people that might know of something I could do.

Please don’t take this as a dig but you’re 15. The “magic thing” you haven’t tried yet is consistent training and diet for years at a time. This is the thing all the big strong guys have in common.

Feel free to check the log section for data on this if you’d like. Phrases like “I’ve maintained a training log on some sites since 2004” or “I haven’t lifted less than twice a week in 10 years” tend to be followed by impressive feats. Phrases like “I’ve restarted after a few years away”, tend not to be.


When I was 13, I was your height and 7-9lbs heavier, and fat. I pursued fat loss at that point, and got down to about 152lbs by the time I was done. From there, over many years, I built up to 195ish where I am today (still at 5’9).

If I had to do it again, I’d do the same thing. It only took the span of the summer to drop the weight for me, and it put me in a great position to start putting on some muscle. I know at 15 3 months sounds like forever, but it’s honestly a blip, and you’ll most likely appreciate not feeling fat.


I think T3h’s post is about the best info you can get on here. I recommend his log postings.

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Just train hard on programs off this site …at your age you will put on muscle at the same time. This a good start…

Update :smiley:

I’m now 17, 6’0, and 190 pounds. Still heavier than I’d like to be, but I’m finally eating right, which was something I struggled with constantly these last few years. That, and cardio, we’re what I was missing in the whole equation. I was lifting for only 45ish minutes each day, and not heavily. That, and not eating properly, led to me feeling like I wasn’t making any progress. I can now happily say I’m much closer to the dorito shape dream. That said, I fell off during COVID, and fell out with many friends, leading to tons of comfort/stress eating, and lost a bunch of progress. Made a new gym buddy that finally got me back into the gym about 3 months ago, and have been going strong since.

I currently wake up at 4 each morning to get to the gym. I warm-up with a mile run, followed by an hour of lifting (Back/Bicep, Chest/Tricep, Legs/Abs, Back/Bicep, Chest/Tricep in that order for M-F), followed by 3 miles of all out on an excercise bike. I also end my day with a 2 mile run in the evenings.

Am I going overboard? Are there any better exercises I should be doing? I don’t have any more spare time, as I work two jobs in between college and high school. I’m also trying to stay heavy into cardio to work on my lungs, as I fell into the nicotine pit 4 years ago and haven’t gotten out just yet.

I understand that this is mostly fluff, but I wanted to be able to put you in my shoes. Any and all advice is welcome.

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Good job!

Nope and nope.

Time is not going to make quitting easier, and it is damaging your health. I’d recommend prioritizing this, full recognizing that’s easier said than done.

You’re doing a good job, man. Work ethic is the biggest gap in most folks your age, and you’re demonstrating a great base. From here, I’d just advise that you don’t look for a finish line; keep doing what you’re doing ad finitum (not just in the gym).


IMO yeah …10 exercise sessions a week is really not necessary.

If want “more” look up @Alpha/Brian Alsruhe’s stuff - a lot of hard work and all done in 4 or 5 sessions a week

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I appreciate that!

I would clump the sessions together, but I purposefully split the running into two parts to get something into the evening, as I feel much better when I exercise after eating, and nothing puts me to sleep faster than a good run and cold shower.

IMO, to maximize muscle mass gains I would skip the mile run, or at least shorten it quite a bit. Lift first, cardio after.

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Here we are again, and as of right now it seems the 3rd time is the charm. I need to come clean and tell you guys that I didn’t stick with that old workout plan. I was consistent for a solid week, and the second motivation started dropping I fell off. Because of this, I’ve run through this program for a few weeks, and even on my off days I’ve managed to stay consistent. These are my maxes from a couple weeks ago, and the workouts I’ve done for this week as a sample:

Standing Military Press-115


130x5, 165x5, 195x3, 215x5, 245x5, 280x5+


Straight Leg Deadlifts (245): 50%x10, 60%x10, 70%x10

Barbell Rows: 5x10


80x5, 100x5, 120x3, 130x5, 150x5, 170x5+


Incline Press (185): 50%x10, 60%x10, 70%x10

Dips: 5x10



145x5, 185x5, 220x3, 235x5, 275x5, 310x5+


Front squat (245): 50%x10, 60%x10, 70%x10

GHR’s: 5x15



45x5, 60x5, 65x3, 70x5, 80x5, 90x5+


Close-Grip Bench: 90x10, 110x10, 130x10

Lateral Raises: 5x10

I lift in the morning, and run a mile every evening. I also do a short ab workout on MWF, and do random variations of pull-ups during every workout but deadlift. This started as 5/3/1, but grew into its own animal.

Is there anything I should change here, or anything wrong that I’m not noticing?

I also just weighed in at 203, and plan on working my way down to 190 before settling into a long-run small calorie surplus. Does this seem like a good idea, or should I be approaching this differently?

I would keep getting stronger for a few more months and allow your body to adapt to the added muscle. Maybe in the spring start a slow cut.

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$.02 from an older guy and former fattie who chased lift #s in his 20s. Getting lean is only going to get harder, and it’s tempting to rationalize a shit diet by pointing to your log book. If you don’t want to look fat-n-strong in 5 years and a slob in 10-15, and you don’t want to embark on a life-long dependency on exogenous test (you shouldn’t - it’ll fuck your physical and mental health), remember why you started lifting in the first place. Start eating raw veggies before EVERY meal. Eliminate snacks. Slowly dial back the calories. Swap in healthy substitutes to your favorite cheat foods. If you are lifting to look good, prioritize how you look. Your strength gains will be slower, but you won’t regret it and your future self will thank you.

IMO, he probably doesn’t have great genetics and the only thing his body is going to adapt to is a higher bodyweight, making future fat loss even harder. 5’9, 203 lbs is fat and it’s only going to get worse.

I’d have to watch the OP lifting to make my best recommendations. If his squat is at least parallel (3 white lights) and he looks like he can hold the 203lbs, I would still like him to hold his weight steady for a while. I would want the muscle to be more established.

He has fair strength for his age. I am not questioning his genetic potential at his age.

I have a video taken from my last squat max that might work. Should I post it here?

With regards to weight, I’ve been 185-195 the last 4 years. I’ve been happy with holding below sub-200, for no other reason than I’ve never been over 200. That was my motivator for wanting to drop before settling into surplus.

I would prefer seeing you doing a 5 rep max. Then I can see your form while it is good. If the 5th rep is a true maximum effort, your form will break. I am more concerned in a good form rep with relatively heavy weight.

But a single max will help, especially if you’re getting deep enough to get your hips involved.

I appreciate your advice. You made a lot of great points, some of which I hadn’t even thought of. As of right now, I feel good about my ability to lose what I gain, which I never had until about a year ago. I think I still want to try a small surplus to see how my body reacts, and more so just keep my eye on the scale and my foot near the brake pedal. If I blow up I’ll pump the brakes and come back on a deficit.

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That should impress a few people.
I don’t need a 5 rep max video. Keep getting stronger. Just beware of injuries. Stay healthy and you’ll get there.