T Nation

Diet Breaks, Recomping, and Being Fat


#1

Question: what's worse than a165 lb guy with abs?

Answer: a 185 lb guy with tits and love handles.

With that in mind, I decided to seriously "diet down" for the first time 4 months ago. I started at a sloppy 190 ish lbs and gave myself 16 weeks to hit what I assumed would be a pretty lean 170. Well, I just wrapped up week 15 and weighed in at 171 -- pretty much exactly where I wanted to be. But here's the rub: I don't look as lean as I expected. I'm not saying I was expecting (or care about) veins and striations, but I was hoping to be "hey, that guy's pretty lean" lean. What I got was "you look a lot less buttery" lean. And yes, that's a quote from a friend about 2 weeks ago.

So now I'm not sure how to proceed, and I'm looking for input from anyone who has been here before. These are the options as I see them:

  1. Reverse diet back up to maintenance, sit there for a few months and hope for some recomping before deciding to either do an 8 wk cut and get lean-lean or move forward with other goals.
  2. Keep going until I'm as lean as I want, probably at a body weight under 165 (yuck).
  3. Take a 2 week diet break where I eat at maintenance, then dive back into the diet.

For reference, my average calories (carb/calorie cycling) are 2250, and I'm doing 60-90 minutes of LOW intensity cardio, 1 HIIT session, and zero moderate intensity cardio on top of 4 lifting sessions each wk. Strength has improved or been maintained pretty much across the board, and only in the last 3-4 weeks have I started to feel like I look small and am worried about muscle loss. Not sure if that's my mind playing tricks on me or I actually fucked up some how.

Any input would be greatly appreciated.


#2

What is your end goal when all this is done?


#3

On a first-time cut, far-and-away the least accurate and/or useful metric is one’s initial estimate of how much weight loss is needed to be lean/ripped. Everyone overestimates how much LBM they’re carrying. Everyone. (I was off by a mere 40 lbs.)

As for what you should do, it’s captured in this quote: “Keep going until I’m as lean as I want.” Clearly, your goal is to be leaner than you currently are, so keep dieting. Assuming the needle is still moving in the right direction, don’t change anything–no reverse dieting, no two-week breaks. (The impulse to do such things–that’s your mind playing tricks on you right there. It’s your inner fat guy trying to reclaim his turf.)

Toss the initial 20# estimate out the window. While you’re at it, toss out also whatever irrational hangup you have about weighing less than 165#. (Think about it: If you end up looking great, do you really care how much you weigh?) Keep grinding until the guy in the mirror looks like you want him to look.


#4

[quote]T3hPwnisher wrote:
What is your end goal when all this is done?[/quote]

I ended last year at 185 lbs with a 315/235/435 total and was not happy with my overall body composition. I then spent the first 6 months of this year injured to the point where I couldn’t train the squat, bench, OR deadlift with any kind of consistency or intensity. So I found work-arounds, trained what I could train (at one point pretty much just heavy prowler work for the lower body 3x per week) and gave myself a goal I could actually pursue: get lean. Now I’m just being able to start benching and deadlifting like before, and I can do some squat variations. So my goal is to end the year at or below 180 lbs with a 450 deadlift, 250 bench, and 275 front squat to a low box (my current “big” squat variation that I can do without too much issue) – all with a body composition that I can be happy with. Basically just want to end the year stronger, leaner, and more muscular than last even though it has been a less-than stellar year for my training.


#5

[quote]EyeDentist wrote:
On a first-time cut, far-and-away the least accurate and/or useful metric is one’s initial estimate of how much weight loss is needed to be lean/ripped. Everyone overestimates how much LBM they’re carrying. Everyone. (I was off by a mere 40 lbs.)

As for what you should do, it’s captured in this quote: “Keep going until I’m as lean as I want.” Clearly, your goal is to be leaner than you currently are, so keep dieting. Assuming the needle is still moving in the right direction, don’t change anything–no reverse dieting, no two-week breaks. (The impulse to do such things–that’s your mind playing tricks on you right there. It’s your inner fat guy trying to reclaim his turf.)

Toss the initial 20# estimate out the window. While you’re at it, toss out also whatever irrational hangup you have about weighing less than 165#. (Think about it: If you end up looking great, do you really care how much you weigh?) Keep grinding until the guy in the mirror looks like you want him to look.[/quote]

I was really worried someone would say this! How can I know that I’m not losing mass and would just be digging myself deeper into a hole by continuing to cut? This is assuming that I’m a complete moron and have not been taking progress pictures along the way.

Also, do you think there is any downside to dieting continuously for periods longer than 16 weeks? For some reason I have that number stuck in my head as the maximum amount someone should go without any sort of “break,” unless we’re talking about obese or sedentary individuals.


#6

[quote]TrevorLPT wrote:

[quote]EyeDentist wrote:
On a first-time cut, far-and-away the least accurate and/or useful metric is one’s initial estimate of how much weight loss is needed to be lean/ripped. Everyone overestimates how much LBM they’re carrying. Everyone. (I was off by a mere 40 lbs.)

As for what you should do, it’s captured in this quote: “Keep going until I’m as lean as I want.” Clearly, your goal is to be leaner than you currently are, so keep dieting. Assuming the needle is still moving in the right direction, don’t change anything–no reverse dieting, no two-week breaks. (The impulse to do such things–that’s your mind playing tricks on you right there. It’s your inner fat guy trying to reclaim his turf.)

Toss the initial 20# estimate out the window. While you’re at it, toss out also whatever irrational hangup you have about weighing less than 165#. (Think about it: If you end up looking great, do you really care how much you weigh?) Keep grinding until the guy in the mirror looks like you want him to look.[/quote]

I was really worried someone would say this! How can I know that I’m not losing mass and would just be digging myself deeper into a hole by continuing to cut? This is assuming that I’m a complete moron and have not been taking progress pictures along the way.

Also, do you think there is any downside to dieting continuously for periods longer than 16 weeks? For some reason I have that number stuck in my head as the maximum amount someone should go without any sort of “break,” unless we’re talking about obese or sedentary individuals.
[/quote]

Are you losing significant amounts of strength?


#7

[quote]dagill2 wrote:
Are you losing significant amounts of strength?[/quote]

No. It’s hard to tell without the typical metrics of squat, bench, and deadlift, but my strength is seemingly the same or better on everything else. With the exclusion of some days where I feel weak or generally shitty, my training hasn’t really been impacted.


#8

[quote]TrevorLPT wrote:

[quote]EyeDentist wrote:
On a first-time cut, far-and-away the least accurate and/or useful metric is one’s initial estimate of how much weight loss is needed to be lean/ripped. Everyone overestimates how much LBM they’re carrying. Everyone. (I was off by a mere 40 lbs.)

As for what you should do, it’s captured in this quote: “Keep going until I’m as lean as I want.” Clearly, your goal is to be leaner than you currently are, so keep dieting. Assuming the needle is still moving in the right direction, don’t change anything–no reverse dieting, no two-week breaks. (The impulse to do such things–that’s your mind playing tricks on you right there. It’s your inner fat guy trying to reclaim his turf.)

Toss the initial 20# estimate out the window. While you’re at it, toss out also whatever irrational hangup you have about weighing less than 165#. (Think about it: If you end up looking great, do you really care how much you weigh?) Keep grinding until the guy in the mirror looks like you want him to look.[/quote]

I was really worried someone would say this! How can I know that I’m not losing mass and would just be digging myself deeper into a hole by continuing to cut? This is assuming that I’m a complete moron and have not been taking progress pictures along the way. [/quote]

Because as you’ve noted, you’re maintaining strength. And quite frankly, you’re not running that significant of a caloric deficit. It’s not like you’re doing an extended 800 cal/d PSMF. You’re averaging just over 13 cals/lb/d–barely qualifies as dieting.

So long as you’re continuing to lose fat while maintaining strength, I think there’s no reason to stop.


#9

[/quote]
Because as you’ve noted, you’re maintaining strength. And quite frankly, you’re not running that significant of a caloric deficit. It’s not like you’re doing an extended 800 cal/d PSMF. You’re averaging just over 13 cals/lb/d–barely qualifies as dieting.
[/quote]

Ha, I know. I stated “dieting” at 2700 calories and 300 grams of carbs every day. Lost the first 8 or so lbs like that and wondered to myself why everyone complains about dieting so much. I think I’m starting to understand it now though.

Thanks for all your input.


#10

Well, there are 2 sides to the coin. The bad side is that, yes, most people significantly underestimate what they need to lose to get lean. But the good side is that people generally underestimate how big lean can look.

I had a journey similar to many other people in the training world. I decided to get lean and was going to lose 20 pounds and get ripped. 50+ pounds latter I finally got there. But I still looked pretty damn good where I ended up.

Seeing smaller bodyweights isn’t the end of the world. Depending on your size and structure even in the 160s can still look muscular. Personally, I’d get to a leanness I was comfortable with (meaning a balance for both for maintainability and self esteem) and start trying to add muscle slowly and steadily.


#11

[quote]DoubleDuce wrote:
Well, there are 2 sides to the coin. The bad side is that, yes, most people significantly underestimate what they need to lose to get lean. But the good side is that people generally underestimate how big lean can look.

I had a journey similar to many other people in the training world. I decided to get lean and was going to lose 20 pounds and get ripped. 50+ pounds latter I finally got there. But I still looked pretty damn good where I ended up.

Seeing smaller bodyweights isn’t the end of the world. Depending on your size and structure even in the 160s can still look muscular. Personally, I’d get to a leanness I was comfortable with (meaning a balance for both for maintainability and self esteem) and start trying to add muscle slowly and steadily.[/quote]

The thing is, I feel like I look worse now than I did a month ago. If I just kept looking better and better it would be easy to keep going. I’m not really looking much leaner – I just kind of look smaller.

Also, I’m 5’7" with a small bone structure (pinky and thumb can wrap around my wrist) so maybe 160 would look alright on me. Still kind of a head trip for me since I started training at a skinny-fat (no abs and visible love handles) 120 lbs and never want to look anything like that again.


#12

[quote]TrevorLPT wrote:

[quote]DoubleDuce wrote:
Well, there are 2 sides to the coin. The bad side is that, yes, most people significantly underestimate what they need to lose to get lean. But the good side is that people generally underestimate how big lean can look.

I had a journey similar to many other people in the training world. I decided to get lean and was going to lose 20 pounds and get ripped. 50+ pounds latter I finally got there. But I still looked pretty damn good where I ended up.

Seeing smaller bodyweights isn’t the end of the world. Depending on your size and structure even in the 160s can still look muscular. Personally, I’d get to a leanness I was comfortable with (meaning a balance for both for maintainability and self esteem) and start trying to add muscle slowly and steadily.[/quote]

The thing is, I feel like I look worse now than I did a month ago. If I just kept looking better and better it would be easy to keep going. I’m not really looking much leaner – I just kind of look smaller.

Also, I’m 5’7" with a small bone structure (pinky and thumb can wrap around my wrist) so maybe 160 would look alright on me. Still kind of a head trip for me since I started training at a skinny-fat (no abs and visible love handles) 120 lbs and never want to look anything like that again. [/quote]

The appearance of losing fat isn’t linear. There is a big range of medium fat levels that will all look pretty much the same. So there is a while there where you are losing fat like you are supposed to but visually nothing is really happening. In that middle range of body fat, you can’t notice losing the gut you no longer have and you can’t yet see muscle separation and such that will eventually make you look more muscular. MANY people fail on diets in that area because visually you can’t SEE the progress. I personally went from 240 all the way down to the upper 180s (at 5’10") and from like 220 down to the upper 190s I looked the same. Just keep the weight loss steady and keep an eye on your gym performance.


#13

^Yep. CT had an article wherein he talked about this (I looked for it without success).


#14

There was a thread on here a while back by a poster called gorrillakvid or something similar that I think was a fantastic way of showing how much better, and bigger someone can look by leaning out.


#15

A lot of folks seem to cut when injured. Hell, I’ve done it myself. The logic is there:

  1. I can’t do as much or make gainz
  2. so, I shouldn’t consume as much
  3. therefore, I should consume less and lean out!

However, isn’t an injury a horrible time to cut? Doesn’t the body need those goodies to repair that injury?


#16

[quote]1 Man Island wrote:
A lot of folks seem to cut when injured. Hell, I’ve done it myself. The logic is there:

  1. I can’t do as much or make gainz
  2. so, I shouldn’t consume as much
  3. therefore, I should consume less and lean out!

However, isn’t an injury a horrible time to cut? Doesn’t the body need those goodies to repair that injury?
[/quote]

The nature of my injuries is such that I don’t think a calorie surplus or deficit is going to make a difference. I’m not dealing with a sprain, break, or tear – it’s more of a structural issue that has been exacerbated by the my training. For something like a muscle tear I’d definitely not want to cut calories.