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Help with Diet/Program. Should I Keep Getting Leaner?


Hi guys!

Hope this is a good place to post this. I know this is a common question - but I feel having some opinions other than my own and friend’s (since they all contradict) would be useful.

I’ve been working out seriously for about 3 years now, and have made some decent progress (progress pic/current pics attached below).

I’ve been cutting for two-three months since July and its been moving slowly. I’ve gone from about 168-160 pounds in this period. It wouldn’t be so frustrating if it weren’t for the fact I always seem to plateau after losing 7/8 pounds every time I cut. I have never been lean as I want.

My workouts are organized in a standard push, pull, legs routine with about 15 minutes of HIIT cardio every other day. I do compounds and accessory lifts usually in the 8-12 rep range for accessories and 4-8 for compounds.

To be clear, my goal from the start has always to have visible abs - an aesthetically pleasing physique that isn’t necessarily massive, but still muscular. I want to look toned, I’ve never seen my abs before and it’s a huge goal for me - and will make bulking up later much easier to digest (no pun intended) when I get there. I’ve read a lot about getting lean before getting bigger and I’m inclined to agree with this approach based on my goals.

I’ve never been able to achieve the lean physique I want yet, though I feel I am getting closer. Here are my stats:
Age: 22
Approx. 161 pounds

So what do you guys think? Should I push further and keep cutting - am I looking for an excuse to give up? Should I be building muscle to achieve the physique I want in the first place? The other thing I wonder is if this has to do with my actual abs being underdeveloped? I feel like there’s a decent layer of fat there, when I sit down for instance there are obvious fat folds on my stomach.

Thanks in advance for all your opinions!


If you want to get lean enough to see abs, you’ll need to keep reducing your calories slowly and steadily. You seem quite lean on your chest and arms, so like most everyone, it’s stomach that you’ll lose last. Tbh doesn’t look like you’ll need to lose much. Doesn’t mean you can’t keep training them either, but your goal is lean enough to see abs, so then you must get leaner. Keep pushing buddy, you’ll make it


Food is going to be critical here, yet you haven’t really mentioned it!

Give us an accurate no bull shit overview of your daily food and drink, not an absolute perfect day you hit once or twice a week but a completely honest account. Do you drink much beer? When my brother was training he had a similar physique, one thing he refuse to give up was a daily couple of beers!

Training your abs directly will certainly help you to see them without being so lean. Unfortunately you seem to carry around the stomach which means that it’s going to take some dedicated dieting to get those visible abs.

Do you have a picture of your goal physique?

Great work on building some mass by the way, you have clearly put the work in.


Thanks for the help kd13! I guess that really is what it comes down to - I just need to keep going and push through this plateau. It’s all a mental game of commitment for me since I really dread cutting calories. But if it helps me reach that place I want to be in than so be it haha

I also don’t know how I forgot to bring up diet in general in my post, since that’s most of what I put the most attention too changing when getting leaner. So, I eat about 160-170g of protein a day. I track my calories on myfitnesspal daily. Calories are currently 2300/day (though I seem to be able to eat under that now no problem - more around 2100)

To be unbiased, like you said, here’s yesterday’s log which is pretty average. Note: I’m a VERY consistent eater because I have a ton of crappy allergies (dairy is the biggest one, but also I can’t have citrus fruits, which I know is ridiculous but such as life haha). I am not a huge drinker but on the weekends I might have two beers or a glass of wine.

(Note this is an unusually large amount of rice for me, but still I do like my carbs a little too much lol). As of a couple weeks ago I’ve been intermittent fasting on weekdays and it’s been moving the scale a little bit. Who knows if it’s water weight since before I was notorious for eating late (and weighing myself in the morning).

Something like this is my ultimate goal:

Even something like this has more aesthetic appeal to me than a bulky muscular look :

Thanks again for your help man - really appreciate the in-depth answer.


@kd13 For some reason I can’t edit that post ^ - but I do want to note that I usually eat more vegetables for lunch/dinner. Yesterday I got broccoli with my meal but it had lemon on it (which I am allergic too) so I couldn’t eat it. Yeppp. Ended up getting two servings of sweet potato instead. Not the best. But I typically eat a serving of mixed vegetables for lunch when I eat elswere. Chicken or Steak, brown rice, and mixed vegetables (carrots, squash, broccoli) is almost what I have everyday for lunch.

And thanks @kleinhound for your help! I’ll keep pushing, see if I can get myself 5-10 pounds down and then reassess. Definitely hang on to fat on my stomach. It’s certainly a genetic trait as I’ve always been decently skinny with a large stomach.


What do you do for abs?


Okay cool that extra info helps a lot.

First off looking at the physiques you have posted it’s clear to achieve them you are going to have to put on a fair amount more size, which means a cut is going to delay that. But I also know sometimes you just want to strip off as much fat as possible and just see what you look like, so if that’s what you wanna do and you want to prove you can get lean with abs then go for it.

The reason you lose that first 7 or 8 pounds straight away is because your mostly going to just be dropping some water, glycogen and shit for lack of a better word. Out of that 7 or 8lb not much will be fat. It’s at this point that patience and consistency is going to keep the scale moving down, but at a slower pace than those first few lbs.

Diet wise, eat as many vegetables as possible. The fact you eat a fair few carbs makes it pretty easy to tweak things. My personal approach is to spend say 2 weeks eating exactly like above but choose 1 meal and half the carbs in that meal and replace it with some extra veg. Then the next 2 weeks half the carb serving in 2 of your meals. Next 2 weeks half carb serving in 3 meals. Keep this same carb dropping going, This approach will slowly drop your cals around 200 cals every couple of weeks, but if you replace with veg Then you won’t feel like you are eating much less. I dropped around 28lbs doing this and I started out already fairly lean.

I’m also interested in the answer to @EyeDentist question. Take a look at this thread I started

It would be cool if you could add your ab hypertrophy recommendations at some point @EyeDentist


Happy to.

Under tension, try to touch your xyphoid process to your pubic symphysis. Do this many, many times without stopping.


That’s my recommendation as well. Weight crunches helped me a lot. And I mean serious weight. I treat my abs like any other muscle (when I actually train them). If I want bigger legs then I’ll likely try to get 25-30 reps per exercise (like 3 x 10 on squats). Well, do the same for abs. I used to do 3 x 10 with a 100 lb DB on my chest. It makes the rectus abdominis grow which pushes the muscle out further between the connective tissue and looks more defined. I can even have abs with a bit of fat due to the hypertrophy.


IMO V ups are hands down the best exercise for abs. No weight needed. Just lay flat arms over your head and simultaneously lift your legs and torso and try to meet in the middle. Start with maybe 50 and build from there. I did probably 300 daily from the time I was 8 till I was 17 and now feel like I’ll have abs for life lol. My gymnastics coach liked to torture us! 21 years later and they’re still here


Thanks so much for the ab recommendations, guys. I’m learning a lot for sure. Funny enough @jackolee my gym bud who was a gymnast for a long time had me doing those for the first time a month ago and it made me realize how much I needed to improve my abs. V ups are killer.

And thanks, @kd13 for the advice. I’ve actually read that cutting carbs and IF are a good combo so I’ll be giving that a try and see where it goes. I do indeed eat a lot of carbs - I feel like bread is basically my kryptonite. I’ve never intentionally cut carbs before so I’ll see if this makes a difference over a month.

**In general, do you guys see a benefit of me getting leaner before focusing on building muscle/bulking again (to get my ideal physique)? Am I just spinning my wheels/should I just start building more muscle again? (I guess I’m asking this from your opinion of my physique and less my own at this point).

Something tells me I’m just giving up too soon on cutting down to see my abs. But maybe this is unhealthy at this stage.**


I’d get leaner first. Will minimize fat gain and you will have the experience to know what it takes to get to your goal body fat levels.


Thanks for the help @jackolee ! I’m gonna keep going. I know I don’t have too many pounds to lose to get there. And I can minimize fat gains when I go back to bulking up. Thanks man!

This is by far the best help I’ve received on a fitness forum so far. Thanks for your in-detail advice, everyone!


Glad to help man. When cutting make sure to get enough protein so your not sacrificing muscle mass. I have a log of the cycle I’m running now and there’s some good nutritional info on there as well. Think it’s called first blast test/deca. The diet info might be worth a look for you. Also buy some ski food calipers. This way you can track your progress from week to week. Even if you don’t calculate percentages right you can see if the skin folds are getting thinner. Good luck man