T Nation

How Long Should a Cutting Phase Be?

I’m trying to get rid of some unwanted body fat but don’t know how long I should continue in a cutting phase. I’m currently 16% body fat and would like to at least reach 12% before stopping. Do I just continue or would I get better results between alternating cutting and bulking phases?

Generally, no more than 16 weeks.

More than 12 weeks is pushing it.

It really depends on

  1. how much fat you intend to drop
  2. how intense you can make your fat loss (how large of a caloric deficit you’re shooting for- note that there is definitely a point of diminishing returns here)
  3. your training age

Great thanks for the info. This will be my 17th week cutting. Well when I say cutting it would be more accurate to say I’ve been learning how to shed body fat starting with zero knowledge 17 weeks ago. Been reading up on articles on T-Nation for help but couldn’t find any information on the duration. Had a personal trainer for around a year. When I started with him I was 27% body fat.

I was 22% body fat 4 months ago when I decided to learn about properly cutting down the body fat. If my goal is to get to 12/10 (hopefully the latter) could you tell me

  1. Should I now switch to bulking? If so, for how long? Would I then go back to cutting to get rid of more body fat?

  2. I’ve got plenty of information on bulking but I’m not sure if I should immediately switch nutrition for bulking or grandually build it up (as I don’t know I’ll be doing it gradually).

Any pointers greatly appreciated

Until you lose the fat.

[quote]Alquemist wrote:
Until you lose the fat.[/quote]

quoted for truth

I wouldn’t switch to bulking exactly. I would spend maybe 4-8 weeks maintaining and/or bulking in a very limited clean way. Then cut again. Only once you have cut to your desired level and maintained that level for awhile would I consider bulking and depending on your body you will have to decide at that point how clean to bulk and how much of a calorie excess you can handle.

[quote]Moon Knight wrote:
I wouldn’t switch to bulking exactly. I would spend maybe 4-8 weeks maintaining and/or bulking in a very limited clean way. Then cut again. Only once you have cut to your desired level and maintained that level for awhile would I consider bulking and depending on your body you will have to decide at that point how clean to bulk and how much of a calorie excess you can handle.[/quote]

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Just a tip: Don’t base your “cutting length” in the future off pro BB. They have the help of AAS. Natural guys will take longer to cut and will have to do cardio; none of this 10 week cut while walking on a tread mill at 3 mph for 30 mins 3 times a week crap. Besides AAS, they have more mass to begin with

I would say 18-12 weeks is about the limit.

Thanks to T-Nation I think I’ve got my nutrition well in hand at least for cutting. I do eat more slow-burning carbs on cardio days - I do 2 spinning classes a week and long runs at the weekend (over 20/25 km) - am training for a marathon.

My general food plan would be something like:

  • Breakfast - oats with low fat milk and low fat latte
  • Mid-morning snack - low fat yoghurt with fruit (else a Weider low carb protein bar)
  • Lunch - green salad with 50g of either couscous or quinoa or kidney/butter beans
  • Mid-afternoon snack - similar to mid-morning snack ( I try to avoid having 2 protein bars in a day - not sure if that healthy or safe).

I usually workout after work. Starting any time between 6 and 7 in the evening. I haven’t been great at getting in slow carbs 2 hours before a workout but am getting better.

The only protein I take that is not coming directly from my food is creatine (CEE) before and after my workout and a protein bar.

I tend to eat only low fat yoghurt or fruit after 9 if I’m hungry. I’m aware of the shouldn’t eat carbs in the evening/it doesn’t matter debate. However when I stopping eating carbs after 8 that’s when I started to notice a serious drop in body fat and weight.

I was thinking of buying some whey protein and taking that pre and post workout. Not sure if I should be taking the creatine at the same time. I also have been recently trying casein, taking 20 grams with water before going to bed. I take it only occasionally and only on days that I do weights.

For maintaining I was thinking I should keep a similar diet but add a lot more protein from sources like whey/casein/BCAAs.

Is any of this a good idea? Thanks again for the comments - they’re proving very useful!

What is your current weight?

The impression I get from your diet is that it is too low in fat and possibly too low in calories. Carbs seem kind of high, but that will depend on your personal tolerance for them I guess.

I would switch a few of the protein+carb meals for a protein+fat meal.

Whey and BCAAs before and after working out are a good idea. I would ditch the protein bars unless they are Metabolic Drive bars. Almost every other protein bar I have ever seen has one (or usually more than one) ingredient that I would want to avoid in it. They are also not your best way to spend money.

Why would you need more protein while maintaining? That makes no sense. If anything you need more protein while cutting because you are likely going to be eating fewer carbs (even if not doing low carb) and definitely will be eating fewer calories overall.

I’m am currently 68kg - 149 pounds at 5 foot 6 inches (167 centimetres) tall. As for the diet I’m just trying to figure out how to switch from cutting to maintaining properly. Obviously this is increasing my calorie intake - am just unsure as to if that includes both carbs and protein and in what proportions.

I eat the carbs because of the amount of cardio I do. If I am not spinning or running it will be some from of HIIT on a rower or cross trainer. I’m never sure as to how much carbs I need to cover my cardio. I try to alternate between cardio one day and weight training the next.

[quote]Moon Knight wrote:
I wouldn’t switch to bulking exactly. I would spend maybe 4-8 weeks maintaining and/or bulking in a very limited clean way. Then cut again. Only once you have cut to your desired level and maintained that level for awhile would I consider bulking and depending on your body you will have to decide at that point how clean to bulk and how much of a calorie excess you can handle.[/quote]

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