I've been cutting for nearly 3 months now (which must be ~14 weeks), but I'm a little worried about the effects long-term cutting without a break might be. Would it be the best course of action, for the health of my metabolism and to avoid plateauing, to have a period of eating at maintenance and to then launch back into dieting? If so, how long?
Depends. On a lot.
What's your current weight and what did you weigh three months ago?
How tall are you? How much muscle do you currently have?
How are you eating (total calories, fat, carbs, and protein)?
How are you training? Are you still seeing progress in the gym?
Some coaches have made a valid case for occasional diet breaks (whether it's strategic cheat days or a full week or two of non-dieting), while other coaches successfully program longer-term diets.
Basically, it comes down to monitoring the results you are or aren't seeing, and adjusting things accordingly.
Currently 178, weighed 187 three months ago. I'm 5 foot 10 tall, body stat says 11% BF.
I'm eating 2,600 cals on trainig days, not massively restricting carbs but keeping them low GI and high fibre, aiming for around 200g protein a day, splitting meals up into 5-6 a day with pre-, peri and post- workout whey/dextrose.
Training-wise, I'm on the same plan as the bulk prior to the cut, doing 2-3 weight sessions a week and a couple of sprint sessions on separate days (100m or 75m usually). The weights have still been increasing slightly throughout the cut and have more or less plateau'd now, but certainly not lost any strength during the cut.
The weight loss is slowing down though, from 0.75-1 lb a week in the first month to 0.5 lbs a week being an excellent week. I don't feel lethargic, de-motivated or fatigued, but I don't want to shoot myself in the foot either.
Is sprinting the only non-weight training exercise you're getting?
Apart from daily walking, around 40-45 mins.
I should clarify, the sprint sessions are around 30 mins in duration, for example:
6 x 100m and 8 x 50m
10 x 75 m and 5 x 50m
Ok, well I'd guess that adding 15 minutes of something like HIIT/circuit training cardio per day would get the fat loss going again without hurting gains. That's very easy to tack onto the end of a workout, and is just decreasing your net caloric consumption without bringing a huge amount of misery or additional time commitment.
I obviously defer to Chris though, since he has a hell of a lot more expertise than I do.
EDIT: Also, if you do start to feel run down, a higher-carb clean refeed day might do you some good (I'd position it on whichever workout day you think could use it the most). Just my two cents. Good luck with the cutting, I'm working on a cut myself ATM so I feelz yo pain lol.
Thanks guys. I guess the general consensus is that if I'm plateauing weight- or performance-wise it's time to give myself a little break from the diet. Would you think a whole month would be too long to eat at maintenance though, or is a week or two plenty?
You would probably benefit from a day or two of bumped of carbs/cals and lowered work.
Thanks Stu. How long do your pre-contest cuts last?
16-20 weeks,.. haven't lost any muscle yet! ("no muscle fiber left behind") -lol