T Nation

How Many Calories to Start my Cut On?

#1

I’ve been clean bulking for the past year or so, and am about to start a cut in the near future. I’m now on maintenance calories whilst I try to figure out exactly how many calories I’ll need to start the cut. My bulk ended on 3800 calories, so I’ve reduced that by 500 and am now maintaining for the meanwhile at 3300 calories.

Would it be optimal to reduce my calories by another 500 and start my cut at 2800? This would just be to start off of course, whilst I track how my weight changes over the forthcoming weeks, and can then tweak my calories some more if/when progress stalls or if I’m dropping weight too quickly.

As far as I’m aware this seems about right, although I just wanted to get some second opinions first.

Much appreciated anyway, thank you.

#2

Do you weigh 125 pounds or 325?

#3

198 lbs currently.

#4

20% Caloric Reduction

Dr Layne Norton and Dr John Ivy, independent research, concluded that a reduction of 20% of your calories decreased body fat while preserving muscle mass.

Thus, dropping your caloric intake from 3800 to 3300 is in the 20% zone. Keep it there until it stops working.

Adaptation

Once you weight/fat loss stops that means your body has adapted.

At that point, decrease you caloric intake another 20% from what you are consuming; take 3300 cal a day down to around 2600.

Kenny Croxdale

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#5

Yeah, that’s because they want to “coach” you for a year long diet. Just a way to make more money. The whole muscle loss fear is blown way out of proportion. Extreme diets like PSMF preserve muscle. There have been studies on natural bodybuilders during contest prep where at most they lost 1kg of muscle. Barring some dumb decisions someone losing fat to look good has little to worry about.

#6

Norton has provided that information in some of his “Free” podcast this.

Ivy does doesn’t coach.

Other free online research data like, " Intermittent energy restriction improves weight loss efficiency in obese men: the MATADOR study." has demonstrated this, as well.

The Matador Study reinforces the protocol Bodybuilders have employed for decades, Bulking and Cutting.

Norton’s research, Ivy’s research and the Matador Research provide some guidelines on the optimal percentage of calories to decrease for fat/weight loss for maximal fat loss while maintaining or slightly increasing muscle mass.

The same protocol increasing calorie percentages for increasing body weight/muscle mass while minimizing fat gain works, as well

Bodybuilding Contest Prep

With any weight loss program, it hard not to lose some muscle mass, especially for lean athletes. With that in mind, the focus need to be on a Diet Plan and Training Program that maximizes fat loss while maintaining muscle mass or minimizing it loss.

That is one of the reasons many sports have weight classes. Dropping to a lower weight class ends up costing your some muscle mass.

Moving up in a weight class ends up increasing your muscle mass.

Some the few groups that is able to increase muscle mass while losing fat are obese individuals, novice lifter, and those on anabolic steroids.

Kenny Croxdale

#7

This is assuming his estimate of mainteance calories is correct. It’d be much easier if you, OP, provided us with your wieght, height, age and preferably body fat percentage and activity level. Thanks to this we can calculate your BMR, then TDEE and a proper calorie intake assuming 20% deficit below mainteance.

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#8

Or just track everything you’re eating for a week. If you lost weight, eat those same calories next week. If not, that’s your maintenance and you can drop from there. You’ll likely lose - just writing down our food tends to make us eat more “mindfully.”

There you go - the diet can start this instant!

I’ll send you my PayPal address for this in-depth and personal coaching consultation.

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#9

Implying after one week of tracking you can really tell if you dropped any fat. Even body composition scan would be completely unreliable and if you want to just use scale, then track your food during a week, then use scale again and assume your tdee this way, then I am afraid it is not going to work.

He can either weight exactly the same, more or less and it won’t tell you anything He can weigh more while actually loosing fat or weigh less, while spending entire week putting some fat on. There are tons of things that affect your weigh and in span of one week you can’t even notice big enough change in your weight to blame it on any concrete factor(s).

#10

You surmise guessing his body fat percentage and applying a mathematical formula will be more accurate than measuring what he most recently did in the real world?

Best of luck, either way

#11

This mathematical formula is orientative. If it shows him mainetance of 2300 or 2400 it doesn’t really matter to assuming deficit. Also no one will try to cut down their diet to a single calories. It is always some sort of estimate.

At least it’s more reliable, because it is free from side affecting factors. Sure, you can go wrong one way or another, but you won’t end up estimating calorie intake that could possible be a deficit, while in fact would be a surplus, what is possible using the method you propose.

So what is worse - not exact estimate, but at least correct in direction, or an estimate that could be either completely right or wrong?

#12

I think either way is just giving you a starting point to work from, and your adjustments from there are going to be lowering calories/ adding activity either way.

I don’t agree that the estimate based off body weight is more accurate than the estimate based of what you’re actually doing, but neither do I think it’s a disastrous approach.

I do think it’s more realistic for someone that hasn’t been counting calories or have any kind of meal structure to just start tracking what they eat. You may find you’re able to lose weight for weeks and ingrain some better nutritional habits without purposeful restriction.

In either case, you’ll get a starting point and adjust from there. I think applying a general equation is a bit more shooting in the dark than writing what I ate, but I’ll still be starting from somewhere.

#13

Under Reporting

One of the main issues with weight loss is Under Reporting; individual end up consuming more than they report.

So yes, the calorie count need to be on the money to be effective at creating an effective calorie deficit.

It somewhat like writing a check for what you have estimated (guessed) to be in your bank account; which can create an issue.

It better to know exactly how much you have in your bank account before writing the check.

Three Day Recall

Counting EVERYTHING you consume for three days and then dividing it by 3 will provide you with you Daily Average Caloric Intake.

Now knowing how much you are consuming and trying to write a diet plan amount to taking a trip and not finding out where you are on the map so that you can get to your destination.

Not Necessarily

Knowing someone height and weight doesn’t provide much information. Two individual can be the same weight and height with one being obese and the other being muscular.

Body Fat Percentage

Very few individual know their body fat percentage.

All of the method of measuring body fat percentage are flawed.

Calipers work to a certain degree if you have a really good Technician that has performed hundreds of measurements.

Bioelectircal Impedance devise are very inaccurate.

Waste:Height Ratio

This provide you with a somewhat reliable number.

BMR and TDEE Calculators

These method have incredible flaws.

The Three Day Recall is the simplest, most effective method. It personalizes it so that you know precisely where you are.

If you are gaining weight on the amount of calories you are consuming on your Three day Recall, you are eating too much.

If you weight isn’t moving, you are in a calorie balance.

If you are losing weight, you are in a calorie deficit.

BRM and TDEE Calculators provide you with a vague, general idea of where you are.

Again, it like having a vague idea of how much money you have in your checking account.

Kenny Croxdale

#14

Now you actually took what I proposed to an extreme, what I already got criticized for for being overly complicated. Sur TDEE calculators are just estimate. And surethere are differences in our lifestyles, body compositions etc. But the variance in TDEE is slight enough so that such tools work for 95% of people.

I believe “vague, general idea” is mostly what you need if you just need to know how much you should eat to loose or gain weight. And to get a “vague idea” of your body fat percentage you need to jsut take a look in a mirror. I mean you don’t need it for anything else other than said calculators and TDEE for a persons of similar weight and height, but 5% different BF varies in literally few calories.

I mean, you can go wrong by some margin with such method, but for sure you won’t go COMPLETELY wrong, what is possible with jsut trying to count what you eat for literally few days.

I only brought it up, because he mentions concrete numbers of calories in his post. This indicates he already counts them and he somehow estimates his mainteance level. I too don’t like overcomplicating and “mathematizing” things that works differently for each individual. I just felt that if he indeed tracks his calories and tries to set them on certain level, it’d be easier if we could estimate this level.

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#15

Vague Idea

Vague amounts to guessing. Guessing is never good in any situation.

As the saying goes, The Devil is in the details.

The more precise you can be the more optimal your results will be.

You initially indicated that in “assuming your estimation is correct”.

Using the BMR and TDEE Calculators amount to assuming you estimate is right, which it isn’t.

TDEE Calculator Example

My Daily Average Calorie intake is right at 2350 calories.

Based on the TDEE Calculator it indicates that maintenance for me is 2,777 calories per day; 427 more calories that I am maintaining my weight with.

Consuming an additional 427 calories per day is approximately 18% greater than my maintenance level. I’d end up gaining weight with the TDEE Calculators recommendation.

The example above is an example of the inaccuracy and how unreliable the TDEE Calculator is; the BRM falls into the same ineffective method.

To Reiterate

BMR and TDEE Calculators have a huge variance. A Three Day Recall Average provides more optimal reading.

The reason that the majority of individuals chose BMR and TDEE Calculators is…

  1. Lack of education. They believe they area accurate which they are not.

  2. Lazy. The average individual isn’t willing to put in the work and count everything for a Three Day Recall.

Again, dieting is like taking a trip. You need to pinpoint you location on the mat, locate you destination and plan your route.

You Can Go Wrong

TDEE Calculators can actually under estimate the amount of calories you need to lose weight.

If you Average Daily Caloric Intake is actually less than the TDEE Calculator’s recommendation for weight loss, than what you are consuming, you will gain weight.

BMR and TDEE Calculators are very inaccurate.

As a point, Treadmills, Ellipticals, Bikes and Heart Rate Monitors are notorious for over estimating the amount of calories you burn by 20% or more.

That is why obese people often state they are performing workouts that burn 1,000 calories, yet they never lose any weight.

Math

Losing or gaining weight is all about math; Calories In, Calories Out. Counting calories isn’t complicated. It is simple.

As with everything, it requires some time and effort in counting calories. The more you do it the easier and fast you become.

Evidently, he does count his calories and should continue to do so, if he want to obtain the most accurate measurement rather than guessing; which is never good.

Easier To Estimate

Estimating everything is easier than measuring or counting something. However, estimating goes back to meaning you are guessing, have a vague idea; taking the easy way out rather than doing the work.

The greater your investment in something, the greater your return. As someone said, “There ain’t no free lunch”.

Summary

“Successful people are willing to do what less successful people won’t do.”

Take the time and base your diet plan off your Three Day Average Caloric Intake.

Then decrease you daily calorie intake by 20%.

It is a much more optimal method than basing it in vague number that don’t apply to you.

Kenny Croxdale

#16

I agree. Just start tracking and make adjustments. Keep protein high, fat low, and carbs moderate. Cut out sugar and booze and OP will start loosing. When it stops cut carbs a little or increase cardio. Pretty simple actually.

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