Hypertrophy Training in a Caloric Deficit

I think it is fair to say that most folks train in a hypertrophic rep range most of the time

I read and listen to podcasts and the authorities on the subject do not recommend much difference in training for fat loss and muscle building

However, the majority of the experts proclaim recomposition is not likely unless you are new to training, obese, or on aas.

So you would think since you will likely not be gaining muscle mass during periods of a caloric deficit, that they would recommend a different training protocol.

I think generally, it’s recommended that you lower your volume a little bit when you’re in a caloric deficit. That volume has a big energy cost that you aren’t able to fill the demand of in a deficit. Every training program works better in a surplus for that reason.


I don’t believe in a hypertrophic rep range but a hypertrophic blend of intensity and volume. During a deficit, I dial down volume and dial up intensity. Its not to recomp; its to ensure my body understands that muscle is still important and to keep as much as possible


I can not remember the name of the piece but there was a writer for T nation that said “During a deficit the best muscle building work out becomes the best muscle preserving workout”. And this is the reason you don’t change too much between deficit and surplus. That is the idea behind “not changing too much”.
Personally I’m not sure of this logic. The best hypertrophy programmes I’ve seen require so much effort you would not recover unless you eat like it your job.

Programmes like 531 bbb, 531 BtM, Deepwater and supersquats done on a deficit would be a disaster.

As someone “recomping” now - I might fit into the “obese” range (I’m 107kg at 183cm). But I think it is 100% possible - but you need to be careful how you define it.
I define it as - a changing your body fat to muscle ratio. Which is easy. Just lose more fat than muscle. This by definition changes the “composition” of your body. Do I need to build muscle - no. But I think I am to be fair. Not lots - but enough.

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It may have been said already but if you built your muscle using method X, you should continue using this method to keep this muscle during a deficit. Suppose you change to method Y during your cut, your body probably won’t add much muscle from the new stimulus, but it is more likely to dump muscle that was attained from X method due to lower stimuli.

This is all hypothetical though. Most people over 10%BF won’t be losing muscle during a cut unless you’re deliberately training like a fuckwit.

Coach Thibbs @Christian_Thibaudeau said it best


More of us are obese than care to admit it


all makes sense.

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I’m unsure how obese is defined, but i know it when i see it

I don’t even need to see it sometimes. Whenever someone is called “brave” for showing his/her body, I know that’s a fat fuck right there. Obese, if you will.


BMI over 30 is classified as obese.

I know I’m coming off as short, which isn’t my intention. I just am trying to illustrate that most of us have plenty of tissue to fuel a recomp without worrying too awful much.




A lot of podcast guys just say the same thing that other podcast guys said. They get super into trends and fads and Group Think kinda scenarios this way. Whatever is hip this month is like all they speak about.

But if you look around there are plenty of coaches who say to push “energy systems work” or do stuff that challenges your conditioning during fat loss.


Maybe I just cannot understand the question, but I think all of my training was hypertrophic training, whether in a deficit or a surplus. My idea of hypertrophic training is very broad, as even powerlifting training facilitates a strength foundation to add more muscle.

In a deficit I would have little expectation of adding muscle (without the aid of AAS’s). In fact, I don’t think I was ever in a deficit when I wasn’t on a cycle.

Maybe I shouldn’t comment at all. Just mark my opinion as “a well trained person is not going to add muscle in a deficit without steroids.” Just saying.


This is true, depressing and encouraging all at the same time.

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Have many people on here, or people you know actually done a recomp?

I’ve managed to do successful cuts and bulks but never a recomp but I’m not sure I was ever really doing the correct nutrition bits needed to achieve fat loss and muscle growth at the same time.

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recomp = slow muscle gain and slow fat loss, usually accomplished with subpar nutrition and results.

I’ve ‘recomped’ before but would have done better if I’d just done the old bulk and cut. I truly believe recomping is only valid for beginners due to neurological adaptation to the significantly increased physiological stressors of newbie training (which explains how newbies can lose fat and gain muscle both with shit nutrition). Outside of this phase, I don’t think recomping holds water.

Just my $0.02


This piece by thibs speaks to me. I FEEL like im shrinking. Like all my gains are disappearing. And im not lean yet. 5’10, 181.

Likely somewhere between 15 and 20 pct bodyfat. But im going to power thru. Not looking to be “shredded”. But i want to get to about 10-12 pct. If i look like shit when its done, well. Least ill know where i am and ill go from there


I don’t know if my thoughts are going to come out coherently, so I’ll just start jotting them down in an arbitrary order and we’ll see where they land.

  • I do think I’m in a “recomp” probably ~half the time. The below ramble will hopefully explain why.
  • Whether a recomp is “successful” I believe depends on expectations. Like @Andrewgen_Receptors pointed out, I can’t expect to strive for mediocrity in both muscle gain and fat loss and expect to see powerful visual changes.
  • Even the coaches who advocate recomps point out that trained folks can’t expect “significant” changes in either muscle gain or fat loss.
  • Let’s take significant to its statistical definition rather than a generic “oh, I just won’t see a ton.” Now we’re talking a maintenance mode, because grams either way won’t be statistically significant. We’ve all done a successful maintenance phase.
  • Even if we’re trained but fat, for example, I think we can see a recomp by focusing on fat loss. Let’s say I’m going from 20% to 10%. I’m not getting stage lean and there’s no reason to expect muscle loss. I’d imagine I could get a little stronger for 12 weeks of my 16-week diet, and not lose strength that last month. So I’ve lost significant bodyfat and likely gained statistically insignificant muscle mass; maybe that’s a recomp instead of a cut.
  • I do think gaining or losing phases are clearly more efficient and we’re certainly better off setting goals and gearing our variables toward achieving those goals.
  • All that said, if we haven’t had all our ducks dialed in (training, cardio, nutrition, recovery), I think it’s best to get those tight and call it recomp or maintenance or whatever. After that, decide what’s holding you back (I’m either too fat or undermuscled) and attack that with a dedicated plan.

Hopefully that made sense. At the end of the day I guess I personally believe:

  1. If everything is not dialed in, do that at around maintenance calories.
  2. Once your variables are all controlled, take calories up or down depending on your gap.

I have and I’m not a beginner but I fall into the category of having excess flub. In October of 2020 my DEXA was 22.3% bf, 169.2 pounds lean tissue and 50.5 pounds of fat. October of 2021 my next DEXA was 20.3% bf, 174.5 pounds of lean tissue and 46.7 pounds of fat. So, lost just under 4 pounds of fat while gaining a little over 5 pounds of muscle. Perhaps I would have had better results with a sustained cut. Bulking is something I don’t need any more of at 40+.

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Natty reality

Realising the ‘gains’ you made were pounds of fat and grams of muscle

A nattys first cut is the the black pill of training