Maintenance Phase Questions and Tips

This is my first cut while having any form of substantial muscle. I’ve cut before, down to a 6-pack (leanest ever), but had relatively little muscle at approximately 180lbs. I am now 217lbs with another 1.5" on my arms and in need of help cutting while saving muscle.

I have been cutting since the beginning of November at roughly a 1000cal daily deficit and went from ~235lb to 217lb. I took a 2 week maintenance phase over Christmas break and didn’t really backtrack much, but have been struggling since I restarted the cut.
I’ve been noticing weight loss slowed down significantly, even at what should be ~2lbs weekly loss. I’ve been seeing between 0.5lb to 1lb weight loss at 1000cal daily deficit.
Anyways, I’m a big Mike Israetel fan and he recommends maintenance phases every 10%BW lost - and I’m pretty much there now (should be 23lbs, is 18lbs).
I log food via MFP and typically train 3-5 days per week, almost never less than 3 days and almost never more than 5. I’ve been having motivation and lethargy issues for the past few weeks as well, which is why I think a maintenance phase is overdue. Gym sessions have been productive though; strength gained - size, probably not (for obvious reasons).


  • Does anyone actually do maintenance phases?
  • What has or hasn’t worked for you guys?
  • How do you know when it’s time to give the cut a break and go into maintenance mode? Israetel recommends 1:1 cut:maintenance duration ratio, so if I was cutting for 6 weeks - I should maintain for 6 weeks. This is similar to MATADOR, where a 30-35% deficit is held for 2 weeks, then maintenance for 2 weeks - lather and repeat. Any recommended method?
  • Does anyone change training methods when cutting, bulking, maintaining? I’ve been going hardcore noob mode with PPLx5-6 with Rest-Pause for some time now. Attempted DoggCrapp training for about a week on cut, but nixxed it when cut progress stalled.

I’m a newbie to cutting so feel free to drop some knowledge bombs on me.

I dont believe in maintenance but im not saying that its not a good thing to do.
Its just that when i was growing up we just had “maintenance” built in our midset and it worked like this : We always knew that if we want to build muscle, we need to build MORE than we want to maintain. For example if you want to be 260lbs you would bulk to like 267-270lbs because just as soon as you drop the bulk calories or skip a few meals here or there you will lose some weight.
Exactly the same it was with cuts - if i was aiming for 220lbs i would cut to 210-215 because i knew that when i would no longer be in a deficit i would bloat up a bit more than i would while cutting and doing IF.

So for me there is really no need for “maintenance” phase as i always just aim a bit higher and i take the losses as a part of the process.
I also cant do maintenance because i need a goal. I either need to know im trying to build, or im trying to cut. I cant just stay the same. Even tho, of course, my progress is not too big year by year, its still just a mindfuck for me to actually KNOW that im not even trying.

As far as diet breaks and cut breaks… nope. I hate the idea because it just makes the damn thing longer. My longest cut was 6 months long, eating 1600kcal a day(chicken a vegetables only) and doing 2 hours of stationary bike a day. I would however have massive cheat day and a half the whole saturday and first half on the sunday. I believe that also was the reason why it took me 6 months instead of 4, but thats how i like to do it - i need something to strive for, i need a goal.
I rather not eat at all for 3 days if i know i can eat whatever i want on the 4th, than stick to small cut and basically be half-hungry and have cravings for months on end.

It all comes down to how your mind works. Im just saying that when it comes to cutting, i always had the best results by going hardcore.
Later in life i was able to lose 1lbs a day… I would do a total of 4 hours of elyptical alongside my physically active job and i burned around 9000kcals a day. I ate once a day - at night, 4500kcals which was whatever i wanted - McDonalds, cake, doritos etc. I could lose 10lbs in a week easy peasy and be done with it.
Sure i felt like shit and sure my knees were fucked because of all that cardio but i always knew “i only need to suffer for a few more days”.

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I think there is likely a difference in cutting natty vs cutting enhanced =)
I think the enhanced route allows one to cut far harder without risking too much muscle loss, whereas cutting natty will drop test levels - further risking atrophy.

I took the supposed hard and fast route by aiming for 2lbs weight loss/week, and did pretty well for a bit. That progress just stopped for me while doing the same things I did to lose the first 15lbs

I’ve done a few maintenance periods and overall they haven’t gone too well. I also am a goal person so in maintenance I just kinda lose focus on things.

Notwithstanding the above, what I actually found did help and work quite well was to be in a deficit some days and a surplus other days so overall it was around maintenance. I made sure that I had calories to spare for weekend treats and worked around days in the week where I had lower calories.


Why is homeostasis so hard to break when you’re trying to gain, but so hard to achieve when you just want to coast for a while?

No punchline. Just thinking out loud.


I was trying to come up with some combination of your handle and Socrates, but there’s just too many k’s, y’s and z’s :sleepy:

Getting philosophical up in here



Nothing clever to add, but I will say the couple times I’ve been successful getting lean I’ve had to get depressingly low with the calories. I also have to use formal cardio just because I feel crappy enough the rest of the time I just lay around. I do think the losing muscle, at least in my own personal experience, doesn’t really happen to a noticeable extent. I’m sure I lose pounds of lean body mass (which is likely what we see in literature), but that’s not exactly the same thing. For me, when calories have to get real low, I am better able to control with slightly higher carbs than fats; I believe that to be really individual though.

I have not personally tried maintenance phases, but I absolutely believe you can hit a wall going down a path so I assume they’d be smart to do

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Do you recall how low you had to get? I’m currently at about 2100-2300 calories per day (not too bad overall, but needing to be reduced).

It’s been shown under a number of studies that long-duration cut phases end up having a much more profound effect on adaptive thermogenesis than interval fat-loss phases. MATADOR is a good example, and Israetel also mentions something akin to 4 weeks on, 4 weeks off. It seems these are all in effort to stave off the body reducing it’s metabolism to an unsustainable pace, and they show strong benefits over doing a long-hard grind.

But science has been playing catch-up with the bodybuilding bro-science for as long as I can remember too, so :man_shrugging:

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I can get to 205 staying above 2000. I have to go to 1800 and I’ll get to 197ish. I’m lean between 190-192 (pool, not stage), and that’s a couple weeks of 1600 or so

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To add: I also think metabolisms adapt, at least to some extent, and I wrestled at a low weight and went to Army schools where you didn’t eat much. I think that definitely reduced the calories I can handle. I’ve never been the “needs 5000 kcal to grow” person

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I’ve done some more research on the maintenance phase… Based on the responses I’ve seen and common sense, I don’t think there’s much for anecdotal experience out there (happy to be proven wrong). But there is a good foundation of literature and brains far smarter than mine who claim, scientifically, that a 1:1 cut to maintenance ratio works best.

As such, I have decided to attempt the MATADOR diet. It seems fairly straight forward and significantly less shitty than other diets out there… My plan is as follows:
Take the next 3 weeks as a maintenance phase. This is longer than typically prescribed, but I think there’s reason to believe my metabolism has slowed down far more than it should have… I want to give it time to come back from the dark side. I would make this period longer, but my impatience often gets the best of me.

From there, I will launch into the 2 week cut phase at approx, 30% deficit.

Estimated Basal Metabolic Rate, adjusted for activity (Mifflin-St Jeor)
3,014 calories
Protein: 220g
Fat: 100g
Carb: 308g

Estimated 1,000cal daily deficit
2,014 calories
Protein: 171g
Fat: 81g
Carb: 150g

I believe this plan will help me understand my own nutritional needs more, while also preventing the fatigue I’ve been experiencing as of late.

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Sorry if I missed this, but are you going to do 2 weeks cutting then two weeks maintenance going forward?

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Standard MATADOR protocol is 2 weeks cut at 30% deficit, 2 weeks maintenance, and repeat. I’m lengthening the first maintenance phase to counteract the long-term deficit I’ve been in, then following protocol.


The only thing I’d be careful of, if you aren’t losing at 2000, it’s unlikely your current maintenance is 3000. I think the plan is sound, but I’d be conservative with maintenance: you don’t want to gain and further lengthen this timeline!

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I was concerned about this as well, which is why I am hoping to understand exactly what my maintenance is. I wasn’t too sure if 3000 was my maintenance when I first started cutting, but I was losing 2lbs per week on average at 1k calorie daily deficit, so the maths added up. At least for a little while.

Will certainly be keeping an eye out for that though!

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Yeah that’s always a challenge for sure. Good luck!

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Sure, when I don’t have the fortitude to either gain or lose weight.

I picked up on a “tip” from CT a while back. If you are not getting stage ready, 8-10 weeks deficit followed by a 3 week diet break. If a person cuts harshly, the diet break needs to come sooner because the body adapts to the decreased calories sooner

@T3hPwnisher has written a lot on this topic, maybe he can point you to some of his posts or do a quick-recap.

As far as what I’ve remembered from him and articles and such, and learning from my own errors: cutting → decrease volume, keep intensity high. This is also one of the times where I might increase my training frequency, but make my sessions a lot shorter (and significantly less focused on compounds).

Maintaining, keep a moderate workload and let the body rest a while to allow yourself to build a fire to either gain or cut.

Gaining: volume, baby.

You should have given it more time than a week. @jskrabac has written about how he holds a more water when experiencing novel training stress (and other stress?).

In my experience, the body always fights back. It fights back more the leaner and lighter you get and the further away you get from your starting point. We live in a society that celebrates being dog-headed more than being successful and quick turn-arounds, but that doesn’t mean staying miserable for the better half of 16 weeks just to get beach ready is the best approach. I’m not saying it can’t deliver the results that you want though.

While say doing 5/2 would demand more consistency over a longer period of time, it’ll keep training productive and stave off a lot of the negative side-effects such as being miserable. It’ll be harder to gauge progress, but that doesn’t mean that progress isn’t being made. It just demands being more meticulous. @EyeDentist didn’t you used to do quite extended fasts and if you desperately needed some energy you had a spoon of coconut oil (no protein as to not stimulate an mTor/insulin-response?)

You might also want to check out @robstein s contest prep logs for ideas. Start with the most recent one.

And if you find that “maintenance” doesn’t gel with you there is a variant of the MATADOR-diet that alternates between surplus and deficit. If you want to be in an overall deficit you make the deficit on the 2-week deficit weeks greater than the surplus on the 2-week surplus week. As a corollary, if you want to gain weight you make the surplus on the surplus weeks greater than the sum of the deficit on the deficit weeks.

It maybe even predates the MATADOR diet tbh.


I always like to clarify that it’s the training that drives the nutrition rather than the other way around, but you have the pairing right. It would go

High volume training blocks=more demand for recovery=eat more food to recover=grow

High intensity training blocks=need to reduce volume=less demand for recovery=eat less food=shrink

I recently implemented a diet break strategy, which would be close to a maintenance phase, but once again, my goal was in no way related to my bodyfat levels or bodyweight. Here, it was simply a chance to eat LESS food than I was eating when I was gaining. 2 fold strategy there. One was I was hoping to slow down my metabolism so that, when I turned around to start gaining again, I wouldn’t need as much food to do it. I noticed that, when I did a 26 week gaining block, by the end of it I was engaged in an insane arms race against my metabolism. This, in turn, was rough on my life quality, which was the second reason I took a break: my body needed it.

All THAT said, I’ll do my old man plug here and say that introducing sugar free metamucil to my life has gone a long way toward addrssing that second part.


Metamucil is an interesting one. It definitely fills the void if feeling empty (of food) is a problem.

Casien protein seems to have a similar effect but also more satiating, albeit also higher calorie.

They occupy my top two places on bang for buck filling food/supps.

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