T Nation

Muscle/Fat Loss While Cutting

Have a friendly bodyfat competition with my buddy, where we’ll use DEXA scans to determine the winner. It’s our method of choice to be objective, as we’ve both gotten readings in the last few months, and I’m about 2% higher than he is. I’ve got about 3mths to lean up, and my last reading was ~11% @243lbs. Single digit fat is “uncharted territory” for me, so I’m fully aware I’ll have to cut some lbs to hit my goal in the 8’s… but not certain how much to lose? Friend of mine shared his DEXA results with me, albeit at a much lighter bodyweight & higher BF%… and interestingly he lost fat/muscle in a 75/25 ratio. So I did the “math” for myself, and assumed a more conservative 50/50 loss between fat & muscle, targeting 225lbs bodyweight (15-17lb loss).

Does anyone have experience with this? It seems that nearly everyone who wants to get lean, always has to lose a helluva lot more than they expect (but typically because they are much, much fatter then they think to begin with). We’re doing this just as a gentleman’s bet, basically so one can say “haha fuck you I win”.

I am not a physique guy per se, really just a strength competitor who has made some solid body composition changes over the last 8 years or so, looking to get lean (not stage-ready leanness… the hell with that misery). Willing to lose weight, but don’t want to panic and starve away too much muscle… way too tough to build it.

Woah. You must look impressive.

Eat consistently to lose weight slowly/gradually i.e. a small caloric deficit.
Eat plenty of protein to maximise favourable changes in body composition.
Train with sufficient intensity/volume to hold onto as much muscle as possible.
Gotta ask does your friendly competition have drug testing or nah?

Definitely targeting that magical “1lb/wk” weight loss, which is a pain in the ass due to water fluctuations, but I’ll focus on the weekly average over daily variation. Dropped a bit too fast this week, so I added an extra sweet potato to my day. Protein is typically around 300g/day, a good chunk of it coming from about 2lbs meat and a carton of liquid egg whites. Unfortunatley ~100g or so comes from whey protein powders, the vast majority pre/intra/post workout… and a casein/egg white shake for bedtime. May switch to more whole food protein, but the powder is awfully damn convenient for my morning workout. Training will focus on a lot of volume for legs & back… that’s where most of a person’s muscle is located. I think some guys cannibalize muscle during a cut because they focus on their arms and smaller beach muscles. I come from a strength competitor background, and have never enjoyed working my arms too much, so will continue to focus mainly on larger muscle groups. But I certainly have been researching some bodybuilder routines, looking at their shorter rest times, exercise selection, etc. (kind of new stuff for me, even though I’ve lifted over 30 years)

Drug testing? WTF is that?

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Chatted to a guy who does DEXA scanning and he said in his experience he had never come across a single client who hadn’t lost some amount of LBM during a cut. He cited one female physique competitor in particular who had lost LBM and fat at an almost 50/50 ratio. Sounds like one messed up diet to me.

I’m aiming to go for a follow up scan next month after shedding a few more lbs, and will be intrigued to see if I become another one of his statistics.

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My DEXA guy had a physique competitor, who was getting routine scans during his prep. Basically he would lose a couple lbs of fat, with no muscle loss. On one of the scans, he lost equal parts fat/muscle. “What did you change?”. Ends up his prep coach dropped him from a perceived 500 calorie deficit to a 1000cal daily deficit, and he began cannibalizing muscle. Like you, I’m interested in seeing how much lean muscle is lost during this process. Plan to keep the weight loss slow, and tweak calories/cardio/HIIT etc. slowly… not going with the shotgun approach.

Your shout mate, if a true 11% I would be inclined to go slow too. There are a ton of permutations when it comes to optimum body recomposition.

I meant train the same way you did to build the muscle in the first place. The stimulus to build muscle in a surplus is also the stimulus to hold onto muscle. Obviously you may not be able to match how you trained when pumped full of nutrients but as close as you can will let you hold onto as much muscle as possible.

Doing new stuff may sound like a good idea but it’s a bit hit and miss cos if you are suddenly getting a different stimulus who knows how its going to stack up against how you were previously training.

I think this is one of the reasons traditional periodization models were thought to be successful, because you started doing a high-rep ‘cutting’ protocol in parallel with a diet. The new stimulus, perhaps even increased GH production from the higher rep lactate training, can yield new growth as well as accentuate fat loss. Suddenly you are experiencing new levels of DOMS and feeling generally more jacked (I have experienced this myself). Then there is the opposite side of the spectrum where nothing changes other than dietary restriction. Dorian Yates is a classic example of the latter approach.

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Wait… so high reps is better for cutting! The broscience was actually real science all along

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I would agree with this statement “stimulus to build muscle…also the stimulus to hold muscle”. I’m not doing a drastic cut in bodyweight trying to go from 20% to 10%… there’s no reason not to continue to train hard & intensely. The goal to beat my buddy is really secondary to maintaining as much muscle as possible…any clown can starve themselves down to relative leanness, but being “big” & lean is where the work comes. (big being a relative term of course)

Since I’m not jumping onto some physique stage, there’s no reason for me to starve myself into stage-ready condition, so I should be able to train hard the whole way through (speculation only, as I’ve never actually done a true diet my entire life… I’ve cut weight for contests dozens of times, but that’s entirely different).


i usually don’t recommend this to non physique competitors, but at your level it can be brought up.

Have you run clen or albuterol? If you hadn’t, that seems like a very reasonable addition to your diet, lol. It’s what I would do.

clen tren and mast. good to go.

if you don’t want to go this route, it’s just going to be about diet. I wouldn’t cater training to the task at hand. Just reduce calories at a reasonable rate. If your lifting begins to suffer, slow down on dropping the calories. Try to find the sweet spot where you’re losing weight every week, and still holding onto your lifting numbers. I personally like to keep carbs as high as possible while still cutting. If you drop the bottom out of your carbs early, you’ll have nowhere to go when you stall.

Clen & allbuterol… nothing I’m interested in. Vitamin T is acceptable, lol. And fully agree with your approach… managing calories slowly, introducing cardio, HIIT, in limited quantities…and keeping carbs for as long as possible. Certainly don’t want to play all of my cards at once, for as you said… you’re screwed when you hit the wall. In the past I’ve done very well with <75g/day in carbs, with half coming from vegetables and the other half from workout drinks. But I’m nowhere near that timeframe.

I’ve cut weight many times for lifting contests, so I’m also aware that rapid weight loss is horrible for body composition. The water loss & rebound sucks. Really trying to maximize fat loss, as I’d consider the process a failure if I cannibalize a lot of muscle.

I’d like to do this process “right”, because the reverse-dieting to get back up to my normal walk-around weight of ~245 in “phase II” of this diet, could reap some benefits. Definitely tracking my weekly average bodyweight. If it starts coming off too soon, I’ll add carbs from clean sources, like an extra sweet potato or rice perhaps (not a giant cheat meal that bloats me for two days).

I don’t know much about that tbh so I’ma not comment.

If you’ve dropped the intensity it only makes sense that you can do more reps/sets i.e. higher volume and high volume is as good a stimulus for gains/retention of gains as any. Tho in a caloric deficit theres decreased recovery so bit easier to overreach.

Umm what does this one mean?

Is someone getting roasted? Is fat getting burned? Or something else entirely?

It’s a very versatile GIF. That’s for you to decide


I don’t know a single successful competitor who does high reps and low rest between sets while
prepping for contests.
Sure you can find plenty of online folks who scream about the latest studies, but I don’t know any who are the heavily muscled competitors when contest day comes. This seems to be the age of the 140 lb pro)


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So… high reps for cutting is still broscience

I wanna add that I’m not saying that highER (above 5-6) reps can’t have benefit through metabolic pathways that can trigger growth, just that you shouldn’t suddenly do 15-20 reps for everything because you’re trying to get cut.