T Nation

Tips for Maintaining Mass While Cutting


I've been bulking for the past 15 weeks and have seen consistent gains (+45 bench, +70 squat, +70 deadlift). I plan to continue bulking for another 3 weeks, but I don't have the clothes or willpower to continue beyond that. I wasn't particularly lean when I started bulking (13-15% body fat) and I've put on a bit more fat than necessary over the past ~4 months. I'm now around 18-20% body fat and weigh 237 lbs. at 6'-0".

My cutting goal is 10-12% body fat. I estimate that I will need to end up in the 205-210 range which is roughly 30 lbs. of weight loss.


I know that I need to stay in a maintenance phase before I begin cutting. I was thinking about maintaining my weight for 4 weeks and then dropping Calories by 100-200 each week thereafter to prevent a sudden metabolism stall. Is this approach adequate?

I plan to limit weight loss to 1-2lbs per week and keep my meals small and frequent. I've had horrible workouts on low carb diets. What kind of macro breakdown do you practice while cutting?


On compound exercises, I train more for strength and do low reps (1-4). I also do higher rep isolation exercises for physique purposes. Should I keep rep ranges the same and just try to maintain my lifts?

What's your opinion on cardio? Should I add HIIT on days that I don't weight train? Is there anything particularly well-suited for those of us more concerned about muscle mass and strength?


Which supplements are staples for cutting? I plan to sip BCAAs throughout the day. Should I add glutamine to this? Anything else?

Are there any fat burners that are truly effective?

Thanks for your help. Any random advice will be appreciated, as well.


I prefer steady state cardio.

Lift heavy, keep trying to hit PRs which should be very possible especially if your not dieting into single digit bodyfat.

Make sure to keep protein intake high, I like lowering carbs first to get fat levels down.


Some good supps for cutting: ECA stack (bronkaid tabs, caffeine, aspirin), EAAs or BCAAs (practically 0 cals in most cases). A good GDA supp also is nice, 2 that come to mind are metaslin by metagenyx, and meadows GDA supp on TP.


If your main goal is to retain as much mass as possible, cut out as few calories as necessary to still lose weight. Slowly adjust each week.

As for cardio, if you're contest prepping, I think there needs to be a fine mix of steady state with HIIT. If you're just trying to get lean, I think that HIIT is a great option IMO.

Start with 2 days/week, and adjust from there. I think in addition to HIIT, starting with maybe 1 SS session/week would be a good idea.

As for fat burners, not worth it unless you're already very lean and trying to get leaner.


OP... I'm in the same stage as you. I was focused purely on strength for awhile and let myself go. I weighed 235 and after 8 weeks I weigh 220 now and have actually gotten stronger.

This is what I've been doing...

lifting is the same as it was before... no changes here.

I do steady state cardio at an incline 3 times a week. I up the speed and once I'm at a really fast walk I up the incline level and start at a slow walk about build my way back up. This is usually done for 30 minutes in the morning on an empty stomach. Sometimes I go for 40 minutes if I feel really good.

I also do HIT cardio 3 times a week. This is done on a stationary bike. 45 seconds regular pace 15 seconds all out for ten minutes. I worked my way up to 15 minutes total. Now I'm back at ten minutes but I do 20 second sprints instead of 15 seconds. I'll probably work my way back up to 15 minutes again then go back to ten and do 25 second sprints. do HIT after your heavy lower body workouts.

The cardio workouts alternate steady state/HIT/steady state/HIT/steady state/HIT/ REST and then repeat.

I haven't started counting macro nutrients or anything. I think that only needs to be done when you're working into the single digit bf%. I made two major changes... one is I lowered carbs alot. Not ketosis by any means but I got rid of all this shitty useless sugars. No soda, fruit juices, or candy. The only thing I've been drinking is water.

The other major thing that I've done is I've started utilizing intermittent fasting. I stop eating at 6 PM and don't start again until 10 AM the next morning. This is 16 hours without food and has made a dramatic difference in how I look.

I also made sure I was only losing 2 lbs a week tops. If I stepped on the scale and it said I was down 4 lbs I would throw in some cheat meals. Summer is a long way away still and like you maintaining my strength is very important to me. Keep the weight loss slow.

Nothing. No protein shakes BCAA's or anything like that. Just food.

Hope this helps! If you have any questions let me know I'm happy to help as best as I can.


if you want to hold onto the muscle you built, the last thing you need to be doing is dropping calories and running into a "cut" right now.

You can either do it the right way....or the way most people want to hear it should be done.


Maybe he's trying to look good for the beach during spring break? That would warrant getting lean.


I'm sorry...could one of you explain what Spring Break has to do with holding onto the most muscle mass when dieting?

Oh wait...that doesn't change what I wrote at all.

Silly me.


I'm not as experienced as Austin, Ev and X but some tips from being coached and what I've learned this year are:

Keeping protein high (1.5 to 2 x BW in lb), carbs start with 100g and progressively reduce by 10g a week and observe body composition changes (measuring tape, calipers, weighing scale). Fat levels say 100g to start with. Fat sources include EVCO, Mac Oil, Fish Oil, Flax Seed powder. Carbs are rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes, quinoa, some bread (I'd probably peg back the gluten to observe results).

Training wise I went with Push/Pull/Legs and reverse pyramid type training, 3 top sets, compound exercises, pushing for 6 reps then 8 then 10 (say) and less 10% weight dropped per set. Some isolation in their for medial delts, biceps, calves. I'm 231 at 22%, aim is 6% (say) but I'd be happy with under 10%. Then I plan to build lean mass slowly and do better at the basic lifts (3/4/5).

Cardio wise I was recommended to do 40x7, I couldn't manage this (probably why I'm not on stage yet). I'm aiming for at least 2 x SS and 1 X HIIT sessions a week.

I don't know if this is the right way either but I've learned every body is different (literally!) so listen to it and re-calibrate weekly. I also play close attention to what leaner, stronger guys do in the Training logs.

I've used fish oil, evening primrose oil, green tea extract, creatine. Experimenting now with Tyrosine, Yohimbine and ALA.


i wanna know how the op trained and ate to make those kind of gains on the three main lifts in 15 weeks. op???


Start at 100g of carbs and drop? If you were eating 150g of carbs before that might make sense but if you were 300+ dropping that many carbs right awawy doest make sense. I gradual decrease would be much better. You only want to drop calories and carbs as low as you have to, to lose weight. Same with cardio. Add only as much as you need to. When you stall add a bit more cardio. When you stall again cut some calories. Keep lifting heavy and you wont lose muscle.


Whats the right way?


I would imagine the right way is the way that will NOT cause your body to quickly lose any recent gains because you decided to starve it suddenly before it got used to that extra body mass.

In general, if you just reached a new higher weight with more muscle, you may want to hold that weight for a few months (if not going up higher) before rushing down in weight.

I would fully expect the guy who gained 10lbs of muscle in 3 months to lose much of it if he immediately starts dieting hard at the end of month 3.


Thanks for the advice on everything.

I had no plans of running into a cut...hence the question about the maintenance period. I'll try to stick it out for 6-8 weeks before dropping weight. I don't have any particular deadline that I want to look good by, but I know I'm going to need some will power to hold this weight for another few months.

As far as the gains go, I'm still in the beginner/intermediate stages so those are mostly beginner gains. I didn't get serious until mid last year and I've only been deadlifting and squatting for a year or so.

Bench: 270-315
Squat: 255-325
Dead: 385-455


This is one thing I read from X many years ago that I definately believe in.

The longer youve held the weight the more aggressive you can be with fatloss. If the weight is relatively new (less than a year or so IMO) then a slower fatloss approach is far safer.


If your 237 and 20% bodyfat be prepared to weigh less then you think. And if you let yourself to get to 20% will you right now have the discipline to not go crazy again once your done your cut and bulking again?

However if your goal is just to look good for spring break like Austin said which is totally fine
i would say keep your carbs higher, fat lower, dont drop carbs below 200 unless you have to


I've made gains like that before., so they certainly aren't unreasonable. My bench hovered around 255 for years, then I read a magazine or two and changed a few things up. Mainly I started eating, added a lot of protein, and took creatine. My bench (and other lifts) shot up about 40lbs in just a few months.


Yeah, it was a shot in the dark. But, earlier this year, I had a caliper test done and I came in at 13.0% when I weighed 205. This also matched the Omron BF analyzer I had. I figured that after bulking for 4 months and cutting properly that I should at least have 6-8lbs of additional LBM which would put me in the 205-210 range at 10-12% body fat.


Well calipers are usually off because of subcontantious fat, water etc so its hard to tell. 6-8lbs is a huge gain in a year though and you very well could of gained it. Im not saying that you wont be 205-210 im just saying to be prepared. To give you an idea why im thinking this is because im 240 right now at around 12-13% and when Im dont my cut I doubt I will be a lot over 215-220