T Nation

Weight Set Points


#1

So the whole idea of hitting a bodyweight, then maintaining that weight for a while to get your body to "accept" it so that when you cut you keep more size, is not a theory I've ever really subscribed to, but I really want my next cut to be as effective as possible, so I'm kind of considering its validity now.

Do you guys subscribe to this theory? If so, how long would you hold a weight before trying to cut? And how do you even hold the weight in the first place? Do you drop calories to what you believe to be your maintenance for a while before going into a deficit?

@The_Mighty_Stu, @BrickHead, @robstein I'm particularly interested to hear your thoughts (no disrespect to anyone else; I'm interested in the opinion of competitors and also that of an RD. Obviously I'd love to hear from anyone else who has an opinion).


#2

I'm really interested in this concept as well.


#3

Awesome topic @Yogi1.

I do think that each individual has a "set point" or weight range, give or take a couple of pounds, that their body is "happiest" or where it naturally wants to be, if nutrition is fairly consistent and the person isn't eating lots of garbage or junky stuff. Depending on the individual's metabolism and genetics, it's different for everyone. Some are naturally just skinny no matter what, the "hard gainers". Personally I do not have a naturally fast metabolism, but as long as I'm training and my nutrition is consistent I can maintain easily. If I were to eat a couple of cheat meals or ease up on the nutrition, or stop training, I'd gain weight/fat for sure pretty quickly.

Finding maintenance I think is the first step in realizing the "set point" and maintaining any weight, and knowing what needs to be done from there. But to truly find your own maintenance will take some time, maybe a month, and very consistent nutrition. Keep in mind this doesn't mean dieting per say, but consistency in eating the same macros/calories every day, or sticking to whatever the plan is. As I'm currently in a gaining phase, finding my maintenance was crucial to make sure I didn't go overboard with my surplus. So I created a nutrition plan based on a rough guesstimation calorically, got my macros ironed out and just stuck with that. I still weigh myself every day to see rough fluctuations, but I go always with the lowest weight of the week as anything else on top of that is just water/food volume. After 4 weeks of having the same low weight, or within half a pound, I knew what my maintenance calories and macros were. Then to hold that weight, just stick to your maintenance plan. So yes, I do think it's best to find maintenance and maintain there for a while to be sure that when you start cutting calories and adding cardio, you know for sure you'll be losing fat.

EDIT: I realize I never really directly answered this question. I think it takes about a month to know for sure you're at maintenance, so when you start your cut, you want to be sure you know what maintenance is. After that, you start your cut and begin to lose weight/fat. Depending on your timeline, you can wait longer before making adjustments. I think at least 10-14 days at a weight before making further adjustments is necessary to make sure you're not rushing (more info on that below.)

Now this is an interesting subject, because once you find your maintenance, it might be possible to maintain at a different weight. For example I'm at 162 right now, but am cutting for the next few weeks to try to lose some fat before a trip I have. I've cut carbs a little bit and added in a couple of weekly HIIT sessions. I'm hoping to be in the 157ish range by the time I leave, so it'll be interesting to see once I get to that weight if I go back to my current maintenance plan, will I remain at 157, or creep back up to 162? I am guessing I'll stay closer to 157, but if I start gaining again, I'll know my "set point" is closer to 160-162, so I may have to find a "new maintenance" for the 157 area.

Now in terms of getting your body to "accept" a new weight, I do think it's very possible to do, but is dependent on a few factors and is totally different for everyone. I think the first time you really try to cut and get very lean, the body puts up more of a fight then it will subsequently. After my shows when I started gaining again I had a much easier time staying lean, and at my current weight of 162 I'm definitely leaner than I was last time I was 162 7 or 8 months ago. @BrickHead, @The_Mighty_Stu and I have talked about the fact that once you do it the first time, it's easier to get there again and the body naturally can stay a little bit leaner. Although if you go haywire on nutrition then you'll just go right back to where you started.

So for your cut, I'd recommend first finding your maintenance at whatever your current weight is by creating a nutrition plan, stick with it for a month and see what happens. If you start gaining weight, you know you need to pull back, if you start losing then you know you can add another 100-200 calories. Once you have your maintenance, start with a 10% deficit and a little bit of cardio, don't do too much to soon because your body will really start putting up a fight then (I learned that the hard way!)

Cutting is a tricky beast, it can take a few weeks before the body even starts responding. So you may find your maintenance, start your cut only to find the first couple weeks nothing is "happening", then you question if that was really your maintenance. Although, it IS working, your body is just getting used to it and results may not be visible yet on the scale or in the mirror. It took me 3 weeks when I started my cut to lose the first couple pounds before things started moving along at a more consistent rate. Once you start losing, just keep with what you're doing, and if eventually things stall completely, like maybe it's been 10-14 days without a new low and you don't see any results in your progress pics, THEN you make another adjustment, cut cals a little more, a little more cardio. It'll be easier to find and maintain a new "set point" with this approach, rather than rapidly making adjustments, either with nutrition or cardio.

In terms of maintaining a new set point, again I do think it's easier to do once you're leaner, and to get to that new set point will again just take consistent nutrition. Your "maintenance" at a lower weight may indeed be lower than maintenance at a higher weight. Personally I can certainly eat a LOT more now and maintain weight than what I used to be able to do, although I don't think that would be the case if I didn't diet down for the show.


#4

on my phone here, but yes I think there are ranges of set points just like there are ranges of maintenance calorie intake.

Empirically Ive seen it go either way, but I feel that with natural trainees holding a weight after a cut is very useful. Hold say, 90% of what you hit, but keep the activity high. In other words ramp the calorie intake slowly upwards rather than dropping activity when you come off a diet and hold the training schedule as long as practical

Metabolism is partially genetically determined...but only partially. Fat loss is a skill just like strength, speed, or anything else. The primary difference is the method of regulation and the triggers. I think the idea of "metabolic flexibility" is important but sadly usually underrated.


#5

This doesn't really relate to a BBer trying to gain more muscle in cut and bulk cycles, but I think the longer you maintain a new weight, the easier it becomes.

I recall reading that to truly "reset" a weight set point you would want to keep that new weight for 2 years, that it takes that long for the body to "accept" a new normal. I can't find the article, but I know a lot of weight loss research says that you should loose no more than 10% of your BW at a time, and then sit with that new weight for 6 months to 1 year.

Yes, I think the "set range" is real. At my current activity level, I have a range of about 5 pounds that is fairly easy to maintain. BUT it's orders of magnitude harder for me to stay at 110 lbs. than it is to stay at 115 lbs. Dammit! On the upper end, pushing my weight outside of that range takes going off the rails with my diet over a period of weeks. On the lower end, it takes getting seriously consistent about being on point with nutrition for a several weeks, and even then I'm likely to start experiencing sleep loss, low energy, and an obsession with Bobby Flay. Pushing my weight consistently above 118, can happen if I engage in unprotected sex. Haha. Chick joke. I'd be building another human.

Anyway, I think that if I were serious about getting my body to "accept" being at the lower end of that range, say 110 lbs, I'd want to hold that weight for a couple of years without letting it creep up at all. That would be an interesting experiment, but it would be pretty hard to do.


#6

Related to maintenance of muscle.

Jamie Eason generally sits at about 110 lbs, but she occasionally bulks up to 120, and then cuts back down to where she was before. I was a little bit surprised at that because you'd think... The muscle is there. Just continue to lift weights and eat to maintain. Done. Maybe she sometimes notices a lagging body part that she want's to address. Anyway, if the theory about "staying at 110 for a couple of years will make things easier" is true, then it might be pretty hard to do that WHILE trying to maintain a more muscular build. Any ideas on that?

I think it's interesting. She's happy with her level of muscle. If she gets bigger, she's not as marketable to more mainstream fitness mags like Shape. She has said that she began to look skinny or flat, so she sometimes has to go on a surplus anyway, even though her goal is to maintain. She has to be lean enough to model for magazines whenever a job comes up.

I like to read about what other women are doing. She's the first figure model that I saw and realized... Hey, I want to look more like that and my running isn't taking me there!