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First Time "Cutting" - Advice on Length and Rate Needed

SilentpadnaSilentpadna Member Posts: 1,304 Member Member Posts: 1,304 Member
Hello all.

For context: I'm 5'11"/M/55/205. Last February I started working on diet and some cardio fitness for about 3 months prior to beginning strong lifts (later switching to Starting Strength). I had never lifted before other than an occasional month or so with no real program - or results for that matter. I started at 240 pounds, got down to about 195, and in September began to primarily eat at maintenance while lifting. I do not consider my initial weight loss to be a "cut" in the way that the term is used here. In that time I've gained back about 10 pounds, but have not gained any noticeable fat - i.e. I still have the same waist measurements as I did at 195. Some areas have grown a fair amount (thighs, chest, traps, back, behind), while others are close to the same (arms).

I would estimate my body fat percentage, based on comparable pics, to be about 19-21%. I would like to drop to about 15-16%. I don't have a desire to be body-builder lean at my age, but wouldn't mind more definition. There's a little bit of definition coming now.

My question regarding cutting:

For those that do this regularly, how long would a cut be expected to last?

And, what kind of deficit would be reasonable to use. I do not want to stay in a deficit long and I am not trying to make strength gains while cutting (at least that's not my goal).

I exhausted my NLP and currently do an intermediate 531 type of program that has a mix of strength main lifts and hypertrophy based assistance.



  • peaceout_alypeaceout_aly Member Posts: 2,018 Member Member Posts: 2,018 Member
    Cuts usually last 3-4 months, pending the extent of the calorie deficit you're going into. When I cut, I drop my maintenance by 150 calories, but I also am still focusing on strength so I can't decrease it much more than that. by 200-300 deficit I can feel energy drain and weakness. I'm also 4' 11" though so that puts me close to a 1,000 calorie intake which isn't sustainable with my training. Sorry I couldn't be more helpful!
  • AnvilHeadAnvilHead Member Posts: 18,515 Member Member Posts: 18,515 Member
    Given your stated goals (cut fat with maximal LBM retention), you basically have two options:

    1) Cut slowly, with a very slight calorie deficit, while maintaining adequate protein intake and continuing to lift, and taking occasional diet breaks.

    2) Cut fast using something like Lyle's RFL or UD 2.0 protocols. They're designed as intense, short-duration cuts, with very specific diet and training parameters in place for very specific reasons.
    (Disclaimer: these are not protocols intended for genpop, and most people who've done it say that while they're highly effective, the experience itself is pretty much a giant bag of suck while you're doing it).

    In regards to your other question, the cut is supposed to last either until you reach your desired BF%, or until you can't stand it anymore.
    edited May 2018
  • mutantspicymutantspicy Member Posts: 624 Member Member Posts: 624 Member
    I would like to say good for you for being very thorough and thoughtful and specific with your goals. As a result you'll get some good advice.
    My starting situation was in a slightly better condition than where you started, but ultimately in the same boat. I'm currently in 15 to 17% range looking to get to the 10 to 13% range. I'm also not a "body builder" I'm 44 and more into overall fitness and also want to look good for the mirror. In mid march I was 5'10 205lb, now 187. My goal was 185 but looking at the mirror if I want to be at 12%, I think I need to aim for 175. I've been cutting at 1 lb per week but I don't always eat my workout cals back so some weeks I drop 2lbs. Anyway good luck to you! I just thought my info maybe a good reference point for you.
  • edickson76edickson76 Member Posts: 107 Member Member Posts: 107 Member
    My question regarding cutting:

    For those that do this regularly, how long would a cut be expected to last?

    And, what kind of deficit would be reasonable to use. I do not want to stay in a deficit long and I am not trying to make strength gains while cutting (at least that's not my goal).

    The length of a cut depends on your current BF% and your goal BF%, and of course, your own body. For you, at 205 lbs. 19% BF, going to 15%BF, you should expect to lose around 12 pounds. I'm working off an assumption that you will drop 2 pounds of muscle while losing 10 pounds of fat. You can get a better ratio if you have good discipline. You can also get a worse ratio. If you are on the aggressive side, losing a pound a week, that will take you 12 weeks. I would not recommend anything more aggressive than 1 pound per week. If you take a less aggressive, more conservative (muscle-preserving) approach at only 1/2 pound a week loss, that will take you 24 weeks. Given that longer period, I'd strongly recommend a series of shorter cuts with refeed weeks at maintenance every 4 to 6 weeks. Even on the more aggressive 12 week cut, I'd recommend one or two refeed weeks. Personally, I cannot psychologically tolerate longer than 6 weeks of cutting.

    As for your lifting program: you must maintain intensity (=weight on the bar). DO NOT switch to lighter weight higher rep "fat burning" style workouts. That is the one way to ensure you lose muscle. You can and should reduce volume and/or frequency because your body will have difficulty recovering when in a caloric deficit. In your case, the 531 program is designed for being in a caloric surplus; so you must modify it for a deficit.

    Background reading:

    Background viewing:
    Search Youtube for Eric Helms Nutritional Pyramid
  • Keto_VampireKeto_Vampire Member Posts: 1,679 Member Member Posts: 1,679 Member
    Not sure it's best to focus on hitting an exact rate for fat/weight loss as cutting is often very nonlinear. Start off with a small deficit 250kcal or so & assess progress on a weekly basis & adjust (losing too fast, up kcals slightly or just keep as is; plateauing, make a greater deficit).
  • SilentpadnaSilentpadna Member Posts: 1,304 Member Member Posts: 1,304 Member
    Thanks for the responses so far. I'm not married to any particular way - just looking for general ideas of what works for most. Of course I know it's anecdotal, but just looking for experiences.

    I'm expecting my current cut to last about 12 weeks. I don't see having a deficit any more than about 500 kcal per day. I've never been one to fret over being +/- 200 on that - even when I was in my weight loss mode.

    My goal is not really time-oriented. If I reach my approximate body fat goal in 12 weeks, great. If I don't, I'll likely do another bulk, another cut, etc. But one thing I consider is that at 55, my goal isn't to go the beach and wow a bunch of girls - I just want to be athletic and I still want to impress my wife. So the speed at which I get there is much less important than the act/process.
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