How to Structure Your Cutting Phase or Mini Cut

If you need some clarity on how to manage your short term cutting phases, or “Mini Cut”, then you’ve come to the right place.

When is a Mini Cut Appropriate?

The short answer to this question is, “When you’ve taken your bulk too far” or when you feel like you’ve put on “too much body fat”. While this is a highly subjective response, there are a few factors you should objectively analyse to come to a sensible conclusion:

Body Fat Percentage Range

Males:

If you’re an experienced lifter or bodybuilder who holds a lot of muscle already and you’re in a position where you’re over 20% body fat you should definitely consider doing a mini cut. If you’re in a position where you need to build a lot more muscle and you struggle to do so normally, sitting in the 20% body fat range might be somewhat comfortable for you.

It’s fair to say that the more advanced you are in terms of your physique; the leaner you will likely be during your gaining phase. So it’s not unusual to see an elite physique male athlete sit in the 13 – 16% body fat range during their off season.

Females:

For female athletes, the principles would remain the same but with slightly higher body fat percentages. So approximately 22 – 25% body fat would be a good point at which a mini cut could be considered.

The biggest consideration for stage athletes when it comes to this is to think about how easy it is for you to get lean for a show. If you find it relatively easy to get lean enough for your show, then you could get away with sitting on the higher end of the body fat range to maximise muscle gain. If you’re the type of athlete who has to diet hard and struggle within an inch of your life to get into show condition, then you should try to remain on the leaner side in your off season.

If you’ve never competed before, think about how difficult it is for you to put on muscle. If you’re a “hard gainer” you might have to get a little uncomfortable and if you find it relatively easy to build muscle or if you already have a good baseline of muscle, then you should stay on the leaner side to ensure that you don’t have to diet so aggressively for prolonged periods and risk losing size and conditioning later on.

Losing Appetite due to Food Surplus

If you’ve been bulking for a while and you’ve hit a point where you’re starting to lose your appetite and your weight is stagnant. Placing yourself in a deficit for approximately 2 – 6 weeks will help you regain your hunger signals and you will be able to continue on with your bulk after your mini cut. The deficit calories would be somewhere in the 12 – 22% range from maintenance. The longer you spend in a deficit, the more conservative you should be with the deficit.

Being unable to function optimally due to excess body fat

If you find that you’re stronger being slightly leaner than where you are at in your bulk, and you are at a point where you find it difficult to squat, deadlift or perform your compound lifts efficiently, then it’s definitely worth considering doing a mini cut.

Being unable to see your physical progress due to excess body fat

If you find that you’re struggling to see progress or hypertrophy because you’re holding too much body fat, consider doing a mini cut. This is by far the most subjective factor and you would have to develop the skills and experience necessary over time to look at this with an objective eye.

Ultimately, it’s common knowledge that you have to be open to feeling slightly uncomfortable during a bulk, but it shouldn’t get to a point where you feel paralyzed psychologically or physically immobile and you should mitigate excessive body fat.

When is a Mini Cut Inappropriate?

3 – 6 months post contest or stage show. The main priority after a show is to ensure that your metabolic health and hormones improve back to optimal levels.

After binge eating – Mini cutting isn’t a logical response to binge eating.

If you’re already exceptionally lean. If you track your body fat percentages, it would be around the 10 – 13% range for Males and 13 – 16% range for Females.

Mini Cut Model

Following this model will help you structure your mini cut in a safe and effective way.

The box on the left indicates that you start your mini cut in a 10 – 20% deficit. You can run that block for as short as 4 weeks and as long as 8 weeks. The shorter the block, the more aggressive you can afford to be (within the suggested range) with your calorie deficit. Please note, if you’re going to do a longer deficit (say 8 weeks) make sure you remain on the more conservative side of that deficit. The minimum recommended time for the first block is a 4 week deficit. There are rare circumstances where a 14 day “mini cut” may be of benefit (possibly to increase hunger signals and improve appetite), but in our experience the most effective mini cuts last for a minimum duration of 4 weeks.

The box in the middle outlines the suggested ranges and parameters for a diet break. We recommend that diet breaks are introduced immediately after the deficit block. Effectively this means it can be taken as early as week 5 or as late as week 9, and calorie intake should be calculated at maintenance calories.

The box on the right indicates the “rinse and repeat” process. This would be calculated in a very similar process to the first block, but would account for the following:

  • Lower Body Fat
  • Lower Scale Weight
  • Mitigating Metabolic Adaptations that may have occurred from the start

The result would be a repeat of the first cycle with slightly lower calories, and a new “maintenance” point would be established based on new data.

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