Muscle for life

Why Rapid Weight Loss Is Superior to “Slow Cutting” (And How to Do It Right)

Why Rapid Weight Loss Is Superior to “Slow Cutting” (And How to Do It Right)

Many people believe that rapid weight loss is unhealthy, but if done correctly, it’s far superior to “slow cutting”…


When it comes to weight loss, we’ve all heard that “slow and steady” is the way to go.

There’s value in this rule of thumb as losing weight too quickly means misery, muscle loss, and other maladies, but there’s a kicker:

Losing fat too slowly is also non-optimum and is often unsuccessful as well.

In fact, I would say that more people make the mistake of losing fat too slowly than too quickly as “crash dieting” is becoming less and less popular these days.

Well, in this article I want to break down for you why I think losing fat too slowly is a mistake and what you should be going for instead. Let’s get to it.

Why Losing Fat Fast is Far Better Than Slow

I have a simple goal when I’m looking to lose fat: I want to get it over with as quickly as possible, which means I do everything I can to accelerate fat loss while preserving muscle.

While this may sound like an obvious choice, there’s a school of thought in the world of fitness that advocates a “slow cutting” approach to weight loss. That is, the use of a mild calorie deficit with low-to-moderate amounts of exercise to slowly reduce body fat mass over the course of several months.

The “selling points” of the slow cut mainly revolve around maintaining maximum lean mass, eating more on a day-to-day basis, and doing less exercise (and less cardio, in particular). These positives are often coupled with exaggerated claims about how you’ll burn away all your muscle if you try to be too aggressive with your weight loss.

Well, I strongly disagree with the “slow cutting” approach because it provides only minor benefits but comes with major drawbacks that stem from the physiological changes that occur when you restrict your calories to lose weight.

You see, the longer you remain in a calorie deficit…

1. The more your metabolism slows down, which means the more you have to reduce energy intake or increase output.

This is how “metabolic adaptation,” as it’s called, works: your metabolism adapts to the amount of energy you feed your body with the goal of balancing energy intake with output–a state of homeostasis.

When you restrict your calories and feed your body less energy than it burns, you lose body fat but your metabolism naturally begins slowing down (burning less energy). The longer you remain in a deficit, the more your metabolism slows.

As your metabolism slows down, what do you think you have to do to maintain a deficit and keep losing weight? That’s right–you have to further reduce calorie intake or increase output (exercise). And then, a month or two later, you have to do it again. And again.

This cycle continues until either you reach your goal or your metabolism has slowed down too much and you then have to abandon your pursuit of fat loss and work on speeding it back up.

This isn’t the end of the world…but it’s unnecessary. By being more aggressive with your calorie restriction, which we’ll talk more about soon, you can lose quite a bit more fat without losing muscle or experiencing any additional metabolic slowdown.

2. The more time you’re not building muscle.

This insidious mistake that can really hurt your long-term results.

If you’re even halfway well-read in this space, you’ve heard that you can’t build muscle and lose fat simultaneously. This isn’t always the case (newbies can), but it’s generally true: a calorie deficit impairs your body’s ability to repair and build muscle proteins enough to effectively halt muscle growth.

Thus, the problem with slow cutting becomes obvious: the longer you cut, the longer you fail to build any real muscle to speak of.

If you’ve basically reached your genetic potential in terms of muscle growth, you might not care about that. But if you’re still working on your physique and need to add more muscle to reach your ultimate goal, then this becomes vitally important.

I’ve seen guys really mess this up and gain anywhere from 1/2 to even 1/3 the amount of muscle they could have over the course of anywhere from 6 to 12 months by simply remaining in a mild calorie deficit for far too long.

The bottom line is when it comes to building muscle and strength over the long term, you want to spend as little time in a calorie deficit as possible, and “slow cutting” fails in this regard.

3. The more likely you are to fall off the wagon and quit early as you become physically and mentally fatigued.

Let’s face it: even when you’re dieting properly, staying in a calorie deficit gets old after a while.

Workouts get harder, energy levels can flag, and hunger and cravings can become more frequent, and we have to rely more and more on willpower and discipline to stay the course.

I’ve seen this many times: the longer someone has to fight his or her body’s desire for more food, the more likely he or she is to go astray with bingeing and, ultimately, abandon the mission altogether.

An interesting point about this, as well, is that you can be quite aggressive with your calorie restriction without feeling much different than if you use a mild deficit. Generally speaking it entails a week or two of mild hunger and then smooth sailing.

But Wait…Won’t Rapid Weight Loss Cause You to Lose a Lot of Muscle?

This is one of the biggest weight loss fears out there among us fitness folk, and like much of the “wisdom” in this world, it’s only partly true.

The fact is yes, too large of a calorie deficit will accelerate muscle loss and this is one of the reasons why “crash dieting” is so unhealthy.

But how large of a deficit is too large? And how do things change for athletic types following a high-protein diet, as opposed to untrained, obese individuals eating too little protein?

Well, we can thank researchers at the University of Jyväskylä for an answer!

In a study they conducted, they split their subjects–20 to 35 year-old national and international level track and field jumpers and sprinters with low levels of body fat (at or under 10%)–into two groups: a daily calorie deficit of 300 calories (about 12% below their total daily energy expenditure) and a daily calorie deficit of 750, with both groups following a high-protein diet.

After 4 weeks, the results were surprising: the athletes utilizing a 300-calorie deficit lost very little fat and muscle while the group utilizing a 750-calorie deficit lost, on average, about 4 pounds of fat and very little muscle.

Remember, however, that the 750-calorie deficit group was not starving themselves by any means–they were eating over 2,000 calories per day. Nevertheless, they were utilizing a pretty aggressive deficit of about 24% and the results speak for themselves.

These findings completely jive with my experience both with my body and the thousands of people I’ve worked with: mild deficits can work if you’re very overweight, but as you get leaner, larger deficits become necessary and don’t automatically cause muscle loss.

This is why my standard calorie deficit recommendations for weight loss are between 20 and 25%.

So, as you can see, the scales are tipped far too heavily against slow cutting for it to be advisable.

  • If you have a significant amount of fat to drop, the best-case scenario is you lose it slowly but at too high of a cost.
  • If you’re relatively lean, you’ll probably never see single-digit body fat percentages and quit out of frustration.

Before I sign off, I want to share with you how I maximize fat loss when I cut and make it as quick as possible without sacrificing muscle or my sanity.

How I Lose Fat Fast While Preserving Muscle and Strength

Over the years, I’ve tried many different things with both my diet and training when cutting and have dialed in an extremely effective and efficient weight loss regimen.

With this regimen I’m able to lose about a pound of fat per week, even when I’m starting around 9 to 10% body fat (I recently cut from 9 to 10% to 6% in about 7 weeks), without any hunger or cravings to speak of. My energy levels stay high and my training is barely impacted.

Here’s the regimen:

I use an aggressive (but not reckless) calorie deficit of 20 to 25%.

Like the athletes in the study cited above, I also reduce my calorie intake to about 75 to 80% of my TDEE and, like them, immediately start seeing reductions in fat without any noticeable muscle loss.

If you don’t know how to calculate your TDEE or work out a calorie deficit, this article on proper meal planning breaks it all down.

I eat a high-protein, high-carbohydrate diet.

While the scientific search for the “ideal diet” continues, there’s one thing we know for certain: it’s going to involve eating plenty of protein every day.

The bottom line is study after study after study confirm that high-protein dieting is superior, in every way, to low-protein dieting. This is especially true when you’re restricting calories for weight loss, as adequate protein intake plays a major role in the preservation of lean mass.

If you’re not sure how much protein to eat, check out my article on how much protein is needed to build muscle.

Now, most people know that a high-protein diet is superior to low-protein, but many people don’t know that a high-carbohydrate diet is far superior to low-carb when it comes to weight loss and calorie restrictions.

Why? Well, when you’re restricting your calories…

This recommendation comes as a surprise to many people, but trust me: if you usually use low-carb dieting when you want to lose fat, try a higher carb approach next time (about 40% of your daily calories from carbohydrate) and you’ll be amazed at how much easier and enjoyable it is.

I use supplements proven to accelerate fat loss.

If you’re skeptical of supplements…I understand. The industry is rife with fraudsters and worse and most of the stuff sold in your local GNC is more or less worthless.

That said, there are natural substances that can help you build muscle and lose fat.

Creatine is a good example of the former, and there are several supplements proven to aid with fat loss like caffeine, green tea extract, yohimbine, and more. I’ve cut both with and without using these supplements and find that it’s noticeably faster with them.

I lift heavy weights.

Heavy lifting will not only help you maintain your lean mass while cutting, it can actually help you burn more fat.

study published by Greek sports scientists found that men that trained with heavy weights (80-85% of their one-rep max, or “1RM”) increased their metabolic rates over the following three days, burning hundreds more calories than the men that trained with lighter weights (45-65% of their 1RM).

So hit the weights and hit them hard if you want to jack up your metabolic rate and in turn, speed up your fat loss.

And if you want to score extra points, focus on compound lifts like squats and deadlifts, because these are the types that burn the most post-workout calories.

I do HIIT cardio.

If you’re familiar with my work, you know that when it comes to cardio, I’m a big fan of high-intensity interval training.

Studies such as those conducted by Laval UniversityEast Tennessee State UniversityBaylor College of Medicine, and the University of New South Wales have conclusively proven that shorter sessions of high-intensity cardio result in greater fat loss over time than longer, low-intensity sessions.

In fact, a study conducted by The University of Western Ontario showed that doing just 4 – 6 30-second sprints burns more fat over time than 60 minutes of incline treadmill walking (one of the staples of “bodybuilding cardio”).

Furthermore, keeping your cardio sessions shorter means you better preserve your muscle and strength.


What do you think of rapid weight loss vs. “slow cutting”? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

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I'm Mike and I'm the creator of Muscle for Life and Legion Athletics, and I believe that EVERYONE can achieve the body of their dreams.

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  • Jolo300

    Hi mike, I’m currently following TLS and working out my calories and macros as shown in the book (1.5g protein, 1g carbs, 0.2g fat per pound of body weight) results in 150g protein, 125g carbs and 25g fat per day equalling 1335 calories a day for me. If I work it out using my tdee x 0.8 (katch mccardle calculator- 1322×1.2×0.8) results in 1269 calories a day…. Which should I listen to?? And If I need to cut the 100 calories a day from which macro do I cut it please?
    Many thanks

    • sBaro

      Hello, I’m not mike but I’m following BLS, so i would say since the number are close enough, stick to 1300 calories and check how your weight goes trought the week. Those numbers are theorical, everybody will react differently. After depending on your goal increase or decrease slowly your calories by adding or decreasing some carbs. Playing with the carbs would be the most efficient since your fats are already low, it will be harder for you to make an enjoyable meal plan without them and since you are following TLS you will need those protein to keep building your muscle. Keep in mind, most you build muscle the easier it is to loose weight.
      Correct me if i’m wrong =D

      • Michael Matthews

        Thanks for the comment! 🙂

        Some women like to steal a bit from carbs to increase fats. You can drop 2 grams of cho for one gram of fat.

        • Jolo300

          That’s great to know as I struggle to keep the fats low enough. So if I wanted an extra 5g fat would I drop 10g carbs or more than that?

          • Michael Matthews

            Yep that’s right!

          • Jolo300

            Fab thankyou 🙂

      • Jolo300

        Thankyou 🙂 that makes perfect sense!

    • Michael Matthews

      You can go with the book. Starting around 1400 per day sounds right.

      • Jolo300

        Thank you 🙂

        • Michael Matthews


  • brandon

    Hey Mike, So I have without a doubt hit a wall as of late. I have been Cutting for about 15 months now. I am getting close but after reading this, should I be worried about being in a deficit this long?

    • Melikum

      LOL, you’ve been in a constant state of caloric restriction for 15 months? Seriously? Have you done any re-feeds or maintenance eating in that whole time?

      • brandon

        I did plenty of eating on the weekends. I also had a lot to lose. Not everyone starts out at 15%. I made my mistakes along the way as well. I was consistently inconsistent. But needless to say I am down 65 pounds of fat and up 25lbs of muscle. So don’t hate.

    • Katie Treichel

      Have you increased back up to “maintenance” calories at all during that time?

  • Sam

    Nice article Mike. Can I check does your BLS plan of 1 to 2lbs weight loss per week still stand or any changes to it? IE day I’m approx 170lbs 5ft 10 at 18% bf, how long would it takes to get to say 10 to 12%. 2lbs/week fast enough?
    And I’ve been looking round the Legion site… It says for international delivery if you’re not buying in bulk to wait for overseas fulfillment centres? Any update on that? Would love to try some products just need delivery cheaper… Thanks as always

    • Sam

      PS just had a thought after re reading this specifically the high protein high carb… Can I still cut successfully but not change my macros ratios significantly? Ie I’m bulking on about 50 carb, 35 protein… Im planning a 40/40 carb protein split for my cut now… Thanks

      • Michael Matthews

        When you’re cutting I recommend a high protein intake–between 1 and 1.2 grams per pound.

        • Sam

          great thanks mike – what i meant specifically was would cutting on macro ratios of 40% carb / 40% protein be ok and still a useful “cut” or would I need to have protein much higher than carb intake (of course calories 20% less as u specify)? thanks, pps does BBLS have new exercises too? loving the BLS program but wondering whehter can add more exercises? thx

          • Michael Matthews

            Generally yes that’s about right but the protein is usually a little higher when cutting. Go with 1.2 g pro/lb, 20% cals from fat, rest from carbs.

            Yes BBLS is an advanced version of the BLS program. You can add one more exercise to the BLS workouts but I wouldn’t do more than that…

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Yes the formulas in BLS place you in a 20-25% deficit and you want to see about 1-2 pounds per week.

      Yessir EU distribution will be worked out later this year!

      • Sam

        Brill – pls can u put a msg on your site or in your weekly emails once it’s up and running and then Sir you can have my money! 😉 cant wait!

        • Michael Matthews

          Yes absolutely! Thanks!

  • Aaron

    Great read Mike. What are your thoughts on the Charles Poliquin followers and the practice of removing carbs due to their effect on insulin and thus anabolic hormones? Do you circumvent that issue by making sure you are eating carbs relatively low on the Glycemic index?

  • Chris

    What about refeeds? Once a week?

    • Michael Matthews

      If you’re 10% or under yes. Otherwise it’s not necessary.

    • Michael Matthews

      If you’re 10% or below yes.

      • Jolo300

        Ooh are refeeds only for below 10% bf??

        • Michael Matthews

          Yeah unnecessary otherwise. Unless you would just rather do it over a cheat meal. Then it’s fine.

          • Jolo300

            Oops! Best not do that anymore then, I usually have a cheat meal every week 🙁 I’m about 20% bf I think and female

          • Michael Matthews

            Ah for women I would say refeeding becomes helpful under 20%. Under 10% is for men. 🙂

          • Jolo300

            Yippee, great thankyou!

          • Michael Matthews


  • Stratomaster

    Im 60kgs @10%bf. 20% deficit already puts me in the 1600 which causes quite some hunger, doing a 25% might not be a good idea right?

  • arodnyy82

    I have been cutting for about 5 weeks now and doing BFL workout for about 4 months. Ever since I started the cutting, I have been psyched because I am actually starting to see definition all over. It’s really cool for me because I was a “fat kid”. The thing I am starting to get nervous about is the cutting is making me feel small. Maybe its an illusion? My question Mike, is if we need a calorie surplus to build muscle, then what is happening to the muscle we are breaking down when we lift during a cutting phase? Is it just rebuilding to where it started? Is there any chance of it getting bigger? Also, a helpful hint to anyone cutting…I was getting discouraged that the cutting was not working, then I shaved my stomach and chest and was peasantly surprised by the progress that was hiding under all that hair! Try it out. Thanks again for everything Mike. You really have helped me transform my physique.

  • Henrique

    Is there any study about going a little bit higher than 25%? I mean, 30%? I see that if you are going to stay on a short time (let’s say 2 months), it makes quite a difference.

    Also, what about ranging? Like, starting with something more agressive, 30% for a month, and then reducing for 25% to next month and reducing to 20% in a third month…

    • Michael Matthews

      With obese people yes but not with athletes, so I’m wary to recommend more than 25%. I would say 30% would be the MOST.

      What we do know, however, is that the more fat you have to lose, the more aggressive you can be with your deficits and retain muscle just fine.

      So if you’re a guy starting at 20% or higher, you should have no problem starting at 30% and reducing the deficit as you get leaner.

  • Andrew

    Hey Mike,

    One question about protein intake. I know how important a high protein diet is, but I read a very interesting piece by Dr. Marcus R. Jones (who is also a 230lb bodybuilder) about protein cycling where he cycles protein down and replaces those calories with higher carbs for a period of 4-8 weeks (all the way down to 40g of protein/day!) and then goes back to 1g of protein per lb of bodyweight. He has interesting scientific arguments in the article. Just wondering if you have any opinion on it? Dr. Jones also mentions that when he cycles protein intake down, he will be in a caloric maintenance or surplus, but says it’s okay to go into a deficit when bringing protein back up. He argues that the body uses the protein a lot more efficiently for synthesizing muscle.

    • Andrew

      To find that article in case you want to take a look, type protein cycling in google and it’s the second link from the top. Let me know your opinion on cycling protein.

      • Michael Matthews

        Thanks I’ll look into. I’m wary of what drugged-up bodybuilders do though because their bodies work very differently than ours when it comes to protein synthesis.

    • Michael Matthews

      I see no good reason for doing this, even for drugged-up bodybuilders. I’d love to see the article if you can find it.

  • AJ

    Hey Mike, so cutting with a 20-25% caloric deficit, how long would you recommend to stay on this? 2-3 months max or until you hit your body fat goal?

    • Michael Matthews

      Good question. You don’t want to reduce your calories below your BMR and here’s why:


      So that’s when you call it off–when intake reaches BMR.

      • Livo

        When I calculate my BMR , it said 1363, if I multiply for 1,2 then I will have 1635,6. For calorie deficit 1635,6*0,8= 1308 I am already under my BMR, what should I do???

        • Can you exercise more?

          • Livo

            But is it bad to be under BMR? I feel great. No lack of energy at all.

          • Yeah you don’t want to go under BMR. That’s why more exercise is better. Raises your TDEE.

  • Hi Mike. Thanks for all the awesome information. Really appreciate how much work you put into this. In most of your articles you recommend eating 20-25% less calories than your TDEE for cutting.

    Does this take into account workouts?

    For example, if I burn 400 calories in a workout, should I add 400 to my TDEE then subtract 25%? If not, it would essentially result in a 35% net calorie deficit.

  • Jimmy

    Hey Mike,
    I have also done that crash diet. I have no intentions of building muscle, I just want I lose the fat. And I have lost 92 pounds. But my stomach still has a good amount of fat on it, whih has me confused. Although I have lost fat all around my body, there still a good amount my stomach why is that.(take in mind I was obese, around 260 pounds and around 5’10-5’11) now I’m around that height but I’m 164. Any help? Thanks!

  • Norm

    Mike, you have some awesome podcasts and articles, thanx for sharing those with us….but I have to disagree with this one. In case of a mini-cut or a beachlean-phase.. It is okay to get away with 4-6 or 8-12 wks regarding your starting point BF%.

    In case of a contest prep or an extended fatloss phase, a slow and steady cut is much more better and effective in preserving lean body mass.

    All the effective no-BS trainers (Layne Norton, Eric Helms, Alan Aragon etc. and other experts, advice a their clients A SLOW cut, look please also at researchreview from Eric Helms and Alan Aragon. It is far better to do a slow cut, in case of beachlean, no cut of 8-12 weeks…..but 16-21 weeks and try to lose fat on the most high calorieintake, which allows you to stay in a small deficit (15%-20%) and losing fat/weight…and not muscle. And if you get sticking points adjust slowly your energy-intake. Let your results/progression dictates the time.

    In case of contest prep (4-6 % BF male) 28-30 weeks. And after that a reverse diet 4-6 wks into a show or photoshoot following a peak week for finetuning.

    “Evidence-based recommendations for natural bodybuilding contest preparation: nutrition and supplementation
    Eric R Helms1*, Alan A Aragon2 and Peter J Fitschen3”

    Maestu J, Eliakim A, Jurimae J, Valter I, Jurimae T: Anabolic and catabolic hormones and energy balance of the male bodybuilders during the preparation for the competition.

    J Strength Cond Res 2010, 24:1074-1081.

    Garthe I, Raastad T, Refsnes PE, Koivisto A, Sundgot-Borgen J: Effect of two different weight-loss rates on body composition and strength and power-related performance in elite athletes.

    Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 2011, 21:97-104.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks man! I appreciate the comment.

      If we’re talking bodybuilding prep I agree as natties have to be really careful they don’t lose lean mass while getting down to the 4-5% range.

      The average person wanting to go from, let’s say, 10% to 7-8% has no reason to slow cut though. They can be more aggressive with no real negative effects…

  • Awesome timing here. I was just shifting to a slow-cut mindset, reaching for balance. You make a good point. Be aggressive and get it over with!

    • Michael Matthews

      Absolutely. It’s so much better.

  • Bill Smith


    Interesting article. I’m wondering if it is possible/recommended to cut 1 day a week during a bulking cycle. Right now I lift weights Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, with HIIT cardio on M, W, F. Could I run a 25% calorie deficit on Mondays as a way to keep the fat loss down?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! You could do this, yes, but it won’t make THAT big of a difference, really.

  • Mandi Maritz

    Hi Mike, I have been dieting for months now and been in a calorie deficit too low. I ate 1500 max where I should eat 1800. How long will it take for my metabolism to work properly again and lose body fat? I have been on the same weight for like 3 months.

  • tami

    Hey Mike,
    How refreshing to hear this point of view….especially bring a woman. As a former figure competitor, and as a current work in progress (trying to be in shape and lose a few gained pounds)…how do you suggest I create a deficit when I clearly fall into the “constant deficit and surely ruined metabolism” category?

  • Money

    Hey for your summer challenge, can we send you pics without showing are faces? Thanks

    • Michael Matthews


  • John

    Hi Mike, been following for about 3 months now and wanting to change some things around. I am trying to cut and seeing immensely good results in muscle definition and strength. I’ve lost a bit of fat although the scales don’t show too much but I think I have gained a lot of muscle which will account for this.

    I want to now try an aggressive cut to shift fat as I feel I am slow cutting as you outlined above. I am a 200lb male (24% body fat) and have previously been working the following macros – 40g fat, 200g protein, 240g carb (as in BLS). I never worked out my formula though, which I’ve just calculated as 2515.9545. I divided this by 0.7 so that I will be at a deficiency of 30%. This left me with a total calorie intake of 1750 a day. Then, I worked out 20% and 40% of this to give me the following macros (I believe I need to then divide by 9 to give fat (in grams) and by 4 for carb and protein (again in grams). I ended up with: 39g fat, 175g carbs, 175g protein. How does this sound? Here’s a recent pic for reference. It’s not as good as others on your site but I’ve come a long way in 3 months regardless 🙂

    Thanks so much in advance for your reply. I think it’s amazing oh much you care about training and not just selling your product! Cheers!

    • John

      Oops…I meant that I’ve been doing 240g protein, 200 carbs and 40g fat!

    • Michael Matthews

      Hey man! Glad to hear you’re making gains.

      Check this out:


      That article advocates a 20% deficit but you can use 2%.

      Let me know what you think! And thanks for the kind words!

  • Jose Martinez

    Mike I just bought all the supplaments you suggested for cutting. I weigh 200 pounds and I’m 5’10 tall. I want to get to 180 pounds and then bulk up. How long should I stay on the cutting diet you suggested on the 1 yr challenge book? The one with all the supplaments like vpx meltdown and yohimbine hci? I have that annoying lower ab fat and a little love handles left, but I want them gone! Thanks in advance!

  • Audrey

    Great article Mike! Does this hold true for women too (a 20-25% deficit?) So when you cut, you don’t slowly work your way up to the 20-25% deficit? You just get to maintenance and then drop cals to 20-25% right away?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Yes it applies equally to women and yes you can go from TDEE to TDEE – 20/25%.

  • Oze

    Hi Mike, I find your books and articles are packed with practical, well researched and well referenced information that gives your advice the sort of credibility most people, including me, respect and need before acting on it with confidence. Your efforts are much appreciated.
    My specific comment is in regard to your advice that a high carb diet is better than a low carb one. There are differing points of view of course and one is by Denise Minger in a forensically researched book called Death by Food Pyramid. A must read for anyone interested in nutrition. One significant point she makes is that world wide there are groups of people who are genetically able to handle high carb input and others that are genetically better suited to low carb input.

  • AOMH

    Hi Mike, what do you think of Tabata cardio for losing fat?

  • CDK

    Thanks so much for all this information.

    I have been in a calorie deficit for about 4.5 weeks now. Before starting your program(2 weeks prior), I weighed 201.2 lbs with 17.6% BF, then within a month after the appointment (2.5 weeks within your program) I weighed 194.2 at 13.6% . So that means from June 25th to mid-July, I lost 7 pounds.

    Now its August 6th and I haven’t gotten to the BodPod yet, but my scale-right NOW- says 187- that’d midday too (I wasn’t able to weigh myself today in the morning)

    I’m glad I read the comments because I had my calories around my BMR.

    When I first started, I had my calories at 2,400 calories a day then dropped it to 2,200 calories. Its crazy though, when I was at 2,400 calories, I had to force myself to eat more often (and I would often only hit 2,200- that’s why I dropped it to 2,200). The Army has taught me to be tolerant of eating nothing, and I don’t always feel hungry- especially when I am working.

    I think I should put my calories to 2,400 (because I need to hit that and was still losing weight) and may increase my calories by 100 to 2,500 because I don’t want to lose too much muscle– even though my lifts are pretty much the same from the beginning until now.

    People are noticing that I am thinner. They say my neck is thinner and my face. My wife says my hips are much thinner and despite not always working my abs out (due to time available) my abs are more predominate and she says even while I talking and not flexing she can see them.

    So, how does that sound to you? Sounds alright?

    -Cory K.

    (By the way, since I have been back to work, I haven’t been going to gym as often, because I get home late and drained. Plus when I do lift weights, because of Army PT, I don’t lift as much which is fine since I’m still overloading my muscles. The Army PT is more for endurance though- but I still take leucine, caffeine, and eat a lot of protein and train fasted.

    But I have gone on some ruck marches with about 35 lbs on my back and for 1 hour long and I go home and weigh myself and I’ve lost about 3-5 lbs.)

    • CDK

      (And I’m taking Glutamine, Fish Oil, Daily Vit…. The Creatine and Spirula just got in. and I take my scoop of Casein at night)

      • Michael Matthews


    • Michael Matthews

      Great job on your progress so far!

      Your BMR is around 2000 so you still have room to reduce cals if necessary. That said,if you can eat 2400 and lose weight, go with that.

      Haha understood on the workouts. I email with quite a few army guys so I’m familiar with how it goes. Most start with lifting 3 x per week and add more in as their bodies adapt…

  • Augie S

    Hey Mike, what’s a recommended macro percentage for a high protein/high carb program? If my targeted caloric intake is 2000/day then how much of this should be from protein, carbs, and fat?

    Looking forward to getting started… TODAY!

    • Augie S

      And just to clarify, I read your recommendation for 40% carbs but what’s the breakdown for protein/fat? I’m guessing protein should be at least as much as carbs so are we talking 40/40/20 for P/C/F or 50/40/10?

      • Augie S

        Ok, disregard this question. Took some digging but I found your answer in another post. Basically 1.2g protein per pound, 40% of cals from carbs, and the rest goes to fat.

  • Kyle

    Hey Mike, I’ve seen some different type information on this but i’m following your system cause it makes the most sense but i have a question, should you hit your muscle groups twice a week only during a cut or once a week like when bulking? I saw some various information saying it could be beneficial to hit them twice a week to help preserve the muscle, what is your take on this? Thanks

    • Michael Matthews
      • Kyle

        Great! I don’t have the beyond bigger leaner stronger yet but i’m sure you elaborate more in there but basically hitting each muscle group once and focusing on lifting heavy will do it either cutting or bulking right? Also does it matter which order you work those muscle groups in? Right now i do Legs,Chest,Arms,Shoulders then back but i noticed you mentioned something different in your video on what order you do them in, does it matter? thanks

        • Michael Matthews

          Yes that’s right. Order does matter as you want to avoid trying to push through overly sore muscles. For instance, if you tried to train back after a big legs session, you’ll find it VERY hard to do any serious pulling…

          • Kyle

            Ok well i need your help then with that, what do you think the best order should be for me, I’m only able to work out once a day so i try and have 5 days of lifting and 2 days of cadio/abs (cardio and abs i do on same day) so currently how it is is, Sunday-Cardio/Abs Monday-Legs Tuesday-Chest Wednesday-Arms Thursday-Cardio/Abs Friday-Shoulders Saturday- Back, so that what it is currently what do recommend it should be to maxium what i’m doing? thanks

          • Michael Matthews

            I like this:

            Monday: Chest & abs
            Tues: Back & calves
            Weds: Shoulders
            Thurs: Arms & abs
            Fri: Legs

            You can do cardio whenever.

          • Kyle

            Yea that could work but abs on the same day and time as lifting? You don’t think that is too much after a heavy lifting session or is there a good way to accomplish that?

          • Michael Matthews

            Yeah that’s totally fine.

          • Kyle

            Hey Mike, I’m having trouble with doing abs with heavy lifting and last time i only got a one sentence answer and i’ve noticed you don’t have any videos talking about abs, just losing fat and only one article the no bs to abs which is pretty general where you mention circuit training on abs which is fine but how do you do that in a 45 min to a hour workout already doing heavy lifting? I see where you were telling someone else about doing them between lifting sets and i’ve tried that and got burnt out pretty quickly mostly because of the heavy lifting, it’s almost like doing super sets except abs and lifting, if you can help explain the best way to go about this i would greatly appreciate it, sorry about being so blunt but i really wanna get this down and it doesn’t seem like abs gets talked about that much now a days, just losing fat to reveal them

          • Michael Matthews

            You can just tack the ab work onto the end of your workout. It shouldn’t add more than 10-15 min, which won’t be an issue…

  • Renier

    I have a question, mike, so with this article you are saying that reverse diet isn’t necessary at all when you want to cut fat(slowly decreasing the calories)? because For fact we know that taking you cals from a bulking level to a deficit, doing it correctly(100-150 every 7-10 days) will take a while, do you feel that its a waste of time and should just ”jump” into a deficit? or do you mean that a bigger deficit is better than a small deficit( 100-250 kals)? I just want to understand if you think that ”small deficits” are useless or if reversing dieting is a waste of time in general? TY!

    • Michael Matthews

      Reverse dieting isn’t slow cutting. This is reverse dieting:

      Check this out:


      Jump into the deficit. You’ll get results faster that way.

      • michelle

        Uh-oh. When I started my deficit, I did it gradually. Maybe that’s why I’ve lost weight extremely slowly compared to my last cut last year.

        • Michael Matthews

          Yup, that’s why.

  • Hey Mike. I’m following BBLS kinda and have a question about nutrition during the deload week.

    Does it make sense to try and cut a little fat that week by dropping to 20% deficit? Or would that just deplete the glycogen and water stores and not really that much fat to make it worthwhile?

    This would be like a little mini-cut every 6 weeks.

    • Michael Matthews

      You could do this but I’m not sure you’d really notice the difference in terms of body comp. If you try it let me know…

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  • Morgen

    Hi Mike,

    Thanks for another great article! And, the podcasts!!! I spent all day yesterday in a cafe watching them…but at least, I feel better prepared to attempt my ‘cut’ lol 🙂

    My questions are:
    1. How often should I re-adjust my calories according to the weight/fat loss? My current weight is about 127, TDEE 2048. My 75-80% deficit range is 1536-1639. I’m planning to cut for 6-8 weeks (I’m going to re-evaluate at week 6), should I re-adjust my calories every week or every two weeks?

    2. From your first podcast, I’ve gathered that I should include an intermittent fasting/re-feed day (Fast ~14 hours and then have a large carb filled meal). However, should I also flip-flop my calorie intake between the 75-80% depending on workout intensity (eat 80 on intense days, 75 less intense). I’ve read that slightly increasing/decreasing helps to avoid a plateau.

    Thanks again! 🙂

    • Michael Matthews

      My pleasure! 🙂

      1. When your weight stalls for 7-10 days it’s time to move more or eat less. I don’t recommend more than 5 x lifting and 4 x cardio per week, so once you’ve hit that ceiling, you need to eat less.

      2. You don’t have to do this but some people like to. A refeed is a good idea as you get leaner. Check this out:


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  • Edric

    Hey Mike, I’ve read your books and I am very much in love with your no-nonsense, research-based approach to dieting and exercise. I have definitely gained more definition and lose body fat more quickly than I ever have. So, I started to cut in August and I’ve used your formula to calculate TDEE and cal. deficit of 20-25%. I went from 165lbs to 155lbs and I dropped about 2% body fat in October. Since then, I’ve been really confused about why my body fat hasn’t changed too much and my weight is slowing down a lot too even though my diet has been impeccable (keeping up with my macros and calories). My Omiron body fat says I’m around 14-15%, yet when I look at myself compared to many images of people at 15%, I still have a chunk of belly fat and can very slightly see some abs. Does it sound like I might be doing something incorrect? Not sure if I should continue since you said going on the mild deficit for too long means my metabolism will just get used to it. My routine is always to lift 3x a week and did HIIT cardio about 2-3 times a week, although I know I have not always been perfect with that (I sometimes miss a cardio or lift day). Maybe that’s the problem?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks so much! I really appreciate it and am glad to hear you’re doing well.

      Where are you rmacros at right now?

      • Edric

        They are at: carb 170g; protein 170g; and fat 38g. I got these ratios from one of your articles where it was 40%/40%/20%

  • Ashley

    Hi Mike!

    I’ve read several of your articles (which are very very helpful!) and know that it is more difficult to build muscle and cut at the same time. Right now I’ve been lifting 3 days a week with 2-3 20 min sessions of HITT on separate days. My main goal is to lose fat. Should I be focusing on doing more HITT cardio or lifting weights for cutting? If I’m in calorie deficit, which I am, I feel like it might be counter productive to be lifting. Should I go down to two days heavy lifting and 3 days HITT? Also, my energy levels are getting low, like you had mentioned in one article, since I’m combining HITT with lifting and a low cal diet. Not to mention I just started my first year teaching elementary school! That in itself is very draining!

    Thanks for sharing all your knowledge!


  • Kim Mazzucchelli

    Hey Mike, I recently bought and read your book thinner, leaner, stronger (huge fan) and also closely following your articles here! I just have a question as i’m a bit confused concerning my macros.. I first set my macros 45-40-15 according to TLS so for me it was: 155g prot, 138g carbs, 23g fats, consuming 1373 kcal/day. I’m 22, around 60kg and 1,65m high. I’m not that fat but have some stubborn belly fat and really would like to get ripped! Recently I read an article of you where you advised for rapid fat loss, following macros are way to go: 40-35-20 (so less carbs more fat, which resulted for me in: 154g prot, 69g carbs, 54g fat). I would really like to drop my body fat fast so i can start bulking! I’m heavy lifting 3x/week and recently added 3x/week HIIT, fasted training, green tea and caffeine supplements to my lifestyle. Which macros should I follow to have fastest results? Also can I drop my daily calorie intake to 1283 (following the calorie deficit rule of -25%) when my BMR is 1425? Thx for your answer, would really help me out!!

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  • abdelnaser

    Hey mike, i want to ask you, basically im not training just for the sake of getting in shape, actually i want to get in a sick shape what i mean by that is to reach 7% and try to maintain 7% to 11 % all the year, i started as a skinny fat kid, im not that muscular now because i spent all the time trying to lose fat and of course i failed a lot untill i know the right path “counting calories” lifting heavy and the stuff you already knows but the thing is im on my 13 week of a cut and i guess i dropped it down from 16% to 11% or something i dont measure body fat but i look and feel lean, but im really sick of cutting now i dont want to be in a deficit anymore , i was thinking to go and build some muscles again and then shed the fat to be shredded but i thought i would reach 15% and spend another 12 weeks reaching 10 and then im sick of it again so whats your advice on it, should i just stick with it till i reach 7 and lean bulk untill 10 or so and then just cut for a few weeks, im really confused man 13 weeks of a deficit has really got me bored and unmotivated to train , although if i should stick with it untill i reach i would do it just advice me please.

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  • michelle

    Hmm, I think I may have found the answer to my problem here. I’ve been on a 20% caloric deficit since October, but have lost no more than 7 lbs. since then. My weight fluctuates a lot by 2-3 lbs, and I weighed in at 130.5 lbs. this morning. I wonder if it could be my macros. I get 130g each of carbs and protein, and about 53g fat, per day. Maybe I should consume more carbs. I’ve been reluctant to because I’d then need to eat less protein or fat, lest I have a higher overall calorie intake, but I certainly perform better when I’ve had more carbs. The weight I lift has increased very little, if at all, over the past few months because I’m so tired when exercising. I also still have the same stubborn fat spots that just won’t budge. I hoped I’d at least lose a little from those areas by now!

    • Michael Matthews

      7 pounds down in 3 months isn’t too bad, actually.

      I assume you haven’t been 100% on your diet–some cheating here and there, some big “cheat meals,” and so forth?

      It’s common to get stuck on the weights when in a deficit.

      • michelle

        I have an average of one cheat meal a week, but much of the time, I still stay within my total calories for the day. Last week I was eating so much (possibly 2000 daily) and hardly tracked my calories, but this hungry streak seems to have gone away, fortunately. One problem I have is that even when I hit my calorie goal, I almost always seem to get too much fat (more like 60g instead of 50 like I should be getting). Recently I’ve started eating 1700 calories on workout days. I wonder if this is a good idea or if it will make me fat. I started doing it because I thought it could help me perform better during my workouts, but perhaps it’s not necessary.

        • Michael Matthews

          Cool and what are your cheat meals like? Binges or moderate?

          Regular overeating, even if slight, makes all the difference in the long run.

          You can change intake on training and non-training days but you need to keep your weekly intake/deficit in mind. It’s a little trickier.

          That’s why I recommend people just eat the same amount every day. Simple and foolproof, really.

          • michelle

            Well, today, I had Chinese takeout for lunch. I ordered diced chicken and shrimp with peppers, carrots, mushrooms, and celery, with a side of white rice. It came with the usual sauce on the meat and vegetables. I also had egg drop soup. It is much more caloric than my usual lunch, but at least it kept me full for much longer. I ate at 1pm and it’s almost 6pm now, and I’m just starting to feel hungry again.

          • Michael Matthews

            Totally fine. Eat foods you like and eat on a schedule you like, but regulate your daily intake, and you’ll do well.

  • Audrey

    Hey mike, I may have asked you this before but can’t remember….when going from a bulk to a cut should you gradually drop to TDEE and then drop to cutting cals? Or go from bulking calories straight to cutting cals? Thanks!

  • Nick

    Just finished BLS. Epic book!! Quick question, when following the BLS formula on cutting, how often should I recalculate my calorie-protein-carb-fat numbers? Is that something that should be done every time my weight changes?

    Thanks Mike!

    • Thanks! Nope recalc when you’re no longer losing weight after 7-10 days and you can’t exercise anymore without running into overtraining issues.

      Personally I lift 5 x per week when cutting and do 3-4 25-minute HIIT sessions and that’s it for exercise. I don’t add more. To get leaner I reduce food intake.

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  • Miguel Rodrigues

    Mike i started my cutting around 16 percent now i am at 13 percent what orange of bwlosse should be optimal to retain muscle mass at maximumm an cut down to the 10percent mark

  • Will

    Hey Mike, a couple of questions,

    I’m following your macros for cutting as laid out in Bigger Leaner Stronger. I’m curious as to why the multipliers you use for activity level to the BMR are much lower compared to online calculators and how did you come to this conclusion?

    I’ve been feeling extremely tired and sluggish since cutting. I’m cutting 800 more or less calories than before as I’m looking to bring my body fat % down as before my macro numbers were for bulking which consisted of too much fats such as coconut oil and butter, which were why the calories were so high. Now I see my calories are about my BMR for my activity level based on online calculators. Should I be worried the number is so close? And is a small issue since I’m looking to cut the excess body fat that I have on now?

    And, from what I’ve read about weight loss stalling on a cut. I’ve been confused if you need to readjust the numbers from a new starting point if you’ve been on a cut for a say 1-2 months. If you are at a new bodyweight, shouldn’t you readjust the numbers and follow a new macro distribution since the weight loss has stalled for sometime and there is a new baseline?

    • Hey Will!

      Simply because standard Katch multipliers are too high. Unless you have a very fast metab, standard multipliers are just going to have you eating too much.

      Check this out:


      You should be starting a few hundred cals above BMR so you can reduce as you get leaner and need to keep the fat loss going.

      Generally speaking, you don’t reduce calories until you’ve hit a plateau, which is no fat loss for 7 to 10 days.

      And before you cut calories, you increase exercise, but you can only take this so far before you run into overtraining issues. For me, I can’t do more than 5 45-minute weightlifting sessions and 4 25-minute HIIT sessions per week when cutting or I start feeling run down. This is a matter of learning your body.

  • Ian

    Hi Mike,

    I’m about 2 weeks in this cutting phase, but I can’t lift as heavy as I used to on bulking (especially squat and bench press). Suspecting that I might be losing muscle mass (feels like I am) but according to this article, that shouldn’t be the case. I’m on the 40/40/20 at 25% deficit as you recommended in this article. Do you have an idea of what might be going on? Thanks so much.

    • It’s normal to lose some strength. What have the changes been exactly?

  • Samuel Cruz

    I’ve been going back and forth and need some Major help. Sorry for how long this is.

    I’m 22, 5’9 and about 11-12 percent body fat. I’ve been cutting for about 6 weeks using the formula in your “Definitive Guide to Meal Planning” article. I went from 185 and 16% to 173 and 11.5% in this time period. The problem is a 25% deficit (2100) is close to my bmr (1900).
    I stopped losing body fat and dropped my calories to 1900 but felt terrible so went back up to around 2100 after a couple weeks. (Protein > 175. Fat < 50 grams. Everything else is Carbs.)
    I do 6-8 hrs of training a week.

    Another issue is my wife is pregnant and is due in June so I won't be able to lift for about 2 months and I drop weight drastically when I don't lift. I'm hoping to maintain by using bands but will inevitably drop weight.

    Should I start bulking until June or should I continue cutting another 4 weeks or so and if so, how do I continue to do so?

    Just to give you a picture, my suprailliac measures 10mm using the accu-mesure calipers you suggest while my lower stomach measures 20mm (vertical fold 1 inch away from the belly button used in the 3 point method) My top 4 abs are visible but I'd like to lose 2 inches on my lower stomach which is where I store the majority of my fat. I have big legs but look fairly average otherwise. I'd like to gain a good 30lbs of muscle long term. I want to be lean but fear looking skinny.

    I just listened to your lasted podcast today but am still struggling with this decision with the baby coming.

    I talked to a trainer and he said to drop my calories to about 1200 and up my protein to about 350. I know that's BS.

    Thank you for all you do! I look forward to your podcast each week.

  • Jared

    Because being in a 20-25% deficit is such a large amount of calories to take out of your diet, especially transitioning from a bulk, would it be effective to ease into the 20-25% deficit or just immediately start eating at the 20-25% deficit? I am considering just going down to my maintenance calories for a few days, then dropping my calories down to a 20% deficit, would this be effective or will I l lose too much muscle? I know it is not healthy to drop calories too fast but I feel like easing into a 20-25% deficit would not be very time efficient.

  • Rod

    Hi Mike.
    Wonder if you can comment on my situation.
    I’m 49 and started to cut and workout 10 weeks ago with a body weight of 75.6kg. Based on where I’m at today, I estimate I was about 16%BF
    My TDEE was about 2300 cal, so I have been counting macros and trying to hit around 1850 cal per day with about 150P/50-55F/200-210C
    I weighed myself every day and took an end of week average….
    average calories / average weight
    1854 / 75.35
    1876 / 74.9
    1839 / 74.53
    1844 / 73.96
    1871 / 73.76
    1863 / 73.36
    1874 / 72.86
    1837 / 71.76….sick that week and lost 1.1kg even though ate the same
    1914 / 71.7….started to up my calorie intake as I near 10%BF
    1930 / 71.69
    It looks to me like it is going OK, with close to half a kg each week but the last three weeks I have not moved. Looking on line, I think I’m at or near 10%BF.
    It seems to me that with my current BF and losses slowing down, it’s probably a good time to start eating more?
    Does that halt in weight loss mean my TDEE has come down to around 1900 cal? I’m trying to work out how many calories to start eating to be up to 10% over my TDEE
    Many thanks

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  • NB1986

    Hey Mike,

    I’m just about to start my cut after putting on about 14 pounds in the past 5 months. I noticed in one of your comments on here that you recommend people eating the same amount every day. Now, on calorie counting apps, you can factor in say, 300 cals burnt, so you have to eat 300 more cals that day to make your daily calories. Does your comment suggest not eating that deficit back up?

    Also, I’ve been bulking at 2800 calories recently but my calculations suggest I cut at around 1800. Should I just go for that as a starting point? I fear losing my gains!!!



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  • Christine

    Hi Mike! I am 5’7, weigh 147lbs and have 22% body fat. My TDEE is 1,792. I am thinking I need to cut before I try to put on more muscle. What percentage of calorie deficit would you suggest and for how long?

    • It all depends on what you prefer, but I recommend a 20-25% deficit.

  • Rouge Surreah

    Hey Mike,

    How long do you think it takes the body to lower its BMR in a deficit ? (I know its different for all people, but ballpark?) I guess what I mean to ask is, how long can someone sustain this formula for a deficit/cut? Before going back to maintenance/bulk?
    Cheers <3

    • It varies person to person.

      You can keep cutting as long as you’re getting results (losing 1-2 pounds a week). You may have to lower cals a few times during the cut, but once you’ve lowered them to almost or at BMR and not losing weight, it’s time to reverse diet to get the metabolism back up. 🙂

      To figure out your BMR, check this out:


      • Rouge Surreah

        Yep I have been reading TLS in the park under the sun everyday and Im almost done the book! 🙂 I am currently using the formula (1.2 P, 1 C, 0.2 F) which has me at 1320 cal. I am really really active so hoping it will help me shake off the post competition binge eating weight I put on… which is only 5lbs, but on a small person makes a huge difference.

      • Rouge Surreah

        Also –
        My cals (according to cutting formula) become 1166cal. (Im 110lbs)
        Since I lift 5x a week and do cardio 5x a week, I multiplied it again and got 1320cal. (I think I would die on 1166 cal lol)
        But… according to the calculations, the grams of fat would still be 22g. If I subtract my fish oils off of these – I am left with essentially no fat cals as everything becomes “incidental” through my diet. Do you think 22g is maybe too low? Or do I actually really need to be super duper cautious about fat cals?

        • You’re just a little more active than I assume people will be in the book, so you get to eat a little more. 🙂

          Let’s do 1450 kcal on 40/30/30 setup and see how that works for you?

          Unfortunately you have to be stingy with fat if you want to keep your carb intake up for your training. We don’t want it going TOO low but around 20% of daily calories, or 0.3 gams per pound of lean mass, is good.

    • It all depends on results. You set up your cutting cals and stick to them as long as you’re losing 1-2 pounds a week.

      Once that stops happening, you can lower them a a few times before reverse dieting to get your metabolism back up.

      To find out your BMR and cutting cals, check this out:


      To see how to reverse diet after cutting, check this out:


      LMK what you think!

  • Scott

    Hey Mike,

    How long do you feel it takes for your metabolism to catch up to your cutting?

    2 years ago, I was 6’0″, 255 lbs. I did a bout of lifting and cardio and dropped 30 lbs. Then I got sick of it and quit for awhile. A couple months ago I started back up again and lost another 27 lbs. My target for this round is 17% body fat, 185 lbs. I’m 198 now. After two months, I’m dragging, my lifting gains have more or less stopped, and I’m entirely fed up with this diet. It may be I’m just frustrated that the rapid gains are done, but man I’m ready for a break. I would punch a baby for some M&Ms and a glass of rum. I know, bad food choices.

    Is this something that I just need to plow through, or do I need to give it a rest for awhile?

    • Scott

      Never mind, reading the question below mine now.

  • Cris Florin

    This is the worst shit I`ve read for ages. You`re retarded man. I don`t know how you built that body but your IQ is bellow sea level

  • Alex Wunder

    Hey Mike! Here to bother you again 🙂 I was wondering.. My goal is currently to try and lose the last bit of fat I have on my pecs and and lower stomach, which isn’t much, but I am close to doing so and I want to mobilize the receptors there so that they become less stubborn in the future when I want to get to a low body fat percentage again.

    The problem is that I want to still put on at least another 10-20 pounds of muscle on my body before I get to my ideal stopping point. I have currently been embracing a surplus during my training days (5 days a week) and a deficit during my resting days (2 days a week). Overall I think I am very slowly gaining muscle while maintaining a pretty low body fat percentage.

    According to the caliper you recommended its 4-7 percent. I have no idea how accurate that is I tried using it many times and got the same result. Do you have any advice on making this method more accurate? because even though I am very lean I feel like 7 percent is lower than I had anticipated since I have not even tried to start cutting much yet.

    According to this article you recommend either being in a surplus to gain muscle consistently or being in a strong deficit to lose fat consistently (until our goal is achieved and while maintaining our muscle mass).

    Would you recommend cutting to lose my last remaining fat that I have on my lower abs and lower chest just to get those receptors used to being used as energy (for the future when I want to cut) or would you recommend just gaining the muscle I want now and cutting it down when i get there?

    Thanks for the help as always. Just ordered the book!

    • Hey man!

      Cool on what you’re doing. Post a pic and I’ll let you know approximately where you’re at. We’ll go from there.

      Thanks on the book!

      • Alex Wunder

        I did one flexing and one not. Trying to lose extra flesh covering my lower abs and my pecs. Thanks for the help!!

        • Cool!

          I’d guess around 10%.

          Part of the issue IMO is the size of your obliques. With obliques that large you will need to stay VERY lean to have the overall look you want.

          Your serratus and TVA need work as well.

          Do you do a lot of oblique work?

          • Alex Wunder

            I don’t do more oblique work than anything else but i do hit them with crunches, hanging leg raises and standing crunches with weights in my hands. I’ve been considering staying off of those because they are really big and it does kind of make me look less thin than I am. The pictures I showed you were also midway through the day so I do think I generally look leaner. I’ve been maintaining about a 15% deficit and plan to keep between that and a 20% deficit for about a month (adjusting as needed) to drop down to the look I am going for before going the other direction and putting on more muscle.

            Do you think I need to cut down to get the stubborn fat more mobile so that next time I want to lose it the process is easier?

            And do you think cutting down the oblique work would aid in my overall look?

          • I wouldn’t do any weighted oblique work that’s all. Your obliques are fine but I don’t think you need them bigger.

            Yeah you want to get below 10% to have the look you want I think.

          • Alex Wunder

            Also, what workouts would you recommend for strengthening my serratus and TVA? And which should I avoid to allow my obliques to shrink?

            Also when I’m counting my macros I notice that food labels don’t always match up to the calorie content they post on the food.

            Ex: Tuna can says 60 cal per serving (120 total calories) which contains 26g protein and 1g fat per can.

            26 g protein x 4 calories per gram = 104 calories
            1 g fat x 9 calories per gram= 9 calories

            total calories= 113

            I dont get what happened to the other 7 calories. I know this seems maticulous but I don’t like to miss calories when I’m counting when I am trying to maintain a deficit while planning my food for the day. I don’t want to over or under eat.

            Thank you!!

          • I’ve found heavy compound pressing is great for serratus and heavy deadlifting and squatting are great for TVA.

            4/4/9 is 100% accurate. It’s close enough though.

  • Antonio Allende

    Hey Mike, new to the website.

    I just recently tried to cut weight in a similar manner. Unfortunately I did so by ignorance and not because I knew what I was doing. In order to maintain weight I need to eat 3100 calories daily, so to lose fat I cut my calorie intake down by 1000 calories I feel like I I did not do it right as I think I lost way too much muscle. How can I remedy this problem? Should I adjust my calories? Or gain the muscle back and restart the process?


  • Glen Brown

    Hey mike, new to the website and your books (currently enjoying Bigger, Leaner, Stronger).

    Over the last 4 1/2 months I have been undergoing a pretty major body transformation. Ive been training for about 4 years but my diet has always been awful and I ended up getting pretty fat. I was 227 pounds and about 28-30%BF (Picture 1). During the transformation, I’ve been eating at roughly a 1000 calorie deficit every day, doing heavy compound lifts 5 times per week and HIIT 3-4 times per week.

    I’m currently 196 pounds and roughly 15%BF (picture 2). My problem now is that in order for me to see any progress at all any more, I have to increase my deficit to extremely aggressive levels (30-40% of TDEE). My TDEE is around 2900cals and I’ve been eating about 1800cals per day, whilst doing as many as 2 or 3 cardio session per day! Do you think this deficit is too extreme? I haven’t seen any significant loss in strength yet, but I’m worried if I sustain this deficit for too long, I’ll start to lose serious muscle.

    Any advice on this would be greatly appreciated!

  • Rachel K.

    Love this post!

    I’m a 26 year old female who’s been lifting only 3 months or so. I have about 20 lbs I’d like to lose – just a guess, as I’ve never been athletic or lean (I’m 5’4″ and 139). Even if I have a deficit of 20-25% of my TDEE, it’s going to take 3-5 months. Is this too long to be on a cut? I really don’t want to lose more of my “new” muscle than needed. Please help!

  • bob

    age: 29
    height: 5’9
    weight :219
    build: athletic (have not got my BMI read but I’m guessing 30-35% fat. Idk I just have premium love handles and thunder thighs, otherwise I’m happy.

    Activity wise I’m at the gym 6 days a week now, I love going and I’ve never been more motivated. I want to cut. I’d love to lose 25lbs over the next 3-5 months.

    To clarify, if my TDEE is currently at 2850 what should my calorie intake be with the deficit that you talk about.

    Thanks a lot.

  • Franco Lynn

    Hey Mike, I don’t mean to sound cheesy, but reading BLS was a huge turning point in my life. Now I have a question that I simply can’t find a consistent answer to.

    How should I transition from a bulk into a cut, in terms of nutrition. Some people say to taper yourself off the calorie surplus, decreasing intake by 200kcal/week until achieving a 500 calorie deficit. Some say to drop to maintenance for a week and then into full blown cutting, and there are even people who claim that doing a complete -1000kcal 180 degree turn is the way to go. What is your input on the matter?

    My goal is to burn as much fat as quickly as possible; to go from 16% BF down to 10% within a 2 month time frame. Which method will get me there the fastest while maintaining the most muscle mass?

    • Happy to hear it man!

      I recommend going straight into the calorie deficit to start losing fat right away. No need to slow down your metabolism…

  • Rikke N

    Hi Mike
    I’m planning to go into a cut soon and I just got my body fat tested on an In Body today to kind of see where I’m at. Im a 20 year old female who usually weighs 63 kgs and I have weighed that for over three months. But today this In Body scale said 65 kgs – I’m curious about whether this could have had an impact on my results of the scan as it measured me to 25 % body fat and I thought I would be way lower. I don’t know why I weighed more today, maybe it could be because I ate a lot of carbs two days ago. So, my question is, if it’s just water retention from the carbs, will the body fat analysis then be accurate anyway?

    Oh, and thanks for this article, by the way, great content as always!

  • John Doe

    Hi Mike,

    Do you think its reasonable to include some daily “walking” calories burnt (say from my phone tracker) into my TDEE to make it more accurate?

    I’ve hit a plateau in my weight loss, though this shouldn’t be the case (you estimate I’m between 12-14% BF visually, but calipers put me at 9-11%).. so either I’m indeed on the lower range with stubborn fat remaining… or I’m overestimating TDEE (though this system worked for my cut from ~22% to the current 9-12% level). I’ve been cutting since January, and went from 75.5kg to 64.8kg as of today at 5’6 (given arm size measurement and strength, I’d say I’ve maintained lean mass pretty well). Body type I’m endo-meso.

    I currently use a multiplier of 1.35 (I workout 4 days for about 2 total
    hours per session, with 2-3 days of cardio) to get TDEE, and then also
    include about 50% of my phone tracker walking calories on top of TDEE. I
    include 50% because moving around the gym, to and from the gym count
    for about 50% of the “steps” that I take in a given day.

    • Nah. Those cals are estimated with the multiplier. Check this out:


      As to not losing weight and stubborn fat, check these out:



      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

      • John Doe

        The “long” formula for TDEE is something like:
        =Total Daily Energy Expenditure
        +Resting Metabolic Rate
        +Thermogenic Effect of Food
        +Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis
        +Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption

        If the multiplier accounts for Exercise (including walking, as per your above post) what is “Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis” accounting for?

        • NEAT is spontaneous activity.

          I talk about these things here:


          • John Doe

            But doing a fairly significant amount of walking doesn’t really count as exercise, it seems closer to NEAT – hence my original question. Excluding my walking calories (to, from work and at work) in my TDEE might put me in a larger than warranted deficit, and slow my metabolism down, which I want to avoid.

          • Personally I wouldn’t adjust for walking unless it’s a LOT. Like 4 to 5+ hours walking per day.

            Did you check this out?


            That covers the most common reasons why people stop losing weight.

          • John Doe

            I think I just got sloppy in July with my calorie tracking (I’ve been cutting since January, it’s getting old….) and I never actually logged my calories day-by-day. I went ahead and went to a strict 25% deficit, tracking daily, not including the walking calories to be more aggressive in the weight loss potential. I’ve lost another 3.5 – 4lbs since I posted the question 10 days ago. 🙂

          • Ah okay. Well good you’re on top of your tracking now. 🙂

            That’s a lot of weight loss in just 10 days. You killed it! It’s normal to lose more in the first week or two but after that, you should be losing 1-2 pounds a week. If you lose more than that, you should adjust your cals.

  • Ale

    Hi! Love your articles. I’ve been working out for three years now (I was 116-120lbs). I stop working out in December and gain 15-20lbs. I started working out again in Feb. pretty hard lifting heavy and doing some cardio but not much. I am female, 30 years old, currently 135lbs, body fat must be around 35% or more. I started Fasted weight lifting at home two months ago, but I haven’t seen any changes in my weight nor my body. This is driving me nuts. I’ve done fasted workouts in the past and worked like a charm. I take adrenolyn and bcca before my fasted workouts (5 days a week, 60-80min. Daily) they are pretty intense. what should I do or change? What am I doing wrong? My food intake has been all over the place trying to figure out what could work best (veggies, 3-4oz protein for lunch, whey protein for breakfast after workout, and dinner I eat whatever: protein, rice or potatoes, etc. snacks: fage yogurt or Apple) Thanks for your help!

  • Frank S

    Mike, I am starting the program at around 20% BF. Should I stop cutting after a certain length of time even if I have not yet hit 10%?

    • You can continue cutting as long as you’re losing 1-2 pounds a week, and you’re not eating below BMR.

      If you do end up hitting BMR and arne’t losing 1-2 pounds a week, you should reverse diet to speed up your metabolism and then continue cutting to 10% BF.

  • Jess

    Mike, does the rule of thumb for cutting 0.8 to 2lbs per week apply same for men and women? Would you estimate lower for women? Thanks in advance!

  • Marian Boricean

    Hey Mike, I need your advise. I’ve been cutting for almost 3 weeks now. From a daily TDEE of 2160 calories, I’ve been maintaining a calorie intake of 1650 (more ore less a few calories). My calculated BMR is 1695, so the cut at 1650 is quite aggressive… I thought. But so far I’ve been losing only 0.4 lb per week. I do train with heavy weights (your BLS routine) 5 days per week and I do one day cardio. Do you think I should cut more? Is 1690 calories / day too much that I only see so slow results? My protein intake is high (around 185 gr / day)

    • Hmmm. If you’ve been counting cals accurately and aren’t losing weight at BMR, you need to reverse diet. Check it out:


      LMK what you think.

      • Marian Boricean

        Reverse diet? hard to believe. I just got out of a bulking diet, 21 days ago. I didn’t even have time to feel hungry 🙂

        It must be the estimation of my amounts. I do count calories very accurately (using the USDA published database of foods), but maybe the quantities are off. That’s the only thing I can think of. Here onboard the ship I don’t have access to a scale in the crew mess so I have to eye ball the portions they serve us. I thought I was good at estimating, but this leads me to believe… I’m not that good :).
        I think, all things considered, I will adjust my intake (cutting 200 calories more from my daily meals). Let’s see… I’ll have to go against the rule of not going below BMR for awhile…

        • Yeah if you’re quantities are off, your calorie tracking is off, haha.

          Let’s see how it goes taking 200 cals off.

          If that doesn’t work, you definitely need to reverse diet. Again, that’s assuming you’re doing a good job tracking the cals.

          Any chance you can get scale?

          • Marian Boricean

            🙂 I was thinking getting a scale, but you have to understand, this crew mess onboard a cruise ship, is a high traffic self service “cantina”. Bringing a portable scale with me at every meal, would add a new kind of weird to how people see me; I’m already that weird guy that counts calories :).
            I’ll stick with my estimations but I already started eating 200 cals less than I would have to (if I estimated correctly). I’ll post back in a couple weeks with the progress. Thanks for taking the time man!

          • I understand.

            I guess you’ll just have to weight yourself weekly and adjust based off results.

            Happy to help brother. LMK how it goes.

  • Andre

    Mike, you rock so much. I thoroughly enjoy your videos on YouTube.

    I am currently cutting and have been for 3 months. I went from 22% bf to 14%, roughly. I’m trying to hit 10%. Thing is I will probably need to drop my cals to my BMR within the next week or two. How long can I safely cut with my cals being equal to my BMR? Should I focus on reverse dieting before cutting off the last 4% or try to knock it off by remaining at BMR?


    • Thanks for the kind words brother!

      Good job on the fat you’ve lost so far.

      You can go ahead and drop to BMR. However, when or if at the beginning of you going to BMR you’re not losing 1-2 pounds a week, it’s time to reverse diet.

      What do you think?

      • Andre

        I think that is a solid plan. I’m hoping for the best. I’ve never hit 10% before. Should be an exciting end to my cut if I can get my abs to appear. I just got out of a lengthy and slightly irresponsible bulk. I was initially around 13% bf then I bulked up to 22%, gaining 30 pounds. This process took about two years. Again, not the best throughput, however, my strength went up and I was and still am pleased with my gains. The whole thing could have just been done better. But now I’m trying cut off the bad and increase the good. Thanks a lot for the reply! It is pretty motivating when that chiseled got on YouTube who wrote a book responds to you.

        Might I add that you’re pretty audacious and willful for successfully spreading this correct knowledge in such a twisted field.

        Thanks again, man.

        Take care.

  • Matt

    Michael, I love your book Bigger Leaner Stronger. I constantly recommend it to friends. It feels good knowing what I’m doing in the gym is leading me to my goals. You’re the man!

    In your book, you say to lose 0.5-1 pound per week when cutting. In the comment section, I noticed you saying that you should be losing 1-2 pounds per week. Am I missing something?

    Thank you so much in advance.

    • Matt

      One more quick thing. I’m going to be out of the gym for a week due to some circumstances. Is it okay to cut during a deload week? I greatly appreciate the help.

      • If you’re in the middle of a cut, that’s fine to keep cutting.

        • Matt

          Thank you for the response Michael. I greatly appreciate the help. I wouldn’t say I’m in the middle of a cut. I just started yesterday haha

          Based on this, would you recommend I stick to my bulking numbers or continue to cut during the deload week? My fear is I’ll lose muscle if I’m out of the gym while cutting.

          Thank you in advance.

          • My pleasure! Hmm. In that case, eat maintenance cals and then continue/start your cut when you’re back in the gym. Sound good?

          • Matt

            Sounds great! I got your message in time. My internet was poor so I didn’t get a chance to thank you. Thanks for the help Michael!

          • Awesome. NP man!

  • Mitchell

    Hey Mike, how much muscle loss is normal for this type of cut? I track my weight and bf every day and during my cut I was losing 1-2 lbs per week, but in the end 45-50% of it was lean mass and the rest was fat.

    My TDEE is between 2500 and 2800 (different BMR calculators give me different results) and I was averaging about 2050 calories a day during my cut. I’m guessing that was too low, so can I really expect to lose 1-2 pounds per week without losing a lot of lean weight too?

    I’m looking to cut again soon and I don’t want to make the same mistakes

    • None, really. Or so little that you can’t even tell.

      Remember that when you cut you lose water and glycogen from your muscles, which registers as lean mass being lost but it’s not…

      • Mitchell

        Would that water and glycogen loss stop or slow down after a few weeks?


    I don’t agree with this. Maybe some people can lose weight rapidly and it works for them. It never did for me. I kept having to manage my hunger cravings. I think slower weight loss works better for some people. If you store fat easily- it is much better to lose it slowly.

    • Thanks for commenting and yeah ultimately you have to do what works best for you. In my experience most people do just fine with a 25% deficit so long as protein and carb intake are fairly high and they don’t over-exercise.

  • Gustav

    Hey Mike! I am about to cut, but I have a question, do i have to decrease calories slowly untill I reach the 25% deficit, or i can change from a surplus to a deficit tomorrow for example?

    • Nope! You can go straight to your cutting cals.

      • Gustav

        Thanks bro!! Im getting ur books this christmas ?

  • John Doe

    Hi Mike – does hip-size (circumference) reduction stop at some BF% usually? I’d think waist will always change, but how about a guy’s hips?

    • Depends how much fat you’re holding there really. Remember some people just have large pelvises and that doesn’t change of course, haha.

  • Cuello Gabriel

    Hey Mike, I have been following your articles for quite some time now and love every bit of it. I was wondering about “refeeds” in this process. If I were to go for 4 weeks straight (as a “minicut” phase – 15-16%bf) of the same daily caloric deficit (20-25%), lifting heavy, moderate amount of cardio… would there be a need to reefed (1 or 2x week) or is that a personal “intuitive” decision. Opinion?

    • Glad you’re enjoying them!

      Ehh. With that short of cut, there’s no need to do refeeds.

  • Badr Abualhamail

    I am slightly more than 15 percent of body fat. Is it possible to follow your five day program of 4-6 reps while doing 12-minute HIITs after each weight-lifting workout?

  • Kristin Bayle

    Here you can find different health loss tips, also there are 100 Free exercise tips, you will love it!


  • Ubaldo

    Hey matt
    I wanted to talk to you about my situation lol
    I´ve been cutting at 50 calories over my BMR for a month and a half and my weight loss has stalled for about a week. (lift 5 days a week, HIIT cardio…) the thing is, I feel its strange this happens, because it has been such a short time, also, I reverse dieted before starting this cut, and was eating at about 2600 calories and almost not gaining weight.
    Hope for your response, cheers for your great job!

  • Tegan

    I’ve written a free report on the biggest low carb diet mistakes… if you’re interested, here is the link: http://www.bestlowcarbdietfoods.com 🙂

  • David Guiraud Vieto

    I cut for fat too long, and I got really good vascularity, and lowered body fat BIG TIME. Now, I’m around 14-25% BF, but want to get those single digits. I’m 5’7” and 135 lb right now, but bringing my metabolism back up, since I slowed it down way too much. I was eating down to 850 cals (no regrets, gave me great experience). My maintenance is 2300 cals. I keep protein always above 1g/lb of bodyweight, fat is 20% of daily calories, and carbs are the remnants. I’m speeding up my metabolism back up by reverse dieting.
    My question besides am I doing the right things is, if I do this more agressive calorie reduction, for how long should I do it? until I stop losing fat? and then reverse diet back to maintenance and repeat? I am skeptical about this since when I was a lot fatter, I reduced drastically my calories and it worked QUICK, but then it stopped and I just continued reducing them, until 850 cals. My biggest concern is what to do after to keep losing fat, and keep it off. I keep thinking if I do the agressive calorie reduction, it will work, but then when I reverse diet back up, my body will just suck the calorie increase back in.
    Please clear my doubts, and sorry for the long-writing, but it’s all in there, thanks!
    PS: I lift heavy 6-7 days a week, and stopped cardio now, I only run when I’m holding too much water tu drain it out. The type of cardio I do is very high intensity. My heart rate is always from 155-171 BPM.

    • That’s a large body fat range brother. Check this out:


      And this:


      LMK what you think.

      • David Guiraud Vieto

        Sorry dude! Haha I meant 14-15%!!!

      • David Guiraud Vieto

        Very nice articles, but they don’t answer my questions. I just want to know if I’m doing the right thing by reverse dieting back to my maintenance calories, to then cut?
        Also, I understand if my maintenance calories are about 2350 cals, I should cut at around 1750 cals right? But I have doubts… Do I just jump from 2350 to 1750? And do it for how long? And after my fat loss stops, what’s the next step? And should I do any hiit cardio together with the deficit obtained from the dieting to make it bigger?
        Thank you!

        • Yeah I needed to know your BF% more accurately to answer.

          If you’re eating around TDEE right now then yeah let’s get to cutting. Jump right into the deficit. I’m not a fan of slow cutting:


          I like to use HIIT to speed up fat loss, yes. Check this out:


          • David Guiraud Vieto

            Ok, great! Now, what about when my fat loss stalls? Should I reverse diet again and repeat? Or do I do something else?

          • David Guiraud Vieto

            I’ll simplify my question. What is your cutting process? You cut calories, then lose fat for a while, and when it stalls, you…?

          • I see what you’re saying.

            You stick to your cutting cals as long as you’re losing 1-2 pounds a week. Once you stop losing that much, you drop cals to continue losing 1-2 pounds a week. You continue dropping cals every few weeks to keep up the 1-2 pounds lost a week.

            If you end up being at BMR, not losing 1-2 pounds a week and still not at your BF% goal, you reverse diet to speed up your metabolism and then continue cutting.

            Hope this helps! Talk soon!

          • David Guiraud Vieto

            thanks! But doesn’t that put me in the situation where I’ll just cut calories for too long, slowing my metabolism? Or are you saying my cutting range should be from my cutting cals starting point, down to my BMR, and once I reach my BMR, start again?

  • steve

    Hi Mike i bought BLS and beyond BLS and thought they were great after training for years and not getting anywhere!!

    to cut a long story short i cut for my holidays and got fairly lean and then ate a load of crap whilst on holiday and gained some fat…I already knew i would.

    I started cutting again after i got back at the same calories i was on before but it feels like my metabolism has slowed down so I’ve started to reverse diet adding 25g of carbs every 5 days until i reach my maintanence of 2700 I’m 25 6 ft and 168 lbs around 12-14% bf

    what i would like to know is should i slowly taper off my calories each week or so or should i just jump into a deficit of 25%?

    • Thanks for picking up my books! Hope you’re getting results now. 🙂

      I hear you on the holidays. It happens. Good call on the reverse diet.

      Once you’ve eaten at TDEE for a week, you can jump straight to your cutting cals.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Belija91

    I agree that when you hit lower body fat levels, a small long-term deficit will eventually become stubborm and slow your metabolism a lot to the point that it becomes really hard to see any results. I would like to add to your suggestions.

    If you hold a lot of muscle mass, but also a lot of fat, say 18-20% then a small caloric deficit is more beneficial because; you will not lose as much muscle mass over as opposed to a large deficit.

    For example, if you did an 8 week diet with a small deficit and lost 6 pounds, you could then go on a maintenence phase for a few of weeks and build on some lost strength. After those few weeks, you could try a more aggresive deficit as you mention, while pushing heavy in the gym.

    So it depends on many factors, you cannot just say “high calorie deficit is superior”. Everything has its use and benefit, its how you use it.

    • Thanks for the comment but check out the study I reference in this article. A 20 to 25% deficit will not result in muscle loss if you eat enough protein, lift weights, and don’t do too much cardio.

  • Joe Boland

    Hey Mike,

    Another great article – one quick question for you: if you’re cutting to the point where your weight loss stalls, do you simply reverse diet to maintenance calories for a week before starting your cut again? I fell into a trap of cutting for, in retrospect, far too long (about 6 months), and it got me nowhere other than skinny-fat. Is there a guideline “maximum” amount of time that you’d suggest cutting for? Or do you simply cut until you’re at the desired BF% range?

    • Good question. It depends. Check this out:


      You cut until you reach your BF% goal or until you’re not losing 1-2 pounds a week when eating at or close to BMR. If the latter happens, you reverse diet and then continue cutting.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Thomas A Perez

    HI, So I started my weight loss at 315 lbs 38%body fat last year. Played 1 years of college football, and after the season was over I weighed in at 250 lbs 30% body fat.

    I am now 260lbs constant 5’10 and stuck…. I’ve tried… multiple diets and cuts but none seem to work… this article actually has taken my interest, I am strong and have very muscular arms, shoulders, legs, and back… you can see a good definition in them just not what I would like, my only stubborn body part is my stomach….

    I need help with my macros and calorie intake, I hope you can give me some sort of advice to get started… i need to lose fat real bad…. this trap has me in a negative state… and i dont want to go back, I want to improve…

  • Jenny Hudson

    Wonderful article. Look here to lose weight in very speedy way. http://www.amazingaus.com/seven-day-diet-to-lose-weight/

  • brant_paul

    Hey Mike!

    Just wanted to quickly thank you for your help with everything, so thank you!

    I have a quick question:

    I’m struggling to find advice related specifically to progress which is too fast.

    For instance, i’m sitting at %10-11 body fat currently, and i’m going to soldier on and reach say %8-9 before I reverse diet.

    This week I adjusted my macros and I dropped around 700g which I feel is just a little too fast for where i’m at.

    In this instance, do you recommend I slightly bump up my carbs? Or should I Just stick with it and let my body catch up, considering it’s already been a week and it’s too late?

    Hope to hear from you soon, and thanks!

  • Bart.

    So the 750 calorie deficit group only lost 1 lb a week? Pathetic.

    • That’s how it goes when you’re lean. 1 pound of fat loss per week is great.

      • Bart

        It’s not ‘rapid” then.

        • You can lose more if you’re quite overweight (25%+ body fat) but as you get leaner, “rapid” is 1 lb/week.

          • Jeff Wright

            This has been my experience. I lost >100 pounds in about 6 months using a calorie reduction regimen. The first few weeks I lost many pounds per week. Toward the end, particularly the last couple of weeks, I was lucky to lose 1-2 lbs per week.

          • Sounds about right! Great job on all the weight you lost Jeff!

  • Dawid

    How long should the deficit last?

    • You’d continue with the deficit until you reach your goal BF% or until you’re eating at BMR and not getting results. In that case, you’d reverse diet and then continue with the deficit.

  • Hey Mike, I might have something of interest to you.

    I created a code in which someone inputs:
    – Starting weight
    – Starting body fat %
    – Desired body fat %
    – Desired number of weeks

    And outputs:
    – Final weight
    – Final body fat percentage
    – Body fat lost
    – Body fat lost per week
    – Amount of pounds of lean muscle gain required to completely reach target goal

    I think the most important output is the body fat lost per week. If that output is greater than ~1.5 and they are under 20% body fat, they should probably increase the duration of their cut (and the code lets them know that!).

    The point behind this is that as a person loses weight over time, 1lb of body fat lost has less and less of an impact on the person’s body fat %. This means that calculations aren’t as simple as taking (starting weight) – [(starting weight * starting body fat %) – (starting weight * final body fat %)] to find final weight at the desired body fat %. I use a loop which recalculates body fat % on a day-to-day basis so you have updated values to calculate future ones with (I can explain the math later). You then get a nice graph which you can use to track weight loss progress with — to make sure you’re losing weight at a steady pace.

    Anyway, here’s an example (see picture) of the code, using Gary L. from Success Stories.

    As you can see, dropping down to 141 itself wouldn’t get him to 10%. He would need to drop a little below that, and then gain ~0.5 pounds of lean muscle to reach his goal. My code calculated that, and his stats line up with it (the final code weight + lean muscle gain = his final weight at his desired body fat %).

    Let me know if you’re interested in working with this at all.

    • Nice!

      Practically speaking it’s hard to predict like this because of water and glycogen fluctuations but you can definitely get a general idea.

      I do plan on adding more and more tools to MFL next year so maybe something like this could be a good inclusion.

  • Jenny

    I am very confused with cutting. After reading your book I understood given my 130lb, 30% body fat and being 5’2 and 46 years old ans a BMR of 1282. I need to eat
    0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day, = 104g

    • 0.6 grams of carbs per pound of body weight per day, = 78g

    • 0.3 grams of fat per pound of body weight per day.” = 39g

    But this only gives me 1079 calories in the day. Whereas you state that we should not go under our BMR.

    Also does fat play a large part in holding fat as I am eating a lot more fat ( 80g) in my diet than what I see here in my calculations. If I were to stay at my calorie level of 1079 – with my fat intake this high would this affect my fat loss?

    • Hey Jenny!

      Sorry for the confusion. The formulas in the book are generally good starting points but aren’t going to be perfect for EVERYONE (no macro formulas are).

      So in your case, let’s keep it simple.

      If your BMR is 1300 and you’re doing my program, we can assume a TDEE of about 1800, which we’ll cut to 1400 for losing weight.

      For your macros:

      130 pro
      110 carb
      45 fat

      That should work nicely.

      I wouldn’t recommend your fat intake be that high because it’s going to leave very little for carbs. Unless you just like eating like that…

      • Jenny

        Sorry Mike, I may be confusing this further but I have my TDEE as 1389. I may have miscalculated but this is how I calculated my BMR.

        75% of TDEE (1389) = 1042
        FFMI = 16.7
        Lean Body Mass: 100
        Body fat: 30%

        BMR = 1220.6 + 291.4- 216.2 = 1296
        BMR NEW =546+487.9 – 199 = 1282

        I am really trying to get to the gym but have only managed to get there three times a week. On the days I’m not there can I lower my calories in further to lose weight on the days I am inactive??
        I am also taking Anavar and think it helps if I have a lower calorie intake from what I have read. Any thoughts here too.

  • lee Matthews

    Hi Mike,

    Do you use a moderate cheat meal once a week with your cutting or just stick to a 20-25% deficit throughout and possible reverse diet when your metabolism slows too much? If so how many calories would you recommend for a 1 cheat meal a week? I’m guessing no more than your currently cutting on a daily basis (500-750 range) to daily maintenance.

  • MrGraham

    So basically, once a person reaches their goal weight, they should move right into a maintenance program? Im wondering about ending my current cut as it is moving fast. Strength and energy levels are still pretty good and I am just 6 weeks into it. Im more than halfway to my goal already.

    • Once you’re at your goal weight, size and leanness, if you’re just coming off a cut, you should RD to maintenance cals and chill there.

      Glad the cut is going well! If you haven’t reached your goal on the cut, there’s no reason to stop. Keep it up!

  • Dillon Altonen

    Hey Mike, I weigh 206 (15% BF) and I am on a bulk at 3400 calories per day. Should I use my tdee of 2800 and cut 20-25% of the calories or cut from 3400 to transition?

    • For cutting cals, you subtract 20-25% from your TDEE.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

      • Dillon Altonen

        Do you recommend a certain length of time to cut? I would like to do a shorter cut, so I can get back to bulking. Also, when bulking, is a 10% surplus a good place to start to prevent gaining too much bodyfat?

        • Nope! As long as keep up the heavy lifting, keep your protein intake high and stick to the moderate calorie deficit, don’t worry about it!

          I recommend cutting until you reach 10-12% BF. Once you’re done cutting, you should reverse diet to bulking cals:


          What do you think?

          • Dillon Altonen

            On a cut, when do you know you’re losing too much weight too fast? I know I’ll lose water weight initially, but if I’m dropping pounds too fast then should I add some calories back in?

          • The goal is to lose 1-2 pounds a week.

            As you said, It’s normal to lose more than that the first week or two, but after that, if you’re losing more than 1-2 pounds a week, you’re losing too fast and risk losing muscle.

            Yep, if you’re losing too fast, you should add cals back in!

            Hope this helps! Talk soon!

          • Dillon Altonen

            Awesome thanks Mike! Another question, should I think about fasted cardio during my cut or should I see how this initial caloric deficit goes?

          • YW!

            If you want to, absolutely. It will accelerate the fat loss!

            Check this out:


  • Daniel

    Hey Mike!

    I appreciate your articles. I’ve been reading them, and I have a few questions. I’ve been doing a lean bulk for the last two months, gaining around .5 lbs a week. I’m now up to 167 lbs, with my body fat a little higher than 15%. My question is, should I continue to bulk, or should I cut down to around 10% bf? I wouldnt mine cutting, but I already feel small at 167, and I’m worried about dropping down even lighter (even though I know you look bigger when leaner). I’ve never done a cut before either, so I want to make sure I don’t mess myself up by losing too much muscle in the process.


    • Thanks Daniel!

      Cool on the weight gain. That’s right where you want it.

      You can continue bulking, but I don’t recommend bulking past 17% BF. Once you hit that, it’s time to cut. Check this out:


      As long as you’re eating enough protein, lifting heavy and sticking to a moderate deficit (20-25%), don’t worry about losing muscle. 🙂

      My pleasure! Talk soon.

  • Andrew

    Hey Mike.
    Really enjoy your articles. How long should the deficit last…. for me its hard consuming only 1800 cals (20% of my TDEE) per day, so what if I do not reach my body fat% in 2-3 months and just cannot deal with that cal intake anymore.. should I increase the limit to say 2000, or go maintainance and then go back to deficit? Thanks!

    • Happy to hear it!

      First, the goal is to lose 1-2 pounds a week while cutting. So, adjust intake as necessary to make that happen.

      Then, if you find yourself eating at or below BMR before reaching your goal BF%, just reverse diet and then continue cutting. Check this out:


      Hope this helps! LMK what you think.

  • Jash

    Hi Mike
    What about refeed days? are they really important for boost metabolism?
    what do you think about carb cycling vs your strategy?

  • Mike

    Hi Mike,
    Im pretty sure I fit the mold of exactly what this article was addressing. I leaned out significantly last year from 220-185 and got obsessed with how my body looked. My diet was high protein high carb, and I was able to stay lean for about a year. Went to California for vacation in August, ate everything in sight and have been trying to regain my leanness ever since. I’m at a breaking point and am wondering if I should focus on getting my lean mass back up for a couple of months or try a more aggressive deficit? Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.


    • Mike

      Any feedback would be greatly appreciated

      • Good job on all the weight you lost!

        Sorry to hear about the fat gain while on vacation. It can happen!

        What you should do depends on where your BF% is at. Check this out:


        LMK what you think.

        • Mike

          Hey thanks for the response. Based off your article I am in a BF percentage range where i should bulk. I know how to figure out my macros and everything as far as that goes… My main question is, if I have been leaning out for quite a while now (5’11”,190 lbs, 11% BF), and I seem to have hit a wall, would it be your recommendation to try a different approach towards cutting or try and bulk up? Right now my macros are 39/30/31, based off a 2,726 calorie diet. Thanks for the help again man, I know you’re busy.


          • If your plan was to bulk and focus on building muscle after the cut, you may as well start now.

            If your plan was to get lean and maintain that look for some time, I recommend you continue cutting. To help you continue losing weight on the cut, check this out:


            Hope this helps! LMK. My pleasure. 🙂

  • Dustin


    I’m currently around 235, 20% BF. I started around 228 and 25%, so i’ve increased alot of muscle. I’ve been cutting about 1.5 months in a deficit. Since you recommend not bulking until about 10% BF, do I keep going between cutting and neutral eating? Since i’m starting higher, I assume I don’t just cut non-stop until 10%, right? I’m sure after several months of cutting my metabolism is just dead slow. How long do you recommend cuts lasting?

    • Good job on the results so far!

      I recommend you continue cutting until 10% BF. If you can do it all in one cut, that’d be great. However, if you find yourself eating at BMR and not losing 1-2 pounds a week, you’ll need to reverse diet and then continue cutting:


      How long cuts lasts vary. If you do it right, you can reach your goal of 10% BF in 12-20 weeks.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Francesco Luconi

    Hi Mike
    I’ve been cutting for 5 months now, as a typical skinny-fat guy I started at 46yo 184cm 74kg (sorry if I use metrics) around 19%bf and now I’m 59Kg around 10%. As you can see from pics I guess there’s nothing else to cut to (altough in these mounths I did some sort of resistance training). My goal was to cut till I get a flat stomach and then slowly and steadily bulking. I don’t know what’s going wrong with it there’s no way to get rid of that belly (no alchol no smoke). I’m running three times a week for a total of ca. 30km weekly. I’m underweighted and confused, do I have to cut till 7-8% to reach my cutting goal or started to bulk? I’d really like to know your thoughts about it. At the moment I’m at 1750 cals C 45% P30% F25% with one cheat day at maintenance.
    Thank you in advance.

    edit: it seems I can’t see the pics, do you?

  • Dana

    Hello Mike,

    How long does it take for metabolic adaptation to occur? Also, do teenagers burn more than adults, or does TDEE all boil down to height, weight, and BF%?

    Thank you


    • It varies from person to person but most people start noticing it around 4 weeks of a consistent deficit.

      You know I haven’t looked into the teenagers point but an in-depth article for training for teens is on my list…

  • Tom W

    Hi Mike!

    I’ve recently become a fan of yours thanks to a long road trip and tons of podcasts on said road trip.

    I had a question for you regarding incline walking vs HIIT cardio. I have a unique situation where I have a treadmill desk at home and at work, so I could easily walk anywhere from 2 – 10 miles a day at a slight incline (5-10 degrees).

    I was planning on doing that for my cardio for cutting instead of HIIT because I heard LISS is better for burning calories from fat (“fat burning zone” heart rate) and I have some back/joint problems that make it tougher for me to do quality HIIT. Do you have any thoughts or recommendations on this plan?

    • Thanks Tom! 🙂

      That should work just fine so long as you keep your diet right.

      LMK how it goes!

  • Sukhraj Riyat

    hi mike hope you are well! quick question how do you reduce calories after a bulk? even if the bulk was short for e.g 1 month or so.. i am making steady lean gains consuming around 2600cal ( 301carbs/69g fats/187g)protein my maintenance is 2350-2400calories, so after consuming 2600 for a month can i jump straight to 1900calories or should i bring it maintenance instantly for about a week then jump straight into deficit? ( stats 5ft6 140lbs currently 13%bf slightly increasing as bulking)
    thanks so much ! please get back to me, regardsss

    • Hey!

      Good question. Just jump right into your cut. You’ll get the best results that way.

      • Sukhraj Riyat

        thanks for the reply bro , wont dramatic changes in calorie intake result in homeostasis then il be stuck? or shall i just have a refeed once a week to bulking calories (5-10% over maintenence to avoid homeostasis. i want to learn how to avoid homeostasis this is when i fail with cutting to get below 10% 🙁

  • John Calvin

    Thanks for the read! I recently went from 205 to 168 now probably around 9 percent BF. I’ve been unsure about if I should cut more and was concerned I could be going to fast or losing muscle. However… My lifts are staying the same and/or going up and my cardio performance keeps increasing. So why not try to reach 7%? 😛

    • Great job!

      If all pistons are still firing, and it sounds like they are, yup, no reason not to.

      I recommend ending your cut when your intake is at BMR or slightly below it and you’re not longer losing fat. This is usually accompanied by other “symptoms” as well like noticeable strength loss, low energy, poor sleep, etc.

  • Sukhraj Riyat
    • Damn! Awesome job. You look great!

      I’d love to get you up on the site. What do you think?

      • Sukhraj Riyat

        sure how do we do this? what was the bf% before and after u reckon?

  • Sean Haber

    I have a had a succesfull bulk without gaining to much bodyfat and have reached my goal of 2× bodywheight deadlift , 1.5 × squat , 1.25 bench and my 50 dip goal ( did not make my 30 pull up goal :() I would like to start cutting but am afraid to lose to much muscle , last time i did a aggresive cut i lost around 7 kilo but lost lots of muscle mass . I have forge and pheonix and in addition my next goal is a half marathon which is in april , can that fit into my cutting goals? and how do i prevent to much muscle loss? below is my current body ( aprox how much bodyfat is this?)

  • samuel

    Hey Mike, awesome post. I have been cutting for 6 weeks now, and lost about 7-8kg of my weight. I had gained a bit too much fat, I think my bf was something between 16 and 20. I started wondering if I’m losing weight too fast. I can see that i have lost fat, and at least it looks like I’ve been able to keep my muscles. Still it bothers me if that is too much of a loss in weight, it all cant be fat, because I still cant see my abs. I lift weights 5x week and do HIIT cardio 2-3 times per week. I think I eat about 2000-2500 calories per day. What do you think, is my weight loss too fast?
    Thanks a lot!

    • samuel

      Something to add on this; Today I counted my calories, got 2100 and today was the first time in a month I ate more carbs(43%, 198g, protein 37% and fat 20%). I felt like It was hard to eat that “much” and after thinking about my cut during the last 5 weeks, I think my approximate daily calorie intake have been way under 2000, and I haven’t been eating carbs much.

  • H

    Hi Mike
    Just started with the weights, doing 3 times per week on compound weights (following your 3 day routine) and 2 days per week hiit cardio. I am 5ft 7, 140 pounds but with 25% bf. Reading your article, I need to cut the bf but want to maintain and build muscle and strength, so am on approx. 1400 calories per day, with 120g carbs, 130g protein and 30g fats. Does this sound about right to be able to lose the fat but maintain/ build the muscle.

    • Thanks for the info.

      To build muscle while losing fat, check this out:


      To make sure your cals and macros are right, take a look at this:


      LMK how it goes!

      My pleasure!

      • H

        Thanks Mike
        interesting articles as always, will look to keep calories below 1300, with approx. 110g carbs, 130g protein and less than 30g fat, should keep me well below my tdee with exercise regime as posted above and see what happens over the next few weeks!

        • My pleasure!

          Sounds good. You just want to be in a 20-25% deficit from TDEE.

          I look forward to seeing your results!

  • Richard Clark III

    Hey Mike, brought the book love the simplicity ,but it seems like am in a rut. I’m 5 ’10 230 and I can’t seem to lose fat around the muscle I have ,it seems like am just maintaining and seesawing everytime I step on the scale. I’ve been mainly lifting with kettlebells and performing pull-ups (70lbs kb) but I do go and lift at the gym to mix things up where could I be going wrong? Diet is is consistent n I train 4-5 times a week what’s could it be ?

  • Tim Bowman

    Hi Mike,

    I am 1 week into an 8 week cut, (after 6months bulk, stacked it on a bit over Xmas) and on Monday I weighed 84.3kg and today (Friday) I weighed 81.6kg, i calculated my TDEE at 2630 and a 20% deficit at 2106. I was aiming for about 1lb or 0.4kg of fat loss a week, I train 5/3/1 4 times a week. I’m sure that those 3kg can’t be water weight? The last time I cut I lost loads of Muscle and basically had to start from sctrach with my lifts. Where am I going wrong? When I cut I lose all the muscle and when I bulk even at 10% surplus I gain all the fat. ….:yes j sit behind a desk everyday.

    Thanks in advance, your blogs and videos have been a fantastic source of info the last year or so.

    • Cool you started a cut!

      No worries on the amount you lost. It’s normal to lose more the first week or two due to water and glycogen. After the first few weeks though, the goal is 1-2 pounds a week. So, if you keep losing more than that, adjust intake accordingly.

      To make sure you don’t lose muscle during this cut, check this out:


      When you do bulk, you gotta make sure you’re training and dieting properly! Check this out:


      My pleasure! Glad you’re enjoying them. 🙂

      Talk soon.

    • I agree with Mike. Monitor your weight loss for the next week and see where you land. Make sure you’re drinking at least a gallon of water a day so that, in a week, you know you won’t see a loss attributable to water weight. If you’re still losing too much weight, then the problem it is that you’re not eating enough.

      If that’s the case, it could mean a few things. Without getting into diagnosis of *why* you might need more calories, the bottom line is you should up your calories by say 300/day or so and see what happens in the next 2 weeks.

  • Gerardo Amezquita

    Hey Mike,

    Quick question, when coming out of a bulk and you begin to reduce calories how exactly do you do it? For example, currently I’m at 3,050 calorie surplus and need to get down to 2,100 for my cut would I cut down 200 per week until 4 weeks later I get to that calorie deficit or is there a faster method?

    • Good question! I recommend going straight to cutting cals. No need to slowly reduce them.

  • Elvia Gonzalez

    Hi Mike! Thank you for all the information you share.

    I am a woman with 38% bodyfat and 208 pounds. Based on the numbers I make with 20% calorie deficit I should have 1556 calories. But I am confused with the carbohydrates.

    I read here: http://www.muscleforlife.com/how-to-lose-weight-fast/
    45% protein | 20% carbs | 35% fat
    I got: 175gr. protein | 78 gr. carb | 61 gr. fat

    But I read here : https://legionathletics.com/diet-meal-plans/
    1g per lb protein | rest carbs | 0.3 gr per lb
    I got: 208 gr. protein | 41.6 carb | 62.4 fat

    Which is about 10% carbs, but in this article you suggest a 40% of our daily calories from carbohydrates.

    Could you please help me to decide how much carbohydrates are the best for me taking into consideration that I want to lose 16% of bodyfat?

    Thank you for your help!

  • Caitlin

    Hi Mike,
    I currently weigh 165 lbs, and I’m trying to lose about 40 lbs. I have calculated my calorie intake to put me at a 20% deficit. Am I supposed to recalculate my TDEE and readjust my calorie intake after every couple of pounds lost, or do I just keep my calorie intake the same until I notice my weight starting to plateau? I’m just confused because if I weigh in at a different amount than when I first started out, my TDEE will be different, right? So, do I compensate for that difference as I’m still cutting?

    • Hey Caitlin!

      Cool on what you’re trying to do. Let’s make it happen.

      Good question! You should keep your intake the same as long as you’re getting results. Once you stop losing 1-2 pounds a week at your current intake. Adjust your intake accordingly.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • djdluck

    Cutting before starting lifting to maximize newbie gains. (starting untrained)

    Hi Mike – Thanks so much for your time.

    To max out the first 6 months of newbie gains, should I hold off on lifting, and focus on cutting from my current 17% to 10% before starting lifting? Or does starting in a cut really not make that big a difference?

    I’m 6’2″, 215lbs, 17%BF, and essentially untrained. (its been a few months, and only a few months of lifting before that.)

    I was thinking HIT cardio and strict diet until I get to 10%, then lean bulk to stretch the bulk phase out for a full 6 months for optimal results with the newbie gains.

    Let me know what you think! Thanks!

    • IMO start with the cut, get to 10%, then reverse diet into a bulk. I think you will find that the best in terms of overall enjoyment and progress…

      • djdluck

        Cool, so hold off on lifting during the cut? Plan is to do HIIT cardio.

  • Jonathan

    Hi Mike,

    I’ve started my 2nd cut in January after a 6 week RD to TDEE. I’m planing on going on an all-inclusive vacay beginning of April.

    Currently, I’m trying to get to 10% body fat, I think I’m 15%-16% right now- also taking the Stack(forge,pulse, phoenix) ) to speed it up along with 5 days of lifting plus 3 – 20 min HIIT.

    My question is: should I finish my cut end of Feb and RD back to TDEE (4 weeks) or continue cutting until April until my vacation and try to minimize fat gain/damage during that week? I will have access to a gym during that week.
    Thank you.

    • Cool you started your cut! Gotta look good for the vacation. 🙂

      Cool on everything you’re doing and taking.

      If you can get to 10% BF 4 weeks before the trip so you have time to RD, that’d be great to prevent rapid fat gain. You may need to diet all the way until the trip to reach 10% BF, though and that’s fine.

      Hope this helps! My pleasure.

      • Jonathan

        If I’m not mistaken, it seems a bit unrealistic to get to 10% BF in 4 weeks from 16% BF?

        I do want to enjoy/eat normally on this vacation and err on the side of caution by preventing rapid fat gain, but at the same time, I would also like to reach my goal of 10%, especially if my body allows it to keep going without needing to RD…

        So, if I were to cut for 8 weeks, skip the RD, eat right back at TDEE for only one week, is it possible to gain all that fat back during that one week period? What would you do if you were in my shoes hehe?

        Thanks for all your help!

        • It’d be possible if you’re starting weight were light and you stuck to losing 2 pounds a week, but you’re right. It’d be tough.

          You could try hitting 10% BF by mid March and then do an accelerated RD for the 2 weeks leading up to your vacation.



          • Jonathan

            Sounds good! I was thinking of starting the RD starting 1st week of March as I’m almost hitting my BMR and maxing out on lifting/HIIT.

            For the accelerated RD, does that mean I’d need to get as close as possible to TDEE within 2 weeks i.e increasing my carbs by 50/75g a week instead of the usual 25g every 7-10 days ?


          • That works!

            Yeah exactly. You want to be at TDEE if you can by the time you’re going on vacation.


  • John Iannuzzi

    Hey Michael,

    I’m about two months into cutting (following your guidelines) and have managed my way down to around 10% body fat. However, I fear that now my body has adjusted to my low cal lifestyle and my metabolism has slowed down. I have been hovering at the same weight for about two weeks now, I was wondering if there is something more I have to do to make it down to my goal: 7%. I understand dropping from 10%-7% is no easy feat so I would really like to not waste my time and attack this as efficiently and calculated as possible. As fart as my diet is concerned, I eat around 180g protein per day, <100g carbs and maybe 50-60g fat totaling around 1800ish cals per day. I am 5'9'' and weight currently 165. I have considered continuing my current plan (on the assumption that I just need to bust through this plateau), eating less, eating more periodically to get my metabolism working again or doing cardio. But alas, I am no expert on this an would very much appreciate your input. Thanks!

  • Tekke

    Hi Mike

    I’m 2 weeks in my cut after a bulk and already dropped 7-8 pounds. I was coming out of a bulk wich i ended on 3500 kcal. I jumped right into my cut and started eating 2600 kcal for 11 days now. I alway weigh myself in the morning on an empty stomach. I dropped grom 85 kg to 82 kg. i’m 1 87 m Is this to fast. Or can i keep going?

    I just train evreyday, did 1 cardio session of 30 minutes swimming this week

    Thx allot!
    btw : I almost filled in in my whole workbook 😛 Is the app almost finisht? , i only have 3 mesocycles left ^^

    • Cool you started cutting. Damn, that’s a lot of weight!

      That can happen the first few weeks due to water and glycogen. After those first few weeks, if you keep losing at that rate, let’s adjust your intake. The goal is to be losing 1-2 pounds a week.

      Still working on it! Shooting to have it ready March/April.

      You won’t need the notebook for too much longer. 🙂

      My pleasure! Talk soon.

    • Awesome work! Devs are looking at a summer release for Stacked.

  • Marissa

    Hi Mike!

    I usually stay pretty active but got out of the gym for a bit and now trying to get back into it! I have a smaller frame and am 5’3 115lbs- I would say my body type at the moment is the typical “skinny fat” I’m trying to put on muscle by lifting weights now and cut down on fat by doing some HIIT cardio. I think my body fat percentage is around 24% Would it make more sense for me to cut down a little before trying to gain muscle? I kind of thought gaining muscle would help me cut down on fat since I don’t have very much muscle mass at all. What do you think?

  • Ryan Brain

    Hi Mike! Hoping you can help me understand something. You’ve mentioned a couple of times in passing that some people lose weight better with a bit higher fat and lower carbs. Can you explain why this might be? Thank you!

    • The reason why is mainly due to shedding water. Check this out:


      My pleasure. Hope this helps! Talk soon!

      • Ryan Brain

        Thanks, Mike. One more question: Is it necessary to do any HIIT if I’m meeting my targets without the extra exercise and without any hunger issues? Thanks!

        • Welcome!

          Nope! If you’re losing 1-2 pounds a week without it, you’re good! It can help accelerate results, but it isn’t necessary. Check this out:


          I do find it becomes necessary when trying to get super lean, though.

          Hope this helps! Talk soon!

          • Ryan Brain

            Thanks for clearing that up, Mike. Always value your advice!

          • YW! Happy to help. 🙂

  • Tifa

    Hi Mike: You mentioned in the article that you might need a higher caloric deficit when you’re lean. I think I’m around 18% (female) and wanted to eek out just one more percent to see how it looks. I’ve been cutting for around 3 weeks at mostly a caloric deficit of 400-500 (TDEE probably around 2200-2300 due to a lot of activity and eating around 1800). My weight has pretty much been pretty stable, except for a few pounds gained (and subsequently lost) due to hormonal water retention.

    Do you have any idea why it requires such an aggressive deficit to see any change in leaner folks?

  • Ryan Brain

    Hi Mike – I’m confused about something. A 20-25% deficit does not equal even 1lb of fat loss a week – so how can we lose 1-2lb a week at a 20% deficit? Thanks!

    • In your case your TDEE is quite low so that’s right, you’d have to eat less to lose a pound of fat per week. I wouldn’t recommend going below BMR though.

      • Ryan Brain

        My BMR is around 1430, so I’m already a couple of hundred calories lower than that. If I shouldn’t go below my BMR then how am I supposed to lose fat safely? It would be horrendously slow.

        • Can we get you burning more energy (moving more)?

          • Ryan Brain

            Definitely, but you already mentioned in another thread that I could be overtraining, so I’m not sure what else to do. Perhaps the 4 day split is too much for me… I could cut my strength workouts to 3 days, and do cardio on the other two. What do you think?

          • Hmm. How many hours of cardio are you doing weekly right now?

          • Ryan Brain

            This week I haven’t done any, whereas last week I did about 1 hour on the treadmill total. I typically don’t do cardio unless by the time I’ve left work I’ve eaten more than my calorie allowance and need to earn some back. I do walk quite a lot, though. Takes 10 minutes to and from work, and on the weekends I walk to and from trains commuting home, plus my wife and daugher and I try to spend 2 or 3 hours out and about on Saturdays and Sundays.

          • Alright. Let’s have you consistently doing 1-2 hours of cardio a week (excluding walking) and see how you do.

            The goal is to lose a pound a week.

            LMK how it goes.

          • Ryan Brain

            Thanks for the advice 🙂 Would that be instead of simply eating less?

          • Welcome! Yep, instead of eating less. 🙂

  • Dale

    Hi mike, I’m currently in a calorie surplus after a long cut( I’m at 12.5 % fat). I’m training 4 days a week with every 4th week being a deload week. I’m currently considering cutting my calories 25% every 4th week, so basically a mini cut, do you think this would be worthwhile in helping to keep fat gain to a minimum wilst trying to increase mass.
    Thanks Dale

    • Great on what you’re doing. Yes this can help minimize fat gain but it may impair muscle gain to a slight degree.

      • Dale

        I was a bit concerned about muscle loss, I might just eat a maintenance on deload weeks and see how that goes first.
        Thanks Mike

  • Pat

    Hi mike, you seem to suggest slow cuts in all your videos but research and this article seems to be otherwise. Ive gone from 149lb to 178 in 6 months so I’ve gained a lot of muscle but quite a good amount of fat, I wanna keep gaining but not get excessively fat so was considering doing a short 4 week aggressive mini cut to get back to bulking. Your thoughts?

    • Not SLOW per se but not reckless, haha. If you stick to the advice given in this article, you’ll do fine.

  • Pat

    Also love your no bs content

  • Raymond Tawil

    hi mike! for the last month and a half I’ve been cutting and have basically kept my calories the same- is it time to reduce my calories and if so, how low do i go- i am current eating 200 grams of protein, carbs…
    and 40-45 grams of fat…..

  • Ricky

    Hello. I hope you can help me. Any advice id appreciate. Im 27, 5’8″. Im very lean. Body fat is at 10.5%. I weigh 138-140lbs. My goal is to get ripped. Id like my abs to be very visible. I work out 3 days a week. Mon, weds, and fri. I do weight training first. hiit cardio on the treadmill, then ab workout. I eat 3 or 4 times a day. Breakfast is a shake i make out of almond milk, banana, strawberries, papaya and guava. Lunch is my meal prep which is 2 hardboiled eggs, chicken, steak, brocolli, Wheat tortilla, avocado and some fresh cheese, sometimes i get some beans. Dinner after my workout is the same meal as lunch. I workout 6pm-840pm. I do take a protein shake. Gncs wheybolic protein, before and after i workout. Im taking instant knockout which is supposed to help you cut. But honestly i feel nothing when i take them. And i take muscletechs clear muscle and peak sx-7 before i workout. My question is, whats next? Do i continue? Im def at a calorie defiect. Way under 2000 a day. There are days i do struggle and other i feel awesome. Any help would be great. Thank you.

    • yarg

      Mate, If I were you, i’d start slowly bulking to build more muscle mass and start cutting again after 4-6 months. I’m serious. The more muscle mass you have on you the easier it is to burn fat you got on yourself. And since you’re at 10% weighing 140lbs I’d strongly reconsider my take on this. Start counting calories if you wanna get really serious, and with myfitnesspal or other apps it’s super easy these days. I usually put what I’m gonna have this particular day and then prep food as I look at the food list on there 😀 We’ll see what’s Mike response.

      Or you could slightly increase your calorie intake up to 2200 and see what happens over the course of 4 weeks. You might actually loose some weight, which often happens with reverse dieting.

    • Hey Ricky! Thanks for the info.

      I like your goal. Let’s make it happen.

      Cool on your routine. I recommend doing weightlifting, abs and then cardio.

      Awesome on the food choices. I’m not a fan of the supps, though. Instead, check these out:



      LMK what you think. 🙂

      To help keep the weight moving and get those abs, check these out:



      Hope this helps! LMK what you think. My pleasure!

  • Ariel

    Hi Michael,

    I enjoyed very much reading your article. Perhaps you can answer this question for me. Some info on myself:

    Age: 54 years old
    Height: 5’10
    Weight: 207 pounds
    Body fat: Currently 25.5 %
    TDEE: 2,900

    I just lost 25 pounds in the last 2 months. This is what I have been doing for the last 2 months to lose weight:
    1. I’m have reduced my calories to about 800 per day. On Saturdays I eat about 2,000 calories.
    2. I eat egg whites, yogurt, seitan, broccoli, spinach and salads (lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and red peppers).
    3. I do 15 reps of HIIT on the treadmill or 10 reps on the stationary bike almost every day (60 minutes).
    4. Upper body weights: Started bench pressing 120 pounds and now 220 pounds, 3 sets of 8 reps plus dumbells of 55 pounds, bowflex machine, etc. Serious work out of 60 minutes.

    I feel great, I’m not starving and I’m increasing constantly the intensity and weight of my workout (as you can read above). THE QUESTION: Although my goal is to lose weight until I get to 15% body fat before thinking to bulk, IS THERE A WAY I COULD BE GAINING MUSCLE??? I feel I am!

    • Hey Ariel! Glad you enjoyed my work. 🙂

      Thanks for all the info. Great job on the weight you’ve lost so far!

      Yikes. 800 calories is REALLY low, and I don’t recommend calorie cycling either. I recommend keeping your intake consistent and sticking to a 20-25% deficit. However, you may need to RD first:


      You can build muscle while in a deficit if you’re new to this style of training, but that’s unlikely in that big of a deficit. Check this out:


      If you need to RD go ahead and then let’s set up a meal plan that you stick to daily and see how you do. You can set it up here:



      • Ariel

        Thanks so much for taking the time to answer!!!
        My worry is that if at 800 calories a day I’m losing 2 pounds a week I will not lose much at 20-25% deficit. That would be about 2,200 calories. Perhaps I will lose one pound a week or less and psychologically it’s not very motivating. It will take me close to a year to get rid off the 25 pounds I still need to lose.

        Your comment please.

        • YW! Then it’s time to RD. I definitely don’t recommend staying at such a low intake.

          After the RD, you should be able to eat at a 20-25% deficit and lose 1-2 pound a week.

          What do you think?

          • Ariel

            Awesome info Michael!

            Is there a disadvantage to drop another 10 pounds and then start the RD? I feel great and full of energy at 800-900 calories per day. I run yesterday (HIIT) for 45 minutes at 6 PM and at 11 PM I felt like running again. I’m not suffering or feeling hungry.

            Thanks so much again!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


          • Are you SURE your intake is this low? Are you measuring and tracking everything?

          • Ariel

            I do not track what I eat on Fridays and Saturdays, so I can be over the 2,000 I mentioned. The rest of the days I track everything. I did the same (except weights) 15 years ago and I lost over 40 pounds within a year.

          • Ah okay. I recommend you stick to the 25% deficit intake daily including weekends with a refeed every week or 2 and see how you do.

            If you don’t lose 1-2 pounds a week, it’s time to RD.


  • Chelsea

    Hi Michael, I’m hoping you can give me some advice…

    I started my cut on 3/9 at 130.8 (I am a female, 5’4″, age 20) and as of today, 3/17 I’m 125.5.

    My bulking macros were around 390 C 85 F 130 P and I have been calorie cycling this week (see below)

    Low days – 1 day (rest day) 200C 80F 130P

    Medium days – 4 days 270C 65F 130P

    High days (maintenance) – 2 days 370C 60F 130P

    I bring up to maintenance calories on my heaviest lifting days, but over the course of the week, I’m in an overall deficit. I find this method helps me retain strength best.

    So should I be worried that I dropped nearly 5 pounds in 1 week, or probably just water? My strength has held but then again its only week 1.

    Please let me know if this rate seems fine, or if I should slightly increase. Thank you!!

    • Great job on the weight you’ve lost so far!

      Cool you’ve been calorie cycling and getting results! Typically, I don’t recommend it unless you’re an advanced lifter trying to make slow gains while maintaining BF%. Check this out:


      It’s normal to lose a good bit of weight the first couple weeks due to water and glycogen. After that, it should even out to 1-2 pound a week. If not, adjust intake accordingly.

      Welcome! Talk soon.

  • MC

    Quick question on this, how long are your aggressive cuts?

    • MC

      Versus the slow cut. Some other ladies and I trying to decide which approach to take to cutting and wanted to know the time frames of each cut.

    • Mine are about 4-6 weeks since I generally maintain around 8% BF.

      The time frame totally depends on your starting BF% and body weight. When done properly you should lose 1-2 pounds a week on an aggressive cut.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • William Lim Jr

    Hi Mike,

    I’m about to cut in a couple of months. If I’m coming off bulking with BLS, what would be a good timing to start cutting calories? In the middle of a BLS phase, at the start of a new BLS phase, or during a deload week?

    This is my second cut ever, and I’m excited to use Forge and Phoenix this time around. 🙂


    • Hey Will! As soon as you’re ready to cut, go ahead and start. No need to wait for a phase to finish or a deload week or anything like that.

      Cool you’re going to be using Phoenix and Forge to accelerate your cut! LMK how it goes using them. 🙂

      Welcome! Talk soon.

  • ali

    Hello Mike, thank you so much for the article! I am afraid I am hitting a wall with my weight loss journey, and am hoping you may have some insight. I do 4-5 days a week of circuit weight training with high weights mixed in with cardio. I also do cardio 4 days a week, using the HIIT method, in additional to normal 30-60 minute walks 7 days a week. I am currently on 1200 calories day and have been for a few weeks now, previously on 1500. On my weight training days I burn 2600- 2800 calories a day and on my off days around 2200. I have been on this specific regime since the end of December. I few weeks ago I went in for blood work and was diagnosed with Hypothyroidism and just started on low dosage hormones. I have not lost a single pound through the months I have been working. Though I know hypo has some to do with it, I feel as though with the amount I am exerting I should be seeing weight loss. I have a wedding coming up, and outside of that I just want to be healthy and feel good, it is difficult to not get discouraged. I am 5’3 184 pounds, my macros are 30% protein 30% Fat and 40% Carb. A couple years ago I was 130, the doctors think my weight gain was contributed by stress and the hypo. Thank you so much for any advice you may have!

    Have a good one!

    • ali

      ps I just started your Thinner, Leaner, Stronger book!

    • ali

      OKay your book is helping answer a lot of my questions, great read by the way! If you have any tips outside of the book or based on my specifics let me know. SO far it looks like I should be upping my calories to 1600.

    • Hey Ali! My pleasure.

      Thanks for all the info of what you got going on and the training you’re doing. To help get the weight moving, check this out:


      Congrats on the upcoming wedding! Let’s get you in shape by then. 🙂

      Those reasons for weight gain are possible. Either way, we can get you to your goal with proper training and dieting.

      Welcome! Talk soon.

      • ali

        Great, thank you! I am excited to fine tune my workouts and get to my goals!

  • pauldh

    Boom. Followed this method, 19% bodyfat to 9%. I did the 25% reduction in calories. The only thing that I changed in my schedule was adding 30 minutes of running in the morning. I can’t do HIIT because I’d be wayyyy too tired when getting to work, but it didn’t seem to matter because I was melting fat off in no time.

    Aggressive weight loss rules. It just makes it quicker for me to eat big and lift like a Super Saiyan again. Thanks Mike.

    • Damn! Great job!

      Exactly! My pleasure, man.

      Definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help.

  • Brandon Dedic

    Hey mike I’ve been cutting for a couple weeks and haven’t seen too much progress, especially in my abdominal area.. I suspect I’m around 11-12%. Is it normal for it to take a while at this stage to see more abs?

    • That is a typical stubborn fat area. How much weight are you losing weekly?

      To help with the stubborn fat, check this out:


      LMK what you think.

      • Brandon Dedic

        Weight tends to fluctuate but I’m down about 2 pounds or so in a couple weeks. The problem is I’m at a difficult spot because I’m only 138 pounds at around 5’9. It’s hard for people to understand that I’m trying to cut. I would think I really only have a few pounds more to loose, as I’m a pretty lean person to begin with, I would just like to get closer to that shredded look of having a six pack

  • Kels L.

    Hi there,
    I am a 33 year old female, 5’7, 250lbs. I want to desperately lose weight but there are so many things online these days that it’s hard to tell what actually works. I know I need to start with a deficit, and when I calculate 25% off my TDEE, I get around 1800 cals. I am aiming to workout 5 days per week, 4 days HIIT/strength and one day of a long-ish run (>5miles).

    I guess my question is – with me being so terribly heavy, should I reduce my cals even more? I ordered the Forge pills to help me with energy for my after work workouts, but I know that I need to focus on eating. I started following IF, which is challenging but I think it may work for me.

    Any info or advice you can give would be so helpful, I really do feel lost at this point.

    Thanks so much.

  • David


    Nice job keeping your articles easy to read while providing research-backed guidelines. Keep it up!

    I’m getting married in about 4 months and I’m hoping to get leaner and add some muscle before then. I’m 5’11”, 185lbs and 11% bodyfat. My goal is to cut down to 7-8% and add some muscle in the next few months. I’m thinking I might cut for a month using your tips here, then use calorie cycling for the next 3 months to add mass while staying lean. I’ve been lifting for about 8 years, so I don’t expect to add more than a few pounds of muscle. What would you recommend? Any suggestions or advice would be appreciated! Thanks!

    • Hey David! Thanks!

      Congrats! I like your goal for the wedding. Let’s make it happen.

      Hmm. For fastest results, I’d recommend starting with a bulk. Then, depending on your BF%, you can start cutting 6-8 weeks out from your wedding.


      • David F

        Makes sense! I love food & haven’t had tons of luck with faster cuts before, so I’m a little doubtful of my ability to be disciplined and stick with a cutting plan for up to two months…Since I’m pretty strong, being lean is a bit more important to me than huge gains. (of course both would be great!) That said, if I can get to mid-high single digit BF% without a perfect 2 month cut, bring on the gains! I’m game for whatever you think will be best!

        Any thoughts on a 2-3 week cut up front to get over that mental block? Or get bulking right away?

        Looking forward to hearing your ideas! Thanks!

  • UberMom

    I have been cutting for one month and only lost 2.5 lbs. I was eating around 2400 and doing a 4×10 upper lower split four days a week. Now I am eating 1600 and doing a full body work out two times a week and HIIT two times a week. How can I amp up my weight loss without loosing muscle? I was hoping to loose five pounds in five weeks. I was 120 when I started bulking last fall and hope to cut to 125. I thought is could take a month but at my rate I need to cut for another month as i am now 127.5. I have no clue what my body fat precent is but I know I need to loose a little more fat as I do not have any definition except in my hamstrings and my shoulders.

    • Good job on the weight you’ve lost!

      To help speed up the weight loss you can either reduce your intake or increase your activity level. I recommend increasing your activity level by lifting a few more days a week. You can put together a good 3-5 day routine here:


      Also, to help make sure you continue to lose fat, keep this in mind:


      Hope this helps! My pleasure! Talk soon.

      • UberMom

        Hey thanks for the feedback! I went ahead and lifted yesterday morning with a kettelbell routine. I only eked out 5-3-1 for Turkish get ups at 25lbs, 25 lbs 45 lbs and 5-3-1 for snatches with the same weight. For single leg deads and renegade rows I got ithe full 3×5. Even if I am not working at my fullest potential I will keep tossing in a third workout on Fridays as I am sure the fourty five minutes will contribute to strenght and calories burned.
        So now my next question. When cutting is it best to just focus on regular heavy lifting and not worry about strength gains till eating back at maintanance calories? Lastly does the idea of a cheat day followed by a fast day make any type of sense? Or is it best to just avoid cheat days and have an overall low calorie count?

        • YW! Sounds good on the routine.

          Yep, when cutting, I recommend you focus on the heavy, compound lifts and the goal is to maintain strength.

          I recommend having a refeed every week or two and there’s no need to fast the day after. You can just go back to your normal cutting cals. Check this out:


          LMK what you think!

  • Ross

    Hey Michael! Great information on the article. But im just wondering about the details in cutting. When it comes to reducing body fats by being on a calorie deficits, does these deficits come from carbo, protein or fats? Or is isit an overall balanced reduction of all 3 macros?

  • Stephen Williams

    Hey mike. It’s unfair seeing these bodybuilders who are 240lbs cutting on ridiculous low calories like 1,700 (seriously I know a guy doing this and he continues to get stronger)! How much body fat do you think they can possibly lose a week following this approach while using things like t3 and clen !?

    • Yeah it’s bullshit, haha.

      I’ve heard some pretty ridiculous things in terms of fat loss if the right drugs are involved–upward of 0.5 to 1 pound per DAY, lol.

      That’s not T3 and clen, though–that’s when tren, GH, and DNP are involved and dosed quite high.

  • Akshat Woodhouse Sharma

    Dear Mike,

    I enjoyed this article, and was especially appreciative of the studies you’ve referenced.

    I currently weigh 147 lbs at 5’8″, and appear to be around 12% body fat. It’s an odd 12%: visible cephalic vein, defined shoulders, “wings” across my back, the tricep horseshoe, toned ass…and a baby bump which will not budge. I’ve been ketogenic for about a year now, and I’ve lost 25lbs of grad school stress-eating weight. I’d really like to put on some mass, but I don’t think I am there yet. I worry I’ll pork out again. My current cut has been rough: the first 4 weeks were spectacular, and I lost a good 7 lbs eating between 1550-1600 calories (ketotically) but of late I feel run down, awful and unable to recover. Is it time to eat a carb?



    • Happy to hear it! Glad you appreciated the referencing. 🙂

      Thanks for all the info. I hear you on the bump! To help, check this out:


      Cool you’ve been following a keto diet. Awesome job on the weight you’ve lost following it! To see what I have to say about the keto diet, check this out:


      I get where you’re at. To help continue the weight loss, take a look at this:


      Check out these articles and LMK what you think.


      • Akshat Woodhouse Sharma

        The bit about the impact of a caloric deficit over time is sobering, and an excellent reminder of not losing the forest by focusing on a tree.

        I’ll admit that I stopped lifting for a week, and basically just did HIIT cardio for 30 mins a day, 5 days a week. Worst decision ever: I look and felt flat and deflated. I reintroduced the weights today, and I feel worlds better: more energetic and the pump is confidence-inspiring!

        The key, at this point I think, might be patience and not giving into stress-eating.

        Thank for taking the time to respond to me. I appreciate it immensely.


  • John

    Mike, I’m beyond the newbie stage and have to lose some fat. I guess I have to sacrifice some muscle loss to shift the fat. Regarding low carb diets, they may not result in more fat loss – but you do lose excess water. What’s wrong with losing that?

  • Colby Vlieger

    Mike, I’m 6’3″ 245lbs (app 21% BF) with a TDEE of about 3075. What would you recommend my calories and macros be for a deficit? I’d like to be around 13% BF before I start to put on some serious muscle. I’m a collegiate athlete and lift 4-5 days a week and will be starting to include fasted HIIT 2-3 times a week. Thanks for everything you do. Huge fan!

  • Peter

    Thanks for the article.
    Assuming I have to be in pretty good shape in 4 weeks and I have some pounds to lose, will I lose a noticeable amount of muscle if I go for a pretty high deficit (1200kcal deficit) for the next weeks by eating little but still lifting heavy?
    Only 4 weeks of course.

    • Welcome, Peter! With that big of a deficit, you’ll definitely lose some muscle.

      The lowest I’d recommend going is BMR.

  • Luigi

    Hey Mike! I’m currently 138 lbs at 18-20% body fat. I want to do an aggressive approach to fat loss (2lbs per week) but I’m afraid Im way too light and my calories will be too low. What do you think? Should I go for 1lb/week instead? Thanks!

    • Hey Luigi! Thanks for the info.

      Nah, it’s totally fine. The goal should be to lose 1-2 lbs a week.

      Welcome! Talk soon.

  • Andrew

    Hi Mike. I’ve been stuck at 12-13% body fat for about two months now. I’m 5″9 167 lbs and would like to lose some more weight before I try to put on mass. Should I go for a 20% or a 25% deficit and how long should I cut before it starts to get unhealthy?

  • Alex

    Hi Mike,

    Thanks again for another great article! I’ve just bought your ‘Thinner, Leaner, Stronger’ book and can’t believe after months of research how much I’ve learnt from just the first 20 pages. With so much conflicting information and pseudoscience out there, I’m so glad I found you and your work =).

    I’ve got a couple of questions on the above article and wanted to ask for your help if I may as I really want to get this right…

    I’m a 26 year old female, 112 lbs, 5ft 3, around 22-23% bf and I’m planning to do the TLS lifting workouts 4 times a week (with some HIIT and steady state cardio thrown in too).

    I’ve got some ridiculously stubborn fat/cellulite around my buttocks/upper thighs, and what I’m aiming for is to become lean and strong whilst still maintaining my curves. On the body fat % chart you kindly put up, I’m looking toward the 17-18% mark.

    Based on the macronutrient calculator, my BMR is 1227 and TDEE is 1657.
    But if I go into a fairly aggressive deficit e.g. 20%, that’s going to take me to 1326 cals.
    Is that the right way for me to go about it, or should I put myself in a tamer deficit?
    I’m not entirely sure I could get through an intense lifting or HIIT workout on so few calories!

    You also mentioned drinking calories and how you perhaps wouldn’t advocate protein shakes as much when losing fat (apologies if I’ve misread). Once again, on so few calories I don’t know if I can cram so much protein in without shakes.

    I’m also confused with the whole bulking/cutting and where my goals sit around that.
    If you could offer guidance to get me started (and I’ll of course keep reading your book) I’d be really grateful!

    Thank you =).

    • Hey Alex! My pleasure! Thanks for picking up TLS. I’m glad you found the book too. 🙂

      NP! Thanks for all the info.

      20% is a good deficit to start with. Let’s do it and see how you do. We can always adjust it based off results.

      It’s totally fine to have protein shakes and they certainly are helpful for reaching your protein intake goal without exploding your other macros, but if you have difficulty with hunger, I recommend you stick to wholefoods as much as possible to make you feel more full.

      To help clear up the whole cutting bulking thing, check this out:


      Hope this helps. My pleasure! LMK what you think.

  • Anthony Guillen

    Mike, been a fan of yours for years and your approach and programs have done wonders for me. I came across an article regarding rapid weight loss and the issues people have with gaining the weight back due to slowing metabolism. You address it here in this article under #1, and you give guideline for what kind of calorie deficit we should be looking at, but not how long exactly we should (and shouldn’t) go at it for. I’m currently at about 18-20% body fat and want to get down to 10-12% before summer is out. I don’t think I can get there in 6 weeks. Is it ok to keep at it for 12 weeks straight, or should I break it up? Here is the article, btw, which also references a study you might add to your repertoire: http://www.usmagazine.com/celebrity-body/news/biggest-loser-study-examines-why-contestants-gain-back-weight-w204789

    • Hey Anthony! I cam across this article myself. 🙂

      You can cut as long as you need until you reach your goal or until you reach BMR and aren’t getting results. At that point, it’s time to RD:


      Hope this helps. LMK what you think.

  • Naveen

    Hi Mike,

    Your articles and guidelines have often helped me immensely in my workouts, and have also permitted me to look at bodybuilding from your perspective.

    I am currently bulking and might reach my desired weight by the end of the month. My current BF% is approximately 22%, and plan on bringing it down to 10%-15% in the space 1-2 months (during my cutting phase), is it feasible? Since I have large reduction to make, I fear prolonging my cutting phase may potentially cause me to sustain muscle loss. Although I do understand bodybuilding is highly an individual thing as various factors come into play, I believe your advice can substantially aid me in reaching my goal.


    • Hey hey! Happy to hear it!

      Cool you’re bulking. Good call on getting your BF% down. I recommend getting to 10-12% BF. Depending on your starting weight, BF%, how well you diet, etc. it’ll most likely take longer than 4-8 weeks.

      Don’t worry about the muscle loss. If you cut correctly, it won’t be an issue. Check this out:


      Hope this helps! LMK what you think.

      • Naveen

        Yeah I reckon to get my BF lower as well. And great article, thanks.

        But just another question, my weight is 70kg, and I have to cut approximately 7kg to bring my BF% to that ideal range that you recommended, do you still think it’s likely for me to take more than 8 weeks to attain that goal? Just again looking for your opinion. Thanks

  • Jason

    Him Mike,

    I was on the goal of bulking for the last week until I found your website. I’m around 15% body fat and you recommend that you should cut to 10% before bulking. I m 139 pounds I took my tdee and did a 20% decrease which comes out to around 1630 calories which seems quite low? If this amount of calories is correct how many weeks should I stay at a 20% deficit, or should I just run it till I get to 10% body fat then start lean bulking after ?


    • Hey Jason! Yep, you should cut! Hmm. Let’s make sure that’s right. Check this out:


      I recommend you keep cutting until you reach 10% BF. You’ll probably need to lower the intake as fat loss stalls. So, stick to the intake until you stop getting results with it. Then lower intake and continue cutting. Repeat this until you reach 10% BF or until you get down to BMR and haven’t reached 10% BF but aren’t losing any weight. At that point, you need to RD:


      Yep, once you reach 10% BF, you can RD into a bulk.

      LMK what you think! Welcome.

  • Hao

    Hey Mike,

    I’m in the process of cutting down to 10% body fat…I’ve been going back and forth with this skinny fat problem but i’ve finally settled on lifting heavy weights and staying in a deficit until im nice and lean…even if its a lean 135lbs…it’ll be a good starting point for some real gains. Anyways since i started tracking my lifts, ive been able to add weight each session 2.5-5lbs depending on the lifts. Im trying to stay in the 5 rep range and my two main questions are:

    1.) Would you recommend not going up in weight until i hit 5 reps?

    2.) If i am unable to get more reps than i did the following week, is it okay to add another set of a lighter weight to increase volume? I’ve been doing that because ive been used to these consistent strength gains and when i cant beat last weeks numbers on a certain set i feel discouraged and think that adding more volume is necessary…

    i’ve noticed a decent amount of belly fat reduction but this morning was the first time i wasnt able to do another rep or add more weight and it was just a bit discouraging thats all..

    • Hey hey! Cool you’re cutting to 10% BF!

      Glad you decided to get lean first. And exactly, it’s a good starting point so you can bulk for longer hence build more muscle.

      Awesome you’ve been able to add weight each week. That’s great!

      1. I recommend you focus on the 4-6 rep range so in terms of weight progression, you should stick with the same weight until you’re able to get 6 reps. Once you can get 6 reps, go up in weight.

      2. Nah, there’s no need to add volume, if there isn’t an increase. Unless you’re new to this style of training, it’s normal to not have such rapid progress. Especially while cutting. When cutting you should be happy maintaining strength!

      Just stick to the proper training and dieting and pushing hard on your workouts. But remember, the focus right now is getting lean. Once you’re lean enough to bulk, we’ll focus on gaining muscle and strength.


      • Hao

        Thanks for the information, i’ll definitely apply that knowledge to my workouts from here on out. I always figured if total volume wasnt more than the last session then it was just a waste of a workout, but i guess on a cut the primary goal is fat loss. I just cling to the idea that i can make strength gains while losing fat because there’s some part of me that thinks i haven’t achieved my ‘newbie gains’…how do you really know anyway? I figured if i have to ask that question maybe i haven’t gone through the newbie gains phase, because ive never really lifted heavy and focused on compound movements as i am now, and ive always been skinny, never weighed more than 150 at 5’8″. Im definitely going to keep sticking to it, getting leaner is really good motivation and is like extra fuel to keep propelling me on this journey.

        Thanks again

        • YW! Nope, you’re good. 🙂

          It’s tough to say exactly on the newbie gains. They typically last 6-12 months. I can say, if you haven’t trained like this in the past (focusing on the heavy, compound lifts) you should definitely have some newbie gains to look forward to!

          Sounds good! Definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help.

          My pleasure!

          • Hao


            It’s been about 3 weeks since i’ve been eating at a deficit, and it seems like weight loss is slowing down/not happening. I went from 143 >> 138 pretty easily, but i dont know if thats just water weight? Most of my fat is belly fat…My abs show but i have to flex hard and it looks better in good lighting and in the morning…my main concern is going any lower in calories…im eating at 1500 on rest days and on gym days i usually go around 1800-2000 depending on how tough the workout was. I haven’t lost any strength or reps in the gym. I have been incorporating some HIIT stuff on weekends like sprinting and even low intensity stuff like an hour long walk some days just to relax and try to lower stress. Usually my face gets slimmer too when i lose fat and that doesnt seem to be happening. I worry going under 1500 is just too low. What do you recommend at this point?

            Thank you,

          • I hear you. To help get the weight moving again, check this out:


            There is some initial weight loss due to water and glycogen, but I’m sure there was fat lost as well.

            To help particularly with the belly fat, take a look at this:


            That’s totally normal to have more definition in the morning and with good lighting, haha.

            I understand your concerns. Check out those articles and LMK what you think.


          • Hao

            Cool. Since i wrote you, i picked up a bottle of FORGE and so far im loving it. I can feel the focus in the gym and after a week of use it feels like im leaner…ever so slightly but still! I follow the leangains protocol and i train fasted early in the morning and i really dig this as an alternative to the BCAA’s i was taking. My eating window is from 1-9PM so i continue my fast hours after i train (5:45-7AM). At first, i always worried that waiting that long after training to have a meal was detrimental, but i havent lost any strength and i still hit my macros in that eating window ..and now with FORGE it’s even better. I break up the dose and take 3 pills before training and two after to tide me over until i break my fast. I usually go for a few short walks as well before my first meal to try to get some activity in so the yohimibine can work its magic =)

            In terms of reverse dieting, do you recommend eating at a slight surplus on rest days and continuing an aggressive deficit on rest days, would that be essentially small, contained reverse diet cycles?

            Lastly, i’ll mention that after a few weeks making no weight loss, i cut carbs drastically and consumed higher fats…after that got me nowhere i started going for about 250c on training days and i feel great. Sleeping better, i actually was a tad lighter on the scale this morning after stuffing myself with potatoes, two bowls of kashi golean crunch, and a couple of rice cakes…leangains followers usually employ a macro cycling method of low fat/high carb training days and higher fat/low carb rest days, have you tried this and what are your thoughts there?

            As always, thanks Mike. Appreciate all you do man!


          • Hey Hao,

            That’s great man! Glad to hear it’s working out for you.

            For reverse dieting, check this out:

            I’ve tried carb cycling before, and tbh, it was OK. Much prefer traditional diet. Not that it’s bad or anything:


            Hope that helps.

  • Christopher Camden

    Hi Mike,

    I have a unique situation. I’m a student but I work full-time in the summers, which only affords me 2 days a week to lift from June through August. I’ll also be starting a cut in June. I’ve had this same set-up for the last several years and I normally do a slow cut from June through August. It has worked relatively well in the past but I’m always seeking to improve my results. For reference, I’ve been lifting for about 3.5 years and I’m 5’11, 185 lbs, realistic estimate of 15-17% BF. I figure I’ll have to lose about 15 lbs to get to 10%, which is my approximate goal.

    That being said, would you still recommend rapid fat loss to someone like me? I’m only hesitant because I’m not sure if I want to resume bulking in August, where I’ll only be able to lift twice a week. I’d like to hear your thoughts on the matter though.


  • Reece

    Hey Mike,
    What are your thoughts on intermittent fasting as a way to drop body fat over a 6week period? (Essentially starving myself all day, drinking black coffee to kill hunger, train at around 6:30pm and then demolish between 1500-2500 calories of super clean protein, vegetables and restricting carbs to sweet potato and brown rice after lifting)
    My aim is to get a little bit shredded for a 1mth holiday starting in late July. This is for no other reason than to make my Aussie rig look good while I’m enjoying 30 days of European summertime. Purely for aesthetics, nothing more, nothing less.
    I am not concerned with a minor drop in strength or overall muscle mass. I bulk easily (because I’m a short-arse!) so I’ll sort that out afterwards.
    Any thoughts will be much appreciated!!!

  • Nital

    Hey Mike, I’ve been cutting for 3 weeks now and noticing some lean muscle. Still a while to go. I’ve been following TLS since Jan and got the meal plan for a cut and started it 3 weeks ago. When going back to Maintain calories, how do you do it? Slowly add more calories or go straight to it? I’ve managed to keep my strength for the last 3 weeks too which I was scared I wouldn’t do. It is a lot harder though to increase any weight. Thanks for the book! I recommend any woman follow this. I spent years fannying around with different routines but this has been the best for a Thinner leaner stronger body! Nital 🙂

  • Dustin

    Hi Mike,

    Question on your methodology/explanation for cutting/bulking

    Cutting with fasted cardio/resistance – Since the energy expenditure is what you’re really looking at, fasted cardio/yohimbine simply helps burn stubborn body fat is what I get out of your teachings. So basically, you just burn belly/hip fast more in the beginning than usual, instead of this just being the last fat to go? Is this basically all?

    Bulking – Since you can’t build that much muscle while cutting, but you can while bulking, is this to say that your body just isn’t building muscle to its full potential during a cut? Since you’re still lifting heavy during a cut, your body just build them up bigger/better with more calories?

  • Ryan Jackson

    Hi Mike, what should one do if they are cutting, their calories are at their BMR, they are doing HIIT 2 hours + regular heavy lifting a week and their weigh loss plateaus?

    • Hey Ryan,

      Assuming all intake is accounted for and you have gone through this article:


      Then reverse diet to your new TDEE, stay there for a week or two, then cut again:


      • Plzstyclm

        Hi Roger (or Mike), just a follow-up to the above, as I’m about at the same point (weight loss hasn’t plateaued yet), but anticipating the eventual slow down.

        After reversing up to the new TDEE to stabilize for a couple weeks (estimated at 1887), my 20% cutting macros at that point will put me back below BMR (1509). Will the fat loss continue at that point? (I’m still at about 17-18% body fat, maybe closer to 19% for margin of error).

        For reference, I’m eating at exactly 1500 now as that’s my previous 22% calc, and fat loss is about 1.2-1.5 lbs per week (feeling good). I notice with the calculations, the window between BMR and TDEE is narrowing more and more.

        If I need to reverse diet and cut back and forth until I hit 10% bf, is that alright? I have zero problem with hunger pangs, what’s more important to me is results.


        • In that case, increase your activity. Doing so will increase your TDEE, and increase your cutting calories above BMR.

          You’ll only need to reverse diet once you reach your goal or you are no longer losing weight at BMR despite packing in all the activity you can muster during the week.

          • Plzstyclm

            Really appreciate you taking the time, Mike! Will definitely work in more activity.

            Only reason I’m asking this is I’m starting week 12 in a couple days, and I’m still at 17-18% and not sure if the fat loss will plateau before getting to 10 (though I’d be fine not having to reverse diet).

            I might be able to go uninterrupted if I can add in more activity to keep myself going while at BMR, like you said. Brilliant!

            Just trying to prepare in case it happens. Thanks!

          • Any time! Happy to help. LMK how it goes.

  • Guest

    Great article. I’ve been trying to gain weight since the start of the year, and gone from 130 to 145lb. I still feel pretty skinny, but would it still make sense to go on a 20-25% deficit for a few weeks if almost all of the 2-4lbs lost will be fat?

  • Nat

    Hey Mike

    Awesome article and would like your expertise…

    I heavily track all of my daily calories and have been losing 1lb per week for 7 straight weeks, and still counting. Also, I use the Polar FT7 heart rate chest strap and watch everyday I workout, and track how much calories I burn.

    My question is… my TDEE is 2,400 calories and according to the heart rate monitor, I burn approximately on average at least 1,000 calories per day, maybe more.

    So, if I take into account my BMR (approx. 1,800 calories) and the calories I burn everyday through weight lifting and cardio (approx. 1,000 calories), for a total of 2,800 – 3,000 calories burned daily. Can I still consume 2,400 calories a day without a deficit to continue to lose weight or do I still need to continue with my -25% calorie deficit?

    I’m just thinking of other ways to continue to lose fat, while being able to eat more food, especially being on my 8th week on a deficit.

    Appreciate any wisdom you can provide.

    – Nat

    • Stephen Williams

      If you’re losing a lb per week then you sound like you’re in a good place. If you then increase those calories then your weight loss will slow down or stop altogether. By the sound of it you should carry on as you are, or if you really want to eat more increase your activity level! Obviously if you increase your activity level make sure that you do not begin to overtrain. If you’re really starting to struggle with hunger and low energy then consider eating at maintenance for a week or so until you feel sane again. It will then enable you to go back into a deficit without feeling so run down.

    • Hi Nat, Stephen nails it on the head. You’re on the right track and eating more would take you away from steady progress.

      Continue with the deficit and consider increasing your activity to allow for slightly more calories. Use this calculator to set your targets:


      • Nat

        Awesome. Thanks to Stephen and you as well. Will continue with the deficit.

        As a side note that I’ve been trying to wrap my head around and can’t stop thinking about it. If I just add my BMR and the calories burned via my heart rate monitor, is that a good indicator as to my total expenditure (calories burned)? And if so, cani use with that number to subtract from my consumption? I’ll still be in a deficit since I don’t eat that much.

        – Nat

  • Trevor

    This article gives me confidence to face the hard part of cutting; to not follow another clever avoidance strategy to discomfort. It’s too easy to find every last excuse to do anything BUT create a significant calorie deficit.

  • iJutsu .

    Hey Mike
    I lift 3 times a week, on a Protein Diet and BCAA during every training (No Whey).
    I hoped that the muscle will eventually burn my fat, but along with Muscle I also seem to gain Fat.
    I mostly sit cuz of study, so I thought perhaps I don’t move enough during the days which may slow down my metabolism somehow.
    Do you think adding two morning fasted runs may help?
    And if I’ll drink some BCAA before my runs would it stop Catabolism?
    and should I eat right after the Run, or wait some time?

    • The key to dropping fat is a negative energy balance, meaning you eat less than you burn. Reduce your cals and you will see fat dropping.

      Fasted HIIT would help as well. You can take BCAA to stop catabolism, and it’s okay to eat right after.

      • iJutsu .

        Thanks for the reply, ok I’ll try that.

  • Paul Drummond

    Hey Mike! I would like to know if using fat burning supplements while intermittent fasting will interfere with the health benefits of IF such as increased hgh levels?

  • Lex BK

    Hey Mike! Really loved the article man, but I got a question or two.
    I have had maintained a really unhealthy lifestyle; alot of proteins and alot of fats and carbs too, worked out every single day, more like bulked up, got 18 inches arms, which I think is enough, but also I gained some belly fat, due to the fact that I dislocated my knee 4 times and got way too lazy with the cardio. But now I’m trying to get back in shape, and I know jack shit about cutting, as in, what kind of workouts should I use, what kind of food should I eat, etc. A friend of mine told me to eat 5 times a day, and have grilled chicken each time “????”, and as for the exercises, drop sets are my best friend. What do you think? If I got my head into it I’d do anything I just need something with actual results not bs, thanks!

  • Makenzie

    Thanks for this. I have been on a slow cut because I thought that was the smart way to go. I have felt like I have been spinning my wheels with very little reward. After four weeks, I’ve seen a difference, but it’s been very slight. At this rate, it was going to take 6 months to reach my goal. I’m glad I found this article and a video that basically said the same thing as you. I’ll be readjusting my deficit after my next weigh in.

  • Thomas Ktwentyone

    I’m 6′ even, 217lbs, ~15% BF, at the gym 5-6 times per week. At the early stages of advanced lifting I’d say. My question, does your cut answers change in any way for those who use steroids? All the advice is typically geared for nattys, which I’m not.

    Once I hit 220, I plan to switch to the cut phase in my cycle, and apply the 25% below TDEE that you suggested – combined with IF twice per week, and also do some fasting cardio (rowing) those two mornings. Goal being to hit 10% BF – so drop about 10lbs of fat. Is a pound per week the expectation, or can I be even more aggressive? That still makes it a 2.5 month cut – too much in one bite? I’m not planning on using Clen or anything crazy like DNP – I’m warm enough as it is.

    (that isn’t me in the avatar btw – that’s to mock non-gymgoers)

    • Yeah the basics are still the same, natty or not.

      You could just get away with a larger deficit without losing muscle and, depending on the drugs you’re taking, your metabolism may be better geared (har har) for fat loss.

      All in all your plan sounds reasonable–moderately aggressive deficit, high pro, fasted training, etc.

      LMK how it goes.

  • Clay Minnick

    Hey Mike. I’m 20 years old. My body is a lot like yours after your 6 years of improper training. My chest not quite as full but my bodyfat not quite as high (roughly 11-12%). I want to emulate you as much as I can because I really look up to you as I’ve seen some progress over the last couple years from the typical bodybuilding programs but nothing compared to the size and strength gains I’m seeing now while following the beyond bigger leaner stronger program. I hate the thought of having to put the muscle gains on hold to do a cut but what course of action would you reccommend I take to make the most size gains but get much more aesthetic. Cut down to a certain % and then bulk again or bulk to much fatter 16-17% and then cut as you had mentioned?. I want to do everything like you and see the big changes as you did in the following 2 and 3 years. I have also talked to my friend who is much more cut than I am and has more muscle and he has always done the arnold programs (rediculous amount of volume) and that has confused me as to how he has made such good gains being natty like me. He was working out hard and made the biggest gains eating a lot and never took rest days and stayed leaner than I am. But I’m still convinced you are the way to go. Show me the way Mike! Thanks! Maybe some day I’ll be part of the team!

    • Clay Minnick

      Mike I also just watched your interview with Rippetoe, I find it hard to think you weren’t laughing a bit inside when he pushed drinking a gallon of (whole) milk per day. I think its fair to say he really isn’t concerned at all with aesthetics like you and I. I’m believing in you and how you explain the 10% surplus over tdee for bulking is just as effective as a 30% surplus

      • Hahah yeah he has made that clear. He thinks abs are for neurotic narcissists and is only concerned with getting big and strong.

        • Clay Minnick

          Mike thanks so much for taking the time to reply, its an honor getting to speak with you. Is there any where that I could contact you privately and ask you deeper workout questions and possibly career questions in the fitness industry? I’m 20 so between bodybuilding and my education I have a lot of goals and questions. Thanks so much man

          • No problem at all, Clay. Shoot me an email:
            mike at muscle for life dot com

    • Hey Clay, a Cut/Bulk cycle is the most effective way. Cut to 10, bulk to 15-17%, cut back down, and repeat. Depending on training history, duration, and nutrition, a lot can explain the differences between you and your friend. Be consistent with BLS and nutrition, and you’ll do great!

  • Bobo525

    I love your articles and TLS has completely changed the way I work out and my body. I am in my final two weeks before my bikini competition. While most areas came along quite nicely, I am still storing a disproportionate amount of fat in my lower butt area despite having continued to lift as heavy as possible during my cut and throwing in extra glute and ham work. I know I can’t completely transform my butt in the next two weeks, but any advice on how I can trim this down as much as possible in the next two weeks? As of right now I’m doing fasted hiit + forge every morning plus my usual lifting routines that involve lots of heavy compound lifts. I know there is no “glute-Ham” muscle and i’m already in a moderately aggressive deficit, but any advice to reduce this area would be greatly appreciated!

    • Hey,

      That’s awesome you’re competing and have gotten a lot out of TLS. For your trouble area, It’ll reduce slowly over time as you continue to cut.

  • Junqi Chen

    If you eat high carb and high protein, how could you possibly lower the calorie intake?? This doesn’t make sense to me.

    • Easy! It’s a matter of ratios. For example, you could eat 3000 calories with a 40-40-20 macro split or 1400 calories with the same split.

    • Bonnie

      well you simply lower your usual fat macros to accommodate for the higher carb/protein ratios 🙂

  • joshuanunnaley

    i am 280 lbs 39 percent boy fat.i want to get lose atleast 20-30 lbs in 2 months..i do a hour on the treadmill at 5mph..and i workout heavy weights..can i eat 2000 or 1700 calories

  • Elle

    I own TLS but I have 100 pounds to lose. Is it suggested to lose the weight first by some other means and then move over to TLS? Or lose weight while doing TLS? I am ready to lose the weight but want to lose it efficiently and healthfully. I am a 40 year old female. Look forward to your reply.

    • Hey Elle, that’s great you picked up a copy of the book. You can jump right into TLS without issue, and with great results.

  • Todd

    Hey Mike! I’m 19 and 227lbs at about 26% body fat and completely new to weightlifting. Would you recommend I go on a cutting diet, as per your book, or would a bulking or maintenance diet be better for me to try get those newbie gains? You mention in BLS that beginners with a bit of fat can gain muscle and lose fat simultaneously so I’m not too sure. Loved the book by the way!

    • Todd, I strongly recommend that you cut. You will definitely put on muscle while losing fat since you’re totally new to weightlifting and this style of training.

      Glad to hear you loved the book!

      • Todd

        Thanks so much mate. Typing up a cutting spreadsheet now.

  • Francisco Velasquez

    If you’re inconsistent wity your cut (slip ups) making it “slow” as a consequence should you still extend a cut to desired BF levels? Would his cause any harm to mental or physical function?

  • pauldh

    Hey Mike, two questions here. If one looks through all the popular forums and articles about exercise, the phrase “don’t lose more than 1-2 pounds per week or you will say goodbye to your muscles” is seemingly everywhere. Then, if you look a little more, other articles (including medical ones) say that you should cut 500 calories to lose 1 pound per week and 1000 for 2.


    1.) Is 2 pounds of fat loss per week still healthy and okay for us bodybuilders? I’m at 17% bodyfat, 5’10, 164LBM and to get to 10% I need to lose roughly about 17lbs – so it’d be awesome if I could get there in 8 weeks rather than a whopping 16 weeks..

    2.) In the study you mentioned, they ate at a 750 calorie deficit or 24-25% TDEE cut, but they only lost 4 pounds in 4 weeks. Shouldn’t they have lost about 6 because at 750, you lose 1.5lbs per week?

    • At 17%, 2lbs a week isn’t unreasonable. Once you get down to about 15%, then 1lb/week is a “safer” target.

      How much you lose also really depends on activity and your starting point. Someone with more fat to lose will drop more lbs compared to someone leaner.

  • Kyle

    Hey, I haven’t seen anybody else ask this — but while cutting, is it okay for the stomach to growl (due to eating on a deficit)? Maybe just a little?

    • Hunger and hunger pangs are pretty normal 🙁 What you can do is drink more water, eat more fiber, and eat foods with higher fluid content. You can also space out your meals if it fits your schedule. That should help a bit.

      • Kyle

        Thanks Roger, that does help. I never feel hungry on this diet, even when my stomach growls. It was mostly short-term and used to be only during sleep (and random times of day, only for a minute or two), but hasn’t occurred over the last two weeks.

        I just wasn’t sure if it’s a good idea to leave alone a growling stomach during sleep (i.e., fasted state — burn fat faster?), or is it better to eat asap when the stomach growls?

        • No problem! That’s awesome you don’t feel hungry on a cut. Growling is okay. Plus, you don’t want to go over your macro targets anyway. If it’s bothering your sleep, you can rearrange your meal plan to include a slow-digesting protein like casein or egg protein before bed.

          • Kyle

            Sorry it took me 11 days to reply (usually it’s hours, a day or two for me).

            Great advice on rearranging my meal plan to include a slow-digesting protein before bed. Also, I hadn’t realized that I wasn’t supposed to go above my macro targets. I’m on a 25% deficit, and thought that any higher (aka eating below my macros) would mean getting closer to starvation?

            My daily meals consist of lots of fiber (veggies, fruits), plenty of water as per your original suggestion while being within no more than 50 calories above my calorie target (grams of macros give/take, close as possible to my macro reqs).

            That could be why I don’t feel hungry. It’s like I know my body needs food (such as when my stomach growls), but I do not experience any cravings (aka feeling hungry). Same experience for you?

          • Kyle

            It seems like Disqus gets plenty of false positives. My comments have have been “detected as spam” just for trying to edit a few times.

            So they don’t appear here, like they should.

          • Aw man. Sorry to hear that, Kyle. How much are we missing?

          • Kyle

            I was exhausted a few days ago, which caused the multiple edits in a single post. Anyway, I’m not gonna repeat the exact same words in case Disquis spam detector misbehaves.

            But in a nutshell, I said great advice and I hadn’t realized I shouldn’t go above my macro targets. Then I asked this: I’m on a 25% TDEE deficit. In a 25% deficit, is it better to stay above my macro targets since staying below macro targets on a 25% deficit might result in getting closer to starvation?

          • Stay between 20-25% below TDEE for a weight loss deficit. Going over a little on your 25% deficit macro targets is better than going under, which could bring you below BMR, depending on your numbers.

          • Kyle

            I appreciate the clarification! Staying between 20-25% below TDEE (when going below or above macro targets) for a weight loss deficit sounds like a solid plan.

  • Andrew

    I started lifting using the BLS program four weeks ago and started seriously cutting around the same time using the formula in the BLS book. I was 175lb at around 25.5% body fat; I’m down to 168 at 22% body fat. I’m shooting for target calories/macros based on the weight when I started. Would I adjust my daily intake down as I continue losing weight. Worried about losing too much muscle mass, even though I’m taking care to get enough protein.

    • Hey Andrew, that’s great! Adjust your calories by dropping your carbs 25g when weight loss stalls. However, your first option should be to increase your exercise activity before you do that.

  • DVR

    I do a low carb day on Sundays and I usually lose 1.5-2lbs. Yesterday, I lost 3lbs to 182lbs. I weigh myself same time everyday. Impossible, right? But, it’s consistent, every time. Means my TDEE is 9k+ calories, but I typically eat only 3,600 calories on other days and slowly gain weight over the week. What’s going on??

    • You eat over 9000 calories a day? Because TDEE is your daily maintenance cals.

      Losing water weight is pretty normal.

      • DVR

        No, I eat 3.6k/day except on Sunday I eat about 1.6k. I’m saying that to lose 3 lbs = 9,000 calories because 1lb = 3k calories. So, must’ve burned 9,000 calories that day. This might be a dumb question, but I drank more water than usual this past sunday, about .75 gallons so it couldn’t be water weight right?

  • Walks

    Hello, any time , i try to do a 500 calorie deficit, my eyes end up going deep into my socket and i end up looking really tired and sick like i haven’t slept in days, even though i am just fine.
    And eating more for a few days fixes that.
    So how can i avoid this if i want to hit a proper defecit?
    If im already lean around 10%-12% should i cut more slowly?

  • Cypher19

    Hi Mike,
    I’ve been cutting for a week-and-a-half and have lost five pounds already. I would imagine this is mostly water weight (I’ve had to sacrifice a lot of carbs to reach my protein macros) but at what point should I be worried about the rate of my cut and start to edge my calories up?

    Thanks a bunch for writing these articles and replying to everyone’s comments. You da MVP.

  • Noah Papafagos

    OMG!! Mike saves my life again! I just gained 30 pounds over the last 6 months and I wanted to start my first cut this week, I was planning on cutting all the way through fall!! Every sentence I read in this article was followed by a “No way!” or a “gasp!” hahah. I’m so surprised with this article thanks so much Mike for setting me straight!

  • Kalin Stoev

    Greetings Mike ! I want to ask you , aren’t you going to burn muscle as natural bodybuilder if you do hiit cardio ?

  • Suzy

    Hi Mike, I am a 44 yr female at 5′ 4″, 105 lbs and 20% body fat. At gym 5-6 days week lifting lightly, and doing cardio also. B/c I have a small frame, I’m conflicted about whether to lose body fat as you mentioned at this percentage, or to bulk up. Having a hard time gaining muscle, but don’t want to gain fat as well, (as you also mentioned in the article.) Any suggestions?

  • sean_noonan

    Hey so I just finished my bulk at 5000 calories and around 15 percent body fat but the calculator said to drop intake down to 2100. Its just I’m really hesitant about dropping calories down to low 2000’s especially when I was at 5000. I dropped to 3000 for now with 1.2g protein per pound of body weight 20% fat and the rest carbs. Would you recommend to give this a try for a bit and take off calories if I don’t lose weight or is 5000 to 2100 a normal drop? Not sarcasm at all. I just wanna do the cut properly so I can go back to bulking soon. Also thanks for always replying quickly.

  • Marilyn Sauceda

    Hi Mike. I’m 55 YOF at 5’3″ 145 (down from 178) but 26-27% body fat. I do the elliptical at home 3-4 x week x 45 mins/low intensity. I sometimes walk on my treadmill at home. Both these forms of exercise I enjoy and find relaxing- so I’m also more inclined to continue bc I like them. I just started some weights at the gym- mainly leg press, leg curls and extensions, free weights for arms. MFP macros 46 protein/40% fat/15% carbs and calorie goal 1041. My questions- I find a lot of confusing info on the internet about losing body fat so you can see the muscles underneath! How is the best (safest) way to get the body fat percentage down when you’re not super fit and 55. My ultimate goal is a healthy weight and fit with some definition.

  • Dave Rosati

    Hi Mike,

    I just finished an 8-week cut following all the principles you suggest (lifting heavy, high protein, 20-25% caloric deficit, HIIT cardio, etc.). The cut was moderately successful but not as successful as I’d have liked, and I wanted to stop as I had set a date to stop and don’t like to go longer than 8 weeks. I’m now reverse dieting out of it and will try to bulk (and enjoy myself!) over the winter.

    I think the mistake I made on this cut was coming out too aggressive from the start. Right from the beginning I started out with a 25% deficit, 5 hours of weightlifting a week and 1.5 hours of HIIT per week. When I inevitably plateaued after about 4 weeks, I didn’t really have anywhere to go. I ended up dropping my calories down to about a 30% deficit for the remainder of the cut, which I’m now paying for with what will be a particularly long reverse diet.

    I’m just looking for some tips on how to do it better next time (in the spring) while at the same time following your suggestion in this article of being aggressive and not slow-cutting. I would like to keep my next cut to 8 weeks again.

    My plan was to start out with a 20% deficit, maintain my weightlifting at 5 hours per week (which won’t change over the next few months anyway) and only one 25 minute HIIT session per week. I would then slowly add HIIT sessions every few weeks (as needed based on progress) until I max them out at 1.5 hours again. At that point I would then start increasing my deficit week by week as needed based on progress until the cut is over, not exceeding 30% again like last time.

    Does that sound like a plan or am I not being aggressive enough at the beginning? While I like this plan in that it gives me “somewhere to go” when I hit plateaus and keeps my caloric intake maximized for as long as possible, I am concerned that the more gradual approach will give my body more of a chance for metabolic adaptation/downregulation.

  • jureeee

    hi i just want to ask about that 20% less intake
    if regular 2000 calories intake is normal for maintaining weight does that mean i have to eat like 1600 combined with gym and hiit or just eat 2000 like usually and do gym and hiit?

    • Hey hey! Say you’re exercising already and need 2000 to maintain. To lose weight consistently with a 20% deficit, that would be 1600 cals.

  • Mark jones

    Hi mike,
    Do you start out with the a 20% deficit. I’m coming to the end of a bulk I am about 16% body fat. I’m eating around 3200 for bulking. And on your calculator it says to cut on something like 2100 I was a bit unsure if I cut those calories straight away on not hope this makes sense haha

    • Hey Mark! When you’re ready to cut, drop straight into a 20% deficit from TDEE.

  • Filippo Rossi

    Hi Mike

    I am 50 and started BLS in august with a 21BF. I started cutting in half september and I am now 17BF. Recently, it has been harder mentally…plus my muscle mass looks flat at 60kg, while strenghts is going up and weight/reps are up well. I really look forward at starting my bulk, but shall I get to 10BF before starting? This will take me 6 additional months of cutting, which looks forever. 🙁
    What do you suggest me to do to start the bulk sooner, lets say in 3/4 months?



    • Hey Filippo, nice work with the cut! It won’t take another 6 months. You can reach 10% in 3-4. I recommend hitting 10%. This is ideal for several reasons: it preserves insulin sensitivity and hormonal balance, it allows you to maintain a calorie surplus for many months before having to reduce body fat levels, and it saves you from long, grueling cuts.

  • Brandon Stith

    Just want to share my personal experience. I respect your advice and agree that a 40p/40c/20f with a 20% deficit may work very well for a lot of people but it wasn’t that great for me. After months of trying to cut down body fat from about 15% to 10% I went from 210 to 175 which is great but I lost a ton of lean mass along the way, despite always being in the gym lifting heavy and following well devised training programs. Also I just looked almost sickly…mirror test did not check out. After trying to gain muscle mass again I found myself at 190lbs with about 160lbs of lean mass. Then I discovered Keto (20p/5c/75f) which I know you say is inferior to a high carb cut. The Ketogenic diet has changed my life. I have never cut so fast (especially at 2200 calories) and had such wonderful results before. I’m down to 170lbs and have only lost about 5lbs of lean mass, leaving me at 155lbs of lean mass. The numbers look good but the mirror is even better…my midsection hasn’t been this lean since I was in high school. I had to buy all new clothes even. I guess what I’m saying is that for some of us insulin resistance is a real thing and even complex carbs keep us in fat storage mode pretty much around the clock.

    • Hey Brandon! Thanks for sharing.

      Keto obviously worked for you and ultimately, I recommend whatever you’re able to stick to that gets results. 🙂

  • sean_noonan

    Hey I got a quick question. Since a couple weeks ago my bench really struggled. A couple weeks ago I could work with 205 for only like 1-2 and at the peak of my bulk it was 205 for like 5 or 6 (my bench is VERY weak compared to my deadlift and squat, def wanna work on it) and right now i had to drop down to 180 to hit at least 4-5 probably maybe i could have got more but wanted to be conservative so i wouldn’t waste time trying to work back up to where i was and fail. I dont see any visual changes in my muscle and i havent lost any size since then so i not sure whats going on. Is this normal to happen sometimes and does it mean muscle loss? The same thing happened with squat and i dropped down to 295 x 3 and worked back up to 315 x 3 in a couple weeks. I just hope i didnt screw things up. I hit my macros exactly every day legit within like 5-10 calories and a couple grams within each macronutrient during my cut and i know i got enough protein. Just hoping i didnt lose muscle and i really dont wanna lose it during a cut I feel like i did everything i know. Maybe too few calories while i was cutting?


    • Heyo! It might be time for a deload. Upping cals not a bad idea either.

      • sean_noonan


      • sean_noonan

        Yeah the weight trend has Been the same actually. Maybe add 100 or would you recommend more? I think I might I’ve it a couple days though.

        • Bump it up by 200. That should get it moving.

          • sean_noonan

            I weighed 184 this morning so I think that means I might be gaining weight

          • Nice!

          • sean_noonan

            then i weighed 182 so maybe not haha.

          • sean_noonan

            ill probably add some calories tomorrow though

          • sean_noonan

            Hey one more question. greg ogallagher recommends 500 surplus on training days and 100 on rest days. Would you say this is something more for experience lifters and would you recommend it having only been lifting around a year total

          • sean_noonan

            Also how much weight would you say is normal to gain from water and glycogen

          • sean_noonan

            yeah so I weighed 186.6. If I’m consistently weighing this much or more would you recommend to maybe take off calories or would you say this is a normal amount to gain from water/glycogen. and would you say its a good idea to shoot maybe towards .5 pound a week gained because I feel like I’m gonna be bulking a long time and if I go for 8 months again I don’t wanna gain 30 pounds.

            Also would you say another 10-15 pounds of muscle would make a big difference?

          • 0.5lbs/week is okay, though you can definitely still shoot for upwards of 1lbs/week.

            Adding 10-15lbs of muscle would definitely fill you out more.

          • sean_noonan


          • sean_noonan

            I guess as long as I’m gaining st the right rate I wanna be able to get the most as I can out of the bulk

          • sean_noonan

            Also would you say maybe 240 is a realistic bench goal by the end of the bulk? I feel like my strength back to 210 should come back real quick since it’s something I’ve lifted before and I don’t look like I lost any size or any thing. Plus it came back real quick with my squat.

          • That’s a pretty solid goal to shoot for.

          • sean_noonan

            Yeah I definitely wanna bring it up

          • sean_noonan



            Yeah So this has been the weight trend with 4600 so far thinking maybe give it until the rest of the week and average out then increase by maybe a couple hundred or something

          • sean_noonan



          • Well, when you stop gaining, you add more cals! Looks like you’re making steady gains since the first week of December. You can actually bump it up more still.

          • sean_noonan

            Would you say maybe add 100 maybe In a few days

          • sean_noonan

            I’ve also kind of been waking up too early to eat because I’ve been hungry and technically I’ve been weighing myself 3-4 hours before normal time. So maybe get the rerun and waking up back on track then make a judgement.

          • That could help get you more consistent measurements to allow for the best judgement call. If you’re still not gaining fast enough, add the cals.

          • sean_noonan
          • sean_noonan

            I feel like I may need to take off some caps now actually just not sure how much to drop t

          • 100 at a time is a good start if you’re gaining too fast.

          • sean_noonan

            Ok. I weighed 186 and then 185.8 today so maybe just take off 100

          • sean_noonan

            Yeah I feel like my strengths been struggling a bit too I did some unnecessary extra volume for squat and bench like a week ago because I couldn’t get a ride home and I had to wait like an hourat the y and I was bored.

            And I had previously got 315 on squat (my strength was starting to come back) and I tried 320 and could get one and I couldn’t even get 75 pounds dumbells up today when I could have easily done 10 with 70 last week so clearly something’s going on

          • sean_noonan
          • Lol wow. Yes, eat some more!

          • sean_noonan

            Would you say 200 is too much I’m definitely adding 100 for today though

          • With your metabolism, should be fine.

          • sean_noonan


          • sean_noonan
          • sean_noonan

            My strength on bench also seems kinda weird especially for weighing 6 pounds heavier than last week I couldn’t do one re with what I got 3 res last time. Maybe I didn’t wait long enough to bench again

          • That is a pretty big performance drop. What did you do differently that day? Rest since the last Chest Day? Sleep, preworkout nutrition, etc?

            Yeah, drop enough weight to get good form. See if things return to normal this week.

          • sean_noonan

            i went to lift one day before i should have but other then that nothing different really its so weird. I really just wanna gain more muscle in my upper body i feel kinda skinny and like its under developed and i wanna be able to have good proportions and size

          • sean_noonan

            would you say take off 100 calories too? My weight legit dropped 4 pounds and bounced back up by like 6.6 pounds after only a 200 increase its so weird it must be water weight or something like that

          • Totally water weight. The weight trend looks good right now. Let’s give it another week.

            This could help with your chest development:


            BTW, when was your last deload?

          • sean_noonan

            yeah i weighed 190 like wtf haha

          • sean_noonan

            im not sure because i out it in notes on my last phone and i had to get a new phone because the last one broke so i dont 100% know

          • Well, use your best estimate, then haha

          • sean_noonan

            i think it was christmas vacation actually i remember going in for a deload workout and i was glad i was deloading because the gym was rediculously crowded

          • Ah OK No deload then. Treat your chest as a lagging muscle group then.

          • sean_noonan

            but still do this chest routine just maybe deload later

          • Sounds good!

          • sean_noonan

            Hey quick question the weight trend is still kinda up at 190 actually 192.6 I did weigh 187.6 And 188.2 a couple days ago. Maybe it’s just the glycogen not sure if this is Norman haha I don’t feel like it looks like I gained 10 lb


          • Nice, dude! Keep it up and increase the cals when you need to!

          • sean_noonan

            Would you say take off 100 now though

          • sean_noonan

            Just kinda hoping my weight doesn’t keep rising like this it’s weird

          • You’re doing fine man. Don’t sweat it.

          • sean_noonan


          • sean_noonan

            So stay on 4800

          • yup! stay the course until the weekly average plateaus.

          • sean_noonan

            Thanks again for always responding so quickly

          • any time man!

          • sean_noonan

            A it normal to gain This much water weight though like all the way from 178 up to 192 with. It to much visible changes in body fat if I weigh 195 should I decrease I take it just seems so weird. I am eating 800+ carb though. I technically could have capped it at 550 haha

          • sean_noonan

            Shit sorry in just realize don’t I commented that twice

          • sean_noonan

            Thanks again for always responding so quickly

          • sean_noonan

            Just out of curiosity how much Ian normal to gain from water weight and if I weigh like195 take off cals then.

            Sorry for all the comments or if any are repeated I have very bad phone service so I’m not sure what’s going through

          • sean_noonan


          • sean_noonan


            It legit fluctuates 3-4 pounds up then 3-4 pounds down at a time it’s so weird haha

          • Yeah, that’s why taking a weekly average helps to compare it week to week.

          • sean_noonan



          • sean_noonan



          • sean_noonan

            i feel like hopefully some bench strength should come especially with the deadlift potential or at least thats what alot of my friends think i feel like it just takes time to work on. Also thanks for the quick reply

          • sean_noonan

            would you say sometimes it takes time to get an idea of what weight to use. (flat dumbell press) I did 60 x 8 then 70 x 8 then 70 x 5. So maybe next time go for 70 for 9 or 10 just hoping i didnt tire myself out to much

          • About 1-2 weeks to dial it in perfectly if it’s a new exercise or when starting out.

          • sean_noonan


          • sean_noonan

            its crazy though because i can dealift 495 x 2 squat like 320 and do 75lbs dumbell curls with good form alot of my friends tell me to take a pro hormone to get my bench up but i wanna stay natural because that would just fuck up my liver and i havent even been lifting for over a year and i wanna stay natural

          • Yeah those are sweet numbers. I suggest focusing on your upper body development now with a program like the one above.

          • sean_noonan

            yeah I really wanna develop my upper body very badly I really feel under developed and like I lack size. my friends are benching a lot so it would be nice to catch up

          • sean_noonan

            they seem* not they seems. sorry i was typing fast

      • sean_noonan
      • sean_noonan

        I feel like a couple of the days on the logs were actually 4100 but I know it’s probably been like 5 das with 4400 so far

  • AmyL

    Is there a limited amount of time one should spend cutting? I had a baby 6 months ago so I have some work to do. I have been doing your program for 3-4 months and I’ve had great results already. I am down a total of 27lbs post pregnancy and am seeing great changes in body composition. I am already in better shape than I was pre-baby #2! I am still at about 23-24%bodyfat and am about 144lbs right now. I don’t really have a target weight range but I would like to see if I can get down to 18% body fat. Is it a bad idea to be in a “cutting” stage for a year? I do not want to hurt my metabolism by being in a cutting stage for too long so I am wondering if it is ok to cut for as long as a year.

    • The cut will take as long as it needs to take. Killer job with your so far! Wowza. Once you’ve dropped to BMR, packed in all the activity you can, and are no longer losing weight, that’s when you stop cutting and reverse diet.

  • AmyL


  • sean_noonan
    • Looks like it’s moving in the right direction. What can help since you have a lot of up and down swings, is to plot the data points on a graph and draw a line connecting them. You see the trend more easily that way.

      • sean_noonan

        Yeah it jumped down to 185.8 today I’ll definitely try that. It’s been having weird fluctuations

        • Very good idea.

          • sean_noonan

            Yeah I found an app for it was not expecting it to be that that easy haha

          • Haha nice.

  • Casey Bauer

    I got Bigger Leaner Stronger for Christmas and thoroughly enjoyed it. I started lifting in August, so I only have around 4 months of serious training. I have always been an athlete and ran track in college. I am 27 and decided its time to get back into shape and get the body I have always wanted. I have an active lifestyle and do a lot of mountain biking, but really had nothing to show for it.

    When I started in August, I weighed around 205 lbs.(I am 6′), and started a basic 5×5 routine, 5 times a week. I have always focused on compound lifts so your book was not a radical change, but more of a shift in focus and especially in rep ranges. I fairly quickly put on about 15 pounds, most of which is muscle. I have lost fat in this process but still have a bit of a gut and a general layer of fat all around. Keep in mind I did all this on the 5×5. I suplement with creatine and whey.
    I have since implemented your program, (2 weeks ago) and so far am enjoying it. I am concious of eating well and dont eat junk food or anything too often, but I am not yet counting calories, however I plan to learn to now that I see the importance.
    I currently weigh 220, I am a lot more muscular, but I have too much fat, and I need to burn it. I am gaining strength (Squat 275, Dead, 420, Bench, 240, Military Press 165) but am unsure of what my focus should be.
    At 4 months am I correct to assume I am out of the newbie stage where gains and cuts are possible at the same time? I love the gains I am making, but should I try to cut down to lose the fat first. or will bulking up to add more fat burning muscle be more effective?
    I am enjoying the process of body transformation, and am willing to do what it takes, if you would be willing to give me a bit of direction here I would really appreciate it! Thanks

  • Tony

    Hi Mike,

    I followed your article and this was my result:

    I lost 6lbs of muscle and 6.5lbs of fat in 3 months. This was confirmed with 2 DEXA scans- one before and one after.

    I did everything you said to do. I ate 1g of proteins per day. In a deficit of 700 kcals. Used the same routine when I was bulking and was shooting for PR (at least maintained my strength with great mind to muscle connection and good form), so I know I was lifting heavy. My diet consisted of half really healthy foods and the other half IIFYM style.

    My question is.. what went wrong? Half of my weight loss was muscles =(

    • Hey Tony,

      As long as you’re eating sufficient protein, sufficient calories, and lifting heavy, you won’t be losing muscle during a cut. Sounds like your targets were too low.

      Did you strength continually decrease for weeks, BTW?

      • Tony

        I was able to preserve most of my strength. May be lost 1-2 reps on some key lifts.

        My proteins were adequate from good sources like red meat, fish, and whey.

        Kcal was on point, I weigh everything to the gram.

        I was gonna take the slow cut route but after reading this article I gradually worked my way down to a 700 deficit.

        Now I’m scared for my next cut. What do you think went wrong?

        BTW.. I started my cut at 25.6% BF.

  • sean_noonan

    It’s just seems weird because e 12 pounds seems like a lot. Sorry for all the comments I really just wanna dial this in correctly. Would you say it’s normal to gain this much water weight though? And would you say the body fat looks ok?

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/6ebdeff6d0ada59f62a5b6adc3f1ff315790e1153a46d26dfdc537228ec11b5d.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/83706b87a076a970e60c465a311fa3244b2d636748ef062eaac04350f652896a.jpg

    • Still good! With the amount of carbs (and likely salt) you’re taking in, it’s certainly possible.

      • sean_noonan

        Yeah makes sense

      • sean_noonan

        I honestly don’t look to different if anything the body fat change is small

      • sean_noonan

        Feel like if I really wanna take my deadlift to break 500 after my previous max I’m gonna have to really work on steady progression. I notice after 3-4 weeks of maxing my strength gets kinda messed up sonmaybe find a weight I can do 4 reps again then move on from there. Again thanks so much for the help. I’ve had some stupid fitness people give advice before (guy at the y he’s a nice guy but the bosu ball with 20 lb dumbells does t work haha)

  • sean_noonan

    Hey I gt a question about deadlift. For a bit I thought my back looked really rounded on a Set I did with 470 actually didn’t go for 3rd rep because of it. But afterwoods I backed down (lightened to 405) the majority of my back looked straight and there was no rounding towards the top it legit just looks like a bump with every thing else straight. Is here anyway it could just be a lot of developement in my lower back because that’s what this guy I j is though an I’m thinking it might be the case it even looks like this when I purposely found my back upwards like the opposite way it’s weird https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/6b95f352350d496dabaa992a201e79775586bbff3bd1fd80836544fc8f3f94ae.jpg

    • Hmm. I have seen something like this before. Sometimes the lower back development can look like rounding.

      Let’s make sure though. First, a video or picture at a better angle will help. Try with a lot lighter weight too. Like with 225 or 315 to see how your back looks then.

      Also, just to make sure it isn’t a form issue, check this out:


      • sean_noonan

        ok ill try

  • sean_noonan

    also in terms of working sets would you say maybe 470 or 465 to be safe i actually pulled 465 x 4 last week and only did 470 x 2 today. thinking its time to focus on steady origression rather then adding 10 pounds every week because i notice that fatigues me way to much and then i have to lighten weight again

    • As long as you’re able to maintain good form, feel free to work in either rep range. In my book, BBLS, I have people do deadlifts in the 2-3 rep range.

  • sean_noonan
  • Johan Du Toit

    Hey Mike, great article, thanks! I’m currently bulking using the recommended calories as per your BLS book. I’d like to do this for the next two weeks and then I’d like to cut. Are you saying that the best way to do this is to go straight down to my cutting calories, or would you take the bulking calories X 70 – 80%? Going down to cutting cals just feels so extreme 🙂 Thanks for clarifying!

    • Awesome, Johan! Yes, go straight down to 80% of TDEE. It’s not as bad as you think 🙂

      • Johan Du Toit

        Then thats what I’ll do! Thanks Mike

        • Sounds good!

          • Johan Du Toit

            Hey Mike,
            Help me out here. I was on a bulking diet for about six weeks, eating 2880 cals everyday. I believe I made some good muscle gains, but for some reason I was also losing weight every week. Then I decided to cut, so I went to 80% of my cals as per above, so I’m now taking in 1920 cals. It’s been one week on my cutting diet and I’ve gone from 80.9 kgs to 81.4 kgs. I do HIIT at least twice a week doing hill sprints on a treadmill. I work out six days a week (your 5-week program + 1 workout day dedicated to glutes).
            Does any of this make sense?
            Should I wait a while and then maybe start cutting cals down to 75%?
            The pic is of me now, so I still have a while to go, looking to lose 4 kgs.

  • Aikas

    Mike, what do you think about mini bulks and cuts and their pros?

  • Mauricio Perez

    Hello Mike, what kind of approach can I take if I’m 3 weeks away from going to the beach and I want to get a little more ripped in these 3 weeks? Do you already have an article on that? Would I have to do a more calorie restricted diet high in protein and low in carbs? Getting depleted or getting dry from liquids? Im currently with a body fat around 12-15%, thanks

  • Zak Smith

    Hey Mike,
    How long would you generally say a cutting phase should last if you’re going from around 18% body fat to 10% or under? I know it will vary person to person but in general would you say there’s a certain time period that is too long?

    • Should take about 3 months if you’re making consistent progress week after week. If you’re dragging it out to 4 or 5 months, that’s not “too long” but certainly not efficient enough.

      • Caleb L.

        3 months seems so short. I, like the comment above, started my cut at around 18% on January 1. It is almost 6 weeks later and I am down 9 lbs but MAYBE only 2% body fat.

        Are you saying this is too slow? I feel like if at halfway to 3 months that I am still around 16-17% body fat, that I will not get to 10% in the full 3 months you mentioned.

        • 9lbs in 6 weeks is pretty good! Nice work. We’ve had clients achieve it in 3 months Even if it takes 3.5 months or 4 moths, I’d say you’re doing pretty well 🙂

  • Michael

    Hey Mike What’s up man. I’ve been following your BLS book for cutting weight. I started 3 Weeks ago at 221, I’m down to 210.5 today. I probably started at ~26% Body Fat. Is that to much weight for 3 weeks?

    I know you say half pound to one pound per week, but if you have a higher BF% then you can lose more safely for the first few weeks. Am I still in that safe zone?

    Another weird thing is that I was at 215.5 Wed, 213 Yesterday, and 210.5 today. Is that all water weight do you think? I know part of it is I started eating way more fibrous vegetables on Wed and the size of my stools greatly increased? I guess when should I be worried that I’m cutting to quickly.

    I do 1953 calories per day right now.

    I’m not necessarily a newb, but I am a newb to heavy lifting. So my lifts have been continually increasing week over week.

  • Ira

    After eating in a slight surplus over the last 6 weeks to try and gain some size back (I had lost around 6-7 pounds, a combo of muscle and fat over the last few months of 2016), I’m ready to cut back down.

    I’m around 9% and want to get back down to 7%-7.5% for Good Friday when we head to Maui.

    I’ve been there before and I know I can get there again.

    I’m currently 5’5, 140 pounds – just need to lose 3-4 pounds of fat and keep my muscle.

    I work out at 5am during the week so faster heavy weights is not a problem.

    1700 calories will be my apx 20% calorie deficit.

    I prefer to eat at night so after my post-workout meal of 250 calories at 7am its a slog to get through the day (save my calories) but I’ve done it before.

    Not looking forward to this but I want the results and know I can get them.

    This was October last year and I’ll be there is 6 to 8 weeks. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/17cc9179cd7c56283ba9197179d168fb3b6caea79d51261c1939b66c495bb47c.jpg

  • Johan Du Toit

    Hey Mike/Roger,
    From the article it’s clear that gradually cutting cals to lose weight is not ideal, but what about when you’re done cutting? Do you recommend jumping straight back to maintenance -and bulking cals, or would it be a gradual increase instead? Thanks!

  • Johan Du Toit

    Hey Mike,
    One last thing. Now that I’m cutting and losing a good amount of weight using Intermittent Fasting and HIIT, my muscles are looking a bit flat (not as plump as when bulking). Is this normal? Just concerned that I might be too aggressive on the diet (eating 1950 cals which is still above my cutting cals though). Thanks again!

    • That’s normal. As long as you’re eating enough protein, calories, and lifting heavy, you won’t be losing muscle. Fat will pad around your muscles to make them look fuller too, so as you cut, that effect starts reducing.

  • Amy

    I apologize because I may have asked this before. But I was wondering if there is a maximum amount of time that one should spend cutting. I had my second daughter last July so I have some work to do. I have been on the program for about four months and I have made great progress . I am about 23 to 24% body fat and have lost about 20 pounds since August. I just bought Forge and Phoenix and my goal is to try to get down to 18 to 20% body fat by July or August. Is it ok to use those supplements for 4-5 months straight? What what do you recommend?

    • Hey Amy, nice work dropping 20lbs since August! That’s totally fine to use Forge and Phoenix throughout the duration of a Cut. Cutting will take as long as it needs to take. You stop when you reach your BF% goal, or have gone down to BMR and packed in all the exercise and cardio you can without seeing fat loss. At that point, reverse diet and continue cutting if you still have not met your goal.

  • Borna Houman

    Hey Mike,

    So I’ve been cutting for around a month, and have steadily seen about 1 lb drop per week until recently, this last week, keeping calories the same, I lost about 2lbs. Is this anything to worry about? I haven’t gotten weaker on any lifts, in fact I got a little stronger, but I’m just a little curious.


    • Did you have a cheat meal recently? Increase your activity? I wouldn’t worry about it. That’s great you got stronger too! Keep it up.

      • Borna Houman

        Ok thanks.

        And for about a week, my strength has decreased a tad (mostly a rep or two on sets 2 and 3 of my compound lifts, but the 1RM is still higher than when I first started the cut, or the same), while I’m not really losing weight. I’m reaching the 8 week mark, you think it’s time to take a maintenance break/reverse diet for a week or two then go back into a cut? I’m afraid of losing muscle, but I’ll know for sure if I’ve lost muscle when I get a Dexa in a few days but I’m just curious.


        • The DEXA isn’t totally accurate, by the way:


          Double check your macro targets, and adjust based on results:


          No need to RD or go into maintenance if you are still losing fat and havent met your cutting goal yet.

          • Borna Houman

            Okay thanks. And I may have been overreacting as the scale has been moving since my last refeed on Wednesday lol. So I think one refeed a week may serve me well in these last few weeks.

            Also, do you know of a good pre workout without caffeine? I find that it makes me very anxious.

            Thanks for everything btw.

          • Haha, all good. 🙂

            Eh. Not really. Your best bet is to make your own. It’d be better than any you could pick up. L-Citrulline DL-Malate, beta alanine and betaine anhydrous and you should be good. And you can just use the amounts used in Pulse.

            My pleasure!

  • Mikkel Mücke

    Hi Mike, a quick but bit complex question, my girlfriend has started cutting and is calculated to be at around 1400 calories when in 20-25% deficit. However, she already ate healthy and few calories before cutting, maybe even less than 1400 (hard to know since she hasnt counted calories) but she ate way to little protein compared to now when she is on a proper meal plan. She hasnt lost or gained any weight in the first two weeks in her cut but feels very tired compared to before starting cutting. So my question is, Should she start eating less calories even though she feels very tired compared to before cut, which usually indicates you are in a good deficit? She feels more lean, likely because she has exchanged alot of her carbs for protein and holds less water, but the weight just doesnt change…Is it possible to lose weight if you eat same number of calories as before cutting, but with more protein instead of carbs…?

    • Hey Mikkel, I suggest that your girlfriend reverse diet up to TDEE before cutting if there is no fat loss. Like you said, it’s hard to tell if she’s been in a deficit for an extended length of time.

      I’d start with that, then cut again. If you still don’t see fat loss, then increase cardio and take a look at this:


  • Johan Du Toit

    Hi Mike,
    I always get confused about this. Some say calculating daily calories should be based off your target weight and not you current weight. My weight was 181 before I started cutting. I’m now at 171. Before I start a reverse diet, do I replace the 181 with 171lb in my calorie calculator? I’m comfortable at 171 so this would be my new weight. That would be a -133 cals swing between the old and new maintenance cals. Thanks for clarifying!

    • Hey Johan, base your targets on your current weight and bodyfat %. If you’re done with your cut, start your reverse diet by finding your TDEE based on your current weight and BF%. Hope that helps!

      • Johan Du Toit

        That makes sense. Thanks Mike!

        • NP!

          • Johan Du Toit

            Hey Mike,

            I’m confusig myself here. I calculated my daily maintenance calories using your BLS book, ie 1g protein, 1.6g carbs, and 0.35g fat. At the time I was 181 (didn’t have a bodyfat%, but your formula didn’t ask for it anyway), and maintenance calories came to 2,453. I’m now weighing 172 @ 13% bodyfat. You suggested above that I plug 172 into the BLS formula, which comes to new maintenance cals of 2,331.

            But then I plugged the same numbers into this formula from your article (https://legionathletics.com/fasted-cardio/) and my maintenance calories go up to 2,482, which would be higher than my orginal cals when I was overweight.
            It makes sense what you said above, to just plug in the new weight into the BLS formula and use that as my new maintenance cals, but the formula has me second-guessing….
            Do I still go with the BLS formula?
            Thanks so much!

          • Hey Johan, you can set your targets here:


            The book gives a general, workable guideline, but you’ll be able to dial it in and customize it more with the calculator above.

  • Brooks Ploskina

    Hi Mike,
    I’ve been on a cut now for about 8 weeks. I am 36 years old, 5’9, and I currently way 167lbs. My body fat percentage is somewhere between 10-12%. I started out weighing 173 lbs with about 15-17% body fat.. I estimated that my starting maintenance level was around 2,600 calories. I am currently eating 2,050 calories each day, with about 185 grams of that being protein. My weight doesn’t seem to be going anywhere now. Would you consider this to be a slow cut based on the information I’ve provided? Any advice would help me out greatly. I can see my abs and I am pretty lean, but just not to the point of being ripped yet. Thanks, Brooks

    • That’s kinda slow at 6lbs over the course of 8 weeks. I suggest dropping the cals down to 1950 and increasing your HIIT cardio. That should get things moving!

  • Bdog

    Hi Mike,

    I’ve been bulking for a couple years and realised I have next to no definition anymore and look smaller than I did a year ago. I am 21 and 5’11, I was at 91kg, I’ve been losing about 1.5lb per week atm and am down to 85kg. Shall I keep going and keep everything the same or will I start to lose muscle soon? Been going gym 4/5x per week and Liss 3/4x hence but eating about 2300 cals. Just want to be shredded already lol ! probably about 16% bf atm can almost see a top ab!

    • Hey, if your strength hasn’t decreased week after week, you’re not losing muscle. As we lose the fat that pads our muscles, we do look “smaller”. Perfectly normal. Just means we gotta build some more lean muscle!

  • Danny

    Hey Mike,

    Your approach to rapid weight loss here recommends utilizing a “high carb” diet; i.e., 40% from carbs. This seems incongruent with your macro suggestion of 45P/20C/35F in another article that also deals with quick weight loss: https://www.muscleforlife.com/how-to-lose-weight-fast/.

    In fact, in the latter you say,”To facilitate losing weight quickly and healthily, your diet is going to be high in protein, relatively low in carbohydrate, and moderate with fats.” And in this one you say, “…a high-carbohydrate diet is far superior to low-carb when it comes to weight loss and calorie restrictions.”

    What gives?

    I am at a 23% deficit and would really like to know whether 40/40/20 or 45/20/35 is going to be more effective for rapid fat loss.


    • Good question, Danny. Both macro splits will results in weight (and fat) loss because what’s important is having that negative energy balance. The difference between the two is that a low-carb diet will result in greater loss of water weight, but at the expense of decreased exercise performance VS a higher carb diet.

      Water weight loss is only temporary, though. Sure you’ll lose more weight, but it’ll come right back once you increase your carb intake. Furthermore, a low carb diet doesn’t help you lose fat any faster than a high carb diet. Ultimately, it’s all about the calories.

      • Danny

        Gotcha. That helps. Thank you. What would you say to me thinking about doing 3 weeks of 40/40/20, followed by 1 week of 45/20/35? That way only one in four weeks is a low-carb grind in the gym, and it also provides a chance to flush any excess water weight every so often? My total caloric intake would be the same, right about 2450kCal, a 23% deficit.

  • gophinobi

    Hi Mike,

    During a dieting/cutting period, when should once consider carb-cycling for muscle retention and fat loss over other methods? Thanks!

  • Doug W

    Hi Mike.
    I started on your BLS program at the start of the year and am currently in the 12th week of my first cut and have had great results thus far. I’ve lost about 15lbs, 4″ on my waist and dropped from 25% BF to 17% (using the single point method with calipers). My starting weight was 175 and I’m 5’10” and 48 years old. My body was/is the perfect example of skinny fat and I carry all my weight in my midsection.
    My question is should I continue to cut? I know the reccomdation is to continue to 10% but I’m starting to wonder if my BF measurement is correct, as I am looking really skinny – friends and co-workers are asking if I am ok… :-). That said, I am still very obviously carrying extra belly fat.
    I am continually increasing weight on my lifts and I feel great, but I just want to make sure I am doing the right thing with continuing this cut.


    • Hey Doug, nice work so far dropping 15lbs and 4 inches! If you’re still carrying weight in your midsection, then continue to cut. That’s really great your lifts are still increasing. Definitely going in the right direction. If you’d like to read more about body fat measurements:


      Keep cutting!

      • Doug W

        and the grind continues..

        Thanks Mike.

  • Greg Holden

    Hey Mike/Rodger, any news on legion coming To the UK/England, Desperately want some phoenix haha and any news on stacked coming to android?

    • Hey Greg, we’re working on it! It’s one of our top priorities right now actually. Thanks for the support.

      We’re also working on getting STACKED on Android as well, but we want to refine the current version more before that happens.


  • sean_noonan

    hey mike would you say one week of losing less then .5 lbs is enough to take off 100 calories?

    I have some people telling me to wait a few more weeks and then take off 100 cal it just seems like I would spend too much time cutting if I did that.

    I already took off 100 I don’t exactly know ether to add it back though or what to really do.

  • Tony Dinh

    Hey Mike! I have worked out in the gym for 1 year and a month-ish. Before that I played soccer for 8 years. But by almost constant bulking during that gymyear I have decided to try a cut. I am 16 which I know is bad for starting a cut this early, however I just wanted to see how my body reacted and what I could learn from it for the future. Now that I have been cutting for 3-4 weeks, that were really tough the first 1-2 weeks by decreasing calories and specially carbs. This last week has been worrying me though, as I have put in cardio by burning 350 calories in 30 minutes for 3 days in the morning this week. I have lost 7lbs in just 3 days when I was not as hungry anymore. And before those 3 days it went super slowly, I kept losing like 0.5lbs per day and sometimes it bounced up because of starving. Still I lost 4lbs in those 2 first weeks. That I can feel good about but in 3 days that I lost 7lbs makes me think I lost muscle mass. However on the third day on the huge drop of pounds I still seemed to have the same strength, and even the day before that I lost 5lbs on the second day of the super drop I was even stronger on the bench. I have no idea whats going on with my body right now, so please help me.

    • Water weight can flush out pretty quickly in a short amount of time. I really don’t recommend that you cut at 16. Your priority shouldn’t be to look shredded with an adult physique. It should be nailing down your fundamentals, good habits, form/technique, and maximizing this crucial time of development. Restricting your calories will have a negative effect on your growth. If you want to lose fat, just pack in the weight lifting and HIIT cardio or sports.

  • Hi Mike, do you have any articles for rebuilding calories after a cut? Do you have a particular system when you reach 10%? I assume going straight back to base line calories would have you gain quite a bit of fat as the metabolism adapts.

  • Justin

    Hello, I have gone through your book and a decent number of articles on this website. They are great. I have a question though. I’m a 5’9 male and have lost 13 pounds in the past 2 months; current weight is 147 pounds. But I still have a decent amount of fat concentrated in my belly. I am trying to cut to 10% bodyfat as you suggest, and although I have gotten skinnier I do not believe I am near 10% bodyfat. Yet, I don’t know if I should continue to lose weight at this point (since I might get “too” skinny [weight too low], despite having a belly, if that makes sense). I do HIIT cardio and follow a 5-day routine as recommended in the book. I do not know what to do and would love a response. (I also have pictures, but am not sure if you would be willing to look at them) Best, Justin

  • Scott S

    How does this change for an old fart with a messed up body? I’m 40yo, 27ish% body fat, recently recovered from joint injuries in both knees and one shoulder sustained from lifting too heavy. My diet is very high quality but strongly weighted toward carbs, because I have health problems that make me fat intolerant to an extreme. I have a very hard time getting enough protein with nearly zero fat, so I do the best I can and make up the difference with fruit.

    I’ve dropped 13 lbs in the past 5 weeks with low weight, high rep lifting (easier on my joints) 3x per week, and calorie restriction (2000/day). I plateaued last week, so I dropped to what your calorie calculator recommends (1750/day). I’m not doing any cardio because I’m afraid for my joints, but I will play with adding some HIIT if the lower calorie count doesn’t get things moving again.

    My short-term goal is to get to 190 lbs, which would be 65 lbs off of my max weight from 6 years ago. Long-term goal is to get body fat into the teens. Being muscular would be a bonus, but being leaner is of primary importance right now.

    Any changes you would recommend?

    • Hey Scott,

      For your diet, you can look into zero fat dairy, whey, and lean cuts like white fish, chicken breast, turkey breast, lean tuna. Those are all very low fat sources.

      For your exercise, you can consider low-impact activities like walking and rowing for a slower pace if your joints can’t take it. Low weight, higher rep is fine too. 8-10, 10-12.

      Hope that helps!

  • Travis Tolman

    So… How long is the longest recommended time to stay in a deficit without experiencing too much metabolism slow down?

    • Hey Travis, hard to say…a cut will take as long as it needs to but you can push it quite far, TBH. 3, 4, 5+ months all very possible. It also depends on how big of a deficit you’re in and how quickly you cut down to it.

  • Nicholas Wan Cheng Yao

    Hi Mike, recently on your other article, it was mentioned that to maximize fat loss and preserve muscles during cutting, it is advisable to go for high protein and low carb diet. But in this article it was saying to go for high protein and high carb, am i missing something?

    • You’ll lose fat at the same rate either way, but with eating less carbs, you will also dump out more water weight as well–at the cost of exercise performance. Water weight is only temporary, however, and once you start eating more carbs, it will come back. This is perfectly normal, and totally not a big deal at all. It’s fat loss that we’re targeting.

  • Nicholas Wan Cheng Yao

    We should hit 20-25% calorie deficit for losing fat while preserving muscles,
    1. Does this mean if my TDEE is 2600 calories on my workout days, I should hit around 500-600 calories deficit right? If it’s 1500 calories, I should hit around 300 calories deficit right? But it was mentioned that healthy fat loss should have around 500 calories deficit regardless of the individuals TDEE, can you clarify this?

    2. On rest days, can you confirm I should hit 20-25% calorie deficit as well? Meaning my TDEE is much lower on rest days , hence still consuming a different amount of calories compared to workout days?

    • 1. At 2600 TDEE, your starting target is 2080cals/day–or 80% of TDEE.
      2. Same target regardless of rest or workout days.

  • Ravi

    Hey Mike.. thanks for the information. Makes alot of sense and can’t wait to implement. Just one question. I believe another the reason for the slow cut is that your body gradual lowers metabolism and adapts to the calories being fed. Therefore, when you do a slow cut, when the body does adapt, you can further lower calories because there is room. When you do a huge calorie drop, when you body adapts, where do you go? It will get to a point where calories are too low to drop. So what then? For example, lets say someones maintenance calories is 1400 and they drop 20-25% (280-350 calories), that pits them at 1120-1050 calories. When the body adapts, what then? Calories are pretty low to drop any furrher. If you do a slow cut, say 10% (140 calories), that puts you at 1260. When you do slow down, you can maybe drop another 10% to further fat loss. With your 20-25% deficit, Do you just stick with that set deficit for 8, 12, 16 weeks straight? If you do, how do you deal with the slower metabolism that will happen after a certain point? Or are there period you eat at maintenance to raise calories? I am not debating You as yoir method seems logically sound and makes perfect sense, just looking for which method is best and just wanted your feedback and knowledge.

    • Hey Ravi,

      That’s good thinking and analysis, but incorrect. BMR is your lower limit. When you do a slow cut, your progress moves slower (or not at all) as your metabolism adapts. When you do a “fast” cut, you make progress at a better rate than a slow cut. There is no benefit whatsoever to slow cutting.

      Once you’re at BMR, doing 2.5hrs/week of HIIT cardio, and are no longer losing fat, then it’s time to reverse diet and then cut again if you have more cutting to do:


      • Ravi

        Ok perfect. That makes alot of sense. Thanks for the clarification. Now i fully know how to diet. You have answered a question that I was always confused about and could never get a straight answer. Thanks so much. I really appreciate it.

        So just to clarify, when I do the 20-25% deficit, do i just stay at that the whole time until weight loss stalls and then drop to the lowest of BMR? Do you believe it is more beneficial and efficient to stay at the deficit the entire time straight or do you think refeeds every 5 days or couple of weeks are better?

        • No problem! When you see your weight (fat) loss stalling, increase your HIIT cardio activity first before dropping cals. Drop 100 each time (25g carbs) and don’t go below BMR. You can max out HIIT cardio at 2.5hrs/week.

          Stay on a straight deficit at first, and once you’ve made some solid progress, you can start experimenting with a refeed once every 2 weeks. For more info:


  • Marks M

    Hello Mike,i’ve been on BLS program for over a year now! And its been going great,i absolutely love it! I recently added a strength week and i couldn’t believe how fast my lifts went up,the progress i achieved.

    However,its time for me to cut.. And i know,while in calorie deficit,i wont be able to progress so good as in surplus.. and im getting pretty depressed about that,knowing that my lifts will probably go down and my progress will stall.

    If i cut my calories with thorough precision,should i be expecting some strength loss or gain?
    What would be the best way to maintain strength and not get bored with lifting the same weight over and over again?

    • You shouldn’t expect to be losing too much strength at the beginning of your cut. As you get closer to single digit body fat, you will likely stall progress, but remember that is temporary. The best thing you can do is make sure you are not fasted and 40-50g carbs preworkout. You’ve got this!

  • Paul McIntyre

    I was 259 lbs, 6′-3″ when I started my cut in August 2016. Made it down to 204, measuring about 17% BF now. I’m 41 years old and feeling like getting down to 10% is getting super hard. Online calculators say I need to get to 190-195 to reach that. Should I keep pushing forward or have I gone enough to begin a bulk?


    • Wow, Paul! It sounds like you’ve made insane progress thus far so congrats on that!

      I know cutting is hard, but I would still recommend getting down to 10% before bulking. This is ideal for several reasons: it preserves insulin sensitivity and hormonal balance, it allows you to maintain a calorie surplus for many months before having to reduce body fat levels, and it saves you from long, grueling cuts. Alternate your bulk and cuts and stay between 10-15%.

      I would love to feature you in a transformation on here! If you’re interested, please email me! [email protected]

      Hope this helps! Keep working hard!

  • sean_noonan

    Hey mike I have a question. When cutting I struggle a shit ton with strength on pressing and I can’t seem to figure out why. (squat and deadlift rarely are affected)

    I cut with 3000 calories and dropped to 2900 and that was the lowest I went and I made sure my macros were right I did 1.2 g protein per lb of body weight and 50 fat and the rest carbs. I still lost around 10% on my bench and thats for only the first 3 sets then my endurance suffers.

    Is there anything I could have done wrong. I can barely do 6 reps with 180 on bench. I really wanna be able to build a physique and one day reach my genetic potential but I feel like cutting sets me way too far back.

    Do you think I can still get to my potential one day? Maybe its a lack of energy thing that caused the strength to suffer? Discipline has never been an issue though which is good. I never binged or blew off workouts at all and that is stil the case.

    I just really wanna be able to gain something from each bulk and cut and have something to show for the work I put it at the gym and one day be able to get to my potential. My strength last time I bulked was back in about 6-8 weeks though which is good

    • sean_noonan

      Im sorry for such a long comment its just building a physique means alot to me. I started the coaching program and Im thinking about doing the extended version thing of coaching to help me with my and im saving money over the summer.

    • sean_noonan

      Im sorry for such a long comment its just building a physique means alot to me. I started the coaching program and Im thinking about doing the extended version thing of coaching to help me with my and im saving money over the summer.

      I do have 2 pictures from before and after the cut I dont think I could have lost too much size


  • Malcolm Pennix


    Hey Mike! I’m struggling hard man. I track my macros daily, lift heavy 3x a week, do hiit cardio 3x a week, basically I work my ass off every week. I live for this stuff. It means the world to me. Right now I’m about a month into cutting. And my weight has fluctuated up and down, with only weighing myself once a week. Feels like my body fat is not changing. I don’t understand. I did a reverse diet before this because the prior cut before didn’t go well. I’m at around 197 lbs and I’d say 11-12 percent body fat. I’m just trying to get to that next level of seeing my abs clearly, it feels harder now than it used to to lose some weight /fat during the cutting phase. Do you have any suggestions? I’m eating 2,228 calories daily with 222 protein 222 carbs and 50 fat being the Golden ratio. I usually hit very close to those. Would increasing my fat and lowering my carbs help? I’m at a loss man. Feeling pretty defeated about this. I’m attaching pictures I took yesterday which are about a month from starting the deficit.

  • David Dietsch

    I know in bls you recommend 9 to 12 heavy sets per muscle group besides arms . For cutting does that change..Would you reduce some volume? I always have by reducing 3 to 2 sets on Kinobody, in past cuts. Good or bad idea?

    Im about to start my cut. At 15% going back to 10%.
    Definitely gone through this routine a couple times successfully. Question is.. I work out 4 times a week. I’m on my feet 8 hours a day fixing things not including over time. My weekly average is 5 miles of walking a day. Not including what I do with my arms. I burn a fair amount of energy. Hit cardio though effective in the past, does not seem like a good fit for me now because I have to eat a decent amount of food. The last cut I did with this same job was tough as balls. First 4 weeks were as expected but after that Low energy, low sex drive, mild mood swings at a 25 maybe 30% deficit. Hard to accurately say. One day eating at maintenance a week. I lost probably 3 reps on all my major lifts. Should I go with the 20 or 25% deficit and should I reduce volume? I’m at 12 sets per major muscle group. Excluding arms. 8 sets for arms. If someone from legion can give me some personal advice, it would be appropriated!

    Ps. Killing it mike! Podcasts are so addicting to listen to! Love the sound of your voice! I still listen to older podcasts haha!

  • Robert Lundien

    Hi, Mike. Long story short, dumped 80 lbs in 2 months. 3/1/16 I was down to 160. Unfortunately I dumped all my muscle as well. I’ve been attempting to gain ever since. 3/1/16 12% bf 160 lbs 5’11”. Now i’m around 7-8% bf at 160 lbs. which varies around 6 lbs due to water weight. I was at 155 lbs at the beach last week. Every time I attempt to bulk I swell up, freak out, and cut again. I’m one of the most lean vascular looking guys I myself have ever seen BUT, there’s a small patch of chubb around my naval that won’t let me eat. I feel like it’s a psychological disorder. I practice hardcore intermittent fasting. It’s the only way I can keep from eating too much. I give my self a 4 hour window to eat before bed after my insane workouts. I have gained muscle. My definition is on point, but i’m growing too slowly compared to the effort I put in. Any suggestions to help my progress? It seems any effort to put on weight, at any surplus amount, of any type of calorie type goes straight to my lower abs.

    • Hey Robert! It sounds like your lower ab area is just where your body likes to store fat. That’s genetics for you.

      I would work on speeding up your metabolism as much as possible. If you’re in a deficit right now, slowly reverse diet up to your target TDEE. Check this out: https://www.muscleforlife.com/how-to-speed-up-metabolism/

      I would focus on eating a small surplus, and fine tune it so that you’re gaining weight very slowly. You should be gaining 0.5lbs a week or less. As long as you’re getting stronger while gaining at that rate, you’re putting on muscle. Check this out:

      I hope this helps!

  • Heidi

    Hey Mike, what about loose skin? Don’t you think the faster you cut, the more likely you’ll end up with loose skin? Just a thought.

    • You probably don’t have to worry about loose skin if you cut at a reasonable rate (don’t starve yourself), lift weights to build muscle, and eat enough protein. Check this out: https://legionathletics.com/loose-skin-weight-loss/
      I hope this helps!

      • Caleb Gaddes

        Asking for a friend, what about women?

        I ask because I know they are unable to grow as much muscle, so the filling of the skin might be harder for them.

        • The same principles apply for women. Your skin is elastic and will not be an issue if you follow a reasonable cutting diet.

  • Andrew

    I’m on a 65 pound weight loss journey. I’m down 20 pounds from my start weight and I’m getting stronger. I don’t care what any research or bro scientists say- it’s possible that you can transition between anabolic and catabolic states throughout different stages of the week..or even day. You CAN lose weight and build muscle at the same time. No doubt in my mind. I really believe that 1.5-2 pounds per week is optimal. I’m actually losing about 2.3 pounds per week right now. I’m going to bump up my calories and see if I can slow it down a little.

  • Amy

    My tdee is roughly 1850. Bmr: 1390. Subtract my 25% deficit from 1850 is 1380 so roughly my bmr.
    If I want to calorie cycle, is this a bad idea as it will take me under my bmr some days. E.g. I still hit my average calories for the week e.g. 1400 but some days I might be only eating 1200 others 1600?
    I fast 18:6 approach so only eating 1200 calories isn’t necessarily a problem as that’s a pre workout snack/meal and a biiiig post workout meal which helps me adhere to the low calories. It’s just whether I shouldn’t go below bmr on a daily basis even when my weekly cals avg my bmr?

    Also will it benefit me to lower carbs and increase fats on rest days?
    Thank you !!!!

    • Hey Amy! I don’t recommend going below your BMR, so you may need to increase your activity level to reach a proper deficit.

      Calorie cycling is also more complicated than it’s worth. It’s more suited towards advanced lifters looking to progress on their lifts while staying lean. If you just want to cut, maintaining a consistent calorie deficit is a lot simpler. You can read more here: https://www.muscleforlife.com/calorie-cycling/

      I also don’t recommend lowering carbs. Check this out: http://www.muscleforlife.com/low-carb-diet/

      I hope this helps!

      • Amy

        Thanks mike. I think I’m over complicating things! Il stick to guidance from those articles. Thank you 😊

  • Alex Collier

    Hi Mike, I’ve been on a 500 calorie deficit for around 2 weeks now but my work out performance has dropped like crazy. I can barely do my working sets on compounds on a weight I used to warm up with, the routines can take well over an hour to complete due to fatigue (I’m using the TLS one year challenge book). Granted, I have had a virus recently but nothing serious. I’m 5ft 8, 62kg at around 20% body fat. Any suggestions? Failing so many exercises and dropping so much weight on my lifts is really killing my motivation. Thanks.

    • Hey Alex, it could be the recent sickness affecting you. When was the last time you took a deload?

      • Alex Collier

        Thanks for replying! Not too long ago, I took a week off in early June while I had my university exams.

        • Gotcha. It’s not a bad idea to schedule a deload every 6-8 weeks while cutting. Also, it’s normal to feel a bit more tired and weak in the beginning of a cut, but normally your body gets used to it in a week or two. How fast are you losing weight? It’s possible you’re eating too little and losing weight too quickly. If not, see if you still feel too fatigued to lift next week, and check out this article for signs of overtraining and tips to avoid it:


  • Meredith Andrews

    Hi Mike!

    First I just want to say that I really appreciate your work an
    d the time you take to lay everything out! I really enjoy reading your articles and books! I do have one question though…. my goal is to get down to roughly 20% BF. This will be the first time I have ever been in a calorie deficit. I’ve read that you recommend that cuts last between 8-12 weeks and not much longer than that due to Being in a calorie deficit for too long can be problematic. My question is that if by the end of the 12th week, I still am not at my goal (assuming that I am still losing 1-2 pounds per week), do you recommend I continue cutting so long as I am making progress? Or would I need to reverse diet to maintenance calories for about a month and then begin cutting again to reach my goal? My ultimate goal once I get down to 20% BF is to bulk for a few months to build more muscle. I appreciate any advice you can give!

    • Hey Meredith, thanks for the kind words! A cut lasts however long it takes to reach your goal. If you’re still losing fat and making progress after 12 weeks, keep going. 🙂

      I’d only reverse diet if you need a break psychologically, or fat loss stalls and you can’t add any more exercise/lower calories any further. I hope this helps!

  • Jobber

    Losing four lbs over four weeks is the definition of slow cutting, so you’re whole argument is flawed. Your suggestions are ok, but again that’s 1-2lbs a week, the definition of slow cutting.

    • Hey Jobber, in general 1-2 pounds a week would be a pretty decent rate for most people. In my experience, most people consider “slow cutting” to be more along the lines of 0.5 lbs per week or less. There really isn’t a firm definition of what slow cutting means, so in this context, that’s how I’m describing it.

      Thanks for reading, and I’m glad you still liked the recommendations.

  • Phil Turner

    Hi Mike,
    Hope all’s well.
    I was wondering if you would be able to advise? Have been working through Bigger, Leaner, Stronger for almost a year now, and am really amazed with the results.
    My wedding/honeymoon is coming up in 7 weeks and I’d like to really strip the remaining fat without loosing to much of the muscle I’ve managed to build. I’m currently cutting at a 20% calorie deficit, would you advise increasing to 25%?
    Currently – Weight: 154lbs, Body Fat: 21.7%, Lean Body Mass 122lbs, BMR 1564, TDEE 1877.
    Workouts – 3-day split, with a 45min cycle ride thrown in once or twice a week, on average.
    Macros – Calories: 1502, Protein 154g, Carbs 167g, Fat 24g.

    • Hey Phil, great work so far! Keep it up 🙂

      Yep, if you want to lose fat faster, I’d increase your deficit to 25%, try the 5-day split, and increase your number of HIIT sessions if possible. This article should help you out: https://legionathletics.com/how-to-lose-weight-fast/

      • Phil Turner

        Thanks for the pointers Mike. Three days of a 25% deficit and things seem to be moving again… Back on track!

  • Charles Calthrop

    Hi Mike,

    I’ve been cutting for about 12 weeks or so and have dropped from about 19-20% to 10-11% (which is about what I wanted to do). I now want to go into a bulk. Do I need to gradually ramp up my calories, or can I go into ‘bulk’ diet immediately?


  • Aries Fiire

    wouldn’t you still need to cut back calories in this scenario since you lose fat , get lighter aka need less calories like you said . If so , at what amount of weight loss do we redo out TDEE calculator and cut 750 off / 25 percent off it? every 5 lbs? every 10 lbs? i heard it takes 3-4 weeks for the body to catchup to that deficit which sounds like around 8 lbs of fat loss unless you’re extremely lean already of course . Thanks for the article , sounds great ! i will add a combo of walking to to a distant park – sprints – walk back into my program to save time and get good balanced results of cardio . I also wonder if a higher calorie day in your week , would this help boot metabolism up or is this just a waste of time ?

    • In general, I wouldn’t lower calories further until you reach a fat loss plateau (7-10 days with no fat loss). And before you do that, try increasing your activity levels instead.

      Doing a refeed (a higher calorie day particularly high in carbs) can be useful, but it’s generally not necessary until you’re already pretty lean and trying to go further. Higher calorie days, or cheat meals won’t stoke your metabolism to any meaningful degree, and they can undo your hard work if you’re not careful. If you do them right though, they can help keep you motivated without derailing your progress. Check these articles out:



  • Matthew Boux

    Mike. I’m struggling. Over the course of 11 and a half weeks I lost 25 pounds while actually GAINING strength in the gym. The only thing I lost strength on was my bench, but that’s it. I gained on everything else. So that good, but I’m now weighing 146 pounds ( down from 171 originally ) and still have belly fat. I’m starting to wonder if I lost muscle on my cut since I look to be around 15% still, and I shouldn’t be after 25lbs. I’m so frustrated as I don’t want to dip into the 130s. I decided I’d go to 140 and see where I get, but this whole situation isn’t making sense. I think I started around 25 percent so I can’t possibly be 15 percent still unless I lost 7 lbs of lean muscle mass. But considering I gained strength I shouldn’t have?? I was aggressive with my cut losing 2-2.25lbs per week, which has now slowed to around 1.25 to 1.5lbs. I know this is fast but I had a lot of fat to lose. Any guesses as to my percent? I just estimated 15, my scale says 17 which seems horrifyingly high.

    I have no problems with cutting further given my strength being fine, but I find I’m starting to look skinny and it’s not thrilling. I just want to get to 10% and then bulk. Did I lose this too fast and lost muscle? I had a lot of fat to lose though

    What’s my percent look like and does it look like I lost muscle? https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/4a0e558a60f73f827542ac2a349ae4b3678ce3bd547c4fba25ab7ee0db0e0257.jpg

    Abs show when flexing but not much when unflexed.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/7c130066cf0d2287d8a0ec70ad5bfef6dde568b5caaa0dcdfb3cc2f4343b3af6.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/367ca919bae078aa1e1f589f2e714167f3d5a7abbb4685f62a5bbfac97069876.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/1270c2b9375d12f4c0c883811a32b1f736fd15e3806f9a43e1d023f4cd3e470b.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/5c1e359a03fa83532dc8c1d93d43ea85cab0193305f56cf64375e25bfce0e780.jpg

    • It doesn’t look like you’ve lost muscle, and your strength gains are a good sign, too! I’d say you’re lean enough to bulk, so go for it, especially if you’re tired of cutting. Keep up the good work, Matthew!

      • Matthew Boux

        Thanks mike. I’m just curious, why did you say in the email yesterday that I should keep cutting? I have 5 pounds to go to reach 140 so I might just get to 140 over the next couple of weeks and then reverse diet my way up. I must be below 15% now right? I still have more belly fat than I want though which is annoying… yeah I’ve had Strength gains on pretty much everything except my flat bench has decreased a rather significant amount. Why has that been affected?

        • Hey man, based on the info you gave me in the email and the way you phrased it, it sounded like you were more worried about losing fat than building muscle, which is really what the answer to this question always boils down to: which bothers you more, having excess body fat (including belly fat) or not having as much muscle as you’d like?

          Focus on whichever one is bothering you more, and get progress moving, then worry about long-term planning.

          • Matthew Boux

            I see what you mean. My belly fat is almost gone, but I feel too small now and I want to get stronger again, I’m sick of just maintaining strength. Do I look lean now? I still don’t feel it but according to the calipers I’m about 10%. My body weight is way too low for my liking (144 ) right now though…

            I also sent you the email about the success story

          • Yup, you’re looking lean 🙂

            Cool, I’ll get back to you via email about the Success Story!

          • Matthew Boux

            Thanks mike. I raised my calories from 1850 to 2200 ( I did that jump because I was really struggling on 1850 and I also didn’t want my weight to go down any more. I’ve been on 2200 calories for 5 full days and my weight has remained steady, ( a measly 0.2lb gain? But likely water and carbs I’d imagine ) so is this likely my TDEE then? Note I had an off week and didn’t get any of my cardio in, so I assume once I start my cardio again I’ll be able to eat more again. When do I start increasing further to get to bulk level?

          • I would slowly increase until you reach your estimated TDEE:


            2200 is probably about right for you, but everyone’s going to be a bit different, and you have to find yours.

            From there, just keep increasing slowly until you’re gaining weight at the proper rate.

          • Matthew Boux

            Thanks. I’ve been eating 2200 for a week now, so why do I feel like I’m starving still if that’s around my TDEE?

            Regarding bulking, how long could I reasonably bulk for? The accumeasure calipers put me at 9% bodyfat, but do I honestly look that lean? I’m not sure if I could be that lean….

            If I gain 2.5-3 pounds a month, is that too fast?

          • Matthew Boux

            My weight has gone up a little bit so far but I have a feeling it’s just because of water and glycogen as I couldn’t be gaining fat on 2200 right?

          • Yes, you will store more water and glycogen as you eat more. It is possible to gain fat at 2200 cals, but that’s probably not the case here.

          • Matthew Boux

            My weight went back down again and is pretty much the same as it was a week ago, so I’m assuming I haven’t gained any fat or muscle, so I’m increasing to 2300 now. I’ll go up by 100 a week until I gain a half pound weekly.

          • Matthew Boux

            I do feel a bit more puffy though, but could this simply be from holding some more water and carbs from the extra food?

          • Yup

          • Matthew Boux

            Thanks mike,

            I do have a problem, despite eating a fair amount more my energy levels are still crap and I don’t feel much better yet. My strength in the gym seems worse than when I was on my cut and I do not understand what Is going on. Eating 2300 calories my weight is not budging either, I have a feeling I’m going to be one of those hardgainer guys….. do I just keep increasing every week until I’m gaining? I even cut back from three cardio sessions to one cardio session a week and mg weight is not changing at all. Not even a bit.

          • Matthew Boux

            That little bit I gained last week is long gone, probably was just water retention. I want to get gaining 0.5 to 0.75 pounds weekly but considering my weight hasn’t budged in the last 10 days I must not be eating enough.

            I know I have the body type of a classic hardgainer, which makes me wonder why I got fat in the first place,.. I never got fat in my life until I stuffed myself with 4000-5000 calories a day last year, so although I won’t be eating that much, I have a feeling I’m going to have to eat quite a bit

          • Matthew Boux

            The reason I ate so much last year is because I was small and skinny my whole life and wanted to gain weight, unfortunately most of it was fat, at least I know better this time

          • Yup you have it right – keep increasing your calories until you’re gaining at the target rate. Give this a read:


          • Matthew Boux

            Thanks mike. So I’ve really gone from 1850 to 2350 in a 10 day period, but that’s because I wanted to stop losing weight completely and didn’t want to lose any more while coming up slowly. So, as long as I’m not gaining weight too fast that means I’m not gaining a ton of fat right? I feel more puffy and a little less lean but again I wonder if it’s just from water and glycogen storage. As my weight has only increased a few tenths of a pound.

          • Sounds good!

          • Some people actually do feel hungrier when they first start ramping up their calories. Your body should adjust over time, and you won’t feel like you’re starving.

            You can bulk for many months if you go slowly enough. Two or three lbs in a month is a great target. Check this out:


            You’re probably somewhere around there, but it’s just an estimate. There’s no way to know your exact body fat percentage other than dissection :p

            Just bulk slowly until you reach 15% of so, and then you can cut back down. I hope this helps!

          • Matthew Boux

            Thanks mike. I definitely am in the 10% range now though aren’t I? Definitely lean enough to bulk? And yeah I feel hungrier now. Would I be able to get to my previous weight of 170 before having to cut fat again? I’m 144 right now.

            so if I aimed for 2.5 pounds gained per month that will be fine and not cause excessive fat storage? I have gained no weight at all on 2200 this last week, but I stopped losing weight. So I’m increasing to 2300 and will go up 100 each week until I’m gaining steadily. I have a feel I’m gonna be one of those hardgainer guys…

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