Have you ever found yourself getting a bit too soft around your waistline deep into your muscle-gaining phase? You would like to gain a few more ounces of muscle but you are hesitant because you don’t want to get too fluffy. At this point, you are asking yourself, “Should I give up on bulking and start dieting down?” And before you know, you are repeating this short-lived bulking and cutting cycle over and over again, and you are not going anywhere in terms of overall progress for months and years.
We’ve all been there, and it is not a pleasant experience. Here enters a mini cut to lose fat fast to our rescue!
What is a Mini Cut?
A mini cut is a brief period of fat loss phase that is typically much shorter in length of time and more aggressive compared to an extended fat loss/dieting phase. The primary goal of doing a mini cut is to lose some of the unwanted fat that one has accumulated during a gaining phase. It focuses on dropping as much fat as possible within as little time as possible so that s/he can continue to spend more time in a gaining phase, resulting in a more effective off-season in terms of strength and muscle gain.
One can utilize a mini cut as the bridge between muscle-gaining phases that would help them to spend more time within a year in caloric surplus without putting on too much additional body fat. You can also utilize a mini cut for an event or an occasion that is coming up in a few weeks that you want to lean down for.
Length of a Mini Cut
As mentioned above, mini cuts last a much shorter time in duration; an ideal mini cut may last about 4-6 weeks while an extended fat loss/dieting phase can last 12-16+ weeks. The reason why we want the duration of a mini cut to last so short is that we want to avoid any type of metabolic adaptation that can occur with an extended fat loss phase.
Although the degree of caloric restriction is greater with a mini cut, since the amount of time we spend in caloric deficit is so short we will be able to mitigate, or even avoid, any of the downside associated with metabolic adaptation such as slower resting metabolic rate.
How to Set Up Caloric Intake During A Mini Cut
A good way to think of what a mini cut would look like is to think of it as a robbery! We want in and out as quickly as we can while ensuring that we are losing desired amount of body fat. Therefore, the degree of caloric deficit will be significantly greater than what we would use to ease ourselves into a longer fat loss phase.
A good rule of thumb is start with a caloric intake that is 10-12kcals times your bodyweight in pounds. Closer to 10 if you have higher body fat to lose, and closer to 12 if you have less. For example, a 180lb individual would have a daily caloric intake of anywhere between 1800kcals and 1960kcals. This aggressive caloric deficit will ensure that we can quickly clean up some of the residues from our previous gaining phase and move onto the next one.
How to Set Up Cardio During A Mini Cut
Since we are already creating an aggressive caloric deficit from diet perspective, there is no need to go all out on cardio, although a little bit of cardio added may bring us even greater results by creating a greater deficit and helping fat mobilization within our bodies.
However, there is a caveat. If we are adding too many cardio sessions to the point where the quality of our resistance training is being down-graded, we may want to back off with cardio sessions. Remember that our bodies do not discriminate where the caloric deficit is coming from; that is, as long as we are creating enough caloric deficit from our diets we will lose weight without doing any added cardio sessions. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you MUST do cardio to lose weight. Maintaining the quality (i.e. intensity, volume, and frequency) of our resistance training will ensure that the weight that is lost from dieting is mostly from fat loss and not from muscle loss.
Reversing Out of a Mini Cut and Back to Gaining
When following the guidelines above, you can expect to lose a noticeable amount of body fat within 4-6 weeks. Since a mini cut is so short to negatively impact our metabolism, there is no need to go on a slow, controlled “reverse diet” out of a mini cut as if you would at the end of an extended fat loss phase.
We would first drop all the added cardio sessions altogether – if you added any during the mini cut – and go back to whatever cardio protocol you were using during your gaining phase. We would simultaneously bring our caloric intake back up to a maintenance level for about a week. Then, add calories back up to your original surplus level within the next couple weeks or so.
Incorporating a mini cut can be very beneficial for:
- Someone who is looking to gain muscle without putting on too much body fat
- Someone who has been in the endless cycle of gaining muscle and losing fat without going anywhere for months and years.
A mini cut should be aggressive in terms of caloric deficit (10-12kcals times bodyweight in pounds) and should not last more than 6 weeks. If you find that you need more than 6 weeks to clean up the body fat, then maybe you should reduce the amount of surplus you are putting yourself with your gaining phase – many experts recommend more moderate caloric surplus during gaining phase, which is about 300-500kcals over the maintenance level before hitting a plateau.