Almost all natural bodybuilders are either cutting or bulking; cutting during contest season, or bulking in the off-season. The most successful off-seasons contain bulks lasting for nine months to almost two years. The only problem with staying in a caloric surplus for that long is accumulation of some unwanted fat.
That is where minicut comes in. A minicut can keep the waist small, prevent you putting on too much fat in a bulk, allow for longer and more successful bulks, promote or revitalize discipline, and offer a refreshing change of pace to your lifestyle, diet, or training.
What is a Minicut?
A minicut is maintaining a restricted caloric deficit for three to five weeks. The name comes from being a shorter version of a cutting phase, hence miniature cut. Differences between a minicut and an actual cut include time, intensity, and goals. They are much shorter and less intense than a normal cut. For example, full blown cuts will range from ten to thirty-six weeks, while minicuts are no longer than 6 weeks.
Additionally, long-term cuts intend to get athletes much leaner than minicuts and become, therefore, more intense. Proper minicuts should not significantly impede on strength gain, nor drop carbs or calories too low, and be used mainly for athletes in an extended bulking phase. They should also only have you losing one to three pounds per week for optimal muscle and strength preservation. My personal recommendation is to drop calories 400-500 below maintenance, potentially adding an additional cardio session each week.
Should You Minicut?
Minicuts are fairly situational compared to other dieting techniques and strategies. This short-term diet typically isn’t recommended for individuals who consider themselves hard gainers, or have a difficult time putting on weight. Those people are usually already lean and tend to lose muscle fast, so minicuts just impede on strength and size goals.
Another scenario where a minicut may be a wrong approach is for beginners or athletes inexperienced in consistent training or dieting. Novice lifters have a very high potential for muscle growth and will make significant gains in the first few years of training. That period is best maximized by staying in a slight surplus of calories and not attempting too many cutting phases. Minicuts are best targeted, as aforementioned, to those in a very long bulk who are either unhappy with their physique or need a change of pace so that they may bulk for longer.
Problems with a Minicut
One major problem many athletes find themselves in and don’t even realize it is a never-ending cycle of minicuts and minibulks. People bulk for four weeks, decide they are too fat, proceed to cut for four weeks, just to decide they are too skinny, and repeat. The problem is those inexperienced dieters gain and lose the same ten pounds every time they repeat this cycle. Instead of spinning your wheels over and over again, stay consistent in your bulk be more objective about analyzing body composition or making decisions. So when considering a minicut, you do not make the mistake of getting trapped in useless mini bulking and cutting phases.
Benefits of a Minicut
If done correctly, these short deficits yield incredible benefits, as listed below:
Preventing too much fat gain
Minicuts are fantastic for keeping in decent shape during a long bulk. It prevents too extreme of fat accumulation, a smaller waist, and an overall better physique.
✓ Allowing for a more successful bulk
A minicut serves as a reset to your mind and body. After ten weeks of bulking and doing the same routine day in and day out your body gets accustomed to the process, not to mention it becomes almost tedious. Cutting for three to six weeks will refresh your mind and body, allowing you to return to the bulk with a newfound sense of vitality, discipline, and motivation. Furthermore, losing some fat allows for a longer bulk, which promotes more muscle and strength gain.
✓ Restoring appetite in extended bulks
The science behind a decreased appetite can be simplified down to the hormone leptin, also known as the satiety hormone. Essentially, as the body becomes more used to being in a surplus and accumulating fat cells, leptin levels and function will be manipulated and ultimately lower your appetite. This can be problematic, especially if you’re already struggling to get enough calories.
Leptin can be further explained in Myprotein writer Billy Galipeault’s article: Leptin and Weight Loss
Take Home Message
Minicuts are not for everyone, but if you’re in an extended bulk phase and need to tighten up your physique then a minicut can offer much utility. Not only will a minicut shed off some fat, but also refresh your mind and body, create more successful bulks, and restore much needed discipline and drive when confronting each goal.