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Obstacles to effective cutting: how to overcome?

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  • Obstacles to effective cutting: how to overcome?

    TLDR: I'm a 6'0, 204lbs, 27.5% bodyfat intermediate lifter who's been cutting (trying to cut?) for several months, finding the going very slow, and now getting frustrated. I've tried to set things up properly: I eat between 2100 and 2200 calories a day, down from a pre-cut 2900 cal/day (at least) and an initial reduction to 2400 cal/day. Today, though, I'm weaker than I've been in 8 years, having lost gains on all my lifts, but seemingly no better for it: in 4 months, I've lost only 3 pounds and barely an inch (if anything at all) off my waist. Do I keep slashing daily calories? Ramp up conditioning work? I hate coming to a web forum to complain -- and I hate even more that I've become one of these "I tried and it's not working" people when it comes to weight loss -- but I'm not sure where to go from here. Any help is greatly appreciated, and very kind.

    Some stats:

    - 6'0, currently 204lbs. Age: mid-thirties.

    - DEXA scan in January 2022 shows 27.5% bodyfat.

    - Lifting seriously since 2015.

    - Began cutting in April 2022 at 207lbs. This is my first earnest and planned attempt at a cut.

    - Waist size in April 2022 was 39 inches.

    - Goal: get my waist size below 35 inches; look better in the mirror. No longer okay with looking like a fluffy powerlifter. Plus I'm definitely at risk for ugly outcomes at this weight / BMI / waist size.

    - 1RM lifts at start of cut:
    - - Squat: 385 lbs
    - - Deadlift: 415 lbs (PR)
    - - Bench: 255 lbs
    - - Press: 182.5 lbs (PR)

    - Current (roughly estimated) 1RM lifts in early August 2022:
    - - Squat: 330 lbs
    - - Deadlift: 390 lbs
    - - Bench: 225 lbs
    - - Press: 155 lbs

    - Current programming:

    - - Lift 4-5 days / week in my home gym. One lift per day, save Saturday, when I'll do a "heavy" set of 5 squats and a couple of heavy deadlift singles
    - - General logic: hover in place. Same lifts week in, week out:
    - - - Monday: squat 280x5x5
    - - - Tuesday: press 125x5x5
    - - - Thursday: deadlift 375x3x2
    - - - Friday: bench 205x5x5
    - - - Saturday: squat 315x5x1, and maybe DL 390x1x1 or 2 if I'm not dead and sore.

    - - Conditioning:
    - - - Pre-cut, I did basically zero conditioning work.
    - - - I have an erg / rowing machine that I use 1x/wk for about an hour
    - - - I have an assault / fan bike that I use for 3 minutes 2x/wk
    - - - I go hiking for an hour once a week.
    - - - In general, my compliance with conditioning is way worse than my compliance with lifting.

    - Nutrition
    - - I've used a TDEE calculator to dial in my daily maintenance calories and then subtract 500 or so from that amount. Initially that looked something like 2400, and when that wasn't really moving the scale I dropped it further to 2200.
    - - I'm trying to get fairly close to 200g protein per day. Usually I don't hit 200, but I'm rarely below 180.
    - - I've always had a lot of belly fat, but have tried to hide it by holding my stomach in all the time. This has led me to ignore it.

    - Other notes:
    - - I'm incredibly sore in the 2 days after I squat, especially in my adductors. It's quite bad; I walk funny and am in a good deal of pain (3/10).
    - - I've also posted this in the unmoderated Nutrition forum. These being my first posts in this forum, I wasn't sure where they fit best. I'm happy to delete one or the other if need be. Let me know!

  • #2

    Thanks for the post. I can understand how this would be frustrating. I think that a few things are fairly clear:
    1. You aren't creating an energy deficit, as evidenced by little to no weight loss.
    2. Your programming is not particularly well-suited to your current fitness level, goals, or needs, as evidenced by detraining.

    To correct these things, I'd do the following:
    1. Aim to maintain the current energy target of ~ 2200 Cal/day, though add some quantity control/measurements to it. Tracking via an app (myfitnesspal), using a food scale, etc. can be useful. Within this, I'd aim for 200g of protein/day, 250g carb/day, and 55g fat per day. I'd also shoot for 35g fiber/day from fruits, veggies, whole grains, legumes, etc.
    2. Use one of our templates for training. I'd suggest Powerbuilding or Strength I.
    3. Do the conditioning built into the template to help meet/exceed the physical activity guideline minimumsI
    I'd start there and then, should you need further direction, consider reaching out again- perhaps for coaching/direct guidance.

    Barbell Medicine "With you from bench to bedside"
    ///Website /// Instagram /// Peri™ Rx /// Whey Rx /// Barbell Medicine Podcast/// Newsletter /// Seminars ///


    • #3
      Thanks very much for this, Dr. Feigenbaum. Some responses (questions in bold, to cut to the chase):

      1. I do currently weigh and track my food intake, but it seems like you're saying it could use a little more dialing in. Looking at my last few days, I see a lot of 200/170/80 protein-carb-fat days, and I know that those are pretty typical for the time period of this cut (April to now) from looking at that day's menu. I could kick carbs up pretty easily, I think, and bring fats down a bit.

      2. I've never tracked fiber before, so I'll be keeping an eye on that in the future. Looking at recent food intake, on a bad day I'll only be getting like 8g fiber, and what seems like a "good day" is really only 20 or 22g. On one hand, I've never really been entering my veggies into MFP, but I know I'm not optimally compliant with veggie intake anyway.

      3. I've suspected my programming isn't really working for me. Years ago (2019 I think) I purchased your Powerbuilding 2 template but never actually used it. Would that still work?

      So overall, your take is:

      4. Dial in eating a little better
      5. Dial in programming a lot better
      6. Ramp up conditioning substantially

      Am I reading that right?


      • #4

        I think it is very unlikely you are consuming the reported 2200 cals/day on average. I think you're eating a lot more than that and would benefit from better quantity control. I think PB II would be okay, though I think PB I or STR I would be better due to the concerns about current training tolerance and work capacity. I would aim to meet the current physical activity guidelines with respect to conditioning, yes.

        Barbell Medicine "With you from bench to bedside"
        ///Website /// Instagram /// Peri™ Rx /// Whey Rx /// Barbell Medicine Podcast/// Newsletter /// Seminars ///