Mini cuts: Should you do them? What is their use?
So, the term “Mini cut,” let’s first define what that means. A cut would be if you decide that you’re going to lose a lot of body fat to get to a certain goal, whether it be a photo shoot, a competition, you just want to get in better shape for an event, for life, whatever it may be – you just decide that you’ve gained 30 pounds and you don’t want it anymore, and you want to lose that weight. That’s what a cut would be.
Mini cuts typically refer to a short timeframe – two weeks, four weeks, six weeks, eight weeks – where you have a specific goal you want to get to, but it would be much less intense. And it might even just be a relief from a building phase or some other aspect of what’s going on. So, to give my opinion on whether mini cuts are beneficial, it has to come down to the individual. Once again, I can’t give you a black-and-white answer. Are mini cuts good? Are mini cuts bad? The answer can be yes to both, but it ultimately depends on what your goal is, and it very much depends on the psychology of the athlete.
When you’re not taking into consideration the psychology of an athlete, you’re not really going to get the most out of the person. If someone is telling me, “I hate the way I look. I hate the way I feel. Do we need to keep building?” Even if I feel it’s in the best interest of that person to continue to add calories, to continue to keep cardio low and restore their metabolic rate, if they are miserable and unhappy I am going to really take that into consideration, have a discussion with them, and go over what the goal should be.
If someone is not in a metabolic position to lose 30 pounds, but that’s their ultimate goal, and I feel they need to be building, we might be able to work out a deal where you can lose five pounds, ten pounds, an inch or two off your waist. For some people, it’s how their clothes fit. I ask this feedback in a lot of my updates. I will say, “How are your clothes fitting?” Sometimes the scale can go up or remain stable, but measurements go down and clothes will fit better. Clothes are pretty consistent in our lives, so this is a good way to get feedback.
So, when doing a mini cut, sometimes people just want to be able to put their work slacks on, their work clothes, and feel better about how they’re looking and how that is responding with their physique. So, a lot of it depends, a mini cut, on the realistic expectations of that cut. If it’s wintertime, if it’s springtime and it’s about to be summertime and you know you’re going to be by the pool a lot. I have a lot of people say, “Oh, I want to do a mini cut so I look good for summer.” This one, I will have a little bit more hesitation with, because I think mini cuts for most people, depending on what their body composition is, it’s not a mini cut that’s going to get them to the physique they want.
Again, this is highly individual. If someone is in really good shape and they just want to get a little leaner, I’m okay with that. But if someone is 25 pounds away from seeing abs and they want to do a mini cut in the middle of their building phase and they’re only going to lose 5 to 7 pounds, it might not create any visual different for someone that’s going to be sitting by the pool. So, it has to be realistic.
Fresh Out Of A Competition
Where I really don’t like mini cuts is someone who has just come out of a bodybuilding/fitness competition. So, a person comes out of a competition, they put on a little bit more body fat than they wanted to, and it’s been three, four, five weeks since the show and they’re just uncomfortable in their skin. And they say, “Hey, coach, can we cut and get back a few pounds of fat off?” My immediate response is going to be, “We really need to think this through.” A mini cut six weeks after you finished your last fat-loss diet in a period where you haven’t really been able to control your calories and you’re not feeling that good is going to be, at best, unsuccessful and, at worst, damaging.
To get fat off you’re going to have to get your calories back to where they were at the end of contest prep. Metabolism has not been restored. Also, the fat that you first put on immediately after a contest is typically a little more stubborn than it was initially when it came off.
So, would mini cuts be best used for people who have put on a couple extra pounds after a contest? I disagree with that. I would say set realistic expectations for your macro goals. Keep some cardio in. Keep training. Your body composition and metabolism will catch up to that weight. Trying to take fat off immediately after a long fat-loss phase, not in your best interest in my mind.
For The Average Person
There is one other type of client that I would like to address, and this one is a little more typical. I work some general population clients who have got more body fat than they want, but their metabolism is also very depressed. So, they’re maintaining a lot of body fat with very low calories and a lot of cardio. So first is setting realistic expectations with them. “Okay, let’s build. Let’s add some calories. Let’s reduce your cardio. Let’s get into a good resistance training program.”
And the goal here is going to be to maintain body weight, maybe change body composition a little by adding some lean body mass, depending on what their training history is like. But ultimately, we are not going to be successful with taking a significant amount of body fat off of this person until we have spent a significant amount of time in a caloric maintenance or surplus phase, building those calories up for a while.
Let’s take a female who is walking around at 180 pounds and she wants to be 140. Typically, when we start a reverse diet or a building phase with this person, they’re okay with it at first – four weeks, six weeks. After about 8 to 10 weeks, 12 weeks, it’s pretty common that they say, “Okay, coach, can we start a fat-loss phase?” Now, typically in that 12 weeks they haven’t gained any body fat. They haven’t gained any weight. You know, we have done things very well. They were a good responder. But the issue is the calories are still not in a position where we’re going to see significant fat loss.
This is where a conversation has to be had. “Are you looking for the long-term benefit? Are you looking to get down to that 140 and be able to sustain that for the rest of your life? Or at this point, are you happy just going from 180 to 175 and then starting the reverse from there?” So, setting realistic expectation and, again, the psychology of the athlete, of the individual involved, is super important.
I have people that I do this reverse cut with very successful. Mind you, it’s over a year period. And we get things back to normal and things back to healthy and happy, and it looks wonderful on Instagram and you get to post pictures of before-and-afters. It’s a wonderful story, but how you get there is highly individualised. It’s what’s best for you.
Would I Personally Do A Mini Cut?
If I had my way about it, because I play the long game – I can see five, ten years into the future – I would prefer we just spend all that time in a surplus, building, getting the calories up, getting the body composition back to what it should be, and then starting a fat-loss phase, getting down to an ideal weight and learning how to maintain that. But again, that’s my preference as a coach. I can’t understand everyone’s perspective. I have my perspective. So, as much as I would like to think of myself as a coach, I’m also a bit of a psychiatrist in that I have to consider people’s and understand them. It’s all very important when you’re considering a mini cut.
If you want to get in touch with me for specific questions – and you don’t have to work with me. You can e-mail me at Stefan@Stefanlamers.com. I’ll give you my opinion. Just remember I’m going to prioritise my client e-mails. Try to be as specific as possible. Saying, “Hey, I’m 40 pounds overweight and I’m taking in 1,500 calories,” that’s not going to give me a lot of feedback to go on, a lot of information to give you good feedback on. The more specific you can be, the better. There’s really no secrets to what I do as a coach. It’s all about providing information and explaining what I do so that you can use these tools for the rest of your life.
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