Uploaded by Scott Kenyon


Mike Israetel Ph.D.
Jared Feather M.S.
With foreword by Steve Hall
About the Authors
Dr. Mike Israetel holds a Ph.D. in Sport Physiology, and is currently the head science consultant
for Renaissance Periodization. Mike was formerly a professor of Exercise and Sport Science at
Temple University in Philadelphia, where he taught several courses. He has worked as a
consultant on sports nutrition to the U.S. Olympic Training Site in Johnson City, TN, and has
been an invited speaker at numerous scientific and performance and health conferences. A cofounder of Renaissance Periodization, Mike has coached hundreds of physique athletes and is
himself a competitive bodybuilder.
Jared Feather holds a B.S. in Exercise Science and an M.S. in Exercise Physiology from the
University of Central Missouri. He is a professional IPE and NFF bodybuilder with 10 top five
finishes and five 1st place finishes in Men’s Open Class Bodybuilding. On top of his substantial
accomplishments in competitive bodybuilding, as the Head Bodybuilding Contest Preparation
Consultant at Renaissance Periodization, Jared has coached hundreds of men and women on
their way to placing on bodybuilding stages across the nation and in his time at RP has turned
ten competitors into professional natural body builders.
We thank Melissa Davis PhD for editing and figure creation.
At the time of writing this I have hosted Dr. Mike Israetel twice in the UK for seminars, recorded
hours of podcasts with him, and had multiple back and fourth discussions. I am thus lucky
enough to be well associated with Mike and the great company that is Renaissance
Periodization. Mike and Jared Feather, the authors of this manual, are two up and coming
leaders in the field of muscular hypertrophy and everything that goes with it. Writing this
foreword is an absolute honour.
Many people are looking for a quick fix when it comes to getting lean, but minicuts are not the
answer. Minicuts are for continuing to make your best muscular gains––they literally potentiate
muscle growth when done correctly. 'When done correctly' needs repeating because a lot of
people do them incorrectly. This manual will help readers properly execute minicuts and
experience some very potent benefits.
Minicuts are something I personally have a lot of experience with. At Revive Stronger we have
used minicuts with hundreds of clients, allowing them to make the most efficient muscular
progress possible. During my 2014 to 2017 natural bodybuilding offseason, minicuts helped me
go from an ok novice competitor, to placing in two British finals in men’s middleweight. To quote
one of the judges "Steve looks like a new man". While I do not give all the credit to minicuts,
they did form an integral part of my well-planned offseason.
This manual will clear up misunderstandings about minicuts, and give detailed instructions on
how to use them correctly in order to maximize muscular development.
-Steve Hall
Steve is the Founder of Revive Stronger, an online
coaching company and content creator for those
seeking to maximize physique development. Steve
is also a competitive natural bodybuilder.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: Important Definitions
Chapter 3: Reasons to Minicut
Chapter 4: Minicut Structure
Chapter 5: Diet Details on Minicuts
Chapter 6: Training Details on Minicuts
Chapter 7: What to Expect
Chapter 8: After the Minicut
Chapter 9: Peaking and Recovering After a TIA Minicut
Chapter 10: Minicut Myths and Follies
Chapter 1: Introduction
For several years now, the authors have been employing minicuts in our own diet progressions
and in those of our clients. We have seen both great successes and huge disappointments in
their application depending on the conditions and parameters used. After years of trial and error
combined with what we know about the basic scientific principles of training and nutrition, we
have developed a systematized way to determine when, why, and under what parameters
minicuts can and should be executed. We will share what we have learned in this short manual
so that you can utilize this tool for your own physique improvements. Minicuts are strategically
powerful, but not without serious limitations, so understanding how and when to appropriately
use them is critical.
A huge caveat to both the use of minicuts and the reading of this manual is that you must
already know basic nutrition principles for fat loss and muscle gain for a minicut to be at all
useful to you. If you are not already extremely comfortable with terms like “calorie deficit” and
“rebound weight gain,” then we highly recommend you read the more basic literature on the
matter first. (We recommend Renaissance Diet and or Renaissance Woman for a detailed
introduction into the basics of nutrition for body composition change). Further, anyone reading
this book must have a basic handle on training principles and training volume landmarks to
understand minicut training recommendations. (We recommend How Much Should I Train?
for an introduction to training principles). In addition to the prerequisite of fundamental
knowledge about training and nutrition, anyone attempting a minicut should have experience
running a traditional fat loss diet. This manual is for individuals with knowledge and experience
who are prepared for a more advanced form of dieting designed to refine their current effective
body composition development practices.
1 Chapter 2: Important Definitions
In order to clearly explain and define the “minicut”, we will first walk through the principles and
definition of the conventional “cut,” or fat loss diet. We will also define some of the basic training
volume landmarks that will be relevant in our minicut discussion throughout the manual.
A cut, or a fat loss phase is a period of hypocaloric dieting for the purpose of sustainable fat
loss. There can be a number of reasons to run a fat loss diet, which include, but are not limited
Wanting to look better (pure aesthetics)
Wanting to compete in physique sport
Wanting to improve performance in bodyweight-dependent sport
Wanting to compete in a lower weight-class for sport
Wanting to make more room for muscle gain within a weight-class sport (or in general)
Wanting to deprive yourself of joy, just so that you can experience true suffering and feel
alive for the first time in your life (just kidding)
When executing a conventional cut, we have two basic concerns. The first, and most obvious, is
that our fat loss phase should be hypocaloric enough and long enough to allow us to lose a
significant amount of fat at an efficient pace. This would bias our cut design towards a longer,
more aggressive diet, were it not for the second concern. Our second concern is the prevention
of muscle loss (and for some, performance loss). This latter concern biases our cut design
towards a shorter, less aggressive diet.
Thus, ideally on a conventional cut we are looking for a middle ground that produces a
combination of efficient fat loss with minimal muscle and performance loss. This ideal middle
ground seems to come from 6 to 16 week diets where weight is lost at a rate of between 0.5 and
1.0% bodyweight per week. Generally speaking, cuts on the shorter end of the duration
spectrum (6-9 weeks) can be run on the more aggressive end (0.75-1.0% per week), while diets
on the longer end of the duration spectrum (9-16 weeks) are best run with less aggressive
paces (close to 0.5% per week or even a bit lower). There are certainly exceptions to this
approach, but most individuals would be well served to stick within these constraints for
sustainable fat loss on a conventional cut.
A minicut is a shorter, more aggressive fat loss phase for which the purpose is not sustainable
weight loss. The reasons to run a minicut are primarily limited to the following:
Potentiating weight gain
Temporarily improving appearance
A minicut is a hypocaloric diet that lasts anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks in length. The weight loss
rates for a minicut are typically between 0.75% and 1.25% bodyweight per week. Any rate much
2 slower would not result in significant fat loss over such a short period. Any rate much faster
would risk too much muscle loss and fatigue accumulation even over the short duration, among
other downsides to be discussed later.
Importantly, a minicut is not just a shorter cut. Unlike a conventional cut, the short duration of
the minicut allows for maintenance volume levels of training. This very important detail makes
the minicut particularly useful in certain situations. Further, the aggressive weight loss across
the short duration allows for potentiation of weight gain, which is also very useful in particular
situations. Minicuts serve a different purpose altogether from conventional cuts, one that
warrants the in-depth discussion to follow.
Volume Landmarks
A few main terms are listed and briefly defined below as a refresher:
MRV (maximum recoverable volume): The highest volume of training an athlete can do in a
particular situation and still recover.
MAV (maximum adaptive volume): The amount of training that, in any one unit of time, yields
the greatest adaptive response.
MEV (minimum effective volume): The lowest volume of training an athlete can do in a
particular situation and still measurably improve.
MV (maintenance volume): The lowest volume of training an athlete can do in a particular
situation and still retain his/her abilities/adaptations.
3 Chapter 3: Reasons to Minicut
When we do a minicut, it is in no way a replacement for a conventional duration fat loss phase.
When we run a conventional cut diet we are essentially interested in doing two things. The most
straightforward is losing fat tissue. The second and often under-appreciated goal is to move our
fat and weight settling points to lower values, making the weight loss sustainable. A settling
point is the amount of tissue your body ‘thinks’ it should be carrying. If you run a conventional
cut and then slowly increase calories post-diet and keep the fat off long enough, your body’s
fight to get back to your previous heavier settling points quiets down. Maybe never completely,
but after you have been leaner for longer it becomes easier to stay that way. A huge benefit to
slower dieting is that it eases your settling point down slowly and results in less push back from
your body. A second big benefit is that a longer diet (made possible by the slower pace) can
help you lose enough weight to significantly move your settling point away from its old position.
This benefit is especially likely if you ease slowly into your recovery phase after the diet. Slow,
controlled conventional cuts allow you lose weight for the long-term. Minicuts are designed to do
much the opposite.
Because minicuts are both too short to help you lose a lot of weight and too aggressive to gently
pull your settling point down, they are likely to result in a net weight gain shortly after their
completion. You also accumulate substantial hormonal (increase in hunger-causing hormones)
and mental (increase in cravings and pleasure from food) drives to overeat which, due to your
relatively unchanged settling point, results in rebound weight gain.
This all sounds like bad news if your only goal is sustainable fat loss and this is precisely why
minicuts are not used for sustainable fat loss. This may come as a nasty surprise to the
individual who hopes to minicut their way to a lower permanent weight and fat level. If you try to
minicut, stabilize, then repeat, you are actually doing a diet that is designed to rocket your
weight back up. Long-term fat loss is best done slowly, allowing your settling point time to
descend. Dieting to lose fat should be done with conventional, longer fat loss phases and not
Minicuts to Potentiate Muscle Mass Gains
The number one purpose for minicuts is to further mass gains. As mentioned, quick, harsh fat
loss dieting generally results in rebound gain, an advantageous result when muscle growth is
the goal. Minicuts facilitate this function in several distinct ways:
Clearance of Accumulated Fat
P-Ratio Improvement
Weight Rebounding
Re-sensitization to Training Volume
4 Clearance of Accumulated Fat
Aside from what is sometimes seen in beginners or under special circumstances, muscle gains
on a hypercaloric diet will come with some fat gain. This is not a problem in the short-term, but
in the longer term we can start to run into some difficulties with fat accumulation.
First of all, over time on a mass gain diet, body fat percentage will increase, which many people
will struggle with. This is not necessarily a concern for folks interested in being as jacked as
possible in the long-term, or those who are comfortable in their bodies at any size. It is
something to consider if you make some of your money from your appearance or know that you
will struggle mentally with wearing your pants a few sizes larger for months on end.
Second, the more fat you accumulate during your mass gain diet, the more you have to lose if
and when you decide to get lean. If you allow your settling point to be reset much higher and
then need to get to photoshoot or physique competition levels of lean, taking off all of the extra
fat will be considerable work and will risk significant muscle loss. If you gain enough excess fat,
you also risk unnecessarily developing stretch marks on your way up and loose skin on your
way down.
Lastly, an important reason to avoid gaining too much excess fat is health. For males over 20%
body fat and females over 30% body fat, long-term health is at a slightly higher risk just because
of the extra adiposity. Above those values, more health risks can arise, especially in the longterm.
Minicuts can help prevent excessive fat gain across your mass gain phases, which will help you
stay healthier, potentiate your performance and physique results, and keep you alive and
healthy into your later years.
P-Ratio Improvement
P-Ratio or Partitioning Ratio, is the ratio of muscle to fat gained when increasing weight.
Generally speaking, the leaner you are, the more muscle and less fat you tend to add any time
you gain weight. (An exception to this is with extreme leanness––below 10% bodyfat for males
and below 15% for females and the body will put on more fat in effort to keep itself in a healthy
range.) Increased muscle gain at leaner body fat percentages probably occurs at least in part
because muscle insulin sensitivity is reduced faster than fat insulin sensitivity as you gain
weight. Thus the more fat tissue present, the more nutrients will be shuttled to fat cells rather
than muscle. If you get leaner again, you regain muscle insulin sensitivity and resume better
nutrient intake by muscle cells. More research is needed to determine whether there are other
reasons for better P-Ratios in leaner individuals, but insulin sensitivity is a very likely contributor.
Gaining weight while staying within a range of between 10% to 15% bodyfat for males and
between 15% and 25% bodyfat for females is likely ideal for optimal muscle to fat gain ratios.
Within those ranges there is probably not a very significant difference in P-ratios from one end
of the range to the other, but some of the downsides to accumulated fat discussed above will
apply more to the upper ends of the ranges.
In an ideal world, a male would gain from about 10% fat until they reached 15% fat, and then
would somehow drop at least some of the gained fat before embarking on another hypercaloric
diet phase. A female might go from 17% to 25%, and then somehow restart the gaining process
5 again once bodyfat was lowered. Minicuts help buy a bit more time in the efficient mass gaining
body fat range.
Weight Rebounding
When weight is enough above the body’s settling point, hunger can take a huge hit. At some
point during the gaining process, eating enough to gain becomes very difficult. Minicuts put you
into a large caloric deficit rapidly, which is a very time-tested way of increasing your hunger
levels. In fact, this is why crash diets predictably result in rebound weight gain to higher weights
after the diet is over. Sadly, people running these crash diets are usually not looking to facilitate
weight gain as one running a minicut would be.
Sometimes, in order to not gain too quickly after a minicut (and thus accumulate too much fat),
you might have to resist your hunger to some extent after a minicut and ease into more eating.
This is a pretty good problem to have compared to struggling to get calories in before the
minicut. Some individuals may not need this benefit, but most will at least find it pleasant.
Re-sensitization to Training Volume
The longer you train with high volumes, the less hypertrophy it likely initiates. The short duration
of the minicut means that you can lower training volume somewhat without muscle loss. Just
like the weekend gives you a break to re-charge for another work week, a low-volume phase
can re-sensitize your muscles to higher volume training to allow more productive growth. There
are a number of potential mechanisms for this effect:
Direct pathway sensitization might occur, with low volume periods decreasing
responsiveness of catabolic and endurance-promoting pathways such as those
mediated by AMPk and increasing the responsiveness of anabolic pathways such as
those mediated by mTOR.
Muscle pumps (intracellular swelling) have also been shown to cause growth. By training
with high volumes for a long time, you might adapt and begin to get less intracellular
swelling responses. Taking a break from and then returning to high-volume training
might allow this pump to make a come back.
Fiber types might shift towards the slower-acting end of the spectrum with long-term
high-volume training. Reducing volume for a while might allow them to return to fasteracting phenotypes. Faster-twitch fibers have been shown to grow more than slowertwitch, so there is some logic in shifting the balance towards faster-acting fibers before
trying to grow the most again.
High repetition, short rest, or other types of metabolite-intensive training such as
occlusion training can sequester metabolites in the muscle and facilitate hypertrophy. It
has been shown that the effect of such training decreases rather rapidly the more it is
used. This is probably because vascularity develops with this training, allowing the very
metabolites you are trying to sequester in the muscle to flow out faster and faster. By
taking a low volume break, some of that vascularization will be reversed, allowing you to
benefit from metabolite techniques again.
6 Fatigue effects on ligament, bone, and tendon tissue, as well as hormone-mediated fatigue
often require a month or more of lower volume training to fully recover. Thus, you cannot simply
lower training volume for a week or so and expect full healing of these tissues or full hormonal
recovery. In order to clear the path for months of productive, unimpeded, higher-volume training,
lower volume phases of at least several weeks in length may be needed.
The amount of training volume it takes to conserve muscle in the very short-term (weeks), even
at a caloric deficit, is much lower than the amount needed to grow muscle. Because of the short
duration of the deficit, it is possible to back off of training volume significantly during a minicut
and get some re-sensitization benefits along with fat loss and very little muscle loss. Thus if you
have been training with high volume on a mass gain diet for a prolonged period, a minicut with
low-volume training potentiates not only your hunger and muscle growth potential, but your
sensitivity to high-volume training for that muscle growth.
There are of course limits to this. You cannot create too big a deficit or do too much cardio (and
thus need a higher volume of lifting to offset the muscle loss risk) or you eliminate some of the
minicut benefits. Thus the rate-of-loss on a minicut should still be limited. Faster loss rates
require more training volume to maintain muscle and again, increasing volume then prevents resensitization and you accumulate a lot of fatigue in the process. Not only is this effect indirect
(via higher training volume preventing re-sensitization), it is also direct: Bigger deficits directly
activate AMPk and other such catabolic pathways, preventing muscle growth.
It is important to note that even the best minicut does not re-sensitize or drop fatigue like a full
low volume phase or active rest phase would. So minicuts do not buy you the same amount of
muscle gain time as full low volume phases. Further, minicuts buy a bit less gain time each time
they are repeated. It is therefore probably not possible to just mass-minicut-mass-minicut
indefinitely if you want the best results. Minicutting can be a tool that expands you muscle gain
timeline significantly when used well, but is not a substitute for all conventional cuts, low volume
phases, or active rest phases.
Minicuts to Achieve Temporarily Improved Appearance
The second potential purpose of minicutting is to get into better shape temporarily in a short
amount of time. We will call this special application of the minicut the temporarily improved
appearance or TIA minicut. An example might be a physique athlete who has been away on
vacation enjoying food and not maintaining too lean a physique. This person is sponsored by a
fitness apparel company and is contacted when she returns regarding a bikini photoshoot that
must be done within the next 4 weeks. In this case, the athlete might have 4 weeks to go from a
slightly fluffy post-vacation physique to looking as lean as reasonably possible.
Quite a challenge, and certainly no time to run a conventional “0.5-1.0% per week” fat loss
phase. Here a special application of the minicut can really help this athlete fulfill her duties to
her sponsors and look great for the photoshoot. Even in this case where the minicut serves a
great purpose, the process is not without its downsides and limitations as you might have
gathered from what we have discussed about minicuts thus far.
The most apparent downside to the TIA minicut is that, as the name delineates, it is temporary.
The rapidity with which fat is lost is so great that the rebound effect will be equivalently great.
The most we can hope for post-TIA minicut is to gain back to just below or right at start-ofminicut weight. A more likely outcome is that we end up heavier. The biggest priority post TIA
7 minicut then, is to prevent taking a step backward and rebounding to a greater bodyfat level
than before the minicut. The TIA minicut is not part of a longer-term approach to gradually
reducing body fat, it is merely a temporary solution when longer term options are not possible.
This means that if and when you choose to do a TIA minicut, you are willingly making the tradeoff to look sharp temporarily, while paying the cost of lost or delayed long-term progress. Aside
from special situations that warrant this trade-off, TIA minicuts are shortsighted and impede
long-term maximal progress.
We are driving this point home because we want to make sure you understand the temporary
nature and negative long-term trade-offs in real progress involved when you choose to do a TIA
minicut. We strongly suggest this option be taken only when absolutely necessary and never as
a part of a long-term fat loss plan.
Minicuts Are Not Useful During Competition Preparation for Strength Athletes
For a variety of reasons, strength athletes cannot benefit from minicuts when approaching
competition. Far out from competition during mass phases however, strength athletes might be
able to strategically make use of minicuts, especially if they are beginners. Factors precluding
minicut use leading up to competition for strength athletes include the following:
On The Single-Workout Scale, Aggressive Dieting Is Incompatible with Overloading
Strength Workouts
On the Week-to-Week Scale, Progressive Strength Training is Too Fatiguing on a
Minicut Deficit
Minicuts alter Bodyweight, Requiring Technical Adjustments
On The Single-Workout Scale, Aggressive Dieting Is Incompatible with Overloading Strength
When training for strength or even power improvements as a competitive athlete, each workout
requires you to perform––perhaps not to your maximal abilities every time, but certainly close to
them on a regular basis. Physique athletes on minicuts only need put in the minimum intensity
and volume that will prevent muscle loss. Training to increase strength requires quite a bit more
effort. During a minicut, you do not have enough food in the day to fuel such workouts. Even if
you were to re-structure your minicut diet to have more food before you train to drive good
workouts, you would have to move food away from post-training and then your recovery would
suffer. No matter how you slice it, performance-oriented strength and power training is
incompatible with a big caloric deficit. Not being able to perform at a high level means that
overload for strength is less likely and without overload, productive strength training will not
For example, a powerlifter squatting 160kg for 4 tough sets of 5; right in the thick of things for
general strength development. Once under-fed and glycogen-depleted on a mincut, this athlete
might only be able to squat 145kg for sets of 5 at the same level of relative exertion. Is he going
to get stronger doing such workouts? Certainly not. In order to get stronger now, he must squat
8 at least 150kg for 5’s, but preferably 155kg, 160kg, or even more. That is how overload works.
To be be clear, again, there is a difference between not being able to express strength and
actually losing strength. This athlete will not lose strength just squatting around 145kg for 5s for
a few weeks of well-designed minicut. Their inability to express strength on a minicut is only
very temporary to the minicut itself. But for a strength athlete, multiple workouts of no progress
are a huge problem during contest preparation. Time spent maintaining strength could have
been spent increasing it.
On the Week-to-Week Scale, Progressive Strength Training is Too Fatiguing on a Minicut
There is no detriment to merely maintaining strength during minicuts for physique athletes
because strength is very much secondary to their main desired outcomes. In contrast, strength
athletes, in preparation for an event are looking to get stronger at every step of the way.
Modifications in bodyweight in the case of strength athletes are best done months out from
competition––in which case there is usually no reason for minicutting because a longer, slower
cut can be done to drop a weight class without muscle loss and without jeopardizing strength
progression during the final months of preparation. Minicuts may be a valuable tool for strength
athletes during prolonged muscle gain phases, but these ideally happen very far from
competition preparation.
Training around MV or MEV involves lower volumes compared to training in the MAV range
(MEV through MRV) and so the former can provide the re-sensitization sought during a minicut.
Both volume and intensity play roles in fatigue generation and MV or MEV training also involve
lower absolute and relative intensities. Thus training around MV or MEV also generates
substantially less fatigue than MAV training and can therefore provide the fatigue reduction we
are looking for on a minicut. Overload training for strength, while lower in volume, is still high in
intensity, preventing fatigue reduction during a minicut. Further, a true minicut pace of loss
might energetically preclude achieving overload for strength anyway. Even if you have the ability
to do one or two overloading strength workouts, fatigue will rise excessively fast on such limited
calories. This means you might find yourself overreached in the second or third week of the
minicut and in need of a deload. This deload would require that you pause the minicut, and
would also disrupt your strength gain momentum.
A big caloric deficit is incompatible with training at MAV. In a big deficit, hitting strength MAV
means overreaching. Not a great setup for progress, but only the second of three major issues
with minicutting near competition time for strength athletes.
Minicuts alter Bodyweight, Requiring Technical Adjustments
When you are a strength or power athlete and anything but a beginner, you have learned over
time to move your body in the most efficient way for your sport. You have an exact way that you
squat, you know when your belt will hit your thighs, and you know how it will feel when you have
hit depth. You are familiar with how your back feels when your shoulder blades are retracted far
enough before benching, where the second pull of your clean starts, and so on. When you alter
your bodyweight by several percentage points over a very short time, all of those known
conditions can and likely will change. This change means that you might no longer be able to
depend on your belt feel to judge depth, your shoulder blades do not feel tight even though you
are already fully set up for the bench, and your clean’s second pull hits your thighs in a different
9 enough spot to throw off your technique and give you trouble on the catch. Because a big part
of expressing strength is efficient body movement, a “new body”, made different by weight loss,
can potentially affect your performance quite a bit.
Does this mean strength athletes can never lose weight? Of course not. If weight is lost slowly
(such as in a conventional fat loss phase), technique can adjust to your slightly new shape as it
changes slowly over time. Even if it is not adjusted to your new shape by the time the cut is
over, there is should be plenty of time for it to adjust it in the strength and peaking phases that
come after your cut and before your meet.
When we take all of the mentioned downsides of minicutting during meet preparation for
strength sports together, we must conclude that it is probably not a great idea even if the athlete
wants to be in a lower weight class. Doing conventional fat loss phases far from meet
preparation periods for this purpose is probably best. Ideally, strength athletes should maintain
close to competition weight year-round in order to spend as much time as possible making
strength progress. Even on conventional cuts, strength athletes should limit cut length to
between 4 and 8 weeks to limit time away from strength training.
Minicuts might be useful for some strength athletes doing prolonged masses during periods
without competitions, particularly those newer to weight training who still have a great deal of
muscle growth potential. In these instances the purpose of the minicut is the same as previously
described. More advanced strength athletes are probably best served skipping the minicut,
however, as most of their training year-round will typically be strength-based and interruptions to
the momentum of that training are likely not worth the trade-off.
10 Chapter 4: Minicut Structure
There are several aspects of minicut structure and placement that need to be considered when
integrating minicuts into your programming. These include the following:
Timing Within Your Periodized Plan
Autoregulating Minicuts
Determining Minicut Duration
We defined the minicut as a fat loss phase lasting between 2 and 6 weeks. Determining how
long within that range to run your minicut will depend on a few factors. To make our discussion
simpler, we can break minicut durations into three groups:
Short: 2 - 3 weeks
Intermediate: ~4 weeks
Long: 5 - 6 weeks
The main deciding factor for minicut duration is how much fat needs to be lost––but there are
other very important things to consider as well, including training momentum and time spent
away from gaining muscle:
Effective training must provide sequential long-term overload. A minicut takes away from
the ability to overload both during the minicut and during the period following as you
recover. This time away from gaining muscle at best rates interrupts momentum
substantially. This is a trade-off that must be warranted by the need for the minicut. In
other words, all other things being equal, the shorter your minicut, the faster you can get
back to gaining muscle and the better your long-term progress.
Secondly, the muscle “pump” (cell swelling) is a contributor to hypertrophy. When on a
minicut, you cut both the volume of training and the nutrient presence that support this
process. It takes a while after the minicut for this to come back. The growth initiated by
cell swelling is sarcoplasmic and (contrary to popular belief) does not likely directly
support permanent muscle growth. It is however likely the first of a two-stage process
leading to the growth of myofibrillar contractile structures which do contribute to
permanent muscle growth. By losing “the pump” in your training, you lose a component
of muscle gain momentum. It might be several weeks after normal pumps have returned
that best sustained muscle growth rates resume, so the longer you minicut, the longer
the growth delay via this mechanism.
Lastly, It is likely that newer muscle is easier to lose than muscle that is been around for
a while, so the longer you cut after a mass gain phase, and the faster the loss rate is, the
higher the chances are for muscle loss. So a part of muscle momentum is just not losing
muscle too soon after having built it.
11 When you minicut, you want to make it as short as possible so that you minimize disruption of
muscle gain momentum and take as little time away from the process of building muscle as you
Taking into consideration the % bodyweight loss per week recommendations for a minicut
(0.75% to 1.25%), we can make the recommendations for minicut length based on weight loss
needed, as seen below.
% body weight to be lost
minicut length needed
(2-3 weeks)
(~4 weeks)
(5-6 weeks)
*If you have more than 5% fat to lose, you need a conventional
cut, not a minicut.
While fat loss and achieving a better P-ratio is important, your body fat percentage also ought to
be high enough that the loss in muscle-gain momentum from minicutting is worth the trade-off.
Optimal muscle gain might occur somewhere in the 10% to 15% bodyfat range for males and in
the 15% to 20% range for females, and can continue at very good rates up until around 20% fat
for males and 25% fat for females. If you are a competitive physique athlete, you maintain a
lower body fat % as your cap. If you have done a muscle gain phase and find yourself still 3%
under your cap, a minicut would make little sense. You are in the middle of the optimal muscle
growth bodyfat range, and you are just getting into your momentum. On the other hand, if you
are 1% under your cap, a 2 or even 4 week minicut makes sense, so that you can get back
down to around 5% under your cap enjoy another long muscle gain run. Conversely, once you
are at your cap, doing a short or even intermediate minicut does not make you much leaner and
also does not buy you a whole lot of time to run a muscle gain afterwards and stay within your
bounds. In that case, a long minicut might be a better choice, because it can put you right back
in the low end of your range and get you ready for another productive muscle gain phase.
There are many scenarios and many ways to go with minicut duration. The most basic advice is
to choose a duration that gets you no leaner than is optimal for muscle gain (anything under
10% fat for men and 15% fat for women is probably a bad decision for long-term muscle
growth), causes the least muscle gain momentum disruption, and opens up a big window for
your next muscle gain phase.
If you want to do a TIA minicut (for temporarily improved appearance), you have two things to
consider. First, is of course the schedule you are constrained to. If must be temporarily leaner
for some reason in 2, 4, or 6 weeks, then you are automatically constrained to that duration. On
12 the other hand, if you have some flexibility, then the call is based on the body fat percent loss
you are looking for, between 1% and 4% less than your current body fat.
Being honest with yourself will help you make good decisions with regard to minicuts. If you
need to lose 4% fat for better long-term gains, get on a 5-6 week minicut. On the other hand, if
you have gotten pretty lean at 3 weeks into a planned 5 week minicut, end it early and re-start
muscle gain so that you can keep growing instead of wasting time getting needlessly lean. For
physique athletes, nobody will care that your abs were stage-ready-lean in the middle of your
offseason. What will matter is how muscular you are onstage when you do compete, and that is
going to depend on how productive your muscle gain phases were, not how lean you got on a
needlessly extended minicut that you did to feed your insecurities.
Determining Minicut Rate
Before we list and describe factors that help you determine minicut rate, it is important to note
that you do not ease into your minicut. Minicuts are too short to spend time feeling out different
rates of loss, start your minicut at the deficit required to achieve the rate you have chosen.
There are at least 4 factors that can help you determine your optimal rate of weight loss during a
minicut, including:
Minicut duration
Fat loss needs
Prior minicut experience
Genetics for muscle retention vary greatly across individuals. Some folks can do the world’s
hardest cut and lose no muscle, while others have to take every precaution even at a mild loss
rate to maintain lean body mass. If you have good genetics for muscle retention, your loss rate
can be more aggressive. Females on average tend to be more prone to muscle loss on cut diets
because of their lower levels of testosterone, so starting at a less aggressive loss rate is
recommended for women in most cases. Of course, other factors play roles and some women
with great muscle retention genetics may do just fine on the more aggressive end of the pace
Minicut duration
If you are only minicutting for 2 weeks, anything shy of 1% loss per week does not make much
sense. On the other hand, 1.25% loss per week on a full 6-week minicut will increase chances
of muscle loss for almost anyone. Ideally, a minicut should not result in any real muscle loss or
its purpose (facilitating more muscle growth) is at least partly undone. If you were able to handle
a 1.25% per week minicut for 6 weeks, this would have you losing 7.5% body fat in 6 weeks.
That is more than many people can safely lose in 12 weeks and imposes a huge amount of
physiological (not to mention mental) stress. Now, some rare individuals might be able to pull
that off, but if you are not sure you are one of these rare people, risking finding out might not be
worthwhile. For most of us, that rate of loss creates a massive catabolic stimulus. This stimulus
13 results in muscle loss unless contrasted with sufficient training volume to supply an opposing
anabolic signal. The training volume needed is so large that low-volume re-sensitization to
growth is now out the window. On top of that, training at the volume needed to retain muscle on
such a large caloric deficit will cause extreme fatigue accumulation. Bringing that level of fatigue
back down might require more than the standard deload week before muscle gaining can start.
Not really what we are going for on a minicut!
The only real rational exception to this “high volume, long duration, aggressive-deficit minicut”
being a bad idea is when the minicut is for TIA purposes. In that case, it is potentially a rational
choice, but comes at the additional cost of pretty much all re-sensitization potential and is not a
part of a good long-term strategy for muscle growth (or fat loss, since rebound chances
skyrocket with such drastic deficits and fast weight loss).
Fat loss needs
Though fat loss needs can be moderated with duration choices, rate of loss across that duration
is also a factor. If you need to lose 3% bodyfat over 6 weeks, you might take the safe 0.75%
bodyweight loss rate and ensure no muscle loss or needless fatigue accumulation. On the other
hand, if you need to lose the same 3% in only 2.5 weeks, then1.25% per week is your only
option. If you have a choice for duration, choosing a middle ground in terms of rate is probably
your best bet.
Prior Minicut Experience
Until you run your own trial and error minicuts and determine your ideal set up, this is all theory.
Genetics and training age will all play into how minicuts affect you as an individual. When you
actually try a minicut, you get hard data off of which you can base future minicut decisions. If
you try losing 1% per week for 6 weeks and it goes well, you can likely depend on it working
again in most cases. On the other hand, if you try a low-end rate and knock it out of the park,
there may be room to bump it up a bit the next time you minicut and see if you still get
acceptable results.
As with decisions on minicut duration, minicut rate choices should be made after honest
assessment of needs and trade-offs. How fast you wish you could lose must take a backseat to
a realistic rate with minimal downsides.
Minicuts in a Periodized Long-term Hypertrophy Plan
If you are going to use multiple minicuts in a long-term plan to generate more muscle, some
complexities in application arise; it becomes a bit more complicated that just dropping in a
minicut every time you are a bit overfat. To walk through these complexities, we will look at
some examples of minicuts in annual, periodized, bodybuilding plans. These examples should
help give you the understanding to start integrating minicuts into your own long and short-term
diet and training plans. It should be noted that the examples given here are just that, examples.
They are not an optimal plan for every individual and should not necessarily be used verbatim.
14 Our first example is for a year of diet and training beginning right after the athlete has competed
in a physique show and is setting up for a long period of muscle gain:
We will walk through each diet phase in this example by number:
After the show concludes, competitors are usually very hungry, very nutrient sensitive, and not
remotely used to getting pumps in their training. They are also re-gaining strength and work
capacity quickly as they begin eating more in these first few post-show weeks. This gives them
an opportunity to do some metabolite hypertrophy training for muscle gain. A weight gain phase
is needed right after the show to reverse unsustainable show-level bodyfat percentages and
increased body fat percentage is needed at this point for full hormonal recovery (especially for
natural competitors). Metabolite training here will help put some muscle on with that fat as the
athlete gains.
At this point the athlete has done months of hard training before the show and another month of
high volume muscle gain training right after, so fatigue levels will be high and sensitivity to
hypertrophy will be low. At this point, a phase of MV training will provide some time to resensitize as well as an opportunity to drop fatigue. You will notice that the graph shows
continued fat gain during this phase. This is because the athlete is still recovering from
15 competition and extreme leanness––extremely low body fat percentages will not be sustainable
during the lower volume MV training, so some fat will still be gained. Muscle size will appear
smaller at this time due to losses of pump and intramuscular fluid from reductions in training
volume. Though more fat and smaller looking muscles can be disheartening, the athlete should
still be very lean and in a great position to gain more muscle during the next mass gain phase.
After some resensitization and recovery on the previous phase, the athlete begins a 12-week
muscle gain phase. Depending on many factors, including preference, this phase can be a bit
shorter or quite a bit longer. Either way, by the time it is over, the athlete will have managed to
gain about 4% body fat. In almost every case, this fat gain will come with some significant
muscle gains as well. Please note that the normal principles of training apply here with minicut
and mass gain training as well: a deload week must almost always be taken at the end of any
phase to reduce the fatigue accumulated from training (very short progressions on very short
minicuts might be an exception). With almost no exceptions, the diet on any deload week should
be at maintenance calories.
If the athlete wants to stay under 15% (males) or 20% (females) from this point in his or her
progression, some fat loss needs to happen to create room for more muscle gain. In addition,
after several months of high volume training, a period of bit less volume to re-sensitize to
hypertrophy training is very useful to that end. If you read this as code for “perfect time for a
minicut,” you read it correctly! Over a 4-week minicut, the athlete drops bodyfat by 2%. Again,
individual minicut application might be a bit different in duration and or rate. This is just an
Another productive phase of muscle gain follows the minicut. This phase illustrates one of the
limitations of the minicut. Minicuts allow for some reduction in training volume for some resensitization. Dropping to true maintenance volume training on a minicut is not possible without
muscle loss however, so full re-sensitization cannot occur during this phase. So, every time you
run a minicut to re-sensitize for more muscle gain, the re-sensitization is only a partial. A minicut
buys you a bit more muscle gain time, but because you never fully re-sensitize on a minicut, it
buys you less and less time each cycle. You can see this illustrated by the fact that this muscle
gain phase only lasts about 8 weeks, compared to the last 12-week phase. Nothing can replace
a full isocaloric phase with maintenance volume training. For this reason, a mass-minicut-massminicut strategy is not indefinitely sustainable because at some point, the minicut does not buy
you a large enough massing window to generate any muscle gain momentum.
A two-week MV training phase before the next minicut is helpful here to increase resensitization. As discussed in the last segment, the second minicut will be less effective on its
own in this regard than the first minicut was. This phase also serves to solidify the athlete’s new,
higher settling point and decrease chances of muscle loss. Maintenance phases do not have to
occur before minicuts as a rule, but they become more necessary after multiple minicuts have
been done in the same macrocycle.
16 7
This 4-week minicut helps the athlete lean out and continue to re-sensitize enough to run
another muscle gain phase.
This fourth muscle gain phase only lasts for about 4 weeks. In some instances, this phase could
be extended, but not by much as the athlete is now hitting the top end of recommended bodyfat
range and is at a point where the effect of minicutting would not be strong enough to buy any
more muscle gain time. In order to get back to productive muscle gain ranges, a conventional
cut is necessary.
Fatigue and anabolic resistance have been accumulating over the past several months of
muscle gaining and minicutting, so a 4-week maintenance phase is needed before starting the
conventional cut. This longer maintenance phase allows further solidification of the athlete’s
new settling point of muscle mass, ensuring better muscle retention on the upcoming
conventional cut. It also allows for more extensive re-sensitization to the high volume training
that will be needed during the longer cut for muscle retention.
Here the athlete begins a 10-week fat loss phase to get lean enough to productively gain
muscle again. This phase continues on the next graph. Only its first 6 weeks of this cut are
displayed here.
We have now covered a whole year of show recovery and muscle gain. From here, options for a
physique athlete can include either time off from competition, dedicated to putting on more
muscle for the future, or preparation for another show. We will now walk through year-long
examples of each of those options. (Of course, a whole year is not necessarily needed for either
option, but again, these are just examples meant to demonstrate principles). The following is
continued from the previous example, assuming this athlete chose to spend a year off of
competition, with the goal of continuing to gain maximum muscle mass for future competitions.
17 10 continued
Phase 10 shows the final weeks of the 10-week conventional cut from the end of the last
example. This phase drops the athlete’s bodyfat back down about by 5% over the course of
the10 weeks. That is a loss rate of about 0.5% body fat per week, so it is realistic for most
conventional cuts. Again, this is just an example, as some individuals might be better served by
losing slightly faster or slightly slower.
Ten weeks is a long time to be doing high-volume training while hypocaloric, so accumulated
fatigue and anabolic resistance must be dealt with by taking a weight maintenance phase and
training at MV, shown here as a 4-week period. Remember that this phase is meant not only to
wipe the slate clean after the 10 week cut, but also to prepare the athlete for another many
months of muscle gain and minicut phases. This phase should not be undervalued or cut short.
Phases 12-18 here are identical to phases 3-9 in the first year’s example. Again, muscle gain
phases begin to shorten, minicuts become more frequent, and maintenance phases extend as
fatigue, bodyfat, and anabolic resistance accumulate over time. Repeating phases 16-18 can be
a temptation for those that do not want to do a full-length fat loss phase to really reset, but this
will severely hamper muscle gain momentum by limiting gaining periods to increasingly shorter
phases. Staying in the minicut-mass loop for too long is like trying to study after 24 hours of no
sleep. You can do it, but you end up having to take so many breaks, and reread so many
18 paragraphs, that at some point, you are just better off getting a full night’s sleep (full fat loss
phase in our case) to set up another whole productive day of studying (muscle gain).
After having exhausted all momentum for muscle gain, a conventional fat loss phase is again
performed in order to get the athlete lean and ready for the next phase of muscle gain. This year
dedicated to muscle growth also puts the athlete in a perfect position for a show, so we will look
at an example of this next.
19 continued
The final weeks of the 10-week fat loss phase from the last example are shown here. At the end
of these 10 weeks, the athlete is lean enough to start another round of muscle gain, but also in
a great place to start a contest prep diet. This is an opportunity to make a very important point
about contest prep diets. Contest dieting is very difficult. We want to give ourselves all the
advantages we can. One of the biggest advantages we can have is to be in a position of lower
bodyfat before we even start the contest diet––around10% for males and 15-17% for females is
an excellent place to start. At this point, a 5-7% bodyfat drop is all that is needed to get to
contest lean levels. A 5-7% drop sounds reasonable, and in most cases would be doable with
minimal struggle. Starting from an already very lean body fat percentage however, still makes
even this drop extremely difficult. An even more grueling alternative is to diet down 10-12% in
one long, brutal diet up to the show. The latter choice often ends in massive metabolic
adaptation, extreme hunger, water retention, high chance of rebound, massive muscle loss risk,
and burnout. This choice is still oddly very common. Our strong advice to you is the former
option––get down to and maintain at 5-7% body fat away from stage lean before you embark on
your contest diet.
19 20
As before, the 10-week cut leaves the athlete with fatigue and anabolic resistance. Beyond that,
the athlete is likely at higher risk for metabolic slowing, NEAT reduction, and hunger increases.
Since the very difficult contest prep diet is pending, the athlete will need to be as recovered from
the aforementioned issues as possible to be successful. Taking two full months of maintenance
will get the athlete’s settling point down and eliminate diet and training fatigue. Many are
tempted to shorten this phase, but this is shortsighted. It is much better to be over-rested than
under-rested. The former might cost you an extra 2 weeks of your life in the sport. The latter can
cost you an entire contest prep and perhaps the contest itself if the fatigue catches up to you.
Our example contest prep diet has 16 weeks, but there is no magic to that number. We
recommend taking as many weeks as you think you need to get in shape, and then adding
another couple of weeks for wiggle room.
These phases correspond exactly to phases 1-4 in the first “post-show recovery” periodization
graphic, so their explanations are identical.
The main takeaway from this section is that while minicuts can extend muscle gain phases, they
do not work to wipe away fatigue and anabolic resistance completely. Thus they can only be
used a few times (and need their own maintenance phases after a while, reducing their timeefficiency) before a full fat loss phase has to be run.
Pre-Planned vs. Autoregulated Minicuts
The previous section illustrates the use of what are called “pre-planned” minicuts. In other words
minicuts that are specifically programmed ahead of time within a broader framework of goals (a
periodized plan). We can potentially also employ minicuts in an autoregulatory fashion.
It should be noted that pre-planned minicuts with autoregulation-based tweaks will likely
produce the best outcome. Autoregulation alone should not determine program trajectory, but
rather should be used to slightly modify plans based on athlete responses.
For example, imagine you have planned a 4-week minicut. After 3 weeks, you are extremely
lean (at or below the planned end goal for the 4-week minicut). You could just stick to the 4
weeks as planned and get even leaner, but then you are just missing out on potential mass
gains for a very unclear benefit. In this case, your best choice is to autoregulate, ending the
minicut a week early.
On the other hand, imagine you aim for a particular body fat cutoff after 18 weeks of muscle
gaining, but at week 14, you are already a little over that cutoff. Autoregulating and ending your
gain phase a bit early for a minicut might be the better option in this case.
20 Notice that in these examples, decisions are not made based on how we feel or want to look
day to day. No physique athlete likes to walk around without popping abs, but maximizing
muscle gain should be the priority. Sticking to the objective plan and not maintaining
unnecessary levels of leanness during muscle gain phases for the sake of vanity will be the
most productive strategy. Only when our diet takes us out of objective ranges of body fat should
we modify the plan.
Autoregulation can occur within rate of loss as well as duration decisions. If you are barely even
feeling the diet at 0.75% loss rate per week, try bumping up to a 1% per week loss rate. On the
other hand, if you are being crushed at 1.25%, reducing your loss rate is probably a good idea.
Making sure you are ready and able to carry on with subsequent phases in your plan should
play an important role in your decision-making.
Measuring Body Composition for Autoregulation Purposes
We have based nearly all of the logic, structure, and decision-making for minicuts on exact body
fat percentages, so determining these numbers will be important as we put our knowledge into
First of all, we strongly advise against any body fat assessment tools except for the DEXA,
which is the current gold standard of body composition analysis. Other methods may be used in
conjunction, as supplemental assessments, which we will discuss shortly, but DEXA will give
you the most accurate results currently possible. Other measures will give you more error than
they will data.
Recommended process for acquiring objective body fat percentage data:
Get a DEXA scan after getting to your leanest non-contest body fat %. You want this
DEXA to be at the body water content you have at the end of a cut, so that you have an
idea of how you scan at your leanest and most depleted. This will give you your bottom
end DEXA result. At the same time, take pictures in good lighting and really take a good
look at yourself in this shape. Assuming you got to ~10% for males or 15-17% for
females, this is your “bottom end standard look” for the next year or so.
Gain muscle and minicut until you are at around 5% body fat higher than the last DEXA.
Your guess can be informed with some mathematical extrapolation. Assume a few
pounds of water and that some of your gains will be muscle. Get your DEXA while still
eating to gain. This will give you an idea of how you scan when in the full bloat of a mass
gain phase, giving you your top end DEXA result. Take the same series of pictures in the
same lighting and the same clothing. Really study these pictures as well to get an idea of
what this body fat % looks like on you.
Do another full fat loss phase to get back to the leanness level of the first DEXA, this
time informing your cutoff by reference to the pictures from the last time you were at that
level of leanness. When you look pretty much like those pictures (erring on the slightly
leaner side is a good idea), you can then decide to either re-start your muscle gain
process or begin your pre-diet maintenance phase to prepare for a show.
21 •
Once a year or so (and probably not any more often due to the DEXA’s own small but
relevant error margin), get a DEXA at both of the above (top and bottom of the muscle
growth period body fat range) estimated levels of leanness and take pictures. This
allows you to reassess your appearance at each bodyfat level and see your net muscle
gain progress over time.
When comparing DEXAs over time, do not compare “depleted” post-cut DEXAs with
“full” post-mass gain DEXAs, because the body water differences will alter the numbers
and lead you to erroneously concluded lots of muscle loss between “full” and “depleted.”
When comparing DEXA results over the long term to track progress, only compare
“depleted” DEXAs to other “depleted” ones and “full” DEXAs to other “full” ones.
Once you know your values and the looks that correspond with them well, you will be able to
estimate your current body fat percentage with some decent precision.
A supplement to your DEXA and pictures strategy is the “reliability skinfold approach.” This
involves buying and using a skinfold caliper on yourself at just one site (1 inch to the left or right
of the bellybutton is an ideal site). You must learn to standardize your skinfold pinching method,
so please check out the reading materials that come with your caliper or seek out online
instructions. Whatever method you choose does not matter nearly as much as staying
consistent with that method. Once you have your method down, begin taking skinfold
assessments along with pictures and DEXA scans for each step above. Once you have a
consistent idea of what skinfold measurements are aligned with what DEXA results, you can
take your skinfold as often as every week during your muscle gain and fat loss phases to
maintain a rough idea of where you are.
You can now use this data for months going forward to autoregulate minicuts and muscle gain
phases. Because you collect new DEXAs every year or so, you can update these values during
those measurement points so that they stay relevant to your evolving physique. This method is
pretty easy, and gives you an edge in objectivity (and one that can easily be communicated to
your coaches if needed) which can make your diet and training plans that much more
If DEXA scans are not available anywhere near you, using the above skinfold approach and
aligning measurements with more relative visual assessments might be your only choice. In this
case, tracking your skinfolds between your leanest and least lean within the visually assessed
acceptable range of body fat will be your next best bet. This is nowhere near as precise as
DEXA-correlated measurements, but can help give you some quantifiable, albeit relative,
measurements to work with.
A quick example of this method is as follows: You use calipers on yourself every week as you
do a slow fat loss phase down to a very lean end point––having “clean abs” is a good indicator
for most. You note the caliper measurement at this level of leanness. You then begin a mass
phase. On the top end of this gaining phase, you again note your caliper measurement. Now,
the next time you minicut from anywhere within that range, you have a skinfold target to hit. If
you want to get lean enough to potentiate another long run of muscle gain, getting your caliper
measurement decently away from the top end measure is a good idea. You will know it is time
for another minicut or a full slow fat loss phase when you get back up to the top end
measurement. With this method, you have something a bit more precise than subjective mirror
22 Minicuts and Special Sport Supplements
All of the recommendations in this manual are for natural lifters, but the principles and
recommendations also apply to those using special sport supplements as well. In order for
those using to make minicuts more effective for themselves, they can just think of themselves
as having really good genetics. In other words, these individuals likely can:
Survive and benefit from longer and more aggressive minicuts
Get lean enough to resume muscle gaining more quickly than they otherwise would
Not need to minicut as often due to slower rates of fat accumulation during gain phases
Drop volume lower and re-sensitize to training more without fear of muscle loss
Make sure that if you are using special sports supplements that:
They are legal for use in your country
You are being monitored by a physician during and after use
You are an adult (and preferably one with more than 10 years of natural training
You are not competing in a drug-tested sport federation
You are ok with a trade-off of health and longevity in order to enhance your short-term
23 Chapter 5: Diet Details on Minicuts
Now that we have most of the theory behind minicuts and the general guidelines for their
execution outlined, we can get into the details of diet manipulation on minicuts.
Theoretical Calorie Levels and Loss Rates
In order to dial in a specific rate of loss on a minicut, we must calculate the daily deficit required
to achieve bodyweight reductions of 0.75%, 1.0% or 1.25% per week.
First, we know that a pound of fat is composed of about 3500 calories. (This is not always
exactly the case, but for our purposes, it is sufficiently accurate). If you weigh 100lb, each 1% of
bodyweight is 1lb of tissue. Since a pound is roughly 3500 calories, to lose that in one week, we
need a daily 500-calorie deficit. If you weigh 200lb, 1% of your bodyweight is 2lb, or 7000
calories, and you will need a daily 1000-calorie deficit to lose 2lb or 1% bodyweight per week.
Taking these numbers apart, it looks like 5 calories per pound of bodyweight in deficit per day
results in our 1% deficit calorie number. (100lb x 5 = 500 calorie per day deficit needed, 200lb x
5 = 1000 calorie per day deficit needed). So then, if you weigh 188lb, (188lb x 5 = 940) you
need around a 940-calorie daily deficit to lose 1% bodyweight per week.
Now for 0.75% and 1.25% we just extrapolate from the 1% base and get multiplication factors of
3.75 and 6.25 respectively. So we if are 210lb and want to lose 1.25% per week, we multiply
210 by 6.25 and get ~1313 as our needed daily calorie deficit for that rate of loss. As you can
probably imagine, losing at a rate of 1.25% bodyweight per week is not going to be a walk in the
park––a daily deficit of over 1000 calories is a substantial portion of a 210lb person’s daily
Here is a chart for you to reference when you need to make such calculations in the future:
24 Theoretical Calorie Levels and Gain Rates
We will also estimate that 3500 calories are required per pound of muscle gain. (Though muscle
might itself be composed of less than 3500 calories per pound, the process involved in
constructing muscle tissue is very energy expensive and makes up most of the difference).
When we run the numbers, we get the following formulae for the calorie surplus needed to allow
particular bodyweight % gain per week:
The only rates of gain listed here are 0.25% and 0.5% bodyweight per week. This is because
slower gain rates prevent fat accumulation from getting out of hand and needlessly cutting our
muscle gain phase short.
Calorie Levels and Maintenance
If you are advanced enough to be thinking about a minicut, you should already know your
maintenance calories simply by having tracked food intake and bodyweight for some time. As a
refresher, below is a table with some average maintenance calorie levels for bodyweight ranges
(listed in pounds) from the Renaissance Diet book. Of course, these are just average values
with which to begin estimating your own maintenance intake. Nothing can replace your own
tracking and monitoring.
25 The Water Weight Problem in Adjustment Tracking
Now that we have reliable formulae and tables with which to estimate our maintenance, minicut,
and muscle gain calorie levels, we have to contend with a very big problem. Water weight can
fluctuate so wildly that we essentially have to run the cut blind; the water weight noise can be
almost as big as, just as big as, or even greater than the actual tissue changes. This means you
will not be able to reliably use a scale to determine fat loss progress during the minicut itself.
This is especially true on very short minicuts where total fat loss might much lower than daily
water weight noise.
When you cut out 1000 calories from your daily intake on an aggressive minicut, and much of
that cut comes from carbs, your muscle glycogen will drop quickly. In addition, intramuscular
water will drop as glycogen stores about 3 grams of water for every gram of carbohydrate. For
example, in a 200lb individual, such an aggressive cut could result in 7lb of body water loss in
the first week, and 2lb or more in the second week. Only in the third week might water be stable
enough to assess weekly tissue loss rates. You can see why this would be a problem when
trying to track tissue loss progress using the scale on a 3 week minicut.
Thus, during shorter minicuts, adjusting the deficit is probably not even a workable option in
most cases. Even on a longer minicut hormonal changes (cortisol, testosterone, estrogen,
growth hormone, insulin, etc.) can skew actual tissue loss measurement enough that
bodyweight feedback is often not a dependable variable to base changes on. On a 5-6 week
minicut you might be able to adjust your deficit after 3 or 4 weeks. Our recommendation is to
only adjust if it your losses are extremely fast or slow compared to your goal. If weight change
rates are not far outside what you expect, it is better not to introduce more variance into the
system. Doing so might risk throwing off your training volumes, sleep, or other important
aspects of your progress at very little potential benefit.
This might sound a bit wild. Almost the entirety of evidence-based diet programming is based on
bodyweight feedback (and for good reason). Across longer timescales (months) and more
gradual calorie changes, bodyweight tracking works very well as a determining variable for
adjustment. On minicuts however, the water noise is just too loud. During minicuts we are left to
trust thermodynamics (thermodynamics has a pretty good track record). If your previous
tracking, calculations, and commitment to the diet are solid, chances are you will land close to
your goal whether you can see the progress during the minicut itself or not. The good news is
that because of the short duration of minicuts and thus the lack of time for much metabolic
adaptation, your estimated start deficit is pretty representative of what your average weekly
deficit will need to be for the entire duration, at least for shorter minicuts.
The first week and probably the second week after returning to muscle gaining will be an
adjustment-weight-data wash again. Thus those calculations for mass gain calorie surpluses will
come in handy. You will regain the same or more water weight as you lost at the beginning of
the minicut as glycogen gets reloaded. We therefore recommend waiting 1 or 2 weeks for this
water gain noise to settle before beginning to assess gain rates and make adjustments.
As an example, imagine an individual who weighs 211lb, and wants to minicut at a loss rate
0.75% of bodyweight per week for 6 weeks, then resume mass gaining at 0.25% bodyweight
per week afterwards.
This individual’s maintenance calories are at around 3200 per day. According to our chart
above, to get this person started on a 0.75% bodyweight loss per week, we must multiply 211
26 by 3.75 to determine the needed caloric deficit. When we do the math, we get roughly 790
calories, so taking this away from maintenance calories gives us 3200-790 = 2410 calories per
day to start the minicut at a 0.75% weekly bodyweight loss.
In the first week, weight might drop from 211lb to 204lb, to 202lb in the second week, and to
201lb in the third week. Since only 1lb was lost in the third week and 0.75% of 211lb is
something like 1.5lb, we can make the decision to pick the pace up and cut another 500 calories
per day from the diet. This person started at the lower end of minicut loss rates, so taking this
step is less risky and probably advisable. This adjustment drops daily calories to 1910 per day
and weight loss pace increases. By the end of week 6, weight is down to 196lb. That is 15lb lost
in 6 weeks, which on the surface appears to be an average loss rate of 1.2% per week. Recall
though that much of the initial weight loss was glycogen and water. When muscle gain dieting is
resumed, this non-tissue weight will come back quickly before gain rates settle into the desired
At the start of deload week after the minicut, a return to maintenance (roughly 3200 calories) will
occur. Actual maintenance calories might be slightly lower after tissue loss from the minicut, so
we can call maintenance roughly 3000 calories. After deload week, another calorie increase will
be needed to begin the muscle gain phase. About 260 calories (211lbs x 1.25) will then be
added to the maintenance diet, resulting in 3000+260 = 3260 calories per day. Within a week,
weight is back at 203lb, and 205lb the week after. After 6 weeks of muscle gaining, weight might
re-stabilize, and another 260 calories or so would be added per day to continue the weight gain
We realize we have given you quite a bit of detail, but if you understand the theory and use the
formulae, you can trust that thermodynamics will take you where you need to go. If you tend to
worry about the scale and get paranoid about losing or gaining a ton of weight in short order,
this can be a good exercise in stress management!
Macros, Timing, and Minicut Diet Details
Again, we will not go into detail regarding nutrition basics as anyone advanced enough to
minicut should be very familiar with these. To generate your deficit and make adjustments on a
minicut, cut fats until you get to around 0.3g of fat per pound of bodyweight per day. Do not cut
fats any lower than this, because you will need them for hormonal support and other basic
functions. The rest of your calorie cuts should come from carbs, and protein should remain
untouched. Depending on your desired rate of loss, some fairly painful carb cuts might be
needed. Thankfully this is made slightly less painful by the concurrent reduction in training
Timing can be a more serious factor in minicuts compared to other diet phases due to larger
deficits and smaller rations of carbohydrates to spread around. Thus, on a minicut, make sure to
have most of your carbs before and after training to fuel your workout and set yourself up for the
most efficient recovery after training. On a minicut it is also even more important to have evenly
spaced meals of even amounts of high quality daily protein (but as a reader of this manual you
already known that, right?).
An advanced question that might come up is, “if we are seeking to sensitize to insulin during a
minicut to maximize future growth, should not we cut carbs as low as possible?” Though that is
an option, it is not necessary. The vast majority of insulin sensitivity change that is determined
27 by diet differences can be attributed to the size of the caloric deficit and the duration of the diet.
That is, if you cut all carbs out completely for 2 weeks and lose at 1.0% weight per week, you
get almost identical insulin re-sensitization to a minicut of the same length and loss rate that
cuts mainly fats and touches as few carbs as possible. Neither of the aforementioned minicuts
will come remotely close to the amount of re-sensitization gained by a 4-week minicut at 1.25%
per week irrespective of the ratio of carbs to fats cut for the deficit. In fact, as far as the current
literature is concerned, it is by no means clear that carb intake matters at all for determining
insulin sensitivity gains over the course of a fat loss diet once a deficit has been created. Our
best recommendation on this is to either cut mostly fats so that you get all the recovery potential
of carbs that you can, or just to not worry about it and go whichever way you like best for your
lifestyle and diet psychology.
There are no special supplement recommendations for minicuts that do not apply to most other
diet phases. You can take creatine, but you do not have to. You can definitely take caffeine––its
hunger suppression and energy promotion can make life on any cut a little easier. Eating more
veggies, fruits, and whole grains to stay fuller is an option, but not mandatory. Eating fewer tasty
foods to decrease cravings can also be beneficial for some, but is an individual choice. Due to
the short duration of minicuts, many of the hunger and fatigue issues that plague conventional
cuts just do not have time to crop up or build substantially. In general, they build just enough to
motivate you to eat on your next gaining phase.
If you would like help building a minicut diet, you can feel free to use RP’s popular Diet Auto
Templates and Vegan Auto Diet Templates. To use these, know that starting at “Fat Loss 1”
should create around a 0.75% loss rate, “Fat Loss 2” a 1.0% loss rate, and “Fat Loss 3” between
1.25% per week and a bit higher. So if plan to run a 1.25% minicut and you tend to lose weight
pretty easily, alternating between Fat Loss 2 and 3 might be your best bet. If you hold onto weight
stubbornly, running Fat Loss 3 for the whole duration of your 1.25% minicut is our best
28 Chapter 6: Training Details on Minicuts
The basic concepts of training on a conventional cut apply to minicuts. Some slight
modifications to training are made, however, to keep with the goals of the minicut process. As a
reminder, the purpose of a (non-TIA) minicut is to lose fat and preserve muscle tissue while resensitizing for further growth.
The maximum level of re-sensitization to training of course comes from a complete break, but
this would result in more muscle loss than sensitivity for growth could make up for. In order to
make the re-sensitization application a net positive, at least MV training must be done. This
allows preservation of current muscle, but still results in a substantial training volume reduction
to potentiate an increase in anabolic sensitivity to training.
Volume and Intensity
The whole story, however, is a bit more complex than this. Our MV is going to be higher than it
would be on an isocaloric diet (or even in the first part of a conventional cut) due to the large
caloric deficit created by the minicut. There is no way to precisely calculate this increase, but we
can estimate that it is around our isocaloric MEV. Because only intermediate and advanced
individuals should be doing minicuts, they should have a fairly wide spread from their MV to
their MEV. Thus, even a big deficit is unlikely to require more volume than isocaloric MEV to
counteract catabolism during a minicut.
Because re-sensitization to volume is part of the purpose of a minicut, the usual MEV to MRV
transition over the course of the minicut mesocycle will not occur. Instead volume will be held
constant and slight increases in intensity will be utilized. In other words, set numbers should
start and remain at MEV with minimal weight increases across weeks. Most exercises should be
kept in the 6-12 rep range so that you can get the biggest muscle-sparing stimulus with the least
volume. Start the mesocycle 3-4 reps from failure and let the accumulated fatigue with each
week increase your failure proximity (rather than attempts to do more reps or add much more
weight). If you would like a bit more detail on training structure and design, please check out our
free guide on hypertrophy training. Remember your minicut training volume should remain at or
near your isocaloric MEV in order to act as MV training at the more extreme minicut deficit.
Sounds like pretty lame training huh? Well It is supposed to be lame. The purpose of training
during the minicut is to preserve muscle while doing as little as possible so that you re-sensitize
as much as you can. The lower you can keep your volume during the minicut and still keep
muscle, the better. If your deficit is sufficient to meet the requirements of minicut weight loss
pace, then your strength should not be able to increase. As long as strength is not decreasing
after the second week, you are likely doing things correctly.
After detailing this training setup, the limitations of minicuts become even more clear. You
cannot run too extreme a deficit because that would require higher-than-isocaloric-MEV training
volumes to counterbalance and prevent muscle loss. Increasing the training volume that much
would then prevent the re-sensitization to volume that we want form the minicut.
Further, if we run the minicut for too long, excessive fatigue accumulates and negatively impacts
our training in the subsequent muscle gain phase. We can also appreciate why a less
29 aggressive deficit is recommended for longer minicuts; too aggressive a deficit would generate
too much fatigue to be sustainable for a longer minicut.
Finally, we can also see why minicuts lose their re-sensitization-to-volume effect over multiple
applications. Going down to isocaloric MEV definitely re-sensitizes you to gains in the MEVMRV window, but it does not do this nearly as well as a true low volume training, isocaloric,
maintenance phase. After several applications of the minicut, an actual isocaloric maintenance
phase is needed to re-sensitize.
Cardio can help burn fat, but it also adds lots of volume, (usually mainly to the legs), and can
thus de-sensitize us further to hypertrophy. A hypocaloric diet itself will already limit
hypertrophy, as catabolic processes (such as those mediated by AMPk and others) have been
documented to occur because of caloric deficits. There are also likely some purely musclecontraction-mediated growth pathways that would be in use during cardio training and giving
these a break should also promote re-sensitization. Cardio should be limited somewhat on a
minicut (especially if your cardio uses mostly your legs and you would like to grow your legs
much more in the coming muscle gain phase). We recommend limiting cardio’s contribution to
1/3 of or less of the calorie deficit, depending on your own personal constraints, preferences,
and history of responses. In order to spare the fastest-twitch motor units from potential fatigue
and excess volume, we also recommend most of your cardio be low intensity, steady state
(LISS), such as incline walking or elliptical machine, with heartrate not exceeding 140bpm.
How NOT to Train on a Minicut
Though we will revisit some of the following points in the last chapter, they are probably worth
saying twice. If you are minicutting for the purpose of potentiating later muscle mass gains, do
not do the following:
Do not rain at your isocaloric MV during your minicut. During a large caloric deficit your
isocaloric MV training level will not provide enough volume for muscle retention.
Do not train by cycling from your MEV to your MRV. This is the way to train for growth,
but will not provide the needed break from high-volume training needed to potentiate
more growth after the minicut.
Do not use new exercises in your training. New variants cause more muscle damage
and require technique adjustments and weight and or set determinations. The caloric
deficit is sufficiently stressful and variation will be more useful in the subsequent mass
gain phase.
Do not use special hypertrophy techniques like drop sets or supersets. Since you cannot
really get a pump during the minicut, you are wasting the benefit of these techniques.
Most of these also have to be used at high volumes to be effective anyway, and we have
discussed why high volume is a bad idea while minicutting.
30 •
Do not add more volume because you are not getting pumps. You are not supposed to
be getting pumps during this phase. In fact, you are supposed to be actively avoiding
them so that the systems they affect can re-sensitize and the pump can cause growth
again after the minicut is over.
If you happen to be training with RP’s Male or Female Physique Templates, do not use
the re-sensitization mesocycles as that volume is meant to be approximately isocaloric
MV. Minicuts are best done by running Mesocycle 1 of either template (whole body
emphasis if you are using the male templates), but only sticking to week 1’s sets by
rating all exercises as 0 throughout the mesocycle.
TIA Minicut Training Modifications
If you are running a TIA minicut, many of the aforementioned rules do not apply to you. You
want the best appearance you can get at the very end of the minicut, so your training should go
from MEV to MRV as your minicut progresses. You still will likely only increase weights by small
increments, but you can add sets if you are not overly fatigued. Your rep range should be more
like 12-20 sets to maximize the amount of volume you can do and still recover. This higher
volume will let you have higher tissue turnover rates and thus burn more fat while preventing
muscle loss. Special techniques such as drop sets and supersets are ideal for this sort of
As for cardio, do as much as you can still recover from, especially if that recovery means your
weight training is unaffected. Doing LISS is still recommended, but if you need to get lean fast
and your leg size does not mean a ton to you, MISS or HIIT can be used as well, just as long as
you are mindful of fatigue. Lastly, on the note of fatigue, It is ok to get pretty overreached at the
end of the TIA minicut because you do not have to be super fatigue-reduced to look your best
(replenishing glycogen will help with this, which we will explain later), and any excess fatigue
you accumulate or even minor muscle loss you suffer can be made up in the recovery
maintenance phase after your minicut is over.
It is interesting to take note of just how different gain-potentiation and TIA minicut execution is,
and why there really is no such thing as a “general minicut.” Before you minicut, you are very
well served to have a clear goal for that minicut in mind so you can choose the design that is
best for that goal.
31 Chapter 7: What to Expect
On a minicut you are subjecting yourself to a very large caloric deficit. In most cases this deficit
is initiated at the tail end of a large surplus (from your previous mass phase). In other words, a
minicut is often a drastic change in food intake. Couple this with the drastic reduction in training
volume and your body will alter its appearance and performance quite a bit. Because the
minicut is so short and so unsuited to on-the-fly adjustment, going into one without knowing
what to expect can be a real mind-bender. In normal dieting, the huge alteration in bodyweight
and appearance you see on a minicut would mean you were doing something wrong and
needed to adjust. On a minicut this is not the case. Many people start minicutting for the first
time, experience these large changes, get antsy, and end up altering variables in response.
Such alterations either magnify the perturbations they were designed to ameliorate or, worse
yet, reduce the intended effects of the minicut.
Body Water Reduction
As described earlier, when you drop your carbs substantially in one week, your body water will
fall by a large margin. This will, among other things, make you look ‘flat’. In fact, because this
body water drop happens first, you will not likely have lost any fat before it occurs. Since you
store almost no water in your fat cells but store a ton of water in your muscle tissue, you will
initially lose size in your muscles while your fat stays the same. The same amount of fat over a
smaller muscle volume makes you look worse than before you started the minicut. To add insult
to injury, your blood vessels will not be pressed up to the skin as much because full muscles are
what cause this, and they are now deflated. The combination of lower carbs and lower reps in
training also means that even when training, vascularity will not be as apparent.
This all sounds terrible and demotivating, especially in the mental state that a large caloric
deficit can put you in, but as you read, It is all perfectly predictable and not indicative of any real
loss of progress.
There is a human tendency to observe things that appear to be in opposition to our goals and
immediately try to change them. Looking worse than we did last week while on a mission to
improve appearance can initiate this tendency if one does not know better. For example, when
you are doing high-rep leg presses, you will feel pain, but because you know that the pain is
perfectly normal, predicts growth, and that you planned on exposing yourself to it, you do not
change a thing. You take the pain as it comes and hit the reps and sets you are supposed to. In
the diet realm, you know that cut phases will signal hunger, but that this is not only expected, it
is also a good sign that your deficit is large enough to allow efficient fat loss. In much the same
way, the flat-but-fat look of the early part of the minicut is just something you have to expect,
recognize as a price for the benefit of the minicut, and work through.
Toward the middle to the end of your minicut, you will still be ‘flat’, but you will be notably leaner
with each week that passes. The hardest part of the minicut is probably the first week. That is
when you look your worst, but every week after you will look leaner and leaner. After you are
done with your minicut and re-introduce carbs, you will refill your muscles to their usual size
(actually, probably bigger, since you are now re-sensitized to insulin and glycogen loading).
Coupled with the lower fat percentage that now covers them, you will look amazing about one
week after the minicut is over. So yes, the minicut will make you look better––it just might not
32 make you look much better while you are doing it. Know this in advance so that there is no
confusion and no need to second-guess the plan.
Strength and Reps
When you are down in the neighborhood of 1000 calories or more from your normal training
diet, you will not feel the same in the gym.
Because your strength is largely dependent on muscle mass and nervous system development,
you should not permanently lose any strength. Your ability to express highest levels of strength
will temporarily decrease due to lower glucose levels. Weights will feel especially heavy in the
first week of the minicut by contrast, but should not feel progressively worse across the minicut.
If strength progressively decreases across weeks, your deficit might be too extreme or
something else might be off. If strength sinks a bit in the first week and stays stable after that,
you are probably doing things just right.
What will decline substantially on a minicut is your ability to train with higher reps; anything
much over 10 reps per set will be very difficult. It might not feel any harder at the start of a set,
and you might actually get less lactic acid accumulation, but you simply will not be able to
complete the reps. For example, if you can normally do a set of 18 reps at a given weight in the
lat pulldown, on a minicut you might get to 12 and then have to grind through next 2 reps. The
first 12 might even feel very similar to when you are well fed, but then you hit a wall after rep 12.
This occurs because you usually rely heavily on glycogen use to get those final reps, and you
do not have as much glycogen on a minicut. This lack of glycogen causes a “hitting a wall”
feeling rather than the usual “slow burn” feeling of high rep training. This is because “the burn”
occurs when glycogen is used so fast that it metabolizes into lactic acid instead of being
shuttled into the oxidative system. This lactic acid causes the “burn” feeling. In the absence of
normal glycogen levels, you do not have the ability to generate a whole lot of lactic acid, so
rather than burning through those final reps, you just hit a wall.
The good news for those doing minicuts to re-sensitize for further muscle gains is that reps
should be in the 6-12 range anyway. You cannot expect pumps, PRs, and fireworks during your
minicut training, but this is nothing to worry about. It is easy to get caught up in the moment, feel
pessimistic and start thinking something must be wrong. Something is wrong, and it is the lack
of probably hundreds of carbs on a daily basis. That “wrong” is something you are doing on
purpose, for a very specific end goal, so it is something that must be expected and accepted
Though your ability to express strength takes a bit of a dip on a minicut, if your diet and training
were well designed and you did not lose any muscle, you will bounce back when you start your
gaining phase. Know this going in, get to the gym and get your workouts done, and you will
finish your minicut and get the desired potentiation to continue progressing.
Fat and Muscle Loss Expectations
Losing exclusively fat and maintaining muscle on a minicut is a feasible goal for most people.
The caveat here is that you must be realistic with your choices for rate and duration.
33 As coaches, we get questions like the following quite often: “Hey, can I just go big and lose at
1.5% bodyweight for 6 weeks on a minicut?”
If you want to increase your chances of muscle loss, you absolutely can. The desire to lose a lot
of fat as quickly as possible and get extremely lean in one fell swoop is universal. Everyone also
wants a two-day workweek and calorie-free pizza. Desires are not realities however, and if we
are to get some semblance of our desires fulfilled in actual reality, we must make calculated
If you want to run a minicut for 6 weeks, you can spare all muscle loss if you do everything
reasonably, have decent genetics, and do not exceed the rate of weekly loss of around 0.75%.
If you push it to 1% per week or even higher, you risk muscle loss that much more if you are
sticking to training that will re-sensitize you. If you have 6% fat to lose, then you should probably
do an 8-12 week normal fat loss phase and not a minicut.
Stay conservative in your loss rate goals, make sure the loss rate fits the duration, do the diet
and training correctly, and muscle loss is very unlikely. Deviate from this approach and get
greedy for unrealistic fat loss, and you will get all-too-realistic muscle loss as well.
TIA Minicut Expectations
A TIA minicut can allow you to lose a much larger amount of fat in a short time with low or
minimal muscle loss and have you looking absolutely transformed. You can lose 1% or more of
bodyfat per week on a TIA minicut without muscle loss thanks to the higher volume training.
This means that if you are sitting at around 15% fat for males or 20% fat for females, a 6-week
TIA minicut can indeed have you photoshoot-ready.
The price of this radical transformation is twofold. The first cost is that it does not really
potentiate further muscle growth, and requires its own recovery phase. Sometimes you have got
to look sharp last minute even at a cost, it is just important to know that you are making a tradeoff here and that TIA minicuts are not an be an intelligent part of a long-term plan. The second
cost is that a truly well-done TIA minicut is brutally difficult. You will be eating very little, training
your hardest, and doing cardio on top of it all. There is no time for a diet break, no time for cheat
meals, no time to let up. It is an extremely mentally and physiologically fatiguing endeavor. You
will be low on glycogen, but will still have to perform higher reps and drop sets to squeeze in as
much anti-catabolic volume training as possible. You will feel depleted, tired, unmotivated, and
your training will be “head above water” at best. Do not expect anything better than what was
just described. You just have to do your best to bring as much motivation and work ethic to the
gym as possible and push through. You might lose a bit of strength and possibly a bit of muscle.
These are the unpleasant trade-offs that must be made for a successful TIA minicut. About 3-4
days before your “peak” at the end of the TIA minicut, you will look worn down and ‘flat’, but in
those last 3-4 days, you will be manipulating your food and fluid intake to make you look
completely full and super lean for your event. We will cover the details of this special peaking
protocol in a subsequent chapter.
34 Chapter 8: After the Minicut
Body Water Rebound
When you increase calories after the minicut, lost water and glycogen will return about as
quickly as they were initially lost. During this time, especially during the tail end of the first week,
your body water will shift a bit from intra-muscular to subcutaneous (under the skin). This can
make you look much less defined for a short time. Your GI tract will also be processing a lot
more food than it has been used to over the last several weeks, leaving you quite a bit more
bloated and with a temporarily thicker-looking midsection (and, if we are being honest, a whole
lot of flatulence). This is normal, expected, and nothing to worry about. After the first week your
body water will start to re-compartmentalize and you will be fuller with more definition than at
any point during your minicut. With pounds of water now in your muscles, your appearance is
substantially improved compared to the last few weeks across the minicut end and immediately
When rapidly regaining lost water weight and looking bloated and less defined, the temptation is
to assume that the surplus is too great and that you should decrease calories. This choice will
likely drop calories to maintenance levels and cause you to lose a week of gains from the
hypertrophy training you just began. Make sound surplus calculations and then trust this math
despite your observations in the first week after the minicut. Once you are several weeks into
your muscle gain phase, you can make informed adjustments. Changing things in the first or
even the beginning of the second week post-minicut is like buying new paint colors before your
original coat of paint has even dried. It is easy to be impulsive and call yourself a perfectionist. It
is much harder to be patient and actually be one.
Organizing Your Post-minicut Muscle Gain Surplus
The main purpose of the minicut is to make you more sensitive to muscle gain, so jumping back
into a caloric surplus is your next move. To get your surplus calorie intake amount, just take
your current maintenance calories (from your own data or from a prediction chart or formula)
and add in the surplus you would like, following the formula in the bodyweight gain chart from
Chapter 5. Recall that since your metabolism will not have changed much over the short
duration of the minicut, you can use your pre-minicut maintenance calories, or a value just about
5-10% below, as your base.
If you want to gain at 0.5% per week but are hesitant to jump right into that big of a surplus, start
with the 0.25% surplus at first and then adjust upwards from there after a couple weeks. If you
are extremely concerned about excess rates of gain, starting at maintenance and then working
up to your surplus target is also an option. The latter plan however risks lost gains just to pacify
your fat-phobia. Even in the transition from minicut to maintenance you will gain quite a lot of
weight via water and feel bloated. There is no real way around this uncomfortable transition.
The exception would be “reverse dieting,” where you stay in a deficit after the minicut but reduce
the size of the deficit. We strongly discourage this, as it adds more fatigue needlessly and
reduces the muscle gain potentiation of your minicut.
35 Deloading After the Minicut
If you minicut for 2 or even 3 weeks, you might not need to deload right after and might simply
transition directly into a surplus and normal, muscle-gain training the next day. If you minicut for
4, 5, or 6 weeks, you will accumulate enough fatigue to require a deload. In this case, you
deload at your maintenance calorie intake and then start your surplus the first day back on
higher volume training.
Strength Return Rates
In order to have the most productive muscle gain results, you should probably be hitting regular
PRs in your training. Since you are unlikely to be hitting PRs on your minicut, a valid question to
ask is when you can expect strength progression to resume after a minicut?
The ability to express strength is not likely to return immediately. Glycogen resynthesis has to
occur to near-completion for rep-strength (especially at higher reps ranges of 12-20) to return.
This process will take at least a week. In addition, weight loss might have altered your leverages
and your mechanics somewhat, so another 1-2 weeks might be needed to regain coordination
in your new post-minicut body. Thus, especially for very strong, experienced lifters, the ability to
once again make net progress in strength might take up to 3 weeks post-minicut. If you are still
having trouble progressing in rep strength in the first couple weeks after a minicut, you have no
need to worry or suspect muscle loss. If more than 3 weeks pass and you are still not hitting
your pre-minicut numbers, you probably either did lose some muscle or have not effectively
brought your calories up to at least maintenance level. If this happens, you may need to rethink
your calorie increase calculations and your last minicut parameters.
36 Chapter 9: Peaking and Recovering after a
TIA Minicut
Peaking after a TIA Minicut
At the end of a TIA minicut, you are depleted, fatigued, and definitely not looking your absolute
best even though you are likely very lean. To get you to your best look for whatever occasion
you happen to be peaking for, you will need to replenish some nutrients and make some
adjustments. You can start this peaking process by ending the minicut about 3-4 days before
your event. You will not be losing fat during these last 3-4 days, so if you need a full 4 weeks to
cut for example, start 4.5 weeks before your planned peaking day to make room for this final
process. Across those 3-4 peaking days:
3-4 days out from your peak day:
Cease hard training and most or all cardio training. Do only very easy workouts of high
reps and short rests to get just a semblance of a pump and that is it. Muscle damage
prevents glycogen synthesis, so do not train hard enough or with enough volume to get
sore. Volumes here should be at isocaloric MV levels.
Raise your carbohydrate intake to 2.0 - 3.0g per pound of bodyweight per day. 2.0 if you
want to be on the slimmer, drier side, 3.0 if you want to be on the bigger and fuller side.
Drink a normal amount of water (drink to thirst) every day during the carb-up.
The night before the event:
Eat an extra 0.5g per pound of bodyweight in carbohydrates with your last meal. So, if
you weigh 150lb, eat 75g additional carbs on top of your current carb intake.
Drink a bit less water than you want––only drink enough water with your last meal to
keep your mouth from being dry.
The day of the event:
If your event is in the middle of the day or later in the day, eat all but the last meal as
normal, with the high carbs still in effect. Your last meal before the event (3 hours
before) should be only a protein shake. This lack of carbs can dry you out just a bit more
and also keep your waist down in size by letting your GI tract empty out a bit of its food
volume. If your event is in the morning, just have that protein shake upon waking.
Water consumption in the hours leading up to the event should be almost normal, but
not excessive. Stay just a bit thirsty and never drink enough water to quench your thirst
100% until the event is over. (The exception to this is if your event is something like a
daylong photo shoot on a very hot beach. In this case you can drink plenty of fluids and
your sweating will keep you from bloating.)
37 Keep your salt intake normal and stable throughout this peaking period. Salt manipulation is a
possibility, but the chances of a poor outcome are much greater than the benefit you get from
nailing your salt timing. We recommend against it in most cases.
There are two scenarios in which these instructions need significant modification:
If your “peak” is a vacation that lasts several days or more, you do not need the 3-4 day
peaking period. In fact, you can minicut right up until your vacation starts and begin
eating like you are on vacation, because you are! This way, a good deal of the extra
carbs and calories during the first part or your vacation will go towards filling you out,
and you will actually look better day-to-day. Because you spend some fraction of your
vacation filling out, the total bodyfat gain and thus “best look degradation” you
experience on vacation will be reduced. This way, you can enjoy yourself and get a large
measure of both eating for fun and looking amazing.
If your peak is a longer-term endeavor, you have to modify your recovery phase a bit.
This can come in handy if you need to be in shape for a film shoot, a tour in which your
physique will be on display, and so on. In this case, you also skip the 3-4 day peaking
protocol. Instead you simply start eating at maintenance calories and carbs. You will
continue to train to get a pump the entire time (training at about MEV or so, a bit harder
than “pump only” training), and you can do up to ½ of the cardio volume compared to
your minicut. This approach will drop fatigue just enough to be manageable, but still
keep you very close to the shape you attained at the end of the minicut.
Recovering After a TIA Minicut
TIA minicuts do not re-sensitize you for muscle gain, thus they do not really have a place in
long-term muscle-gain periodization. They also cause the accumulation of a massive amount of
mental and physiological fatigue. If you have done a TIA minicut for whatever reason and hope
to get back to either mass gaining or more sustainable fat loss progress, recommendations for
recovering and returning to normal diet and training practices are as follows:
In order to set up for muscle gain post TIA minicut, we have to both lower fatigue and reduce
our training volume so that we can re-sensitize. Unsurprisingly, we will use an isocaloric
maintenance phase and low volume training for this. Anywhere between 2 and 3 weeks of such
maintenance training and dieting is sufficient to recover from most TIA minicuts, and the length
between those extremes will depend on how long and aggressive the TIA minicut was. Once
you are done with this maintenance phase, you can proceed to a muscle gain phase.
If you want to do another fat loss phase post TIA minicut, you must maintain (or even gain) for
at least 2x as long as the minicut lasted. So, if your TIA minicut lasted 6 weeks, you probably
should not attempt to enter a hypocaloric diet for at least another 12 weeks. In almost all cases,
this next phase should not be another aggressive minicut, but rather a longer, slower diet.
In either case, the decision of exactly how long to run the recovery phase is up to you, but
please be honest with yourself about your levels of fatigue. If you are still beat up and
demotivated, take another week or so. In the long run the benefit of the added recovery will far
outweigh a lost week or two.
38 Chapter 10: Minicut Myths and Follies
There are many ways in which a minicut can be misused or done improperly. Unexamined
hopes can turn into practiced processes, and if they do not reflect reality, become follies:
Minicuts Replacing Conventional Fat Loss Phases
One of the most erroneous but also most common assumptions (or rather, temptations), is using
minicuts to replace longer, slower, more conventional fat loss phases. We have said this before,
but want to drive the point home here, as the temptation to fall into this particular folly is very
After a minicut, you should take at least 2x the length of the minicut as a break before starting
another in order to recover enough physiologically and reduce diet fatigue. Conventional cuts
only require about 2/3 - 1x the cut length to recover from since the rate of loss is so much less
aggressive. If you do a 6-week minicut and lose 4.5% fat (0.75% x 6 weeks), you have to wait
another 12 weeks to do another minicut. As a rate, that is 0.25% fat lost per week counting the
mandatory break weeks. Alternatively, you could diet conventionally for 12 weeks at a 0.5% loss
rate (a much less painful a pace), and then take just 8 weeks to drop diet fatigue before dieting
again. This actually gives us a better total weight loss rate of 0.3% fat lost per week compared
to the minicut strategy and likely less rebound weight gain as well.
One of the reasons it takes so long to recover from a minicut is that they are purposefully
disruptive (this is what potentiates the gaining phase). Conventional cut diets for sustained fat
loss work best when you have a mild deficit and you can really get into the dieting groove and
make slow steady progress that does not stress and push your physiology quite so hard. With
minicuts, there is no groove, and the magnitude of the psychological toll from minicuts, without a
subsequent mass gain phase is very high.
As stated many times already, we do minicuts in order to create the perfect conditions for a
weight rebound. There is very little downward setpoint drift, which is perfect for muscle gain right
after but terrible for long-term weight loss. There is a lot of hunger generated, which again is
great for mass gain and very suboptimal for long-term weight loss.
Minicuts are not for most people. They are for advanced lifters willing to make trade-offs needed
to gain size at their stage of development. If you are a coach and you try to replace conventional
length cuts with minicuts, you are setting up most of your clients for failure because whatever
fraction of them can actually make it through a minicut (most will not) will likely succumb to
weight rebound after. That is not to say that you cannot program shorter cuts, just keep the loss
rates in the conventional cut range (0.5-1.0 % body weight lost per week) to make the losses
Minicuts are often appealing as alternatives to longer fat loss phases for precisely the kinds of
people that are the most poorly suited to survive them––the kind of people that have no
patience for longer fat loss phases. The big secret to working with impatient people is not to
feed their impatience, but to expand it with longer (though perhaps slightly shorter than
maximal) fat loss phases while working on their perceptions and strategies in the diet process.
39 Minicutting with a Bad Food Relationship
Unfortunately, some of the same people from the previous section who deal with impatience
regarding weight loss also have bad relationships with food, poor eating habits, and poor selfperception. These individuals are more likely to diet for radical fat loss over short periods with
episodes of binging and guilt interspersed. Some of these individuals might eventually be in a
psychological place where they can mass and need minicuts or might find themselves in need
of a TIA minicut. The risk of relapse into the binge-cut cycles should be strongly considered
before embarking on a minicut for those with previous food related dysfunction. Longer, more
gentle fat loss phases may be a better choice––the type that build good long-term diet habits
and allow the practice of measured, patient approaches to body composition needs. For those
with more extreme issues or who have been diagnosed with eating disorders, dieting of any
type should only occur under the supervision of a registered dietician, medical doctor, and or
clinical practitioner (psychiatrist or psychologist).
Fasting During the Minicut
Fasting is not the ideal way to lose fat if sparing muscle is important to you. By leaving your
muscles unfed beyond when GI-tract digested food is available in the blood stream, you are
setting up a scenario for muscle loss. If you keep your daily macros standardized, this should
not be a large amount of muscle loss, but when trying to potentiate muscle growth as a final
outcome, any measurable loss is already too much. In addition, fasting can set up higher fatigue
levels, which give us all sorts of problems both for muscle retention, re-sensitization, and
Sticking to 4-7 evenly-spaced protein-rich meals through the typical day is ideal, but if you really
want to fast for some reason, try at least having small amounts of protein every 3-5 hours during
your fast so that you are doing something to blunt catabolism.
Excessively Low-volume training
The lower the training volume, the more re-sensitization you will experience, but only to a point.
If you drop training volume lower than your hypocaloric MV (or about your isocaloric MEV), you
will lose muscle. Since the whole point of re-sensitizing by dropping volume is to gain more
muscle later, losing muscle in the process defeats your long-term purpose. Keep your volumes
high enough to ward off muscle loss, but lower than normal muscle-gain training on average so
that you can get the best of both muscle conservation and future growth potentiation.
Overly Conservative Loss Rate
There are situations for some individuals which will necessitate weight loss rates as low as 0.5%
per week. Genetics for easy muscle loss, poor hormonal profile, a high stress job or lifestyle,
and other such factors can contribute. If 0.75%+ weekly rates do not risk muscle loss or
mandate training volumes that are high enough to prevent re-sensitization, you should not be
running minicuts with loss rates that are any slower. The recommendations here are relative––
run the minicut as slow as you need in order to maintain muscle as an individual, but not any
40 Excessive Rebound Eating
One of the biggest reasons we aim to lose fat on a minicut is to improve our p-ratio. Another is
to give us more room to grow before we hit the top end of our bodyfat range. If you finish the
minicut and go on an eating binge over the next week, gaining a percent or two of fat in the first
week or so, both p-ratio and the length of your muscle gain window will take an unnecessary hit.
In essence, you just did a minicut to make room for your pig out session and landed a net
neutral in body composition change and potentiation. (Even if that is actually why you want to
minicut, this pattern is not psychologically healthy by itself and should be avoided). If you are
doing a minicut for the purpose of gaining more muscle, it is up to you to restrain yourself in the
first several weeks afterwards. Eat only at your calculated surplus and nothing more. Using
some anti-hunger strategies like eating more veggies, fruits, and whole grains instead of more
calorie-dense foods can help with this until hunger settles back down.
Mini-massing (is Not a Thing)
The existence of minicuts leads many to ask about mini-masses. The idea of shortened gain
phases and less accumulated fat is appealing, but sadly this is just not an efficient strategy and
unlike a minicut, it does not potentiate much of anything. Muscle takes a long time to grow in
comparison to how quickly fat can be lost, so cutting a muscle gain phase short just limits
momentum and closes the gaining window earlier than necessary, giving you less of a result. In
fact, we stop the mass-minicut-mass process precisely when minicuts are no longer buying us
enough leanness and sensitivity to gain muscle for longer periods.
Sometimes, because of the way meets are scheduled (closer together), powerlifters,
weightlifters, and other sport athletes might only have time for a month or two of muscle gain. In
this case what amounts to a short mass might be done, but the choice is a forced limitation, not
some magical advantage or technique. If you can help it, do not “mini-mass”.
Leaving Minicuts Out of Long Term Muscle Gain Programs
You cannot use longer cuts to re-sensitize to training volume, because you need higher
volumes of training towards the end of longer cuts to prevent muscle loss. So isocaloric MV
training phases are the only option for re-sensitizing in the absence of minicuts. This is however
suboptimal for long term gains for the following reasons:
The length of full cuts and full isocaloric MV phases substantially disrupt muscle gain
momentum. Minicuts can extend muscle gain momentum without this time-loss.
Long fat loss periods bring down your settling point, and in order to gain mass and put
on sustainable weight, that settling point must be pushed up. This is an added obstacle.
One of the purposes of keeping minicuts short is to prevent lowering settling points so
that bodyweight can rocket back up and muscle gain momentum can return quickly.
Getting down to the lower end of your mass-gain-body-fat-percentage window to make
room for gains that ramp you up to the top of that window does not require a full-length
fat loss phase. Conventional cuts have a place in periodized plans, but sometimes you
can extend the muscle gain phase by another 12-16 weeks in length with a minicut and
save yourself a lot of time.
41 Too Many Minicuts
If you minicut too often, you can disrupt muscle gain momentum for no good reason. The
minicut is something that is done in response to a pressing need to be leaner and more trainingsensitive in order to gain. If that need is not present or insufficiently great, a minicut is just a
needless loss of momentum and muscle gain potential. You can think of minicuts as gas station
rest stops on a trip with a very heavy RV in a rush to make a campground location by nightfall. If
you can use the RV bathroom (gain muscle at appropriate rates without getting too fat too
quickly), why stop at the gas station and slow down your overall progress? Unless we are close
to running on empty, stopping means wasted time and disrupted trip momentum. In much the
same way, unless you need to get leaner and re-sensitize to volume, do not minicut. In addition,
because minicuts work less and less effectively the more you do them in one macrocycle, it just
does not pay to minicut unless there is a very good reason.
Some people fall into the trap of minicutting too often because they hate getting even the
slightest bit fatter and will take any excuse to get leaner again. Some of these folks do not like
getting too ‘flat’ either, so they cut their minicuts short as well, leading to a whole lot of lost
progress in the long-term. No one likes to get fatter and no one likes looking minicut-flat, but do
not diet-hop and call it a strategy. Let science drive your practice, not vanity and hastiness. If
someone asks you why you stopped muscle gaining or minicutting and you do not have
objective information to answer them with, you are just being impulsive, so as Arnold would say;
If you are in the gym for long-term muscle gains, you need to commit to the uncomfortable parts
of the process and give every phase its due diligence.
This manual should give you all of the information you need to make minicuts an invaluable tool
in your quest for muscle gain. Remember that this tool is merely a supplement to an objectively
designed, periodized plan. Minicuts are not a panacea, they will not facilitate massive muscle
gains across a single year. They will however make each and every year and every mass gain
phase just a bit more productive. These small increases in productivity will add up over time,
giving you a significant edge. The authors hope that this manual has dispelled the myths
regarding minicuts and made clear their benefits and limitations, as well as provided detailed
insight into minicut execution. We wish you all productive diet and training!