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EXPERT PANEL TOPIC for MAY 23rd 2020 -- Mini Cuts in the Off Season

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  • EXPERT PANEL TOPIC for MAY 23rd 2020 -- Mini Cuts in the Off Season

    Ok, the topic for this panel discussion is focused on Mini-cuts in the off season.

    Do you like them and use them either for yourself or with clients?

    When do you use them?

    Why do you use them?

    If you do not use them, why do you think mini-cuts suck?

    First things first, define a mini-cut in your own words and then give your opinion on the topic.


    Datas4 pastorpump Allen Cress Wolfpack sweetjane57 Doggcrapp dusty hanshaw Jeff Black ScoobyPrep MattKouba BSmitley Mutasis troponin

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  • #2
    I personally do a show every year so I do a cut anyways. Even if you don't cut i believe that just changing pace and pushing the training for a goal date, even if it's not to get shredded, helps motivation. I rarely see anyone who "takes time off" to just add size really push for the year plus on a hard core basis because when there is no set goal or concrete diet plan most take to many easy days in the kitchen and gym. I would suggest pealing back the fat a bit and see what you're really working with during the year. Will also set up a nice rebound
    Carlos Rodriguez
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    • #3
      Great topic Skip


      • #4
        For me personally, I have never done “mini cuts” because I have competed almost every year since 2005. The years I didn’t compete I was trying to build so we just never thought a cut was necessary.

        Now, with clients....I have only had a couple that have done this. NON Competitors who wanted to gain muscle but also be “cut” for Summers. LOL So, usually a mass building phase happens and then a cut and then a maintenance into another mass building phase.

        I don’t think a mini cut is necessary unless someone puts on a boat load of body fat during a “building” phase.


        • #5
          If someone has been "off-season" for a really long time they may start losing motivation, that's one reason to do a mini-cut. To me, a mini-cut is at least 4-6 weeks long. Another reason would be if someone's body fat is getting too high and you need to reel them back in. It would need to be just like a pre-contest diet and cardio to get decent results in those 4-6 weeks.


          • #6
            Pages can be written on this topic. (Actually... LOL)

            I guess you could loosely define a mini-cut as a period of dieting at caloric deficiency with the intention of noticeable / measurable fat loss, interspersed during an (Off-Season) period oriented towards gaining muscle with a caloric excess, progressive overload, etc. that:

            • Lasts longer than a week (Anything shorter could just be considered a break from dieting that could accomplish some of the same goals as a mini-cut, but wouldn't really create noticeable fat loss)
            • Is used secondarily as a measure to support the larger current goal of gaining size
            • Could be programmed in intentionally / systematically, proactively, e.g., to fit around another life situation (traveling, moving, career change, etc), even to "tidy up" for a photo shoot or what have you or as part of a larger macro/mesocycleing pattern (e.g., training deloads would typically include a less aggressive mini-cut dietarily, but only if needed).

            So, with the definition above, I've addressed some of the the why's of doing a mini-cut, but generally one would use them when:

            • Progress in terms of muscle gain has come to a standstill or is happening only with a very poor p-ratio - lots of fat and very little muscle.
            • One's GI system has come off the rails and needs to be corrected with a period of lower GI stress (less food).
            • The food intake has simply just gotten too tough (typically would happen with the above two possibilities) and one needs to back down for a while
            • Body fat has reached one's personal limit ("I just can't stand feeling so fat" anymore)
            • Body fat is getting so high as to be outside of reasonable shooting distance to diet in for a show, e.g. one has an estimated 30lb of body fat to lose to be in show shape, there is still 7 months of off-season left, so gaining much more body fat would mean basically that the diet would have to start at like 5 mo. out.

            The general purpose of a mini-cut then would be to hold on to muscle mass (don't diet too aggressively) and reduce body fat while refreshing the important pieces that need to be in place when gaining:

            • GI health
            • Appetite
            • Psychological motivation (related to how you look and accumulating stress from having to force feed for weeks)
            • Insulin sensitivity, etc.
            • Reset body composition trajectory for the off-season / gaining ("bulking") phase to be able to make good gains (P-ratio related) while not having so much body fat that the pre-contest diet will be overly long and/or difficult (meaning again, a poor p-ratio here where muscle is lost unnecessarily because the diet needed to be very aggressive to be in truly show-ready condition on stage.)

            Duration of a mini-cut could then be anywhere from a couple weeks (e.g., during a de-load / cruise in someone who drops fat easily when dropping kcal down) to a couple months even (e.g., in someone where body fat has really gotten out of hand (and this might even be at the start of an off-season if the post-contest period weren't managed well and someone "rebounded" by eating "like an asshole..."

            So, a very individual approach for mini-cuts for clients and one that might also not be helpful, as it can also be an "out" for someone who would be best served by buckling down and pushing upwards, accepting that body fat will come along for the ride.

            Mini-cuts, I would say, are probably used too often in many cases (bailing ship for someone who, given the professed goals of being a monster on stage needs to keep pushing up wards; as Pastorpump noted) or as an unnecessary corrective tool when someone's not managed body comp.

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            • #7
              Great topic overall and excited to hear everyone's response.

              A corollary question I have that impacts me personally is how to optimize insulin sensitivity throughout a prolonged gaining phase so that nutrient partitioning remains optimal.

              Are there tactics (e.g., cardio, macro composition, supplements) to keep the muscle-to-fat ratio ideal?


              • #8
                A “mini-cut” to me is basically resetting the body internally and externally.

                By reset I mean after a prolonged time in a surplus an individual can get to a point where its harder to get a majority of the glucose into the muscle cell. In a healthy client, insulin will stimulate GLUT transporters in muscle and fat, but about 80% of the glucose will be taken up by the muscle because it has more insulin receptors. In a person who has had excessive amounts of carbs/calories for too long, their body will start to create more insulin receptors on the fat cells, making more of the carbs you eat, get stored as fat.

                When insulin can’t signal your cells to uptake the glucose via the GLUT transporters you end up with high levels of glucose in the blood all the time. Your body then increases the release of insulin typically to much to deal with the high blood glucose, then it drops to low to fast and cortisol is released and dumps more glucose into the blood.

                Then before you know it you have this insulin/cortisol battle going on which can lead to all kinds of other health issues. Over time this leads to lower energy levels, more fat storage, highly inflamed cells, and then it effects other hormonal pathways.

                If you don’t get ahead of this your muscle to fat ratio starts shifting to accumulation of more fat. Then when you actually start dieting later you are in a poor place as you will likely have to diet harder and longer and go to more extremes to get stage ready and likely lose muscle in the process.

                I use them with myself and clients to avoid all this as we all know that developing insulin resistance is something we need to avoid. When I use them is case by case.

                I use them When I see the body parts on a client that tend to store fat first get higher and higher, If they are not getting decent pumps in the gym (which shows poor nutrient partitioning), If fasted and Postprandial Blood glucose readings are trending high. These are some symptoms/feedback to look for.

                The Timeline for the individual makes a difference as well. If they competed in June and want to compete again the next year in April I will likely NOT use a mini cut as they need to be a surplus that entire time for health purposes, especially females.

                I think if many are more methodical and consistent with their nutrition during an off season they can stay in a surplus longer. Having a non-linear macro approach, manipulating macro ratios, etc... If a mini-cut is needed a short 3-4 week period hit hard and fast will be plenty to keep things in a good spot.
                Allen Cress


                • #9
                  Man there is nothing worse than following Allen lol. He always says things perfectly.

                  I will give my take on them though.

                  I define them as a means to reset things with a client or to give them focus on a small goal or two. Building momentum and keeping it going is more powerful than motivation, but when you have them combined you can kick ass further and longer I have found. This is where understanding where your client is mentally and a handle of their stress is good to know. If they are stressed to the max then a mini-cut might not be for them as it will further stress them. As a coach you are either pushing, pulling, or maintaining and understanding where your client fits mentally into any of the 3 phases will make the process easier for you to coach and more successful for them

                  I use them both for myself and with my clients. I actually have found with my gen pop clients I coach that 8 weeks pushing and pulling back work well for the most part. Most get at least 6 weeks and gives them the victories they need to keep going. Most clients do extremely well with small manageable goals on this journey. With my physique clients I use them when it is time to reset things as Allen said above. Monitoring HRV and BG are two things I use to determine this, but also how someone is looking and feeling too. Is digestion becoming off? Usually when that starts to get funky more often than not is the first indicator for me to dive deeper to see what we might need to do next.

                  I always try to have a good conversation with clients about the "why" for doing things. Educate them on the reason and reaffirm the education with goal setting. I have found this works very well for me with my clients in terms of retention as a client and their overall happiness with this journey they are on.


                  • #10
                    Like anything else, there is so much context required here. Ive always defined a "mini cut" as a period out of a surplus to reset. Reset could mean several things though.

                    Reasons why we may do them:

                    -Decrease bodyfat because fat to muscle gain ratio in a surplus has become unfavorable
                    -Improve partitioning/insulin sensitivity
                    -Lower inflammation and GI distress
                    -For some it may even have psychological benefits too

                    There might be some other select situations where its necessary but those are typically the main reasons. Often its a combination of the above in some way shape of form.

                    Shorter vs Longer:

                    -Some folks will end up with the GI distress and lose in partitioning but still not have super excessive fat accrual. They may not need as long of a time in a deficit to reset.
                    -Others that need to lose more fat might take a little longer but of course it totally depends on just how much and how fast this person peels off fat.
                    -Again, really just depends on how deep of a hole the person is in as to how long they need to reset.

                    We should also consider that the body really like homeostasis. We have mechanisms in place that balance all body systems. The further you push yourself away from your normal set point, the more taxing it can become. Times out of a surplus are a great time to lower the overall systemic stress.

                    Even though its not directly bodyfat or nutrition related, we may see other markers like RHR and HRV improve simply because the body is less stressed and autonomic nervous system function is improving.

                    Again, everything is context and im definitely leaving out some nuance but those are the key points.


                    • #11
                      Great responses, so far, for this topic. Thank you to everyone who has responded.

                      My response will fall in line with most of the responses above, but I admit that I likely have stronger opinions on mini-cuts than most of the responses above (unless they are just being nice and holding back -- I'm not always nice, though).

                      For the most part, I see a mini-cut as something that is not needed unless the person lacks discipline and structure in their off season diet plan. There are exceptions, but if your off season diet is dead-on, body fat should never get to the point that a mini-cut is needed.

                      An exception to this -- and one of the few solid reasons that I see a mini-cut as needed -- is if insulin sensitivity decreases. This is possible, to the point of becoming likely at some point, if the off season phase is long, and calories have to be pushed -- almost forced -- for growth. The main way that I have observed this in the past is when gains are rolling along and then within a month, they seem to slow to a crawl, if not stop completely. This can be observed most obviously in strength gains (within bodybuilding rep ranges). It is incredibly difficult to increase strength within bodybuilding rep ranges and not have hypertrophy. Likewise, if strength gains aren't happening within bodybuilding rep ranges, it is just as likely that growth is either not taking place or growth has been compromised and slowed to a crawl.

                      In the above situation, pulling back calories for a short period of time can allow for growth to "restart," again. I will give you an example: when I started my current cut phase in February, I had been pushing calories for a couple of months with little to no gain scale weight. I was also not able to increase strength gains in bodybuilding rep ranges. I could slowly (very slowly) start to see that my body comp was changing despite the fact that I had grown quite well the previous 4-6 months. I anticipated that an increase in calories would ensure that I would begin growing again so that I could progress for the last couple of months of my off season. Instead, I gained roughly 8 pounds over those last 2 months with nothing more than an increase in body fat and no increase in strength.

                      Within weeks of starting my cut phase, my gains started to take off again with no other changes to my training frequency, intensity, duration, supplementation, etc.

                      In addition to becoming more insulin resistant with higher calories, digestion can simply get bogged down. It almost becomes a burden on the system to process all of the food and becomes an added stress on the body.

                      Another reason that I could stand behind a mini-cut in the off season is if there is a phase where someone goes on vacation or has a family emergency and is completely side-tracked with a horrible diet that has them ingesting significantly more calories than normal, increasing body fat and increasing insulin resistance. Outside of this example and the one I stated above it, I don't see a good reason for doing mini-cuts. My philosophy has always been that while in a growth phase, a cut of any kind is simply an obstacle to the goals of a growth phase. If it's a growth phase, GROW, unless you absolutely HAVE to pull back and reset.

                      Have discipline and run your off season diet just as you would a cutting diet. Weigh and measure your food, planned meals and cheats or skiploads should be a programmed part of your plan -- not just something that you randomly take part in because you are not in a cutting phase and can "afford" to eat whatever you want.

                      I do agree with those who stated that off season dieting can become laborious and boring when there is no black and white goal in the near future. Still, it is what it is and if you want to progress as efficiently as possible, the off season has to be treated the same as a cutting phase when it comes to the mental approach, structure and meticulous planning.


                      Facebook: Skip Hill
                      Instagram: @intensemuscle
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                      For Training Inquiries: [email protected]

                      Use discount code "SKIP" and get your TEAM SKIP protein here: