Sometime towards the end of 2019, I decided I had had enough of the bulk life. I had gotten into training again at the beginning of the year after a long hiatus of over 15 months. The overenthusiasm to regain the lost size and strength did contribute much to the ‘bulk’ that followed in the next couple of months. Although I ate well within my calorie quota for most part, I was starting to look fluffy and soft around the edges. So I did what I thought was the best idea at the time: I ran a mini-cut for 6 weeks.
What is a mini-cut?
A ‘cut’ in the bodybuilding community refers to a calorie deficit state where the primary goal is to lose body fat and body weight. A ‘mini-cut’ is thus a shortened (however more intense) version of a regular cut. Usually, any cut under the duration of 6 weeks is considered mini.
Why a mini-cut?
When you eat at a caloric surplus to gain muscle mass, some amount of fat gain is inevitable. While we can try our best to reduce this fat gain, over time our body fat percentage is going to rise to a level where it no longer is optimal for muscle gaining. Muscle gain is seen to be optimal at lower body fat levels which allows the body to be more sensitive towards nutrient utilisation. So, occasional caloric deficits are necessary to resensitise the body to keep building muscle at an optimal pace. A mini-cut can be an awesome way to achieve this goal however it can also be a bit disruptive compared to the usual cut because of its aggressive tendency towards higher calorie deficits.
My experience with the 2019 mini-cut
It melts the fat right off the body as you can clearly see in the weekly progress pictures here. So, if you just hate longer cuts or are finding your bulk getting stale, a mini-cut for 3-4 weeks would be a great way to introduce some variety.
If I remember correctly, I ran the mini-cut at a deficit of around 500 calories. So I went from bulking at around 3200 calories to a straight drop at 2200 calories (since my TDEE or maintenance calories are around 2700). This was extremely draining after the 3 week mark. Especially if you have other stressors in your life like a hectic work schedule or academic pursuits to attend to, going on a mini-cut might feel like absolute crap. Also, your muscles look flat as hell because of the rapid glycogen depletion. So, although you look super lean as compared to a couple of weeks ago, you also look smaller. This can be psychologically discouraging and can make you quit the mini-cut before you planned to.
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The ugliest part of running a mini-cut is the fatigue and the hunger pangs caused by the sharp calorie drop. Your body has very less time to adapt and going directly into a huge deficit right from a bulk can really spike up your appetite. Also, there is a slight loss of strength due to the glycogen loss from the muscles which can affect your training sessions. But this is only temporary and should not be a reason to quit a mini-cut midway. As you can see in the progress pictures below, my muscles filled out right back up over a few weeks once I ended the cut, as the glycogen levels stabilsed.
Mini-cuts can be a great way to melt away some of that fat you put on midway through a bulk. But ideally, plan your mini-cuts during a period when other external stressors (family, work, school, etc) in your life are low because they can take a heavy toll on your well-being. Mini-cuts are just another tool in the arsenal of a physique athlete and should be used responsibly.
Revive Stronger has a great manual on executing mini-cuts properly. You can check it out here.
What has your experience been running a cut or a mini-cut?
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