My "Mini Cut" Experience & Lessons Learned
Starting early July 2018, I started a "mini cut" - AKA a relatively short period of time in a caloric deficit with the goal to lose body fat. Why? Because I booked a trip to Hawaii at the end of August and decided that since I never go to the beach + was in a good mental/physical space to execute, why not do a mini cut?!
Through this mini cut, I learned a lot about my body. I had done a mini cut earlier in the year in January to prepare for my powerlifting meet, and WOW was this mini cut a lot more successful! Just look at the difference in those weight loss trendlines! I'll be taking you through why I think this mini cut was more successful than the last, while breaking down the results.
Let's set the stage…
Before the Mini Cut
Upon starting my mini cut, I was eating about 2,400 calories (320 carbs | 65 fat | 150 protein), weighing about 132lbs (on average), lifting heavy, and doing very little cardio. Honestly, I was just fine with my physique at that point! However again, I thought 'why not' do a mini cut to get a bit tighter for my trip. I want to emphasize here that before starting my mini cut, I felt like I was in a good mental and physical state - I was eating plenty and feeling strong.
Mini Cut Game Plan
From my previous mini cut experience for my powerlifting meet, I knew I wanted to drop weight faster than I did in that previous experience. Since calories are #1 with weight/fat loss, I knew my calories/macros needed to drop more than my previous mini cut. On my previous mini cut, I slowly lost weight while eating about 2,000 calories (220 carbs | 60 fat | 150 protein). So this time around, I put my first (and only) set of cutting macros to about 1,850 calories total (200 carbs | 50 fat | 150 protein). As well, I added refeed days every ~10 days or when I felt like I needed one. Refeed days are a planned increase in calorie intake that typically occur when dieting. You can read more about refeeds here! Regarding cardio - last mini cut, I did about 2 high-intensity sessions (HIIT) and 2 low-intensity sessions per week (light walking), each lasting 30-40 minutes. This mini cut, I decided to do less cardio - only 2 low-intensity sessions per week, each lasting 30-40 minutes.
Results After the Mini Cut
So here are the stats! I ended up losing about 5lbs in 6 weeks and really made improvements to my physique! My strength definitely held up for a good while, but around week 5 it felt stagnant and/or down, depending on the day. If you’re a numbers person - here’s my weight loss, per week:
Tues July 3 - Mon July 9: 132.2lbs
Tues July 10 - Mon July 16: 131lbs
Tues July 17 - Mon July 23: 130.4lbs
Tues July 24 -Mon July 30: 129.9lbs
Tues July 31 - Mon Aug 6: 128.3lbs
Tues Aug 7 - Mon Aug 13: 127lbs
Tues Aug 14 - Mon Aug 20: 127.7lbs
NOTE: Weight is not always the best indicator of progress - how you look/feel trumps all. However, weight can be an indicator of progress.
Then after vacation, I ended up losing 2 more lbs! So, I ended up actually losing about 7lbs in 7 weeks.
Mini Cut Lessons Learned
Mindset really matters!
During my first cut, I was not mentally “in it.” I wanted to make my weight class, but I definitely didn’t want it THAT bad. Because of this, I felt hungry, rundown… almost all due to my mindset. However, before this cut, I felt ready to diet down and embrace the lower calories. I was eating less than my first cut, but didn’t feel nearly as frustrated (if at all) with the lower macros.
Calories are king
My first cut - I didn’t want to cut calories that much because I thought that would help keep my strength. So, I kept them higher than they should have been. My cut was slow (as shown in the picture above) and I had to extreme diet the week before my meet in order to make my weight class. In contrast, I put macros lower on this cut (as discussed above) and saw much faster results! Even though I was doing less cardio during my recent cut, my results were much better with exchanging cardio for fewer calories. While cardio can be helpful, food intake is king in determining weight loss.
Refeeds are an amazing tool
This cut, I implemented “refeed days” and wow, were these incredible! I believe these helped with my diet adherence and kept my body happy/more relaxed during this mini cut. I’ll let you read more about refeeds in the article linked above, but implementing these every ~10 days then more frequently further into my cut was SO beneficial!
More cardio is not necessarily optimal for fat loss
During my first cut, I was doing four sessions/week of cardio - two of which were high intensity sessions. Those can be hard on your body and hard on recovery! For that reason, I removed those high intensity sessions from my second mini cut. Low and behold, I recovered better for my workouts which helped me maintain my strength for longer! And, I think my mini cut progress was enhanced by the extra rest.
Moral of the story: we live and we learn. Through experimentation, we find what works best for our bodies! While I don’t plan on doing a mini cut for a while, I do plan on implementing what I learned for my future mini cuts!