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Mini Cut: What It Is and How To Do It Right [Ultimate Guide]

Looking to cut down on body fat quickly without sacrificing all your hard-earned muscle?

A mini cut is a perfect way to do just that – lose some body fat while still keeping your muscles big and strong. It’s a short-term, aggressive approach to fat loss that can help you get back on track when you find yourself starting to gain too much body fat.

But it’s important to do it right.

In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about mini cuts so you can safely and effectively achieve the body composition you desire.

Here is what we will cover in this article:

What Is a Mini Cut?

A mini-cut is a short-term, relatively aggressive approach to fat loss that requires a larger caloric deficit than a standard diet. A mini-cut is typically no more than 2-6 weeks in length, as any longer would require a more standard and sustainable approach to dieting.

When To Do a Mini Cut?

Mini cuts are not recommended in all cases, there are a few scenarios in which they can be useful:

  • If you want to enhance your muscle size gains
  • If you want to improve your appearance for an upcoming occasion

Let’s dissect both of those scenarios a bit further.

If You Want to Enhance Your Size Gains

When you gain weight (bulk up), you gain muscle and fat.

Nutrients your body takes in to support the weight gain decrease the sensitivity of your muscles to those nutrients. The more weight you gain, the more fat you will gain and the less muscle you will gain.

Both increasing levels of body fat and the high amount of nutrients eaten to support weight gain decrease your muscle’s sensitivity to nutrients. While fat can still absorb those nutrients that you consume. When this happens, you start putting on more body mass together with more body fat and building less muscle.

This is where mini cuts can be useful.

When you enter a mini cut for 2-6 weeks and drastically reduce your caloric intake, a few things happen:

  • Since the body doesn’t have enough nutrients, the muscles become more sensitive to them
  • When your body fat levels are low, you have more room to add more muscle mass (1)

In other words, by reducing body fat you can increase nutrient sensitivities and help your body make further muscle gains.

If You Want to Improve Your Appearance

While mini cuts can be useful for bodybuilders looking to add more muscle over time, they are also perfect for occasions when you want to look your best and don’t have the time to diet down slowly.

A mini cut can help you lose more body fat quickly so you can look your best for an upcoming event, such as a wedding, anniversaries, beach vacation, or a photoshoot.

If you want to learn more about why you would want to do a mini cut in these scenarios as well as learn some valuable tips, I suggest you watch a video by Dr. Mike Israetel.

SUMMARY

If you want to take a break from bulking to further enhance muscle size gains or you want to improve your appearance quickly then you should consider doing a mini cut.

When Not To Do a Mini Cut?

Having discussed the scenarios when doing a mini cut can be beneficial, it’s also important to understand when you should not do it.

You should avoid a mini cut:

  • If you are a strength athlete
  • If you want to do a long term fat loss phase
  • If you have a lot of body fat to lose
  • If you can only dedicate less than 2 weeks

So, let’s discuss those scenarios in more detail.

If You Are a Strength Athlete

If you decide to do a mini cut, your performance will suffer due to a large deficit.

So, if you have to lose weight before a powerlifting meet, then you should do slow cuts instead.

If You Want To Do a Long-Term, Sustainable Fat Loss Phase

Mini cuts are built for rebounding you back to gaining muscle or temporary improving your appearance.

It is not a sustainable, long-term solution for losing body fat.

NOTE

The mini cut is not faster and better than a regular cut. It has many more tradeoffs than the regular cut especially if you are looking for sustainable results. I understand how tempting it can be to jump on it to shorten the time of a regular fat loss phase, but you should not do it for that reason.

If You Have a Lot of Body Fat

There is no point doing a mini cut if you have a lot of body fat to lose – just do a regular cut instead.

It is best to do a mini cut if you are at 14-20% body fat.

More on this in a bit…

If You Cannot Dedicate at Least 2 Weeks

Don’t do a mini cut if you have less than 2 weeks available to fully dedicate yourself to it. In such short time frames, it is not possible to lose a significant amount of body fat and see results.

It should last at least 2 weeks for it to be somewhat effective.

SUMMARY

A mini cut should not be done if you are a strength athlete, want to do a long-term fat loss phase, have a lot of body fat to lose, or if you cannot dedicate at least 2 weeks to it.

The Ideal Body Fat Percentage To Start a Mini Cut

You might ask – when is the right time to do a mini-cut in terms of body fat?

Ideally, you can consider starting a mini cut when your body fat percentage is between 14-20% if you are a male and between 24-28% if you are a female athlete.

If you’re starting at a higher body fat percentage, mini cutting will be less effective. In this case, you would be better off just doing a regular and more sustainable cut for 6-12 weeks.

SUMMARY

It’s best to do a mini cut when your body fat percentage ranges from 14-20% (men) and 24-28% (women).

How To Do a Mini Cut Step-by-Step

Now that we know when mini cuts can and can’t be useful, and when you should start it in terms of the body fat, let’s move on to how you should go about doing one.

1. Determine Current Caloric Maintenance

First, you will need to calculate your current caloric maintenance. This is how many calories you need to maintain your current weight.

You can find your caloric maintenance by using a TDEE calculator which takes into account your gender, age, activity level, weight, and height.

Another way to estimate your calorie maintenance is to keep track of your daily food intake and monitor changes in your body weight over a period of time (e.g., 14 days). This will provide you with a more accurate figure for how many calories you need to maintain your weight.

Identify Calorie Expenditure

SUMMARY

Determine how many calories you need to maintain your current weight. You can find your caloric maintenance by using a TDEE calculator or by keeping a track of your daily food intake and monitoring changes in your body weight over a period of time.

2. Create a Caloric Deficit

Next, you will need to create a caloric deficit. This means that you will need to consume fewer calories than your current caloric maintenance to lose weight.

For a mini cut, you should create a caloric deficit of about 25% or even a bit more – up to 30%, which would be more aggressive.

EXAMPLE

A person who weighs 80 kg/175 lb and burns 3000 calories daily would need to consume 2250 calories daily to be in a 25% caloric deficit.

You can achieve this by either reducing your calorie intake or increasing your daily activity level (e.g., exercise).

I would recommend reducing your calorie intake to create a deficit first and relying on cardio exercise as a secondary means to create a larger deficit.

SUMMARY

Create a caloric deficit of about 25% or even more – up to 30%. You can achieve this by reducing your calorie intake or increasing your daily activity level (e.g., exercise). Create a deficit primarily by reducing your calorie intake and using cardio exercise as a secondary means.

3. Determine Your Mini Cut Macros

Now that you know how many calories you need to consume each day, you will need to determine your mini cut macros.

This simply means calculating the amount of protein, fat, and carbs you should eat each day.

Estimate Your Protein Intake

Protein is a key component of our muscles and has a significant impact on our general health and physical function.

Studies show that higher protein intake during an energy deficit combined with weight training promotes greater lean mass gain and fat mass loss (2, 3).

It’s recommended to consume between 2.3 – 3.1 grams per kilogram or 1 – 1.4 grams per pound of lean body mass (4).

EXAMPLE

A person that weighs 80 kg/175 lb with 20% body fat, so a lean body mass of about 140 lb or 63.5 kg should consume between 140 – 195 grams of protein.

Let’s say that person decides to consume 140 grams of protein per day, then 560 calories would come from protein since 1 gram of protein is contains 4 calories.

SUMMARY

Make sure to consume approximately 2.3 – 3.1 grams per kilogram or 1 – 1.4 grams per pound of lean body mass.

Recommended Reading: What Is Protein and How Much Do I Need a Day?

Determine Your Fat Needs

Diety fats are considered essential for human health and are necessary for the absorption of certain vitamins, brain function, and joint health.

It’s shown that most athletes will respond best with 15-30% of their daily calories coming from fats (4).

In my experience, I think that 20-25% is a good place to start. Mainly because it’s simple to under consume the minimal amount of fat which for most people would be about 45 grams, particularly if total daily calorie intake is restricted.

EXAMPLE

Let’s say that a person consuming 2250 calories daily decides to allocate 20% of calorie intake to fats, which is equivalent to 450 calories. This means that the daily fat intake would be 50 grams since 1 gram of fats contains 9 calories.

Recommended Reading: What Are Fats and How Much Do I Need per Day

SUMMARY

Most people will respond best with 15-30% of their daily calories coming from fats. I would personally suggest that you start at 20-25%. This will help you ensure you consume the minimal amount of fat needed for the proper function of your body.

Calculate Your Carbohydrate Intake

After you have determined your protein and fat intake, you will be able to calculate your carbohydrate intake.

And it’s fairly simple.

The remainder of your calories should come from carbs.

EXAMPLE

Taking the numbers from the previous examples a 175 lb or 80 kg person with a calorie intake of 2250 calories would consume 140 grams of protein (560 kcal) and 50 grams of fat (450 kcal). The remaining 1240 calories would come from 310 grams of carbs since 1 gram of carbs contains 4 calories.

Note that carbohydrates are the body’s preferred source of energy.

So, during a mini cut, it’s best if you keep carbs as high as possible and eat them around your training.

Cutting Macro Distribution

SUMMARY

After you have calculated your protein and fat intake the remainder of your calories should come from carbs. Carbs are the body’s preferred source of energy, so it’s best to keep them as high as possible and consume them around your training sessions.

How Long Should a Mini Cut Last?

A typical mini cut should last between 2-6 weeks, maybe up to 8 weeks in some cases.

If you are thinking of doing it for less than 2 weeks – DON’T!

It will not be enough time to see any meaningful progress.

If you do a cut for longer than 6-8 weeks, then it becomes difficult to keep up with your diet or training regime. In that case, you’re better off just having regular cuts instead.

NOTE

Remember to start easy – don’t go for 6 weeks if you have never than it before. Do a 2-4 week proper mini cut first. Take note and potentially write things down (your experiences) to know how to go about it next time.

SUMMARY

In most cases, a mini cut should last between 2 – 6 weeks. If you have never done it before – start with around two to four weeks and gradually increase the time up to 6 or even 8 weeks, given that you can execute it properly.

The Ideal Rate of Body Weight Loss During a Mini Cut

The rate at which you lose weight when doing a mini cut depends largely on your starting weight and body fat.

For most people, a good weight loss rate during such a cut is between 1.5 to 3 pounds of body weight per week. Individuals with a higher starting weight and/or body fat could drop up to 3 pounds per week or more, especially in the first weeks of a mini cut.

That’s why it’s best to focus on the percentage change and aim to lose between 1 – 1.25% per week, not the absolute weight change.

SUMMARY

The rate at which you lose weight during a mini cut largely depends on your starting body weight and body fat percentage. A good weight loss rate is between 1 – 1.25% of body weight per week.

How to Workout During a Mini Cut?

The workout routine you follow during a mini cut should be based on your specific goal and the reason why you’re doing it in the first place.

If you want to improve your appearance in a short period of time, then you will want to maintain the strength and intensity as much as possible.

That means you should focus on compound exercises that work multiple muscle groups, such as the squat, deadlift, bench press, and overhead press.

You should also perform exercises in a variety of rep ranges, including high reps (up to 15), medium reps (8 – 12), and low reps (4 – 6).

Adding some cardio exercise to your routine will also be beneficial as it helps to increase the number of calories you burn each day.

But more on this later…

On the other hand, if your goal is to enhance muscle gains, then you would want to lower your overall training volume to your maintenance level. For most people, that would be cutting it to half that of the usual workout volume. This will help improve muscle sensitivity for the upcoming higher volume training and reduce fatigue.

EXAMPLE

If you usually do 12 working sets for a muscle group such as the chest, then you could do about 6 sets during a mini cut.

Should You Do Cardio During a Mini Cut?

Cardio is another tool that you could use to create that caloric deficit.

Once again, the way you approach cardio during a mini cut will depend on your goal.

If you are trying to lose weight as quickly as possible, then you would want to do quite a lot of cardio.

Regarding the type of cardio, just like when doing cardio when bulking, I would recommend doing LISS (low-intensity steady-state) or steady-state cardio, starting at 2 hours per week, and increasing the duration if needed. You could also include HIIT (high-intensity interval training) in your routine and do it in combination with a steady-state type of cardio.

On the other hand, if you are trying to enhance muscle growth in the next mass gaining phase, then you should keep cardio to a minimum.

You can do cardio at the end of your weight training workouts or ideally on separate days so that it does not affect your weightlifting.

Remember that cardio can be used as a tool to create a calorie deficit. The more food you eat, the more cardio you will need to do and vice versa.

SUMMARY

The type and amount of cardio you do during a mini cut will depend on your goals. If you want to temporarily improve your appearance, then do a lot of cardio. If you want to enhance muscle growth, then keep cardio to a minimum.

How To Get Back to Bulking After a Mini Cut?

Once you have achieved the desired goal that you set at the start of your mini cut, it’s time to start bulking again.

Here’s how to do it.

1. Slowly Increase Your Calories to Maintenance Levels

The best way to get back to bulking after is mini cut is to slowly increase your calories back up to maintenance levels.

You don’t want to go from a mini cut straight into a full-blown bulk. If do you jump back to your old bulking macros you will risk regaining body fat back quickly.

Instead, you want to take things slow and gradually increase your calorie intake over the course of a few weeks until you find your new caloric maintenance.

Alternatively, to reduce the waiting time, you can use a TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) calculator to find out how many calories you should be eating. But the best way is to just slowly increase your caloric intake by about 200 – 300 calories per week to find your new maintenance.

NOTE

Throughout the course of the mini cut, as you lose bodyweight your metabolism will become slower, and the new maintenance calories will be lower. So, after the mini cut, it’s important to find your new maintenance level calories first.

2. Create a Small Caloric Surplus

Next, you will have to create a small caloric surplus.

The size of the caloric surplus would depend primarily on how much weight training experience you have.

Research suggests that novice/intermediate athletes would want to increase their caloric intake by approximately 10 – 20%, and aim for a weekly weight gain of about 0.25 – 0.5% of body weight. On the other hand, advanced trainees may only need 5-10% caloric surplus and aim for a target weight gain of about 0.15 – 0.25% of body weight per week (5).

If you want to learn more about the optimal weekly weight gain while bulking, see the article on how much weight should you gain per week when lean bulking.

3. Calculate Your Lean Bulking Macros

Now that you have your new caloric maintenance, it’s time to determine your new lean bulking macros. In other words, how much protein, carbs and fats you will need to eat to support muscle growth while minimizing fat gain.

To do this, you will need to use a macro calculator or do the calculations yourself.

If you want to learn more about how to determine your lean bulking macros, see the article on how to calculate macros for lean bulking. The article includes a free lean bulking macro calculator as well as explains how to calculate macros manually.

You will probably end up with one of the following lean bulk macro splits:

  • 25% protein, 60% carbs, 15% fat
  • 30% protein, 50% carbs, 20% fat
  • 30% protein, 40% carbs, 30% fat
Examples of macro ratios when lean bulking

4. Don’t Cut Out Cardio Immediately (If You Did It During the Mini Cut)

If you did a lot of cardio during the mini cut to create a larger calorie deficit, then don’t stop doing cardio immediately.

Instead, you want to gradually reduce the amount of cardio you do each week until you are no longer doing any at all.

SUMMARY

When getting back to bulking after a mini cut, you will need to increase your calories to maintenance levels, create a small caloric surplus, and determine your new lean bulking macros. Last but not least, make sure you don’t cut out cardio completely, instead reduce it gradually.

Common Mistakes When Doing a Mini Cut

Now that we have gone over everything you need to do to make sure your mini cut is successful, let’s take a look at some of the most common mistakes people make.

Staying in Mini Cut Phase for Longer Than Lean Bulking

One of the most common mistakes people make is staying in the mini cut phase for longer than necessary. Just because you were successful in losing body fat, doesn’t mean that you should do it for too long.

Remember, it is only a tool to assist you in returning to your lean bulk more quickly or to quickly improve your appearance. The majority of your time should be spent lean bulking since building lean muscle mass takes considerably longer time than losing fat.

Doing Mini Cuts Too Frequently

Another common mistake people make is doing mini cuts way too frequently.

Repeating the statement above – you should be spending significantly more time lean bulking than cutting fat. So, don’t start a mini cut right when you see a bit of body fat on your body.

Moreover, you would want to do mini cuts 2-3 times in a muscle gaining phase. After that, you would be better off going into a regular cut after which transitioning to a new muscle gaining phase.

Doing Too Aggressive Mini Cuts

Another common mistake people make with mini cuts is doing them too aggressively.

If you have never done a mini cut, you should be careful and start slowly.

For example, you could start with a 4-week long mini cut and focus on sticking to the plan throughout those 4 weeks. Then, for the next mini cut, you could consider increasing the length, given that you have successfully done the previous one.

Furthermore, try to avoid losing more than 1.5% of body weight per week. Because the risk of rebounding and not sticking to the mini cut at that point is much higher.

Frequently Asked Questions About Mini Cuts

Does a Mini Cut Work?

Mini cuts definitely work and can be an effective way to lose body fat quickly and return to a lean bulk more quickly. Remember that a mini cut should only take 2 – 6 weeks because any longer would necessitate a more conventional and sustainable approach to dieting.

Will You Lose Muscle Mass on a Mini Cut?

There is a risk of losing muscle mass when doing a mini cut, but this can be minimized by following a few key guidelines. First, make sure you are consuming enough protein to prevent muscle loss. Second, make sure you are doing enough weightlifting to maintain your muscle mass. Finally, don’t stay in the mini cut phase for too long and avoid a large calorie deficit (>30%).

How Aggressive Should a Mini Cut Be?

When doing a mini cut, you should aim for a calorie deficit of 25 – 30%. Moreover, if it is your first ever mini cut, you might want to start with a shorter period, for example, 4 weeks, and increase the length of subsequent mini cuts up to 6 or even 8 weeks, if you feel like you can stick to the plan for so long.

How Much Fat Can You Lose During a Mini Cut?

A good weight loss rate during a mini cut is between 1 – 1.25% of body weight per week. So, if you decide to do it for 6 weeks, you could expect to lose somewhere between 6 – 7.5% of your body weight. But keep in mind that not all weight reduction will be directly attributed to body fat loss, some of it will be due to glycogen and water weight loss.

How Often Should You Do a Mini Cut?

You could do 2-3 mini cuts in a single muscle gaining phase. After that, you would want to go into a regular cut after which transition to a new muscle gaining or lean bulking phase.

Final Thought

Mini cuts are a great way to lose body fat and return to a lean bulk more quickly.

The mini cut phase should not last for too long, so make sure you’re spending the majority of your time during this period doing what’s best – lean bulking!

Have you ever done a mini cut? What was your experience like?

Let me know in the comments below.

I’d love to hear about your successes and failures so that others can learn from them.


References

1. Hall KD. Body fat and fat-free mass inter-relationships (2007). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2376748/

2. Longland TM, Oikawa SY, Mitchell CJ, Devries MC, Phillips SM. Higher compared with lower dietary protein during an energy deficit combined with intense exercise promotes greater lean mass gain and fat mass loss: a randomized trial (2016). Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26817506/

3. Helms ER, Zinn C, Rowlands DS, Brown SR. A systematic review of dietary protein during caloric restriction in resistance trained lean athletes: a case for higher intakes (2014). Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24092765/

4. Helms ER, Aragon AA, Fitschen PJ. Evidence-based recommendations for natural bodybuilding contest preparation: nutrition and supplementation (2014). Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24864135/

5. Iraki J, Fitschen P, Espinar S, Helms E. Nutrition Recommendations for Bodybuilders in the Off-Season: A Narrative Review (2019). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC6680710/

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