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» Reference List

  1. Beaulieu, K., et al., Homeostatic and non-homeostatic appetite control along the spectrum of physical activity levels: An updated perspective. Physiol Behav, 2018. 1(192): p. 23-29
  2. Forbes, G.B., Body fat content influences the body composition response to nutrition and exercise. Ann N Y Acad Sci, 2000. 904(1): p. 359-65.
  3. Kondo, M., et al., Upper limit of fat‐free mass in humans: A study on Japanese Sumo wrestlers. Am J Hum Biol, 1994. 6(5): p. 613–8.

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Abdullah Ben
Abdullah Ben

Hello, I am a 16 year old and i want to get a better body. I’m currently “skinny fat”. I just started going to the gym and i’m lifting and doing resistance training 3 times a week. I am also consuming more protein and eating less unhealthy foods. My question is should i continue doing this to see goals or is there something else you’d recommend as well.

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Hi Abdulla. Everything you read on the site applies equally to yourself, but you’ll likely get an even better response due to your age.

More protein is generally a good idea compared with what people eat on average, but more is not always better. My complete nutrition setup guide will help you immensely.

Mike Pickett
Mike Pickett

Hey Andy, I bought both your books and am putting them to good use! Thanks for all of the advice!

My wife is struggling to lose fat and gain muscle. I know you don’t trust scans but based on her last two she is 21.3 % BF, skeletal muscle mass of 56.9, and BW of 129.4…She is eating 1700 cal per day and breakdown is 130 protein, 170 carbs, 55 fats…

She does crossfit 4 times a week and adds additional resistance work daily based on specific goals she wishes to achieve…I’ve told her I think she has painted herself into a corner with such a low-calorie amount and now I feel she needs to eat more to raise her metabolism…with an estimated BMR of 1400 I don’t know how she could cut calories anymore without destroying muscle and strength…Any advice? Should she eat more? Or cut?

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Hi Mike, thank you for getting the books and for the question.

Well, she’s a small person (I imagine 5’3 based on the figures you gave?), so 1700 kcal isn’t an outrageously low caloric intake by any stretch of the imagination.

If she’s new to (serious) training, she can likely eat a little more, remain at maintenance (there is a range of calorie intakes we can maintain on), and gain muscle while losing fat. If not, she needs to choose between a cut or bulk. https://rippedbody.com/cut-or-bulk/

If she chooses the former and she’s not currently losing weight at the pace she’s targeting, that means she needs to cut calories a little. Strength and muscle won’t suddenly drop off.

Hope that helps!

Skone
Skone

Hi 👋 Andy

I am a male, 41 with 16% body fat. My weight is around 170 pound. I have been training for about 2 years for about 5 times per week. I take a week off every once a while. To make sure I understand your article correctly. Should I gain until I reach 18-19% of body fat and then cut for about a month? What should I do? Bulk or cut?

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

This is up to you. Do you want to be fatter first or skinnier first on your way to being jacked and lean?

Skone
Skone

I don’t think skinnier will look good. If I want to be fatter should I aim for 19% body fat and then cut as you described in your article? BTW: Your article/website is awesome. Thanks for sharing that information.

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Well, the aim is not the get fatter, it’s to gain muscle without gaining an unnecessary amount of fat.

If you put the emphasis on the former (some people make this mistake), it can become a race to a certain bf% point, just so you can cut.

To put the emphasis on the latter, adjust your diet to achieve the rate of body weight gain appropriate for your training level described in my bulking article, train appropriately fucking hard, sleep well, manage stress, and the rest is down to genetic luck.

This subtle mindset shift can make all the difference when making decisions on adjusting your macros to gain body weight.

Skone
Skone

Thanks a lot, Andy. The article helps.

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Most welcome, Skone!

Zakaria JR
Zakaria JR

Hey Andy , hope you’re fine
well , i was so weak after an 8 month-long diet from 30% body fat to 16% and i was so looking forward to start bulking , . i started bulking 3 months ago at 16% and it’s not so clean as i intended . now i’m really confuse i’m gaining muscle and strength but i’m gaining fat as well , specially around my waist .. i think i’m somewhere close to 19 or 20% now.. totally unsatisfied with my fat levels and i’m afraid if i continue bulking that i will have to cut for so long again. i also feel i have alot yet to do in that bulking phase , Can you help me , Andy ?

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Hi Zakaria, thank you for the question and congrats on doing such a good job thus far. Seriously, dropping down from 30 to 16% is an excellent achievement.

It sounds to me like you have done everything right.

You’ll gain fat along with muscle when bulking. A 3% body fat gain in 3 months, is on the higher end, but not unusual, especially given how much weight you lost initially.

You just need to cut again, preferably to a lower level of body fat this time (which you’ll be able to tolerate because you have a much leaner start point), so that you can bulk for longer before needing to cut again.

If you have a look at the graphs in the latter part of my article on bulking (How to Bulk Without Getting Fat) this will help explain it visually.

Best of luck!

Thomas
Thomas

Hi Andrea, Andy, Eric,

Looking for some advice on next steps. I am a 35M 6’0″ that spent the last 12 months cutting from 215 to 165 lb. Started lifting halfway through the cut with no previous weight training experience, stalled on lifts and have maintained strength at those levels (1RM, deadlift: 245lb, squat: 205lb, overhead press:105lb). Recent DEXA shows I’m low on LBM at 133 lbs, 19% body fat. Long-term goal is adding LBM and a leaner physique. Worth continuing the cut or switch to a lean bulk at this point? Seriously burned out on cutting, but wondering whether the benefits of starting a bulk super lean are worth the stress of cutting further with low LBM.

Best,

Thomas

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

In your question lies the answer, Thomas.

You’re burned out on cutting, so bulk for a while. Now yes, I/we recommend people keep their bulk–cut cycles in the 10–20% bf% range (~8% higher for women), but there are exceptions to every rule guideline. Take it slowly as I recommend in my guide here and you won’t re-gain much fat.

Also, I wouldn’t put too much stock in the DEXA (or any other method for that matter). It’s fine for group averages, but errors are up to 5% on an individual basis. More on this in these three articles.

Excellent work on cutting this far and best of luck moving forward.

Caroline
Caroline

Hi Andy, I Have been gaining for the past 6 months and although the weights I lift have increased in total I have gained approx 20ibs. I am now thinking about cutting but never done this before. My weight has stabilised over the last couple of months even though the weights I lift have increased. Should I start to cut or will I see more muscle gains if I stick to what I currently eat and keep increasing weights? Thanks.

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Hi Caroline, thank you for the question.

Should I start to cut or will I see more muscle gains if I stick to what I currently eat and keep increasing weights?

If you make consistent progress with your training that will be leading to muscle gain, and if your weight is stable that means you will be slowly losing fat. However, if that rate of change is not something you’re happy with, you need to choose a direction — bulk or cut.

Lavinia Harrison
Lavinia Harrison

Hi Andy
I have been lifting for 3 years- halfway through I got lazy (gained 25 lbs) I have spent all of 2019 loosing that and went from 29% body fat to 23% currently. (Female, 5,6. 133lbs.) I have made some gains in the past year and improved my lifts, would count myself a novice. I am now considering bulking as I want to get stronger and improve deadlift & squat. I am however concerned I am not lean enough to bulk! Should I cut down to 20% body fat before commencing a bulk. I have been able to keep kcal high enough this past year whilst loosing 0.5 lb a week. (Kcal approx 1850)
Thank you

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Hi Lavinia, as you’re on the boundary of the recommendations, there is no should for this, it’s entirely up to you.

Arnau
Arnau

Hi Andy. I’m a 31 years old guy. I’m 176 cm tall and I weight 77.5 kg. 9 months ago I was weighing 89 kg, so I started doing cardio with caloric deficit. After 3-4 months I lowered to 78-79 kg. I stopped the caloric deficit and started doing weightlifting more thoroughly, with cardio 1 day per week.
My idea is to gain muscle and I have been training 4 days per week during 5-6 months with a hyperthrophy training AB AB type. I have experienced some increases in strenght but visually don’t see clear gainings in muscle size.
I’m in a point I don’t know if I’m eating low on calories and therefore killing my muscle gains, or if I should put me again in deficit to lower my fat% (i’m around 21%).

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Hi Arnau,

If your body weight is stable, you’re at caloric maintenance. If you’re not achieving fat loss and muscle at the same time at caloric maintenance, you need to choose whether to cut or bulk. If you are 21% body fat, I’d recommend you cut — see the last two bullet points in the article.

Merry Christmas!

Arnau
Arnau

Muscle strength increased so I thought I might be gaining muscle. But perhaps both fat loss rate and muscle growth rates are too slow. I will try what you said to cut for one or two months and reassess. Thanks a lot Andy.

Merry Christmas. Best wishes.

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Most welcome.

jane
jane

Hey Andy,
Im a 23 year old woman who is 5’2 and I weigh about 121 lbs. The problem is I have been weightlifting for about 3 years but I feel like I havent made significant change. my body fat percentage is about 23-25. But I actually do not eat a lot. Max 1500-1600 calories. I was wondering If recomp would help me gain more strength? because If I lower my calories I just lose strength instead of bodyfat. However reading this article I dnt think Im a beginner when it comes to weight lifting. Im not really sure what I should do? cut to lose the bodyfat? bulk to gain strength and muscle? recomp?
thank you

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Hi Jane, much as this sucks to hear, if you’re not losing weight (and that is your goal) you need to eat less. This is not unusual for someone of your size.

Whether you choose to go this route is only something you can decide. If you’re three years into your training and have been sleeping well, managing stress, training with sufficient intensity and volume, then a recomp is likely off the cards and you need to choose one direction or the other.

Ethan
Ethan

Hi I’m a high school athlete 5’9 @ 164 lb. and have dropped sports like football and an MMA club I participated in and replaced them with water polo and diving after i dislocated my leg and tore my Achilles but I’ve noticed I have maintained a 9.5 to 10 % body fat percentage and I leaned out in some areas like my core while I bulked in others like my chest and shoulders and now I know this is a result of using these muscles more often now resulting in them getting stronger but I cant seem to manage a balance and I seem to be stuck at this weight and body fat % . Is there anything I can do to gain weight and drop my percentage down without fearing going straight back to my previous weight?

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Hi Ethan,

Gaining weight while dropping body-fat percentage is something that skinny-fat noobs to training in the 13-20% bf range might achieve, but for someone who has a decent level of training experience and is at such a low body fat percentage already, this is just not a realistic outcome.

Andrew Chelpon
Andrew Chelpon

Hey Andy, I have been a bit stuck lately. I am 150 Ibs and 5’8. I have about 18% body fat and a low to medium amount of muscle. I was wondering how I can get to around 12% body fat but also gain a decent amount of muscle. I am not new to lifting and am wondering if I should bulk or cut or maintain weight. Hopefully you can help me.

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Well, you can try setting your calories at maintenance level and seeing if you get a recomp effect, but if you stall, you need to focus on one goal or the other.

Jonny Hillman
Jonny Hillman

Hey Andy, I’m a 6’2”, 210 pound, 19 year old college athlete. My bf% is about 12-14. I want to be at 6-8% in 6 months but still have a bulked body builder look. My questions are, is this possible or out of reach? Should I begin with cutting? And any other suggestions for diet calculations?

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Hi Jonny,

1) Well, it’s a subjective question, not clearly defined, so I have to guess what you’re asking in order to answer.

It sounds like you’re asking if you can lean out to an exceptionally lean state, close to competition levels, and gain a significant amount of muscle to achieve the look of someone who has put in a lifetime of training. As you know from the article + common sense. This is not possible.

2) This is what the article is here to help you decide. I don’t know you and can’t do that for you.

3) Yes. My calorie and macro calculator is here.

Will
Will

Hey, so I’m struggling a bit here.. I’ve been cutting for 2 years, lost 190ish lbs, and have some overuse injuries. I’m 5’10”, 190lbs, and work out 4 times a week, and I’m dealing with hip pain, tennis elbow, and shoulder soreness. I think I’m using a decent program, and I have a local trainer who is well known in the area. I’ve just discovered you guys and I want to grab your books when I can, but in the mean time I’d appreciate any input. I’d like to cut about 10 more lbs, but I’m figuring I shouldn’t cut while injured. Is there research on overuse injuries healing over time in a deficit? I’ve been trying to lean bulk since august with no apparent progress.

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Hi Will. Congrats on losing half of your body weight! Sounds like you need to take some time off. I wouldn’t diet anymore, come to maintenance (guide here). Train as you can without adding to the soreness or hampering recovery.

If you need complete time off from training and most cardio, consider swimming, or the cross-trainer as they are low impact but work the full body. Sure, less than traditional strength training but the point is to keep doing something.

Chris
Chris

Hi Andy, what do you recommend to someone who is burnt out from cutting but yet didn’t manage to lean out much . I’ve lost 12 lbs but took me 16 weeks because of interruptions from life . I’m mentally burnt hungry a lot and very lethargic most of the time .I’m maybe 15% BF if I had to guess . Should I bulk or try maintenance for while then try to get leaner . My experience in past ,of bulking when not too lean only lasted 4 months before started storing unwanted fat . I’m your typical skinny fat type . My diet is always on point my training is good but but my cuts always seem to get lengthened and interrupted by life events . Thank you for taking my question

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Hi Chris. Take a diet break.

Chris
Chris

Thanks Andy I will take your advice , cheers

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Most welcome.

Jenna
Jenna

I´m currently cutting until I reach around 22% bf in order to start a reverse diet and lean bulk. However I`m not sure what my body fat percentage is because every method I try has widely different results. Measurements show 27% but calipers show 23%. How do I know when to cut and bulk based on my body fat if it isn´t accurate?

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Hi Jenna. The when to cut-bulk are just general guidelines, not hard and fast rules. So, cut until you feel comfortable, knowing you’ll regain some fat when you bulk.

Brad Ekegren
Brad Ekegren

I’m a 30 year old ectomorph with very little muscle mass @ 12.7% body fat. Should I cut down to 10% before I start bulking?

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Definitely not.

Lorenz
Lorenz

Hi Andy, there are some lines in this article that really confuse me after I read some of your other articles.

In this article, it says:

“However, what two things that are frequently misunderstood are: 1) putting on more lean body mass when overfeeding occurs in naturally lean people who walk around lean. If you dieted to get really lean, your body if anything, is actually a bit more primed for fat storage.”

But when I read your article on how to bulk — https://rippedbody.com/how-to-bulk/

.. it says the opposite:

“The leaner we are; the more of the weight that we gain has potential to be muscle. There are calorie partitioning benefits to being leaner. ”

So, which is which?

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

The former is probably true. Something I learned since. However, it’s advisable to still keep bf% in the 10-20% bf range for cut-bulk cycles.

Lorenz
Lorenz

I’m sorry, Andy, but can you clarify what’s more “true” in this case based on the clients you’ve coached in the previous years:

1. “after dieting to a very lean level you’re actually more primed for fat storage”

2. “The leaner we are; the more of the weight that we gain has potential to be muscle. There are calorie partitioning benefits to being leaner. ”

I am also reviewing Lyle’s article on P-ratio. There aren’t many resources out there so I’m here asking a bit of your time.

Appreciate it a lot!

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

The first is true when people are exceptionally lean (think 10% body fat). The second is believed to be true past a certain point (think 20% body fat). Between these two points, which is where I coach people, I haven’t observed a difference.

But then again, most people I coach have a preference for staying lean. So we always start things on the lower end of this range and I’m not sure I have enough experience of the upper end to say with any certainty.

Les
Les

Hi Andy,

I’m 43, 5’5 female, @ 149lbs. I lift 5 days a week. My bf is right at 20% but i would like to drop to around 16%. I previously worked with a coach to cut who continued to drop my calories (stopped working with them when cals hit around 1500). It wasn’t enough for me to push heavy weight and not seeing results, weight staying same. Slowed my metabolism? How do I correct this and what macro split % do I need to use?

Thanks

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Hi Les, this probably not what you want to hear, but here goes…

It sounds like the coach you fired made the right move.

Energy needs change over time as we diet and bulk. Your metabolism will gradually adapt to fight a caloric deficit (this is the ‘slowed metabolism’ you refer to). These things happen for some people more than others. You’re a relatively short person. If you aren’t active outside of your five planned workouts (i.e. you do deskwork and drive most places), then needing to drop to a 1500 kcal daily average intake isn’t unusual.

There is nothing you can do to “fix” the slowed metabolism, it will naturally (and gradually) return to normal when you come back to caloric maintenance.

Changing your macro split is unlikely to do much, assuming your protein intake was sufficient.

Unless you’re totally jacked, you’re not 20% body fat at 5ft 5. So, rather than set your protein intake at your body weight, which would skew it a little too high and ‘steal’ from your ability to use those calories for carbs or fat, I’d set it a little lower at 130 g. I’d then have your fats at around 40 g (~0.25 g per pound), so that you can then have the rest of your calories as carbs to fuel your workouts (155 g).

Note that this is not a macro ratio. (Reasons covered in, “Why the ‘Best’ Macro Ratio Doesn’t Exist“.)

Rog
Rog

Hi Andy,

background: intermediate trainee, on the line between gain and cut. did a (too) slow cut at the beginning of the year, been in roughly maintenance since then.

I’m having surgery at the end of the year that will put me out of all training except cardio for at least 6 weeks, and out of heavy training for 2+ months. I’m wondering if it would be better to do a cut now or to do a gaining phase now and then cut after surgery. But I know one of the foundations of a healthy cut is heavy training in order to maintain muscle mass.

Do you have nutrition recommendations for extended periods off training? I’ve seen your recommendations for travel nutrition and am wondering if those apply.

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Hi Rog. I think the surgery is irrelevant to the decision of what you should do until that point. After the surgery, eat at maintenance.

Gilad
Gilad

Great article!

Me: 34 year old male; 14% body fat; training for years; however, I’ve neglected training my legs and started training them more seriously 6 months ago. But 3 months into training, I injured my hamstring and haven’t worked my legs since (I continued working my upper body). I’ll begin working my lower body, but obviously am starting from scratch.

[1] Assuming that my nutrition/workouts are right and I’m conservative and lose 1-2 lbs / week, how much muscle (lean mass) can I reasonably expect to lose?

[2] Given that my lower body can be considered “novice”, will they go through the newbie muscle gaining phase (although I’ve trained my upper body for years)?

Thanks!

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Hi Gilad, thanks for the questions.
1. If you’re training right, keeping your caloric deficit at a reasonable rate (as you are) and eating sufficient protein, you won’t lose muscle.
2. Yes, and you’ll probably gain muscle there during the cut.

Gilad
Gilad

Hi Andy,

As always, thank you for the detailed response! Really appreciate your insight and articles – they’re always so helpful!

As a follow up to #2 – in that case, would it make more sense to first eat at maintenance (to take advantage of the ‘newbie gains’ for my lower body? If yes, for how long?

Thanks again for everything.

Best,
Gilad

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

If your body fat percentage is too high, I’d still recommend you cut. You’ll gain muscle while leaning out.

Gilad Segal
Gilad Segal

Hi Andy,

Thanks again for all of this. It’s all so helpful!!

Quick follow up:

[1] Can you define ‘too high’? I am 14-15% body fat (had a Dexa scan done)

[2] I currently have an injury to my lower body, which will make it difficult to workout my lower body. What should a person do then in terms catering their diet (i.e. leaning out vs. building muscle vs. maintenance)? Can I still try and lean out? My fear is that because I won’t exercise my lower body, I will begin losing muscle (instead of fat) from my lower body, even if everything else is perfect. Any thoughts/recommendations on that?

Thanks again,
Gilad

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

1. Too high for your personal preference, knowing that when you switch to a bulking phase, you will regain some fat.
2. If you diet while unable to train, you’ll lose muscle mass. So, I’d wait until you can train your lower body before proceeding.

Ash
Ash

Can you elaborate on sufficient? (1g per lb?)

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Correct. Unless you’re a vegetarian, in which case you may want to bump that by 20% to be on a par with amino acid quality.

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