When transitioning from a bulk to a cut, it is better to calculate the calorie reduction needed using your progress data than making a fresh calculation with a calorie and macro calculator. This is because the equations behind calorie calculators only give estimations, and they cannot factor in any bump in metabolic rate you’ve had when bulking. So, using a calculator risks setting your intake unnecessarily low, causing increases in hunger, drops in performance, and risking muscle loss. (I’ve written in detail on this here.)
Fortunately, if you’ve been tracking your calorie intake and weight as I recommend, it’s just a case of simple math to find the appropriate reduction to transition to a cut.
Five STEPS TO TRANSITION TO A CUT After Bulking
The transition from a bulk to a cut can be achieved in the following five steps:
Step 1: Reduce calories to approximate maintenance. Estimate the calorie reduction needed to approximate maintenance and subtract that from your daily intake.
Step 2: Wait two weeks. This allows your stomach adjust to the new, lower food intake level. (Optional, but recommended.)
Step 3: Reduce calories to cut. Calculate the calorie deficit needed to cut at your target rate and subtract that from your daily intake.
Step 4: Wait four weeks. This will allow the weight loss trend in your data to become clear.
Step 5: Adjust if necessary. Make an adjustment, if necessary, to get yourself on track with your target rate of weight loss.
Note: If you are transitioning to a cut from maintenance, skip the first two steps.
Calculations to Transition to a Cut
👉 To find maintenance, multiply your average weekly weight change in pounds by 500, subtract that from your current daily calorie intake, and subtract your weight in pounds. (For metric users, multiply your average weekly weight change in kilos by 1100 and subtract your weight in kilograms x 2.2.)
👉 Subtract 500 kcal per 1 pound you wish to lose each week (550 kcal for 0.5 kg).
👉 Make the calorie subtractions in an approximate 2:1 ratio of carbs to fats.
Example Transition to a Cut
Tom weighs 200 pounds. The calorie intake at the end of his bulk is 3600 kcal. He has been gaining 0.5 pounds per week and wishes to lose 0.5% of his body weight per week (1 pound) when cutting.
Step 1: He reduces calories to approximate maintenance. Tom will first reduce his calorie intake by 450 kcal (0.5*500 + 200). He’ll do this by subtracting 80 g of carbs and 15 g of fats from his daily macros.
Step 2: He waits two weeks. This allows his stomach to adjust.
Step 3: He reduces calories to cut. Tom will then reduce his calorie intake by 500 kcal (1*500) to commence his cut. He does this by subtracting an additional 20 g of fat and 80 g of carbs from his daily macros.
Step 4: He waits four weeks. This allows the trend in his weight data to become clear.
Step 5: He adjusts as necessary. Tom finds that he is losing weight at only 0.5 pounds per week, which is half a pound short of his target. He reduces his calorie intake by an additional 250 kcal per day. He does this by reducing carbs by 40 g and fat by 10 g.
Here’s how that looks:
Tom’s transition to a cutting phase is now complete. But it is not over because he will need to continually track and adjust as his metabolism adapts.
You will probably have to adjust YOUR calorie intake more than you imagine To Keep Progressing
At the end of your bulk, your metabolism will be ramped up. You may be eating uncomfortable amounts of food and even looking forward to your cut. The calculations in steps 1 and 3 might give you hope that you can eat a lot of food and still lose fat. You might find this to be true at the start. However, don’t forget that metabolic adaptation happens when we cut also, meaning we have to keep adjusting our calorie intake downward to keep progressing.
This means that while you might need 3700 calories to gain 1 pound per week, and you will initially calculate that you can cut 1 pound per week by reducing your calorie intake to 2700, you might eventually have to reduce your calorie intake down to 1700 calories.
The need to track your progress and adjust based on the outcome is even more pronounced when transitioning. Patience is vital to do it successfully — without cutting calories too much, risking muscle loss.
To complete your cut, follow the guidelines in the How To Adjust Calories and Macros As You Diet chapter to complete your cut successfully. Once the cut is done, follow the instructions in the How To Find Maintenance Calories After Dieting or How To Bulk After Cutting chapters, based on your goal.
Best of luck! 💪 Questions are welcomed in the comments. 👇