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  1. #1
    Registered User siempreadelante's Avatar
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    Smile 32, 5’11, 165lb, 19% body fat - where do I go from here?

    Hi guys,

    Long-time lurker on these boards, deciding to get involved for the first time and hopefully ask for some advice.

    After growing up as a fat kid (think 280 pounds at 21), I spent most of my 20’s around 200-210 pounds at 30-35% body fat. Two years ago I decided to really step up a little and have achieved down to my current 165 pounds, although at a skinny-fat 19% or so. I’ve enjoyed the journey.

    Ive always wanted to get into this hobby a little more seriously and ideally, actually look like I lift - and now that I’m approaching 33, I’m starting to realise it’s kinda now or never if I really want to do this.

    I think my current plan is to take August to really dial in the end of my current cut and aim for somewhere around 160 at 17%. I’d then intend to go on a very long, slow lean bulk over 18-24 months, 100-200 calories above maintenance, getting my protein, and basing my workout around compound lifts. The long term aim would be somewhere around 180 pounds at 15% - nothing too crazy, I just want to look like I lift in clothes, and have something to show for all these years of hard work.

    Does that sound about right to you guys? I’ve read a lot about getting down to <15% before even considering a bulk, but that would put my around 150 pounds, and there doesn’t seem much point if there’s very little muscle under there anyway. And well, after cutting for so long, I’m ready for a change.

    Grateful for any thoughts. Thanks all.
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  2. #2
    Registered User beowulf359's Avatar
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    beowulf359 is offline
    If it were me, I would forget doing another month of cutting and start your slow bulk now. Losing a few percent more body fat is not going to buy you much in the big picture other than making your skinny-fat look more pronounced.

    The stuff you heard about getting your body fat low is probably in regards to improving calorie partitioning (i.e. helping excess calories go more to muscle building than fat storage) but not really sure if it has much affect and is probably more of a thing for advanced bodybuilding and not for newbies.

    Start your bulking plan now.
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  3. #3
    Registered User sunsean's Avatar
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    If you're truly around 20% body fat right now - I would NOT go into a bulk mode yet, because while you'll gain muscle you'll also gain more fat.

    I would eat slightly below your maintenance (100-200 calories below) and begin whatever lifting routine you plan on following. Keep going until you stall on your lifts, then increase calories slightly to fuel progression, rinse and repeat. Essentially you will be bulking in the gym, but not in the kitchen. Do this for a year or so and you should get good results and be in a better position to do a proper bulk.
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    Registered User siempreadelante's Avatar
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    siempreadelante is offline
    Thanks both.

    If I’ve understand correctly, you’re both saying a similar sort of thing, in terms of letting go of the never-ending cut and starting to go for a little bit of muscle. The only difference between what you suggest is whether I start that 100-200 calories below or above maintenance.

    Given that this is a long, slow bulk and I’m very keen not to just get fat again, I’m tempted to start just below and then adjust as the lifts stall - that gives me a little more wiggle room and should mean I can bulk for longer. When I stall, I guess I’ll increase to maintenance and then just above, so I end up doing the same thing either way.

    I’ve actually made the mistake of starting a bulk from this point before on +500 calories/+1lb a week, and I just got very fat, very quickly and had to lose it all again. Keen not to make the same mistake again and spin my wheels.

    The way I see it, my current stats are 132.5 lean body mass and 31.5 pounds of body fat. And my eventual goal (at 182 @ 15%) works out 154.7 pounds lean body mass and 27.3 pounds of body fat. So body fat is already in the right ball park, but there’s a good 22 pounds of lean mass I need to go for now.

    From what I’ve read, most guys who’ve been successful took the first 18-24 months to go for muscle, hit their lean body mass targets, and then stripped off the excess fat. Does that sound right to you guys?

    I guess once I am eating slightly over maintenance, I imagine aiming for 0.5 pounds a week gain, with a month long mini-cut every six months or so to keep the body fat around that 30 pounds mark. But grateful for your thoughts again!

    Thanks again.
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  5. #5
    Registered User sunsean's Avatar
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    sunsean is offline
    Originally Posted by siempreadelante View Post
    Thanks both.
    I’ve actually made the mistake of starting a bulk from this point before on +500 calories/+1lb a week, and I just got very fat, very quickly and had to lose it all again. Keen not to make the same mistake again and spin my wheels.
    Exactly why I recommended the slight deficit approach. 20% is already on the fatter side so you don't want to add on from there. Sounds like you've also got lifting history since you tried to bulk before - so definitely try this approach. Only up your calories when you stall on lifts. Hopefully you'll essentially do a slow year long recomp where you add some muscle and lose some fat. Option B would be just to keep cutting until you're leaner then do a traditional bulk. Either way I wouldn't start adding a lot of calories back right away.


    Originally Posted by siempreadelante View Post
    From what I’ve read, most guys who’ve been successful took the first 18-24 months to go for muscle, hit their lean body mass targets, and then stripped off the excess fat. Does that sound right to you guys?

    Thanks again.
    Yeah more or less - but keep in mind that most guys who have good bodies go through multiple bulk/cut cycles. It's not a one and done kind of thing.

    Hypothetical set of cycles for a starting weight of 150lb:

    Bulk 1: 170lb
    Cut 1: 154lb (after 1 bulk and cut cycle)
    Bulk 2: 180lb
    Cut 2: 160lb
    Bulk 3: 190lb
    Cut 3: 165lb

    These are rough numbers and dirty bulks where you just put on a lot of weight and lose the fat after...a lean bulk would look different with smaller jumps in weight. But just to give you an idea of how it worked for me at least.
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    Registered User siempreadelante's Avatar
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    siempreadelante is offline
    Thanks man. Those cut and bulk cycles are particularly helpful to see - you’d gain 20 pounds from 150 to 170, only to end up just 4 pounds heavier back at 154 after your first cut? What rate of gain/loss do you aim for?

    Just on Option B by the way (keep cutting and then do a traditional bulk), what lean weight might I aim for - say 150-155? I ask because that was my original plan, but I’m down to 1,400 calories now, and it’s bloody difficult.
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    Registered User beowulf359's Avatar
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    beowulf359 is offline
    Originally Posted by siempreadelante View Post
    Thanks man. Those cut and bulk cycles are particularly helpful to see - you’d gain 20 pounds from 150 to 170, only to end up just 4 pounds heavier back at 154 after your first cut? What rate of gain/loss do you aim for?

    Just on Option B by the way (keep cutting and then do a traditional bulk), what lean weight might I aim for - say 150-155? I ask because that was my original plan, but I’m down to 1,400 calories now, and it’s bloody difficult.
    Don’t do Option B. If you really have been at 1400 calories during this cut without lifting chances are you are losing quite a bit of muscle along with fat. Don’t subject your body to another month of that.

    The minimum you should do is lifting with either a slight deficit or at maintenance (which for you may be 2000-2300 calories depending on your activity level). The key though whatever you choose is to start your lifting program now. If there is a good reason why you can’t then you need to at least eat at maintenance so you don’t melt more of your muscle away.
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    Registered User sunsean's Avatar
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    sunsean is offline
    Originally Posted by siempreadelante View Post
    Thanks man. Those cut and bulk cycles are particularly helpful to see - you’d gain 20 pounds from 150 to 170, only to end up just 4 pounds heavier back at 154 after your first cut? What rate of gain/loss do you aim for?

    Just on Option B by the way (keep cutting and then do a traditional bulk), what lean weight might I aim for - say 150-155? I ask because that was my original plan, but I’m down to 1,400 calories now, and it’s bloody difficult.
    May not be the best example for you because those are "traditional" bulks i.e. dirty bulks where you're not careful about weight gain. I've never worried about putting on some fat because I've had success losing it easily. In theory, if you keep your weight gain low to about 2lb/month you shouldn't gain much fat to lose.

    It's a tough spot as beowulf points out you don't want to lose muscle...but you also don't want to gain more fat. I'd go with option A and just lift as hard as possible. There's no telling how low you'd need to drop in weight with option B...though at your stats (5'11 165 20% body fat) you probably don't have much muscle to lose...

    It's really up to you - whatever you do, commit and get it done. Worst thing to do is nothing and go nowhere.
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    Registered User siempreadelante's Avatar
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    siempreadelante is offline
    Thanks again both.

    Just by way of context, I worked out my maintenance cals to be around 2000-2100. My original plan going into lockdown at the family home back in March was to eat around 1,500 as a -500 calorie deficit, and use a combination of bodyweight exercises and running to bring the body fat down. However, the bodyweight side didn’t really happen for understandable reasons - and as you say, that’s really just made me a smaller version of my skinny-fat self.

    By the end of August I should be back in my own place with regular access to a gym and I’m excited to start lifting again regularly.

    From what you guys are saying, you’d suggest just eating at maintenance in August, letting everything stabilise at 165, and then starting lifting and a slight deficit when I get back?

    I guess my weight wouldn’t change much at first, but I’d just track progress on the lifts?
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    Hello and welcome!
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    Registered User siempreadelante's Avatar
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    Thanks man! 👍🏻
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