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    Question How to maintain energy while cutting

    Hi all, I am brand new to this forum and this is my first post - thanks in advance for any of your suggestions here.

    After a very unsuccessful bulk for 2 months (I did not gain a single pound -- but did this with a PT, clean diet, careful training, etc.), my PT decided to do a cut now, then try bulking again once I lower body fat. On my bulk I was at 1800 calories per day + 2 cheat meals per week. weight lifting 4x per week. Cardio 4x per week.

    I am now on this new cut and a week in and just feel like crap. I am totally exhausted because we are keeping the same weight lifting schedule and adding another day of cardio. I am on 1200-1300 calories -- very low carb -- a day now and just wiped out. Honestly, my PT gave me a diet plan for this but when I added up the macros it didn't even come to 1100 calories so I added a couple of healthy extras to bring me up to 1200-1300.

    It's only a week in -- down .5/.75 pounds, so hard to tell if it will be successful, but Im already so exhausted all the time. I am trying to time my workouts in the early AM right when I'm allowed to eat some carbs and healthy fats so I have the energy to push through, but after that, I'm spent and it's getting harder every day to wake up (I'm usually the complete opposite - early bird full of energy to go kill it).

    For reference I'm 5'3 / 112lbs / guestimation 20-20.5% bodyfat currently. Age 42 (not sure why my icon says different).

    Just looking for insights on if what I'm feeling in terms of fatigue is normal, if there's anything I can do to keep up my energy, and if adding a little carbs would totally derail the plan if I stay within the calorie deficit? Is it too a high a deficit? I feel like I'm going nowhere fast. Thanks so much in advance everyone!
    Last edited by DLMTAG; 04-16-2021 at 03:22 PM.
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    I'm huge in Japan! xsquid99's Avatar
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    I'm just curious, why did you think that 1800 calories was a "bulk" diet? Those are at or very near cutting calories, even for someone your size and your level of activity. And 1200 calories is extremely low, even for someone your size.

    Recommend you post a photo, because we can't give good advice without seeing one since people's self assessments aren't always the best information to go off of. You can upload one to an image hosting site if you need to and post the link, and you can black out or cut off your head if you have any privacy concerns.
    All it takes is consistency, effort, proper nutrition, good programming, and TIME.
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    Registered User DLMTAG's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by xsquid99 View Post
    I'm just curious, why did you think that 1800 calories was a "bulk" diet? Those are at or very near cutting calories, even for someone your size and your level of activity. And 1200 calories is extremely low, even for someone your size.

    Recommend you post a photo, because we can't give good advice without seeing one since people's self assessments aren't always the best information to go off of. You can upload one to an image hosting site if you need to and post the link, and you can black out or cut off your head if you have any privacy concerns.
    Thank you so much -- I thought so too re the low cals. In terms of the bulk, for me this was more maintenance calories at a bare minimum as I went down a pound in the end. I called it a bulk as that is what my PT thought he was doing/called it. Maybe because he felt I was small? No clue, and now I feel he's gone to the other extreme, making my deficit way too low.

    I will post some photos shortly!
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    wow, pt's really can be idiots
    The power of carbs compels me!
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    I'm huge in Japan! xsquid99's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by DLMTAG View Post
    Thank you so much -- I thought so too re the low cals. In terms of the bulk, for me this was more maintenance calories at a bare minimum as I went down a pound in the end. I called it a bulk as that is what my PT thought he was doing/called it. Maybe because he felt I was small? No clue, and now I feel he's gone to the other extreme, making my deficit way too low.

    I will post some photos shortly!
    Ok, yeah so I'd be highly suspect of any further advice you get from this "trainer". If I was trying to get you to build some more muscle and didn't see any weight gain over the course of 2-3 weeks then that would have been the first clue that you needed to increase your calories further; 1-2 lbs per month of gain is what you should expect to see if you're trying to build muscle while keeping fat gains to a minimum.

    20% bodyfat for a female is already fairly lean (but we haven't seen photos to confirm that number yet). For a trainer to recommend that you completely "switch directions" like that is very odd, you went from basically your maintenance calories (or a very tiny deficit) to a bigger deficit, and now you're very likely feeling the effects.

    You need a well defined goal, and then you need to train (and eat) in support of that goal.
    All it takes is consistency, effort, proper nutrition, good programming, and TIME.
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    I’d die on 1200 calories

    I cut on 1800

    I’m about the same size

    You pt is a ding dong.

    And ya 1100-1200 calories you’ll feel like a slug all day

    If you didn’t lose or gain on 1800, did your strength change at all? Also, how much of a cheat meal were you having twice a week? I mean your maintenance is most likely higher than 1800 cals if you were able to have two decent “cheat sized” meals. End even then it sounds like you were losing weight at the end? If your strength was still going up your probably ok staying around 2000 but get rid of the cheat meals. Posting a picture would help too

    Just out of curiosity what’s the lifting routine he has you on?
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    Originally Posted by DLMTAG View Post
    Hi all, I am brand new to this forum and this is my first post - thanks in advance for any of your suggestions here.

    After a very unsuccessful bulk for 2 months (I did not gain a single pound -- but did this with a PT, clean diet, careful training, etc.), my PT decided to do a cut now, then try bulking again once I lower body fat. On my bulk I was at 1800 calories per day + 2 cheat meals per week. weight lifting 4x per week. Cardio 4x per week.

    I am now on this new cut and a week in and just feel like crap. I am totally exhausted because we are keeping the same weight lifting schedule and adding another day of cardio. I am on 1200-1300 calories -- very low carb -- a day now and just wiped out. Honestly, my PT gave me a diet plan for this but when I added up the macros it didn't even come to 1100 calories so I added a couple of healthy extras to bring me up to 1200-1300.

    It's only a week in -- down .5/.75 pounds, so hard to tell if it will be successful, but Im already so exhausted all the time. I am trying to time my workouts in the early AM right when I'm allowed to eat some carbs and healthy fats so I have the energy to push through, but after that, I'm spent and it's getting harder every day to wake up (I'm usually the complete opposite - early bird full of energy to go kill it).

    For reference I'm 5'3 / 112lbs / guestimation 20-20.5% bodyfat currently. Age 42 (not sure why my icon says different).

    Just looking for insights on if what I'm feeling in terms of fatigue is normal, if there's anything I can do to keep up my energy, and if adding a little carbs would totally derail the plan if I stay within the calorie deficit? Is it too a high a deficit? I feel like I'm going nowhere fast. Thanks so much in advance everyone!
    Fire the PT and read the stickies + listen to the people in this forum instead.

    2 months is not enough to measure progress, you need to measure over many months, ideally holding everything constant.

    Also, you may not need to "bulk" to gain muscle. Did your lifts progress during that 2 months period?
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    Registered User DLMTAG's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by snailsrus View Post
    I’d die on 1200 calories

    I cut on 1800

    I’m about the same size

    You pt is a ding dong.

    And ya 1100-1200 calories you’ll feel like a slug all day

    If you didn’t lose or gain on 1800, did your strength change at all? Also, how much of a cheat meal were you having twice a week? I mean your maintenance is most likely higher than 1800 cals if you were able to have two decent “cheat sized” meals. End even then it sounds like you were losing weight at the end? If your strength was still going up your probably ok staying around 2000 but get rid of the cheat meals. Posting a picture would help too

    Just out of curiosity what’s the lifting routine he has you on?

    Tell me about it - my family says I look like a zombie on the sofa...

    So in terms of the routine, 4-Day Split on weights and 5X cardio. I definitely gained strength on the higher calorie routine, consistently moving up in weights on almost all exercises except for a couple.

    Cheats weren't horrible as I'm not into junk food really, but they were relatively calorie-dense: examples include pastas with meat sauce; larger portions of steak or fattier cuts of lamb with rice pilaf or mashed potatoes and salad with more olive oil; larger portion of salmon or other seafood with a more carb-heavy side dish -- always a desert -- chocolate cookies or small slice of cake, or extra fruit and a full-fat cappuccino with real sugar.

    And photos are not the best but will give a general idea.
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    Originally Posted by xsquid99 View Post
    I'm just curious, why did you think that 1800 calories was a "bulk" diet? Those are at or very near cutting calories, even for someone your size and your level of activity. And 1200 calories is extremely low, even for someone your size.

    Recommend you post a photo, because we can't give good advice without seeing one since people's self assessments aren't always the best information to go off of. You can upload one to an image hosting site if you need to and post the link, and you can black out or cut off your head if you have any privacy concerns.
    OK I added some photos above -- not sure if they came through OK -- this forum's upload feature is a little weird. Thanks for all the insights and I agree. I also felt that it would make more sense to be patient, keep increasing quality calories as I increase in strength.

    Bodyfat percentage I based on a bodyfat scale I have at home (I know those aren't totally accurate), factoring in that last year, I was 5lbds less and had professional dunk-tank reading that put me at 19% then. So I sort of ballparked it based on those two pieces of data.
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    Originally Posted by xsquid99 View Post
    Ok, yeah so I'd be highly suspect of any further advice you get from this "trainer". If I was trying to get you to build some more muscle and didn't see any weight gain over the course of 2-3 weeks then that would have been the first clue that you needed to increase your calories further; 1-2 lbs per month of gain is what you should expect to see if you're trying to build muscle while keeping fat gains to a minimum.

    20% bodyfat for a female is already fairly lean (but we haven't seen photos to confirm that number yet). For a trainer to recommend that you completely "switch directions" like that is very odd, you went from basically your maintenance calories (or a very tiny deficit) to a bigger deficit, and now you're very likely feeling the effects.

    You need a well defined goal, and then you need to train (and eat) in support of that goal.
    Trying photo upload here.
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    Originally Posted by EiFit91 View Post
    Fire the PT and read the stickies + listen to the people in this forum instead.

    2 months is not enough to measure progress, you need to measure over many months, ideally holding everything constant.

    Also, you may not need to "bulk" to gain muscle. Did your lifts progress during that 2 months period?

    Thanks much. I agree it was too short a time to measure progress and I joined this forum for the great insights. Thank you again!
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    1800 calories is fairly low to grow lean tissue
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    Originally Posted by DLMTAG View Post
    OK I added some photos above -- not sure if they came through OK -- this forum's upload feature is a little weird. Thanks for all the insights and I agree. I also felt that it would make more sense to be patient, keep increasing quality calories as I increase in strength.

    Bodyfat percentage I based on a bodyfat scale I have at home (I know those aren't totally accurate), factoring in that last year, I was 5lbds less and had professional dunk-tank reading that put me at 19% then. So I sort of ballparked it based on those two pieces of data.
    Ok I would actually buy that your bodyfat is 20-22%-ish based on your photos. You just need a well defined goal. You could lean down a little bit if that's what you're after, and you may even be able to build a small amount of muscle while doing it at long as your deficit remains very small. If your goal is to maximize muscle growth for a while then you could do that too by switching into a small surplus, but you'll have to accept a small amount of fat gain that will come with that as well.

    It all just depends on what you're trying to accomplish.

    BTW how much cardio are you doing, I see 5x a week but what are you doing and how long are those sessions?

    For your strength training, are you following an established program or just winging it?
    Last edited by xsquid99; 04-18-2021 at 03:45 PM.
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    Cup of coffee or tea and a good plan of action
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    Originally Posted by xsquid99 View Post
    Ok I would actually buy that your bodyfat is 20-22%-ish based on your photos. You just need a well defined goal. You could lean down a little bit if that's what you're after, and you may even be able to build a small amount of muscle while doing it at long as your deficit remains very small. If your goal is to maximize muscle growth for a while then you could do that too by switching into a small surplus, but you'll have to accept a small amount of fat gain that will come with that as well.

    It all just depends on what you're trying to accomplish.

    BTW how much cardio are you doing, I see 5x a week but what are you doing and how long are those sessions?

    For your strength training, are you following an established program or just winging it?

    Thank you so much again for taking the time with me -- while I used to do a fair amount of boot-camp style workouts and some weightlifting, this is my first time doing just traditional weightlifting in a serious, controlled manner, according to a plan, with a trainer.

    In terms of my goals, it's exactly what you said -- I'm trying to lean out a bit, and in whatever capacity/time-frame it takes, build some additional lean muscle. I realize the two can't be done simultaneously (or perhaps only with small gains as you said, but only with a modest deficit), and I am OK with it taking a longer time frame. I'm in it for the long-term and am not competing or anything.

    I think where I got confused was with my PT, because he tried what he called "bulking" -- but as I mentioned, it was at more a maintenance calorie level and now the cutting is at a pretty big deficit. The workout routine I'm on is getting increasingly harder to finish due to low cals and very low carbs.

    For cardio my routine is 5 times per week @ 45mins on either stairmaster @ levels 5/7 *alternating the levels every 2 mins); or treadmill - grade 9 incline @ 3.7-3.9 speed.

    For resistance, trainer has me doing what I gather is a 4 day split -- lower body x2 per week / upper body @2x per week. 5-6 exercises for each @ 3 sets of 15. Sometimes drop sets, or supersets intermixed. The heaviest weight I can do with keeping proper form.

    I am increasing in strength and able to go higher on weights each week.

    I do core/abs everyday - nothing crazy but 3 exercises @ 3 sets each.
    Last edited by DLMTAG; 04-19-2021 at 07:30 AM.
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    To be on that low of a calorie level while maintaining 5 cardio sessions @ 45 minutes + high volume lifting (15 rep sets, drop sets, etc), its no wonder your energy levels are gone.

    If it was me, I would probably put you back up around 1800 calories, and reduce your cardio to 2-3 sessions a week at 30 minutes and reduce the volume of your strength training (higher weight but lower reps).

    Reps of 15 are not inherently bad, but usually I reserve those for isolation movements only (curls, triceps extensions, calves, etc). For the compound movements (bench, squat, deadlift, overhead press, barbell row, etc) I would probably suggest a program that has you down in the 5-8 rep range.

    So often these days I see trainers just trying to wear people into the ground with excessive amounts of work (cardio, high volume, etc). Their job is to help you get fit and build muscle and thus improve your overall health and your physique, but you can and should do that without destroying a person. Their job is not to "make you tired", but it sure seems that's how a lot of them think.

    Just my 2 cents.
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    Originally Posted by xsquid99 View Post
    To be on that low of a calorie level while maintaining 5 cardio sessions @ 45 minutes + high volume lifting (15 rep sets, drop sets, etc), its no wonder your energy levels are gone.

    If it was me, I would probably put you back up around 1800 calories, and reduce your cardio to 2-3 sessions a week at 30 minutes and reduce the volume of your strength training (higher weight but lower reps).



    Reps of 15 are not inherently bad, but usually I reserve those for isolation movements only (curls, triceps extensions, calves, etc). For the compound movements (bench, squat, deadlift, overhead press, barbell row, etc) I would probably suggest a program that has you down in the 5-8 rep range.

    So often these days I see trainers just trying to wear people into the ground with excessive amounts of work (cardio, high volume, etc). Their job is to help you get fit and build muscle and thus improve your overall health and your physique, but you can and should do that without destroying a person. Their job is not to "make you tired", but it sure seems that's how a lot of them think.

    Just my 2 cents.

    Thanks again -- I agree with all you said. As I was new to "cutting" just wanted to make sure what I am feeling is normal and not just "part of the process."

    I agree with your take on trainers too -- that and perhaps cause they charge a lot of money they want you to see more significant changes quickly to justify their cost so you don't quit them. A lot of people want instant gratification I suppose.

    I'm gonna make some changes to this routine now and see how I feel in terms of energy stores. Thanks again so much.
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