Today we're discussing a topic that I get a lot of questions about – your cycles of weight loss. Specifically, cutting and how long you should be in a caloric deficit. The recommendations and advice I have are counterintuitive to a lot of people, especially if you're coming from a history of dieting in the past and a history of always trying to lose weight. We're going to have some mind-blowing thoughts and mindset shifts for some of you!
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You're listening to Biceps after Babies radio episode number 76
Hello and welcome to Biceps after Babies radio. A podcast for ladies who know that fitness is about so much more than pounds lost or PRs. It's about feeling confident in your skin and empowered in your life. I'm your host, Amber Brueseke, a registered nurse, personal trainer,
online fitness coach, wife, and mom of four. My guests and I will excite and motivate you to take action in your own personal fitness as we talk about nutrition, exercise mindset, personal development, and executing life with conscious intention. If your goal is to look, feel, and be strong and experience transformation from the inside out, you, my friend are in the right place. Thank you for tuning in, now let’s jump into today’s episode.
Hey, Hey, Hey. Welcome back to another episode of Biceps After Babis Radio. I'm your host, Amber Brueseke and I am excited about this topic today. This is a topic that I get questions a lot about and I have some really specific advice and recommendations when it comes to how long your cuts should be, how long you should be in maintenance and things like that. That I think are, are counterintuitive to a lot of people, especially if you're coming from a history of dieting in the past, a history of always trying to lose weight. We're going to, we're going to have some mindblowing thoughts and some mindset shifts for some of you.
What it Means to Cut (01:27)
So the first thing that I want to say is, you saw the title of this podcast, how long should I cut? And for those who are like, what the heck is she talking about? What does it mean to cut? Let me just kind of quickly explain that terminology. So in macro counting specifically, I hear it a lot when we talk about putting ourselves in a caloric deficit. In order to lose fat, we call that a cut. So you have your maintenance macros, you have the amount of calories that you need to eat to be able to maintain your body weight. And then you cut from there with your calories in order to create a caloric deficit in order to create fat loss. And so the different phases and the different cycles, there's a cut, which is the purpose is to lose fat. There is a maintenance level which is just maintaining your weight. And then we often talk about bulking where you go actually into a caloric surplus in order to maximize the muscle gains that you are able to put onto your body. So those are kind of three types of terminology like cut maintenance and bulking that you'll hear tossed around. I just want to make sure it's really clear. When I talk about cutting, I'm talking about a period of dieting, a period of trying to intentionally lose fat. You're curating a caloric deficit either through food and or through the amount of calories that you expend in exercise in order to drive that fat loss.
Long-term Vision (02:46)
Now what I see and this is, and this is why you should care, like why should I care about this? Amber, why should I listen to what you have to say about this subject? The truth is, is that too many women get caught in this of always chasing a lower weight. Okay. And so I want to ask you a question and I want you to like pause and do a little self-reflection with this question. If I gave you a choice, right? I'm like this magic genie, I'm going to wave a wand right now and I said, would you A. want to hit your goal fast, right? Your goal weight, your goal aesthetic, your goal, look whatever. Would you like to hit your goal fast and then lose it or would you rather it takes longer to hit your goal, but then when you get there, you're able to maintain it, right? So we can put this in the context. Like let's say you wanted to lose 10 pounds. Would you rather lose those 10 pounds in less than a month and see that number on the scale and then not be able to maintain it and you go back up? Or would you rather lose the 10 pounds? Maybe have it take six months to lose the 10 pounds, but when you get there, be able to maintain it. Now, there's not a right or wrong answer to this question, but it's a really good one to start to think about in terms of what is best for you. If you're like, yeah, A. Right, I just want to get there fast, right? I don't really care. If I like can maintain it, like, you know, a right, then I'm not the coach for you. That's not my jam. Um, you know, this is kind of the mentality of like fitness competitors, right? They're peaking for one day to be able to get on stage and be as lean as possible and look as good as possible for that one day. Um, it's not meant to be maintainable. It's not meant to be able to last long term. Uh, it's a very different like conversation. It's a very different psychology when that's your goal is just to like peak one day and not necessarily be able to maintain it. Then if you're like, no, yeah, I get this. Like I want to be able to hit my goal, but it's also really important for me to maintain it. So if you're number one, that's awesome. It doesn't mean you're wrong or you're bad. It's just I'm not the coach for you. That's not what I focus on. That's not what I specialize in. If you're like, yeah Amber, like it's more important to me to be able to maintain it long term. Cool. Then you should keep listening to this podcast because that's exactly what we're going to be able to talk about is how we can get you both right. How we can get you both hit the result and keep it longterm because you can, you can do both.
So I'm gonna I think one of the best ways to kind of structure this podcast so it kind of flows and makes sense is to, is to kind of give you some recommendations. Um, and then I can dive deeper into like the why behind those recommendations and how you're going to actually start to apply them to your own fitness journey. Now I will make the disclaimer as I am sharing these, that I am sharing recommendations. I am sharing what I've seen work for me. I've seen work for my clients. This is not a hard and fast like this is wrong. This is right type of way of looking at it. If you listen to episode 74 two weeks ago, you will know and if you haven't, go back and listen to that one. It's a good one. But you will know that like I am not a fan of saying this is right and this is wrong in terms of of counting macros, that's not, that's not my jam. That's not how I coach. It's not how I teach. And so when I give these recommendations, it's not like if you're not following these recommendations, then you're wrong. I'm just going to kind of give you the rationale about why I give those recommendations and then you can take that and apply it to your journey in whatever way that you choose to see fit.
So the first recommendation that I get, and this is directly related to the title of this podcast, of like how long should I cut for? There isn't a right answer. Okay. And I want you to understand that for some people doing a 12 week cut is about as much as they can manage, right? Mentally, physically, emotionally, whatever. 12 weeks is plenty of time. And like they start to hit diet fatigue, they start to like resent tracking. They start to feel lethargic, like whatever. They start to have these like features of diet fatigue. So just because I am giving you the recommendation of cutting no longer than 20 weeks, it does not mean that everybody should be cutting 20 weeks.
Set a Goal Date, not Weight (06:53)
In fact, what I really like to have my clients do is not, I tell my clients, don't set a goal weight. I want you to set a goal date. So you set a timeframe for your cut from the get go. So when you're diving into a caloric deficit, I know that you want to lose 20 pounds. I know that you want to lose 40 pounds. I know that you want to have a six pack. Like I know you want these things, right? That's why you're doing this. You have this goal. I know that you want those things. And so it's really easy to say, okay, well my cut will be done when I have a six pack, my cut will be done when I've lost 20 pounds. Right. And instead of creating that as the finish line, what I really encourage my clients to do is to set a goal date. Okay, so I'm going to do an eight week cut, I'm going to do a 12 week cut, I'm going to do a 20 week cut, like whatever. It's going to be like I'm going to do a cut for X period of time. One that gives you an end date and there is something mentally so nice about knowing when you're going to finish, right. It like it gives you a target to shoot for. It gives you a countdown. It's just like if you're going on a vacation, right? You like count down the days, you're looking forward to it, you're anticipating it. There's something mentally satisfying about knowing, you know what, this kind of sucks right now. It's not my favorite thing. Like I'm hungry sometimes, but I only have two more weeks left. Right? I can, I can hold on for two more weeks. Where when you like, you're like, well I have five pounds left but I don't know how long that five pounds going to take. It may take seven months. Like I don't know. Right. It's really hard when you don't have that end, that end date to be able to, to you know, set yourself for success. Now I also think during that period of time that it's really important to be paying attention to your body and it's really important to be paying attention to like feelings of diet fatigue because let's pretend that you said, okay, yeah, I'm going to have a 16 week cut. Awesome.
Diet Fatigue (08:45)
So you have an end date. But if feelings of diet fatigue start coming up in week 12 that doesn't necessarily mean that you should just dig your heels and finish out those last four months. It doesn't mean you shouldn't, but it doesn't mean that you necessarily should as well. And so diet fatigue is a whole other like issue and topic that I can do a podcast about if that's interesting to you. But I like you to set an end date and yet at the same time be flexible with that and paying attention to your body, paying attention to like your priorities, paying attention to that diet fatigue. Um, I am not of the opinion that just like gritting your teeth and trying harder is a winning solution for like almost anything in life. So I give the recommendation to my clients that I, I like clients to set a goal date of no longer than 20 weeks. And 20 weeks, honestly guys is a long time. It's a really like this like what, four months, five months? Um, that's a long time to be in a deficit. Um, and so for most clients I say like I think like a 12 week cut, an eight to 12 we cut is mentally like achievable. For most people it is, you know, bite size for most people and you can get really awesome progress in 12 weeks. What I find is that when people try to extend it, they try to like lengthen it out for a long time. It's like, it's like how time, like how fast you do something and expands to the time allotted to it, right? If you have all day to do a task, it's going to take you all day. If you have one hour and you gotta like crank it out and get it done in that one hour, like you're going to get it done in that one hour. I kind of find the same thing happens with dieting where it's like if you give yourself 20 weeks, you probably could have done in those 20 weeks, you know, as much as you did in those 20 weeks, maybe in like 15 weeks.
How Long to Cut (10:35)
Um, now we got to think about being conservative and we don't want to, you know, shoot our metabolism in the foot. You're not, I'm not talking about dropping your calories super low in order to achieve more results in shorter time. I'm just saying that like your focus, your consistency, your attention to the process is able to be maintained a little bit better. If it's a shorter cut. So I love eight week cuts. I love 12 week cuts. Um, if you have more weight to lose, I get it. If you want to like push onto like a 16 week cut or a 20 week cut. But I really think for most people, 20 weeks is the very max. And for most people, like even going over 12 weeks is really, really challenging. So, um, set a goal date. I say no longer than 20 weeks. You can do whatever you want, but that's the recommendation that I, that I typically get.
What Comes After the Cut? (11:21)
And then, so now what happens after those 20 weeks? Right? And because I haven't hit my goal, he told me to set a goal date, not a goal weight. I get that. But now I've gotten to that goal date and I'm not at my goal. What act do I do now? Great question. Now your next step is to reverse diet. If you have no clue what reverse dieting is, go and listen to episode nine and episode 42 which we'll link up in the show notes as well. And listen to those. I talk all about reverse siding, but after you've been in a deficit, you want to reverse it, I, that means your calories slowly up, back up to maintenance, and then you want to sit there and you want to maintain for at least two to three months. This is the recommendation I give set up maintenance for at least two to three months or if we're really talking about ideal, as long as you've been dieting, so sitting at intentional maintenance for as long as you've been dieting.
Now for some of you guys, you're like, I've been dieting my whole life, right? So to spending more time at maintenance is always going to be valuable, especially if you have really been always in a caloric deficit or always trying to lose weight. And the reason is is because one is so good for your metabolism, okay? It's so good for you to be eating more and to have your body have that experience of being really well fueled. Not so much that you're going into a caloric surplus and you're gaining weight, but to be adequately fueled, to not be in a caloric deficit. It's so good for your metabolism. Um, metabolic adaptation does occur. Like that's a real thing. And I talk about that on episode nine and 42. The second thing that this does with this intentional period of maintenance is that it's so good for your mental status. It's so good for your brain to like be able to relax, right? And to be able to like not necessarily have to be so strict and not necessarily have to be so focused on, you know, what you're doing. It's just good for you to like have that like mental break and release. And then what happens is most people find that when they go back to cutting, like they're really excited about it, right? They're excited, they're like pumped up, they're jazzed up, they're like ready to dive into this process rather than it be like, Oh, like, Oh, I'm still going here. Right? You'd get tired. It's like running a marathon. You're like tired. And it's nice to be able to take a break, stay at that intentional maintenance and then dive back in. And then the third reason is, it is an essential part of you getting longterm results.
How Much Weight to Lose (13:42)
Okay. And this is especially for my ladies listening who have a lot of weight to lose, cause I get that question a lot. You're like, okay, I hear you Amber, you say no more than 20 weeks, but I have like 70 pounds to lose. So like is that still the same for me? Like I have, you know, a hundred pounds to lose and what I want to say to you, if that's you listening, you have 30 40 70 a hundred pounds to lose. I will say yes it is even more important for you to go through these cycles of weight loss rather than just gritting your teeth and continuing on because you have so much weight to lose and you want to be able to maintain it longterm and to be able to maintain it long term, you gotta be able to practice that maintenance. In fact, if you haven't listened to episode 72 where I interview Heather Robertson, she lost 170 pounds and she talks about this concept of intentional maintenance of like how so many of us we practice and we like put our attention and our focus for our whole entire lives in losing. It's like losing, losing, losing. That's all we ever think about. It's always, our goals are always center around losing weight, losing weight, losing weight. How many of us have ever set the goal of like, I want to maintain where I'm at right now. Like most women, that's not, that's not ever a goal you've set of like, I just want to maintain where I'm at right now. Um, and so being able to practice that during the journey rather than thinking like somehow you're going to lose 70 pounds and you're going to figure out how to maintain then, right? We just like things versus it's like magic, right? I'm just going to, I'll figure it out. Like I'll just figure out maintenance when I lose 70 pounds. No. What will be so much more beneficial for you is to practice that maintenance along the way so that when you get to that 70 pounds lost or that hundred and 70 pounds lost like Heather shared, you've already practiced maintenance you've already practiced maintaining.
Fear of Regaining Weight (15:39)
One of the things that I hear from women so so often is that they're terrified that they're going to regain the weight, that they're like, I want to lose these 20 pounds, but I'm so scared. Or maybe they've lost 20 pounds and now they're just terrified that they're going to lose all of their hard work. Well, one of the reasons you're probably terrified is because you've never practiced actually maintaining and it's a different beast. Maintaining is a different beast than cutting or surplus like it's, it's an entirely different beast. There are a lot of benefits to maintaining. There are a lot of fun things. Maintaining, you're eating more calories, you're feeling better, like you're going to notice your performance in the gym is going to be better. There's so many good things about maintaining and yet so many women have never made that an intentional part of the process. And when you make an intentional part of the process, then when you get to your goal eventually, then the stress and the like, fear of not being able to maintain it is a little bit suppressed because you're like, I've done this before. Like I know what maintenance is like I've experienced maintenance before and and I got this like I don't have to be scared that I'm just going to regain all the weight that I just worked so hard to lose. So what I want you to start thinking about is I just want you to start thinking about your weight loss in terms of chunks. So especially again, this is especially for you if you have more than 20 pounds to lose. Instead of thinking about, okay, I have 30 I have 40 I have 50 pounds to lose, like it's going to be this process of losing it.
Cut Your Goals into Chunks (17:07)
What if you cut it down into chunks, right? Instead of saying, I need to lose 50 pounds, you're like, I'm going to do a cut for 12 weeks, right? And I'm going to lose a certain amount of pounds during those 12 weeks, and then I'm going to intentionally maintain that weight that I've lost. So let's pretend in the 12 weeks you lose 10 pounds. Okay? So you wanted to lose 30 you lost 10 and now your next step is to intentionally maintain that 10. Now this can be very challenging, especially for when we have a lot of weight to lose because you're not at your goal yet. You only lost 10 pounds, right? You still have 20 to go. And so part of your like brain tries to say, no, no, no, no. Just keep going. Like just, just keep cutting. Like what? Why are you like taking this break? Like it's going to make it take longer. It's like all these things, right? It's, it's going to take so much longer to hit your goal. Like just don't take the break. Like just, just keep going. Just keep pushing. And what I want you to step back and I wanna I wanna challenge this a little bit because at the very beginning I asked you this question of would you rather hit your goal and then lose it faster? Like do it faster that way or would you rather get to your goal at a little bit slower but be able to maintain it longterm? Because that's, that's really what we're talking about. I know that your brain thinks that everything is going to be beautiful and glorious when you lose the 30 pounds. But if you don't do this process in a way that is going to be able to allow you to maintain that weight loss, you're going to see that 30 pounds loss on the scale.
Benefits of Breaking it Up (18:37)
Like you know one time, You know, and then it's just, it's going to go away cause you're, cause you haven't done it in a way that you're able to maintain it longterm. So we, you know, instead I really encourage you, set a time, 12 week cut, you lost 10 pounds. Awesome. Intentionally maintain that loss. Have you ever done that? Have you ever lost weight? And then just said, I'm gonna intentionally maintain this even though I'm not to my goal. It's like it changes everything. It's so good for you. It's so good for your, I mean, we already talked about this, but it's so good for your metabolism. It's so good for you in the gym. I can't tell you how many women come to me and they're like, Oh, Amber, I never knew what it felt like to lift weights or to run or to exercise. Like at maintenance calories. It feels so much better. Like I have so much more energy. Like I pushed so much more weight and I'm like, yeah, isn't it crazy when you're not always in a deficit, like how much better your body performs and so you can experience that. You can experience that period of maintenance. You get to reassure yourself that like you can maintain this on higher calories. PS, that's something that I find a lot of women don't understand. Again, I refer you to reverse dieting episode nine and 42 but you should be maintaining on more calories than you were cutting on so you're eating more food. You're fueling your body, you're proving to yourself that you can maintain the loss that you have, that you have, and then you can set a time and a date for your next cut and then maybe you lose 10 more pounds and then you maintain it, right?
Permanent Change (20:06)
Yeah. I know your brain is screaming, you're only 10 pounds away. Just keep going. But I promise you, if you take your cycles of weight loss in these chunks, by the time that you get to your end goal, you are going to be able to maintain it. You're not going to have the stress. You're going to know that you can maintain that weight longterm rather than just seeing the number on the scale and then never seen it again. And I see that happen to to way too many women. So I know that taking these cycles in chunks and having these periods of maintenance in between can feel like it takes forever. It feels like it takes so much longer. But again, I want you to come back to like asking yourself that question, do I want it to happen faster or do I want it to happen in permanently? And if you were really on this and really wanting this to be a permanent change in your life, having it be a process that isn't super fast is not the end of the world because you are going to get there. Your success is inevitable. You're going to hit that goal and you're, and once you get there, you're going to be in a place where you're going to be able to maintain it where you're meant to. You haven't shot your metabolism where you like enjoy the life that you're living. Um, and that is what I want for you.
Setting Macros after Maintaining (21:14)
Now the last question I'll answer because I hear this a lot too. They're like, okay Amber, I did it. I did a cut, I reversed, I maintained and I'm going back into another cut. Um, how the heck do I set my macros? So I talked about this a couple episodes ago, I think in the rant episode. Um, I think that was 74 where once you've set your macros, once, you don't ever need to reset them. You just need to adjust them based off of your results based off your body. Okay? So during that reverse time, hopefully you got your calories up as much as possible. You figured out where your maintenances, where your maintenance level is. Now when you're going back into a cut, I encourage you to just take whatever your maintenance level is and cut from there. So if you're a maintenance level, you like reverse up and your maintenance level is, you know, 2200, you're taking that as your maintenance calories and cutting from there. You can do it where you cut, you know, 15 to 20% of those calories. You can just take a straight, you know, three or 400 calories off. It's not really a right way to do it, but just understand that you don't need to go back to a calculator. You don't need to go back to setting your macros. You just need to take wherever you finish for your maintenance and be able to create a deficit from there. And the beautiful thing about that is, and if you've done a reverse diet right, and you've done maintenance, right a lot of times, you know, when you first calculated your macros and use my setting macros guide, which www.bicepsafterbabies.com/set my macros, that's a free guide I have about how to set your macros. Maybe when you set your macros, you calculated your total daily energy expenditure as like, I don't know, 1800. Actually I have a client who just was telling me about this. She said she calculated her TDEE at 1800 she went through a cut. She then reversed, she's been maintaining and she was able to get, she's now maintaining on 2100 calories. So a full 300 calories higher than quote unquote like the calculator said that she should be able to maintain on. So that's awesome. So if, if she went back and like put her numbers back into a calculator, um, it's like that's not, that's an estimate. It's not going to be as accurate as just taking the data that your body's giving you. Where I made maintaining on 2100 calories. That's my maintenance. It doesn't matter what the calculator says, my maintenance is, that's my actual maintenance and now I'm just going to create that deficit from there. Um, and so if that's you and you're going back into a cut, um, awesome. Calculate that cut and that deficit from whatever you finished your maintenance calories, your maintenance macros at.
It's a Cycle (23:43)
Alright. So I hope that this was eyeopening for you and that you can start to take this concepts and apply it into your journey really so that you are changing your body. Yes, we have goals, we want to reach those goals. Absolutely. But in a way that is actually going to be able to be sustainable and maintainable in the long run because that is really my goal. That's my goal for you. If that's not your goal, that's cool. Go find like find somebody else. Because there are plenty of people who are willing to like have that be their goal for you as well. But my goal for you is to be able to do this in a way that is healthy, that is sustainable, that is not like you yo yoing up and down, that is really focused on your longterm health and wellbeing. And, and to me, taking it this process in chunks, taking it in cycles, looking at as you know, I have 50 pounds to lose but I'm not going to just set out to like lose the 50. I'm going to set out for a 12 week cut and then I'm going to maintain it and then I'm going to cut again and then I'm gonna retain it. And you're gonna do that cycle as many times as it takes you in order to get to the result that you want. Um, and that my friend is a way to create this process in a way that is going to get you results. Yes. Get you the change that you want. Get you to the place that you want to be with your, with your body and with your, um, your goals and at the same time help you to be able to maintain it. Long term is, that's my goal for you. I want permanent longterm change, not just a blip on the scale where you hit it once you peak, when your fitness competition and then you know you can't maintain it. That's a very, very different mindset than I have and that I assume that most of the listeners of this podcast have as well.
Please Share! (25:24)
Now, last thing, if you found this helpful, will you please share it? The best thing that you can do for any content creator, not just me, but any content creator who you enjoy their content. If you share that with your Instagram, with your Facebook, with your friends, you text it to your neighbor, whatever, that is the highest compliment you can give to somebody as a, as a content creator. So if the you enjoy this episode, if you learn something on this episode, post it to your stories, let you know what you're taking, let me know what your takeaway was. You know, share it with a friend. That absolutely is one of the best ways that you can show that you appreciate the content that is, that is being put out here on Biceps Afer Babies Radio. And I so appreciate when I see you guys post on your stories and you tag me and you told me that you love the podcast and you tell me that you're listening. That absolutely makes my day and it makes the time and effort that I put into this process to give free content out to you. Worth it. So that wraps up this episode of BIceps After Babies Radio. I'm Amber. Now go on and be strong because remember my friend, you can do anything.
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I love this episode. I’m sitting here with my calendar and marking my reverse date. Started macros 101 in earnest today after getting my feet wet in the last class.
This was so informative! Wow I wish I had known all if this years ago. I have been dieting my whole life and yo-yo’d for years. I finally feel like I have control over my weight and I’m stronger than ever at age 58. I’m trying to help a friend with macro tracking and this podcast was such great info! I’m so appreciative to all of you ladies on Instagram that share such wonderful information!!
Sherilyn Rogers says
Great episode. I cut for 7 months at a caloric deficit. I am very happy with my results. Nice muscle definition and feel great. My significant other has not been supportive and keeps asking when I’ll be done with all this. Totally supportive of the gym but not how I want to eat. Do you have an episode on dealing with a non supportive “other half”??
Amber Brueseke says
So glad you loved the episode! And after 7 months of hard work, this is a great time to reverse and get back up to maintenance. As for the concerns you have with your significant other, episode 160 speaks to this.
Paula Meinzer says
When you go to maintenance, do you continue with the same macro percentages?
Amber Brueseke says
I dont coach with percentanges. When you go into maintenance you will mostly be adding in your extra macros as carbs and fats. You want to be around .8 to 1 gram per pound for protein, so you only need to add protein to your maintenance calories if you fall significantly below those recommended guides.