9/10 prospective clients come to us at Clar-e-ty seeking weight loss.
Which is a totally valid and viable goal, but sometimes these new clients have these plans to enter into a cut phase almost immediately and make this apparent in the onboarding process to their coach.
Before we continue this narrative, let’s define what a cut actually is.
A cut is going to be an intentional “cut” in one's caloric intake anywhere from 10% (slower, but more sustainable) to 25% (more aggressive) of total current maintenance calories.
The length of a client's cut phase will be determined by MANY factors such as progress during the cut, the client’s adherence, biofeedback, and how aggressive the cut is, but can last anywhere from 6 (mini-cut)-24 weeks.
Once your metabolism adapts to the deficit we’ve created, it becomes harder and harder to continue losing weight (aka the reason why the last few pounds are so hard to lose).
This is why working one-on-one with a professional Clar-e-ty Coach is SO valuable because you and your coach can work together to implement diet breaks, refeeds, cut calories more, or simply end the cut because your body is saying it’s time to.
Before we can even think about starting a cut, some guidelines need to be in place!
For instance, in the Clar-e-ty client intake form, we can look at that client’s dieting history, their energy and activity levels, if they have they have a menstrual cycle or not, as well as look at their current caloric intake over the course of 3-7 days.
In having all of this information, we can tell right off the bat if a client is ready to enter into a cut phase, if they need to spend time at maintenance, or if they’re in need of a reverse diet.
No matter what the client’s intended plans are, or what their goals are, if they’re not physically and mentally ready for a cut, we are not willing to do whatever it takes and starve them to get them immediate results at Clar-e-ty.
Although we care about getting clients their desired results, we will NOT place more value on getting them results versus their long-term health at Clar-e-ty (note: most of the time clients will still get results in a reverse diet, or at maintenance; check out Winnie’s 10 week transformation blog for proof).
So what are the prerequisites we look for at Clar-e-ty before starting clients on a cut phase? How do you know if you’re ready for a cut?
Today’s blog is going to give you these answers!
With that being said, there are five main factors we look at in determining whether or not a client is ready to tackle a cut.
Which leads me to the first main factor we take into consideration before starting a client on a cut…
Number 1: Current Intake
If a client comes to us already under-eating, there’s no point in putting them into an active fat loss phase by cutting their calories even more.
For instance, if a client comes to us with an average intake of 1000-1300 calories and we’ve projected their maintenance to be 2100 calories, yes we COULD cut them down to 800-900 calories and they might see the scale drop a few lbs.
BUT are we going to do that to clients?
Clar-e-ty coaches will never put someone below their BMR (basal metabolic rate) calories because that’s the bare minimum of calories your body needs to survive and function!!!
So even if this client is seeking fat loss, we will more than likely start this client out in a reverse diet by slowly bringing their calories up by 50-100 calories each week to get them to as close to their current maintenance as possible.
How long the reverse dieting process takes varies from person to person but note, it is the most important prerequisite for anyone who is coming to us already under-eating before we can actively target fat loss via a cut.
I like to tell clients it’s them putting in the work on the front end to invest in a cut down the line which will, in turn, give them better and more sustainable results long-term.
Which we’re ALL about here at Clar-e-ty.
So what happens when a client has successfully reverse dieted? Are they ready to enter into the cut phase they’ve been asking for?
Let’s find out with pre-req número dos…
Number 2: Biofeedback
Before starting a cut, your Clar-e-ty coach is going to make sure your biofeedback is in check.
The acronym I like to use for the most important biofeedback markers to check before starting a cut is SCHEM, or sleep, cravings, hunger, energy, and mood/stress.
So, is the client sleeping 8-9 hours every night, and do they have habits in place to set up an optimal sleep environment. Sleep is SUPER important during a caloric deficit for regulating hunger, cravings, and cortisol (which is already high during a deficit)!
Next, how does the client handle their hunger and cravings?
When the client experiences hunger or is craving cookies, are they able to have a cookie and move on, or do they lose control and have 6 cookies?
Or do they cut the cookies/sweets, or whatever they crave out of their diet because they think they will lose control?
The client must have the habits and practices in place to be able to not only handle their hunger and cravings but also feel empowered to say no to the extra cookie and feel like they’re in control at all times.
When you’re in a calorie deficit, it’s natural to be hungry (in fact, you will be hungry at some point because your body is fighting to stay in hemostasis) and experience cravings, so the client needs to demonstrate they can handle their hunger and cravings at a higher caloric intake before we consider cutting calories.
Next, how are the client’s energy levels?
If the client is already experiencing late afternoon energy crashes, feels tired all the time, and has no energy in general, cutting calories will only tank their energy levels even more.
Our bodies are smart. When we start taking in less energy than we’re expending (cut calories), our bodies will find ways to move less. We fidget less, we get up to walk less, and we just have less energy to move!
If energy levels are very low after a reverse diet, there could be other underlying issues going on like, hypothyroidism which should be addressed by a doctor, so it’s important to stay on top of the client’s energy levels inside and outside the gym as well as their recovery from their workouts.
And lastly, how is the client’s mood? What are the client’s stress levels?
If the client is moving across the country, dealing with relationship issues, had a death in the family recently, or is working on a big work project, fat loss might not be as much of a priority as it needs to be at that given time and that’s OKAY.
Dieting and cuts only put more stress on the human body, so if there are already multiple stressors in that person’s life, it will be better for that client long-term to chill at maintenance until the stressor subsidies in order for the client to be more successful during a cut down the road.
So if the client has been comfortable living at maintenance or successfully reverse dieted and their biofeedback is in the green, what’s next?
Number 3: Current Protein and Fiber Intake
First, let’s talk about protein intake.
If the client is not able to consistently hit their body weight in grams of protein daily, a cut is going to be more challenging.
A higher protein diet during a cut is going to lead to more success during a cut for numerous reasons.
For one, eating enough protein during a cut is going to help preserve lean muscle mass since your body is in a catabolic state.
Also, protein has the highest thermic effect of food, meaning it requires more energy to digest than carbohydrates and fat. Moreover, eating more protein is going to increase your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) and your resting metabolic rate.
Protein is also the most satiating macronutrient which is going to help with hunger and cravings during a cut phase.
Second, the client's current fiber intake.
If the client isn’t getting in at least 20-30g of fiber per day, a calorie deficit is going to be more difficult for them to handle.
Fibrous fruits and veggies are going to, again, be more satiating during a cut and going to provide the client with the opportunity to add volume to their intake without adding a ton of calories making their cut calories much easier to adhere to.
Alright, so if the client’s current intake, biofeedback, and protein and fiber intake are in check, what’s the fourth factor to look at before entering into a cut phase?
Number 4: Movement
Movement is SO important outside of a cut but especially important during a cut in order to help create a deficit without slashing calories super low.
So, it’s important to ensure the client is moving their body frequently.
Are they in the gym 3-5x/week, are they walking 8-10k steps/day, or what are they doing to move their body daily?
Again, the less energy we take in, the less energy we have to move, but making movement a priority in a cut is crucial to keep yourself in a deficit!
The idea is to cut the client on the MOST amount of calories possible while still seeing gradual and sustainable results, and the more you move, the more calories you expend.
If the client is sedentary for the majority of the day, it will be much harder to create a deficit without cutting the client's calories to an amount they’re able to adhere to.
And last, but certainly not least…
Number 5: Lifestyle/Mindset
Is the client mentally prepared for a cut?
Does the client have a support system in place that will allow them to be successful during the cut? A support system can make or break someone’s progress. This is why not only having a support system that is going to push you toward your goals, but also having a person/people who are what you NEED in order to improve your chances of achieving your desired results is VITAL.
Is the client willing to give up some flexibility?
There will be days the client is used to not tracking or having “free days” (weekends) that will need to be tracked while they’re in a cut. The client needs to be willing to make that sacrifice in some cases.
Weekends matter in a cut! If the client wants to have more “loosely" tracked days and more “free days” (which we are ALL about at Clar-e-ty) then that’s totally fine, however, if that is the case, a cut might not be as much of a priority as they want it to be and will need to be a topic revisited in the future.
Where is the client in their lives? Are they TRULY ready for a cut?
Cutting calories is stressful on the body. Period. If the client isn’t mentally prepared or is unable to adhere to a higher number of calories, how are they going to adhere to a deficit?
Things get hard during a cut and the client needs to be prepared to handle hunger, cravings, and the stress that can go along with a cut. This is why the client needs to have coping mechanisms and to have mastered certain habits (sleeping 8+ hours, eating their body weight in protein, eating fruits and veggies at every meal, consistency in hitting their macro/calorie targets, pre-logging their food, etc.) so their coach knows the client has the tools needed to be more successful during their cut.
And finally, will the client be adherent when their coach tells them it’s time to exit the cut even if they haven’t seen that number they want to see on the scale pop up yet?
Our bodies are not meant to live in a deficit forever, so it’s important to know when it’s time to exit a cut and get your body adapted to eating more calories for a period of time before entering back into another cut phase.
Knowing the client will be able to trust the process and understand when it’s time to exit a cut is crucial.
So there you have it!
Those are some important prerequisites to be aware of before entering into an active cut phase.
I say all of this, not to scare, or intimidate you out of starting a cut, but just to show you how much time and dedication it takes to be successful during a cut to ensure you’re able to sustain your results long-term.
Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Be the tortoise, not the hare.
These little nuances aren’t sexy and they can be super challenging mentally and physically at times but will cultivate lifelong results and development.
Need some guidance in knowing if you’re ready for a cut? Or know you’ve been dieting too long and it's time to up your intake but don't know how?
Apply to work with a Clar-e-ty Coach here and let us help you instill the lifelong habits that will generate your success, no matter what your goals are <3.
Resources and Coaching:
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[Free] Nutrition Guide here.
Recipe & Macro Guide here.