Maintaining Muscle While Cutting

I have been following John Berardi’s Get Shredded diet to the “T” for the last 10 weeks. Body weight x 10 for calories adjusted weekly, no starchy carbs, BCAA and creatine supps, all Greens + drinks, all Flameout doses, everything to the letter. I do a 7 site pinch test every 2 weeks and everything was going great until recently. So far, I have consistently lost 2-2.5 lb and 1% bf per week which has hauled me down from 21% bf to 10.7% as of yesterday. Textbook results. Here’s the weird issue I just had. Previously, my weight loss has been almost purely fat. If I lost 4.5 pounds in 2 weeks then my lean mass losses were calculated around .2 pounds or less, consistently. During the last two weeks (weeks 8-10), I added the HOT-ROX to my program and lost my normal 4.5 pounds in that two week period however when I did my pinch test it showed 3.8 lb lean mass lost!! That’s not good!!

A word about my training: I train at 5am in a fasted state after drinking 1 BCAA/creatine drink preworkout and one during the workout. I basically do the intermediate Velocity diet weight program 3 days a week and an Insanity workout the other three days. After each training session (6 days a week) I do my NEPA walk on a treadmill for 30-45 minutes at 4 mph and 6-8% incline for intervals.

I’m curious about this result because I am still getting stronger every week, still eating enough protein and looking better in the mirror almost daily. I’m not showing any of the signs of overtraining or overreaching. My resting heart rate is getting lower and lower. My appetite and libido are good. My sleep quality is great and my athletic performance is improving so I don’t suspect a cortisol issue that’s devouring my muscle tissue. With that said, to kick off the troubleshooting here are some of the things I suspect could be the culprits:

  1. Measurement error although we checked 3 times.

  2. I’m not getting enough fat and have become a protein burner. I smell like ammonia after a long treadmill walk or tough Insanity workout. I thought this was the BCAA since the smell has existed almost since day 1 of training.

  3. I suddenly lost a bunch of interstitial or visceral fat? The two week period in question saw most of my pinches go down by 1mm or so except the abdominal and suprailiac which dropped about 2mm each to 18mm and 12 mm respectively. I still think this is unlikely because it’s such a sudden change.

  4. This is the one I’m hoping is true. Maybe I lost fat from areas that don’t get pinched. Almost every pinch on my body is 6 mm except the ab and love handle. I just have that stubborned lump left on those bottom two abs. I think what happened is that I lost a bunch of fat from my butt, thighs and upper abs where it doesn’t get measured. That would skew the formula into thinking that I lost weight that wasn’t fat since my weight changed but my pinches didn’t change much.

I have 2 weeks to go to finish out the diet and I was hoping to see high single digit BF before I transition off but it looks like I’m reaching diminishing returns. Any advice for what could have gone wrong or how I can get to my goal of 8% bf in the next two weeks. Should I cycle off the HOT-ROX since that was the only thing that changed during this two week period or could it be something else that I shouldn’t worry about?


Wow. 330 views and no help. I bet if I was on here asking whether or not to spend 80 bucks on a bottle of blue pills I would be getting all kinds of positive responses.

Can anybody offer any sound advice about whether or not it seems reasonable that out of nowhere I just suddenly digested 20 times more lean muscle than in any previous measurement period?


Your getting stronger and looking better in the mirror? Maybe forget all the measuring pinching and percentages. Your performance and reflexion is a better measure than weight and pinching.

[quote]PMNewton wrote:
I have 2 weeks to go to finish out the diet and I was hoping to see high single digit BF before I transition off but it looks like I’m reaching diminishing returns[/quote]
This is likely. Especially since you started the Get Shredded diet at a much higher bodyfat than Berardi recommended, it’s awesome that you got the results you did, but it’d be safe to say you rode it out for long enough. Many people start the diet at the point you were at probably a month or so ago.

This is a giant red flag, or whatever the opposite of a red flag is, that you did not lose any muscle and that something funky is just going on with the measuring.

This is certainly something to address anyway. It’s a very low carb diet, so getting enough fat is crucial for exactly that reason. Nuts, coconut, and avocado should play a daily role in the menu.

This is the most likely scenario, and it’s one of the reasons why tracking bodyfat percentage is risky business, at best. Tracking measurements/inches, taking photos, noticing how differently clothes fit, and monitoring gym performance give a more well-rounded and more “real world” report of results.

Hot-Rox is recommended on that diet, so you should be fine keeping it in.

::Asks question, doesn’t get an answer within 36 hours, complains about not getting free advice::

Dude, you might be due for a cheat meal to perk up your patience levels. We’re glad to help, but come on.

No, it does not seem reasonable that you suddenly burned a ton of muscle without it negatively affecting your strength or appearance. Also, general congrats for crushing the diet and seeing some major results. Chopping your bodyfat in half is no small feat.

Ha! Yeah, sorry. My Refeed it this Saturday and this has been the first period where I’m not sure I’m going to make it. You’re right about my starting BFM too. I had no idea I was 21% bodyfat when I started. I did my first measurement after my second full week on GSD and I was 19.5% !! I thought I was “around” 12% when I started but it was just a (apparently very optimistic) guess. At that point, I just decided to go with it for the full 12 weeks and see what happened.

I’m an engineer and a super-dork so I like testing, measuring and most of all… data. When something anomalous happens like this it upsets me. Thanks for reassuring me about the muscle loss. I have roughly a week of HOT-ROX left and then I’ll take a week off of it.

On a related note: after all this panicking I woke up this morning looking the best I’ve looked in 15 years and then I crushed it in the gym setting 5RM PRs on bench and squat. My mid section is starting to look shrink wrapped. I’m going to finish out the full 12 weeks and then transition off before beginning the American Sniper program.

Next week I will be out of town for military training. I have decided that the Velocity diet is what will bring me through since it will be easy to make shakes without a kitchen/stove/fridge in my room.

Thanks again,

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Disclaimer: Individual results may vary.