Why Should You Get Lean Before Starting a Cycle?


You hear it over and over again in the cycle logs ”you should lower your body fat before starting this cycle.” Usually the reasoning behind this is because it will help to minimize potential sides such as gyno and high blood pressure, which is true. But let me give you another maybe even more convincing reason why you should lower your body fat as low as possible before cycling. Because you will gain more muscle. That is why we are putting these compounds into our body in the first place isn’t it? So why would you shortchange the amount of quality muscle you could gain by starting your cycle when you are too fat. Don’t be lazy and drop that body fat before you start your cycle so you can gain more mass when you are finished with it.

I am not talking broscience here. It is an actual scientific fact that has been proven that the leaner you are when you start your cycle the more muscle mass you will be able to gain. It all boils down to what is termed nutrient partitioning.

Nutrient Partitioning

Nutrient partitioning is the body’s ability to shuttle nutrients into either building lean muscle mass or storing those nutrients as fat. The beauty of this is that you can directly influence this nutrient partitioning to be geared more towards lean muscle building or fat storage based upon your current amount of body fat. This has been scientifically proven by Forbe’s Theory.

Forbe’s Theory

Forbe’s was able to prove in his research that there is a logarithmic relationship between fat gain and lean body mass gain. This showed that the extent of lean body mass gain (or loss) was dependent on the starting body fat % in humans and even in other species.

So what does this mean in layman’s terms? It means the lower your body fat is when you start your cycle, the better your muscle gains are going to be. If this isn’t reason enough to lower your body fat to an acceptable level before you cycle, then I don’t know what else I can do to convince you.

Acceptable Body Fat % Before Starting Cycle

I know you are dying to know what an acceptable body fat % is. Obviously the lower the better but the anecdotal evidence seems to indicate that anything in the range of 10-15% is an acceptable level for partitioning nutrients into muscle growth preferentially over fat storage. Above 15% the opposite holds true, there will be more fat gain versus muscle growth.

Ponder this for a second. Have you ever noticed how bodybuilders and physique competitors just seem to get leaner and more muscular each year while your average gym rat pretty much seems to stay the same for the most part? Here is the reason. Every time these guys get stage ready their body fat is uber-low so that now their body is super-efficient at nutrient partitioning. Their bodies are now much more effective in using the food they eat to be directed towards muscle growth instead of being stored as fat.

Negative Partitioning Agents

Let me throw something else at you here, and that is negative partitioning agents. So let’s say your body is primed and ready to go for optimum nutrient partitioning because you have finally lowered your BF% to an acceptable level. Don’t short circuit the process by consuming negative partitioning agents. What these negative partitioning agents are is junk food. The quality of the food you eat also affects nutrient partitioning. When you are eating good clean foods like chicken, tuna, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, etc. your body is able to use these nutrients for lean mass growth. When you fill up on junk food that is processed and refined you are going to disrupt the normal metabolic processes of your body and your body will be conditioned to store more fat than creating muscle. So all food is not created equal. Eating 1000 calories of Twinkies, donuts and pizza is not the same as eating 1000 calories of chicken, tuna and oatmeal. The negative partitioning agents (junk food) will signal your body to store those nutrients into fat cells whereas the latter foods will have your body shuttling those nutrients into lean body mass.

Compounds that Improve Nutrient Partitioning

We talked about negative partitioning agents, so how about some compounds that can improve nutrient partitioning. These compounds will help increase the percentage of the nutrients and calories that go into muscle building instead of fat storage. Obviously one of the ways that AAS impart their effects is through improved nutrient partitioning but here is a list of other compounds that have been reported to improve nutrient partitioning as well (just don’t expect them to be on the same level as AAS):

  • Fish oil – be sure to be taking your Omegas
  • Ephedrine
  • BCAA’s (L-leucine in particular)
  • DHEA
  • Lecithin
  • Tyramine
  • Creatine
  • ALCAR (acetyl-l-carnitine)
  • Green tea extract
  • CLA (Conjugated linolaic acid)

Proof in a Study

The lower your body fat percentage, the more effective your testosterone-ester injections will be. Endocrinologists in Muenster, Germany, discovered this when doing research on hormone preparations for male contraceptives. Their article has been published in the Journal of Andrology.

The aim of male contraception is to get the testes to stop producing sperm. The classic way of achieving this is to halt the production of the hormones LH and FSH by the pituitary gland – and you do that by administering sex hormones. FSH and LH stimulate the testes to produce sperm and testosterone. If you add exogenous androgens, the brain thinks that there are already so many hormones circulating in the body that the testes don’t need to do anything, and then stops the production of the stimulating hormones – and thus the production of sperm.

So far, most attention has been focused on slow-release testosterone-esters, and the German research is no exception. The researchers gave forty male test subjects slow-release testosterone undecanoate.

The researchers gave the test subjects a thousand milligrams of testosterone-ester in two doses, six weeks apart. The more body fat the men had, the lower the increase in concentration of testosterone in the blood from the injections. In the figure below the grey curve represents the testosterone level of men with less than ten kilograms of body fat. The black curve represents men with more than eighteen kilograms of fat.


The units not shown on the horizontal axis represent time spans of two weeks.

It would seem that body fat inhibits the rise in the blood testosterone level after injections are given. You might argue that fat men tend to be heavier than thin men, but according to the researchers, body weight plays only a minor role in the inhibitory effect of the fat reserves. You see the effect more clearly if you look at the free testosterone levels.


That fat men react less well to testosterone can also be seen from the effect of the injections on the LH levels. These decreased by less in the fatter men.


The researchers do not know how body fat makes testosterone less effective. A popular theory is that fat cells are capable of converting testosterone into estradiol. The Germans found no confirmation of this, however, as the fat men had similar estradiol levels in their blood to those of the slim men.

If fat men are to use testosterone-esters as a form of contraception, they will need higher doses, the researchers speculate. The testosterone injections may also take longer to become effective in fatter males. And the same will apply to chemical athletes.

Final Thoughts

Your starting body fat % is going to have a profound effect on the overall quality mass that you will be able to gain on your cycle. Having excess body fat will decrease your overall muscle gains. This is scientific fact and not broscience. If you truly are serious about running a cycle, you now have proof on why you need to be under 15% BF before you start and to truly maximize gains you should be even lower.

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  • Body fat and fat-free mass inter-relationships: Forbes’s theory revisited. Br J Nutr. 2007 Jun;97(6):1059-63. Epub 2007 Mar 19
  • Body fat content influences the body composition response to nutrition and exercise. Forbes GB. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2000 May; 904:359-65.
  • Body composition: what’s new? Kyle UG, Genton L, Pichard C. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2002 Jul; 5(4):427-33.
  • J Androl. 2009 Apr 2.

2 Responses

  1. Jack

    Does this apply mainly bulking cycles or to cutting ones as well? Would it be wise to “pre-cut” to a certain BF % before starting your cutting stack to get the most out of it? What % would this be, still around 15 or higher?


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