100% Huel + Calorie cutting + Gym = Muscle Pain : Any Suggestions?

Hi All
I have been doing 100% Huel for 5 days now, whilst cutting calories to lose weight.
Current weight 65kg, Goal weight 55kg.
I really can’t do the obsessive calorie in and calorie out diaries - believe me I’ve tried, I just can’t do it, it does my head in!!
But, I know roughly what my calorie expenditure is on a sedentary day, an active day, and a very active day, and am basing my intake calories around that.
Although my calculations are estimates, I know I am cutting between 500-1000 calories each day.
Although my days are mostly sedentary, I cycle frequently, and also go to the gym roughly 4 times a week - doing a combo of cardio and weights.

Hunger-wise and energy-wise I am doing absolutely fine.
But, I’ve noticed, that in these last 5 days of cutting calories and consuming only Huel, my muscles really HURT. I mean more than normal after a workout. And I am taking a lot longer to recover. I’m trying to plan my calories around my workouts, and I have a 2 scoop Huel about an hour prior to my workout, and another shake, or a Huel bar immediately after, as I know protein and carbs help muscle recovery.

Is it normal for muscle pain to be more and muscle recovery to take longer when you are cutting? (I’m new to this - maybe this is normal and I just need to get on with it lol)
Or should I be supplementing more protein? (I am actually supplementing a little extra protein in the form of pea protein added to my post-workout shake).
I am taking extra vitamins, because as I am on less than 2000 calories a day, I won’t be getting everything I need from just Huel.
But is there anything else I should be supplementing with whilst gym-going and calorie cutting, and only consuming Huel?

Advice from experienced gym go-ers welcomed! Thanks

Edit: I’m doing weights to try to preserve muscle rather than build muscle, as I know its virtually impossible to gain muscle and cut fat at the same time. I’m doing pretty much the same work-outs as I’ve been doing for a year now (I’ve built plenty muscle in that year but put on 5kg so not lost any fat, so now I want to try to preserve muscle as much as possible and cut fat as much as possible to get down to a healthy weight, as currently about 10kg over what I should be for my height (5ft))


I’m not into gym or weights but I do plenty of running and play hockey.
Have always suffered with sore muscles especially after 2 games of hockey in a weekend.
To cut a long story short I have found cherry juice helps.
I have been using it for a while after exercise and have found it appears to help with doms (maybe it’s just in my mind) but I did a bit of reading as you do on the internet :wink: and if it’s good for elite athletes then I thought I’d give it a go.
Comes in liquid, capsule and powder form I think and has to be from the tart cherries (just do a quick Google)
Unsure on calorie content though but you take it in fairly small amounts so :woman_shrugging:


Montmorency cherries :cherries: are the key ingredient, they are more tart compared to other sweeter desert versions.
Most health food stores will sell a version in either liquid, capsule or dried format but I have found that the liquid Cherry Active version appears to have some effect, I’m considering adding to my post exercise Huel to make a vanilla cherry version :joy:

Like I said, it appears to work for me, have upped my exercise and have been reading a lot about sports nutrition, can’t hurt to try it unless a: you don’t like cherries or b: you have an allergy to cherries :woman_shrugging:

PS. Not normally awake at 3am but had to attend to a sick cat so suddenly appear to be wide awake :flushed:

PPS. Meant to say that I get mine from Amazon but have recently discovered the bottles a little cheaper in Costco

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This is interesting, I’ve never noticed a difference in DOMS regardless of bulking or cutting cycles.

What does your weight lifting routine look like?

How much sleep are you getting?

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Thanks @VixK I love cherries so I might try that.
It’s not an issue I normally have however - I’ve been doing physical exercise of one form or another all my life, and gym-going for the last 5 years, so I’m used to post-workout soreness, and it’s fine, it’s part of the course and it doesn’t bother me.
I guess what worries me is I’ve only ever experienced this level of pain and debilitation after serious exertion i.e like after a half marathon where pushed myself to my absolute limit and hadn’t completed a training program prior to doing it!
Seems a bit odd (and worrying) that I’m getting similar muscular pain and not being able to get downstairs, after what is a very gentle workout for me, and normally wouldn’t result in any soreness or tiredness whatsoever.

So i guess I’m wondering… is it normal to suddenly experience abnormal soreness when cutting calories?
Or is this problem specific to consuming only Huel plus working out plus having a calorie deficit i.e. Am I deficient in something that is critical for post-exercise muscle recovery?
I’m not very experienced or knowledgeable when it comes to body-building or weightlifting, and I know that the bulk/cut cycle is a fine art, skillfully done by those who know how to do it properly. I’m hoping someone on here who does weight-training whilst cutting (and Huelling) can either reassure me this is normal, or tell me where im going wrong.

Perhaps @GTIPuG or @JamesCollier can help?

But I like the cherry juice idea and will try that anyway as it sounds like it would be beneficial regardless! Thanks @VixK
Hope your cat is ok :cat:

Edit: Oh! Hi @GTIPuG ! Didn’t notice you there replying whilst I was typing all this :joy:

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Hmmm that’s interesting that there’s not usually any difference in DOMS regardless of bulk or cut. I’ve only ever done weight training whilst eating at a maintenance level or very slight calorie excess. I’ve only ever previously lost weight through a combination of cardio (running) and Yoga, whilst eating calorie deficit, and lost weight easily.

This last year however I’ve found it impossible to eat in a calorie deficit (hence turning to Huel, hoping it will help me!) and although I’ve been gym-going regularly, I’ve actually put on 5kg over the last 12months. Definitely improved my fitness and muscle in this time though.

Sleep - very variable. I’ve always been an insomniac (my whole life). I can go months of sleeping only 2/3 hrs a night, sometimes less. I also get periods of sleeping really well, like clock-work - asleep by 11 and awake naturally dot on 6am. These periods never last long unfortunately!
Currently my sleep has been excessive, as I was ill over Christmas and have been wiped out. I guess this could be the reason for the soreness but I’ve been ill with viruses numerous times before and it’s never affected my muscle recovery to this extent.

Training routine: again, variable. I’ve had no formal PT but have good knowledge of biology, physiology, and have done sports and exercise all my life so know the basics enough for the last year of weight training to have been vaguely successful (although I recognise I do need some proper guidance if I want to do this seriously).
This week though, all I’ve been doing is a cycle ride to the gym (I cycle loads, this is an easy ride for me), some rowing or cross-trainer as a warm up, then a modified (i.e. gentler version) of my upper body or lower body routine. (Modified as I’ve not been to the gym for a couple weeks so I’m taking it easy).
I’ve been in this situation before: had a break due to illness or life getting in the way, and gone back in slowly, building back up to my full routine. Although I sometimes notice my energy levels and / or stamina have been affected by the break or by illness I’ve never before experienced this level of pain post workout, when I’ve done such a gentle workout! I mean I literally feel like I worked myself to failure. And I didn’t. Not even nearly. Barely broke a sweat!!!

Any ideas greatly received

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It’s doubtful that this is directly diet related. it may be that you’re more focused on your training so you’re training harder and being more productive, hence the DOMS.

If you are having good nutrition, the very nature of progressive-resistance weight training means that you will be getting DOMS after each workout.

One rule I consider is if you’re getting a DOMS in a muscle for more than 4 days, you’ve overtrained that muscle.


Thanks for your time to reply @JamesCollier
My concern though, is I’m definitely not training harder - in fact my training sessions this last week have been really very moderate. I wouldn’t normally be sore at all after such a light training session, yet I’ve been so stiff and sore I’ve been barely able to walk for 4 days. And its not just one muscle (which would indicate I’d maybe just pulled that muscle due to bad technique) - its all my muscles. Its very odd, and only been since doing 100% Huel at a calorie deficit.

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Maybe its just after-effect of the virus I had…

At least I now know it’s not normal to experience this level of muscle soreness when cutting.
Which i guess is what I was wondering really as I’ve never done calorie deficit plus weight training.

I’ll see how things go over the next few weeks

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I’d tend to agree with James. I’ve been training for 4 years now consistently, so DOMS is very rare unless I take two weeks off for a holiday and return to my current workload.

The only thing I can note is the sleep pattern - When I’m cutting I find I have to sleep an extra hour to compensate or I feel absolutely awful when I wake up. However, even still I don’t get increased DOMS purely due to calories. I can get a good ache by going out on a night out, getting 4 hours sleep, then doing a morning training session at my usual volume. However, again, this is more than likely related to hydration levels and sleep than anything.

The only thing I’ve learnt over my four years is that consistency and accuracy absolutely matter. Estimating this and that is not good enough to achieve results, you must nail every aspect of the training triangle:

  • Rest (Sleep, rest days)
  • Progressive overload (Not just doing 20kg because it’s what you’re used to, giving 22.5kg a go)
  • Diet (Cutting or bulking, counting those calories and nailing that protein intake is essential)

One idea to stay away from though is that DOMS is a sign of a good workout. I’m sure someone will correct me to some extent, but my understanding is that DOMS is not a symptom of the micro tears which lead to hypertrophy - It’s a symptom of low level inflammation in the tissue which occurs as a result of those micro tears. Hence, there are occasions where the tears still exist but do not cause aching or soreness, whereas other times the conditions are just right for the area to become inflamed and ache.

Either way, DOMS generally tends to be safe to carry on exercising through and in some cases, I’ve found that reducing intensity but maintaining volume can reduce the DOMS after a session.

I recommend this to everyone who comes looking, but it’s a gold mine of information and can become quite addictive for tips and tricks:


Athlean X on Youtube is also a total gem.


I’d tend to agree with James. I’ve been training for 4 years now consistently, so DOMS is very rare

I have DOMS most workouts. Come and have a workout with me; I’ll make sure you have DOMS! :tired_face:


Really helpful reply - thank you @GTIPuG

Literally the only other time I have ever experienced DOMS to this extent is when I did a half marathon (for the first time ever) having done no training. Hadn’t even done any running in about 20 yrs. I was planning to walk / jog it as I took a colleague’s place last minute as it was for charity, but adrenaline took over and I ran the entire course and finished in 2hrs. Felt amazing afterwards. But then literally was unable to walk at all (I mean at all for 3 days after!!!) Lesson learned lol. My fitness level at the time was already really high, hence being able to do it, but my muscles were just not used to running, hence the DOMS.

It’s encouraging to know the DOMS this week is unlikely to be calorie related (but possibly protein related?)
Its worth mentioning that I’m only 5ft and on a sedentary day, I only burn 1200 calories (this is an accurate estimate thanks to a full year of fitbit plus manual weight and calorie tracking). On a day when I am super active ie moving around all day, plus I go to the gym, I still only burn 2000-2200 calories.
This week, I’ve been estimating my calorie expenditure on gym days to be roughly 1800 as I was completely sedentary other than my short cycle to the gym and my workout.
So I’ve been consuming only 1000 calories of Huel.
Which is not a lot.
But that’s still 70g of protein, which for someone of my size (65kg) and being female, should be sufficient, considering I’m not a body-builder, simply doing weights to try to maintain rather than build muscle.
Are my calcs about right with this?

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I also regularly get DOMS - my body and constitution seems particularly susceptible to it, even if I don’t push myself that hard (which I don’t - I’m a bit lazy). But its normally fairly mild - I don’t mind feeling a bit sore. This week though, its been debilitating!

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Anyway, I’m gonna up my protein intake a little bit.
I’ll carry on training and see how things progress over the next couple of weeks and keep up the 100% Huel on a calorie deficit (although last night I cracked and ordered pizza - totally not my fault, my water supply was off and I used it as an excuse to have a treat lol).

I’ll check out those two links you suggest GTIPug - thanks
Athlean X on Youtube

Thanks for your input everyone, I’ll let you know how things go


Hi Christina

Been reading your posts with interest but can’t offer any advice. Myself, I’m still the same, exhausted after exercise. I also get an upset stomach/excessive wind after exercise - doesn’t come on until at least an hour afterwards and I sleep it off next night but still don’t feel 100% the next morning. Had a massage yesterday and yes my muscles were very sore but DOMS is supposed to be soreness starting in the next 24 to 48 hours and decrease as one becomes accustomed to exercise. But my soreness comes on the same day…

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Hi again Hayley :slight_smile: sorry to hear that…
There’s definitely a difference between what I’ve been experiencing this last week and ‘normal’ DOMS which I am used to. I think for me the ‘culprit’ has been a virus I had over Christmas plus some medication that I take sometimes that impedes muscle recovery, plus dehydration, plus insomnia!!!
I definitely haven’t been able to train as hard as usual this last couple of weeks - in fact I’ve been taking it pretty easy, but have been in agony post-exercise.
I’m fairly sure in my case I will get back to normal in a week or two.
I know you’ve been struggling with this for a very long time and not found any solutions :(:confused:

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