How Do I Find Maintenance Calorie Intake After Dieting?

Andy MorganMaking Adjustments121 Comments

Finding Maintenance Calorie Intake - Top

You can eat a lot more and maintain most, if not all of your leanness, after dieting.

But people screw this up. They either diet blindly without ever thinking how they were going to maintain it, diet too hard for too long and then can’t maintain it, or they mess up a calculation trying to maintain it.

When people ask the above question then, what they really mean is, “How do I find the maximum I can eat each day after dieting while still looking shredded?”

The following is my guide to doing this using observation and incremental adjustments rather than calculations. We’ll cover: 1. when you should consider maintenance rather than attempting a slow-bulk, 2. why you can eat more after dieting, 3. the practicalities of finding maintenance, 4. what affects the maximum level of leanness you can reasonably maintain.

When Maintenance is a Better Idea than Slow-Bulking

  1. You’re happy/satisfied with your physique at the current time.
  2. You’re a model/actor/physique or weight-class competitor that has a job/competition coming up and have a need to stay exceptionally lean.
  3. You’re coming up to a stressful period in life or work. – Stress will undercut your efforts, mainly through hampering recovery from workouts.
  4. You want to take a break for a while.

Why We Can Eat More but Keep Our Shreds after Dieting

There are three principle reasons for this:

1. We gain back the calorie deficit.

To lose fat you needed to be in a deficit. As you no longer need that deficit, you can add those calories back in.

2. Our metabolisms speed back up to normal levels.

Maintenance calorie intake after you have just dieted is going to be lower than your maintenance calorie intake under non-deficit caloric conditions. This is because your body made hormonal changes while you were dieting to reduce the energy that you’d require to function – a survival mechanism known as metabolic adaptation. This is normal, not something to worry about, but best to be aware of. As you increase your calorie intake after dieting you get this back.

3. Non-exercise activity increases.

With more energy coming in, you’ll feel more energetic, and your propensity to do activity increases back to normal levels.

Think about when you last dieted. You felt lethargic and you were more likely to take the elevator rather than the stairs; to decline a game of pickup basketball with your friends rather than accept, right? This change is known as NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) and it includes any activity outside of exercise, including subconscious movement (postural support and control).

The same happens but in the opposite direction when we bulk. Fidgeting and activity increase, so our calorie needs increase. This is the body fighting to maintain the status quo and keep you from getting fat. This NEAT effect works like a pendulum with gravity always tugging to try and get us back into the center. Meaning, if we diet and lose weight, or eat more food and gain weight, our body typically will adapt to some degree to maintain our “normal weight”.

The effect is stronger for some people than others, and this inter-individual NEAT difference is the biggest spanner in the works when it comes to dietary calculations. You won’t know how much your NEAT variance will be, you have to try it, track your progress and then adjust as necessary.

Finally, for completeness, I’ll mention the slight increase in metabolic rate due to the increased food intake and costs of digestion (TEF).

Finding Maintenance Calorie Intake - DiagramDCM – diet condition maintenance, NCM – normal condition maintenance.

In both diet condition maintenance and normal condition maintenance you will maintain your weight, but how you perform, feel and function will be vastly different between the two. We want to find the latter, it’ll feel like you just got worked over by those Mercedes AMG engineers – bigger engine, wider stickier tires, naughty exhaust note, and a bi-turbo.


Finding Maintenance Post Diet

This method for finding maintenance calorie intake hinges on proper tracking. Make sure you are doing it properly. My detailed guide on how I get clients to track is here.

Here’s how I help clients find their maintenance calorie intake after dieting:

  1. Make a calculation to add back in the calorie deficit based on your average weekly weight loss.
  2. Track weight change for 3 weeks.
  3. Increase calorie intake again to take into account the incalculable factors (NEAT, TEF and the metabolism bump from the hormonal return to norm).
  4. Continue and then dial back when fat gain occurs.

Step 1: Add back in the calorie deficit based on average weekly weight loss.

Finding Maintenance Calorie Intake - Step 1It takes an approximate 500 calorie deficit per day to lose 1 lb of fat. (1100 kcal for 1 kg.)

So, if for example, you’ve been losing on average 1 lb per week, you need to add back in 500 calories daily to make up for that deficit first.

Daily calorie increase = “weekly weight loss in lbs” * 500 kcal

The next thing you need to do is decide how to make this calorie increase, from what macronutrients.

As protein needs are a little lower when at caloric maintenance (or surplus), you could reduce your protein intake, but for ease I just suggest you keep protein intake the same. Make the calorie increase by increasing fat and carb intake and do this based on your personal preference, but don’t skew it heavily in one direction or the other.

Example: You’ve been losing 1 lb on average per week so you need to make a 500 kcal daily calorie increase. Here are two options:

+100 g carbs, + 10 g fats (490 kcal) +80 g carbs, +20 g fats (500 kcal)

This is how I often make increases for clients. The first one for the training days (higher carbs, less fats) the latter for rest days (lower carbs, more fats). To be clear, this isn’t how you have to do it, and the pros and cons of macro cycling like this are discussed in The Complete Guide To Setting Up Your Diet.

Step 2: Track your weight for three weeks

Finding Maintenance Calorie Intake - Step 2This first adjustment will likely be below maintenance calorie intake, but you won’t be able to tell how far below maintenance you are unless you wait and see how your weight changes over the next few weeks after the change. You’ll gain weight in the first week due to the water/glycogen gains from an increase in carb intake, and then you’ll see a slight reduction in weight in weeks two and three.

Example: Let’s say that “week 0” is the end of your diet and you make the increase in step 1 at the start of week 0. Here’s how your data may look for the next three weeks:

Week 0, 175 lbs Week 1, 180 lbs Week 2, 179.6 lbs Week 3, 179.9 lbs

Step 3: Increase calorie intake again

Finding Maintenance Calorie Intake - Step 3You can see that your weight increased from 175 lbs to 180lbs in the first week, and then drops by 0.4 lbs in week two and 0.6 lbs in week three. Ignoring the first week of data, you can see that you are still dropping approximately 0.5 lbs per week on average. Therefore you need to increase calorie intake by 250 kcal per day still. Here are two examples of macro changes to do that:

+50 g carbs, + 5 g fats (245 kcal) +40 g carbs, +10 g fats (250 kcal)

Step 4: Continue steps 2 and 3 and then dial back when weight gain starts to occur

Finding Maintenance Calorie Intake - Step 4You’ll still be slightly under maintenance calorie intake at this point, because there will still be minor TEF, NEAT and hormonal changes yet to happen, but all you have to do to find maintenance caloric intake is repeat steps 2 and 3 until you start to gain weight, then dial back your calorie intake slightly.

Now, as this is a little long-winded, a shortcut I often use is to add 20% more calories to the increase to step three, as this is a better approximation of maintenance and will get you there quicker and continual readjustments. So, in the example in step 3 I would have increased calorie intake by 300 kcal, not 250 kcal.

Done. A little effort post dieting and you can be eating a lot more while maintaining your leanness and looking fuller as well. There is a little guesswork involved in this method and is more involved than a calculation, but it works better.

Here’s an example of the impact on your physique that the increase in glycogen storage and water will bring. We saw this with Adrian (in this post). Summary points below.

Adrian's Bulk Progress - Rippedbody.com

Adrian, ~9lbs heavier post diet, after a 12-week slow-bulk. Looking at the obliques and abs, lifting progress, rates of theoretical muscle gain potential given his training experience, and the fact that there is little fat gain, I estimate that ~50-60% of this weight increase is muscle. The rest will be from glycogen/water increases. When water balance increases, most happens in the muscle/body but some under the skin. In Adrian’s case, the slight smoothing effect of the abs is due to either this, a little fat gain, or a combination of both. You can expect this slight smoothing effect when you come back up to maintenance. Thus, if your goal is to maintain your level of shreds, I’d suggest you get slightly leaner than your target first even if that is a little smaller in size than you’d like ideally.


Long-Term Maintenance Without Counting

Finding Maintenance Calorie Intake - Long-term maintenanceIf you wish to take a complete break from counting for a while, most people will be able to – the discipline from counting before seems to have a positive carry effect on any non-counting maintenance period, and the gym is simply an ingrained habit anyway. Just adjust on the fly by eating a little less or more, by feeling, based on scale weight changes each week.

For anyone that has had a history of struggles with weight gain, regain or obesity, I’d suggest a good 3-6 month period of watching your intake post diet while you ease yourself into this though while your body adjusts to your new settling point (optional theory here).

What is the maximum level of leanness that I can reasonably expect to maintain?

There is a genetic, environment and willpower component to this.

Nobody is able to walk around at a stage shredded body fat levels (4-6%) all the time. Fearing survival (impending war or famine) the body fights this by ramping up hunger. Though it will vary from individual to individual, I would say somewhere between 7-12% is maintainable for the average individual. (For reference here, I’d consider Adrian to be around 9% in that picture on the left, Scott to be around 8%. This is probably stricter criteria than you’re used to but it doesn’t matter as long as the point is made.)

Yes, there are exceptions to this rule – excellent genetics, sport, or otherwise (drugs), but I’m talking bout the regular folk with regular lives.

Of the factors that we can control, what does ‘maintainable leanness’ depend on?

In a sentence – the balance of happiness between the satisfaction you derive from your low body-fat percentage, with the drawback of having to control your urges in restaurants, bars, and social occasions.

You may think that being lean is going to make you happy. It might. But it’s more likely just going to be a sense of satisfaction of having scratched that itch of being shredded lean rather than happiness that you feel.

Many people tie up their self-esteem in their physical appearance. If this is you, I understand, I have been there. At some point, probably through circumstance rather than design, you’ll realize that whether you walk around at 7% or 9%, 8% or 12%, there isn’t a damn bit of difference in how people treat you, and you will uncouple this association. You’ll be a bit looser in accepting restaurant invites, you’ll drink a few extra beers without worrying, and the enjoyment you’ll derive from that will outweigh any sense of unhappiness about that 2-4% extra body fat percentage you carry. – Which is only fat by our own, somewhat warped standards anyway.

Furthermore, by having gotten shredded lean the once and without suffering, you know you can do it again at any time. That’s a very powerful thing.


Concluding Comments

After dieting, you can find maintenance calorie intake by following the simple steps shown above. This will bring you very close to maintenance within a 3 week period and you’ll be able to minimize fat gain. You can fine tune from there making small adjustments upwards or downwards to maintain your weight.

If you decide to take an extended break from stricter diet control, you’ll learn to be able to do this by feeling after some time and won’t need to count. You’ll find your own natural comfortable level of maintenance range, which in the summer is likely to be leaner, but the two won’t be that far apart. Moreover, a little fat gain won’t bother you nearly as much cause you’ll know how to get there quickly again.


FAQ

Won’t such a quick return to maintenance cause unnecessary fat gain?

It doesn’t seem so, no. I used to suggest to people roughly double that time to come round to maintenance, believing they would remain leaner, however after guiding a lot of clients like this now it doesn’t seem to make any difference. On the contrary, it seems to work better this way as the quicker turn around is easier to adhere to.

How do I make calorie/macro changes to move into a bulk after maintenance?

You’ll do this based on your weight gain target, which will be based on your muscle gain expectation, which will depend on a few things such as height, training experience and thus realistic growth potential. This is all covered in my guide, How to Adjust Your Diet to Successfully Bulk.

Where can I learn more about adjustments for cutting, maintenance and bulking?

The adjustments tab in the menu will give you access to all the separate articles on the site. However, I’ve brought all the principles together in a free email course (The Diet Adjustments Mastery Course) which is shortened version of my full book on the subject called The Last Shred. Take your pick.

*******

Thanks for reading.

Questions welcomed in the comments as always. – Andy. 

Images by the awesome Nat Al-Tahhan, of Natalt design.

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About the Author

Andy Morgan

I'm an online nutritional and training coach living in Tokyo, Japan. After seeing one too many people get ripped off by supplement and training industry lies I decided to try and do something about it. The site you see here is the result of a lot of Starbucks-fuelled, two-fingered typing. It's had a lot of love poured into it, and I hope you find the guides to the diet and training methods I use on this site useful. When I'm not helping clients you'll likely find me crashing down a mountain on a snowboard, racing around Suzuka circuit, or staring at watches I can't afford. (Read more about me →)

121 Comments on “How Do I Find Maintenance Calorie Intake After Dieting?”

  1. Hi Andy,
    Just a quick one. During my cutting period I have calculated my macros with a rate of 0.7kg/wk fat loss. but I wasn’t losing 0.7kg/wk every week some times it was less. So to make things simpler (at least in the beginning of my maintenance period) and if I understood correctly how to use your formula my daily calorie increase will be to transform 0.7kg to lbs which is 1.54lbs and multiply it by 500 ? So I get 500*1.54=770cals/day ? It looks a lot of calories to increase initially that’s why I’m asking you.

  2. Hi Andy, I’ll try to keep this concise.

    [You didn’t, so I cut it to the point. Comments need to be concise so others can read through. – Andy]

    My main question is, how do I practically bring my diet up from 1,700 cal to 2,000 without revamping the whole thing. I’ve got a good meal process down and am already eating a cup of rice with everything. Do I just add a couple cups of yogurt for a snack and call it a 200 cal increase?

    Thanks Andy!

    1. You can make that increase however you wish Dann. Food choices are up to you. If yoghurt is what you want to eat, and it fits that increase in calorie budget, do it. 🙂

  3. Hi Andy,
    If I want to go into a bulk after dieting, do I add the target calorie surplus right after the diet?
    Thanks,
    Felix

  4. HI Andy! I am just struggleing finding my sweet spot, cuz i don’t know what should be my tdee. I don’t know if i am moderately or very active, i do resistance training 3 times a week, plus i do cardio 2 times. I do rollerblanding as a cardio activity, 1.5 hours/cardio day, what is equals to 3 hours cardio/week, plus i spend like 1.5-2 hours at the gym each time, when i go to lift weights. So i am doing 7-8 hours excercise a week, in 5 days. Is this very active, or moderately active? And also, i am a student, so most day i am sitting in lessons etc.

    1. Tóth, thanks for the question. Don’t worry about calculating accurately, just make a guess and stick with it, track it, then fine tune it.

      See the FAQ Do these macros I calculated look right?

  5. Hi andy!
    I am on a diet which is coming to an end after 2 weeks and then i will start my maintenance diet…i have a flat stomach but i dont have abs…can i get abs while getting maintenance diet?

  6. Hi Andy, first allow me to thank you for all the fantastic information on this site. It encouraged me to set up my diet properly, incorporate and IF approach, and get my training efficiency back on point.

    My question concerns sudden drops in body weight at the start of a cutting regime based on these methods.

    I had been on a “dream bulk” for a long time, eating way over maintenance every day for over 18 months before I discovered the lean gains approach and decided it was high time that I reevaluated my approach.

    I started at 176cm tall and 80kg. I worked out my calorie and macro requirements to cut half a kilo a week based on the great resources you have provided on here, and have stuck to the regime rigidly for the last two weeks.

    My body weight has already dropped 3.5 kilos, to 76.5. As a former dream bulker this is terrifying psychologically, but before I do something stupid I wanted to ask – is it possible that such a sudden reduction in weight could be almost entirely attributable to the water rention “wooshes” you talk about? (I was eating obscene amounts of carbs before I started).

    Thank you in advance!

  7. So should I expect an increase in the scale after adding back in the calories? If so, should I only make adjustments after the two week mark?

    1. Hi Kulin, thanks for the question.
      Yes. You’ll want to ignore the initial rise in scale weight during that week when looking to assess, so I’d wait till you have two weeks of data after that.

  8. I train 4 days/week and do light accessory work (belt walk, earthquake bar, arms, abs) followed by HIIT and a small amount of SS cardio on my non-lifting days. I am currently bulking. Do you still suggest increasing fats and decreasing carbs on these days?

  9. Hi Andy,

    How would you recommend tapering off cardio after finishing an extended fat loss phase and transitioning in to a reverse diet to to bring calories back up to maintenance?

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Bryan, kind of as you said – tapering it off. Just estimate the calorie expenditure you’ll no longer be doing, factor that in. So, if you need to bump up calories by an average of 3500 per week, and you drop out 1000 kcal of cardio per week, then you only need to adjust your diet by 2500 kcal.

  10. Would you explain please how to establish maintenance calories coming from a bulk and wanting to go to a cut? also, Macro adjustment for that?
    Everyone seems to talk about going to a bulk from a cut but the opposite way?

  11. Hi Andy, do you think it would be ok to just jump straight into a surplus? I.e instead of adding in 250-500 cals, you add 700 cals? This should put you in around a 200-300 surplus to start putting on muscle. If the scale starts moving up too quickly after 2 weeks, you could just dial back? What do you think of this approach?

    1. Sure. It’s entirely up to you. The way suggested is just a more prudent approach – it will take a couple of weeks longer but minimizes risk of fat regain. The net result will often be the same.

  12. Yep, this is much clearer, thanks for the reply. I have a final question. If you are eating above DCM to achieve NCM, shouldn’t that mean you are in a surplus for a while as your body adjusts its maintenance? Wouldn’t that result in fat gain?

  13. By that logic, wouldn’t it mean that in a severe dieting situation, your metabolism would have tanked and as a result, a big increase in cals would be more likely to put you above your maintenance? I recall in a series Alberto Nunez did on mini cuts that he said, if you mini cut for only 4 weeks (as opposed to longer), you can go straight back up to what you were taking before the mini cut. Whereas, if you made your mini cut longer, more metabolic adaptation would have taken place, thus you would need to slowly introduce in cals.

    1. Possibly above DCM, to bring yourself up to NCM.

      I need to update this article, as I have it explained far more clearly in my book (The Diet Coaching and Adjustments Manual). Here’s an abbreviated version:
      1. Take the average rate you have been losing weight at each week in pounds. Multiply that by 3500. Divide by 7. Add that into your diet each day. This will bring you up to DCM.
      2. Wait two weeks.
      3. Do the same as in step one (if weight still falling over the two weeks), add in 250-500kcal above that in an effort to bring yourself up to NCM.
      4. Keep pushing up the calorie balance in increments (~200kCal) every 2 weeks until fat gain occurs, then dial back slightly. – This is your maintenance calorie intake.
      If you want to be even more conservative about this, go with the lower end of 250-500 range above in step 3. This is a slow enough introduction of calorie intake in my experience.

      Let me know if this is clearer Josh, and thank you, this served as a reminder I still have work to do in updating the articles on the site.

  14. Hey Andy, you mentioned in your article the following:

    “Whether you are towards the lower or higher end of that 250-500kCal range* depends on your size, severity of the deficit, length of the diet, and assumes of course that activity hasn’t changed.”

    Are you saying that the more severe your deficit, the more cardio you were doing and the shorter your diet was, the slower you should re-introduce calories?

    Thanks.

    1. Hi Josh, thanks for the question. The opposite. Here’s a better way of putting it: The more severe the caloric deficit you had and the longer you were dieting, the greater the metabolic adaptation there is likely to be. Thus the higher end of that range is likely to be the more appropriate calorie bump to get you back to regular metabolic calorie maintenance.

  15. Andy,
    simple question ….for people who use a “free meal” as a refeed during there diet period once a week, can you keep that once a week “free meal” during the “road to maintenance” period or do you have to get rid of them for a while and then re introduce them?

    BTW- I use the phrase “free meal” instead of “cheat meal” because I feel the word “cheat” sends a negative message to your brain about how certain foods are “bad” when in reality when done in moderation those foods are not bad…..also for your info my free meals have always been beneficial to my weekly body composition results during this diet period…my body (and mind lol) greatly appreciate them but if instructed to I can do without them for a week ….even though I don’t want to haha

  16. Hi Andy,

    I am just finishing my diet at 2100 daily cals and 500 cals worth of cardio every day.
    I am an enhanced competitor and am using 50mcg T3 per day right now. How would you suggest I monitor my weight increases when following this protocol? Do you suggest that we do this by the mirror or also weight? I am planning to keep cardio at 500 cals daily and bump up daily caloric intake to 2500, but I will also be dropping T3. Any ideas? Thankyou so much for the article it is really helping me to understand this better.

    1. Hi Joe, you can see how I get clients to track things here:
      How To Track Your Progress When Dieting
      Any decrease in T3 will mean a decrease your metabolism (and thus daily energy requirements). So you will need to decrease energy intake accordingly. There is no way to calculate that, the only way is to track what happens and adjust from there.

  17. Hi Andy,
    I have been on a Calorie deficit for 3 months now, eating about 2100 calories a day now at 5’8 155lbs (started at 177lbs). I want to now go on a clean bulk and add 15lbs of lean muscle in the next 7-8 months. Is your suggestion for me to add 250-500 calories per day (mostly carbs) for the next 2-4 weeks and then even more calories after? Just wondering whats the best possible way to regain muscle weight without getting back the fat.

    Thanks,
    Pavan

  18. Hi Andy,

    Some coaches like Layne Norton suggest increasing carbs by only 10g a week which is only 40 calories whereas you suggest a 250kcal bump up immediately. Assuming I have been dieting around 1300kcal average, raising it up by 250 to 1550-ish then taking it from there every 2 weeks seems about right? How do we tell if the weight gain or changes in the mirror is water weight or fat gain?

    Thanks,
    Appreciate it

    1. Hi Sean. I’m aware of Layne’s recommendations and I tried them myself with clients for a period of 6 months a few years back. In this rare instance I think he’s missed the mark completely.

      The diet needs to be a controlled return to maintenance, yes, but I haven’t observed any benefit to taking it super slowly like this. On the contrary, I think it’s actually a very bad idea as it unnecessarily prolongs the period people are in a calorie deficit (with all those associated negative effects) which threatens adherence to the diet.

      I’ve also asked Alan Aragon and Brad Schoenfeld about it. It just doesn’t make sense to me (or them) at all.

  19. Hi Andy. if you have been tracking fat loss all along slowly reducing calories (necessary as a result of metabolic adaption) to maintain say a 2lb per week (1000 cal per day deficit) fat loss then by the time you get to the point you want to start maintaining surely you would just increase cals by 1000? and then your at maintenance? at least roughly anyway. i guess maintenance cals would then rise over subsequent weeks as a result of the hormonal changes etc that you mentioned. is this correct?

    1. Hi Dan, thanks for the question.

      If you’re losing 2lbs per week then you’re in an approximate 1000kCal deficit. But increasing your intake by 1000kCal won’t quite bring you to maintenance cause it doesn’t take into account the metabolic adaptations, increase in TEF and potential NEAT changes. – See the whiteboard sketch above. – These things will differ from person to person, especially NEAT, so it’s impossible to say how close simply making the 1000kCal increase will bring you to true maintenance.

      1. thanks Andy. Yes i agreen but it would bring you to post diet maintenence, from which you could incrementally add calories as required?

        cheers Andy

  20. hi andy, hope your well. just watched stephan guyenets presentation on leptin resistance. It seems anyone who is or has been obese would likely be leptin resistant to some extent. I notice there is little direct evidence in humans to suggest leptin resistance can be reversed (although there is some indirect evidence i believe), i just wondered what your outlook is on this? have you personally trained many obese clients that have managed to significantly lower bodyfat and remain there without struggling (lowered there set point)?

    cheers andy

    1. Hi Dan, thanks again for the questions.
      “…i just wondered what your outlook is on this?”
      I don’t have one. I’m not a researcher or doctor.
      “Have you personally trained many obese clients that have managed to significantly lower bodyfat and remain there without struggling (lowered there set point)?”
      Yes, absolutely. Get there in a controlled way (no rushing or crash dieting) and it’s much easier to sustain it.

      Coaching Lessons #3 – One bite at a time…

  21. hi andy. i have decided to help my younger brother with his prep for his first bodybuilding comp in november. I have learned alot from your site and have a decent idea what im doing but just wondered if you would let me know what you think on a few issues?

    my brother needs to lose about 34lbs in 16 weeks to get to 7% bf. i realise this works out a little over 2lbs fat loss per week. I am also aware that by the time i take weeks where he doesent lose fat out (trial and error to find suitable deficit level and diet breaks) it may equate to having only ten weeks actually in a deficit…so that means actually 3.4lbs to lose per week. Which seems fine initially but as fat levels drop so must the deficit if muscle is to be preserved (so i believe). So when the comp is close and his bf is low he may only be able to safely lose 1.5lbs per week, which means to reach the target weight on time the initial fat loss must be greater than 3.4lbs per week!! which means i must create a big deficit right from the start, which leaves me less room to slowly lower those calories when metabolic adaption occurs. do you see where im coming from? any suggestions andy?

    thanks kindly
    dan

    1. Hi Dan. I remember talking about this a couple of weeks back. When people take drugs it changes the rules of the game – how the hormones/metabolism adapts, and how much of a deficit can be handled before muscle loss occurs.

      1. yeah just been camping for a week :-), thanks for the reply andy. Yeah im aware its different for those who are artificially enhanced but assuming he was natural would you have a solution to the problem? or would the solution simply be….next time allow more time to cut so the deficit does not need to be so great?

        cheers

  22. Pingback: How To Adjust Your Diet To Successfully Bulk | RippedBody.jp

  23. Hey Andy,

    Quick question for you regarding maintenance. I finished a cut and took a 2 week diet break while on vacation. When I came back, I was planning on finishing up cutting, but just couldn’t seem to get behind it yet. So I figured I’d eat at maintenance for a while, recharge a bit, and then get back to it.

    I roughly figured my maintenance was around 2200-2400. So the first week I started with 2200, the second 2300, and I was planning on hitting 2400 the last two weeks. The problem was that after the first two weeks, my weight had already increase by 1.5 lbs. So I dropped down to 2100 for a few days and my weight came back down 1/2 lb or so and seems to be hanging out there (though it’s only been a few days to tell, so who knows).

    What do you think is the better plan? Staying at around 2100 for a bit until I’m ready to diet again? Or should I stick to 2250 until my weight stabilizes and then give cutting a go?

    Thanks.

    1. Hi Nathaniel, thanks for the question.
      Your weight likely increased due to the increase in carb intake, overall glycogen balance and water, that is all.
      See the second paragraph, section, “Finding Maintenance Post Diet” for more on that.

  24. “I’d suggest an immediate 250-500kcal daily increase immediately post diet. ”
    This sounds to good to be true. Some people say you should only add like 50-100 kcal. Wont i gain to much fat back if i increase it by that much?
    I would really appreciate it if your could explain this.

  25. Hi again Andy,

    Last one (I promise). Understood re forgetting overall ratios, but just in terms of getting the starting point of protein right when finding maintenance. Over the past 9 weeks I used 2.5g / kg LBM (Approx.) on the cut. I plan to shoot for 2g / kg LBM when on a slow bulk (in 4 to 6 weeks time). First though, when finding maintenance I was going to keep protein high (2.5g / kg LBM) as theoretically I’ll still be in calorie deficit for most of this period. Then once my average weight across a few weeks is consistent, I’ll move on to slow bulk and decrease the protein then (2g / kg LBM). Have I got the right idea or maybe this level of detail is not important?

    Many Thanks, Alan.

  26. Hi Andy,

    I’m a long time reader, first time commenter. Brilliant site by the way; it has helped me achieve my objective of 7% body fat (5′ 6″ / 152lb) after a 9 week cut :-). Some questions on your post:

    – I can’t find any advice in the site on macros for maintenance; do the cutting or the bulking ratios apply for protein and fat, or something else?

    – As I’m not looking for any IF weight loss benefits, do you see any drawback to a breakfast during maintenance (or slow bulk)?

    Thanks for any help / apologies if you’ve covered it and I missed it….

    Alan

    1. Hi Alan, thanks for the questions.
      1. Forget about ratios, they will be a function of how far up you can push your calorie intake (primarily through carbs and fats as stated above) until you reach maintenance.
      The Myth of the ‘Best’ Macro Ratio
      2. One more meal to count the macros of and prepare, so a little more complicated, but other than that, no.

  27. Hey Andy,

    I hope your break is going well and that you are catching up on some much needed rest. I am sorry if you already answered this, but I was wondering if after you finished cutting and you prepare to go into a slow bulk do you base those new calorie/macro numbers off of what you were taking in when you were cutting or do you base them off of maintenance numbers? I hope this makes sense.

    Thanks!

  28. Hi Andy,

    Whats your thoughts on if i approached maintaining by staying in a deficit monday to friday then increased calories at the weekend so that I’m averaging maintain calories over the 7 days instead of being on a the same calories every day. This would fit my lifestyle better so an example would be 1900 calories monday to friday then say 3500 calories sat/sun meaning id average maintenance over the week.

    Many Thanks

    David

    1. While you could argue that this isn’t ideal for recovery from workouts, this probably isn’t at a level worth concerning yourself about assuming you’re a recreational trainee.

  29. Andy,

    You usually call for two feedings, one at 13:00 and one at 20:30. Sometimes, my schedule is out of my control due to work and sometimes I’m just tired near the end of the day.

    My question is, what is more important – keeping an 8-hour feeding window / 16-hour fasting period or keeping 7 hours between meals?

    For instance, would it be OK if I ate at 15:00 and 20:30. What about 13:00 and 18:30?

    Thanks!

    Tee

    1. Hi Tee. Consistency where possible is good because it minimises hunger (your body gets used to the pattern) and this helps with diet adherence. That aside there is going to be no difference to your overall results if you have to eat at different times sometimes due to your work schedule. Either of those two principal set-up time frames will be fine.

      Meal timing and set-up examples are covered in detail here.

  30. Great post Andy. You and I have exchanged e mails and you’ve guided me in the past. I sincerely appreciate it. Having said that, I made a pretty big error and crash dieted down to about 176 (from 195). I did this by decreasing overall calories. A maximum of 50g of carbs, low fat and 1-3 24 hour fasts per week while going to the gym with barbell routines twice a week. This has been ongoing for about 6months or so. I have decided to start up with proper macros but I understand no calculator or even past macro numbers will be even close to correct. My baseline today for training was 150g. I know you don’t answer macro specific questions but in terms of coming up with a proper baseline to ease carbs back in is there a system to use or simply pick a number and see what happens. Thanks as always.

  31. Pingback: Como determino as calorias de manutenção após o cut?Dieta & Malhação

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  34. Hey, nice post!

    I would like to ask your thoughts about fat…i mean keto diet and what would happen when reverse dieting, adding the majority(or all) of the calories from fat, and then slow bulk doing the same.

    I ask that because fat play a huge roll in the hormones area and i was even thinking in going paleo..

    I am doing now every 8-9 days a refeed between 4500-5500 calories, and i am dieting around 2000, the last refeed i did a experiment with calories coming from fat and i noticed some sbtle difference in my strenght the next day(leg day), the next 3 days i was around the same weight before the refeed.

    Can you help me out here?

    Cheers from Germany

    1. While fat plays an important role hormonally, it sounds to me like you’ve been oversold on the importance of it – i.e. more being better, which is simply not the case. Fat intake is permissive, meaning that above a certain threshold you’re not going to get extra benefits (kind of like eating more and more vitamins – your body can only handle so much and the rest will just go to waste). Furthermore, what you do by focusing on the one macronutrient so heavily, is restrict how much you can eat of the others, which is going to hamper your progress.

      See this post for the importance of the different macronutrients.

      If you wish to do a Ketogenic diet and feel you are particularly suited to it, then do it exactly as Lyle McDonald has set out and don’t deviate from that. If you do you’re just trying to fix things that aren’t broken in the first place.

      Good recent video interview with Lyle McDonald here by the way. I think you’ll find it useful.

      1. Thanks Andy,

        Just one more thing, it is known that insulin spikes play a huge roll in a lot of diseases, if i tend to eat more fat i would be helping my body in concerne of inflammations and etcetera, what i am trying to seek here is been healthy in the long run, meaning be able to lift and do my things when i get old. What is your thought on that approach?

        About refeeds when dieting, have you ever read about fat refeeds instead of carbs, i know i said that but would be awesome if you link me any article or thoughts about it.

        Thanks for the attention.

        1. Any mixed meal (carbs, fats and protein) from whole food sources is not going to cause a health damaging insulin spike in healthy individuals. If you are diabetic, then that’s another matter entirely.

          It just sounds to me like you’ve read some bad/alarmist information, which is what I suspected in the first place.

  35. Would this be the process that you recommend for going from cutting to slow bulking? With the only difference being boosting the calories little by little until you are gaining the right amount of weight per week, instead of stopping at maintenance.

    Sorry if you already have post about transitioning from cutting to bulking I couldn’t seem to find one.

  36. Your article on etching your way slowly to a maintenance level of calories was informative, however, it only seemed to apply in the contxt of someone who has followed the Lean Gains IF regime. I am trying to transition into this routine because I just can’t lower my body fat below 12% even with Daily hourly to one and a half hourly heavy weight training and cardio at least four times a week. So while Ican follow the reverse dieting part, will i have to maintain my daily training regime until my metabolism adjusts to the calorie increase first and then start cutting back on cardio and training days. Just to give you an idea of how difficult this has been for me i am a 59 kilo, 163cm tall female (endomorph) that struggles to get rid of the pear shape despite being able to military press with 15-20 kg dumbells, and bench press much heavier and only has to look at a damn leg press and gain stocky thick legs (short ones too) and that is in a daily calorie range of 1400 to 1600 hundred (always fairly low carb and i still build bulk muscle on this kind of diet). How do i fix my metabolism and transition into this new fasting regime without too much weight gain. There are so many variables here that are likely to stuff things up for me. I like being able to not worry about having to eat until lunch, especially when i have to travel interstate and spend half a morning in airports surrounded by shitty food choices. And I have to say one other thing…the saying that women can not get bulky and should train like man to look like a goddess just doesn’t seem to apply to me, as my short and compact, but broad structure seems to just get bulkier and thicker the heavier I go with weights, especially compound weights and lower body training. I feel like i am one of the exceptions to the rule.

    1. Hi Paula, there are multiple more fundamental issues/problems here than just the question(s) you’ve asked and answering each point is far beyond* the scope of the comments feature. I think that this podcast that I did will help as a start point.

      *I could answer each point but I’ll probably come across as blunt and negative despite a genuine attempt to help. You’re welcome to it if you ask though.

  37. Love that last section on the self esteem aspect, Andy.

    I’ve lost 1 pound per week for the last 12 weeks straight using your guidelines (without suffering) and I am thinking about bringing my diet to a close soon. Maybe I can email you my before/after pictures soon, I am really happy with how things turned out.

    This article came at a perfect time. Thanks so much!

  38. With regards to Scott’s bodyfat percentage do you mean 8% before or after his cut? If thats 8% in the right hand picture I can’t imagine what 5-6% would look like!

  39. Nice article Andy…a quick update since we finished our cut in June which is apropos to the discussion: unfortunately I have had some injury issues which have forced me to stop squatting (now 10 weeks), which included a three week stint of cessation of all lifting (!). This, of course, happened at the worst possible time on the heels of a cut with maintenance calories at a low and unable to lift weights. I decided that I had to accept some regain at this point but figured I might as well try to limit by gradually adding calories and upping protein for increased TEF and hopefully decreasing lean mass loss.

    Amazingly, after six weeks–the first four with no weight training at all, the last two only bench press, chin-ups, and some leg extensions/curls, I am only 4-5 lbs heavier than my cutting weight eating 2350 kcal/day (no difference between training and rest days) from ~ 1600 kcal/ day (average). Best part so far is after three weeks of no lifting, now 4 sessions back in the gym and 1RM on the bench is 10 pounds higher!

    Plan is now to keep pushing kcal’s by 50-100 per week and cut after the holidays, hopefully from a 3500 kcal maintenance.

  40. Hi Andy, I started RPT around April, while cutting and dropped 16kg — I switched from RPT to SL 5×5 since I was just getting wasted after the first big set on RPT (still was on a cut, and I work out at 5am) Thanks for all your information!!

    Anyway, I’m at a nice 90kg and seeing gains still on 5×5, haven’t done anything as heavy as on RPT (was up to 170kg DL) yet, but, 5×5 will get there eventually (in theory) —
    My question, pertaining to this topic, is, is it possible to lose bodyfat and build muscle while keeping the weight the same? (yes I’m vain and want to see abs… I’m so close!!) I stopped keeping my calories low, and am now gauging my diet by my weekly average 90kg +/- .5 for 2 weeks now, but still increasing on 5×5.

    Will I eventually burn off my remaining fat and look ripped at this pace? ( Is it naive to think that increasing strength and keeping weight constant means turning BF to muscle?)

    1. Hi Pike. If you keep everything as you are then I don’t see that being possible. Muscle can be built in certain circumstances when you’re still in a calorie deficit if you can train and achieve progressive overload. Weight on the bar is just one variable for that. See this article for a list of others.

      1. That’s the exact article I read when deciding to switch to 5×5.

        Basically, the crux of my question was, if I’m not in a cut, can I still get my abs to appear? I.e. can I have my cake (mass gains) and eat it too? (fat loss) Because I’m at a point where it’s getting really hard to keep my body going with the calories I was consuming — I guess exertion finally passed the point my fat and low calories could easily manage.

        1. In which case you’ve answered your question there Pike. You need to increase calories to progress the training, which is what you need to do if you don’t have enough muscle mass to cut (and look good) at the moment. Whether you can get fat loss at the same time is something that remains to be seen.

  41. Hey Andy! Great article!! I have struggled all my life with having to much fat on my body! my friend introduced me to your and MB page, read it over and over again! Lost 12kg over the summer and measured my body fat to 10%!!! Last month I have been increasing my calorie intake every 5days till I reach my macros for -20/+20… Once again thanks for inspiration great articles and keep it up!

  42. Hey Andy!

    Great article! I can definitely attest to this strategy as I used it after my 2nd cut to take a good 1 1/2 month break. I simply can’t wait for your slow-bulk article next as this is where I’m stuck.

    Maybe you can give me some pointers:

    I’ve been slow-bulking for about 3 months now and my body weight (140lbs) has pretty much stayed the same. Measurement on my belly has been roughly the same as well. I have adjusted macros for more calories on train/non-train approximately every 4 weeks on a conservative rate from reading your post-email guideline.

    Lifts Stats on Big 4 from last 3 months:
    -Chin-ups has moved up 5lbs (About to be 7.5lbs next week). (50lbs weighted to 55lbs)
    -Squat doesn’t count as I had to relearn to squat deeper so I progressively moved up fast (135lbs start – 175lbs currently).
    -Deadlifts has moved up 20lbs. (275lbs to 295lbs)
    -Bench has been my arch enemy. I originally started at 155lbs 3 months ago, but I quickly deloaded to 150lbs. I’m at 157.5lbs currently. So it’s roughly a 2.5lbs increase, or 7.5lbs if you count it from 150lbs.

    Was hoping if you can give me a pointer or two if I’m on the right direction.

    PS. No pressure but I can’t wait for your article on Slow-bulk! =)

    1. If staying as lean as possible is important to you, then adjust the macros upwards when you need to do so to get stronger. That will develop your physique but the changes will be more subtle. If clear signs of progress are more important, then chase a weight gain target suited to your level.

  43. What would you say a reasonable level of BF is for maintenance for a woman, you gave the 7-12% mark for men, I imagine it’s higher for women?

    1. Hi Lucy. Women have around 7% more essential fat, so you have to add that in first. We’re then probably a couple more percentage points higher then men, on average.

  44. Hi,Andy.I wanted to ask you is it possible to do a succesful body recomposition, if you have trained for a year, and haven’t made almost any gains ? I haven’t made almost any gains because i’m something like skinny fat, and I tried to cut,but that didn’t really happen because when my body is in a deficit (around 3000 calories) I feel very hungry sometimes, and I binge on lot of bad foods (I guess it has something to do with my hormones). So cutting isn’t maybe the best option.But if I try to bulk I’ll add some fat which isn’t very good idea.I would appriciate if You reply P.S Your site is awesome and it is great that you’re not dealing with that bro science crap, thanks for the great articles, and diet guides !

    1. Hi Dimitr. Yes, it’s possible. Put your focus on progressive strength gains over time and your physique will tag along and you’ll stop second guessing yourself.

      There is of course a far more detailed answer to this, but it’s the topic of a post I’m writing (or rather, rewriting). Up within the month.

  45. Hello Andy, thanks for this article, very useful as usual. I have been dieting for months and I’m still not “happy” with my level of leanness. However, I’d like to take a break from dieting as I am going nowhere in terms of strenght gains (stagnation). Dieting on the long run is boring, and detrimental I think…
    My point is the following : I gain more muscle by managing to slightly add in some calories both on training days (mainly carbs, still low fat) and rest days (some carbs), thus limiting fat intake.

    Then a few months later, I decide to go back on dieting, moderate deficit etc… and I’ll be able to retain more muscle while still losing fat.

    I know this sounds like a hollywood movie with happy ending but dieting for months (even with a diet break) is really taking its toll on me.

    I just realize I forgot to ask : what is your opinion about this strategy?

    Thanks in advance!
    Salim

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