You’re here. The promised land. The end of the diet. You’re lean. Abs popping, biceps bulging, chest striating. You’ve finally achieved the badass physique you set out to achieve.
But, now what?
You see, while everyone focusses on the weight loss, getting lean, shredded – whatever – part of the diet, nobody focusses on the most important aspect of ‘dieting’ – What to do when the diet ends?
The diet AFTER the diet.
You want to transition back to normality and be able to eat more food, have your vigor back and begin making some gains, but you also don’t want to lose the physique you’ve attained.
You’ve seen it happen all too often, your bro who dieted down, and then a week later has undone the hard work as he pigs out on buffets, Ben and Jerry’s and a multitude of other delicacies that would give michael phelps a run for his money.
You dont want this fate, you decide. Which leads to the question :
How do I transition back to normality and maintain this physique ?
Good question. And that’s exactly what I’m going to be covering in this post. So take a seat, grab a protein shake and lets begin.
What Exactly Is Maintenance?
Maintenance, as it pertains to physique composition, is simply the act of keeping your physique at a certain level of conditioning. It is achieved by eating enough calories to keep you out of a deficit, and not enough to be gaining weight. It’s the point of equilibrium.
However, maintenance is a very nebulous term. There’s a whole host of calculators and equations out there on the internet that make claims of working out your ‘maintenance caloric intake’, as if the human body were that predictable.
‘Maintenance’ is a fluctuating number and can vary from day to day ; Say one day you spend the afternoon tidying the house or doing the gardening, your ‘maintenance’ intake on that day will be completely different to a lazy sunday where you lounge around on the couch all day watching football with a can of beer.
How To Transition To Maintenance
While many will run to an online calculator and begin plugging away their stats to determine their maintenance caloric intake, there’s a much simpler and more effective way.
Increase the amount of calories you ended the diet at by 20-30%.
So if you finished your diet on 1800 calories, this would mean an increase of anywhere from 360-540 calories.
Now, before you start worrying about fat gain, I can assure you that this is still a very small increase in caloric intake and most likely will still have you in a slight deficit.
But, if you are someone who is still worried about increasing calories by too much too soon, or you simply want to stay a bit more leaner and take it slower, no problem, simply increase calories from your end point by 10-20% (180-360 calories).
Setting Maintenance Calories
Even though this article is aimed at guys who will be ending their diet and transitioning from there. For completeness, if you are reading this and are about to start a muscle gain diet and wondering how to work out ‘maintenance’ calories –
Use this formula :
Your Bodyweight (in lbs) x [12 to 16] = Maintenance calories
I chose this formula because it’s simple and within about five percent of more complicated ones.
If you are someone who is sedentary (someone working a desk job, for example) and not doing anything requiring much physical exertion aside from the gym, it’s best to go with the lower end of 12. If you are someone who is extremely active (for example — you’re a construction worker and you also strength train) go with the higher range of 16.
Not sure? Play it safe and go with the mid-range of 14.
This is just a starting point and adjustments will always need to be made to keep progressing.
A Quick Tangent : ‘Reverse Dieting’
A lot of people will claim that through an extended ‘reverse diet’ – The meticulous process of slowly increasing calories per week – they are able to eat more and stay just as lean.
So, how much truth is there to this?
If you refer to the graph below to help illustrate this point.
- the person ends their cut at a caloric intake of 1700 cals.
- They add 50 calories per week and slowly over a period of a few weeks go into ‘maintenance’ and then over some more weeks arrive at a [caloric] surplus.
As you can see, what’s really happening is the slow increase in calories still has that person in a deficit.
So while they may think they are ‘staying leaner’ while eating more food, in reality, they are staying leaner because they’re still consuming fewer calories than they’re expending (still in a deficit).
So, there’s no need to do an uber extended ‘reverse diet’ with a ridiculously small increase in calories (5-10g carbs/wk).
Get your calories back up to ‘maintenance’ in 2-3 weeks.
Hold calories there for a week or two, and then slowly transition into a small surplus.
I also just want to add, a slower ‘reverse diet’ can be beneficial if you’re someone who would find it mentally tough to jump calories up quickly.
So, if you feel a slower increase will be more easier on you mentally, then by all means take the increase at a pace that suits you and your psychological state at the time.
Just don’t think that a slow increment in cals over an extended time period is why you’re staying lean and thus you should be ‘reverse dieting’ or that it will somehow increase your metabolic rate.
WOAH. ANNOYING RANDOM HEADING.
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