The gods took notice of your hard work and dedication.
After months of diligently tracking your nutrition and building yourself up in the gym, you’ve reached your goal. For the first time in years (ever?) you’re content with what you see in the mirror. But instead of feeling accomplished and satisfied, panic sets in.
What do you do now?
You certainly can’t go back to your old habits (unless you want to look like your old self). At the same time, you can’t stay on a diet for the rest of your days either. Where do you go from here? How do you stay lean for life without becoming a food extremist?
Pump and Deplete: The Key To Longterm Diet Success
There’s always that one long-haired tree-hugging fella at the coffee shop telling you to stop stressing over food and “just eat when you’re hungry, man”. And while his advice is usually worse than his idea of personal hygiene, he does have a valid point.
Most people fail miserably after reaching their short-term fitness goals for a very simple reason. All they ever knew about dieting and fitness was based on restriction and deprivation. They never understood the mechanisms behind physical transformation to begin with and therefore remain subject to uncontrollable weight fluctuations and physique frustration.
You can force your way to a lean body. But you’ll never be able to maintain it if you fail to listen and answer to your body’s demands. You have to work with your body, not crush it with low-carb dieting and chronic calorie cutting. You have to know when to raise or lower calories (and when to increase or lower training volume and intensity – but that’s a different story). Fortunately, it’s not nearly as complicated as it may seem.
If you’ve dieted properly to get lean (not like this!) you won’t feel inclined to stuff yourself with garbage for weeks and months after completing your transformation. Still, you’re going to have to transition to a more “metabolically friendly” approach to eating. You’ll have to start raising your calories without gaining body-fat.
Here’s how: Move up to maintenance calories (your bodyweight in pounds multiplied by 14-16) and eat at a deficit for 2 days of the week. If you gain weight easily or are not very physically active, stick to the low-end of the range.
|Pump and Deplete||Calorie Intake|
|Maintenance (5 days per week)||BW x 14-16|
|Undereating (2 days per week)||BW x 10-12|
While the above calculations are merely estimates, they work very well in establishing a baseline. After months of tracking your food intake, however, you should have a good idea of how many calories you can eat without gaining or losing weight. That is your maintenance calorie intake. Take that number and simply subtract 300-500 calories on your undereating days while staying at maintenance for the rest of the week. That’s 2 days per week in a moderate calorie deficit.
This feeding cycle is designed to take advantage of your body’s fat-burning and growth and recovery promoting hormones. Cycling between deficit days and eating at maintenance (or a slight surplus, if you want to gain muscle) is a powerful tool for regulating your metabolism.
Do you want a fast metabolism? Feed it. Eat more and (occasionally) eat less. Pump and deplete calories strategically for superior results.
If you’re gaining fat following this protocol:
I.) reconsider your established maintenance calories,
II.) increase the days of undereating or
III.) do a full week of undereating before resuming the feeding cycle.
Remember, your body hates chronic conditions. It doesn’t like to be overfed chronically just as it doesn’t like to be underfed chronically. Eating the same calories and macronutrients every day, apart from being impractical, has no connection to reality. Cycling calories is the only dieting strategy that respects your innate biological set-up.
A word of warning: This approach won’t deliver if you overcomplicate it. Eating must never turn into a science project. Pick 2 days per week where you eat less and stay around maintenance for the rest of your week. This the simplest, most sustainable way for staying lean year-round.
The Benefits of Overeating
In addition to the above you shouldn’t be afraid of eating more when your body calls for it. Cyclical overeating will speed-up fat-loss and muscle-gain if done at the right intervals.
Now, the frequency of high calorie days is highly individual. Your body might require a calorie spike every 10-14 days. For me personally, I have 1-2 days per week where I consume up to 2x maintenance calories. This allows me to stay in peak physical condition without hitting plateaus or tanking my hormones.
Don’t get it twisted, though. I’m not giving you a free pass to cheat on your diet every Sunday. Occasional high calorie refeeds, however, will serve to support and strengthen your metabolism. And a strong, “wasteful” metabolism is the key to optimal body composition.
Instead of counting the hours to your next high calorie “cheat” day, listen to your body’s hunger cues. Eat more after weeks of intense physical training or combine them with social events (family dinners, holidays etc.). Don’t plan for and don’t track on these special occasions. Live. Have fun. And get back into the game the day after.
Congratulations! You now have the blueprint for staying lean for life. Don’t take this information and ride into the sunset with it. Apply it. Starting right now.
What are you having for your next meal?
Thank you for reading