I’ve been talking about calories out versus calories in, energy balance, caloric deficit, maintenance, losing fat, losing weight, body fat and body composition, how to retain or build muscle in a deficit and so on quite a lot in the last couple of months.
That’s because I am cutting and these are things that I have in my mind all the time right now. If you’ve been following episode 1 and episode 2 of my cut you may know that I am now 7 weeks out, so 7 more weeks of caloric deficit, or at least this is the plan. I should be at most 10% body fat by then. Once I get at or below 10% body fat I will start a much deserved and long waited lean bulking phase. Can’t wait!
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I still have a long way to go, and the last weeks of any cut are probably the hardest. That’s why for today’s post we are going to discuss some more advanced dieting techniques that will help you get along with the caloric deficit when the stress of the diet starts to get to you.
As you may know already, dieting triggers some pretty bad things at hormonal level which make us become cranky, moody and ultimately binge eating.
At the end of the day, the best diet is the diet that you can stick with long term; therefore adherence is a big and important building block of any type of diet. Let’s look at some of the techniques you can easily implement to keep your sanity throughout a long caloric deficit.
This one is something that I have been experimenting with especially when I know that I have a social even coming over the weekend or something like that. Than calorie rollover means is that you are allowed to use tomorrow the calories you saved today. This can also be extended to several days – so you can start saving 100 kcal a day on Monday and by Sunday you have 600 kcal extra calories you can include in your day.
Let’s take an example to make things easier. Let’s say you are on a 2,000 kcal a day diet, which is a caloric deficit for you. What calorie rollover means is that you don’t need to eat exactly 2,000 kcal each day as long as your weekly average is 14,000 kcal.
This way if you eat 1,800 kcal today, you don’t “lose” the 200 kcal, but you can eat them the next day. Or you can have this calorie rollover planed so that it fits your lifestyle.
If on Saturday night you like to eat out and have fancy dinner you can intentionally eat 1,900 kcal Monday to Friday and on Saturday have a feast by rolling over all your calories from the other days. This way you can eat 2,500 kcal on Saturday and not go over your average calorie threshold.
I didn’t use the 100 kcal a day saving randomly. The rollover of the calories should not be overdone. You can’t save 500 kcal each day and have a 5,000 kcal day at the end of the week. I would do it in such a way that your high calorie day is not more than 30% over the caloric deficit you are using. So no more than 2,600 kcal if you are cutting with 2,000 kcal.
Training wise, it would be great if you could have your high calorie day on a training day or if you can have a workout the next day. This way you are taking advantage of the extra energy boost you get from food and have a better workout.
That’s pretty much the idea behind calorie rollover.
This goes hand in hand with calorie rollover more or less, because calories come from macronutrients, so if you are adjusting your calorie intake you will automatically adjust your macros.
What this means basically, is that on your high calorie days you will include more carbohydrates or more fats. Preferably more carbs, but you can take in more fats to make things more enjoyable for you.
Again, it’s a good strategy to plan your high carbs day in training days in order to benefit from that extra boost of energy and glycogen.
If we go back at the 2,600 kcal day example, the extra 600 kcal could come from an extra 150 grams of carbs.
First and foremost let’s set things straight. Refeed days are not cheat meals. Refeed day are planned high calorie day within a cutting phase. You should incorporate a refeed day into your diet in two situations:
- When you feed that you can’t stick to your diet anymore
- When you feel that your workouts are not that good anymore
Basically a refeed day is a more intelligent and clean version of a cheat meal. On a refeed day you eat more but still looking at calorie and macronutrient distribution.
In terms of calories you should eat about 30% more calories than your daily cutting average, so you will be at about maintenance level more or less depending on how aggressive or mild your deficit is. In terms of macronutrient distribution, ideally you want all the extra 30% of the calories to come from carbohydrates. Keep the same protein intake, keep fats at a minimum and boost carbs.
Both refeeding and cheat meals have a positive impact on hormones – on leptin to be more specific – which is pretty much responsible for the sensation of happiness, reward and just makes us feel good.
Cheat meals are the last diet technique I would apply and I only use them when I feel that I really can’t stick to the diet anymore if I don’t have a cheat meal, or when really big family get together happen and there’s just a ton of delicious home cocked food you can’t say no to.
Usually after a cheat meal I have a 24 fasting window to compensate for the avalanche of calories from the previous day. A really dirty cheat meal tends to shake up my weight quite a lot. I gain up to 4 pounds after a solid cheat meal, most of it being water weight though and I get back to my before weight in 4-5 days.
That’s why I use cheat meals very rare. At the time I am writing this I’ve been in a deficit for 10 weeks and I just had my 2nd cheat meal yesterday. I don’t count calories or track macros on any of the cheat meals, but my estimation is that I get in as high as 4,000 kcal.
5.Reverse / recovery dieting
Lastly but not least, getting out of a caloric deficit should be done in a smart way as well. The longer you’ve been in a deficit and the leaner you are, the more important this last step of the cutting phase is.
I’ve recently watched a video of Matt Ogus interviewing Eric Helms on the topic of reverse dieting and Eric introduced a new and interesting approach to make the shift from cutting to maintenance or bulking, called recovery dieting.
This new concept is based on his experience as a coach after working with many clients. According to Eric Helms, in extreme cases where athletes that are preparing for competitions get to very low body fat levels – in the 5-6% BF, and have been dieting for a long time (over 3 months), a better approach to getting out of the caloric deficit would be go straight to maintenance level or even slightly above for a couple of weeks.
The whole purpose of this approach is to accelerate the recovery of the body at hormonal and psychological level. Of course this will result in gaining a considerable amount of fat, but that would probably get a show ready bodybuilder from 5-6% up to 10% which is not a lot by any means.
Anyways, for the average Joe such as me and for the people that are not preparing for a competition, a cutting phase usually is not that long, not that strict and usually ends when you reach 8 to 10% body fat, right? In this case I think the reverse dieting approach is better than the recovery diet.
A good reverse dieting strategy is to increase your calories with 100-200 kcal per day and eat that for one week. Then go straight to maintenance level (or include another week of extra 100-200 kcal if your deficit is bigger than 500 kcal a day). From there you can go into a lean bulking phase by adding 5 to 10% calories on top of your maintenance level.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this article. Have you ever used any of these dieting techniques? Do you recommend other techniques as well?