Calorie Cycling: Do a Calorie Shifting Diet Plan or Carb Cycling Diet Plan Help You Lose Body Fat, Gain Muscle? | Not Your Average Fitness Tips

Calorie Cycling: Do a Calorie Shifting Diet Plan or Carb Cycling Diet Plan Help You Lose Body Fat, Gain Muscle?

Generally speaking, weight loss is all about taking in less calories than you expend.  However, when you get close to your target weight, a calorie cycling diet plan can be beneficial.  In fact, I’d say a calorie shifting diet plan or carb cycling diet plan are some of the most effective ways to trick your body so that you can lose body fat, gain muscle, and get a really lean, defined body.

A calorie cycling diet is all about switching things up so that your body stays in a fat burning state.  Over the course of a week or month, you may end up eating the same number of calories as you would under a normal diet, but when properly implemented, you can burn a lot more fat.  In essence, you can provide your body with plenty of muscle building nutrients when you exercise and limit caloric intake when you don’t.  I remember first reading about these types of strategies from Tom Venuto (author of Burn the Fat Feed the Muscle).

Calorie Shifting Diet Plan

The theory behind a calorie shifting diet is that you eat a lower number of calories on certain days and a higher number of calories on other days.  There are an infinite number of ways to do this.  You could have a week that you eat 500 extra calories on 2-3 days followed by a week that you eat 500 less calories on 2-3 days.  In a way, this puts your body in muscle building mode the first week and fat burning mode the second week.

A high calorie meal one day...

I actually prefer to have high and low calorie days within a single week though.  I perform intermittent fasting 2 days per week and skip breakfast 1 day per week.  That gives me 3 days of low calorie eating.  I have 1 very high calorie day (my cheat day) and 3 days of maintenance level eating.

and a low calorie meal the next!

I take calorie shifting one step further by timing meals around workouts.  Ideally, I exercise in a fasted state since depleted glycogen levels lead to higher fat burning.  I try to eat my largest meal 1-2 hours after exercising when my body is primed to turn those nutrients into muscle.  Why wait 1-2 hours?  Because I can maximize the release of HGH (human growth hormone) which will help burn fat while preventing muscle loss.

As you can see, there are a multitude of ways to incorporate a calorie shifting diet plan.  It can be as simple as having months/weeks of high calorie eating followed by months/weeks of low calorie eating or as detailed as timing high calorie meals around workouts.

Carb Cycling Diet Plan

While adjusting the timing of your calorie intake is a good approach to allow your body to lose fat and gain muscle, a carb cycling diet provides a great way to adjust your diet at the macronutrient level to optimize your body’s fat burning potential.

As an aside, fat and carbs have both gone through phases where they are seen as the root of all evil.  In most cases, the bottom line is that excessive intake of fat, carbs, or even protein can all lead to weight gain, and more specifically fat gain.  However, when you want to get extra lean, carb management is a good trick to implement.

Why is carb cycling helpful for fat loss?  Because your body needs to deplete its glycogen stores (carbs) before it burns fat.  By going into a workout in a fasted state, your body can start burning fat sooner.  The challenge with going low carb all the time is that your body can go into ketosis which can ultimately lead to muscle loss.  By using a carb cycling diet, you can regularly restore glycogen levels and get all the fat loss benefits without the muscle loss side effects.  Perhaps more importantly, who really wants to avoid carbs all the time?

My calorie shifting diet above really drives my carb cycling diet.  On fasting/lower calorie days, it’s natural that I eat less carbs.  On higher calorie days, I restore my glycogen levels by eating more carbs, particularly after a workout.  Carb cycling is a staple of one of my favorite diet approaches, Cheat Your Way Thin.

Lose Body Fat, Gain Muscle

If you have a lot of weight to lose, just focus on limiting calories and doing intense exercise.  If you’ve gotten the full benefits of those methods and are still looking to trim some fat, why not try the above mentioned calorie cycling diet plans?  A calorie shifting diet plan allows you to cycle your caloric intake on a monthly, weekly, or even intra-daily basis so that you can lose body fat and gain muscle.  A carb cycling diet plan works independently or in conjunction with this approach by lowering glycogen levels, allowing for better fat burning workouts.  I think you’ll find that these approaches work well over both the near-term and long-term.

79 Responses to “Calorie Cycling: Do a Calorie Shifting Diet Plan or Carb Cycling Diet Plan Help You Lose Body Fat, Gain Muscle?”

  • Dave,
    Great post! I have really noticed that once I got down to a fairly low body fat percentage, I had to change things up to keep losing. I am a big fan of intermittent fasting like you, but had to adjust what I have been eating in between fasts. I have been cycling my calories a bit and am going to do this a little more.

    Darrin from Lean, Mean, Virile Machine has a good post about how it is more what you eat or how you eat versus just eating less. You should check it out, it kind of goes along with what you are saying here.

    http://leanmeanvirilemachine.com/2010/10/25/why-eat-less-exercise-more-doesnt-work/

    I really need to start having a cheat day. I haven’t done this yet. I watch the football games on Sunday and have every opportunity to eat like a maniac, but just haven’t done it yet. I need to do it though, I think it would be nice to just let loose and eat a shitload of food every once in a while!

    -Kelly

  • Hey Dave,
    I’m lovin your site. I’ve read a couple of your articles and can see you know what you are talking about. As far as carb cycling goes, perhaps I can help you simplify it. Here are the main rules:

    1. Eat less on your non-workout days
    2. Eat most of your daily carbs in the morning and after a workout (morning to provide energy throughout the day, post workout to replenish glycogen stores)
    3. No carbs at night

    I’ve been under 8% body fat for the last 2 years, and these main concepts have made up my carb diet plan. Hope it helps!

    Jeff

  • Kelly,
    As always, we seem to be on the same path. Fasting only goes so far. You were right, great post by Darrin. Whether I want the cheat day or not, it has to happen because of the football season. I need my time to sit around and enjoy it!

    Jeff,
    Great way to simplify everything! Congrats on being at such a lean body fat level too. I look forward to reading more tips on your blog as well.

    Dave

  • Dave,

    I’m a fan of calorie cycling and carb cycling. I like to eat low calorie low carb during the week and high calorie high carb during the weekends (these coincide with the majority of my cheat meals). This type of eating schedule works well for me and the best part is I can eat some of my favorite foods every week!

    Alykhan

  • Dave,

    I guess I’ll be the odd man out and say I’ve never found the need to really calorie or carb cycle. However, I know that a lot of people use it. When done properly, it can be a very effective method.

    -Drew

  • Alykhan,
    Sounds like you’ve found a nice balanced approach.

    Drew,
    If you continue to lose fat, no reason to change things up. I felt like a hit a little wall after months of Eat Stop Eat and felt like this was a good way to clean up my diet and lose a little more fat.

    Dave

  • I think this is key. just like we should shock the body with different fitness routines, we need to show our system with caloric imbalance days. this way it kick-starts metabolism consistently. I like skipping breakfast, its tough but I like the feeling of a challenge.

  • I agree as you get leaner you need to try different things more frequently.. I stopped losing fat for a while until I started mixing fasting and calorie cycling … then it all started to shift again … but guess what?
    then fat loss started to slow down so now I do huge cheat days regualarly and the fat loss started again but that will stop too I guess and then????
    Excellent Article
    Raymond

  • Alejandro,
    I agree that it’s good to surprise our body through both varying workout routines and diet plans…within reason of course.

    Raymond,
    Sounds like we’re at a similar place. Changing things up and finding new ways to push our bodies to burn more fat.

    Dave

  • This sounds a lot like what i’ve been experimenting with recently Dave. Got some newer ideas when I read Venuto’s recent Holy Grail book and basically, I go low calories for 3 days, go maintenance for 1 day, then go higher calorie on 2 days, and then maintenance for 1 day, then start over again. So starting sunday night after dinner, i fast until Monday at dinner (workout before dinner and before the workout just drink a half a cup of chocolate milk), eat dinner (steak, baked potato, steamed veggies with some almonds in it), then skip breakfast on tuesday, eat a salad for lunch with grilled steak and chicken in it, eat dinner again, fast until wednesdays dinner, then thursday wake up, eat oatmeal, eat lunch again, eat dinner, then on friday i add in besides breakfast and dinner (which changes up to pasta) some snacks of nuts, with the same thing on saturday (although it might be a bit more since it is the weekend and i tend to fall into “boredom eating” and then sunday a bit more maintenance and this was the longest run on sentence I think I’ve ever written..:) Anyways, bodyweight and waist measurements fluctuate a lot from day to day but, overall comparing week to week there are small (but noticeable) differences. Kind of like very short two steps forward, one step back approach.

  • Mike,
    That sounds like a good approach to calorie cycling. You’re certainly keeping your body surprised. As long as you’re progressing and can keep it up long term, I’m sure you’ll continue to be successful.
    Dave

  • Bill:

    Hey Dave, you posted the reasoning behind working out in a fasted state and then eating afterwards to fuel your recovering/rebuilding muscles. My job and my family make evening workouts very handy. Whats your thoughts how close to the time you go to bed should a person be eating? Also if the pre fast, post feed workout is more effective would you consider eating one large (after workout) meal a day wise? I am trying to drop an extra 80 lbs as fast/safely as I can due to knee pain and the upcoming summer/demanding season of my construction job.

  • Bill,
    The challenge of how before bed to eat is a difficult one. Personally, I’ve gone through phases in my life where I have a protein shake 30 minutes before bed. The problem I have is that I workout after my son goes to bed and then like to wait 1-2 hours before eating. I don’t want to go to bed on an empty stomach after an intense workout because that’s a recipe for muscle loss. Fortunately, on the weekends, I can workout in the morning in a fasted state and then have a big meal after.

    Enough about me, back to your original questions:
    1. How close to eat is different for everyone. Food gives you energy, energy keeps you awake, but your body needs sleep to grow muscle and prevent hunger. The expert recommendations are that you usually want at least a couple hours before bed but it depends how much and what type of food you eat. Carbs are tough.
    2. The one large meal a day phenomenon is what some refer to as the warrior diet. This is a difficult way to eat and I really just do it when I want to lose a lot of body fat. Over the long term, it’s just too challenging to avoid eating at other times (unless you want to eliminate your social life).
    3. Dropping 80lbs sounds great but I’d caution against going to drastic measures to drop it too quickly. For a diet, I’ve always liked Eat Stop Eat because it allows you some flexibility in eating in exchange for 1-2 24-hour fasts per week. Some people can’t do this. The recently released Anything Goes Diet covers a lot of useful principles for weight loss such as how much you should be eating and to what extent macronutrients (protein, carbs, fat) matter (hint: not much). It also provides some good psychological tips to eating less. The other component is of course exercise. I’m not sure of your fitness level, but ultimately HIIT would be the preferred cardio to perform. If you’re not experienced, then start by improving your aerobic capacity by just doing steady state cardio. Resistance training is a great way to burn some calories and preserve muscle as well. The final factor to consider is that your body can endure short term bouts of intense dieting and exercise. At an extreme, the amount of calories you eat might only be your target weight x 10. You might do that while exercising an hour per day. That’s really hard and I wouldn’t try to keep it up for more than 6 weeks. After that, you could take a small step back (maybe eating closer to maintenance levels and exercising 3-4 hours per week) for 4-8 weeks. Then you could hit it hard again.

    Sorry, a lot of information in a short amount of space. Did I even answer your original questions or go off on a tangent? Any follow-up questions?

    You have a big challenge ahead of you but I can only imagine how proud you’ll be when you achieve your goal. Standard disclaimer, get your doctor’s advice if you’re worried about your health, weight, or knee problems. Good luck!

    Dave

  • Bill:

    Thanks for the reply. Yes you answered my questions. Ive have been watching what I eat for a couple of weeks now. I ended up averaging 2120 calories a day. Ive lost 10 lbs so far. Ive been doing steady state cardio (dancing around with my 3 kids ages 6, 4 & 2 )and some bodyweight exercises. A couple days ago I came with a Hiit routine using a heavy bag and a stationary bike lasting 20 min. It kicks my butt way more than the hour of cardio/calestenics I Was doing! As far as my current fitness level Im 37 yrs old 6′ 2″ and as of this morning weight 281 pounds. From what Ive looked up online I should be weighing around 200 lbs so thats my goal. My job and lifestyle make I.Fasting fairly convienent so Im thinking of giving it a try. Thanks again for your time.

  • Bill,
    It sounds like you have a great plan. Congrats on losing 10lbs so far. Once you get into HIIT, you’ll never want to go back to regular cardio again. Just watch out for overtraining. You really shouldn’t do HIIT more than 3 times per week…and if you’re doing it that much, I would lay off the leg training. I think 200lbs is a good target as well. Just don’t get discouraged if you don’t keep losing weight as fast. You’ll go through ebbs and flows. Keep at it and you’ll achieve your goal. Let me know if you want to talk through anything along the way.
    Dave

  • Jenna:

    I’ve been exercising for years but have just gotten serious about my eating and bodybuilding this year. Do you think that carb cycling can work for women just as well as for men? I’ve considered using this type of diet schedule to get lean, but from some of the reading I’ve done, it sounds very complex and time consuming to keep track of every calorie/carb that passes your lips. Is it absolutely necessary to count everything, or is there a more simplified approach to cycling that still produces results?

  • Jenna,
    I don’t see any reason that carb cycling wouldn’t work for women the same as it does for men. The challenge is that you will be counting a lot of calories and worried about carbs. I guess my question would be are you dieting and exercising just to get in really good shape or are you a competitive bodybuilder? If you’re a competitive bodybuilder, this might be one of those lifestyle sacrifices you have to make to achieve your goals.

    However, if you’re just trying to get in good shape, you can try to simply plan meals accordingly. For example, when I’m doing carb cycling I have peanuts and maybe chicken breast for lunch and a lean cut of meat and veggies for dinner. I’m not big on breakfast, but eggs always work. My low carb days tend to coincide with intermittent fasting as well. I’m not sure that entirely helps with your problem.

    I can provide some more insight if you tell me more about your goals. Let me know if I can help further.

    Dave

  • Jenna:

    Dave,

    I’m definitely not into competitive fitness- I started out simply for the health benefits but have progressively gotten more interested in bodybuilding. I consider myself to be in fairly decent shape (5.2, 116 lbs.), but my current goals would be to add on some muscle in my lower body and abs, and lose enough body fat for obvious definition.

    Because of budget and time constraints, I work out at home 5 days a week- a.m. weight training first followed by a cardio session. I’m trying to tweak my cardio to the correct amount for my goals. I know that HIIT helps with fat loss but too much can cause overtraining. Do you think that 2-3 HIIT sessions per week plus 2 moderate sessions would be a good place to start?

    Thanks for your time and insight!

    Jenna

  • Jenna,
    Thanks for the info on your goals. Here’s my perspective on everything. First, you’re not in fairly decent shape, you’re in very good shape. I’m sure you were trying to be modest, but take pride in what you achieved. Off on a tangent, but the more sucked in to the fitness world you get, the fatter you feel. I remember years ago being around 10% body fat and still feeling fat because I didn’t have a great set of abs. Don’t let this skewed reality influence how you feel about yourself. You very well could be in the top 10% of the population based on fitness level.

    That aside, here are some quick diet and exercise tips:
    If you want to increase muscle size, you’ll probably want to do 3-5 sets of 12-15 reps and you’ll want to train your muscles to failure. However, if you’re shooting for a more toned, defined look, then 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps avoiding muscle failure might be better. To add lower body muscle, squats, deadlifts, and lunges are the best exercises I can think of. For ab muscles, I always think of core strength. That comes from planks, renegade rows, and hanging leg raises amongst others. I’ve done posts on muscle size vs. tone as well as core exercises so I can direct you to those if you need more info.

    Weight training followed by cardio is a great way to train to lose fat. Are you training in a fasted state when you wake up? If not, that might be a way to accelerate fat loss. As for the routine itself, you’ll have to be a little cautious with HIIT particularly because you’re doing weight training for your legs (I assume). If you’re goal is toned legs, you could theoretically drop weight training for legs but if you do want more muscular legs, then keep (or start) doing squats, etc. If you stick with weight training for legs, I would only do HIIT on those days. If you try to do weight training for legs one day followed by HIIT the next, you’ll be over training. So 2-3 HIIT sessions per week is perfect, assuming they are the same day as leg training. I would keep the other 2 sessions pretty low intensity, not even moderate. I can point you to my post on HIIT if that would help at all.

    Hopefully this isn’t too much info or too confusing. Back to your original question on dieting then…I think you could employ carb cycling but obviously don’t need to take it to the extreme. If you can handle intermittent fasting, the 2 days per week you do that would be low carb days (for me, Mon/Fri), then you have a low/moderate carb day (for me, Wed), two moderate/high carb days (Tues/Thurs), and then two high carb days on the weekends. That’s how I’ve done it in the past. Like I said before, keep it simple. On low carb days, just try to avoid too many carbs. No need to count (maybe the first couple times to determine how may carbs in various foods, but after that you’ll have a good sense of where you stand). Bottom line on diet, just eat less than you expend. Calorie cycling is one of those advanced strategies that can help on the margins.

    I threw a lot out there. Any follow-up questions? If you’re interested in more fat burning tips, I’ll be doing a post over the weekend focused on fat burning workouts.

    If I don’t hear from you, good luck!
    Dave

  • Jenna:

    Thanks for the encouragement. You’re absolutely right about fitness-mania causing feelings of.. well.. fatness-mania. I am pleased that I’ve made progress. As for being in the top 10%.. it’s a nice thought anyway haha.
    Your recommendations on the number of reps for definition are a good idea for me. I’ve always heard the old theory that “more reps create more defined muscles” but couldn’t quite believe it, especially if the people touting it are only lifting 3lb dumbbells. I had been lifting mostly in the 12-15 rep range for upper & lower body, so I’ll definitely start using the 3-5 sets/3-5 reps trick and see what happens.
    About the carb-cycling, do I assume correctly that it’s best to coordinate lower carb days with lower intensity training days, and vice versa. ?
    I’m also interested in the posts on core work and HIIT. I’ll be checking back to see the upcoming posts you mentioned.
    Thanks again for the clear cut information!

  • Jenna,
    Before you laugh at the top 10% comment, consider that over 2/3 of the US is obese (BMI > 25). So you’re well into the top 1/3. Depending on body fat level, you could theoretically be in the top 10-20%.

    More importantly, here are some posts you might find interesting:

    Strength Reps vs. Muscle Mass Reps: http://www.notyouraveragefitnesstips.com/best-workout-routines/strength-reps-muscle-mass-reps

    Workout Routines for Women (this is more for the slim look, not bodybuilder look; I’m honestly still a little unclear on whether you just like bodybuilding workouts or are training to look like a bodybuilder; yes, there’s a big difference)
    http://www.notyouraveragefitnesstips.com/best-workout-routines/best-weight-loss-workout-routines-for-women-at-the-gym-at-home

    HIIT:
    http://www.notyouraveragefitnesstips.com/best-workout-routines/best-cardio-for-weight-loss-hiit-workout-routine

    Core Exercises:
    http://www.notyouraveragefitnesstips.com/six-pack-abs/best-core-exercises-for-men-women

    Sorry, that’s a lot of reading (no obligation to read them all!) but hopefully you get some good info from those posts. If not, then just keep asking me questions directly! As for carb cycling, your assumption about low carb with lower intensity days is my preference. Some people find that they can perform intense workouts on low carb days. I’m not one of those people. We’re all different though. I like to provide my body with plenty of nutrients, especially after intense exercise, and it’s hard to do that while worrying about carbs.

    As for the post I mentioned, it gotten so long that I’m turning it into a free book. It’s not quite as comprehensive as my free Fitness in a Flash book but I hit on a lot of things that have helped me with fat burning.

    Let me know if I can provide any more tips. It’s always good to hear success stories!

    Dave

  • Toni:

    Is it terrible to admit that I never count calories? I tried once and it started taking over my life, seriously. I estimate what I eat, although truth be told, I’m a creature of habit and pretty much eat the same food on a frequent basis (sounds boring, I know). I just try to stick to lean protein, lowfat dairy, limit carbs, no sugar, tons of water and lots of fruits and vegetables. It seems to work for me. I feel almost guilty for not counting calories b/c so many people I know do just that.

    That’s not to say that I don’t read labels or pay attention to portion sizes because I most definitely do.

    I’m just so busy with my kids that counting calories would be one more thing to add to my ever-growing list of things to do on a daily basis.

    But I’m fascinated with people who can do this successfully, lol.

  • Toni,
    It’s not terrible at all; it’s a blessing! A lot of people don’t realize how many calories are in the foods they eat. Just undertaking calorie counting for a week or two can be eye opening. You’re actually the ideal eater…boring is the way to go. During the week, I generally try to maintain the same discipline you outlined. Unfortunately most people like a lot of variety and don’t realize the variance in portion sizes. For other people, counting calories is simply a discipline to help them remain on track. It’s an accountability thing.
    Dave

  • Janzlou Falf:

    Well I may get fat on it upon seeing your blog. I felt hungry all the way once I watch a yummy food. Thanks, I am fond of preparing a food stuff in the house.

  • Janzlou,
    Sorry for tempting you with the food pics. Hope you made it through the craving.
    Dave

  • Jeni:

    Dave,
    Your responses are so informative. I was hoping that you could give me some advice. I am 37, and weigh 136 pounds (was 146.6) I work out 6 days a week, for an hour: 3 days weight train and circuit, 3 days running 3-7 miles (steady, tempo, Interval). Also, I throw in some high-interval a few times a week. I change my routines daily. Basically, I am now stuck at the last 10 pounds, and my weight is not budging. My fear is that I started my deficit to low (1200-1400 calories) and now I have nowhere to go. Should I increase to 1500, and deal with a weight gain in order to stimulate my metabolism? Or simply do calorie cycling?
    Thanks in advance!

  • Jeni,
    Those last 10lbs are the toughest especially if you’ve already lost 10 to get there. The great thing is that I know you have the motivation to do it. The challenge is which direction to go. Your fear is valid that if you’ve been training too much on too few calories, eventually you have nowhere left to go. There are two vastly different ways to go from here:

    1. Tone down your routine to 4 days per week, eat closer to a maintenance level of calories and just try to stay around 135 for the next month or two. Then ramp up your routine to 6-7 days per week with calories in the 1,200 range.

    2. Switch things up, keep pushing hard and see if your body pushes back. Instead of doing steady state running, try out HIIT. Keep your calories low but cut some more calories by doing intermittent fasting or calorie cycling to help stimulate a different response in your body. Clean up what you eat as well as how much you eat. Give it 2-4 weeks and if you don’t make any progress, then you’re probably going to have to try the first option.

    Probably not the answer you were necessarily looking for but hope it helps! Let me know if you need anything further along which path you choose.

    Dave

  • Jeni:

    Thank you for responding so quickly!
    I am not opposed to either option, I want to be healthy and lean, and do it right, so I am not fixated on a weight goal in a time frame. It is just frustrating to work hard and not see rewards any more. I will try #2 first then #1. Can I replace distance running with hill sprints, drills, cross-country w/sprints as one form of HIIT? (I am passionate about running, it is pure joy for me).. Although I know it is the least affective for fat loss. My diet is squeaky clean. 40%carbs, 30%protein 30%fat 5x a day. My big question is this: When you say keep the calories low, do you mean perhaps around 1200-1300 with cycling?
    Thanks!

  • Jeni,
    Give #2 a try to start. If you feel any symptoms of overtraining or see weight gain instead of weight loss, then pull back a bit. For HIIT, you can get the best of all worlds by combining it with running. Do sprint intervals to start and then follow up with a slower steady state jog. Finish with some more intervals for an effective fat burning workout.

    Your diet sounds great. A good general rule is to eat 10x your target weight…125lbs = 1,250 calories. Calorie counting is always tricky because it’s very challenging to count your calories with any degree of accuracy unless you weigh your food or are part of a scientific experiment. With that number as a guide, some days you might only eat 1,000 calories while other days you eat 1,500 calories. I like to eat the most calories on days I strength gain because I like to focus on maintaining the size of my muscles. I eat the fewest calories on off days or cardio days since I’m trying to burn the most fat possible. Make sense?
    Dave

    Also, if you need to read more about overtraining or HIIT, check out these posts:

    Overtraining: http://www.notyouraveragefitnesstips.com/best-fitness-tips/signs-symptoms-of-overtraining

    HIIT: http://www.notyouraveragefitnesstips.com/best-workout-routines/best-cardio-for-weight-loss-hiit-workout-routine

  • hi Dave – what a cool site! I found it as I recently read up on calorie shifting helping lose fat as you reach target weight loss. Please help: I’ve lost just 3 stones in the past two years but now I’m down to my last 10 lbs … which seem to be stored on the lower half of my body i.e. butt & thighs!! I’m 5’4 and weigh 56kg. Would you recommend carb cycling or calorie shifting; and if so what sort of regime? I’m a bit clueless on how to work out how many calories I would need in order to do this / and what a week of this would look like …
    any help would be really appreciated
    davina

  • Davina,
    Thanks for the compliments. The stubborn fat in the butt and thighs is one of the last places it goes so congrats on getting to this point. I think you could try either approach to losing the last 10lbs depending on what fits best with your lifestyle.

    Here’s how I’d lay it out. I guess you’re targeting a weight of around 115lbs so a starting point for daily calories is 1,100-1,200 based on 10x your target weight in calories. My diet is somewhat dictated by exercise as well so maybe you eat 1,500 calories per day when you do HIIT or strength training. On off-days, you might eat closer to 800 calories. I like to have low calorie days by doing intermittent fasting where I go 18-24 hours without eating. If you don’t think you’ll be able to fast or eat that few calories, then you could start with carb cycling. You’d try to eat 1,100-1,200 calories per day but on off days you might try to keep carbs around 50g. On exercise days, maybe you’d keep carbs around 100-150g. Combining everything, maybe a typical week looks like this:

    Mon, Wed, Fri: Strength Training or HIIT; 1,500 calories; 100-150g carbs
    Tues, Thurs, Sat, Sun: Steady state cardio or off days; 800 calories; 50g carbs

    Obviously you need to adjust to what works best for your workout and social schedule. Let me know if you need any more details.

    Dave

  • Thanks, Dave.
    I’ll give your suggestion a go and will revert with my progress.
    :)

  • Toni:

    This article has me intrigued because even after getting into fairly decent shape…I’m still kind of bummed about my lack of upper body strength/muscle.

    I’ve started upping my calorie intake to around 1900 daily calories (spread out over three meals) which scares me a little but I’ve been trying not to overthink it too much.

    I gained back the two lbs. that I recently lost due to some unforeseen stress and am hoping to put on about five lbs. of muscle in the next several months which I *hope* is doable.

    I’m learning that the scale is not the end-all, be-all of my existence but rather my body fat % and how I look in my clothes is a better indicator of my overall fitness. Here’s hoping…

  • Toni,
    As I’ve probably mentioned before, the best thing about getting into good shape is that you can get back there again pretty quickly. For example, if two people are starting at the same body fat level, if one person has been lower before, they will be able to get back to that lower level faster than a person who has to break through a new plateau. So give some other methods a try, take photos or look in the mirror, and decide how you’re happiest with your appearance. You can always go back to your old way of training to get back to the body you currently have.
    Dave

  • Toni:

    Sound advice, as usual. The problem lies inherently with me, I think because everyone tells me that I look fine but I’m unhappy. I want to look more like a tennis player. Currently, I resemble a yoga or pilates instructor (or so I’m told). Those two female body types couldn’t be further apart which is part of my ‘dilemma’. There’s also a lot of societal pressure to look ‘perfect’, particularly as one grows older. It’s just…a lot to deal with. I hate sounding so vain, lol.

    I’m giving myself a few months to see if upping my caloric intake plus lifting heavier weights whilst throwing cardio on the back burner gives me the results I’m looking for.

  • Toni,
    You can only shape your body so much. At the end of the day, you can’t necessarily force yourself to look more like a tennis player vs. a yoga instructor. Just decide on what feels and looks best for you. Hopefully the weight training will add some muscle, especially if you’re doing less cardio.

    Dave

  • Toni:

    Dave,

    What’s a realistic time frame to see some improvements in my physique with weight training? I heard that it could take roughly 6-12 months for me to see a 5 lb. gain in lean muscle. Is this true? I’m lifting heavier weights than I’ve ever attempted before three times a week. The scale is not really moving at this point but I didn’t expect it to. I do feel a bit stronger but it’s still so early on. I guess I’m just anxious about making some progress. *shrugs*

    And yeah, I’m eating more on the days (which is still scary to me, lol) that I lift with a focus on protein and doing my maintenance calories on the days that I don’t. I’m not even doing cardio for the moment. I’m giving my body a few weeks to readjust after all the cardio-intense work I was doing for the past five months. I do plan to add some Tabata back on after I lift twice weekly in another couple of weeks.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thanks in advance.

    Toni

  • Toni,
    The amount of muscle gain will depend on how many calories you eat more than anything. The problem is, the more you eat, the more likely you are to gain fat along with muscle. That’s why it might be better to try to add 5lbs over 3-4 months rather than all in 1 month. I think you have a good plan in place. Just give it 2 months and reassess things and make adjustments as needed. Rome wasn’t built in a day, right?
    Dave

  • Toni:

    I would never attempt to gain 5 lbs. in just a month – that would be crazy to expect instant results. Totally agree with you on that.

    But I disagree with the point you made about the more you eat, you will be more likely to gain fat along with muscle. Not necessarily so. I mean, I’m not ‘filling the gap’ with junk food. I’m eating whole organic fresh food. I’m trying to gain lean muscle in the most sensible and safe way. If I really didn’t care, I guess I’d gorge myself on McDonald’s for a few weeks and call it a day but I’d still be no closer to looking better or healthier IMO.

    And is it normal for your muscles to look more ‘pumped up’ after a weight training session? I almost have decent-looking biceps then the next day, they disappear, lol.

    I did see my father yesterday and he commented that I looked better so that’s nice to hear.

  • Toni,
    Even if you eat completely healthy, you can still gain fat. I know vegetarians who are overweight. At the end of the day, it’s about calories in vs. calories expended. Even bodybuilders who focus so hard on eating lots of protein end up putting on fat during a bulking phase which is why they do cutting phases after. The key right now is that you’re not excessively increasing your calories. For weight training, you do get a nice pump for 1-2 hours after your workout if you train your muscles to failure. You won’t get as much of a pump if you stop 1-2 reps shy of failure. It’s the difference between sarcoplasmic hypertrophy and myofibrillar hypertrophy. Glad to hear you’re heading in a good direction…although most people would probably love to have your “problem.”
    Dave

  • Toni:

    Agreed, it is always about calories in and calories out. Although I’m only eating 300 calories more (on the training days) which is roughly the equivalent of two glasses of skim milk and one hard-boiled egg in my case.

    My ‘problem’ – haha. Yeah, well, I’m learning that attempting to gain a bit of weight (a.k.a. muscle) is JUST as difficult as trying to lose weight, especially if you’re an ecto like myself.

    Good to know about the ‘pump’… I thought it was just me seeing what I wanted to see, lol.

    I’ll let you know how it goes. Thanks for the great info. as usual.

  • Toni,
    You’re taking a very reasonable approach so stick with it. And you’re right about gaining muscle…not as easy as everyone thinks! As for the pump, it’s a nice trick I like to use before going to the beach (at least when it was still summer)…a few sets of pushups increased the size of my chest 1-2″ for 1-2 hours. I think I briefly mentioned that in my low weight, high reps training to failure post.
    Dave

  • Toni:

    That ‘trick’ you mention is similiar to what women who practice Pilates do before they go to the pool and/or beach. A few sets of the exercise, ‘The Hundred’ and your stomach is as flat as a pancake and tighter-looking too. I guess women and men aren’t so different after all, lol.

  • No different at all! I do breathing exercises for abs as well as some planks so that my abs are tight. Combined with handstand pushups and regular pushups, I get a slighter flatter looking stomach with inflated chest, shoulders, and arms. Unfortunately I probably won’t be seeing the beach for another 9 months now that fall has arrived.

  • Toni:

    It’s funny that you mention planks too b/c I did those in my hotel room while on vacation before hitting the beach. Even my nine-year old son joined in and let me tell you, the kid has one killer six-pack! I’d give my right arm for his abs, lol. My six-year old thought it was hysterical to see the two of us doing the planks fifteen minutes before we left the room. But they work, no doubt about that. I probably won’t see a pool either until the kids have their spring break in April so I can relate on the changing of the seasons as well.

  • I’ve said it before but planks trump crunches any day for a nice set of abs. Should be a staple of any training to build core strength as well.

  • Toni:

    Dave,

    I’ve heard that to determine your daily caloric intake you should multiply your bodyweight by 17. My amount would be 1972. I’m confused because I’ve been eating this amount on my lifting days and on my maintenance days I’m eating like b/t 1600-1700 calories. Does that mean I should be eating 1972 on maintenance and closer to 2300 calories on the lifting days to build some muscle? Have I still been eating too little?

    Believe it or not, I’m not really freaking out at the increased amount b/c it wouldn’t be junk food (obviously) but I need to know what direction to head – calorie-wise. Thanks.

  • Toni,
    Personally, I think it’s closer to bodyweight x 15. That probably puts you closer to 1,750 for maintenance. To add some muscle, you could start by adding 20% or 2,100 calories on lifting days. It’s so hard to precisely count calories though so I recommend just gradually eating a little more until you get to the point where you’re gaining 0.5-1 lb per week…depending on your ultimate goal.
    Dave

  • Toni:

    Then I wasn’t completely offbase with my original estimates. Good to know. It is hard to count calories, I’ve actually been adding a bit in slowly like you said. Once I get to ‘goal’, then I could back off a bit as you suggested.

  • Toni,
    You have most of the knowledge already, just keep applying it!
    Dave

  • Toni:

    Just wondering – what’s your thoughts on the new myplate.gov that Mrs. Obama instituted compared to the old food pyramid? I think it’s much improved, personally.

  • Toni,
    It’s a big improvement from the old food pyramid. I’m not quite sure it will change the way people eat, but it’s a nice first step. The biggest problem in my opinion is that it still doesn’t help with portion sizes which in my opinion is a much larger contributing factor to obesity than necessarily what you eat. Others will argue that dairy shouldn’t be included or that protein or grains aren’t the right proportions either. Only time will tell…
    Dave

  • Toni:

    I agree, portion sizes have gotten huge – everything’s super-sized now. But it’sd definitely a great start IMO.

    Quick question: How would I eat the day after I “indulged” on Chinese food? Last night we went to an Asian restaurant and I didn’t gorge myself bt obviously this morning I noticed some bloat particularly around my midsection (the abs didn’t look as sharp) as a result. To be fair, I didn’t drink much water all weekend so that’s not helping either.

    My dilemma is that today is my lifting day so I can exactly skip a meal. Should I cut down on the complex carbs like bread while drinking more water and eating more protein?

    It sound silly but I’m always afraid my abs will disappear from eating a big meal or something like that. I worked hard to have them visible, lol.

    What do you suggest?

  • Toni:

    Oops, I meant I cannot skip a meal in the above comment.

  • Toni,
    I would usually fast the morning after a big meal (marathon cardio helps too to lower glycogen levels). The bloat is just water retention and being full of food. It will flatten back out in a day or day…less if you fast or exercise. For today, you could either just leave the past in the past and make sure you eat well the rest of the week or skip meals before your workout. I wouldn’t skip the meals after your workout. Overall, don’t worry about it. You’ll be back on track in no time.
    Dave

  • Toni:

    Dave,

    I normally would agree with you about fasting but seeing as I’m attempting to gain like 5 lbs.of muscle, I’m not in the position to skip meals especially on a day when I workout with weights.
    Wouldn’t that kill any progress I’ve made?

    So, I’m gathering that there’s no room for error here then – I’ve been eating really well the whole day as you suggested.

    Does this mean I can’t ever verve off-course until after I hit my goal of gaining the five pounds?

    If you could clarify, it’d be much appreciated. Thanks.

  • Actually Toni I think it’s the exact opposite…it’s OK to veer off course every once in a while. It’s obviously better if you can time large eating days with exercise days, but if you slip once in a while, no biggie. However, if you know you’re going to have a night out, I might recommend doing HIIT or your strength training before. As I mentioned, after an unplanned night out, you could just go for a long distance run. I normally don’t advocate really long runs because they can lead to muscle loss but coming off a high calorie, high carb night, they can get you right back to normal. Hope that makes sense.

  • Toni:

    Just wondering what you thought of Dr. Oz? He’s of the mindset to eat 6 times a day- etc., etc. I do watch him sometimes but I take his advice with a grain of salt. Do you think he’s a quack or legit?

  • Toni,
    I don’t watch Dr. Oz so I can’t speak highly or critically of him. He’s credentialized which helps make him seem reputable but he’s also a public figure which leaves him open for criticism. A lot of people tout the value of eating 6 times per day. I just question whether these people have looked at all the studies of eating less times per day. It’s hard for anyone to be an expert in all areas and know everything out there. Some people just latch onto one piece of research and go with it without considering alternatives. We all have our biases.
    Dave

  • Toni:

    Dave,

    I don’t remember seeing a post about water and/or juices so I thought I’d ask my question(s) here. Anyway…

    1. Sometimes I find it hard to drink 8 glasses of water daily. I’m not inherently a water drinker so I have to “force” myself to do so. Most days, I can easily do 5-6 but unless I’m working out, 8 is kind of tough. Does green tea and black coffee count as ‘water’? I like the taste of those beverages better. Also, is your suggested daily water intake based on your height and/or weight?

    2. I absolutely hate citrus fruits HOWEVER I do like orange juice (without the pulp). I noticed though that one serving of orange juice is 110 calories as compared to (low-sodium) V8 juice which is only 50 calories. Is one juice necessarily better for me or are all juices inherently bad b/c of their high sugar content?

    Thanks.
    ~Toni

  • Toni,
    An article about water is on my to-do list…probably won’t be done for another few months though since I have tons of other topics to cover first! Overall I wouldn’t worry too much about having 8 glasses of water. Tea, coffee and even foods like fruit all have water in them. If you’re thirsty, drink water. If your mouth feels dry or your urine is yellow, drink water. No need to force it.

    I’m not a huge fan of juice as it tends to take away a lot of the water and fiber content of natural fruit. Definitely avoid any fruit juice that has added sugar. I don’t think natural fruit juices are the worst thing in the world but I prefer to get my calories elsewhere since drinking doesn’t tend to fill me up. I assume V8 is lower in calories because it uses veggies rather than fruit but I don’t know enough about it. Check out the nutrients that you get from each juice as well because that is one valuable thing they can provide.

    Dave

  • Toni:

    Dave,

    You’re correct, V8 is in fact lower in calories b/c the base is mostly tomatoes with celery, spinach and some other vegetables thrown in. So, I’m assuming that if I am to drink juice, V8 is better, right?

    What do think of those powders that you can add to plain water to help it taste better? And what about ‘fizzy’ water like Perrier (love that!)? I know the bubbles tend to bloat you but once in a while wouldn’t hurt, would it? I just find drinking plain water is so…blah. Yet I can’t deny that my skin looks better and my muscle definition looks sharper when I drink it so I’m aware of its inherent benefits.

    BTW, I know I’m not dehydrated b/c my urine is clear so that’s a non-issue for me.

    ~Toni

  • Toni,
    I’d go with the V8 unless you need more vitamin C in your diet from OJ. I don’t see any problem drinking flavored water or other variations. Check the ingredients to make sure it’s still calorie free and that there’s nothing too funky being added. Otherwise, go for it!
    Dave

  • Toni:

    Dave,
    A few questions for you.

    1. Should I cut down on my consumption of green tea (usually have 2-3 cups daily) while I’m trying to gain muscle because it aids in weight loss or does the green tea help in keeping my bodyfat levels low while I’m trying to increase my weight?

    2. Also, I’m noticing that I’m not gaining weight every single week like I thought I would (I gained one pound over the course of roughly three weeks). How much more should I be eating? I’ve been following the parameters you gave me for 1750 on maintenance days and 2100 on workout days. I obviously need to eat more on workout days but how much more and specifically carbs? And by carbs do I need them to be fruits/vegetables or can they be bread, pasta, oatmeal and rice or doesn’t it matter?

    Thanks,
    Toni

  • Toni,
    1. From my understanding, green tea is a metabolism booster. So it will help you burn calories. However, since you’re trying to gain some weight, that’s counter to your goal. My thought, if you like to drink it, then keep doing so; just add extra calories elsewhere. If you’re drinking it solely for fat loss benefits, then you could probably cut it out.

    2. So you’re gaining 1/3rd lbs per week. The good news is that you probably haven’t gained any fat. Start to up your calories a little now. Maybe shoot 2,000 on maintenance days and 2,400 on workout days. I’d avoid adding any carbs on the maintenance days…stick with either protein or a nice snack like nuts that are calorie dense with protein and healthy fats. Workout days you can add carbs; I’d say it doesn’t matter too much what type they are although I would prefer you keep things healthy with fruit. Adding the extra calories after your workout would be ideal as well.

    Overall, adding a few hundred calories per day should allow you to increase your muscle mass by a pound. If you’re still not gaining, just keep marginally adding more food until you do.

    Dave

  • Toni:

    Dave,
    I agree, I really don’t think I’ve gained a pound of fat b/c my abs are still pretty visible. Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever eaten 2000-2400 calories in my whole life. That’s…a lot of food but I’m committed to this – bottom line. It’s just I’m so used to eating bird-like portions b/c us women have been brainwashed that way.

    I’ve also recently switched from skim milk to 2% milk because I need the extra 40 calories. And I concur, green tea is shelved for the time being; I think it’s counterproductive to my goals at this point.

    On one of the medical websites they stated that someone my height should be 130 lbs. That’s darn near impossible for me to gain 12 lbs.; it’s never gonna happen – my body type just won’t allow it. Isn’t it better to go by my BMI which is currently in the normal weight category? I’d love to be 125 lbs. but I’d settle for 122ish if I had to.

    ~Toni

  • Toni,
    I don’t see any problem from being lean and slim. No reason to get up to 130 if that doesn’t feel reasonable. Just try to eat well and exercise to stay healthy. Add some extra calories in to gain a little weight but don’t stress too much over it.
    Dave

  • Toni:

    Dave,
    So, I followed your advice about upping my overall caloric intake (2000=maintenance and 2400=workout) and I’ve actually gained a whole pound this week; bringing me to 119. Are you sure that gaining .5 to 1 lbs. per week is a safe number to shoot for in terms of weight gain? I just want to gain it slowly so it’s actual muscle and not fat, although I did take your advice on how much protein, carbs and fat to eat daily so my diet’s been fairly spot-on. And yeah, the abs are still very visible so I know it’s definitely muscle that was added this last week and my clothes fit better now; I don’t look like I’m ‘swimming’ in them anymore.
    P.S. I still can’t get over the fact that I’m hardly doing any cardio at all and making great progress. That alone just blows me away!
    ~Toni

  • Toni,
    Less than a pound per week should be reasonable for muscle gaining. The good thing is you can easily cut calories if you have to and get closer to 1/4 to 1/2 pounds gain per week if you’d rather takes things slower. It sounds like you’re happier with your overall appearance so I’d stick with it. Maybe if you gain a couple more pounds either slow down the eating or add some cardio back in. I’ve always used cardio for fat loss so I’m not surprised you’ve seen results without it. The time will come when you may want to reintroduce it. Looking forward to hearing about your continued progress!
    Dave

  • Toni:

    Dave,
    This may be a silly question but how do you know when you’ve gotten to your goal weight? Another words, I really would like to put on an additional eight pounds which would bring my weight gain up to ten pounds in total. How do I know what’s the right weight for me – taking into account: body type/frame, muscle structure and height? All the BMI charts seem to be geared more toward medium and/or larger-boned women. They have someone my height weighing as much as 140 lbs.+ which is fine if you’re not built like me – smaller in stature. As it is, I think it’ll probably take me at LEAST another six months to gain eight more pounds. Thanks in advance.
    ~Toni

  • Toni,
    No question is silly but this one is all about you. Only you can decide what your ideal weight is. It’s a very individual thing. You get to a point and decide if you like the way you look. Ask your family and friends what they think. Do they think you look better now rather than a few pounds lighter. Personally I wouldn’t go too crazy with gaining weight since a lighter weight is generally perceived as healthier in the long run (obviously not too light though!). Just take the go-slow approach and re-assess every couple weeks. Pull back and go into maintenance mode once you like the way you look. This is one thing that I don’t think can go into any equation. Sorry I can’t give you a better answer.
    Dave

  • John:

    Dave,

    Long time, no speak! :) I am very interested in carb cycling now that I am around my goal (and honestly, crave carbs). I am looking for a plan to do this…not sure if it makes sense to do like 3 days low carb, 1 day high carb (repeat)…or do my first meal of the day high carb and dinner low carb (a daily approach)..or maybe weekdays low carb, weekends high carb? I know a lot of it is invididual but value your opinion based on your own experience. Also, for me, I am defining high carb days are almost all natural carbs, not “junk”…so oatmeal, rice, more fruit, maybe some whole grain pasta. As you know, I workout 6x a week EARLY morning, and generally skip breakfast M-F and only have three meals on weekends. I am willing to change this if it helps. Thanks!

  • John,
    There are lots of different ways to do carb cycling as you mentioned. I think the most important time to have carbs is after an intense workout. So in your individual case, it’s probably best to try a daily approach. Have most of your carbs early in the day for lunch after your workout and gradually scale down as the day goes on. That way you’re primed for fat burning the next morning when you exercise again. I generally keep carbs around 150g per day but you could throw in some days with less than 100g when you don’t exercise. As you mentioned, the quality of carbs is certainly important so stick with the good ones. Of course, I still have my cheat day once a week to help maintain my sanity. Sound like a good starting point? You can always adjust if your body doesn’t seem to like the approach. Hope the holidays are good to you!
    Dave

  • John:

    Thanks for the tips Dave. Since I mostly do two meals a day I will make lunch the higher carb one and try that out. Funny…I assume this would be for another thread but I am beginning to question low carb diets and solutions…at least in the long term. A few days last week I ate much higher carb and felt 1000000% percent better…massive energy, no more dizzness when standing or cold body temp…even muscles seemed fuller (water maybe?).

  • John,
    That’s the point of carbs…to give you energy. They also cause water retention. This is why a low carb diet causes rapid weight loss, because you lose a lot of water weight. Just realize that carb cycling with low and high carb days can cause really big fluctuations in weight.
    Dave

  • John:

    Thanks Dave. I noticed that during my last binge…granted I went overboard and went up 7.6lbs in two days. It’s mostly gone now, but it was a temporary flucuation for sure (again, I went way overboard on refined carbs…Fluff anyone?). I am making Sunday my high carb (cheat day) as planned. I’d love to get to both weekend days…maybe Saturday a HEALTHY high carb day and Sunday a more liberal high carb cheat day (like pizza).

  • Toni:

    Dave,
    I’ve gained enough weight (11 lbs.) so I’m maintaining now at 125. I’ve done the math (BWx15) and I’m coming up with about 1900 kcals for maintenance and about 2200 kcals for workout days. Is this correct? I realize that I may have to reassess in a couple of weeks to make sure I’m not gaining OR losing but I’m just looking for a starting point with my daily caloric intake.

    I’m also still thinking about doing IF but I want to wait and see if my weight can hold steady for a little while. Right now, I’m only eating 3x/day on maintenance days and 4x/day on workout days and what a difference. I’m no longer consumed by thoughts of food or my next meal. “Bulking” was hard work!

    ~Toni

  • Toni,
    I think the calorie count sounds like a reasonable starting place. Just remember that if you do intermittent fasting, you’ll either have to eat the same amount of food in less hours (if you choose the daily fasting approach) or eat a lot more food on non-fasting days (if you choose the Eat Stop Eat weekly approach). I might stick with what you’re doing for now since you seem to be at a great weight and not overly burdened by your eating schedule.
    Dave

FREE Fitness Report!

Fitness in a Flash
$39.99 FREE for a limited time!

FREE Beach Body Report!

How to Get a Beach Body
FREE if you “Like” me on Facebook!

Find Me on Facebook

Page optimized by WP Minify WordPress Plugin