Once you lean down, it’s actually not quite so obvious what you want to do.
Damn near 100% of the population has the same initial goal:
You can mask it however you’d like.
“Get in shape.”
These are all just variations of the exact same thing: You want to lose fat.
In order to accomplish all of those other things, fat must be lost. Plain and simple.
Losing the unnecessary fat will make you leaner, stronger (relatively – assuming muscle mass is preserved), sexier, healthier, and more shapely.
So, there’s no reason to hide behind false pretenses. Be upfront.
You want to look good naked.
Don’t we all?
Nobody likes walking by that mirror and grimacing.
Or avoiding the mirror altogether.
You want to look at yourself, in your most natural state, and nod your head with satisfaction.
Losing the fat is the first step in this process.
But after that, the waters get a bit murky.
Hopefully you get to see what I’m talking about at some point in your life.
But after the fat is lost, many people will sort of look around…………..and say…………………..
This post is going to be about exactly what to do “next”. After you’ve leaned out. What are your options? What should you do?
“Maintenance” is such a grey area. And nobody wants to count macros forever.
Most males want to do one of three things:
1. Get shredded, stay shredded –> maintain your shredded state completely.
2. Get shredded, slow bulk –> gain muscle slowly while assuring minimal fat is gained.
3. Get shredded, get yoked –> maximize muscle growth while accepting moderate fat gain in the process.
Let’s explore each option and how it would be done.
Option 1: Get shredded, stay shredded
First, get shredded. The links at the top of the page will help you.
How long will it take? This will mostly depend on how consistent you are over time and your starting point. Assuming, of course, your deficit has been created intelligently and adjustments have been made as necessary.
Let’s say it takes you a year to get down to where you’re content. Completely happy. You’re at 8% body fat and your abs are showing.
You decide you love the feeling of having a chiseled midsection so much, you wouldn’t dream of messing it up by attempting to gain muscle.
When you attempt to gain muscle, you MUST eat at a surplus in order for proper growth to occur. There are ways to keep fat gain to a minimum, but it’s almost never completely non-existent.
To keep your abs indefinitely? Two options:
A. Reverse dieting
With reverse dieting, you slowly incorporate more calories over time.
In general, you add more carbohydrates and fats slowly and monitor yourself as you do.
If you have the discipline, you can add 5-6 grams of fat and 8-10 grams of carbs to your daily meals each week.
Monitor your waist line to ensure fat isn’t being gained (a slight upwards trend will be a result of the extra calories, but it shouldn’t be too drastic).
A different reverse dieting option would be to add 25 carb grams and 15 fat grams (or something similar) and wait 3-4 weeks before taking that measurement.
But either way, reverse dieting is not only a fantastic way to ensure you can eat more over time while keeping fat away, it’s also a proven method to raise your metabolism.
Which is awesome. More food > less food.
B. Switch to maintenance
When you decide your cut is over, another method you may use is a straight up “switch to maintenance”.
This is for those who just want to incorporate more calories and be done with it –> the process of reverse dieting can be lengthy and require discipline. It’s really not for everyone.
In order to simply “switch to maintenance”, find the average number of calories you consumed during the last week of your cut.
Your daily average. The actual calorie amounts should vary based on training/resting.
Take the average amount of weight loss during your last 2 weeks of your cut.
Multiply that number by 3,500.
Take this number and divide it by 7.
Add this number to your daily average.
This is your estimated maintenance.
Set your macros using this link.
Joe ate, on average, 2,300 calories per day during his cut.
He lost 1.2 pounds each week during the last two weeks.
1.2 x 3,500 = 4,200
4,200 / 7 = 600
2,300 + 600 = 2,900
Joe’s estimated maintenance is 2,900 calories per day.
Joe sets his macros using that as his estimated maintenance.
Option 2: Get shredded, slow bulk
This option, in my opinion, is the least optimal of your 3 options. But I get it.
We want it all.
We want our abs and we want our muscles.
In all honesty, if you really want those muscles, and you want to get there as fast as possible, you should shred down, then bulk up for a substantial amount of time and forget your abs.
But that’s a tough pill to swallow. Especially when some of you might have cut for over a year to finally get shredded.
So, how do we “slow bulk”? The process is similar to “reverse dieting”. But it takes into consideration your gym performance.
Slowly incorporate a given amount of macros to your current cutting macros. Let’s say 25 grams of carbs and 10 grams of protein.
Give it a few weeks. See how the additional calories affect gym performance. If you’re eating enough to gain muscle, you should be setting new PRs.
Ensure your weights, overall, are increasing.
Once those additional calories have been “milked” (or if those calories aren’t enough to start making the lifts go up again) and the strength gains stop, increase the cals again.
In general, this will allow us to be sure too many calories don’t get added at one time.
In theory, as your weights go up, it will require more calories to recover from them, given the physiological, adaptive stress being placed on the body.
Once your body reaches a point where that caloric amount won’t allow you to recover fully anymore, additional calories are added.
This should build muscle and keep fat at bay.
In practice, that might not always be the case.
This sort of a set up requires diligence and patience. And the strength gains could be very slow. Like “a rep per week or two” slow.
Which is probably not the optimal rate of muscle gain – for anyone.
But if your abs are crucial (they ARE pretty fun to have……), then this set up is for you.
Option 3: Get shredded, get yoked
This option is for those that are willing to sacrifice a bit for what they want.
They truly want “it all” –> genetic, maximum muscular potential.
This is for those who want to be as big as they possibly can be, genetically, and as ripped as humanly possible without compromising your health.
This could take 5 or more years to accomplish.
So, keep that in mind. First, you’ve gotta get shredded.
Then, you need to start building muscle.
After around 3-4 years of muscle building and bulking, the rate of muscle growth slows down tremendously.
At that point, you will be lucky to add a pound or two of muscle mass per year.
And at that point, you can probably actively stop trying to build muscle and simply maintain your physique.
The good news? If this is your final goal, I’ve already got you covered.
When you’re bulking, observe your measurements, mostly by mirror, and cut as needed.
Once you can see some unsightly fat gain, cut for 3-4 weeks to get it under control.
You (should) find it rather easy to lose fat quickly when your body switches from a surplus to a deficit. The “cuts” should be quick and painless.
And only make the cuts take as long as needed before you can begin that bulk again.
Get DEXA scans to track your progress. They’re expensive, so one per year will do it.
But you will need to decide when it stops being “worth it”. You’ll likely find you can gain between 15-25 pounds of muscle in the first year. But that rate of return diminishes.
Once it diminishes enough to make you want to stop, cut intelligently down to your desired level of body fat, and smile.
Smile the satisfied smile of a person
who has accomplished more physically
than 99.9% of this earth’s inhabitants……..
Now, at this point, should you still strive to get stronger? Sure.
And you *should* be able to. But the strength changes will be slow. Very slow. Could be like a-few-pounds-per-year-on-the-main-lifts-slow.
But that additional strength will not make you any bigger.
So, the constant surplus isn’t necessary and is very likely detrimental at that point.
It will simply add fat.
For the ladies, the answer, for almost all, is much simpler.
Most females don’t want to “bulk up”.
Keep in mind that no matter how heavy you lift and how much you eat, it will be pretty much impossible for you to ever have the bulk of a guy.
Thank your lack of testosterone………….
Which doesn’t mean you won’t gain any muscle. It just means it won’t be as appreciable as your male counterparts.
In general, this means “slow bulking” or “getting yoked” probably aren’t part of your vocabulary.
For most of you, the option you want to choose is to “reverse diet”.
Carbs are a girl’s best friend. (And most guys’ as well…….) There is a good chance you reduced your carbohydrate consumption somewhat when leaning down.
As you reverse dieting, add back in additional carbohydrates and fats in order to slowly increase your metabolism over time.
Take it slow. Keep track of those measurements FIRST and that scale weight SECOND.
Even if the scale weight is moving up, as long as the measurements aren’t increasing, you aren’t gaining fat.
If you find your “tipping point”, taper back a bit.
Eventually, over time,
you’ll find you are able to eat
more calories than ever before –>
and maintain your leanness! Awesome!
THE “OTHER” OPTION: LEANGAINS WITHOUT COUNTING
There actually is one “other” option.
For those who want to maintain that leanness, and don’t really care about the size.
And they’re lazy.
Joking! It’s okay to be lazy –> as Sir Isaac Newton famously realized,
an object at rest tends to stay at rest…….
So, I get it. Counting macros is annoying at times.
Here’s some general guidelines on how to go through Leangains *without* the macro counting.
1. Get shredded by macro counting first.
This should be a no-brainer. Get as lean as you’d like to get by macro counting. There’s a chance you can get there without macro counting.
But it will be much more difficult. Just do it, dammit, you know it works.
2. Eat two meals, lunch and dinner.
This should be easy. You’ve been doing this for awhile.
3. When training, make lunch a bit of protein and carbs. No fat.
Good choices: Some lean meat and bread. Or some cottage cheese and fruit. Or some chicken breast with a salad and low fat dressing.
4. When training, make dinner low(er) fat and carby.
Lean meat and pasta/potatoes/rice/bread/oats. Something like that.
Good choices: Chicken stir fries, grilled lean steak, grilled chicken and potatoes, Mexican with lean beef (hold the cheese), etc.
If you want a sugary, low-fat treat, put it here. Don’t go crazy, though.
Good choices: Rice Krispie Treats, sugary cereal, sorbet, etc.
5. When resting, make lunch from protein and fats, no carbs (save veggies).
Good choices: chicken and avacado, tuna salad, chicken salad with creamy dressing, bacon and eggs.
6. When resting, make dinner from protein and fats, no carbs (save veggies).
Good choices: chili, pork chops, Mexican (minus the wraps), burgers (low-carb bun/bunless), sloppy joes (minus bun), steak and eggs.
7. Monitor progress. Cut if needed.
Assuming you stick to two meals and just eat lunch and dinner, it’s going to be difficult to overeat to the point of fat gain.
Especially if you’ve been on Leangains enough and your body is firing, hormonally and metabolically, the way it should.
That being said, it’s certainly possible to gain fat. Eat more calories than you expand, and you will gain fat.
If you notice the inches creeping up and the scale weight increasing, a quick cut should be all you need to return back to your preferred levels.
Hopefully, no matter where you are in your Leangains experience, you can see your “end goal” out there somewhere.
Although macro counting can be a fun and rewarding process, it is certainly time consuming.
Being methodical about your well being is a worthwhile endeavor.
Taking subjectivity out of the equation is one of our only protections against obesity.
When we are objective, we are guaranteed to win the battle of the bulge.