How to Increase Your Body’s

Maintenance-Level Calories

 

The easy answer would be – SLOWLYYYYYY. But, let me extrapolate and give you some actual advice. And, before I dive into this, I’m talking the healthy and NATURAL way – no metabolism-boosting supplements or whatever other snake oil is out there. This is a topic I can authentically speak to, as I have been told on countless occasions, “If I had your genetics, I’d be able to eat that much food and lose weight, too! You’re one of the lucky one’s with a good metabolism.” While I am not genetically gifted or born with a high-functioning metabolism, I do fall into the category of people who are able to lose weight while eating 4000+ calories. It certainly wasn’t always this way and I would have told you that during the first 21 years of my life, I had a very slow metabolism. Growing up, I struggled to lose weight no matter what I did. I was never the kid who could get away with eating whatever I wanted, because my ‘metabolism would just burn it off’. ‘Good food’ or ‘bad food’, it all stuck to me…and it stuck to me, hardddd. So, how did I flip the switch and take my metabolism from that of a Vespa Scooter, to a Ferrari?

My Own Story

 

My macro journey started about 5-6 years ago and my first set of macros were:

 

2,500kcals: 80g fat/200g pro/245g carb

 

My current set of macros (and yes, I’m losing weight on them):

 

4,285kcals: 85g fat/230g pro/650g carb

 

  I’ve been able to increase my body’s maintenance-level calories, or it’s ‘setpoint’, by 2000+ calories per day, through years of cycling between phases of REVERSE DIETING, MAINTAINING, and CUTTING. But, this phased approach wasn’t something I was committed to when I first started tracking my macros. I am very fat-phobic, even to this day, and it hampered my progress for the first 2-2.5 years that I tracked my macros. My overall goal was to get bigger and stronger, but obviously while being shredded – I mean c’mon, what guy doesn’t want this? The problem is, you can’t achieve both at the same time.

 

Cutting and attempting to lose body fat requires being in a caloric deficit (eating below maintenance-level calories)

 

Putting on muscle and gaining weight requires being in a caloric surplus (eating above maintenance-level calories)

 

My First 2-2.5 Years Of Macro Tracking:

 

I knew full well I needed to spend time Reverse Dieting (slowly adding calories) to get into a caloric surplus and put on the mass I was after. I’d do this for 3-4 months, increasing my daily intake by 300-400kcals/day during that that time, but because of my fat-phobic mindset, I’d freak out as soon as the scale moved up a pound and instantly switch to cutting (mind you, an irrational freak out, as my weight going up was PART OF THE PLAN). I would slowly lower calories over the next few months and I’d find myself back at square one, maybe even worse – eating fewer calories than before and no bigger than I was before, as I hadn’t spent nearly enough time in a caloric surplus to make any true gains. What would happen next? I’d not like how ‘small’ I was, in terms of muscularity, and I’d convince myself to undertake another Reverse Diet. You guessed it, I’d only last for a few months, start cutting again, and be back to where I started. This yo-yo dieting pattern repeated itself over-and-over, spinning my wheels and at the end of 2-2.5 years, I looked no different than when I started. If you’re reading this and you just thought, “Shit…that’s me…”, you’re not alone! This is the exact reason why people can actively diet and exercise for months, even years, and make no noticeable progress to their physique. But, don’t worry – I’m here to help get you out of this cycle!

 

My Last 2.5-3 Years Of Macro Tracking:

 

I finally said enough was enough, grew a pair (for lack of a better term), and told myself that if I was ever going to truly reach my goal of getting bigger and leaner, I HAD to seriously commit to a lengthy Reverse Diet. Regardless of what happened on the scale or how my body composition changed in the process, I had to stick with it. Trust me, this last one was partiularly challenging for me, due to my Body Dysmorphic Disordered tendencies. Year 1 on this plan, I spent the better part of 6-7 months Reverse Dieting and was able to increase my daily caloric intake from 2,500kcals to 3,500kcals, per day. While I thought I looked like the Michelin Man, I took weekly progress pictures that proved it was just a warped perception in my head. Weight went up slightly; body fat went up slightly; but overall, muscle mass went up drastically. I spent some time at the peak of my Reverse Diet, to let my body adapt and establish its new maintenance-level calories, and then began a lengthy cut. This time, at the end of my cut I looked noticeably different. I was able to maintain a good deal of the muscle I had put on, while trimming the little body fat that had accumulated; I weighed more than when I started, while looking leaner/more defined; and was eating 500 more calories per day. Year 2 on the plan looked very similar to year 1 and after a lengthy Reverse Diet, and equally lengthy cut, again, I ended up weighing more, appearing more ‘jacked’, and eating about another 500 calories more per day.

 

If you’re following me, in two years’ time, I was able to:
  • Put on about 10-15lbs of muscle
  • Look leaner and more defined
  • Increase my maintenance-level calories from 2,500kcals/day to 3,500kcals/day

Now that we’re on the same page, back to the end of my story… Last year, my 5th year of macro tracking, was where I made most progress. At this point, while still battling the Body Dysmorphic Disordered thoughts (they’re omnipresent), I had learned to cope with them and push them towards the back of my head – needing to in order to prioritize progress. I spent nearly the entire year Reverse Dieting. Yes, you read that correctly. Nearly TWELVE months adding calories with the sole goal of putting on size and getting stronger. During this time, my calories went from about 3,500 per day to about 5,200 per day; my weight went from about 200lbs to about 225lbs; my Snatch PR went from 230lbs to 260lbs; and I was still able to see some muscles under all the ‘fluff’ by the end of it all. When I couldn’t fathom the thought of eating any more to continue putting on weight (it is HARD to eat 5,200 calories per day and food quality takes a major hit), I started cutting. I cut for about 6 months, in which time my weight went back down to about 200lbs (but looking WAY bigger/more defined) and my calories dropped to around 4,200kcals/day.

 

Some questions you may have:

  1. Did I do any cardio while I was Reverse Dieting? Absolutely not! I wanted to ADD calories, not SUBTRACT them, so that would have defeated the purpose.
  2. Did I do any cardio while losing about 25lbs, last year? Absolutely not! I only add cardio for weight loss when calories get really low and I don’t want to have to eat less. And let me tell you, when you start a cut at 5,200kcals/day, ending at 4,200kcals/day, ‘calories getting really low’ is never a problem.
  3. Did it ever feel like I was dieting? HELL NO! Have you ever eaten 4,200-5,200kcals/day?! Some would say it’s living the dream, some would say it’s gluttonous, but nobody would say it feels like dieting.

So, to revisit the  title of this blog post, “How to increase your body’s maintenance-level calories?”, I’ll summarize my answer with three words:

Patient, Reverse Dieting

 

The goal of a Reverse Diet should be to increase calories until signs show that the body is no longer responding positively to each addition. When you’ve reached this point, it is best to stay there for a few weeks/months, depending on how long your Reverse Diet was, to allow your body to establish that caloric intake as its new maintenance-level calories. Then, you’ll follow it up by cutting calories to trim any unwanted body fat that was gained during the process – which, if the Reverse Diet was done correctly, should be minimal. At the end of your cut, you should be eating more calories per day than you were before you started your Reverse Diet, while having the same, or even better, body composition as when you started. If you try to rush the process, either Reverse Dieting or cutting, or both, you’ll find yourself ending your cut at nearly the exact caloric intake you started at. Your metabolism would have had no time to adapt to the increase in calories and you’ll find yourself potentially looking the way you want to, but having had to drop your calories so low to get there, that it’s unsustainable for the long-haul. Moral of the Story: Take your time. Nutritionally speaking, when done correctly, nothing should happen fast. Set aside your fixation with instant gratification and looking good in the next 90 days, as the drastic approach you’ll have to take to achieve results in 90 days will never be sustainable or healthy. Prioritize looking good for the next year, 5 years, 10 years – hell, the rest of your life! And, if you’re not sure how to do this on your own, find yourself a coach who will lead you through this process, educating you all along the way. Message me – I just might have one in mind ; )

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