Start Fat Loss Now Then Eat More Later

add mass bodybuilding build muscle fat loss Sep 23, 2022
fat loss fitness girl

It's very hard to burn fat, or add muscle without diet breaks. Don't know what a diet break is? Find out here!

Diet setup

This system uses a plan that mirrors a groundbreaking study called the MATADOR study. PMCID: PMC5803575 (1)

To summarize, the MATADOR (Minimizing Adaptive Thermogenesis and Deactivating Obesity Rebound) study studied 51 obese individuals both continuous dieters (CON) and intermittent energy restriction dieters (ER) of 2 weeks of dieting, with a restricted caloric intake below your maintenance calories with a 1-week “diet break”.

The study used 67% of maintenance calories. After the two weeks, the diet break included 100% of maintenance calories for the measured body weight.

The other group dieted as a continuous dieting group with no diet breaks in between.

They lay this out in a 16-week plan. The CON group had no diet breaks and the ER group had 7 x 2-week diet blocks of energy balance that equated to 30 total weeks.

47 individuals finished the study, and they found that with the ER group, there was a significant loss of fat-free mass (FFM) over the CON dieters. This is fascinating!

The ER group also saw slight changes in weight increases but quickly rebounded back to the leaner weight and continued to lose FFM in the reduction period.

Setup Formula

Start by finding your maintenance calories. By now as an intermediate to advanced lifter I’m assuming at one time or another you have at least dabbled in tracking your macros, but for the sake of ease, you have two options:

Option 1) Multiply your body weight x 15. This gives a 200 lb bodybuilder a 3000-maintenance calorie set point. It isn’t completely accurate, but you’re going to be in striking range.

Option 2) For a more accurate way to find your maintenance, track everything you eat for one full week. Do this from Monday to Sunday. If your weight stays the same, that’s your maintenance calories. You may not like tracking, but it’s the best way to get an easy answer. If your goal is to cut, you’ll need to be accurate each week up to show day. If you aren’t, you risk losing out on some respectable fat loss or adding some nice mass gains.

Set your maintenance calories by partitioning each macro with that number of calories.


You’re welcome to play around with the percentages of fats and carbohydrates. Protein stays the same.

Again, for ease of use, listed below is how I setup for most clients. I have some that favor less carbs for preference, so I increase fats, and some vice versa.

Protein – 35%

Carbs – 35%

Fats – 30%

Protein-keep it simple:

Let’s make this as easy as possible and get protein out of the way first. 1 gram x your current body weight in pounds. For you European folks, 1.2 x 1 kg of your (per kg) of body weight. Divide by 4 and that’s your protein per gram intake.

Have an equal distribution of protein during the day.

For example, if a bodybuilder weighs 200 lb and takes in 200 grams of protein, if he eats 4 meals a day, he should try to have 50 grams of protein in each meal. For pre and post workout protein, I would just split that in half. 25g pre workout with a piece of fruit, and a 25g shake. I also like eggs with egg whites after training particularly if I trained hard and I’m hungry.


.03 x bodyweight. Divide by 9, you’ll get your fat grams. Keep the fat to a small amount before training and after.

I like to have higher carbs in the morning with no fats. As the day progresses, I add my fattier meals to my day. At dinner is where my fats are highest. It helps to satiate my cravings after dinner-my worst time during a cut. I also have a protein rich meal of cottage cheese with whey protein and 2 tbsp of peanut butter.

You can play with the fats/carbs ratios. If you favor fatty foods more, then reduce your carb intake. If you love carbs, reduce your fats. I only say do the above because less fats are less satiating unless you pile on the fruit to meet your macros.

Fruit has a satiating effect and can fill you for a few hours. It’s a great pre workout snack, and for example, if you have an allowed 30 grams of carbs for dinner and you decide to have rice, the rice is done in 3 tablespoons. You’re still hungry. If you load up a salad with veggies and slam 30 grams of fruit, then you’re looking at 2 cups of berries, or a large apple or two medium sized apples, or a ton of vegetables. You’ll feel fuller and possibly look at the fruit and say, jeez I have more to go...


What’s left over in calories. Divide that by 4, that’s your grams.

Long-Term Cutting Phase

fat loss male physique

Me, from December 2020 (235 lbs) to August 2021 (206 lbs). (yuck). I now sit at 215 lbs comfortably and I will never go back to 235 lbs.

For fat loss deduct 30% from your intake. For the next 3-5 weeks, shoot for making losses of 0.5 lb to 1 lb a week. Anything more than that and you’re risking muscle loss (which is always a factor in a calorie deficit), and you have adjusted your calories too low. Make small, incremental adjustments to your carb intake 5-10%. Stay with that for a week and check your weight three days of the week. Be aware that there will be fluctuations.

If the downward trend starts to plateau after 10-14 days, it’s time for 5 days of at maintenance calories at the new weight.

There are no “cheat meals”. You are welcome to eat what you want, but you have enough willpower to stay on track (pun intended) and right around the corner in three weeks is the maintenance calorie increase, otherwise known as a “diet break.”

Maintenance Calories

During the diet break maintenance calories will be calculated lay adding 30% more carbs and fats at the new weight. This doesn’t mean you become a pig and eat anything and everything. There are two reasons:

1) if you decide to anything that you haven’t eaten before, you’re risking feeling gross and bloated. Your body isn’t used to this. It’s more sensitive. Be smart and continue to eat the same things you’ve eaten for the past weeks. Just increase the intake of those foods.

2) You’ll risk screwing up your past progress of fat loss. It can happen fast. I did this to myself about 10 years ago after a challenging 36 week cut. I had a bad car accident, two wrist surgeries, wound up in the hospital for 5 days with severe bronchitis. I stuck with it, competed, and came in a respectable fourth place. Fourth isn’t the greatest but to me, it was a personal win because I didn’t give up.

A day after the show was my birthday and my amazing wife setup a nice Italian food feast with family and friends. I made the very stupid mistake of eating and drinking like it was just another party. I gained 12 lbs back in three days and felt like total garbage. Moral of the story is to be smart. Don’t gorge on food. Have a nice meal the day the cut ends but be aware of stomach sensitivity and water gain. Dont freak if you get on the scale the next day and see a small rebound after that nice meal. Just get on track with the new macros. 

Use the setup formula that we used to setup your macros with the new weight from your last day of your cut. That is your new maintenance calories for your new weight. 

Deduct 30% from that new number and begin. Weight loss should start again. Same as before, look for 0.5-1.0 lb loss. Repeat this process until show day or when you have met your goal weight.

Ending Your Cut

If you’re not competing or are happy with your new weight, you need to ease your way out of the cut. You’ll go on a light two to four week maintenance break. Don’t think that you’re finished now I can eat the same way I did before. NO.

Have your new maintenance calories setup, but gradually add in carbs and fats. Small percentages work best when adding in calories. Don’t be impatient. After a few weeks, you can stay at the new maintenance calorie number, or you can go on a mass phase.

Keep your current cardio and activity regime the same. Do NOT end your cardio completely. In fact, don’t stop what you’ve been doing. After 2 weeks try to reduce something small. For example, your 30 minutes of cardio session. Reduce it to 25 minutes. Small changes, not all at once.

Go with the understanding that you will add some weigh because you’re adding carbs. Carbs attract water so after a week of maintenance, then add your weight. It’ll come back to the week before you cut plus 2-3 lbs more. Be sensible, but don’t get crazy. Play the long game to sustain the incredible job of staying lean and adding in small changes.

Mass Phase

For a mass phase, start by adding add 250 calories in the form of carbohydrates or fats. You can do both and play with the percentages. I prefer a 60/40% of carbs to fats ratio. Carbs and fats are your anabolic agent. Keep your protein the same. Too much protein can be expensive on your budget. It will be processed by the body, but why waste more money if you’re not seeing a return on your investment. It’s not like you can more protein and see faster gains. Treat your mass phase as you would your cutting phase.

During mass gains, you’re going to accumulate some fat. If you’ve found that you’re soft or are just sick and tired of eating all the food for the mass phase, setup a small cutting phase for 2 weeks.

Mini Cut Phase

You’re going to setup a very strict two to six week phase where you’ll have a cutting window with a large deficit of calories. Anything more than that and you’re on a long duration cut.

A pound of fat equals 3500 calories. You need a 500 calorie deficit a day to drop one pound. 500 calories x 7 days in a week = 3500 calories.

•   For an aggressive cut of 2.0% off your current body weight per multiply your bodyweight x 0.02.

•   For a slightly less aggressive cut, aim of 1.5%, multiply your bodyweight x 0.015.

•   For a 1% loss, a moderate cut will do just fine. Multiply your bodyweight x 0.01.

After finding that number, add that number to 500 calories to find your daily caloric deficit.

Our 200 lb bodybuilder has added 15 lbs bringing him to 215 lbs over the course of twelve weeks. For a period three weeks he’s plateauing, and he isn’t seeing as much muscle gain but more fat gain. He is also burned out and turned off by the sight of food that he wants to end this for a period, and he decides to do a mini cut phase.

There’s three ways to cut. A severe cut, a less aggressive cut, and a more moderate cut. Your fat levels can help decide which to use, but ultimately it is up to you and how much you can handle

1) A severe cut is when you’re 15% fat or more. You are in the middle of a mass phase with no goals in mind, but you want to take a couple of weeks to cut after massing for 3 months.

2) A less aggressive cut is best used when you’re 15-12% fat. Maybe a goal lies ahead in the next 24-28 weeks and you’re planning out your final 2 months before a long term precontest cut or are getting ready to cut for a longer period of time. Be sure to plan that you have a two week maintenance phase with the new weight loss number.

3) A moderate cut can be used when you’re near 12-10% body fat. You don’t have a lot of fat to lose and you can handle two weeks with no problem. It is a hard two weeks, but you can do it. This is best used when you need to shed a few pounds for a photo shoot, or a big event is coming and need to have your shirt off without embarrassing yourself.

Mini Cut Formulae

We’ll use our bodybuilder of 215 lbs for this. If you’re lighter or larger, adjust according to your weight.

1) Severe cut

Do this for only two weeks.

215 x 0.02 (0.2%) = 4.3

4.3 x 215 lbs = 924.5

Remember above when I said that you need a 500 calorie deficit per day x 7 to equal that one pound of fat or 3500 calories? Add that in now.

 500 + 924.5 = 1424.5 total calories.

2) Less aggressive cut

This type if cut can go for three to four weeks.

215 x 0.015 (1.5%) = 3.225

3.225 x 215 lbs = 693.3

500 + 693.3 = 1193.3 total calories.


3)  Moderate cut

You can hold out of four to six weeks.

215 x 0.01 (1.0%) = 0.215

0.215 x 215 lbs  = 462

500 + 462 = 962 total daily calories

This gives you the guidelines of which to follow. While is not 100% foolproof, it is meant to guide you in the right direction. Some adjusting may be necessary.

•   A few points to these types of cuts.

•   Don’t use this for longer than six weeks. It isn’t designed for that. You should the use the long-term approach and cut with a smaller calorie deficit.

•   You won’t make any muscle gains, but you will you make any new record PRs.

•   You won’t lose any muscle. It takes longer than six weeks to lose. You’re doing maintenance training, so you’ll be retaining what you’ve gained.

•   You won’t get those tremendous freaky pumps that you had when you were in your mass phase. It’s okay. It’s only for a short time.

•   You’ll look a little, soft and small, not as jacked.  It’s temporary, so be aware of it. Push the negative thoughts out of your head and know that it isn’t forever.

I’ve used this method repeatedly on different clients. It’s a great way to know that strict dieting isn’t forever. It gives you breaks when you need them and fights the plateaus a lot more effectively. It may take a little longer to lose fat, but it keeps you on track more.

(1) Intermittent energy restriction improves weight loss efficiency in obese men: the MATADOR study

N M Byrne, A Sainsbury, N A King, A P Hills, R E Wood

Int J Obes (Lond) 2018 Feb; 42(2): 129–138. Prepublished online 2017 Aug 17. Published online 2017 Sep 19. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2017.206

PMCID: PMC5803575