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How to Speed Up Your Metabolism for Easier Weight Loss

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How to Speed Up Your Metabolism for Easier Weight Loss

If you’re struggling with weight loss (or would like to lose weight easier) and want to know how to speed up your metabolism, you want to read this article.

 

When people want to lose weight, the advice they’ll often get is to simply “eat less and move more.” It’s just calories in vs. calories out, they’ll be told.

But how does that explain the women that come to me at 140, 150, or 160+ pounds, eating 1,300 calories per day, exercising 6 – 7 hours per week…without losing weight?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

According to standard calculations, such women should be burning upwards of 2,000 calories per day. So how the hell can they be eating so little without losing fat? And what should they do? Should they suck it up and eat even less? Push through another hour or two of grueling exercise each week? Or is something else needed?

Well, in this article I’m going to break it all down and show you why preserving your metabolic health is the key to consistent, pain-free weight loss.

So let’s start at the beginning: what the hell does metabolism even mean?

The Metabolism Made Simple

how to speed up your metabolism naturally and lose weight

The dictionary defines metabolism in the following way:

The chemical processes that occur within a living organism in order to maintain life.

Two kinds of metabolism are often distinguished: constructive metabolism, or anabolism, the synthesis of the proteins, carbohydrates, and fats that form tissue and store energy; and destructive metabolism, or catabolism, the breakdown of complex substances and the consequent production of energy and waste matter.

In short, when we speak of the metabolism, we speak of the body’s ability to use various chemical processes to produce, maintain, and break down various substances, and to make energy available for cells to use.

As you can imagine, this is an incredibly complex subject as it encompasses the entire set of processes whereby life is sustained, so let’s hone in on the aspect of it most relevant to this article: metabolic speed.

Now, what does it mean to have a “slow” or “fast” metabolism?

Well, such distinctions are referring to what is known as the body’s metabolic rate, which is simply the amount of energy the body uses to perform the many functions involved in metabolism.

Basal metabolic rate excludes physical activity, and we often measure it in terms of calories. (One calorie, or kilocalorie as it’s technically known, is the amount of heat required to heat one kilogram of water one degree Celsius)

The faster one’s metabolism is, the more energy the body burns in performing the many tasks related to staying alive. The slower it is, the less energy it burns performing these tasks.

In a funny sense, a slower metabolism is actually more “efficient” than a faster one because it requires less energy to maintain life. (This doesn’t mean a slow metabolism is good.)

Now, the body’s metabolic rate is influenced by various factors such as age, fat mass, fat-free mass, and thyroid hormone circulation, but some people’s bodies also naturally just burn more energy than others’.

For instance, one study reported basal metabolic rates from as low as 1,027 calories per day to as high as 2,499 calories per day, with a mean BMR of 1,500 calories per day. Much of this variance was due to different levels of fat-free mass and fat mass, age, and experimental error, but a significant portion (about 27%) of the variance was unexplained.

Another study demonstrated that basal metabolic rates can vary between people with nearly identical levels of lean mass and fat mass. Researchers found that despite their subjects all having comparable body compositions, the top 5% BMRs metabolized energy about 30% faster than the lowest 5%.

Alright, so that’s what the metabolism is and how it works. Let’s relate it to weight loss.

Use this workout and flexible dieting program to lose up to 10 pounds of fat and build muscle in just 30 days…without starving yourself or living in the gym.

How Your Metabolism Affects Your Ability to Lose Weight

how to speed up your metabolism naturally

As you probably know, you lose fat by feeding your body less energy than it burns every day. Your body deals with this energy deficit, or calorie deficit, by tapping into fat stores to get the energy it needs (that it isn’t getting from the food you eat).

From where are most of these energy demands coming from, though? That’s right, the metabolism.

For instance, a 180-pound man with 10% body fat and a healthy metabolism has a basal metabolic rate of about 2,000 calories per day. Through regular exercise and other activity, total daily energy expenditure could increase to about 2,800 calories per day.

Well, as we can see, about 70% of an in-shape, active man’s total daily energy expenditure still comes from the metabolism.

This is why preserving metabolic health is so important when it comes to weight loss. When you reduce your calorie intake to induce weight loss, you’re counting mainly on your metabolism to keep humming along, pulling from fat stores. Sure, you use exercise to increase overall energy demands and thus fat loss, but your metabolism is a major player in the game.

The slower your metabolism is, the less food you’ll have to eat and the more exercise you’ll have to do to lose weight effectively.  The faster it is, the more you’ll be able to eat and the less you’ll have to exercise.

The Surefire Way to Slow Your Metabolism to a Crawl and Get Fat

how to ruin your metabolism

Most people know that losing weight requires eating less food than they’re currently eating and moving more, and most people want to lose weight as quickly as possible.

What do many people do, then? Well, they dramatically reduce calorie intake and dramatically increase energy output (through many hours of exercise each week). And while this approach will induce weight loss for a bit, it will ultimately fail. Why?

Because your metabolism adapts to the amount of energy you feed your body. Its goal is to balance energy intake with output–to maintain homeostasis.

When you restrict your calories and feed your body less energy than it burns, your metabolism naturally begins slowing down (burning less energy). The more you restrict your calories, the faster and greater the down-regulation.

The opposite is true as well, by the way. As you feed your body more, your metabolism will naturally speed up (burn more energy).

Now, when someone dramatically decreases calorie intake and their metabolism finally slows down enough to match intake with output, weight loss stalls. This is usually met with further calorie reduction or more exercise, which only results in more metabolic slowdown, and thus a vicious cycle begins.

In most cases, the dieter finally can’t take the misery anymore, and goes in the other direction, dramatically increasing calorie intake (bingeing and gorging on everything in sight for days or weeks). This, in turn, has been shown to result in rapid fat storage, often beyond the pre-diet body fat levels (people end up fatter than when they started dieting in the first place).

What’s going on here is very simple: these people have systematically crashed their metabolic rates and then overloaded their bodies with way more calories than they needed, and the body’s response to this is to store much of the excess energy as fat.

Ultimately what happens is the person winds up fatter than they started, and with a slower metabolism. If they repeat this cycle a few times, they can find themselves in a really bad place metabolically: eating very little food to maintain a high body fat percentage.

This process of dramatically and chronically slowing the metabolic rate down is often referred to as “metabolic damage,” and fortunately, it can be resolved.

How to Speed Up Your Metabolism for Easier Weight Loss

how to increase metabolism

Your metabolic health is going to determine how effectively you can lose weight, so here’s the bottom line:

If you want smooth and consistent weight loss, you want your metabolism to be running quickly before you start.

As the metabolism adapts to food intake, you want your weight to be stable with a high amount of daily calories before you start restricting them for weight loss purposes.

Ideally, you should be eating at least your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) without gaining weight before you start a weight loss routine.

Here’s a simple calculator that will help you determine your TDEE:

LBM
BMR
TDEE

If you’re not currently there–if you’re eating quite a bit less than your TDEE and your weight is not moving, you need to improve your metabolism before you attempt a weight loss routine.

Fortunately, this is easy to do if you remain patient. Here’s how it’s done:

1. Engage in heavy resistance training (weightlifting, ideally) 3 – 5 times per week.

This has two big benefits for your metabolic rate: it speeds it up in the short term, burning a significant amount of post-workout calories; and it builds muscle, which speeds up your metabolic rate in the long term.

My Bigger Leaner Stronger and Thinner Leaner Stronger programs are built around heavy, compound weightlifting, and are perfect for repairing metabolic health.

2. Slowly increase your calories each week until you’ve reached your target intake (your TDEE).

In the bodybuilding world, this is known as “reverse dieting,” and it’s a very simple but effective way to speed up your metabolism.

Instead of dramatically increasing your calorie intake, you want to work it up slowly, allowing your metabolism to keep up and match output with intake (resulting in little-to-no fat storage).

I like to increase in increments of about 100 – 150 calories with 7 – 10-day intervals. That is, you increase your daily intake by 100 – 150 maintain that new level of intake for 7 – 10 days. You then do it again  and again and again until you’ve reached your TDEE.

3. Eat plenty of protein.

A high-protein diet is important because it will promote muscle growth, which is what we want to achieve with step #1.

I recommend that you eat 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight when you’re working on speeding up your metabolism.

4. Eat a moderate amount of dietary fat.

While I’m generally not a fan of high-fat dieting for athletes (and I explain why here), I do recommend eating a fair amount of dietary fat every day when you’re working on improving metabolic health.

The reason why is it boosts testosterone production (albeit slightly), which in turn speeds up metabolic rate. It’s a relatively minor point, but every little bit helps.

I recommend that you get 30 – 35% of your daily calories from dietary fat when you’re working on speeding up your metabolism.

A Healthy Metabolism Allows for Healthy Weight Loss

how to increase metabolism to lose weight

When your metabolism is healthy–when you’re able to eat plenty of food every day without gaining weight–weight loss is very easy.

As discussed in my article on meal planning, you will simply utilize about a 20% calorie deficit with 4 – 6 hours of exercise per week (a combination of weightlifting and high-intensity interval cardio works best), and it will be easy, effective, and enjoyable.

Yes, your metabolism will slow down, but not by much. This approach will give you at least a good 2 – 3 month window in which you can lose plenty of fat while potentially even building muscle.

And if, over time, your metabolism slows down too much but you haven’t hit your body fat percentage goal yet, you simply take the above steps to speed your metabolism back up, and then move back to weight loss.

 

What did you think of this article on how to speed up your metabolism? Have anything else you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments below!

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  • Justin Kerlin

    You wrote, “I like to increase in increments of about 100 – 150 calories per day with 7 – 10-day intervals.That is, you increase your intake by 100 – 150 calories per day and hold that for 7 – 10 days. You then do it again and again and again until you’ve reached your TDEE.” To confirm, on week 1 increase my intake by 100 – 150 calories on the first day then wait 7 to 10 days to again increase my intake by 100 – 150 calories again?

    • Michael Matthews

      No sorry I will clarify this. You increase your current intake by 100 – 150, and maintain that new level of intake for 7 – 10 days, and then repeat.

      • Dylan

        I’m not sure I understand. I think it would be more clear if you gave an example. Day 1 calories, day 2 calories, …, day 10 calories, day 11 calories, etc.

        • Robert M

          Say your starting calorie intake is 2000 so you would start by increasing that by 150 and maintain for 7 days so it would look like this days 1 through 7 you eat 2150, now increase again so days 8 through 15 you eat 2300… etc. until you hit your TDEE. Sorry, I know you wanted Mike’s response, but I have a feeling his would be about the same, but he can correct me if I’m wrong.

          • Dylan

            Thanks. The confusion comes from two things:

            1) What you said is exactly what Justin said, to which Mike replied “No,” indicating Justin was wrong, but then he went on to repeat exactly what Justin said.

            2) The article says, “I like to increase in increments of about 100 – 150 calories per day….” It should say “per week,” not “per day.”

          • Michael C

            No justin said up it 100-150 per day indicating after a week you’d be eating 700-1050 more calories each day. What Robert said is go up 100-150 and essentially hold that new level for 7-10 days before going up another 100-150.
            Think about it if it was the former after a few weeks you’d be eating 2800 more calories daily than you were. No way that is what was meant.

          • Dylan

            No, the “per day” thing was a quote from Mike’s article, that I think should be corrected. What Justin wrote was, “To confirm, on week 1 increase my intake by 100 – 150 calories on the first day then wait 7 to 10 days to again increase my intake by 100 – 150 calories again?” Seems to me that this is exactly what everyone is saying, so no need to discuss it further.

          • Michael Matthews

            Yeah, my bad. Fixed now.

          • Michael Matthews

            Correct Mike. I worded it badly but what I meant was increase daily intake by 100 – 150 and hold that for 7 – 10 days, then do it again, etc.

          • Michael Matthews

            Totally right Dylan poor wording on my part. It’s fixed now.

          • Michael Matthews

            This is correct.

  • Juice

    My current workout: Day One: Lower Body HIT for 20 minutes, for example sprinting, then 30 minutes of Lower Body Weight Lifting, Day Two: Upper Body HIT for 20 minutes, for example battling ropes, then 30 minutes of Upper Body Weight Lifting. Day Three: Walk, Then Repeat Day 1, Day 2, Day 3. I am going to follow your weight lifting program but how would I best reduce the HIT to fix my metabolism?

    • Michael Matthews

      Cool. I would recommend doing the cardio after the lifting so you have enough energy for it. And you can keep doing the HIIT. If you keep it to 2-3x per week for 25-30 min per session you’ll do fine.

  • Stuart Cullinan

    Hi Mike, I’m interested to know if works the other way round too. I’m doing heavy compound lifts consistently and eating at around 2900kcal. I have gained 2.5kg in the last 3 months but the weight gains have kind of levelled off now. Is this homeostasis, do I need to respond by eating more?

    • sam white

      You have sped up your metabolism and need to eat more! Due to a mixture of your body trying to achieve homeostasis yes and the muscle you have gained. I had this experience too eating 3000 calories i stopped gaining weight after 2 months jumped it up to 3300 and gained another 5-6 pounds before cutting.
      Try putting it up to 3050 for 7-10 days and see if you start the weight gain again.
      Pretty sure mike would reccomend the same thing.

      • Stuart Cullinan

        Thanks Sam, makes sense!

      • Michael Matthews

        Yup.

    • Michael Matthews

      Yes it does. You simply need to increase intake. Increase your daily intake by 150 – 200 and see how your body responds…

  • Pedro

    People like me, that used to cut and cut and cut with huge deficits and just tryiung to be lean without having enough muscle to look good, maybe with a damaged metabolism, could expect to gain weight with too few calories, right? I ask this because during my bulk Ive noticed that even 100 calories less than BLS numbers I put 1 pound week, so now I have to reduce my calorie intake like 200 less than BLS. What do you think dude? Just my metabolism fixing and have to take it easy with calories right?

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah that’s why you need to slowly increase calories. That said, if you’re gaining 1 pound per week on your bulk, that’s perfect…

  • Jeremy

    I’m currently eating between 3700 and 4000 calories a day and gaining an average of a pound a week. I’m thinking of cutting down to 2500 calories as a starting value for the cutting phase. Should I slowly decrease to 2500 calories per day or can I cut down right away?

    • Michael Matthews

      Good question I would reduce in 500-calorie chunks. Drop to 3500 for a week and see how your body responds. Stay there until you don’t lose anymore, then go down to 3000, etc.

      • DevilDevine

        Will reducing from bulking to cutting immediately maximise fat loss AND muscle loss then? Also when transitioning from cutting to bulking I assume you would go there slowly as well right? Great article btw.

        • Michael Matthews

          No, you don’t have to reduce slowly. You can go straight into a 20% deficit and so long as your protein intake is high and you’re lifting heavy, you will maintain your lean mass.

          • DevilDevine

            Thanks for replying. Im a bit confused. In your reply to Jeremy above you told him to reduce slowly(from bulk to cut). My question was on the opposite side, from cut to bulk. One last question, what are the macros when reversing diet? I am currently going from cut to maintain and then to bulk for a while before going to cut again. Is this the way to go? Thanks for all the info:)

          • Michael Matthews

            YW! Well you want to start with the proper deficit and THEN you reduce slowly. You don’t want to start with a 5% deficit though.

          • DevilDevine

            Aaa a nice 20% deficit for cutting and then reducing that deficit to finally match your TDEE or bulk. Makes sense.

            Would love to read an article bout macros when going from cutting to maint. Anyway off to squat now hehe. Good day bro:)

          • Michael Matthews

            Yup exactly.

            Yeah I should throw that in somewhere. I’ll keep it in mind. 🙂

  • Milica Kozomara

    Woot! All those times I fell off TLS for a while and got back on weren’t for naught. I’ve come to look at my progress in cycles of cuts and this just confirms that. Thanks Mike, lots of great new info too. Great article!

    • Michael Matthews

      Exactly! Keep up the good work!

  • Michelle Stiff

    Thank you for this article Mike. I just bought your book on Amazon and love it-it is so easy to understand and follow. I am so glad to see articles like this-it is such important information to get to the public! Metabolic adaptation happened to me, I lost my menstrual cycle even though I wasn’t super lean (about 20% BF) but I wanted to get pregnant and the doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I spent thousands of dollars on doctors who just gave me hormone replacement that didn’t work. All I needed was to eat more and I got my cycle back in a month! I couldn’t believe it was so simple. However, I went too far the other way: I over-estimated my TDEE and jumped to that IMMEDIATELY which was too fast and rapidly gained 20lbs. If I had done it slowly, I wouldn’t have had that response- wish I had read this article sooner. It helped me get pregnant the first time I tried, but unfortunately I miscarried and trying to recover, so now is not the best time to go into a cut but I will use these strategies after I hopefully have a success pregnancy next time, and let you know how it goes! Thanks for all you do!

    • Michael Matthews

      My pleasure, and thanks for reading my book!

      Thanks for sharing your experience and I’ve worked with quite a few women that went through the same thing. Blood testing, hormone manipulation, etc.

      Let me know how everything goes!

  • Joe Koecheler

    I am currently on phase 3 of your program. I love it! I am 42 years old and stronger than I was in high school. I have a question and I think the best way to ask is to share a little of my story. I’ve been lifting for about 6 months now. I started at 163 pounds and cut down to 150 and around 10- 11% bf. I then started bulking. I’ve gain about 7 pounds at the rate of .75 pounds per week. I like staying lean so what I want to do is go down to my cutting calorie intake for 2 weeks to lose 2 pounds and then jump back up to my bulking calorie intake. Then continue the cycle. Gain 7 pounds and lose 2 pounds, gain 7 more pounds and lose 2 more pounds, etc… My hope is to take advantage of my higher metabolic rate to lose a quick 2 pounds and jump back up to my bulking calorie intake before my metabolism slows down. So I was wondering if my thinking is correct on this. Will I be able to avoid the long cut cycles this way and is this okay for the metabolism? Thanks!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Joe! I’m really glad to hear it!

      Your gains are really great so far. That rocks. I don’t recommend flip flopping cuts and bulks like that. Instead, you might prefer a surplus/deficit approach that I will outline in my next book. Do keep in mind though that maximizing muscle growth requires that you simply remain in a slight surplus and deal with the slow fat gain.

      Hope this helps and keep me posted on your progress! I’d love to feature you on the site as a success story if you’re interested too! Emaill me! 🙂

      • Joe Koecheler

        Thanks! Can’t wait for the next book! I’ll send you an email.

        • Michael Matthews

          Thanks brother!

  • Billy

    Mike, I like that you link to the research. I actually read them. One thing I suspected was that you could offset the metabolic reaction to a caloric deficit with an increase in exercise. Eventually from your link, I got to the more detailed part, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2634841/ and the conclusion in clear. “Importantly, CR in combination with exercise (CR+EX) did not result in metabolic adaptation while inducing similar changes in body composition as with CR alone.”
    The study showed that CR (calorie restriction) does decrease metabolism AND tended to reduce activity. So I was with you to this point, BUT you could offset it easily with exercise. Sooo, I think this whole “reverse diet’ thing is unnecessary if diet and exercise are combined.
    What I think really happens is most people (me) go off the cliff and severely restrict diet, and try running marathons, burnout in a month or less, and then give up on both and overshoot the starting point. Better to be balanced from the beginning.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Billy and yes, exercising does help mitigate the metabolic adaptation but it doesn’t totally cancel it out.

      Trust me, reverse dieting is necessary when you reduce your calorie intake down to about your BMR, which can be necessary when you want to get really lean.

      Yes the overshooting issues is very common.

  • Kelcey Z

    Currently reverse dieting and just added in another 100 calories last Friday. I was super positive about it until i heard someone say “reverse dieting didn’t work for them, and they just gained weight on the scale and had tighter pants.” Then another one of my friends said that would happen to a girl who was severely underweight (which she was). I have been underweight too in the past and struggled with an eating disorder, eating under 1000 cals/day with exercise. I am eating about 1400-1500 now (still little i know.. but its double than 7 months ago) along with lifting 40-50 min 5 days/week and cardio 40 min/5 days a week. Im just nervous since this other girl said she just gained fat, and essentially didnt gain muscle. Could it be if she wasnt weight lifting? I just would like to maintain right now, or if the scale increased 1-2 pounds from muscle i could see that. I just dont want to gain fat like she has claimed from reverse dieting! I just want to up my cals and eat normally again.. although now i feel like im hungry all the time haha i am hoping that is a boost in metabolism. Any help is greatly appreciated!!! 🙂

    • Michael Matthews

      Ignore the person, they did it wrong. Trust me, reverse dieting PLUS proper exercise works really well. If they weren’t exercising properly, that is also an issue.

      You’re doing great. Keep it up and keep me posted.

      • Kelcey Z

        Thanks so much mike for your quick response! I have most of my journey on my Instagram page fueledbyme_forme but i will keep you posted

        • Michael Matthews

          My pleasure, perfect! Sounds good! I’ll find you on IG!

  • jacob

    Hey I have a very serious question. I’m stressing so much about reading the optimal time under tension of a set should last at least 40-70 seconds. And I usually only take 20-30 seconds for all my sets of 6-12 am I missing out on all that hypertrophy

    • Michael Matthews

      Focusing on TUT is bogus. Stick with a standard 2-1-2 rhythm and pushing heavy weight and you’ll do fine.

  • MJ

    I’m currently adhering to an IF (Intermittent Fasting) eating plan, working out in a fasted state and consuming apporx 1500-1700 cals a day depending on the workout I’m doing that day..1700 on compound lift days, 1500 all others. Am I killing my metabolism by not have a consistent in take of calories? I’ve noticed a stall in my weigh loss.

    • Michael Matthews

      Cool! Nope, that’s totally fine. Weight loss stalled means you’re not burning enough energy compared to intake.

      How much do you weigh? What is your exercise schedule like?

  • Don

    I have a question regarding re-feeding. In the last 7 months I have gone from 225 lbs to 160 lbs and 10% body fat. I was at a 1900 cal/day (50% protein/ 30% carb/ 20% fat for about 6 months) with weight training and intense cardio 6 days/wk. Over the last month I bumped carbs for a 40p/ 40c/ 20f and have worked up to my calculated TDEE of 2300 cals/day. I read BLS and saw the re-feed. It mentions this is important when losing weight but what about at maintenance? I have not been incorporating re-feeds as I just read your book. As expected, being close to my TDEE weight loss has slowed (0.5 lbs/week) but I am now more hungry then ever and pretty lethargic in my workouts-more than when I was at my large deficit. Should I do a re-feed once a week even at maintenance? If so, you posted before to simply double grams of carbs that day, protein and fat stay the same, correct? So for me a typical day would be 230 g protein, 230 g carb, 51 g fat at 2300 cals/day and my one re-feed would be 230 g protein 460 carbs, 51 g fat at 3220 cals/day? I ask because that seems like a massive jump in calories (I know thats the idea) but is this what you would recommend? Or can you give an ideal calorie range above TDEE for a successful re-feed once per/week. Thank you so much,

    • Michael Matthews

      Wow great job Don! That rocks.

      Hmm refeeding isn’t necessary when maintaining, but if you’re still losing weight, you’re in a deficit and yes a weekly refeed will help you.

      Yup, reduce fat to as low as you can go and double your carbs for the day. Simple enough. You’ll be in a slight surplus for the day but that’s what we want.

      Hope this helps! Let me know!

      Oh and has your progress been on my program? If so, I’d love to feature you on the a success page! What do you think?

  • jen

    What are your thoughts and opinions on zig zagging daily calories while not going too low nor too high?

    • Michael Matthews

      You can make it work but there’s nothing inherently special to it.

  • Pingback: 5 “Diet” Foods That Don’t Help You Lose Weight | Muscle For Life()

  • wigster

    Hi Mike,
    This article came out at a very good time for me, being stuck in exactly the same rut as you described (low calories, plenty of exercise, no weight loss).
    I’ve started slowly bringing my calorie levels up from 1850/day, and am now up to 2250. All looking good so far, with no apparent weight gain, perhaps even being a little bit leaner.
    But I keep finding that I’m starving, even though I’ve got the luxury of those extra calories. When I get like this is it safe to pig out a bit more? Or do I still need to keep it steady. I’m 5’7″, 80Kg and about 10% fat (according to the calipers), so it looks like I should ultimately be on about 2500 cal/day, but I don’t want to just jump up to that level.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for the comment! Great on your reverse diet. I like it.

      No, don’t pig out. Slow increases so you metab can keep up and yes, 2500ish per day sounds like a good goal but who knows, you may be able to go higher. Some people’s metabs are faster than others’.

  • Lacey

    Hi Mike, this article describes my current situation perfectly. I just finished reading your book and I’m wondering 2 things,

    1. Can I start the program while working to repair my metabolism
    And
    2. How long after working up to your TDEE do you eat at TDEE before you can start to cut again?

    Thanks!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Lacey!

      1. Yes definitely.

      2. A week or two. Just to make sure your weight stabilizes.

      • Eugene

        Hi Mike,

        When you start cutting again after you reach TDEE following a reverse diet, do you literally reverse what you did in your reverse diet and cut in 100-150 calorie increments until you reach 80% of your TDEE again or would you just skip all that and immediately cut to 80% TDEE? Thanks!

        • Michael Matthews

          Nope just jump right into a full deficit.

  • Megan

    Thanks for pointing me to this article Michael. This is worrying! This might mean then that instead of having gained water weight these extra 8lb that I gained in a week by eating 500-600 kcal more per day than before might be fat!? Oh no. How do I figure out what my actual BMR is so I don’t overeat with my, I’m guessing, snail pace merabolism?

    • Michael Matthews

      YW! No, they aren’t all fat. Most will be water and glycogen. If you work with the numbers given here you will do well.

  • Donna

    Hi Mike, Ive been following the formula in your TLS book for an obese person, weigh 180Lbs 5ft 8 tall. I’m on 150g protein, 127g carb, 48g fat. total cals a day 1540 I’m following the Phase 1 plan for weightlifting and cardio. but not losing any weight for a few weeks.
    Read this article about speeding up metabolism my TDEE is 2406 cals per day. I’m thinking of starting reverse dieting and understand what you say about inc 100 to 150 cals and hold for a week before inc again but don’t understand if i get these extra cals from carb, protein or fat? By the time I reach 2406 cals a day what do you think I should be having for protein, carbs and fat? Then I will gradually work up to these targets.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Donna! Hmm it might be a metabolic issue but it might be related to water retention as well:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com/water-retention-and-weight-loss/

      Let me know what you think.

      • Donna

        Hi Mike, Great article as always. Yes you could be right, I have certainly increased my salt intake as I now have savory snacks like turkey muffins instead of a piece of fruit. For breakfast omelette (with salt added) and 28g hard goats cheese instead of porridge. Also love your chicken curry for dinner which has plenty of spice. Will consentrate on reducing salt intake and see if i have the Woosh effect!! Thanks for all your help.

        • Michael Matthews

          Thanks! Yup, that could definitely be it. You might be surprised how much water retention can change based on sodium and potassium intake!

          Let me know how it goes.

  • E

    I’m a female – 19 years old. 5’9″, and about 155. I gained these last ten pounds over the course of the past year (I guess you could call it freshman 10 instead of freshman 15). Before college, ran about 3 miles a few times a week, or did an insanity workout depending on the day. I do HIIT 4 times a week, with some lifting. I just want to drop down to 145 again, maybe even 140. I eat around 2,000 calories a day (usually less) and can’t seem to lose weight for the life of me. I’m in good shape, but my body doesn’t reflect that very well and I feel stuck at this higher weight. what can I do?

  • Alyssa

    So I’m pre diabetic and I was wondering on how i should increase my calorie intake without going over the amount of carbohydrates I’m supposed to have everyday..?

    • Michael Matthews

      Cap your protein intake at 1 to 1.2 grams per pound per day and the rest of the calories you need can come from healthy fats.

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  • P Mort

    Well…shit. This is definitely deflating (euphemistically speaking, of course, as I am literally inflating). I went from about 6 months of high output low calorie work (was using a Concept2 rower at about 600-800 calories per workout 5 days week, no weights, with almost 1400 calories/day as a 5’10” male…starving & miserable & exhausted) to, starting about a month and a half ago, doing the stupid thing of adding way too many calories while adding weights (3 days/week of compound lifts, 15 min 200 cal row at the end of each at now about 2800 cal/day…getting stronger, but definitely getting fatter). What should I do? Cut back down now? Just…ugh.

    • Michael Matthews

      Haha no worries. You’re actually going in the right direction.

      How much do you currently weigh?

      • P Mort

        Before I switched, about 205, not sure right now (scale is broke, my guess is likely 210 at least). I don’t get it, my weight just wouldn’t budge any lower on my low cal drudgery; even if it wasn’t ideal I figured I should have weighed a little less. I might need to hit up your custom meal plan thing, just discovered this site today.

        • Michael Matthews

          Cool. I replied to your other post. 🙂

  • P Mort

    OK, so I just want to clarify, if I’m dealing with metabolic damage, at 5’10” moderately active (3 days/week of compound lifts & 15 minute post-workout SS row), is 2800 calories/day too much after coming from 1400/day? I mean, I’m not eating 4000/day. But still, I’ve been on this for about five or six weeks, so I’m unsure if I need to step it back down, or just sit tight on my calories and keep working out and, I don’t know, wait until my metabolism “corrects itself”, if that’s even a thing? Start adding in some HIIT again, and/or add another training day? Most articles on metabolic damage seem to talk about slowly adding back calories when you’re still in the deficit, not for those of us who foolishly shot them back up immediately. Sure, if I could turn back the clock, I’d slowly ramp up my intake by 100/150 or so, but I can’t.

    Just want to make sure this is cleared up before I get a custom meal plan. 🙂

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah if you jump from 1400 to 2800 per day you’re going to put on some fat. A slower approach works better.

      If you’re at 2800 and your weight is stable, though, you’re good. I would give it a few weeks to make sure it’s stable and then reduce for weight loss.

      • P Mort

        Sounds good. My lifting numbers are already getting near where I want them, almost back to 3×8 225lb on bench, 315lb deadlift, 155 horizontal row, 135 overhead press…squats are being stubborn at 235, I’m aiming for 315 with those but historically have always stalled at 265. Just ordered a new weight scale and some calipers and we’ll see where I’m at in a few weeks. Thanks!

  • Mar

    Michael,

    I fell off my diet for about 2 weeks because of family visiting and also decided to take some time off because of overtraining. I want to lose the last 4 pounds in a month. I also re-calculated my calories and am changing my exercises with recommendations you gave me. Did I set myself back from my goal? 🙁 my intake was quite bad I didn’t even track and I did gain a pound

    • Michael Matthews

      That’s okay. No real setback. Just “lost time,” that’s all.

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  • Matthew

    Michael, I am a 22 year old athlete (6’0″) but have always had “love handles.” Looking to get rid of them. I have played soccer for the past 7 years (3 years in high school and 4 years at the collegiate level) but still have not gotten rid of them. Recently, I have been doing intense plyometric workouts (continuous rounds of full body, explosive movements like box jumps, foot work, pushups, jump rope, med ball throws, etc.) for 30 minutes about twice a week (morning/fasted). In addition I do circuit training with weights for my strength training twice a week (but I try to maintain a high heart rate during the circuits for cardiovascular fitness). I like to do hill sprints also on 1 of the other 3 days of the week and a light jog for 30-40minutes on the other day. My last day I rest. Just curious to know what your recommended calorie intake would be for this. I initially lost 5 pounds on the first 3 weeks of this program but that quickly stalled out (I might have gotten a little too ambitious with the calorie deficit; for example, I lost 5 pounds eating between 2700-3000 cals a day, but since then I have dropped it to 2200-2500 calories and weight loss stalled). I actually was curious to know if I put 1-2 high calorie days in there every week (3000-3500 calories) if that would be a good idea to keep my metabolism running and to fuel my workouts and recovery. Thanks!

  • Shamir Alvis

    Hey, Mike I emailed you already about this just wanted to add another question. If I’m refeeding, should I cut the cardio? I just imagine that cardio doesn’t do too much for affecting my BMR (Berkhan argues that HIIT EPOC is not that significant – another thing I’ve already discussed with you.. sorry for flooding your mail!)

    I’m already struggling to eat in excess of 2000 calories, whilst on IF, and trying to refeed to 2350 (2-3 weeks to go w00t). I wonder if HIIT is just going to create this extra deficit that I don’t need whilst I’m trying to repair met damage.

    • Michael Matthews

      Sorry I don’t understand your question. Do you mean cut the cardio altogether? I don’t see why this would be necessary.

  • Dawn

    Michael,
    Thank you so much for all of the time you spend sharing your passion and helping so many people!!! It is 100% appreciated!
    I am thinking of starting your program, but have a couple of questions…
    I am a female, rather lean: 5’4″ and 114 lbs.
    My legs and arms look fine, even somewhat defined and cut. HOWEVER, I carry all of my 24% body fat on my stomach. It sucks!
    I was at 1200 calories FOREVER.
    Heard of reverse dieting and got up to a little over 1800 cals/day. I gained a little weight and freaked out!!! Started a cut and nothing happened. NOTHING! I’m stuck at the same weight.
    I actually started IF, thinking that my six meals a day was not doing me any favors. I was always starving! I actually feel good on IF, but nothing has changed on my problem area. It’s only been two weeks, so maybe I just need to give it more time?
    Here is my current situation:
    114 lbs
    1462cals/day (TDEE is 1750ish)
    Lift 3 days a week, deads/squats/bench press/mil press/chin-ups/BB rows
    HIIT 30-40 total minutes/week
    Michael, I’m at a loss. On paper, I’m doing everything right… I think. I just can’t lose this damn tummy fat. I’m annoyed and frustrated.
    I’m worried to start your program and simply be in the same boat. Any thoughts to my situation? I totally appreciate your time. 🙂

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Dawn! I appreciate the kind words.

      Cool on your stats and good job on the reverse diet. 1800 per day is a good maintenance considering you’re a small girl.

      Regarding the cut, 1500/day is a little high. Were you having cheat meals too? How many and how often? Did you lose ANY fat or stayed EXACTLY the same?

      • acirpr

        was there any further on this conversation! Very curious as to the recommendation

  • Jacob

    So I’m eating 1900 calories of 250-300 G protein 80-100+ g of fiber all from meat and veggies and I’m 19 5’8 117-118 lbs gaining weigh with weights and cardio daily… What should I expect on the scale with such increase and how do I know when to increase or decrease calories based on allllll te variables

    • Michael Matthews

      I’d say 1 pound gained per week is good with strength going up in the gym.

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  • Carlos Arteaga

    Hi Mike. I’m about to start reverse dieting and I was wondering, how should I manage my macros? 40/40/20 or 1g prot/pound+20%fat and the rest just carbs?

    • Michael Matthews

      Yessir, that works. You could go a little higher in fats to get the minor increase in T, like 40/30/30 or 40/20/40.

      • Carlos Arteaga

        What am I lowering in this case? Protein or carbs? Thanks!!

        • Michael Matthews

          Carbs go down so fat can go up.

  • Beauty H2T

    Please help, I am so lost! after losing 3 stone myself in the last 4 years with little knowledge and just cutting out drink and altering what i was eating ( student lifestyle!) I stopped losing, so to shift the last stone I spent a year on slimming world (UK) which I really didnt agree with nutirtionally and it has been a slow year of low fat. I am only now looking into learning about macros etc as this last stone keeps creeping back ( no doubt thanks to the unlimited eating of some foods slimming world allows!) but I am still very confused. I weigh around 68 kgs and am 5’7 and have a moderately active lifestyle ( walk 7kms a day 5 days a weeks, gym a couple of times- need to learn how to lift but dont currently) I am trying to use myfitness pal and it is saying 1200 cals a day with 150gs of carbs, 40 fat and 60 protein. Is this right? so sorry to sound such a newb but any help would be amazing!

  • MT

    Hey Mike, I have a quick question.
    Based on your recommendations I have been cutting on about 1800 kcal (I’m a male 5’8”, 163lbs 15-16% body fat). I haven’t really made any progress in the last month; I lift heavy 5 times per week keeping my sessions within an hour, and do cardio almost everyday, HIIT/few Tabata cycles/ and LISS on days I just feel like I can’t handle a high intensity session.
    Should I keep decreasing calories? It’s pretty hard to eat this little already, especially when I’m in the gym and doing cardio 5 times per week.
    I also realized that the weight I go to sleep at, and the weight I wake up at can vary from 4-7 lbs everyday. Do you think my metabolism is compromised or something? I have been trying to lean down since February, although there have been short breaks due to vacations and stuff (skiing, traveling back home, etc.). Sorry for the long comment. Thanks!

  • rich

    hi mike,im struggling with my weight loss,im 200lb male 5″9,train 5times a week lifting heavy and cardio about 30mins a day,have a manual job.ive just put my calories up to 2000 as they were much lower,good healthy foods and wholegrains.i lost a couple of pounds but have stayed the same for bout 2month now,do you think im not eating enough calories,my bmr works out at about 1950.please could you give me some some advise…thanks

  • dave

    hey mike,im cutting at the mo at 1800kcal and have got my weight down to 160lbs.im training 6 days a week and my weight loss haas now stalled.it says how to get your metab up high beofre you start above…but what do you do when your already into a cut? cheers

    • Michael Matthews

      Great job! You can reduce cals. Drop to 1600/day and you should see the scale going down again.

      • dave

        cheers mate

        • Michael Matthews

          🙂

  • Stephen

    Hey Michael!

    I am a 27 year old male, 5’9″ and 7 months ago I weighed in at 278 lbs. Today I weigh 212 lbs. I decreased my calories to 1700 a day and allow my self one cheat meal a week (for this whole process). Also, I have been lifting weights 5 days a week and cardio 6 days a week. The weight fell off at first but now over the last 2-3 weeks I have not been able to loose weight at all, even with forcing myself to be as strict as possible. I have been thinking about going up to a maintenance level of calorie intake for a couple of weeks, while still training, and giving my body a break before trying to start again. I just can’t eat less than 1700 calories a day without being miserable. My goal is to get down to 180-185 lbs and then reevaluate based on what the mirror says. I would be curious to hear your thoughts?

    • Michael Matthews

      Wow great job! That rocks.

      It’s time to speed up your metab my friend. Check this out:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com/how-to-speed-up-metabolism/

      Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

      Oh and I’d love to feature you in a before and after success story if you’re interested! It’s a simple matter of taking/digging up before pictures, reaching your goal, and then taking after pictures and sending them over to me. What do you think?

  • C

    Female. 149. 5’6.5″. Lost about 60 lbs. this year. I was told I don’t eat enough, but soon as I do. I gain weight. How can this change?

    • Michael Matthews

      Great job on the weight loss. How much are you currently eating?

  • Lisa

    I think this article was written for me!!! I am 51 , 5’2″ and weigh 135. I gained 15 pounds very quickly when I hit menopause. Was always 118 about 17-19% bf. I have been trying to lose it for 1 1/2 years… Not one pound. I eat super clean– but have been around 1200-1300 calories for long time!! I was lifting weights 2-3 times and doing cardio 5 times – nothing!! In past I could eat low cal and lose– not this time. I’m thinking of trying this. I was deciding between reverse dieting Or carb cycling every other day, alternating calories from 1250 one day, 1500 the next… Increase coming from complex carbs. I have read that before reverse dieting, this is good place to start?? My metabolism is obviously messed up. I should add, i do have thyroid disease, but meds have blood levels normal and no other symptoms. Also, in past, I was low carb– around 50-75 and some days 120. Thoughts??? I’m scared to jump calories – afraid i will gain and not get off. Ugh!!! Thank you!!!

    • Michael Matthews

      Hey Lisa! Yeah we just need to speed your metab up. No big deal. We don’t have to get fancy either. You can just follow the protocol laid out here.

      Menopause CAN mess with things as shifts in hormones can get in the way of fat oxidation and increase water retention, but that doesn’t mean you have to remain stuck! We can work it out.

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  • PK

    Hi Mike,

    Metabolism is something I get hung up on quite a lot, over the years I have hit many crash diets to limited effectiveness. And am worried of my metabolic speed.

    It is usual for me to diet a few months get frustrated and then eliminate all progress in a week or two. I mean I can put on 7 pounds in a week easy. Im not huge either but my body seems determined to weigh in around 13 and a half stone and I ideally need to be around 11. I can drop to 12 and a half or so in a perhaps a two month window but I lose it again.

    This summer I’ve tried a variety of diets for about two weeks then off two weeks and my weight has been rising.

    A week ago I started again following advice on your blogs, but have come across this today. In 8 days I have lost 4lbs but am aware that most if not all of this could be water weight loss from eating less.

    I am unsure of what my metabolic state was prior to starting this diet. Considering the 4lbs for someone 2 and a half stone overweight would you continue as it is. Or stop and attempt to boost metabolic rate now? Additionally can heavy lifting and high protein raise the metabolism when in a deficit?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for the comment! Let’s have you continue doing what you’re doing and see how your body responds. We may not need to change anything…

  • Alex

    So essentially, while cutting you should do a reverse diet every 2 or 3 months to ensure that your metabolism stays at the proper speed, and then continue the cut to try to reach to your body fat percentage goal again? Or do you monitor your weight loss and don’t switch until you see the weight loss coming to a pretty substantial halt?

    • Michael Matthews

      Frequency really depends on your body. Some people’s metabs are VERY resilient and don’t slow down much despite being a deficit for long periods of time whereas others’ slow down quite a bit after just a month or two.

      • michelle

        How long a cut would be considered a “long period of time”? I’ve been cutting since October 1st.

  • Belinda Jane

    Hi Mike!
    I’ve been half heartedly working on transforming my body (currently 160cm, 77kg and 40% bf) for the last 18-24 months. I lost around 10kg but that has gradually crept back on due to an ever changing lifestyle.
    Now that things have settled down and I’m firmly rooted in one place again, I’m ready to get seriously serious about permanent changes! My only concern is that with all the flip-flopping I’ve done, intermittent changes to the way I eat and the earlier years of ridiculous dieting that I may already be suffering from a damaged metabolism.

    So my question is this: do I crack on with restricting calories to 20% below BMR now and see how that goes, or should I be taking steps now to make sure that my metabolism is up to speed before I start trying to lose bulk fat?
    I guess the underlying question is – how will I know if my metabolism is buggered up?

  • Naman

    Hi Mike, I loved this article. I’ve not been able to lose weight while even being in deficit since the past three months until I implemented more cardio to my weight training in addition to diet.
    I’m currently at 17.5% body fat and I weigh 100kg, I was doing warrior diet where I eat sufficient protein and low carbs in a 4 hour window and do fasted training (I felt better and have not suffered muscle loss). My calories were 1240-1300 daily, while my BMR according to atch ardle system is 2170. So I think in addition to the diet me doing weight training 5 times a week and hiit for 10minutes a session 3 times a week and still losing no fat meant that I’ve damaged my metabolism very greatly…. So I should now fix my metabolism by keep doing weight training 5 times a week (I alternate upper and lower body with the fifth day being a fully body workout, I focus 80% on squats and bench presses 5×8) ? After I fix my eating should I maintain that calorie intake without the weight training for a week or with it? How would I safely lose fat but rapidly? 20% below maintenance calories by restricting calories intake, Every 6 days a week with the 7th day being a carb refeed? Can I make more calorie deficit through exercise or that will also damage my metabolism through metabolic adaption or metabolism thermogenesis (I think those are the term for what’s known as starvation mode lol)?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! You could be running into metabolic issues but it could be water retention as well:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com/water-retention-and-weight-loss/

      First I would make sure Na and K are balanced and incorporate refeeds and see how your body responds…

      • Naman

        Thank you for replying to me. I avoid salt, only use it if I need to. I usually make use of Black pepper and chilli flakes and paprika powder (which I hope aren’t containing sodium….).. should i first aim to stabilize eating at maintenance calories for 3-4 days then go towards TDEE calories? Then once I’m stabilized at that should I eat at a 20% below TDEE or 15% below TDEE? I’m so excited about this. I can’t thank you enough for bringing this topic up.
        Should I do refeeds once in a week ? Or twice a week when I’ve reset my metabolism back to normal? You’ve helped me a lot. Really thank you!

  • SouthernBelle0777

    Hi Mike! I think I have plateaued and I also “thought” that I was doing EVERYTHING right. I do need to get my bodyfat remeasured. I’m 5’4″ and I weighed in this morning at 167.0. I have lost over 60 lbs in 18 months. My body is leaning out nicely and I can even see my abs coming in. My problem is the site that I’m using is telling me that I should be consuming 1535 calories a day. I work out 6 days a week for about 2 hours a day. On Saturdays, I usually workout for at least 3 hours. I am training with a trainer 3 of the 6 days. I also do high intensity cardio (spin, running, combat, etc.) for 4 of the 6 days. Lifting weights is my favorite and I lift every single day except my rest day (Sunday). Do you think that I am eating too little calories? Also, I log everything that I consume and usually I keep my macros at about 51% protein, 18% carbs and 31% fats. I really haven’t lost much weight at all in the past 4 weeks. Can you help?

  • ash

    Mike, what is the minimum of calories I should be taking after slowly reducing them from 1900. I’m 65KG, 18-20% body fat and consuming 1500 at the moment which I’m finding hard to do.

  • Brian Giffin

    Reverse dieting is awesome. Now when my body just doesn’t feel or look right I slowly adjust my cals and my cardio until I’m back on track.

    Getting a lot outa BBC Mike!

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah it’s great right? Glad to hear it!

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  • Jana

    Hi Michael! Thank you very much for the article!
    I am also struggling with shedding the extra kgs that have crept on in the last year.
    I’m a female, 22 years old, I weigh 65kg (I’m 173cm tall) and want to get down to 60kg. I eat about 1200 kcals a day, do Muay Thai 2-3 times a week, yoga and pilates once a week each. I was at about 68kg first and got down all the way to 63,5kg but now suddenly change has stopped and 1,5kg have crept back on without me changing anything. I even trained an extra day last week and I just don’t know what is going on. My body fat is 20,8% so I’m not big by any means but I want to loose the extra fat around my hips. What would you suggest? Thank you!

  • Chips

    Hi there. I’m a 5’5 female and i weigh 187 with 24 % body fat. Most of my fat is disappointingly around my stomach. I do 45 minute weight training sessions 3 times a week and cardio sessions 3 times a week. My body fat has been going down regularly (from 36% last year to 25% last week) but my weight is has remained ridiculously high! I look more like i weigh around 150. Is there any way i can get my weight to catch up to my body fat loss. I am eating around 1400 a day on IF Monday – Friday and around 2000 on the weekends. Would appreciate any advice.

  • wei han

    I still don’t understand-how exactly do I know if my metabolism level’s low enough to start reverse dieting? I’ve never counted calories before or weighed myself on a scale, depending solely on what i see in the mirror or what size pants i wear to determine whether i need to diet or not, so it’d be hard to determine how much calories i should consume and then gradually increase to on reverse dieting. Also, I already strength train about 2 hours/day, 7 times a week, but using 5 lbs dumbbells because my doctor forbids me from going any heavier or doing any cardio.

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  • jdok89

    Hey Mike,
    I’m a recently new follower, but have immediately seen the legitimacy of your articles in relation to all the other bulls**t on the internet, and greatly attribute my strength gains to your lift heavy regiment. My question is in regards to whether you would consider my diet a “crash diet.” I am currently 5′ 8″ Male 25yr and weigh 128lbs, down from 155 five months ago. I average around 1550 calories a day with 35% Protein, and 30% Fat and 35% Carbs: almost all from organic fruits and veggies. I’ve been following this reduced calorie diet for about 1 month now. I exercise 6 days a week, M: Kettleball Strength (morning) Power Yoga (evening), T: Leg, W: Chest and Bis (morning), Power Yoga (evening), T: Cardio Kettelball, F: Back and Tris (morning) and Tabata Battle Rope (evening), Saturday is HIIT Cardio. I’m trying to cut to 6% bf and am around 9-10% currently. Any thoughts or advice would be greatly appreciated. Also, will legion be coming out with a slow release protein supplement like casein, egg white, or hemp soon? Thanks for helping lift the veil of nutrition and exercise for us all!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks man! I appreciate it.

      That’s fairly low but not terrible considering your weigh. Check this out:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com/rapid-weight-loss/

      Yeah we’re toying with the idea of doing either an egg or egg and casein blend. Not sure yet.

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  • Young Yang

    Hi Michael, how is going? just bought bigger , leaner, stronger last week.really like that book and it totally change my idea about how to correct bulking.
    I read what you said at this article, guess this is what i need help right now.
    My body tpye is skinny fat and ectomoph.my current goal is drop my bf to 8%.back to 2 months ago , my bf was 22%,now is at 13.8%. They both got measured by bodyscan. Among that 2 months , i used Carb cycling method which is one day high carb, one day low.the total TDEE was like 800 below mantainance level. At moment, my weight hasn’t change for 1 week, and i start to feel more hungry and a bit tied as well.
    I think it’s time to try reverse diet. but just got 2 quick question:1, do i still use Carb cycling method for reverse diet? 2,i get my rmr 1590 from bodyscan, you reckon i can use that instead of bmr? Thanks a lot

  • Alex

    Hey Mike,

    In general, how much cardio per week should a person who is reverse dieting after a cut do? I cut down to about 13% and my weight loss stalled, not surprising since I started at around 18%, so I’m currently reverse dieting. I’ve been doing HIIT cardio 4 times a week and I wanted to know if that would inhibit the speeding up of my metabolism?

    Thanks

    • Michael Matthews

      4 x per week should be totally fine. I do 3 – 4 x per week as a standard maintenance.

  • Marisol Mejia

    Hi michael, first off i love all your articles! so informative! I am 19 years old 5’3 and i weigh 114. SADLEY I am what you would define “skinny fat” my arms and legs are very thin but i have a belly bulge and lose skin around my lower abdomen, i am very soft and it makes me uncomfortable. I know I am thin, for a while i actually began eating around 1000 maybe even less then that to try to get rid of the extra fat in my stomach area and nothing changed! So i know i did cause some metabolic damage, just about a week ago i got into weight lifting but I’m still having trouble getting the hang of it, i do everything at home definitely not a gym person, could you please recommend at home work outs!

  • Jessica

    Hey Mike! Would you say it is better to slowly increase calories on a weekly basis until you reach TDEE by manipulating carbs and fats or protein and fats? I plan to increase my total calories by around 50 per week and increase either my protein or carbs by 5grams and my fats by 5grams. My starting point is 1650kcal per day, 150C/ 150P/ 50F. I am a female 5’8″ and weigh 120.

    Thanks for your help!

    • Michael Matthews

      Carbs and fats for sure, and mainly carbs. Your protein actually comes down a little after you finish cutting.

  • Hippychic823

    I am a 33 y/o female 5’5 135 lbs. This is the biggest I’ve ever been, I usually fluctuate between 117-122 lbs but here in the last 6 months I’ve really had a hard time keeping weight off. I have always been a light eater usually around 1200 cal or less a day but lately have been eating more like 1700 cal or more a day. Don’t really work out because I never had to I was always pretty happy with my weight/size but now I’m worried metabolism has slowed down and I’ve cut my cals to less than 1000 a day. Is this too extreme? What would be a good amt of cals/fat/carbs/protein for daily intake?

  • Elise Stansel

    This article has great info! So once you read your TDEE, you cut that number by 20% right?

  • Carina

    Hey! I’m 17 and weigh 65.0kg (around 143lbs), and I want to get down to be around 130lbs. I’m doing lifting almost every day, around 8-10 reps per exercise and 4 exercises per muscle group (i separate muscle groups so legs, chest, shoulders, arms, back on separate days) I was wondering what my daily calorie intake should be? I’m thinking 1500kcal but I’m not sure whether to cut it down more or eat more? Also I’m doing cardio 4 times a week, usually burn around 400kcal each cardio session, a mixture of HIIT and this cardio boxing class I love. Is it possible that I can build muscle and lose fat? (the 130 pounds thing is just an estimated goal, I mean if I weigh more but I’m more muscular and look like I have less fat I’m definitely all for that haha). And how much weight should I expect to lose each week realistically?

    • Michael Matthews

      Great on what you’re doing!

      As your body is still developing we don’t want you in a big calorie deficit, and the more the deficit can come from exercise the better.

      Check this article out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/healthy-meal-planning-tips/

      It should give you everything you need.

      You should lose 0.5 to 1 pound per week.

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  • Anna

    I’m amused — day 3 of adding some strength-building exercise into my routine and I’m feeling so happy that I find myself dancing to the musak in the hotel elevators! Guess that’s one way to boost metabolism!

    • Michael Matthews

      Haha nice! 🙂

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  • Harry

    Hi Mike,
    First of all I’d like to thank you for all your great work. Your books make working out so much more fun and achievable! Recently I began a cut following the protocols laid out in BLS. Unfortunately I suffered from a bout of food poisoning a few weeks ago and lost around ten pounds. Since then I have (perhaps foolishly) gone back to my cutting diet and have lost no weight. Is it likely that I am suffering some metabolic damage and would you recommend a re feed in this situation?
    Thanks again

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Harry! Arg I’m sorry to hear that.

      Hmm “damage,” no, but maybe a bit of adaptation. You could reverse for a few weeks just to get rolling again and you should be fine to go back into your deficit.

  • Joyce

    You and Ari whittens sound alike

    • Michael Matthews

      Not sure who that is. I’ll check him out.

  • Faizan Abid Naqvi

    Hey Michael!

    Just came across your website. Lots of interesting stuff. I might even buy the book. 🙂

    I started working out recently (and I am a beginner) and start working on losing my beer belly. I am 5′ 7″ and about 65 kg. I have shifted my entire lifestyle and focusing on eating healthy with almost no alcohol and 3 HIIT + 3 (Weight Training + med intensity cardio) a week.

    My TDEE is 1750. On days with HIIT I eat 1250 calories with 50% protein, 30% fat and 20% carbs. On weights days, which also includes cardio I take around 2000 calories with 20% protein, 5% fat and 75% carbs (most of it is postworkout).

    I made up this plan after lots of research from friends and online. In two weeks, I have only lost around 300g of weight or so and I think it’s too low. Do you have any suggestions to improve my fat loss + increase muscle? With the whole cycling calories things, does it disrupt the metabolism?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks man!

      Cool on what you’re doing. I like it.

      If you’re new to weightlifting then you’re going to build muscle while losing fat, so don’t get too focused on the scale.

      Use your waist measurement and mirror to see what’s really going on. Waist getting smaller = fat is being lost.

      • Faizan Abid Naqvi

        Hey! Thanks a lot for the reply! You’re awesome 😀

        • Michael Matthews

          YW and thanks! 🙂

  • Amy

    I just bought the Thinner Leaner Stronger book, and was planning to start today, but I have a question now…for the past 2 years I’ve been either restricting my calories and eating crappy food, doing a lot of cardio or no exercise except walking, and then sometimes binge eating. I have 19% body fat according to my scale but zero definition and I’m basically “shapeless”. I think I have no muscle and probably a slow metabolism…I want to get that skinny toned look though. Should I continue “cutting” (but following the book now and lifting etc) or eating more and lifting?

  • nacho

    how long should it take me to go from 1200 cal to 2700 cal????

    • Michael Matthews

      Just gotta lay it out per the article. I would probably do it over the course of 10-12 weeks.

  • L.R

    Went from 150lbs to 118 in 20 week 🙂 with weight training and 1500 calorie diet
    Now I can’t exercise as much because of school and exams and only this week I went way over maintenance calories – just wondering how far that will set me back in terms of muscle loss and fat gain…because it was junk food too

    • Michael Matthews

      Great job! That rocks. Not much. The worst you can do in a week is gain a few pounds of fat, and that takes dedicated work.

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  • John Smith

    Which increases basal metabolic rate more, bigger muscles (sarcoplasmic hypertrophy) or stronger muscles (myofibrillar hypertrophy)?

    • Michael Matthews

      Bigger and stronger aren’t mutually exclusive, really. Check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/guide-to-muscle-hypertrophy-muscle-growth/

      • John Smith

        I read that article earlier, thanks. Perhaps I shouldn’t have made the bigger/stronger disctinction. Let’s stick with sarcoplasmic vs myofibrillar hypertrophy. Which hypertrophy (i.e., which kind of training) will (pound for pound) produce muscle that will provide a higher basal metabolic rate? In other words, if my goal is exclusively to increase my basal metabolic rate via strength training, which kind of training should I concentrate on, moderate to high-rep sarcoplasmic or low-rep myofibrillar, or a combination of these?

        I think it’s an important point for anyone interested in losing fat and keeping it off, including older men and weight-shy women, for whom cardio and strength-endurance isn’t doing it and can’t do it.

        My intuition tells me that when people talk about “muscle mass” in reference to metabolic rate, they actually mean “dense muscle mass” and not “increased fluids”. That the thing actually burning energy at rest is the cross-sectional area of the muscle fibers and the action of the CNS on that. As such, I would imagine that low-rep, myofibrillar training would produce the best basal metabolic rate bang for your buck.

        (Thanks for taking the time to respond, especially at this time of year.)

        • Michael Matthews

          Emphasizing heavy lifting would do more for your BMR because the “afterburn” effect is greater and you will build more muscle over time, which means your body will burn more calories at rest.

          Yes that’s right on sarco expansion versus adding more muscle tissue. The former won’t do much in the way of increasing BMR.

          • John Smith

            Thank you for the response.

            I think it’s an important distinction, as most sources only refer to increased ‘muscle mass’ increasing BMR, which appears to say that apparent muscle size rather than density is the significant factor.

            Thanks again for the confirmation.

          • Michael Matthews

            YW and I agree. It’s a good point.

  • Kyle

    I’ve been working out and eating healthy for about 6 or 7 months now. I take in about 1700 to 1800 calories a day through the course of 4-6 meals a day. I work out about 30-45 minutes a day, 5 days a week primarily weight lifting and about doing interval cardio 2 miles a day every other day. I am 5’10” and 235 pounds. I used to be a 35-36 waist and now i’m nearly a 38. Why am I only gaining fat instead of losing it?

    • Michael Matthews

      Great job on everything you’ve been doing.

      Are you sure you’ve been eating 1700-1800 cals per day? Have you been tracking/meal planning? How often are you eating more? (“Cheating”?)

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  • Peter C.F.

    Mike, according to the formula you provided, my TDEE is around 2.500kcal. I’ve been on the BLS routine and diet of around 1.900kcal for five months (strictly following the book). I’ve managed to lose 15 pounds (but I’m a newbie and I also built quite a bunch of muscle, so the fat loss is probably higher). I’m around 10-11%bf right now.

    I’d really like to go down to 6-7%bf, but it’s been really hard to lose more weight…

    What do you recommend that I do? Should I reverse diet to my TDEE, spend one week there and then cut 20% again? Or should I bulk?

    Thanks and congratulations for the great work!

  • keith

    Hi. I’ve been doing my best to eat healthy but I’m only getting around 1300 calories. I work out 5-7 days a week with weights and cardio each day.
    How do I eat more when more calories or what’s easiest to consume?

  • Emma

    Hi, I’ve been doing the 5:2 diet for the last year, lost half a stone on it but have recently piled all that back on, despite no changes to my diet! I exercise regularly, combination of weight training, interval training and spin as I always have done so no lifestyle changes. I’m a PE teacher so very active all the time too. I weigh 9 stone 6 now, and at only 5ft3 that’s quite heavy and my body looks a lot larger with more fat than it did a few months ago! 2 days a week I eat under 500 calories and on the others I’m under 1300. Have a damaged my metabolism?? What should I do?

    Thanks,
    Emma

    • Michael Matthews

      Hey Emma,

      I think it’s time to ditch that diet, speed your metab up to where it should be (it sounds like you’re very active, which means you could eat a lot more food), and then get you on a standard fat loss diet:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/healthy-meal-planning-tips/

      What do you think?

  • karl

    Hi mike

    I have just finished a cut and very happy with my results. Thank you so much for the knowledge you’ve taught me.

    Quick question.

    My current stats

    • Michael Matthews

      Great job on the cut!

      Yep that’s right. We want to work you up to the 2,500 range, see your weight stabilize, and then work you higher, ideally.

  • Pete

    Haha… so how does a 160+
    pound woman eating 1,300
    calories per day, exercising 6–7 hours per week… not lose weight? Easy… she’s
    lying to you.

    • Michael Matthews

      Not necessarily LYING. I’ve spoken with many people that didn’t realize how many “hidden” calories they were eating.

  • Michael Matthews

    Thanks for stopping by and checking out my article! I hope you enjoyed it.

    Feel free to comment below if you have any questions. I do my best to check and reply to every comment left on my blog, so don’t be shy!

    Oh and if you like what I have to say, you should sign up for my free weekly newsletter! You’ll get awesome, science-based health and fitness tips, delicious “guilt-free” recipes, articles to keep you motivated, and much more!

    You can sign up here:

    http://www.muscleforlife.com/signup/

    Your information is safe with me too. I don’t share, sell, or rent my lists. Pinky swear!

  • wei han

    I just got my metabolic testing done using indirect calorimeter, and it’s slow, with a REE of 706 cals and a TDEE of about 900 cals. I’m currently on a diet of about 100-200 cals per day, and would like to know how much calories to add a week or day on this reverse diet to speed the metabolism back up. Although I haven’t had my body fat checked yet, I seriously suspect that I’m in a skinny fat state right now. Please reply as soon as possible; I can’t stand this anymore!!!

    • These numbers have got be all wrong. 100-200 cals per day? Are you living in a slave camp?

  • Mr. V

    Hi Mike, I would like to thank you for all the time and effort you’ve put here to help people getting fit, really appreciate.
    So a quick summary:
    – 25 year old, 5’9 skinny fat male
    – Weight training for 6 months, the first 3 month at maintenance and the last 3 months cutting.
    – Before my cut, approximately at 15-16% bf at 154 lbs, now approximately at 11% at 145lbs (losing about 0.8 – 1.3 lbs weekly). The reading is from my caliper so it might be 1-2% off (pics included).
    – Routine : 3 days full-body weight training, 2 days core training.
    – Diet: intermittent fasting and calorie cycling so I have 2 high calorie days (maintenance level) on Monday, Friday and the rest is low. My macro is 45% protein / 30% carb / 25% fat. TDEE is at 2044 and a 25% deficit is used for cutting (approx 3500 weekly) so it is 2044 on Mon, Fri and 1300 for the rest.

    My weight loss has not stalled yet, but the stubborn belly and love handle is so annoying that I started adding 3 fasted HIIT sessions on my rest days (25 mins) last week.

    The result is the weight keep coming off but body fat remains the same which freaks me out as I think I’m losing my little-to-none muscle. I’m planning a full diet break (2 weeks at maintenance) to normalize all the hormone stuffs before going back to deal with the stubborn belly fat again.

    However, after reading about reverse dieting, I’m kind of confused (the concept itself totally make sense) about how to use it properly. Say my daily calorie need to be increased by 150 for a week, with my 3500 cal weekly deficit, it will take more than 23 weeks to go back to my maintenance. Is it a little too long before I can start cutting again? I’m sorry if i sound a little impatient but as a skinny fat guy, I’m counting everyday to the day I can properly build some muscle.

    I would like to ask your opinion about my situation. Should I go the reverse dieting route or should I just go straight into 2 week diet break and then go back to deal with the stubborn belly fat again? Another option is ditching all the stubborn fat thing and start a lean bulk now as with this skinny fat genetic, I think most of the fat will be regained in those areas as long as calories is increased so there is no point trying to fighting them now.

    Thank you very much for your time.

    • Hey man!

      Great job on everything you’re doing. If I were you, I would reverse diet to TDEE, hold for a couple weeks, and then go into a surplus and bulk.

      Run a good bulk for 4-6 months and get up to 16-17% and then cut back down to 10% and let’s see what your physique is looking like.

      Here’s why:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/the-best-way-to-gain-muscle-not-fat/

      And here’s how to reverse diet:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/how-to-speed-up-metabolism/

      Lemme know what you think!

      • Ryan

        If he’s in a deficit of 3500 calories then reverse dieting adding in 150kcals a week will take him 23 weeks of building no muscle and losing no fat. Surely this is too long? Is there another way? oe there a quicker way to reverse diet or ‘speed up that metabolism’!?

  • ZP

    I started off my nutrition plan on a 20% deficit of my TDEE. It’s been three weeks and I’ve lost a whopping HALF pound and nothing else. Even inches. I do heavy compound lifts, 5×5 format, four times a hit and do HIIT cardio twice a week. Thoughts? Suggestions?

    • Mr. V

      Hi ZP, my opinion on this is either 1. Your deficit is not large enough or 2. You overestimate your TDEE although they’re indirectly related to each other.
      One thing you should know that the way majority of online calculator putting Sedentary, Moderate or Active.. can be very misleading. In my case, except my workout time, I’m pretty much living a sedentary lifestyle and as such using Moderate for calculation overestimate my TDEE by at least 250 cal.
      In simple words, if you not losing weight steadily, increase your deficit, its that simple. (Because you said your 3 weeks into this plan, I’m assuming you’re a beginner and as such I won’t start introducing HIIT that soon).

      • ZP

        Thanks for the response. The three weeks is with actually following a nutrition plan. I’ve been lifting on and off for four years but didn’t ever put nutrition into the game plan so I was basically exercising to eat or vice versa. Once I started tracking I realized I was severely under eating most days (1000-1200). Per the Navy method, I’m 16-17% BF. Per the pics Mike provided, around 20-21%. I used the TDEE calculations provided on this site but I’ll play around with the numbers and see what happens. I’m continuing to add volume and maintain my periodicity so I’m happy with the training.

        • Mr. V

          Hi ZP,
          I’m not sure you’re male or female and what’s your height but 1200 per day for a guy is seriously low. I’m a guy and in my low days I eat around 1300 which give me a lot of headache trying to fit my macro into that tiny budget.
          If you’re a guy eating at 1200 daily and at 20% bf then I would say you need to rev up your metabolism as its way too slow for proper cutting.
          Also pls make sure to count your calorie correctly, some salad dressing or liquid calories can make a big difference.

          • ZP

            Exactly. I didn’t realize I was eating that low until I started tracking my food. I eat 1850-1950 now. My 80% deficit is 2050. I’m 5’8″ male at 185. I actually lost 1 1/2 pounds since my initial entry. Guess it was the ‘whoosh’ factor Lyle McDonald references in his articles and books. Appreciate the input Mr. V.

          • Glad to hear this is sorted. Your cals/macros look good. Check this out:

            http://www.muscleforlife.com/water-retention-and-weight-loss/

      • Great comment.

        The HIIT shouldn’t cause any issues. Remember that our HIIT isn’t exactly the type seen in studies with elite athletes pushing themselves to complete exhaustion.

    • The first thing to check is that you calculated your TDEE properly:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/healthy-meal-planning-tips/

      Many people use too high of a multiplier.

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  • wei han

    i’m not trying to lose weight now but to just maintain weight while trying to raise my metabolism from slow to normal or high.According to a test currently done, my current metabolism’s about 48% below normal, with a ree of about 605. What do you suggest I do in regard to increasing calorie intake? To what calorie mark do I increase intake to before I stop increasing and stay constant? How do I get there without gaining any weight or at least not any fat?

    • Did you read the article? It answers your questions. 🙂

      • wei han

        Well, this is my own conclusion from reading the article, and I want to make sure I’m not off base: I would start out with eating about 500-600 cal/day for a week or 2, then gradually increase about 100 cal/day each week or 2 until I reach the TDEE as calculated by the katch formula of about 1100-1200 cal/day for my current (or desired) weight and body fat percentage.

        • Hmm no 500-600 per day is WAY too low. What’s your BMR?

          • wei han

            bmr, as measured through indirect calorimetry, is about 500-600 cal, slow because of extreme calorie restriction dieting for about half a year

          • Hmmm I doubt that. How much do you weigh?

          • wei han

            84 lbs

          • Mr. V

            Are you a woman? My friend is about the same weight as you, a real petite woman with an appetite of a cat. She barely eat anything at all so I guess 500-600 is kinda make sense.
            I’m also not sure why you need to cut when you are already that light.

          • wei han

            yes i’m female, and i’m not cutting anymore, i’m actually on a re-feeding route after vlcd (very low calorie diet) of about 100-200 cal/day, losing from 200 to 84 lbs, and want to maintain this body fat loss without gaining anymore weight other than muscle or losing anymore lean body mass. I guess all i want to make sure is whether it’s safe for me to start this re-feeding or reverse diet on a 500 cal diet (given my rmr’s 500 cal) and gradually add on, or whether it’s better to start on a 200-300 cal diet to prevent fat gain. I also want to know whether the so-called maintainance goal for me(or when I stop adding on cal each week) would be when I reach the TDEE number according to the katch formula, which is about 1100-1200 cal.

          • Wow okay. Yes you can reverse diet up to TDEE and maintain that for a few weeks to stabilize your weight.

            How old are you BTW?

          • wei han

            I just turned 35 last week, and i admit that I fell off the health wagon after going overboard to lose weight from 200 lbs before. That’s why, after buying your book off amazon, I got on this site and want to become lean and fit the right way this time. Thanks for replying!!

          • Okay no worries. Definitely let me know how it goes.

          • wei han

            Just asking-do y9u thick it’ll be a good idea right now for me to add creatine monohydrate or bcaa to my fasted workout routine, or should I wait until my food intake goes up to a certain level? If better to wait, then to what level should my cal intake be before I start these supplements?

          • Yeah on the creatine and no on the BCAAs unless you’re training fasted:

            http://www.muscleforlife.com/bcaa-supplement/

          • wei han

            By the way, you seem to have forgot to answer whether I should start up on the reverse diet on a 500 cal or 200-300 cal intake on the 1st wk. Also, how would I know if the weight I could possibly gain on the reverse diet’s body fat or possibly the lean muscle mass I have lost before while still on the very low calorie diet?

          • You start where your intake currently is.

            Don’t worry about it really. We need to get your food intake up for basic health reasons.

          • wei han

            Sorry about the hassle-it’s just hard for me to squeeze in the macros (e.g. 84 g protein) into a measley 200 cal diet for 1 wk miniminum

          • You shouldn’t be eating 200 calories per day…

  • clay

    I’m a 260 lb man and I’ve been eating about 1500 calories a day for a month aND a half and 4 days a week I walk about 4 miles a day. I’m pretty sure I’m loosing weight but is this diet healthy for me? I don’t feel that I’m starving myself because I have had success keeping to the diet since new years. I just want to make sure I’m not screwing myself. My bmr is 2395.1.

    • Hmm that’s pretty low. Check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/how-to-lose-weight-fast/

      • Clay

        So I need more like 2000 a day And I’d lose weight faster like that? Does it matter what food I eat as long as it’s I’m the 2000 calorie range and not a lot of sweet stuff?

        • clay

          Also my phone has a pedometer and I’m going to try to walk 10000 steps a day at least five times a week. Today I walked 12 steps.

        • That sounds better. Doesn’t really matter what you eat so long as you hit your macro numbers.

          • clay

            Ok I’m gonna stick to 1800-1900 calories a day and walk at least 10k steps a day. Thanks for the information

  • MH

    Hi Mike,

    First of all (like so many others) I would like to thank you for what you’re doing. Spreading all this information via articles, the homepage, E-Mails and also your books – it’s just amazing!!!

    I got the TLS book and also read the “New Year New You” one, got myself the legion supplement pack (for the New Year New You – the fat burner’s still stuck in customs…but should get it next week – LOVE the rest!!!!) and am really, REALLY enjoying the program (gosh – it’s ADDICTING!! 🙂 ). Now I’ve always been very active, but never tracked my intake in regards to macros as consistently as I do now.

    I am a 26 year old girl, 171cm, 68kg (which would come up to approx. 150lbs). I lift heavy according to your schedule in the 8-10 rep range (with a trainer/spotter) 5 days a week, and include 20Min. HIIT Cardio on a bike 3 days a week (plus do stuff like wakeboarding etc. on the weekends…).

    My TDEE should therefore be at 1985 (assuming I have 25% body fat – which is just estimated). So a 20% caloric deficit would mean I should eat roughly 1590 kcal per day. I meal-prep my food for work (example meal plan: fat free greek yoghurt with 1/4 cup blueberries for breakfast; chicken and brown rice & veggies for lunch; some more chicken and veggies/salad for dinner; a protein shake with almond milk after training – I train in the evening; and fat free greek yoghurt early before I go to bed) – now here’s the thing: I tracked my complete intake in myfitnesspal and figured I consume an average of 1300kcal per day (over the past 2 weeks with high resistance training + HIIT); my makros are 45% protein; 35% carbs and 20% fat to which I stick to as close as possible; and my weight is remaining the same (happy to say that my strength increased 😉 but the scale just wouldn’t move from it’s 68kg)!

    So where I would reeeeally appreciate your advice is the following:
    Should I just keep going on with 1300 and see what happens over another 2 weeks? Or do you think my metabolism is damaged and I should start reverse-dieting? Or further lower my intake by 100kcal (of carbs) for the next week? But I’m already quite a bit under the 80% of TDEE (consuming only 1300…).

    Sorry for the long message – but thought I’d rather post it here than in an E-Mail, cause maybe someone else is in a similar situation and can use your advice 🙂

    Really looking forward to hearing back from you,
    Take care!!

    • Thanks so much for all the support! You rock. 🙂

      Cool on what you’re doing. This all sounds good. Hmm if your TDEE is 2000 I would prefer 1500 cals and ending your cut around 1200/1300.

      If you go too low right off the bat you can run into water retention issues:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/water-retention-and-weight-loss/

      Also how are you weighing yourself?

      • MH

        Thank you for your reply 🙂 I had read that article once before, but already completely forgot about it – thank you for getting my mind back on it. I guess I am low in Sodium anyway, cause I don’t really use salt on any dishes (I do however spice with curry, ground ginger, etc…but also not excessively – just for some taste 😉 ) But yes, definitely have to focus on drinking enough water and getting to bed on time. Don’t think I need re-feeds yet, but that’s hard to say with the bf% only being estimated..have a caliper I once got along with an order at
        bodybuilding.com – maybe should start using this, but it seems so
        inaccurate to me as well?!

        Oh and I weigh myself on a scale in the gym, every day post-workout, note it
        down and get the average at the end of the week. Weirdly enough, my weight dropped the past 3 days by nearly 1kg (approx. 2 pounds – and I remained in the 1,200 – 1,300kcal range) – maybe just had to shoot the message for my weight to realize it should get moving lol

        Anyways I should hopefully get phoenix out of customs the next days, that should give it another boost 🙂 So I’ll keep my kcal at that level, maybe even try increase a bit and see what happens.

        Thanks once again for everything you and your team are doing!!! It’s just awesome!!! 🙂

        • My pleasure.

          Balancing Na and K and drinking enough water are important little details many people miss. If you don’t, your numbers can fluctuate quite a bit.

          It sounds like you experienced the lovely “whoosh” effect. We may not need to change anything…

          Thanks a lot for the support. You rock. LMK how you like Phoenix!

  • Paulus

    Currently at about 15% bf and working to get it down to 10% bf – I didn’t stabilize at my TDEE for a couple of weeks and reduced my TDEE by 20% immediately after my bulk. Any suggestions on what I should do next? I’ve lost 7 pounds which has hugely affected by muscle preservation (or lack thereof).

    You mentioned reverse dieting by adding 100-150 cals per week until you’ve reached TDEE. Then stabilizing for a couple of weeks. Should I increase the calories by 100-150 cals per week until I’ve reached my bulking caloric intake?

    When going from bulking to cutting, should I gradually decrease cals by 100-150 per week until I’ve reached my TDEE?

    • Hmm it sounds like you’re doing well? Why reverse diet now?

      No just go right into a 20-25% deficit when going from bulk to cut.

      • Paulus

        I’m cutting for now until I’ve reached 10% bf. The reverse dieting question was just for when I go back to bulking.

        Thanks for the advice!

  • Christina

    Hi Mike- very helpful info here!
    My question is where do I begin? I’m 5’5″, 135lb. Been eating 1100-1200 cals for a long time (3-4 years). Random days were higher but 1200 on a regular basis. I recently had my metabolic rate tested using a Medgem and it came out as 1170. Shouldn’t I be losing fat eating 1200 cals then? I lift 4-5x a week and do hiit 2-3x for 15 mins. Maybe I’m not eating enough to lose and my body is in starvation mode? Not sure if I need to reverse or just eat more to see if starvation is the issue?
    I also have a body media device and it says I’m burning 2200-2300 cals on workout days. Wonder if this is true in which the case would def be that I’m undereating. Any guidance would be fantastic. I’m tired of working out and seeing zero results.
    Thank you in advance!

  • Christina

    Hi Mike- very helpful info here!
    My question is where do I begin? I’m 5’5″, 135lb. Been eating 1100-1200 cals for a long time (3-4 years). Random days were higher but 1200 on a regular basis. I recently had my metabolic rate tested using a Medgem and it came out as 1170. Shouldn’t I be losing fat eating 1200 cals then? I lift 4-5x a week and do hiit 2-3x for 15 mins. Maybe I’m not eating enough to lose and my body is in starvation mode? Not sure if I need to reverse or just eat more to see if starvation is the issue?
    I also have a body media device and it says I’m burning 2200-2300 cals on workout days. Wonder if this is true in which the case would def be that I’m undereating. Any guidance would be fantastic. I’m tired of working out and seeing zero results.
    Thank you in advance!

    • Thanks!

      Hmm it definitely sounds like it’s time to reverse diet. Given your stats and activity level you should be able to eat around 2,000 cals per day and maintain weight/body comp…

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  • Casmige

    As always there are staid standard “FACTS” to soberly contend with regarding elemental biology:

    #1). One can NOT “Turn” Fat into Muscle.

    #2). One can NOT turn Muscle into Fat.

    One is bourn with a certain amount of Muscle Cells: PERIOD.
    One is bourn with a certain amount of Fat Cells: PERIOD.

    One can lose muscle or fat volume through attrition of what makes those cells bigger.

    You can make those cells BIGGER By strength training or by over-eating but one cannot gain nor lose fat or muscle cells nor turn them into something they were genetically NOT supposed to be.

    When one gets obese?? The Skin does not gain MORE Skin Cells to accommodate the additional gross weight….it merely stretches.

    THAT is what happens to Muscle or Fat Cells…..Period.

  • Elmert Y. Pitis

    Hello Mike,

    First off, thanks for always responding man. Your books and articles have changed my mentality, pysiche and overall fitness!
    Ive managed to hit 10% body fat following your method and i want to hit 8% this time. I usually multiply my bmr by 1.35, -20% and break my macros in the appropriate ratios. However, this year i want to be more accurate with my TDEE. Have you heard of bmr testing while fasted state? Well, they do this at iron man memorial herman hospital in houston and they also do the bod pod. The bo pod is the most accurate body fat testing (thats what i read lol)
    My question is, im i better of calculating my tdee of my body fat percentage (using katch mcradle formula) or bmr.

    • My pleasure and thanks man! I’m glad to hear it!

      Great job on the fat loss! That rocks.

      I’ve seen people get really funky results with BodPod. Some get sensible results though. It’s odd.

      You could try it for the lols and see?

  • Luke

    Hi Mike. I’ve been following your site for a few months now and just broke down and bought BLS over the weekend. I’ve tapped in to most of what you are teaching through this site alone, but the book has been a great read so far.
    . I am a 44 y/o male that’s 6’2″. I have been basically sedentary most of my adult life except for I few years in my early 30’s training in martial arts. I’ve never done any type of weight training at all until the past year. Mostly a high volume protocol. Which did nothing for me but make me sore. I switched to the protocol in another article on your site called the “Greek God” workout that was written Greg Gallagher? So far, I’ve really enjoyed it and the split, although I do know there will come a day where I’ll need to go to a four or five day split, it’s serving me well right now.
    Anyway, I’ve noticed some changes that I can only attribute to hormonal that I feel like I need to question. I was diagnosed with low T several years ago and did a round of Androgel. I only did a couple of months cycle with it because it was swaying my mood too far in either direction, so I quit. However, it did get me in the mood to start exercising again, which has been great. I’ve still dealt with some depression and anxiety, as well as very low libido. However, when I switched to the lower volume/heavier weight protocol I’ve noticed a couple of drastic changes. First off, my libido is through the roof. I mean almost puberty like, which my wife enjoys. The fat loss is fairly steady so far at about a pound a week, which I’m happy with, but the thing that’s jilted me a little is my body temp. I have always been fairly cold natured, cold hand/feet and generally clammy feeling. Now, it’s the complete opposite. Is this a normal hormonal response to elevated T levels and my metabolism speeding up? It’s a little uncomfortable sometimes, so I just want to know. Any advice?

    • Thanks Luke! I’m glad you’re liking the book.

      Cool on the 3-day split. Yeah that’s a good place to start.

      Low T will definitely make you want to be lazy and sedentary, haha, and there are definitely natural things you can do to fix this, which you’re experiencing. That’s awesome.

      Both lifting heavy weights and losing fat improve the hormone profile so this is normal. I’d also recommend you ensure you’re getting enough vitamin D and zinc.

      • Luke

        Thanks for the quick reply! The D I was already doing. I’ll keep the zinc in mind. Thanks again!

  • N:Dure

    Dear Mike, thank you so much for the info. I have an urgent question please:

    I’ve been dieting on and off since May 2014, and unfortunately you described me really well as the guy who gains too much fat once he stops dieting. I fall off the bandwagon for life-related stresses such as work, life stress, studying..etc Anyway, I’m back in full gear now and want to lose the fat and get down to a healthy weight/body composition.

    My stats are:

    Male

    29

    246.4 lbs (was 255.2 lbs before starting dieting on Jan. 19 2015)

    BF% 37.2% (was 38.2% on Jan. 19 2015)

    BMR: about 1889 according to the Katch-McArdle calculator. I calculated it here http://iifym.com/iifym-calculator/

    TDEE: about 2763 for working out 5 times per week. I do strenght training with challenging weights in circuit style for 5 circuits of 5 excercises, and I do a mix of moderate intensity, long duration cardio (up to 1 hour), and HIIT interval cardio on the treadmill for 30 mins.

    Calorie Deficit: I’m currently eating 2000 calories per day with 40 – 45% protein, 20 – 30% carbs (all complex like oatmeal, and some simple low GI like apples, oranges and strawberries).

    As indicated above, I lost about 10 lbs since Jan. 19; however, weight loss have stalled now. I don’t know what to do now. Some people told me to stick with my routine and keep at it and I’ll start losing again. However, your article may suggest that I have damaged my metabolism and I have to work on boosting my metabolism again. Do I have to reverse diet, or should I continue as usually (Calories: 2000 (40 – 45% Protein, 20 – 25% Carbs and the rest from fat), Circuit Strength Training 5 times per week, and Cardio (Moderate Intensity and HIIT 3 – 4 times per week).

    Finally, I’m also using the following supplements:

    Fat Burner: Muscle Pharm Shred Matrix 3 – 6 tabs per day
    L-Carntine
    CLA
    Whey Protein Powder
    Caisen Protein Powder
    Amino 222
    Creatine

    Thanks you so much ahead for your help,

    Mohamed

    • Hey man!

      I like what you’re doing and 2000 sounds about right.

      Why do you say your weight loss has stalled? How are you weighing yourself (every day and averaging or once per week or?).

      • N:Dure

        Hey Mike, thanks for your reply! I weight myself daily on the scale, and do body composition analysis to measure bf% about every 1 – 2 weeks. My weight is the same and I only lost about 10 lbs since I started on Jan. 19. The scale isn’t moving despite my daily diet and effort in the gym. Is this a short time frame to judge?

        Thanks ahead for your help!

        • N:Dure

          I dropped daily calorie intake to 1800 by the way, about 100 below BMR

          • I’m not sure this is necessary just yet. You’re losing weight quickly at 2k…

        • Cool on the weighing. You’ll want to work out averages every 7-10 days if you’re weighing daily. Are you doing that?

          10 pounds down in 5 weeks is really good.

  • Dakota Yo

    Hey Mike how do you feel about 2 week diet breaks? Lyle McDonald recommends them every 4-6 weeks for leaner males 15% bf and under ? Was wondering what your thoughts were on it ?

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  • Joe

    Hi Mike,
    Thanks for the info regarding reverse dieting (and everything else you’ve published!).
    When reverse dieting for improving metabolic rate, you recommend getting 30% – 35% of calories from dietary fat. Do you have any further recommendations on how I should split the macros for protein and carbs?
    Thanks!

    • Joe

      Sorry, I just reread the article. You’ve already suggested 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. Must have missed it the first time around!

    • My pleasure! 🙂

      Yeah keep protein around 1 gram per pound of body weight and the cals you have left go to carbs.

  • Ondle

    Hey man for the past 8 months or so I have been cycling between bing eating and a calorie deficit. I’m 5’9 178. I’m extremely skinnyfat and need to lose about 30 pounds. Would it be a good idea to just eat at maintenance for a few weeks before getting into a deficit? Is it possible that the constant cycle of binge eating and deficit caused some metabolic issues?

  • East

    I have lost over 40 pounds following your guidelines In about 6 months from your book. I am a female and currently weigh 168 pounds and I am 5’8″ to 5’9″ inches tall. I have seen that lately my weight loss has impeded, and I have decided to do one cheat meal a week, but I have thinking about doing a refeed. Should, I do a refeed? Also I eat about 1400 calories a day; 130 carbs, 140 protein and about 45-50g fat. I would like to lose another 10 pounds, but I am afraid I might destroy my metabolism. I also do weight training 5 times a week and cardio 3-4 times a week. I would also like to thank you for all the time you have put into your work and books, because it has truly changed my life.

    • Wow great job! That rocks. I’d love to feature you on the site if you’re interested. Let me know.

      Yeah a refeed will work. Check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/refeed/

      If you’re losing weight on 1400 cals/day you can continue. That’s totally fine. If you were approaching 1100ish I would say it’s time to reverse diet.

      Really glad to hear you’re doing so well!

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  • Victoria

    Hi, I see that these comments are about a year old so I’m not too sure I’ll get a reply, but I sure hope so.

    I’m 24, 5″3, weight fluctuates from 132-136, according to my smart scale I have a 25.6% body fat and 24 BMI, my TDEE (used an online calculator) is 1914.

    Okay, I’ve become obsessed with a healthy lifestyle in the past 3-4 months. I took up carb cycling (mon/tues low carb, wed high carb, thur/fri low carb, Saturday high carb, and Sunday reward day) I did lose about 5 pounds in my first 2 months and am currently still cycling. Also, I eat about 140-160 grams of carbs per day!

    I go to the gym 5-6 week, 4 days being weight training (heavy with lower reps) along with 4 days of cardio. I believe what I’m doing is HIIT bc for 20 mins on the stationary bike I do 60 secs of high intensity and 90 secs of low intensity. I usually “ride” about 6 miles, but I only burn 100-130 calories? I feel like I should be burning more than that, but I’m limited as to what I can do bc I had knee surgery about 2 months ago. Which also causes me to only be able to weight train my upper body and now I’m doing isolated glutes twice a day. Also, I eat CLEAN and drink a gallon of water a day. I won’t lie though, I usualy have a cheat meal or two over the weekend (Saturday night and Sundays) – I’m going to be stopping that as bikini season approaches us.

    So now that you know my whole life story and what I’m doing I can tell you what’s wrong.
    It just seems that with the good practices I practice 5-6 days out of the week I would be making that transformation that I DREAM about.
    It’s obvious I have a very slow metabolism. In fact right now it’s super slow bc I’m not working so unless I’m at the gym I’m at home…usually on the couch researching new ways to obtain my dream body. I’m that type of girl who can eat protein, fruits, and veggies all week and then have ONE burger and set myself back alllll the way where I started at the beginning of the week.

    After reading your well thought out article I do feel as if I fall in the category. I’m afraid to add calories back into my diet bc it’s so hard for me to lose weight. With everything that I mentioned above do you advise me to add more so I will start seeing my hard work pay off, or do you suggest I keep doing what I’m doing and eventually I’ll lose that 6-8% body fat I’m dying to lose.

    I just need some guidance to let me know if I’m doing everything wrong and wasting my time, or if the hard work I’m putting in will soon pay off. I’ve got about 10 pounds to go!!!

    Thanks!!!!

  • Mandi Carroll

    I have been following your exercise program for about 9 months and have been eating perfectly – hitting my macros 40/40/20 for 8 weeks. I have only lost a couple pounds and am wondering if I need to reverse diet. I weigh 151, have about 21%bf and lift weights five days a week and do hiit three days per week. Every week I’m consistent with my workouts, and I have no cheat days or meals. I’m trying to figure out what gives. If I reverse diet and do 30-35%fat, what should my carbs and protein be? Thanks!

    • Great on what you’re doing. How many pounds have you lost in the last 8 weeks exactly? I doubt you need to reverse diet already.

  • Elmert Y. Pitis

    Hello mike,

    Im in my 7th week in a cut. So far great! This is the second cut i make based on your book and last year i hit 10%bf, this year im aiming for 8%. My cut will last 10 weeks total because ive been doing a 20-25% defecit. When i start to reverse diet, s il amiming to stay lean beacuse of the summer :)) My quedtion is.. Should i reverse diet all the way to maintenance cals (for me 2525 has been awesome) or should I reverse diet to 2300-2400 cals (so i can stay lean for the summer) and then work my way up to bulk numbers, once summer is over. Should my reverse macros be the same as cutting/maintenance which are 40/40/20 or should they be different? One planned cheat meal per week fine while reverse dieting? Lol i miss those..lol

    Thanks a lot for your asnwers man! You always reply and thats AWESOME!!

    • Awesome! Can’t wait to see how it goes for you. Wanna be featured on the site once you reach your goal?

      Good question. Let’s see how your body responds. You may find you can go even higher than 2500 without gaining any noticeable fat.

      Haha yeah keep those cheats under control. Check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/cheat-meal/

  • Alex

    Hey Michael,
    Quick question, I am currently on a cutting cycle and plan to be done with it around early/mid June. If I am taking a day every week and “re-feeding”, will metabolism slow down still be an issue when the cut is said and done? Thanks so much, Alex.

    • Great! Yeah you’ll still want to reverse diet coming out of the cut.

  • AMW

    I am 23 years old, and weigh approx 125 lbs, standing 5′ 5.5″ . I definitely am skinny fat and unsure how many calories I should be eating! Also I do HIIT (but now was advised to lsd to maximize fat loss) and i try to do some weight training with free weights and exercises on the mats for about 30 minutes. I’m happy with the muscle in my arms and calves but cannot get rid of my muffin top or thigh fat – it seems like skinny fat is my problem!
    How many calories should I be eating? I usually eat 1300, mostly fruits and vegs, and get about 45 grams of protein

  • Nick

    Hey Mike,

    I’ve been follow the BLS training routine while also following the cutting guidelines and I’ve gone from 17% to 11-12% body fat. Just a little longer to go until 10%! Thanks for all the great info that got me here!

    I’m on my first off week from lifting and I know my cutting diet stays the same but can I still do my cheat meal on a no lifting week? Don’t wanna mess things up. Thanks man!

  • Jessica

    Great article, it’s pretty much a life saver.
    How long should I wait to cut after a reverse diet?

  • Jessica

    Hey Michael,
    Great article, this is pretty much a life saver

    ***
    Sorry I forgot to add more info!
    Currently I’m about 155-160 pounds at around 27-30% bf standing at 5’2”. My calories are about 1450 a day. If I were to be lean I’d likely be around 110-120. How should I approach fat loss after reverse dieting to about 2500 calories? I have a 6 year long history with every eating disorder under the sun and am looking for a change in health. Should I just spend a year doing several cut and reverse diet cycles?
    any advice would be greatly appreciated

  • Trichelle76

    Mike, awesome info here. I was a little confused here. I am getting back on track, and trying to figure this all out. I have been overeating my TDEE and my metabolism has slowed greatly while I was on the downward spiral. Should I just try eating my TDEE first for a while before trying to cut weight, or should I just start off with a 20% caloric deficit of my TDEE ?

    • Thanks! Sorry but I don’t quite understand. You’ve been eating more than TDEE but believe your metab has slowed down?

  • 7ctt

    After years of doing to much cardio and eating to little I started reverse dieting and increased b/w 50- 80 calls a week until I hit 1650 and lowered my cardio to 3-4 20-30 min of HiTT and lifting 4-5 times a week and had great results. I started leaning out so much that for a little less than two weeks I continued with my training but lowered the cardio a little and ate about 1650-1850 calls and wasn’t strict with my macros, I feel like although Ive gained some muscle I also gained fat and all the “shredding I gained from the beginning of my reverse dieting is gone. I got less protein than Id normally aim for.I now regret this so much because its been a whole week and I’ve gone back to eating 1600 calls and have been consistent with my macros and training and feel stuck. I have no idea what to do now. i never reached my Tdee yet and am feeling so disappointed!

    • 7ctt

      Any tips or suggestion on how to proceed?

    • Great on all this. How much do you weigh? Guy or girl?

      • 7ctt

        female 120lbs (small frame).

        • 7ctt

          5’4

          • Cool I don’t think you’ll be able to eat much more than 1500 cals if you want to lose fat…

            Check this out:

            http://www.muscleforlife.com/healthy-meal-planning-tips/

          • 7ctt

            Good information! I’ll lower my intake to 1500 and see how my body adjusts. how long after reaching my goal weight should I begin reverse dieting? And although last time round I had good results reverse dieting for the first two months but then because of my slacking with macros and adding cals at a higher rate I gained fat , do u think this will affect my results reverse dieting in the future?
            Thanks

          • Great.

            You reverse diet once your intake dips below BMR.

            No you’ll be fine.

          • 7ctt

            Great, I hope this works! I’ve been struggling with metabolic damage for over 10 years and only discovered reverse dieting a few months ago and its been a new hope for me . Finally!

          • 7ctt

            I’ve been rereading your blogs and I came upon the following paragraph:
            If you’re not currently there–if you’re eating quite a bit less than your TDEE and your weight is not moving, you need to improve your metabolism before you attempt a weight loss routine.
            although I screwed up those two weeks during reverse dieting and was eating below tdee , and gained does this mean I shouldn’t go back to fat loss until I slowlyy reverse to my tdee ? I appreciate you responding to me and apologize for not being clear from the beginning !

          • We want you back to TDEE and stable in your weight and THEN you can go back into a deficit.

          • It will work for you.

  • Elmert Y. Pitis

    Mike,

    I just started my reverse diet today and im a bit confused now. So, based on what i read on your first book and your articles, im going to add 100 cals per week until i reach my tdee. Being that im still in a deficit, is 1gm of protein per lbs fine? Or what should my macros be at when reversing?
    Im 160lbs and based on this article should i be doing 160p/30%fat/the rest carbs? Im confused. It sounds like too little protein.

    Thanks

    • That’s plenty of protein. You’ll be fine. I recommend just following the article.

  • Dylan Lalta

    I’m 17 years old. I have been working out for 1 year now. I started bulking and made some terrible fat gains. My main focus right now is losing this fat and looking the best I possibly can at this stage. I workout 6 days a week, cardio 6x a week (3 days LISS 10 mins, 3 days HIIT 12 mins) and abs after cardio. I had been cutting for about 5 weeks now and not seeing much progress after 3 weeks, so I have decided to run a mini-reverse diet back up to maintenance, starting this week. Cals are: 2300 cal- 176g pro, 241g carb, 70g fat
    What do you think I should do? My BF % is around 18%.

  • Jonathan

    Hi I’m a 33 year old/ male. I’ve been trying to hit my TDEE/macros based on the BLS cutting formula for about a month now (have been eating about 1900-2100 cals a day). Did not loose weight but might have lost 1% fat based on mirror. Only now, I’ve almost consistently hit my TDEE /macros of 2300 cals 5 days consecutively following a “reverse” diet , without gaining weight. I’d like to go straight into a 20% calorie deficit right after the 10 day mark, but based on the 20% deficit calculation, it goes beyond my BMR?

    Example:

    Katch Mcardle:
    Weight: 220 pounds
    Body fat: 25%
    BMR: 1986
    TDEE= 2,332 cal Total: 1865 (20% deficit )

    My BLS macros:
    P:264g( usually hit 220-230 g)
    C:220g
    Fat: 44g

    Weight training 3/week , plus 3-15 min HIIT, 1 day boxing (6-8 rounds sparring).

    Please help:
    1) Not sure if I should go straight into a deficit for cutting, after 10 days of not gaining weight following “reverse diet”. ?
    2) Having regard to the above BMR issue , what should my total cals be so that I could ride a 2-3 month cutting cycle ? (“slow cutting sucks”)
    3) should I follow BLS macros or 40/40/20 even though they are almost the same?

    Thank you

    • Hmm are you sure your TDEE is that low? Can you recalculate? It sounds like it should be higher.

      Let me know and we’ll go from there.

      • Jonathan

        Thanks for your prompt response . I’ve been reading practically every single article on your site several times now lol and have read BLS before jumping into this conclusion. I’ve recalculated using the link for Katch Mcardle:
        220 * 25% = 1986 (BMR)
        1986 (BMR) * 1.2 =2,383(TDEE).
        Using BLS formula: 2,332 (TDEE). (I’ve been tracking macros using BLS).

        I’m 6″2 if that helps. I might be 24% body fat now according to the pics, but even then I’m 2400 (TDEE).

        • Oh okay you’re not exercising much. That makes sense now.

          Any way we could get you exercising more?

          • Jonathan

            Sure,so should I stick with 2300 (TDEE) / macros and lift 5 times a week rather than 3?

          • If you’re lifting 3 x per week you may be able to go with 1.3 for your activity multiplier. But yes 5 x per week would be better.

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  • Hey Michael!

    Super big fan of your work and have been stalking your site (aw hell… all your platforms) for a hot minute. Just ordered your TLS book and (impatiently) waiting for that sweet thing to show up… so maybe I’m jumping the gun asking this now, but that’s just how I roll.

    Been working out on a strength training plan for 5 weeks now. 5 days a week, 45-70 mins each, 5 sets/8-10 reps/weight increases by aprox 10% each week. HIIT 3 days a week, 20-35 mins each. Outside of that, I am a freelance designer… so I pretty much sit unless I’m at the gym. Scale goes up a few pounds here and there, but by the end of the week I am right back to where I started… 5 weeks ago.

    So, my question is: Should I reverse diet and reset the metabolism or did I set my daily calorie intake up incorrectly?

    Here are my stats.
    Female. 34. 5ft 6in. 32% body fat.
    CW 183. BMR 1558. TDEE 2103.
    Daily Calories at 80% Deficit 1682.

    PCOS/Pre-Diabetic, so macro % set to 45p/25c/30f, so grams 157p/87c/47f.

    Since my short term goal is fat loss and muscle gain, I have also been tracking my measurements, and I have seen a decrease in the waist (1.5in) and a few half and quarter inches on the calves and arms… but that’s it. Thighs & hips aren’t budging.

    I do have a hard time hitting my protein goal (vegetarian). Typically manage to hit 80-90% of that goal daily and typically am under my cal goal by 150-200 each day. Is my cal deficit too steep or is it time to reset?

    Thanks again! You, sir… rock.

  • I’ve seen that happen with quite a few people. Once they approach 10%, it starts getting real hard. The ones that make it through just tough it out to be honest.

    There’s only so much you can do to improve satiety and such. Some guy’s bodies just seem to not like getting really lean. Maybe it’s pscyhological.

    This may help you:

    http://www.muscleforlife.com/not-losing-weight/

    http://www.muscleforlife.com/the-truth-about-stubborn-fat-and-how-to-get-rid-of-it/

  • Nick

    Hey Mike!

    Been following your books as well as your sites. Great info man!

    I’m a little confused though. I’m about to reverse diet, do I follow BLS or your website articles? BLS has different guidelines to maintenance than your site, particularly in regards to fat macros. When figuring my reverse diet it’s a difference of 30g of fat a day which take away from carbs.

    According to this article:
    TDEE 2308
    P: 170
    C: 206
    F: 89

    BLS:
    TDEE 2308
    P: 170
    C: 272
    F: 60

    Should I follow BLS or the article? The fat seems really high?

    Thanks ahead of time man!

  • Christopher Gattman

    Looking to become a Team Legion Athlete! It might not be today but one day! I am 6’7 228lbs prior D1 College athlete. Just started your bigger leaner stronger program so that I can add more weight to my lifts. Been around the same weight for a year so its time for a change. Love what you are doing. Love the supplements. Love the science. Big fan here, super motivated, and very coachable. Keep it up Mr. Matthews!

    • Awesome man! Definitely let me know how everything goes. I appreciate all the support man!

  • Julien Sanders

    Hi Mike,

    First of all a massive thank you for all of the content and advice you provide on
    your site/podcasts. Everything one could need is there…free! I still bought
    BLS (as a thank you really) and convinced my 60 year old mother to buy TLS. She’s hooked! Ill also invest in BBLS when my future self is ready, even though I’m sure everything is here too!

    Anyway, I have a few questions if I may (that I haven’t found answers for on here). As a background, I have lost (using the Tim Ferris 4HB approach, and then yours when I discovered it about 6 months in) 20kg (44lb) and gained some muscle in the last year. So essentially a lot of fat. It has cost me a whole new wardrobe but I never tire of catching a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I recently hit approx 10% BF (using calipers on myself) and so, after a long, tortuous year of cutting, am looking forward to finally putting on some proper muscle. I am starting with a reverse diet which leads me to my questions:

    – Should I expect strength and weight gains in the 6 weeks (which includes 2
    weeks at maintenance cals) it takes me to get into a surplus? Lifts are improving, but weight is ‘irregular’: dropped the first week and seems to have plateaued for week 3. And is it meant to feel so horrible? Worse than the cut! Real energy lows. Maybe all the carbs…

    – I will still be training fasted as this is the only time I can really do it (I
    just get up an hour before the family to lift in the garage!) – is this a
    significant issue? Am supplementing with BCAA’s/Leucine beforehand of course

    – I enjoy the training a lot, so am doing six days instead of five, with a couple of HIIT sessions during the week. That ok?

    – My reverse diet, whilst having 1gr/lb P as the constant, has only 20% of fat
    (as it will be when I am in my final surplus), and not 30% – I basically am
    using a spreadsheet where I up the percentages on quantities to increase
    100kCal a week for ease. Big problem?

    – Final one (I promise). When i eventually come back to cutting (in about 30
    weeks if my body adheres to the 1:1 muscle and fat gain target!), how much
    muscle would I expect to lose if I start dropping 1 lb a week. You state it’s
    essentially none… is this simply measured through maintaining strength on
    lifts?

    Once again, thanks for all the time you dedicate to this. You deserve all of the
    success you get. And apologies for the essay!
    Jules

    • My pleasure Jules. 🙂

      Great job on what you’ve done so far. That rocks.

      1. Yeah you will probably gain strength and a few pounds on your way up. Not of fat fho. Water and glycogen mainly.

      2. Totally fine on fasted training.

      3. 6 x per week should be okay especially as you raise food intake.

      4. So long as you keep your fat intake around 0.3 grams per pound of lean mass you’ll be fine.

      5. You will lose little to no muscle if you do it right. Yay! Check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/rapid-weight-loss/

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

      • Julien Sanders

        Brilliant! Am amazed how you find the time to respond to everyone!!

        Thanks Mike

  • Misha

    Hi Mike, I want to begin cutting, so I wanted to reach my TDEE before cutting. I am currently increasing my calories by 100 every week for the past month or so to reach my TDEE and I am slowly gaining weight ( two pounds) while doing this. I do strength training (heavy) 5-6 times a week, plus 25-30 min HIIT cardio 3-4 times a week. I am still 200 calories away from reaching my TDEE and I have not added any calories for the past two weeks because I am afraid I will continue to gain weight. Do you suggest I continue to reach my TDEE or begin cutting?

    • Cool! I like it. You should expect to gain a little weight but it’s most likely not fat. Water and glycogen come in as you eat more carbs. Nothing to worry about. Keep on going up. 🙂

      • Misha

        Okay, perfect. I was getting so paranoid 🙂 Thank you so much for your advice! I really appreciate it.

  • Eddy

    Hey mike so I have a quick question! Let’s say I cut until my caloric intake reaches my BMR and I am doing resistance training 5x a week and HIIT cardio 4x a week! Once I start reverse dieting and adding calories every week should I continue to do the same exact amount of exercise until I reach my TDEE?

    • Yeah you should keep up the same amount of training while reverse dieting. Once you reach TDEE, you can reduce the cardio for your bulk or maintenance. No reason to lessen the weight lifting.

  • Jazz

    Hi Mike, first: love your site. Extremely thorough and I’m reading everything in hopes that you find my question not redundant! (a girl can hope, anyway). In short, my concern is: do I need to reverse diet or can go directly into a cut based on what I’m about to tell you? In the last 6 weeks that I’ve been tracking carefully, hitting avg macros of 138c 109p and 58f, my weight has been consistent at 64kg in this time (i am 5’2″ and id guess 25%bf). So, I’ve deduced that I’m in a sort of deficit/maintenance? Exercise is 3x/week strength training with dumbells at home, followed by 15 mins light cardio, plus 2-3 HIIT or HICT max 20/30 mins on other days, and yoga 1/2x week (1hr each). However, when I calculate my BMR using Katch-Mc at 1400 cal, and my active factor as 1,3 – leaving my TDEE as 1820. My concern is that my current calories are 1580 at this “maintenance/deficit”. As my goal is to cut fat, do I need to first reverse diet for the next 3 weeks say, adding 100/150 cals per 7-10 days, to then get back up to 1820 and protect my metabolism? Then, once I’m at 1820 cut 20/25% cal deficit at that time? Or, should I start cutting right away? My confusion is because in the last 6 weeks I’ve lost 12,5cm but no kgs, established a consistent training schedule, and paid close attention to my diet (though I think my macros are off, more protein & carbs, less fat? though i live in europe the land of olive oil so the fat is a hard one). I just don’t want to screw up by going into a cut too soon and only being able to reduce my calories to my BMR of 1400 off the bat and have no where else to go. I think more exercise would be overkill… but maybe I’m wrong there. Thank you in advance for your attention to my question!

    • Thanks Jazz!

      First, check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/not-losing-weight/

      LMK what you think once you’ve read it. We can go from there!

      • Jazz

        Hi Mike!

        Thanks for that link. I think it’s probably a combination of newbie gains vs. lost fat and mayyyybe calories? I definitely see and feel my muscles popping through, I just would like to see more leaning out happening I suppose. Though, I’m pretty OCD about that part so it is probably impatience. While waiting for your response I raised my calories 150, so I’m at 1650 now and weight is still steady. You’re right, my metabolism probably isn’t a special snowflake, so I guess I’ll just go ahead and start cutting… please let me know if you think this is a good idea to get the results I’m seeking?

        • YW. It sounds like you’re on the right track and just need to be patient! Are you keeping track of your weight and measurements?

          • Jazz

            Hi again, yes I’m tracking my weight, which again is still the same 63,4kg, and i measure every 2 weeks which will be tomorrow. Patience has never been my strong suit!

            One question: I really cannot get over the mental hump to join a gym, and so I’ve been doing total body training with dumbbells to this point with 8/12 reps in the 3/5kg range 3/4 sets and it takes about 50 minutes to complete. It is challenging, maybe not the squats and deadlifts as much as they could be, but it definitely isn’t easy. I know you recommend fewer reps, more rest and heavier weight generally. However, when limited to training at home – does this kind of rep/set/weight load seem sufficient to get the most out of my goals (gain strength and lean out)?

          • That’s great.

            Cool on what you’re doing and ideally you would start incorporating heavier lifting at home. I’ve spoken with a LOT of people that do…

          • Jazz

            Ok thanks… I went to purchase a new set of dumbells that can go up to 10kg each so that has doubled my load for now. i’m steadily working on maxing out at that weight and then will deal with finding even heavier weights at that time!! haha… thanks mike

          • Sounds good! My pleasure.

          • Jazz

            BTW I measured yesterday and weight is still the same, but i lost a total of 16,5 cm (from 1 to 3 cm various parts) since the last time i measured 2 weeks ago.

          • Damn that’s great! You’re just building muscle and losing fat at the same time. Keep that shit up. 🙂

  • christy

    hey mike,

    i have been doing weight lifting for almost ten months, four times a week. at the beginning i didnt do any cardio. however, from the last two months, i noticed that i have slowly gained more than six lbs to 113(being around 106 to 108 at the beginning). and i know that i have more muscle definition now compared to the time when i started weightlifting, but i think i also gained fat.i did not track my macros or calories at all before. so after that i started to track my food, and i know that i consumed around 2000cals. a month ago, i started to cut my cals to 1200 cuz i thought i could lose 2lbs per week, so i can get back on track in a short time. although i was trying to eat 1200 cals a day(90p 136c 33f), i ended up eating around 1400cals. my TDEE according to my weight now is 1743cals, 90p 136c 33f. (but its hard for me to hit my protein intake).now i finally made some progress at around 110-112lbs for about two weeks. should i do reverse dieting to get my metabolism back up or maybe i just didnt count my calories accurately so it caused the slow progress? also, since i cut down my calories i started to do HIIT cardio for 20-30 three times a week.

    • Great on what you’ve done so far. Hmm are you looking to lose more fat or?

      • christy

        thank you for your response! and yes i want to lose more fat, and cut my weight down to 108 and maintain it : )

        • YW! Okay cool.

          I recommend going straight into your cut and making sure you’re hitting your daily targets of cals and macros. You can set it up here:

          http://www.muscleforlife.com/healthy-meal-planning-tips/

          Then, once you reach your goal, you can reverse diet to maintenance cals and maintain your weight from there.

          What do you think?

          • christy

            so basically i will continue the calorie deficit and i need to follow my macros more strictly?
            thank you again for your help!! love your passion of writing all these articles and answering all the comments. im so grateful for your generosity by sharing all your knowledge! keep up the amazing work!

          • Yes exactly. Make sure you’re hitting your daily targets on cals and macros.

            YW! I’m happy to do it. 🙂 Thanks for the support!

  • NB1986

    Hi Mike,

    Hope you’re well. So I’ve hit a plateau at 11st 2, a weight I’ve been at for about 3 weeks now, even after dropping calories from 2200 to 1900 gradually over the past few weeks. 1900 cals is already about a 22% deficit for me and I’m worried about going lower. I’m still lifting heavy and still seem to be getting a bit stronger. Could I be losing fat but NO WEIGHT due to still adding a bit of muscle? I’m starting to see visual results so it’s kind of confusing…

    Thanks, Nick

    • It is very possible to be losing fat and gaining muscle at a similar weight. As long as you’re visibly getting leaner, keep it up. 🙂

  • Fede

    Can one get leaner doing a reverse dieting? Or you are going to stay equally in bodyfat mass?. Now Im on a 1450kcal deficit from a 2350maintainence (38% deficit that is lower than my BMR). Im training 6 days a week weight training and 4-5 days hiit 15 min. Macro ratio 50:30:20(prot:carbs:fat). Im not dropping weight but i feel that i have less fat. I dont know if i have to keep pusshing on the hiit and continue the deficit to reach a 40% deficit or do i make a reverse dieting?. The problem is that i want to shreed fat soon!

    • Fede

      Thank in advance men!!! And keep the good work

    • You would lose fat for the first part of the reverse diet because you’re still in a deficit until you reach maintenance cals.

      You could definitely be losing fat and gaining muscle at the same time, especially if you’re new to this style of weightlifting.

      If you’re goal is to be leaner, and you’re getting results (even visible results), keep up the cut. 🙂

  • Bree

    Hi Mike, I started cutting (~1500cals) and your TLS lifting exercises 5 weeks ago but no weightloss. Maybe a bit more definition but I really want to lose some pounds. I’m around 145 pounds right now. Last year I lost 40 pounds on an extreme low calorie diet and gained 10 over winter, because I ate far too much. Do you think I should stop cutting and start reverse dieting until I reach my TDEE (~1850cal) and then start cutting again? For how long would I eat the TDEE calories?
    I love love your books and program!!!!! Greetings from Germany 😉

  • Damon Francis

    Mike,
    I’m following BLS, just finished week 8 and am currently in my deload week. Working out my nutrition numbers following your plan in the book for someone over 25% bf automatically now puts me under my BMR for what I’m eating. Week 7 247lbs 26% bf , BMR is 2141. Following BLS for a person over 25% bf I’m at 2008 cals. Being that this is below my BMR, should I stick to 2008 cals? Stick to 2100 and reverse diet when I plateau?

    • I wouldn’t eat below BMR. Calculate your TDEE and then you can do a 20-25% deficit. To set that up, check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/healthy-meal-planning-tips/

      Then yes, if you stop losing 1-2 pounds a week while sticking to your meal plan, you can reverse diet to speed up your metabolism.

      • Damon Francis

        If I go back and do a 20-25% deficit from my TDEE. Would I be gaining weight since I’ve been eating less already for so long?

        • If you’ve been eating less than that for a while, you need to reverse diet to speed up your metabolism. Then you can go back to cutting cals.

          • Jimmy Bills

            Once you’ve reached your TDEE, can you immediately go back into your 20%-25% deficit or should you reduce it slowly by say 150 cal a week until you’re comfortably back in your deficit?

          • You should go right back to cutting cals. No need to slowly go into your deficit.

          • Jimmy Bills

            Sweet, thanks Mike!

          • YW!

  • Charlie S.

    Hi Mike,
    24, 5’7 female 147 lbs. I’ve been working out pretty consistently for the past 4 months (4-6 days a week weights/elliptical – burn 500-700 most workout days) . I recently figured out I’ve been incorrectly calculating my calories with MFP. (I didn’t eat back my calories, so my net calories were probably 500 a day..yikes) My weight loss stalled out a couple weeks ago. I’ve recently refigured my calories on the app and have been eating 1390 a day (when I don’t workout, then eating back some exercise calories when I do workout). I want to lose another 10 or so lbs yet. Not sure if I have screwed up my metabolism or not.. Do I need to reverse diet? Will I eventually start losing again by eating how I am now?

  • Timmy Atz

    IM not at my BMR yet but just cut from 250 to 220 since January 6 months. Feeling time to maintain as I feel sluggish. How should I transition from cutting diet to TDEE adjusting the carbs from protein I read that your macros will be different at the TDEE. When should I be taking away my protein im at 260 Grams from my cut and need to get to 220 grams correct me if im wrong! Thanks Great book by the way BLS!

  • Marcus Colone

    The most “metabolic damage” ever seen in a scientific study is 15%. In other words, if you were in a deficit at 1500 calories, you may actually need 1275 to experience the same degree of weight loss. The fact is however, this was seen in people only after MONTHS of extreme calorie deficits. No metabolic compensation greater than 15% was observed. Which leads to the real truth, if you are eating 1300 calories and training 6 days a week and not losing weight, you are simply not doing that. Meaning you are very likely eating a lot more than 1300 calories, moving a lot less outside of the gym or both. In the end you can’t defeat the laws of thermodynamics in the body. The body needs cellular energy. If you’re not consuming it, it will break down existing tissues to get it. It will do this until you either eat or die. First thing you should get right is an accurate measure of your daily calorie expenditure. Not from some online calculator but from real life observation and taking into account your age and lean body mass. Chances are you’re getting this wrong to begin with.

  • shruti

    i am 26,female. my weight is 68.450 kg, as u wrote in very first paragraph, i am doing same, taking less food as my lifestyle is sedentary bcz of my job. i am gaining weight if i eat little more, and i used to do exercise including aerobics and cardio 6 days per week still cant lose any pound, i am getting frustrated now what should i do?

  • K.s. Pierce

    Pretty much what you’ve described is the phase three and phase four of the hcg diet. When the stats were compiled by the “scientists” they never took that into consideration and if you take the time to read the actual studies and not just the summaries you will see that they saw the 23-45 day very low calorie phase of the diet as the complete and full diet. The Hcg diet has four phases, not one.

  • frametheory

    Hi Mike

    Currently at 13.7 body fat 138lbs. Eating 1400 calories. I haven’t changed in a week or two. Im so close to 10. I want to decrease calories to 1000 for a week…before I reverse diet, or if successfully get to 10 or close…start bulking!. What would you recommend?

    • If you haven’t lost 1-2 pounds a week in the last few weeks and have actually been sticking to the diet, you can drop the cals by 100 (25g of carbs). I don’t recommend dropping to 1000. That’s below your BMR.

      From there, you can reverse diet, and if you want to add muscle, reverse diet into a bulk.

      What do you think?

      • frametheory

        Gotcha. I’ll try it. When I reverse diet into a bulk, I won’t actually add muscle until I reach that last week right? The week where I cross into a surplus.

        • Cool.

          You can still ad muscle in the early stages of the reverse diet. Especially since you will have been used to a lower calorie diet.

          What’s you pass TDEE, you will start consistently building.

          • frametheory

            Hey Mike, I weighed myself today Im at 135lbs. I suspect I probably lost 2lbs. Still at 13.7% body fat. Don’t quite get that, but I guess I have no choice but to reverse bulk. Hopefully adding muscle without fat will lower the body fat%?

          • Hmm. How are you checking your BF%?

            Are you losing 1-2 pounds a week and lifting heavy?

          • frametheory

            Im checking with the calipers. Im lifting heavy. Some factors to consider, Im working out 3 times a week, Not hitting legs currently, protein currently 134. Im wondering if I should just reverse bulk anyway.

          • Okay. Make sure you’re using the caliper correctly! Check this out:

            http://www.muscleforlife.com/how-to-measure-body-fat-percentage/

            Also, how are your cals and and macros? Do they match with this:

            http://www.muscleforlife.com/healthy-meal-planning-tips/

            You should hit 10-12% BF before reverse dieting into a bulk. That way, you can bulk for longer and not get fat. What do you think?

          • frametheory

            Agreed. Going to give it another shot. Yeah Im using the caliper correctly. And I look like it in the mirror too.

            I restructured my meal plan for this upcoming week. Cals 1403, Protein 163, Carbs 121, Fats 33. Going to jump rope on days off too. Going to hit legs and drop arms, since legs are bigger muscles, dont know just a theory, might have something to do with it.

            Currently 135lbs, 13.7 BF. Hope it works so I can put this hurdle behind me. What do you think?

          • Cool!

            That all sounds good. Now all you’ll have to do is adjust based off results. You should be losing 1-2 pounds a week.

            Definitely a good idea to hit legs if you haven’t been.

            I’m excited to see your results!

          • frametheory

            hey mike so my results after a week: still at 135 lbs. Body Fat, after multiple readings, i’d say i went from 13.7 to about 12. Does that make sense?

            I’m going to knock a slice of bread off my meal plan and aim for next week.

          • If you’re new to this style of lifting, it’s likely you’re gaining muscle and losing fat at the same time.

            If you are new, you’ll need to track progress with measurements and/or the mirror. Are you looking leaner? More defined?

            If you aren’t new to this style of training, let’s take out 25g of carbs and see what it does for you.

          • frametheory

            Hard to tell after a week mirror wise. Will have to wait another week. However since I have gotten my macros straightened out, I feel more energy in the gym. Before I was losing reps. Now Ive gained some reps back this week. Looking forward to next week’s results.

            Dropped my caliper, slider moves funny now, might buy another one. You ever dropped yours. Mines clicks faintly now. I have the accu measure.

          • Yeah it’s a bit harder to track visually. Just do your best.

            Glad straightening out the macros helped!

            Sorry to hear about the caliper. I haven’t had any issues with mine…

          • frametheory

            Hi Mike so im still 135lbs. BF looks about the same. Have to buy a new caliper. Ill check again tomorrow with the new caliper but if Im still not at 10 maybe i should just reverse bulk. And then try again.

            The fat pinch is about the same, still have belly fat so I dont think much has changed.

          • LMK how it goes with the new caliper.

            If you’re around 10-12% BF you can bulk if you’d like to focus on building muscle.

  • KTM 16

    Thanks for this article, I should probably start doing this as I’ve realised I am at a very unhealthy stage with my caloric intake and energy expenditure. I am a 16 year old girl, 5 ft 2″, 101 lbs and have difficulty consuming even 1200 calories a day for fear of weight gain after losing so much over the last year. I am trying to make sure I definitely do consume this much but each time I get closer I seem to instantly pack on the fat in my lower belly (which seems to be the only place I somehow still have fat). Every time I have a meal my stomach noticeably expands more and more and does not deflate until the next morning and then expands when I eat again. I can no longer eat cake or have pizza or takeaways without gaining stomach fat right away and it is incredibly defeating. I exercise every day (35-45 minutes) doing mainly cardio at what I think is high intensity using youtuber Millionaire Hoy. Recently I started going swimming too once a week and I want to start running – I do actually enjoy the exercise I just don’t want to have to do as much. I am scared that if I start to up my calories but not my exercise I am going to start gaining weight again and end up where I was before or worse, what do you suggest I do? My parents get very angry at me whenever I mention anything to do with my stomach so getting them to take me to a doctor about it would never work.

  • Heather Williams

    I did the HCG diet a few years ago & it did a number on my metabolism. I gained all the weight back & an extra 30 pounds on top of that! I am now at the point where I continually gain unless I barely eat. I am wondering what calorie amount I START at before adding in the 100 calories per 7-10 days? What do you think about using the macro diet plan? It told me to take in A TON of carbs! I realized I eat high fat low carb diet before looking at macros but eating that many carbs scares me! I CANNOT gain more! I am already 5’4 and 219 pounds 🙁

  • MJ

    Hi Mike, can you comment on why extra cardio is needed during a cut if we’re on a 20% deficit and weight training 4 days a week?

    • MJ

      Actually I think you answered this in a podcast I watched last night. You want to lose the weight as fast as possible. And you’d rather eat more food and do cardio, than eat less food and no cardio.

  • Vicky

    so i am 5′ and currently 118lbs. im trying to lose another 10 or so. I set My Fitness Pal app to 1600cals but most of the time I run short by a couple hundred or more.. I have lost quite a bit of weight from a couple yrs ago but ive hit a plateau. (I was 135 from a couple years ago) I have been lifting for over a year and recently within the past couple weeks been adding in cardio with the stairmaster for 15-30 min depending. I figured I haven’t been eating enough calories since I am always low on my macros and never really hit my protein, mainly because of money issues with constantly having to buy food.. pretty frustrating when I have goals im trying to meet haha.. But my first question is: how do you know how far to increase your calories each week- meaning when do you stop before you cut it by 20%? Also, I usually workout M-F and have off sat n sun, do you recommend still eating that same amount or lessening carbs for those days perhaps?

    But I feel like if I cant keep up with having to constantly buy food, mainly the protein, im literally wasting money and this is all for nothing. I do eat quest bars/shakes, but I cant eat those constantly ya know..
    And are you saying that after you’ve increased your calories to the TDEE, you have a 2-3 month window of your metabolism pretty much staying that way so you can reduce the cals by 20% and increase cardio to lose the fat?
    Are you technically considered on a bulk if you’re raising your calories each week? Will you see an increase in weight during those weeks?

    • Vicky

      I also just recently starting getting strict with my diet and consistently adding in cardio, so I am not sure if its too soon to tell if I am not eating enough? I feel like I should wait a few more weeks to see if the scale changes. but I don’t want to waste weeks more of not eating enough too.

      I have seen progress in gaining muscle like my shoulders, biceps, legs leaning out, and thighs.. so that’s why im questioning that maybe the cardio is helping and I possibly am eating the correct amount.

    • Hey Vicky!

      Thanks for the comment.

      First, check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/not-losing-weight/

      I think it will help you understand what’s going on.

      And then this:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/reverse-diet/

      As it’s a more in-depth discussion of reverse dieting.

      But yes the general idea is raise cals to TDEE, maintain for a few weeks, and then go into a deficit.

      No, bulking begins once you raise intake above TDEE.

  • Nora R

    Hey, so I’m 5’7″ and 112lb and I eat around 1200 cal a day. This used to maintain my weight the past couple years but now im starting to gain on the same amount. I also exercise 5-6x a week (20-30m hiit and 30-40m lifting). Would reverse dieting work for me? Or would I just gain even more weight.

    • Yeah, you shouldn’t be gaining weight with 1200 cals. Reverse dieting will work.

      LMK how it goes.

  • Jon

    Hi Mike,

    I have been trying to cut for a little over 3 wks now (adhering to macros, proper measurements/weight of foods, about 5 hours of weight training + HIIT/week) but… no change in weight. Don’t necessarily feel a HUGE difference in body but then again it’s only been 3 wks.

    After reading several of your articles I read up on “newbie gains” pertaining to losing fat/gaining muscle at the same time and/or water/glycogen soaked up by muscles and therefore, give 3-6 weeks to see weight loss. Today, I started measuring various body parts including waist, however, I have nothing to compare it to yet since I did not measure anything 3 weeks ago besides weight.

    I also came across reverse dieting in a couple of your articles. This sounds very interesting to me but here is my question: I began 3 wks ago by calculating my BMR (1859) x activity (1.5) = TDEE (2788) – 20% deficit (2230) and hit the ground running with that. But I am not sure if I ate more or less before starting my program. I want to say I mostly ate around my BMR if not less. Sometimes I would forget to eat.

    Some possibilities:

    1) might my activity multiplier be too high (to get an accurate TDEE)? Currently multiplying BMR by 1.5. I do about 4.5 hours of weight training and three 10 minute sessions of HIIT per week – office job.

    2) should I do reverse dieting first to speed up metabolism?
    a. If so, how long should I stay at TDEE #’s before creating the deficit?
    b. is the deficit from TDEE achieved by gradually cutting down in 100-150 calorie intervals or is it a straight-shot reduction? For example: from 2788 to 2230 in my case (considering that my TDEE is correct)?

    Thanks for your time and help,

    Jon

    • Thanks for all the info Jon.

      First, yeah, if you’re new to lifting, the numbers on the scale may not change a lot because you’re building muscle and losing fat. To track progress use the mirror and measurements.

      1. I recommend using the 1.35 multiplier and seeing how it goes.

      2. If after following your meal plan based off the 1.35 multiplier you’re still not losing, I’d recommend reverse dieting.

      You would chill at TDEE for the week and then go straight back into your a 20% deficit.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Noah

    Hey Mike,

    How do you guys do your workouts in 45 min?? Especially with 3 min breaks between sets? I am doing the four a week schedule and am lucky to do 1 hour 15 min. Any ideas on how to speed it up? I need to get to work on time! 😉

    • The workouts should take 45-60 minutes and that’s on the 5-day split. The 4-day and 3-day split will take longer. You should be able to do it in 60-75 minutes.

      Make sure you’re not late for work though man!

  • Max Gomez

    Hey Mike, about how many weeks of reverse dieting should one take on at a time?

    • It depends on how quickly you increase your cals. You should increase by 100-150 every 7-10 days until you reach TDEE.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Hi Mike, I weight 215 at 5’10” and 31 y/o. I keep getting different results on calorie calculators. I think my TDEE is around 2300. I set my daily intake to 1724 for weight loss. I’m doing weights and HIIT 3 day per week. About 45min weights and 20mins of HIIT on elliptical. Does this daily calorie amount seem too low/high? My macro goals are 40/25/35. Btw, I am reading your BLS book and really enjoying it so far.

  • Leiha

    Hi Mike! Really excited about your TLS program. Day one done (It felt REALLY awkward- like I was resting more than training!!), equipment procured for home work-outs, legion supps ordered and on the way.

    My question is what to do as far as calories. I was an ephedra user who didn’t know to cycle (used it in place of coffee for 1.5 years straight!!! yikes!!!) and my metabolism crashed. I went from 118 to 210 in 6 months at 5’3″- that was 12 years ago, and I’ve Hcg’d, dieted, scraped and fought for the 140 (25%bf) I am today. I believe I’m in the slow metabolism group, although my body still responds to moderate calorie reductions as long as I eat 1200 or less and NEVER sugar, starches or grains.

    If I understand the steps correctly: I should be lifting according to the TLS phases outlined in the book and I should start at 1200 cals/day (the max I can eat without gaining) and follow the above steps to increase metabolism up to my normal TDEE of 1705, then once I’m there and maintaining for a few weeks, I can reduce cals to 1364 (80%) to cut til I’m at 20% BF? Then reverse diet back up to my TDEE at that point… After that comes a clean bulk, then cut to apx17%bf, then reverse diet back to my new TDEE?

    How do I incorporate the starchy carbs like bananas, sweet potatoes and gluten-free grains like brown rice, corn, etc… those things make me gain instantaneously.

    Thanks!!!!
    🙂

  • Pamela O’Neal

    HI Mike, I have a question about how long I should reverse diet. I ate 1200-1400 calories for about 15 years. I am a 34 year old female, 5’8 and about 135lbs, I lift 5-6 days a week, minimal cardio. A couple of years ago I began a reverse diet and over 5 months reversed up to 230 carbs, 55 fat, 130 protein, with only a couple of pounds gained. After 5 months of reversing I starting cutting to lose some fat, I did not lose weight, I eventually made it back down to 1200 calories, and actually gained weight. not sure if my metabolism wasn’t ready for a cut or what. So I reversed again, back up to 215 carbs, 50 fat, and 130 protein, with a few more pounds gained, been doing this for the past year. I really want to lose some fat though, but after not losing weight after cutting last time, I’m hesitant to drop calories again. Any suggestions on why I didn’t lose weight after dropping my calories, and how long I should keep my calories high before attempting a cut again? Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
    Thanks
    Pam

  • Ane Breytenbach

    Hi Mike, my fitness coach has put me on a diet of 1200 calories a day for a few months now. I am a 21 years old female, 5’1 weighing 155. These low calories have made me sick and weak. I still have some weight to lose but my metabolism is very damaged from yo- yo dieting and binging for years so I am really struggling to lose weight. I do heavy weight training 3 times a week and cardio 3 times a week for an hour. Please help me reverse diet so that I can fix my metabolism before losing weight naturally.

  • edd

    Hey Mike,
    I started out TLS at between 30-35% BF and 184 lbs last summer. (I’m 5’5″, 52 years old, endo with shades of meso gal.) I was at 1500-1600 cal for about the last year, with moderate cheat meals every once in a while and an occasional bigger meal. I got to about 28% BF and 173 lbs. (I want to get down to about 20%.) The scale hadn’t budged in the last few months so I got strict, sticking to 1500-1525 cal, one 250-350 cal cheat meal or treat a week, added creatine and about a gallon of water a day, plus HIIT for the last 2 weeks. (With HIIT, the first week I did 3-4 afternoons 25-30 min but wanted to be fasted so changed to post-lifting for about 15 min–5 HIITs this week.) Scale still hasn’t budged.

    My workouts take just over 3 hours per week, maybe close to 4, including HIIT, so I used the 1.2 multiplier to be conservative. I think I need to reverse diet to TDEE and stay there for about 2-3 weeks, then cut at 1500 again. Does that sound about right?

    Problem: I have to have surgery in 3 weeks and won’t be able to work out at all (only walking) for 2 weeks and then gradually get back to my routine. How do I figure that part in?

    • Wow great job!

      Check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/not-losing-weight/

      Let’s see if you’re making any of these mistakes.

      LMK and we’ll go from there.

      Regarding the surgery, we’ll want to keep you eating around TDEE and then can get back at the deficit when you can train again.

      • edd

        Yeah. I have gone from squishy to kind of rocky so definitely some muscle building and fat burning going on! TDEE makes sense for post-op/recovery period. Thanks much!

  • Meg

    Hi Mike,

    I am just starting out with TLS, but I am unsure where to start with the meal planning. I’m 5’6, 115 lbs and around 27% body fat. Prior to reading the book, I was eating an average of 1100 cals a day, but I don’t think I was getting enough protein and carbs (and probably too much fat) per your recommendations. Should I start with the cutting plan? Or do I need to be thinking about speeding up my metabolism per your article above?

    Also, I wanted to ask about the pre and post workout diet recommendations you gave. If on weight training days I have 60 grams of protein (30 pre and 30 post) and 92 grams of carbohydrates (40 pre + 52 post), that would take up the majority of my carb allowances and a good chunk of my protein allowances for the day (per the cutting plan). I usually work out early in the morning and am worried about being hungry for the long day that follows . . . Would appreciate your suggestions!

    Thanks.
    Meg

    • Calculate your intake for cutting here:

      https://legionathletics.com/diet-meal-plans/

      If you’ve been eating less than the calculation, you should reverse diet then cut.

      You don’t need that much protein and carbs pre and post-workout. Check these out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/pre-workout-nutrition/

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/guide-to-post-workout-nutrition/

      LMK what you think.

      • Meg

        Thanks for sending these across, Mike. I read through the articles and went back to Thinner Leaner Stronger as well. I think I am clear on which diet plan I should start with (cutting). I’m still confused about how much protein/carbs I should be targeting pre- and post- I work out. In the book, you suggested 30-40 g protein + 40-50 g carbs before training, and again 30-40 g protein + 1 g carb per kg bodyweight post training – that’s where I got the above numbers in my original question. In your article it seemed like things could be a bit more flexible, but how do I figure out the right amount for me? Is there a minimum level you suggest, particularly for carbs? I think you said a min of 20 g for protein . . . Thank you!

        • No problem.

          Oh for pre- and post- yeah you can stick to the book. You can reduce post- carbs if necessary. The link above helps you make sure your overall daily intake is right, which is most important.

  • Andrew

    Hi Mike,

    Your post really opened my eyes, as I was really feeling confused about all this. I’m currently 247lbs at 6’1″ and have being dieting for 3 weeks now at 12lbs lost but have stalled. I’m walking/running a total of 10k steps every morning which amounts to 1.5 hours of exercise and a total of ~3200 calories burned for the day and consuming around 1300-1500 calories through the day in portioned meals. From your article I take it that I need to be eating more throughout the day in order to get things back on track and start losing more fat. I use MyFitnessPal which says my goal is 1930 for the day which now that I understand more, is 30% cut from my ~3200, do you think I should be consuming all 1930 then to start dropping fat again?

    Thanks for your help!

    • Thanks Andrew!

      First, let’s check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/not-losing-weight/

      LMK if you’re making any of those mistakes.

      • Andrew

        Checked out the link you provided and the one thing that stands out is maybe I’m retaining fluid from too much sodium in my diet. I drink 1-2 gallons of water a day so I’m sure if that’s hurting me if its being retained or helping in clear out that sodium. I’ll work on reducing the sodium, but otherwise did my calorie intake look good in terms of how much I’m burning?

      • Andrew

        Read the article you linked and I’m thinking maybe I’m taking in too much sodium so I’m retaining fluid. Other than that do you think eating 1800-1900 calories while burning 3200 is enough to lose fat without being too big a deficit? I’m considering less cardio days and adding resistance training as well.

  • Reb

    Hi Mike,

    What would you recommend for a really short person with a screwed up metabolism? I’m 4’10 and 93 lbs and my family members have commented that I look “flabby”. I know I have a really slow metabolism as my predicted BMR is 1045 kcal. However, I gain when eating more than 900 kcal, so I believe my metabolism is even slower than that. Last week, I began doing some cardio (running 6 km on alternate days) and I had a weight gain of 2-3 lbs that doesn’t seem to be shifting. This is not the first time this has happened, I gained weight every time I exercise and the weight is permanent. I also found it really hard to control my appetite to eat below 1000 kcal after adding exercise. I really don’t want to be “skinny fat” but I also find it impossible to exercise without gaining weight. What do I do?

    Thanks!

    Rebecca

    • Hey!

      Honestly that BMR sounds about right for your size. You’re very small.

      Are you sure you’re not eating more? Here are some common mistakes people make:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/not-losing-weight/

      Let me know…

      • Reb

        Hi Mike,

        Thanks for your reply. I realized that there could be something wrong with my eating schedule in that I eat very little during the day (around 100 kcal for breakfast and 300 kcal for lunch), and then I come home and eat a large dinner with my family members (around 500 kcal) because my mom cooks and I am expected to not waste food in front of my parents. I then inevitably crave something sweet and end up snacking on at least 200 kcal. After ingesting those 700 calories, I go straight to sleep; I’m the sort that can only sleep on a full stomach. I also can’t measure the food that my mom cooks for me so I estimate, so it is possible that I am eating too much. Is it possible that I am accumulating fat and unable to lose weight because of this eating schedule?

        Thanks!

        Regards
        Rebecca

        • Yeah I’d bet $ this is the problem. You’re just eating more than you realize.

  • riya2345

    hi mike,

    My skeleton Mass Muscle is 22.6 kg & body Mass Fat is 32.9kg. Also my metabolic rate is 1270 ( range is 1457-1698). My weight is 72.8kg & height is 159.5cm female. I am not able to loose weight for some time now and also my metabolic rate is low. can u suggest as how can i increase my metabolic rate and loose weight.
    your guidance would be highly appreciated.

    Shweta.

  • Brandon4949

    Hi Mike,

    I am 15 years old and I just started a weightlifting routine to prepare for track and field in the spring (Sprinting 100m and 200m). I am 169 pounds and I’m 5 foot 9 inches. Does me being a teenager affect my metabolism rate? And should I bulk then cut, or take advantage of the newbie gains?
    Thanks a lot.

    Brandon

    • It does. At your age, I wouldn’t worry about cutting or bulking though.

      Just eat plenty of protein and food overall and focus on your training, and you’ll do well.

  • Omar Karim

    hi mike i honestly didn’t know where else to message because i tried emailing at services@muscleforlife.com having few doubts about the custom meal plan but i haven’t got a reply yet and its been few days already…so i wanted to know where can i ask my doubts about the custom meal plan?

    • Hey Omar. I just spoke with Sam, and he said he’s in touch with you.

      He should take care of you. 🙂 LMK.

  • Ben

    Mike,
    How accurate are these BMR calculators for taller people? I want to make sure that the calories I’m aiming for match what I actually need to do. I’m 32, 6’4″ and 232 pounds. I’d guess my BF% is around 25-28% currently. This gives me a BMR around 2000-2100. Does being a bigger guy mean my multiplier may need to be higher? I don’t want to stunt my metabolism by going too low…

    • Yep, it works fine for taller people. No need to adjust the BMR higher due to height.

  • monir

    which one is the best. My one friend use lots of product, but none of them work. How to Speed Up Your Metabolism

  • Jon

    Hi Mike,

    Pretty nifty that you have the calculator now to determine LBM, BMR and TDEE. Thanks for that.

    One question: for activity level, the hours exercised per week, are those total amounts with or without rests in between?

    For example: sometimes I do a 3 or 5 sessions per week and each sessions is about an hour long. 20-30minutes the actual workout and 30-40 minutes of resting in between reps/sets.

    Thank bro!

    • YW! Glad you like it. 🙂

      Include the whole time training including rest.

      My pleasure!

  • Rachel

    Hi Michael, thank you for this great article. I have been so frustrated
    recently.. consuming 1100 calories per day and training 5 days per week
    for 5 weeks and my body fat has barely shifted at all. So I decided to
    get a DXA full body composition scan yesterday to find out what was
    going on and get better insight into my BMR and body fat %. I have a
    terrible history of crash dieting and under eating, and am now 33 years
    old and struggling to stay lean no matter how hard I try. I am 5’2″ and
    weight 59-60 kg. The scan results surprised me. I have 27% body fat ( I
    thought I had more than that) and my lean mass is 43 kg. The physician
    who did my scan told me my BMR is 1,450 calories but I find that I gain
    weight if i eat more than 1,200 – 1,300! He told me I need to slowly
    increase my calories by 50 per week until I am at least eating at my BMR
    to help restore my metabolism and stop my body storing everything i
    consume. Then I need to slowly increase them further to cover my
    exercise expenditure, and further again for muscle gains. I am so
    skeptical and terrified of eating more and possibly gaining. But then
    again, I can’t continue to eat nothing forever as it’s obviously not
    working. Would love your opinion-. Thank you

  • Andrew

    Hey Michael, thanks for the article! I recently started reverse dieting so I could repair my metabolism. The problem is that I’m 16, about 160lbs, 5’8, and have been eating 1,000cals for a while.
    When I was 13 and 210+lbs, I began to do a lot of cardio, and by the next year I was at about 160-170lbs. I was really happy with the weight loss and wanted to slim down even more, so I started to focus on my diet.
    I ate more healthy foods and started taking in fewer calories; consequently, I lost even more weight. The least I had ever weighed while being healthy was 145ish lbs. This eventually got to a dangerous level (i.e. Eating ~1000cals and even having a temporary eating disorder). In early April this year, I started lifting and have been ever since, but I’ve lingered around 145lbs until October, when I suddenly weighed 160!
    Granted, I have been getting stronger with lifting, and that could result in increased muscle mass, but my fat has stayed the same. As someone that was formerly obese, the notion of gaining weight terrifies me, so I’ve tried losing fat and preserving muscle. In November, I tried a low-carb diet (~20g carbs daily), and the results were minimal. After that, I found your article and decided that I could try reverse dieting so I could start eating at a healthy level, repair my metabolism, and keep my muscle mass.
    In 4 weeks, I’ve gone from 1,000 calories to about 1,150 (tomorrow I’ll try 1,200), and I lift/do cardio 6 days a week. But I don’t feel any lighter, in fact, I feel like I’m gaining weight! After I eat, I always feel full and my waist size is very slowly increasing. Any suggestions?

    • Great! It’s going to be MUCH healthier for you this way.

      Don’t worry about WEIGHT. It’s BODY COMPOSITION that matters.

      Check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/body-composition/

      Your plan is prefect. Let’s reverse diet you to TDEE and continue the exercise and again don’t focus on weight…just watch your body composition.

      This may help you too:

      https://legionathletics.com/bloated-stomach/

      • Andrew

        But is there a way that I could minimize weight gain (even if it IS the okay kind) and still receive the metabolic benefits of reverse dieting? The weight gain in general makes me physically uncomfortable; I sometimes feel sluggish after eating up to my (now 1,200) daily calories. And should I just linger around at a lower intake for a while if this is too hard to manage? (This could be fat gain for all I know, I haven’t quite seen results YET) Thanks for the feedback!

        • Yeah you shouldn’t gain much weight at all, really. Just a few pounds total…

          • Andrew

            What about calories that I’ve burned off, should I eat those back? What I’ve been doing is burning off usually 300ish calories a day and eating those back to reach a total of 1,200 calories (w/o exercise it would be about 1,500 calories a day). Will my metabolism increase if I’m still taking in more food–whether or not I’m burning it off through exercise?

          • Nope! Cals burned from activity are taken into account when calculating your TDEE.

            The way the body works, it’s always trying to be in an energy balance. So, if you’re consistently in a deficit, your metabolism will slow down to match the amount of cals you’re eating. If you’re consistently in a surplus, you’ll naturally start burning more calories.

            So yes, the metabolism will increase if you’re eating more. 🙂

          • Andrew

            Over what period of time should I increase my calorie intake then? (sorry for all of these questions) What I’ve been doing is going up 50cals every week, is that too fast? Too slow?

          • When reverse dieting, it typically take 4-6 weeks, and I recommend you increase cals by 100-150 every 7-10 days.

            Hope this helps! Talk soon!

          • Andrew

            Thanks for the advice! I’m not done with my diet yet, I’m eating at 1,540cals right now and my goal is to reach 2,400. So far I’ve started to lean out a little bit, but I’m not getting any more definition. Could my muscle be leaning out while I’m keeping fat? (And it’s not so out of the question that I’m even gaining.) If so, is there a way to intentionally reduce body fat in a reverse diet? I’m still lifting relatively heavy 5 days a week and doing cardio once a week.

          • Welcome!

            Hmm. To be getting leaner, you have to be losing fat and that’s what gives you more definition.

            Are you tracking your BF%? Check this out:

            http://www.muscleforlife.com/body-composition/

            You should be able to continue losing fat on your RD until you reach TDEE.

            Are you keeping your activity level the same, are you sticking to your meal plan and are you increasing cals at the correct rate?

            LMK.

          • Andrew

            Well by leaning out, I meant slimming down, shrinking, etc; not necessarily getting definition but getting smaller. And I have been staying pretty consistent. At one point in the diet I went on a 3 or 4 day long cut and reverse dieted back to maintenance. That didn’t seem to have much of an effect though. Right now I’m at exactly 15% of what I did eat; I’ve been increasing by 120 calories weekly

          • I see. Good to know you’re increasing cals correctly on the RD. Let’s get up to TDEE, chill there for a week and then go back to a cut with a 20-25% deficit and see how you do.

            You can calculate your intake for the cut here:

            https://legionathletics.com/diet-meal-plans/

            Sound good?

          • Andrew

            Sounds good. My reverse diet, going up by 100-150 calories weekly, should be finished in March. Should it really take another 6-8 weeks or should I speed up the process?

          • Great! Nope, that’s exactly the rate you want to increase at. Keep it up.

          • Andrew

            Since I’ve joined, about 4 months ago, I’ve started eating at about 2,300cals/day (over twice as much as I was!). When I go on my cut, should I have eaten at my max intake for over a week? I want to make sure that my metabolism is ready to lose fat at a little over 1,700 calories

          • Nice! Yeah, eat at TDEE for a week before going back into a deficit.

            I look forward to seeing how you do on your cut!

          • Andrew

            I’m about a month in my cut and I’ve lost a little less weight than I expected, about 3.5lbs (I was expecting 4.5, but I can’t be sure since the scale can always fluctuate). But I’m having a problem with cardio; I’m in track and I practice for distance running 5-6 days/week. Now I do still eat to my recommended calorie intake, even with the calories burned, but I don’t get to strength train as much as I should/want to. Do you figure I’m losing muscle like this, or am I still preserving muscle on a 25% deficit?

          • Hmm. That’s pretty good. You wan to be losing a bit more than that, though. The goal is 1-2 pounds a week.

            So, we lower your intake. The other option is increasing activity level but with the amount of running you’re doing, I wouldn’t recommend it. Check this out:

            http://www.muscleforlife.com/not-losing-weight/

            It’s possible. How much are you strength training weekly?

            To make sure you’re not losing muscle, take a look at this:

            http://www.muscleforlife.com/how-to-lose-body-fat/

            Hope this helps! Talk soon!

      • Andrew

        Well that’s the thing, I don’t just feel heavier, I feel more sluggish. Do you think I should just linger around the same calorie intake/go down a few cals until the feeling passes? Also, is there a particular way to reverse diet that MINIMIZES weight gain (even if it IS the good kind)?

  • Timmy Atz

    Hey Mike If I feel the need to reverse diet after 8-12 weeks of cutting from 20% to 15% body fat how long should I reverse diet for until I start to cut again. Just dont want to waste to much time if my metabolism gets back to optimal after a few weeks of reverse dieting. When i was re feeding during my cut it didn’t last to long before I felt out of gas that’s why i wanted to reverse diet. So I just got done with the reverse which I feel ready to cut again. total time was 5 weeks in reverse is that enough time in my situation.

    thanks again

  • Matthew

    I bulked up to about 16% at 202.5 lbs and I’m around 5’10” and 20 years old. I have been cutting for 5 weeks now and am down to 191.5 utilizing most of your methods from BLS. Am I on the right track? I feel like 10lbs is way too much for 5 weeks seeing as my deficit should result in about a 1.2lbs per week loss? Also I swear I’ve gotten bigger shirts and everything are fitting a bit more snug.

    • Sounds like you’re right on track TBH. The goal is to lose 1-2 pounds a week while cutting, so the amount you’ve lost is fine!

      That’s great to hear on the shirts. If you’re losing weight and getting bigger, you must be building muscle and losing fat which is awesome.

      To measure progress, I recommend tracking your BF%:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/body-composition/

  • Alla Andelman

    This article and the previous ones that led me to this one are very informative. My concern is that I have tried apps like fitbit before and quickly plateau out. I think it may be because of my metabolism slowing down. Yet I’m not eating significantly less than my TDEE (actually, it is probably just that amount-1700 Calories) as your article suggests, but am eating much less than I have been for a few months (before healthier lifestyle now) which has led to rapid weight gain recently. Should I be eating at the TDEE and not working out (which is my usual activity level) for a while before I try increasing exercise and decrease some of my calories?

    • Happy to hear it!

      First, apps can be really off on intake estimates. Second, you have to adjust intake based off results. Once you stop getting results at a certain intake, you need to lower the intake to continue losing 1-2 pounds a week. You continue doing this until you reach your goal or reach BMR and aren’t getting results. Then you need to reverse diet and then continue cutting.

      Check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/reverse-diet/

      This is also good to keep in mind while losing weight:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/not-losing-weight/

      Hope these help. LMK what you think.

  • dgr

    Why does it seem like people who go through weight loss surgery, like gastric bypass, drop massive amounts of weight quickly? Wouldn’t they run into the same issues with their metabolism with their calories severely restricted due to surgery?

    • BMR doesn’t slow down THAT much when you’re starving yourself. TDEE can drop dramatically but if you maintain a very low caloric intake, you’ll continue losing weight.

      The Minnesota Starvation Study is a great resource for discussions like this.

  • Michael Mizzell

    I just started counting calories a week ago. I’m 6’2, 260lbs (not much of it is muscle) and 27 years old. I’m not sure how many calories I’ve been consuming a day (prior to counting), but I would say 3000+. Also due to 10 hour shifts at a desk, I’m pretty sedentary. I plugged in all my info into MyFitnessPal and a calculator I saw on Reddit. Both say I need to eat around 2000 calories a day. So I restricted my calories to 2000 a day, and started walking 2-3 miles, 2-3 times a week. After one solid week, it doesn’t seem I’ve lost a single ounce according to the scale. Did I cut my calories too much too quickly? I have not yet started weight lifting, but will soon. I’m hoping this helps. Should I try going up just a bit in calories and then coming back down?

  • ND

    Hi Mike, looks like I’ve just found the answer to my dilemma. I’m 42yrs, 165cm and 66kg. After losing 16kg over 16 weeks on high cardio and a low cal diet I found myself “skinny fat”. For the past 8 months I’ve been lifting heavy and cut out all cardio whilst upping my diet to about 1650c / day. I currently put myself at aprox 18% body fat (was 30%) and my strength has increased a lot after upping my calories and yet my BW has held steady at 66kg. DL-130kg, BP-75kg, Squats 120kg. (1RM)
    I’ve just started working my way through your BLS. Whilst I know I still need to cut, my strength has stalled for the past 2 months. I’m thinking of upping my diet to aprox 1900c/day to get my metabolism going again and hopefully get my lifts increasing again. I’ll do this for 1 month, and then start my cut as per BLS. At a BMR of 1520c, and TDEE of 1,900c, I’ll be close to BMR on a 20% deficit.
    Does this logic sound right to you?

    • Thanks for all the info.

      Great job on the weight you lost!

      Good call increasing the cals and awesome on the strength gains you’ve made.

      Hmm. Yeah go ahead and finish up the RD. Once you’re at TDEE and have eaten there for a week, let’s go into a cut. Also, to help with the plateau, take a look at this:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/weightlifting-plateau/

      Thoughts?

      Oh and remember, when cutting, the goal is to maintain strength. So, if you’re losing 1-2 pounds a week and maintaining strength you’re doing great.

      That’s fine on your cutting cals, you just won’t have room to lower cals if/when weight loss slows down.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

      • ND

        Thanks for replying Mike.
        Good common sense info as per usual. I think I prefer upping the reps at the same weight when I get stuck increasing the existing weight. Once I can get to 8 x reps with the existing weight, I generally ok to then increase the weight and find my reps can then get to the 4-5 range. I also find staying with the same weights for at least 3 weeks helps improve my strength and form, and makes it easier when it’s time to increase the weight. Looking forward to formalising my training via BLS. Just got to the training section now. I’m thinking of the following split based on your BLS as a guide.
        Monday – Chest & Arms
        Tuesday – Legs
        Wednesday – Rest
        Thursday – Chest
        Friday – Back
        Saturday – Shoulders
        Sunday – Rest
        LMK your thoughts please. I’ve got a mate that can spot me on Thursday hence moving Chest to this day and working everything else around this. PS I’ve also purchased your Pulse and Triumph via Active Supplements in OZ.

        • Welcome!

          If that works for you, go ahead!

          That routine is fine.

          Awesome you ordered some supps! LMK how you like them. 🙂

  • MrMulligan84

    Hey Mike,

    Been going strong at the gym for 6 months now, suffering a stall on the weight (fat) loss or so I see it. I have been stuck at 355lbs for 4 months. I am strict on my diet, eating 2330 (just under bmr) daily. My TDEE is 2880. I am in the gym 3-5 times a week doing compound exercises (bench, squat, dead lift, military press etc)

    I have inches disappear in the 4 months while I have been in this stall but my mass has been stubborn I have tried adding more cardio, more resistance training, I have become even more disciplined regarding my intake but still the scale refuses to go down. I have put on a fair bit of muscle and I do take into account water retention due to sodium and repair but is it time for reverse dieting for me? I never thought of it as an option due to my size. I have been to a doctor make sure it isn’t a health problem holding me back but I am out of ideas. I had tried medically supervised weightloss a few years back and reverse dieting came up but we were told that at our size it wouldn’t be needed.

  • Fattie

    Hi. I’ve starved myself for almost two years (300-500 calories for a day) and I’ve lost about 40lbs in a year and half but now my weight loss has stoped (because of the metabolism?). I know what I’m doing is really wrong, and I really want to get healthier again, but I’m scared that by increasing my calorie intake I’ll gain it all back. And then starve myself again. And so on. Is there anything I can do to increase my metabolism really slowly, so I don’t have to face weight gain? I suppose that if I start eating healthier I’ll also have more energy to work out and everything. Just how do I start?

    • Let’s definitely work your calories back up to a healthy range.

      You won’t gain fat.

      This will help you:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/reverse-diet/

    • Karolina

      Hello Fattie, I know your pain. I was starving myself for years and recent year was just crazy, as you said. One vegan sandwitch a day and that is it. In addition I have a type 2 diabetes which makes it even harder. I become a skinny fat and I assume that about 30% of my body is fat. I am so scared to try this revert dieting but eating 500-600kcal a day till the end of my life is impossible. I thought we maybe can support each other? I do not want to live like this anymore.

  • John C. W

    As you prolly know I’m getting ready to start cutting soon after I for sure get rid of this bloating problem 100% and the tips to getting a faster metabolism are very helpful. As you know I have Phoenix would you suggest doing all those tips while taking Phoenix to help even more while getting a faster metabolism? Becuz over the couple years after losing a lot of fat my metabolism def slowed down thanks man

    • Hey hey! Totally fine to take Phoenix while you RD. However, once you reach TDEE. Stop taking it. Then, once you’re back to cutting, you can continue using Phoenix.

      My pleasure! Talk soon.

      • John C. W

        Well the thing is I tho I’m at my tdee right now but my metabolism I feel like is just not as fast as what I like it to be. So I guess if that’s the case start cutting and taking it once I get rid of bloating right? And also just wanted to let you know my bloating has def gotten better I think it’s almost there thankfully, you have no idea how much I want to start cutting. Which brings me to a question I’ve been wondering. As you know it’s not the best thing to be in a cutting mode for too long so how long do you think I should be in it for like maybe a couple months and then back off for a couple weeks? I’d think you’d know considering hel good you look now! Thanks man

        • Ah okay.

          In that case, yep, go ahead and continue cutting and you can start taking Phoenix right away. No need to wait for the bloating to go down.

          Glad it’s getting better! To help with the bloating, check this out:

          https://legionathletics.com/bloated-stomach/

          You can continue cutting until you reach your BF% goal or until you’re eventually at BMR and not losing 1-2 pounds a week. At that point, you would RD.

          Welcome! Thoughts?

          • John C. W

            Ok and well actually I don’t tho k I’m bloating anymore thankfully so I think I’m ready to cut again so I take Phoenix everyday right? And 4 a day 2 with meals correct? And also what does rd stand for lol thanks

          • Great! Yep, exactly right!

            RD = Reverse Diet. 🙂

          • John C. W

            I like it Thank you I just am curious. Obv I want to get in the single digit bf %s and you are there, did you ever have to rd becuz your metabolism was slowing down as your bf got lower and lower. I ask this becuz it’s really hard is think to get to like that low 6-8 % range

          • NP!

            I personally didn’t have to, but I’ve worked with many people that had to. The higher your BF%, the more likely it is that you’ll need to RD before reaching your goal BF%.

            Don’t worry if you do end up needing to, though. It’s all part of the process.

            To help keep you losing body fat, keep this in mind:

            http://www.muscleforlife.com/not-losing-weight/

            Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Naomi

    Hi Michael! Loved your article. One question.

    I am currently in a calorie deficient as to continue my weight loss. I have just arranged my macros in order to speed up my metabolism. I followed your guidelines.

    So does this mean I should no longer be in a calorie deficient but instead I should be eating at my regular TDEE?

    Thank you!
    Nahiomy

  • LA

    Hey Mike,

    How long should you stay at TDEE without gaining weight before you start cutting again?

    • I recommend eating at TDEE for a week. Then you can go back to cutting.

  • Chris

    Hi Mike,

    Love everything about BLS and this site. Thank you so much for the effort you put into this!! I have wanted to post to ask a question or two, and this thread seems as good a spot as any, so here goes:

    Background for me: I have been deployed since early January. Right before leaving, I took the first picture as a benchmark, and I was at approximately 195lbs. (not sure on BF%… I didn’t have calipers yet and hadn’t really started your program).

    January allowed me to get into a rhythm of getting to the gym regularly and cutting out all the sugars/garbage from my diet. In the beginning of February, I started using MyFitnessPal on a daily basis to track my calories/macros, and have done so ever since. This has been INCREDIBLY eye-opening, and depressing to say the least, thinking back to what I’ve eaten in the past!

    I based my initial number off the macros in your book, 1g per lb of body weight for carbs, .2g fat, 1.2g protein, which came out to approximately 190g carbs/ 39g fat / 228g protein. I have since lowered them to reflect body weight dropping, and I’m currently about 185lbs, eating ~185g carb/ 222g protein / 37g fat. I’ve supplemented with caffeine as you suggest to boost the metabolism. I end up currently eating around 2000cals a day, while my TDE is around 2550 (estimating with calipers that I am around 15-16% BF now.) I have definitely lost fat off my midsection and thighs, and I have made some strength gains, particularly in the first couple months, but lately (last 3 or 4 weeks) I have hit a wall in terms of progressing on certain lifts and just fatigue in general. My weight loss has also been a bit unsteady. I didn’t lose anything for a couple weeks and them I seemingly lost 4-5 lbs overnight (during a slight deload at the 8 week mark).

    I am striving for ~10% body fat in order to start bulking. Not sure if that is attainable before I return home in late July/ early August, but I would love to lean down and never be over 15% body fat again. I have been overweight much of the last ten years or so since college, and I feel that if I can get to 10%, I will be that much more motivated to stay in that range from here on out. I turned 30 this year, and I figure if I don’t get healthier habits established now, it will just get harder and harder.

    For workouts, I do a 5 day heavy resistance that is pretty much verbatim what you gave as an example 5-day program in BLS. For cardio, I do 3-4 days worth of sprint intervals (15 min of one minute walking, one minute sprinting) on the treadmill, or if the treadmills are all taken, I do HIIT on a stationary bike.

    I stick to macros as much as I possibly can. The dining facilities where I am offer a pretty good range of food but there is very very little access to nutrition labels, so there is a lot of guesswork going on. I do have a scale at my office so I am able to weigh out meals I bring back in grams, but there is a lot of guesswork involved. I stick to sweet potatoes, yellow potatoes, rice, fish, chicken breast, egg whites, vegetables, etc as much as possible when they are available.

    SO, with the full story out there, my questions: do you recommend I continue on into a third month of a substantial 500 calorie deficit, or do you think it would be a good time for a RD back up to TDEE?
    Does the progress seem adequate or is there anything you’d change? Also, do you think the caliper is accurate for my most up-to-date pictures, ~15-16% BF? How long do you think it will take, at this rate to hit 10%?

    Best regards,
    Chris

    • Chris

      I don’t think the picture took initially…

    • Hey Chris! This would be a lot to cover in a comment, haha.

      Could you shoot me an email at Mike@muscleforlife.com? I’d be happy to answer your questions there. 🙂

  • Kirill Volguin

    Hi Mike!

    Should I reverse diet or not?

    Here’s the short version:
    – 3 months, no lifting(lifted before), ate little, lost fat, lost ~0.75 lbs/week. ~203 to ~189 lbs. 18% to 15% bf
    – 1 month, lifting, ate roughly what I was supposed to for a cut, with weekend overeating present, gained 1.75 lbs/week. ~189 lbs to 195 lbs. 15% to 16ish% bf
    – My height is about 5’9

    Here’s the long version:
    I took off from weight lifting and most exercise for 3 months due to intense work, and was losing fat and trying to preserve muscle all that time by eating as much protein as I could and minimizing the amounts of carbs and fats I ate. I went down from ~203 lbs to ~189 lbs eating relatively little the whole while. I went from around 18% bf to ~15%. If I kept going with this I think I could have just kept losing fat (and maybe muscle too). I was losing about .75 lbs a week.

    After that, I decided that I needed to start doing weight lifting again a la BLS, and for the past four weeks, despite eating roughly the correct calories, macro ratios, eating lots of greens and veggies, and getting enough sleep, I’ve gained fat % up to 16-17%, and now weigh 195lbs. So before weightlifting, 189, 15%, after 1 month lifting, 195, 16-17%. According to Katch-McArdle formula, from the beginning of resistance training to now, I’ve gained fat and lean mass. I’ve been gaining ~1.75 lbs per week. This would support the fact that my lifts have only gone up throughout this past month; quite fast in fact.
    Confession: I did eat more on weekends… sometimes a lot more. It didn’t feel like a ton, but it was noticeably more. I wouldn’t eat out, but eat an extra bag of candy, or more chocolate than usual or something. But 5 days out of 7, I’d eat on point. Some weekend days, I’d have tendencies to turn cheat meals into cheat days… Could these types of weekends really mess up the entire week before it?

    Did I slow down my metabolism with 3 months of low calorie intake? Should I do a reverse diet? I look almost the same as Chris in his pictures, maybe just a tad more lean and a tad more muscle, but still with noticeable belly and chest fat.
    I can attach a series of pictures from throughout the past month if it would help.

    Thanks so much for everything you do Mike!

  • Kam Barnes

    Hey Mike,

    I’ve been in a 20% deficit for about 3 months now eating 2000-2050 Cals a day. I haven’t lowered my calories any because I haven’t necessarily needed to. Though, 3-4 weeks ago I started really becoming mentally drained and had zero energy so about 4 days ago I jumped straight up to what my estimated tdee is. I know that a reverse diet is what’s best in most situations and is what I have done at the end of my other cuts. Though, this time I jumped directly up to tdee and was going to eat there for a couple of weeks to give my mind and body a break. What I’m wanting to know is given the fact that I didn’t reverse diet and instead jumped straight to tdee, how long will I need to stay there before my metabolism catches back up so that I can drop back down and begin cutting again?

    Also, I know that you prefer hiit or walking but what about low intensity stationary bike cycling instead of walking. For example, what’s your opinion on doing 90 min hiit stationary bike & 45 min low intensity stationary bike cycling per week?

    Thanks in advance!

    • That’s totally time Kam. The main benefit of reverse dieting is preventing the post-diet bingeing that many people fall into.

      You should be able to jump back into your cut and keep rolling.

      That’s fine on the cardio if it’s what you like to do most.

  • What does that Activity Multiplier mean here? I already put the hours I workout weekly, and then ‘1.45’ showed up automatically in Activity Multiplier..

    • It’s the number that’s multiplied by your BMR to determine your TDEE.

      The more active you are, the higher the multiplier hence the higher your TDEE.

      Hope that makes sense!

      • Thanks, Michael! I put 6hrs a week, then a number 1,45 just automatically showed up…so, that means 6hrsx1.45…that’s quite a lot of workout, isn’t that? I thought the ideal workout should just be an hour…

        • Chislev

          That’s not exactly what he meant. Your body burns the amount of kcal for keeping you alive = your BMR in kcal per day. Depending on hours of exercise you need to multiply the BMR (kcal/day) by a certain number to get to how many kcal you use in total per day. So if you workout 6 hours a week, the calculator multiplies you BMR by 1.45 to get to your use of daily kcal. If you put in 1-3 hours of exercise, it puts 1.2 which means your BMR only needs to be multiplied by 1.2 instead of 1.45 to get to daily kcal used by your body.

        • Sorry for the confusion. Hope it makes sense now. LMK if you have any other questions!

  • Liam

    Hi Mike,

    Just wondering, if one were to switch between different deficit ranges, how would this effect your results when cutting? Would it just be a slower process than staying at the same deficit and modifying it when it needs adjusting? ie. eating at a 500 calorie deficit for a week, then eating at a 200 calorie deficit the next.

  • Daniel Vroman Rusteen

    You talk about knowing you’re at your TDEE when your weight doesn’t move for 7-10 days, but my metabolism seems to rapidly change. With a TDEE of 2800, I was eating 1900 and not gaining weight. From reading your article, this is because my metabolism slowed. But, 4 months ago, I was eating 4200/day and my weight didn’t change for many weeks. You see what I’m getting at? My TDEE is 1900, 2800, and 4200/day once my metabolism adjusts.

  • Slynngibbs

    Hi, I seem to have a different problem than what you focus on in this article. I am a size 0-3 (clothing sizes are annoyingly variable), 5’8″, and I eat a healthy diet. I have been losing weight consistently for the last year, but I still have an annoying tummy chub problem that won’t go away. I am very skinny, except for my midsection, where I have noticeable tubb right in the middle and on my hips. My thighs can’t lose any more weight without me looking starved. The biggest problem of all is that it seems like the more I work out, the more muscle I lose. I used to be very strong and muscled, but it is just disappearing, now I can’t lift more than my own body weight, even with strength training. I would appreciate any suggestions you have to lose the middle chub while bulking up the muscles on the rest of my body and improving strength. Thank you in advance.

  • Janelle Campbell

    Hello, thanks for the great articles! About me: 46 yo female, wt. 177, about 28 percent body fat, 5 foot 5 in. I exercise 5-6 days a week, 50-60 min with about 60 to 75 percent in “peak” heart rate zone of around 150 BPM. I lift weights 4 days a week (15 different types split into 2 days), using a Body Solid machine, and have made good progress. I can’t afford to join a gym. I have lost 70 pounds in 8 months through diet and exercise. I keep track of my calories with My Fitness Pal, and take in about 1,400 -1,500 calories a day . I was losing an average of 10 pounds a month until I hit 180 and it all pretty much came to a screeching halt. But I just can’t exercise any more or eat less. I’m tired and cold and hungry! I know I could lose another 20 pounds of fat. I was considering dropping my calories to 1,200 a day, but I know that is just not enough with the amount of exercise I do. So, that’s why I’m here, looking for answers. I wish I could afford a trainer. I read your article on metabolism and weight loss, but honestly, I am so scared to up my calories like it said I should. 9 months ago I was 247 pounds, I could barely walk because of foot problems. I never want to go back. I see you actually answer people who comment, which is nice! What should I do? (I know, read the articles and do what they say!) Thank you for your time. 😀

  • Dustin

    Mike,

    I’ve shed about 10% body fat over 6-8 months. I’m now at about 205 LBS and 17.5% BF, but i’ve been doing it too long. I think i’m going to reverse diet back up to my TDEE for a little bit to speed up my metabolism and gain some mental clarity (as i’m really tired of being in a deficit). Is there a certain amount of time you recommend staying in TDEE? Also, when I do cut again, do you go 150 calories at a time into a cut, or go straight into your deficit?

    Hopefully, this last cut can easily get me to around 12-13, and ill be done.

    • Stay at TDEE for a week or two for your weight and metabolism to stabilize. You can jump right into the cut once that happens.

  • Sobaka U

    Hi Michael, I’m a bit confused over calorie intake and how it affects metabolism.

    I have read other studies that show that lowering calories results in your body automatically lowering your metabolic rate to try and match calorie expenditure with intake, so that the body is in balance, and similarly that when we overeat the body will speed up our metabolic rate to compensate for the excess in energy intake. This would seem to make sense, as in the past, before people could count calories or even knew they existed, most people seemed to maintain a stable body weight even though I’m sure day-to-day, their calorie intake fluctuated.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts, thank you for your great articles!
    Cheers

  • Marlin B.

    I am so glad I read this article! About 4 years ago I had my gallbladder removed and since then I have found it hard to eat as much as I used to. I was a competitive powerlifter when I was younger (competed at 181 lbs) and had no trouble eating back then. But for the last few years I’ve gotten by on about 1400-1600 calories a day (while still lifting 3-4 times a week), and had to pretty much force feed myself to break 2000 calories a day. So imagine my surprise when my weight shot up to 225 lbs. It was like “Holy crap, I’m eating half the total calories per day as I did before the surgery, spending more time in the gym (and more money on supplements), and yet all I have to show for it is the muscular definition of a loaf of Wonderbread!” I thought I was losing my mind (or that the laws of nature had been flipped upside down). But this article makes perfect sense. Obviously, years of skipping meals and unintentional fasting has sabotaged my metabolism, and it’s reassuring to know that the problem can be fixed.

    • Happy it helped, Marlin. Great job applying what you read!

  • Anthony

    Mike, do you have an email brother

  • sakib800

    Hey Mike, Doesnt this seem a bit like starvation dieting?? i thought that the whole concept of starvation dieting was a myth, like i thought your metabolism cannot adapt by that much becasue didnt you also write an article about how in the minnesota starvation experiment they did huge calorie cuts and stuff but they still lost a lot of weight at the end? So how does this make sense that your calories are really low but your not losing weight? maybe those people are binge eating on the weekeneds?? Pleasee Explain!!!!

    • Hey Saki! The metabolic system will adapt (best it can) to match your energy output to your energy input. Therefore, when you cut your intake for an extended length of time you will lose weight as long as you’re in a negative energy balance, but, it will come to a point where your metabolism “catches up” and you cease to lose any more healthy weight because your body has now matched itself with your low energy intake. Low intake, low energy expenditure = little to no weight lost.

      Does that help explain?

  • Bixby Daydream

    Hey Mike, I need some advice I have been working really hard to loose weight now for the last 2 months to loose weight & the scale has not budged. I am currently at 170bl & 5’8 I workout 4 days a week using heavy weights and light cardio or stair stepper for warm up. I have restricted my intake to 1200 calories eating all fruits & veggies and lean protein like chicken and turkey. I will loose a pound or two here then it will go back. I do have thyroid issues had half removed and have a low body core temp (not sure if that makes a difference heard it could) Just had all my thyroid panels and doc says Im within parameters so no meds are needs. I am at a loss of what to do, I have slowly gained 30bls over last year and can’t seem to shake it no matter what I try any advice would be truly appreciated.

  • Nat

    Hey-a Mike

    Question regarding increasing my food intake after 10 weeks of dieting/cutting.

    I lost 13lbs in 9 weeks (from 162 to 149 lbs). I restricted my calories to 35% deficit (1,500 cal/day) the past 2 weeks to lose more fat and lost 2lbs/week. Now on my 10th week (ended today), I didn’t lose any lbs at all. Actually gained .5lbs, which is surprising.

    Even though through a deficit for 10 weeks, I was still able to increase weight on compound movements and reps.

    Now that I’m comfortable at this weight, I am going to increase calories to my TDEE (2,300). However, what happens if I start consuming now, especially this weekend, my TDEE, which is an increase of an extra 1,000 cal/day or so? Instead of slowly consuming 100 – 150 cal/day.

    Will I gain fat, even though I’ll be consuming at my maintenance?

    Please advise.

    – Nat

  • Claire Brom

    Hi Mike,

    I’m 17 years old, 5’5″, 130. I was at one point 5’5″, 115 (during cross country season–I was actually 112 before but gained muscle) and would LOVE to get back down to that range. My junior year of high school I cut my calories down to 1200 and that worked for a while, but exactly what you said in your article happened to me: I hit a wall and gained weight instead. Right now my estimated TDEE is about 1638, and if I make a 20% cut that puts me at just over 1300 calories. To me, that seems low and I don’t want to have to keep cutting calories after that, even if I reverse diet. I do go to the gym to lift and do cardio for about an hour a day, 5 days a week on a good week. Would it be possible to stay strictly around 1500 calories daily and still lose weight? I’m fine with losing weight slower as long as I can stay healthy and avoid killing my metabolism again. I would love to hear any suggestions you have.

    Thank you so much!
    Claire

  • Claire Brom

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/9e66fa6fd5b963e02b5066acbe3480b3bce481a22fc7caedeaacd1429a568315.png

    This is the kind of body I’m going for (might not be possible at 115 pounds but again any insight you have will be a great help).

  • Plzstyclm

    This is the information I couldn’t quite get a straight answer on over the whole web, and it’s explained so well here!

    I’ve been unintentionally recomping (coming back from a year off from injury, and straight back into a cut + muscle memory and strength gains :-] )

    I have a lot of experience cutting, and realized I started this recent cut with a sluggish metabolism – I’m down to just about eating at bmr for calories and fat loss is slowing down (lost 7.5 lbs of fat, ending week 8 today). I’m still at 19% body fat, as I let myself go quite a bit after the last back injury. Macronutrients are great, well coordinated meal planning, I just didn’t realize I started off a bit sluggish.

    With this, I’ll be ready soon to go into a reverse diet up to the new TDEE, spend a week or two there, and then head right back into cutting.

    Is there a way to raise TDEE overall? I guess that would be through raising muscle mass… more lean body weight per body fat ration… I guess I answered my own question lol.

    Anyways, thanks for the great, great information and explanations. I have been trying to figure this out for a while without any helpful info to be found. Cheers!

    • Great! Glad you found it helpful. Awesome job on the cut, BTW.

      To increase TDEE you can also increase your activity and intensity of activity.

      YW. Keep up the great work!

  • Mike you recently told me I should drastically cut my calories for weight loss after I told you that’s what I did and I haven’t been losing weight. Why are you saying the opposite here?

    • No wonder I didn’t drop any weight in 2 months despite eating less and exercising more. I don’t feel like building up my metabolism again though so I’ll just keep eating less and exercising more. I seem to have been making some progress in the last week with that after counting my calories and doing more cardio so hopefully that will just continue on. Then when I start bulking again I will do reverse dieting. Does that sound right?

      • Tracking makes a night and day difference, and so does adding more activity. Glad to see you’re getting progress now.

        That is correct!

        • I’m still confused why you said two different things. If you drastically lower your calories doesn’t that slow down your metabolism? I’m still having a very hard time cutting. I feel like my metabolism has slowed down.

          • OK. To cut, you go on a deficit 20-25%. If you sustain this for months and months, your body will adapt to the decreased energy intake by lowering its energy output (aka metabolism slows down). The effect is even more pronounced under really big deficit diets at or below BMR when sustained over time.

            If you have been cutting for two months and haven’t seen the scale budge, then I suggest you compare your body composition and strength to when you first started the cut. You may very well have lost fat, but put on muscle–leading to a stagnant weight measurement. Also compare your body measurements (arms, legs, waist, chest) to your initial pre-cut measurements.

            This is why tracking is so important. You can clearly see what is going on and diagnose the problem a lot easier. Also, shows if you’re making progress or not.

            If your stats haven’t moved and you haven’t been cutting for months and months, then looks like you have to boost your activity and/or lower the cals. Unlikely a “slow metabolism” that resulted from being in deficit.

          • It’s tough to measure accurately though. I can more or less see how much fat I have by looking at my gut. I am lifting heavier all the time but I am sick of being small. My muscles don’t seem to be growing despite living heavier weights, or they grow very slow. According to Mike you can gain something between 20-30 lbs in your first year and after 8 months I’m not anywhere close to that.

          • You can measure your BF within 1-2% accuracy if done correctly:

            http://www.muscleforlife.com/body-composition/

            As to how much muscle you can build within your first year of lifting, it’s up to 20-25 lbs and keep in mind, that’s when bulking–not cutting.

            So, if you’re getting stronger and building muscle while cutting, that’s great. We just gotta ensure you’re effectively losing BF at the same time. We can make that happen by being in a deficit and eating enough protein and tracking your composition as I mentioned above. Check this out:

            https://legionathletics.com/body-recomposition/

            I also recommend keeping this in mind to help keep the fat loss going:

            http://www.muscleforlife.com/not-losing-weight/

            And if it is time to RD, check this out:

            http://www.muscleforlife.com/reverse-diet/

            Hope this helps! Talk soon!

        • My immune system also weakens after like 3-4 weeks in the gym. Doesn’t that get worse if you eat less than 2000 calories at 185 lbs and 6’2?

          • Not really. How’s your nutrition? Micronutrients? How’s your recovery and sleep? Stress in life?

            Exercise is a type of stress for the body, and if you’re not equipped to handle more stress because your system is in a compromised position, then added stress like exercise will overload your immune system’s ability to fight off invaders.

          • I eat clean. Micronutrients should be fine although we don’t have Mike’s multivitamin in South Africa. We also don’t have his omega 3 which he said helps with the soreness in high dosages.

            My sleep could probably be better although I get a fair amount of sleep. I have never been a heavy weightlifter and I am now 37 so maybe it is the fact that my body is not used to it?

            Anyway I am now taking a full week off after which I should be good to go again.

  • Tomas Jessen

    hi mike! greetings from Argentina! i lost a ton of fat during the last 4 months, i always though that i had a 4 pack, but actually ive a six pack ( low ones not so hyperthrpy)—> what i have to do for building size?… so, i was saying… thank you very much, actually my TDEE is 2050 kcal. i was eating 1700, noy in two weeks im in 2000-2050 (maintenance) im going to do this for 2 weeks to speed up my metabolism… my question is: summer is coming here, in 4 months, im 5 6´135 lbs cut as fuark with small size but round muscle, how can i reach summer with a little more muscle and still lean af? thank you very much, you r the men,

    • Welcome, Tomas! That’s great you lost a ton of fat in the last 4 months. If you’re sitting at around 10%BF, you can go on a bulk right now and then cut hard and fast in time for summer. What do you think?

      • Tomas Jessen

        Mike… I think that im less! Veins poping out my v shape (low abs) 8-9 %. That sounds nice! But im scare! Ahah. For how long? And hoy long the cut to go back from where are i am now? 5% surplus or 10%? Thnks!

  • Andrew

    Hey mike, I’ve been practicing reverse dieting for about a year now, and I always increase my calories by 140-180 every week.
    While I know how much my metabolism increases every week while RDing (in that 140-180 range), I don’t know how much it decreases on a deficit.

    I ask because I had to decrease my calories for a week in the middle of my RD; I was just getting too uncomfortably full every day.
    After that, I resumed from where I left off because I had only decreased my intake by 290cals a day. I also figured that the decrease rate is slower than the increase rate because I can keep losing weight on a 600cal deficit after 4 weeks (my 150ish calories/week increase rate would make my metabolism even out at that point).

    So, does the metabolism slow at a more linear rate like when you increase calories, or is there not a set pattern for when you decrease calories?

    • Hey Andrew!

      Your metabolism doesn’t necessarily accelerate by 140 to 180 calories per week — that’s just a “safe” way to work your calories up and avoid overeating while your body is primed for fat gain (post-diet issues).

      Restricting your calories for a week won’t affect your metabolism to speak of. Don’t worry about that.

      Regarding when to decrease calories while cutting, check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/not-losing-weight/

      • Andrew

        Thanks! I’m actually about to finish my reverse diet and start a cut at a 25% deficit. The only problem is that I’m about to go on vacation for about ten days, and I think that may affect my TDEE.
        On vacation, I’m going to be exercising for about 1-3hrs every week, whereas I usually exercise for 10.
        So when I make my deficit, should I use my TDEE for when I’m exercising 1-3hrs/week or my regular TDEE?

      • Andrew

        Thanks! I also am just about to come out of a reverse diet and cut at a 25% deficit. The problem is that I’m about to go on a ten-day vacation, which I think will affect my TDEE.

        I usually exercise 10 hours a week, but will be exercising for 1-3hrs/week. When I plug these activity levels in the TDEE calculator, I get 2,300 and 2,050, respectively. So, when I cut my calories by 25%, should I use the first or second TDEE?

        • Use the second TDEE because it reflects your vacation activity level.

  • Matt

    Hi Mike, I’m 34 years old 5´7, around 141 Lb (%14 BF)
    I have your book and your personal meal plan and it is great.
    I had a few personal problems so after a few months I can be right back on track now

    My TDEE is around 2200 and the meal plan goes for 1670 calories per day ( I go to the gym 5 days a week and also do cardio 3-5 times a week as well)

    My question is…I made the plan a few months ago and it was great and now I’m getting back at it…now is taking me more to see changes on the scale, I’m not fat or anything but my belly gut is the one who seems not to leave!

    For how long should I make this meal plan before hitting a wall and seeing my diet stalt? After a few months should then start increasing calorie intake?

    My protein-carbs and fats are supposedly meeting my needs, the thing is…how long should I keep the same diet? Until I hit 10% BF and then start bulking?

    Im not expert in this, so sorry for the long post! Sometimes I feel very dizzy with so many terms and online opinions!

    Hope you can help!

    • Hey Matt!

      That’s really awesome you’ve been training under BLS and picked up a meal plan. Nice job with the initial gains. Eventually, all meal plans will need adjustments. Nice work with the cardio routine. I recommend that you be more consistent with the HIIT cardio so you have a better grasp of how much exercise you need to get the fat loss moving. You can also drop 25g from carbs (100kcal decrease) from the meal plan. That usually helps. Lastly, check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/not-losing-weight/

      The cut will take as long as it needs to. Once you have reached 10% or dropped to BMR cals and aren’t losing weight, then you can stop the cut. 1lbs/week is a good target to shoot for.

      • Matt

        Ok, but reading the forum I see that people hit a wall after 8-10 weeks (weight lost stops) I should increse my calorie intake after that for a week or so to speed up my metabolisim and then cut again until I hit 10% BF???? thats my question…

        I been doing cardio (bike doing HIIT session only 25′ ( going faster for 45” and slow for a 1 minute and so on)

        HOPEFULLY that would help

        • When your weight loss stalls, then you adjust by increasing your activity and/or dropping calories.

          • Matt

            I thought I had to INCREASE my calorie intake for a week or so…
            But I will do some carbs cuts (50gr x day) and ill try to do 5 HIIT cardio days…

          • No, take a look at the article Roger linked:

            http://www.muscleforlife.com/not-losing-weight/

            Sounds good! Solid plan.

          • Matt

            But I read the article and at the end I see this…
            emain in a calorie deficit for long enough and your metabolism can slow down to the point where a further reduction of intake and/or increase in activity just isn’t feasible.

            “Fortunately there’s a simple solution: the “reverse diet,” which consists of a steady, systematic increase in caloric intake. When done properly, reverse dieting allows you to eat more and speed your metabolism back up to “full capacity” while gaining little-to-no fat”

            So thats why I’m confused, when should I apply the reserve diet then? Since my weight is the same, Im doing the meal plan and working out, incresing weight for the last month, but the scale is not moving and it is very frustating 🙁

          • There comes to a point in every cut where you have to decrease your calories and increase activity to keep weight loss moving. I don’t believe you’ve gotten to that point yet if you haven’t hit BMR on your daily cals and still have room in your schedule for activity. You can increase the duration of 4 HIIT sessions by 5min and that’s one way to pack in a “5th session” if time is an issue.

          • Matt

            So, if my BMR is 1596 CALORIES/DAY as it is right now and my meal plan is roughly 1700 cals, means that I have to cut at least 200 cals a day? (days im not working out) and maybe half of that the days I’m working out? Seems so little cals intake,
            Like drinking my protein shakes on my rest days seems like a bad iea now!
            I should forget about muscle gain at this point right?

            Ill try doing 30′ HIITS sessions then

          • Start by increasing your activity first before dropping cals.

            Muscle gain isn’t a priority right now, and you won’t build significant muscle when deep into a cut.

  • Don

    Hi Mike,
    Was going to shoot you an email but figured this is a good forum to discuss this. I am on phase 2- week 2 of BLS and results have been awesome! I’ve basically been cutting the whole time using PHX, Forge, Pulse pre workout, and a 25% deficit, which I’ve had to adjust a couple times but for the most part have seen consistent fat loss with good strength gains. Combo newbie gains/ muscle memory. At 44 and a retired athlete it’s been years since I worked out hard, but the body does still remember sort of what it was like.
    I started at roughly 12-13% BF and got down to about ~9% based on calipers and mirror. Had full length transverse abdominals showing and lower ab veins which is freaking cool. It worked out that I was on holidays for my strength week and Deload week ending phase 1. I trained hard through the strength phase but I got carried away on eating and went a little nuts, ok maybe a lot. Definitely saw strength gains with the increased calories, which was cool. However by the time I was ready to start Phase 2 I could see I gained some signicant fat. Obviously not all fat but I was about 194lbs going into strength week and then 203 after my deload week, ~11% bf.
    So I definitely proved that your body is primed for quick fat gain following a cut, lesson learned!!! I’m now back at it using the 25% deficit at 2200 calories. I really didn’t reach my goal of leanness though I was getting close, as I’d like to get to about 7-8% BF to see what that’s like. My question is; do you think I can jump back into a cut without doing a proper reverse diet phase? Im worried I won’t see the same fat loss results and I don’t want to set my self up for failure with a compromised metabolism. Any other thoughts on how I should proceed?
    BTW, thx again for the amazing information.

    • Nice work with the cut, Don! Glad to hear you made some nice strength gains as well. You can jump right back into a cut.

  • Adam MII

    Hey Mike,

    I’ve been cutting for a few months and lost around 10kg and I’m sitting at around 14-15% body fat but would like to reach around 10% so I can start bulking.. My TDEE is 2350 and I eat around 1800.

    My weight loss has stalled a lot and I’m sure it’s because of my metabolism after being in a cut for so long.

    My couple of questions are: can I eat at maintenance calories straight from the cut instead of gradually increasing the calories? (I would like to minimise the amount of time spent at a cut) And how long should I be at maintenance calories before I can get back at cutting?

    Also, thanks for your articles, wouldn’t have lost so much without the help!

  • Sharon

    Hi Mike,

    I have hit a small cross- roads sadly whilst I used to stick
    to your advice which your site has been a great source of. So thank you! I have started reading a lot more as of late
    and have now just come to a place of utter confusions.

    There is soo much hype around the primal and paleo diets and
    cutting carbs and sugar and what not that I am now feel confused as to where to
    take my nutrition.

    I’m 59kg 168cm
    female, I would guesstimate my body fat sits at about 20% give or take. This
    has crept up again in recent times, I tend to fluctuate between 57 –
    59kg. I have never eaten less than about 1300/1350 cal but have at times
    maintained a 800-1000 cal deficit as I output roughly 2200 cals a day and this
    for an extended period of time.

    After reading this article, I am a little unsure as too how
    many cals I should be eating, I have in the meantime increased to about 1400
    then now 1600 as no weight was moving and I was fearful this was due to under
    eating.

    But now in a 2 week window nothing has really moved and I do
    a variety of training from resistance to HIIT to slow pace cardio.

    I have maintained a slightly higher fat (primal) diet also
    for a little while now due to my reading mentioned above which I am also
    wondering if this is the right way to go considering I am not overweight or
    near having diabetes or any other health issues which those diets tend to also
    address.

    I am not really wanting to build too much more muscle as I
    tend to look a little bulky now which is also why I’m worried to increase carbs
    again as I know this will also mean potential growth.

    I would like to get to about 18% and just be healthy, lean,
    toned and slender.

    Any advice on how I can set a reset button and how many cals
    I should consume and or some general advice for my situation?

    Thanks soo much!

  • Strogg758

    Hi Mike, was wondering if you can help me out.

    I’ve been stalled at 87-93kg for MONTHS.

    I’ve literally wasted the past 6-9 months cutting, trying to get below 87kg to get to single digit bodyfat.

    I’m about 13-14%, and have spent about a year and a half losing weight and fat. (started at 110kg, now 90kg). I lift weights 4-5 times a week on a rotating push/pull/off/legs/off split.

    I took 3 weeks off the diet and 1 week off training, 6 weeks ago.

    Unfortunately, I gained a heap of weight, eating 2750 cals a day.

    To give you an idea, I went from 87.3kg to 94.5kg.

    Now, I’ve been tracking my food on myfitness pal for years. For the first 3 weeks after this break, I ate 2100 cals a day, with controlled refeeds once a week, at 2600 calories. I lost some water weight and got down to 92kg. (started at 94.5kg)

    I track my weekly average every week, and at the week 4 & 5 mark, my weight remained stable at 92kg. In the 2 weeks of dieting that followed, on the same 2100 cals, my weekly average came in 1kg heavier.

    At this point, I decreased calories to 1600. Yeah. Macros currently P 175 C 160 F 50

    Now, for the past 2 weeks straight, I’ve been eating 1600 cals a day.

    I understand this is considerably low. I am now at 90.5kg give or take, and maintaining. At times I feel leaner, but right now as I write this I feel a lot fatter. My face looks chubbier and rounder.

    I genuinely feel now that I’m not going to be able to break 90kg, and that’s on 1600 cals a day with 4-5 weights sessions a week.

    I feel EXTREMELY frustrated as to why I can’t seem to get leaner. I’m eating extremely little. I haven’t gained any strength, but I’ve maintained my lifts. What can you suggest to me?

    I’ve been tracking my food, weighing it all, for years, and can’t understand why I can’t get lean. Surely I would eventually starve to death on 1600 cals if I kept this up? Yet I am not losing at all. I’m losing bodyfat at an absolute snails pace.

    If I add cardio 3 times a week, I fear that I’ll lose another kilogram, then stall again, because I’ve done so in the past.

    Please give me some advice, I’d really appreciate it.

    I’m fed up at this point because I’ve been cutting for so long. It seems like I’ll never even get to 10% bodyfat.

    I can provide you with my full diet if you like, anything you need. I’ve spent so much time looking for the solution, and if I eat less now, my protein intake will be too low, along with my carbs and fat. Not to mention that, at this low of an intake, I’ve felt completely castrated, and my mood swings are off the chart. It’s too low of an intake, but why am I not losing?

    I’ve read your articles on fat loss several times over the past few months. I’ve done 2-3 week breaks consecutively. Do I need to reverse diet for a long time?

    Any advice from you is welcome.

    Thanks

    • Heya! It will always boil down to calories in vs calories out. If you’re not losing weight, then you’re eating too many calories. First, take a look at this:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/not-losing-weight/

      Doesn’t sound like you need to reverse diet, since you just came off of a break with all those cals. I recommend that you pack in more exercise activity and take a look at not only your macro targets, but also how you’re tracking your macros.

      • Strogg758

        Thanks mate.

        It still seems very fishy. If I add an hour of cardio on top of 1600 cals, I’ll last 2 weeks tops before it puts me in the ground. Not even natural’s doing physique/ bodybuilding shows need to go past 1800 ~ 2000 to get ultra lean. I’ve been tracking my macros and cals for years, too. I’m a 6’1 male at 90kg for christ’s sake. I should be able to lose on 2000 quickly.

        Genuinely stumped and frustrated. Maybe getting leaner right now just isn’t in the cards for me.

  • Adri

    Hello mike,

    I am at the end of a cut (8 weeks), I was wondering for my next bulk, should I go immediatly on 10% more than my maintenance or should I progressively up the carb 25 per week ? My macro are 200g protein, 180g carb, 50g fat , for my bulk i was thinking about 170g protein 350g carb and 55 fat (according to the calculator), my weight si about 77kilo.

    Thank’s for all the great article

  • When starting a reverse diet, is it best to keep your activity level the same? i.e. If you’re doing 4-5 workouts/wk with 1-2 cardio sessions prior to starting the reverse diet, should you keep to that same training schedule or add/subtract sessions?

  • Andrew

    If I were to diet with a deficit of over 25%, how would that impact my metabolism?
    I understand that it will slow down, but how quickly and by how much will it slow down?

    As an example, I’m dieting at a 30% deficit and have been for a week. How long do I have until my deficit plateaus and my metabolic rate starts to match my caloric intake?

    • It’s tough to say exactly. It’ll vary person to person. The bigger the deficit, the faster the metabolism slows down, the greater the risk is of muscle loss and the harder it is to stick to consistently.

      Your intake is something you’ll have to adjust while cutting regardless if you’re in a big deficit or not. The rule is once you’re down to BMR and still aren’t getting results, it’s time to RD. Check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/reverse-diet/

      • Andrew

        Thanks for the article!

        Also, what would the “range” of metabolic decline rates be? Is it even possible to drop down from maintenance level to BMR in only a couple weeks?

        • Welcome!

          Again, tough to say. It will vary person to person depending on genetics, activity level, how big the deficit is, etc.

          Dropping down to BMR from TDEE in a couple weeks is VERY unlikely.

          • Venz Harriet Jae Felipe

            Mike I workout for 30-50 minutes (with cardio and weightlifting) for 5 days a week. What should be my activity factor multiplier?

          • 1.35 would be a good start. Adjust based on results.

  • Tiago S.

    Mike: been building calories up till maintenance so… once I reach the TDEE calories, how much time should I stick to them before I cut off 20% calories?

  • Dustin

    I’ve been dieting about 4 months after bulking up from 169 to 202. I’m down from 202 to 168 this morning. My TDEE is 2,600. I have been consistently loosing 2 – 3 pounds per week by increasing activity and lowering calories. My daily calorie intake at this point is around 1,2000. I’m about 8 – 10 pounds away from a 6 pack. Is it dangerous for me to keep pushing for the 6 pack before I “reverse diet”?

  • Borna Houman

    Hey Mike,

    What do you think of just eating at maintenance for 1-2 weeks and then continuing to cut? Will there be fat gain? B/c this will take less time than reverse dieting, which means less time cutting overall.

    Thanks,

    Borna

    • No, I wouldn’t do that. You can very likely put on fat that way. Plus, doing a refeed or cheat meal will be more effective to boost your metabolism and keep you cutting so you finish the cut faster.

  • Kaylee Keith

    Hey Mike,
    So I am 18, 5’3″, 130 lbs and exercise (usually run or bike) about 30 minutes 5 days a week. I want to lose a few lbs and have tried out the 1,200 calorie thing, but I just love eating and I don’t want to eat that little anymore. So, I am currently trying to up my calories to about 1,700 per day, but I’m scared that I will gain a ton by doing this so abruptly. What should I do?
    Thanks 🙂
    Kaylee

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