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Step #7 should be the last step anyone would need to make to reach their goal, even if it was getting down to low levels of body fat for a fitness or bodybuilding competition or photo shoot. But as I’ve said, everybody is different and there’s always at least one person who’s an outlier and doesn’t respond as you’d expect them to.
If you’ve hit a plateau in fat loss and have some more body fat to strip away, you would simply continue making small reductions in your calories by dropping more fat and protein. You could cut out olive oil completely and use non-caloric cooking spray to cook with and use just vinegar for salad dressing. And you could reduce your protein meals by about ¼ of the serving size. These small changes will allow you to keep calories slowly dropping and fat loss sustained.
Dieting 101 Key: Maintaining Your New Lean Body
A common question I get from those dieting down to low levels of body fat is how to maintain that lean body without gaining body fat while trying to build more muscle. It’s quite possible to do so if you’re very careful and detailed with your diet.
You simply can’t go back to the way you were eating before you started to get serious about your fat loss. Going back to your old ways will lead to rapid fat gain, as your metabolism is a bit slower at this time – bottom line, you’ll reverse the steps that brought you to where you now are. Just like dieting down in carbs and calories was a slow, progressive process, so too should be your return to a higher carb, higher calorie diet.
Your strategy to gain muscle but not fat will be to slowly move to the step prior to your current step in the diet process. So if you left off at Step #7, you’ll move into Step #6 of the diet. How long you stay there depends on how your body reacts. I would suggest staying with a diet step no less than two weeks before moving up to the next step. Your body will need time to adjust to the higher carb and calorie intake. It will respond by increasing your metabolic rate, which will allow you to consume those higher carb and calorie intakes without adding body fat, or at least not adding much body fat. You likely won’t be able to maintain the exact body fat level as when reached your final stages of the diet, but if you do it slowly enough, there will be very minimal amounts of fat added.
If you find you’re gaining fat readily when you move up a step, I suggest you do some diet cycling. For example, if you’re currently at 0.5 grams of carbs per pound of body weight and find that moving up to 0.75 grams of carbs per pound is putting some fat on your physique, try sticking with the 0.5 grams for two days then doing a day of 0.75 grams before repeating this cycle. Eventually move to alternating 0.5 grams and 0.75 grams every other day, then go to consuming 0.75 grams of carbs every day.
The nice thing about maintaining your lean physique by slowly increasing carbs and calories is that many people can afford to include a real cheat day once a week. So instead of having a “clean” high-carb day once a week where fat is relatively low and you’re focusing on low-fat carbs like rice, oatmeal, popcorn, etc., you can also include some “dirty” foods like ice cream, donuts and pizza. That’s your reward for eating clean up to this point!