T Nation

Maintenance vs. Cycling

Hey y’all

Planning to end my bulk in about 2 months and bring my BF % down somewhat for the summer, as the bulk belly is starting to bother me a bit. I’ve actually been increasing in weight without increasing in waist size for about 6-8 weeks now, so I feel that if I drop a few kg of fat, I can later more or less maintain that BF% in the future, while gaining even more mass.

(Just an FYI… I’m not delusional and I don’t expect to have hawt abz while bulking. However, I don’t feel like I should become a fatty fat boy, either.)

I’ve seen a few people bring up the idea that you should sandwich a maintenance period between bulks and cuts, which doesn’t seem like such a bad idea. However, I’m somewhat torn between several options:

  1. Carb/calorie cycle after the bulk. Go below maintenance and low-carb on off days, high/moderate-carb and over maintenance on training days. Do 4 weeks, see if I get leaner/bigger, and if I do, perhaps just pursue this instead of a full-blown cut. Otherwise, treat this phase as maintenance and then diet down.

  2. Just meet maintenance calories every day for a month, then cut. Don’t like this option too much…

  3. Don’t cut. Keep bulking, and make every off day a “control day,” i.e. for 2/3 days a week do some cardio or HIIT while going low-calorie and low-carb.

Additionally, I could increase activity levels as the summer gets better - e.g. walk a mile or two every day, play more sports - and let my body change its own composition.

To be fully honest, I like options 1 and 3 - they’re basically the same except that in option 3 I’m still looking to gain weight and going aggressively above maintenance on high-calorie days, while in option 1 I’m going to be less aggressive.

However, I also remember reading that you have to be in a caloric surplus at the end of the week to gain muscle… And that worries me. I’ve done the “control day” thing in the past, and might start doing it again from next week, but I’m worried that having 2 of these control days in a week will seriously compromise my muscle gains.

Thoughts?

Nobody has any ideas?

First, you have to decide if you want to keep bulking or cutting. None of this spinning your tires.

Just because you are “cutting” doesn’t mean you really have to change all that much. I’m leaning up a bit, but I still lift heavy and am still getting stronger on all my lifts. I think that because of the “bulk” prior to this, my first few weeks have been really easy. I haven’t had to restrict what I eat all that much as far as food choice goes, I’ve just been eating till I’m satisfied as opposed to gorging while I was bulking.

This, along with generally just increasing my activity levels like jogging in the morning for like 20-30 minutes whenever I wake up early enough, and playing football more often now (because it’s warming up so a football game with the guys doesn’t involve a parka) has been steadily leaning me up.

Read up on the G-flux article with Chris Shugart, that’s basically the route I’m going. Just throwing up what I’m doing…

For now, I’m bulking. In 2 months, I want to cut. I’m not spinning my tires; I’m just unsure if I should include a maintenance phase in between, or perhaps a calorie cycling phase, which would still be maintenance in the long term, but:

  1. Under maintenance on off days
  2. Above maintenance on training days
    People keep going on about how you need to let your body adjust to its new muscle levels, hence the question.

Also, I believe the G-Flux is a Berardi thing?

[quote]G87 wrote:
For now, I’m bulking. In 2 months, I want to cut. I’m not spinning my tires; I’m just unsure if I should include a maintenance phase in between, or perhaps a calorie cycling phase, which would still be maintenance in the long term, but:

  1. Under maintenance on off days
  2. Above maintenance on training days
    People keep going on about how you need to let your body adjust to its new muscle levels, hence the question.

Also, I believe the G-Flux is a Berardi thing?[/quote]

True, i’m pretty sure there’s a good amount of merit to that line of thinking. Well it’s a Shugart interview of Berardi so that’s why I said that.

LoL, so do you actually have any suggestions re: what’s better, straight maintenance or cycling adding up to maintenance over the long term?

[quote]G87 wrote:
LoL, so do you actually have any suggestions re: what’s better, straight maintenance or cycling adding up to maintenance over the long term?[/quote]

I’m going the maintenance route, i’ve never tried leaning up before really (always been a skinny guy), so i’m going that route for my first go through that’s why I posted. Next time I could try that cycling, but if the maintenance route works great then I might never try the cycling.

im also wondering that… whether control days after a week of training hard would impinge on your gains?

as you already know G87 i need to control my fat, but still am no where near ready to stop bulking, so let us know when ya get any ideas of whether control days are a good idea

/thread for the OP

What does /thread mean? :).

Anyone else?

This post was flagged by the community and is temporarily hidden.

/thread is just making it at the top of the list so it gets more interest

on topic: BBB so ur saying the control days instead of lowering calories, you should just lower the carbs but maintain cals.

so if i were training m,t,th,f then i could maybe high carb training days, medium carbs on wed, sat and low on sunday??

also: G87 can you PM me your routine, u didnt replied on my previous thread, cheers

Done.

On a sidenote, I was on vacation for a week, did a few miles of walking each day. Despite eating large with a lot of carbs and missing 2 workouts, I got noticeably leaner. I’m going to maintain for a week or two, and then try to G-Flux myself into lean-ness. Ordered Thibs’ “Get jacked Fast” to see if that will give me a few ideas.

I guess I’m going to opt for the cyclical approach, as I think a steady maintenence level, with the occassional lowering/raising based on extreme in/activity (or just an off day) sounds like a rational idea.

S

Wow, looking lean, Stu! I remember you mentioned feeling smaller earlier; I’m anticipating that, too, but it’s good to see that the effort is worth it in the end :).

When I was on vacation and trying on new clothes, I realised it’s time to diet down. There’s no good excuse to have a 36-37 in. waist at my height; no matter how fast the gains are coming in, looking pregnant is depressing. I would be happy to be at your pre-diet level of leanness while bulking, but for that I obviously need to diet down first.

So, yeah, slowly transitioning into dieting down over 1-2 weeks. Stu, what was your training like for this diet?

My training has been, and still is (even though I’m on my ‘official’ precontest diet now) a basic, 5 day hypertrophy split.

1- Chest and Gastrocnemius
2- Delts, Trap and Abs
3- Back
4- Arms
5- Legs

I always tried to take weekends off, although I’d sometimes need a day off midweek, so I’d end up hitting my legs on Saturdays. Something I will point out though, is my approach of utilizing more compound exercises towards the end of my session vs the beginning. Not always a pre-exhaust superset type of approach, but, an example would be my back sessions.

I always start with either scapular retractions on the cables, or straight arm pressdowns with a rope. Afterwards, I’ll do some rows, or v-grip chins, or something that will take advantage of the fact that my back muscles are already a little fatigued. (I didn’t always train this way though, I’m 16 years in here! -lol)

Is that helpful at all? :slight_smile:

S

Yeah, quite helpful. I’m deciding between doing that sort of split and a mix of strength/lactic training, so it’s good to know that this works, as an option.

[quote]G87 wrote:
3) Don’t cut. Keep bulking, and make every off day a “control day,” i.e. for 2/3 days a week do some cardio or HIIT while going low-calorie and low-carb.[/quote]

Necessary caveat: I haven’t evaluated this, in terms of trying myself or ever with anyone else, sufficiently closely or with controlled comparisons to be able to say that anything has been demonstrated.

Accordingly what I am saying is only guessing and impression.

I have tried this general idea and did not like it much.

My guess as to the drawback is that growth from a workout is probably just as likely to happen on a rest day shortly after the workout day as at any other time, or is part of a process that takes several days and is not helped by a substantive, such as 24 hour, period of being hypocaloric.

I do think it’s fine and actually a good idea to, for any same total calories/carbs/etc per week, to consume somewhat more on workout days around the time of the workout and shortly thereafter and less on rest days. But the rest days should still be maintenance at least.

Second, I don’t believe there’s a further benefit to super fast fat gain. If aiming for the 0.5 to 1 lb per week fat gain range, then fat gain in a reasonable length cycle is modest enough that efficient dieting at another time takes it off quite quickly with very few weeks “lost.”

Actually no weeks lost to gains, as those can be off weeks where no muscle gains were expected anyway, or a back-off week here and there for rest and recuperation, enabling preceding and following weeks to be hit a little harder.

Thanks, Bill.

I gained 15kg/33 lbs this 4-month cycle (first bulk ever), of which I expect 11-12 to be “net” mass gain (i.e. not related to extra water retention and eating more food).

I remember reading that a 2-1 ratio of muscle-fat gain is considered good… So, I’ll have gained at least 9 lbs of fat over 16 weeks. Of course, I was skinny-fat to begin with, and all of those 9 lbs seem to be stored in my stomach, hence the pregnant look.

Anyway, do you think ±9 lbs and ±18 lbs of muscle (&muscle-related) weight gain is an acceptable ratio? I respect your opinion a lot, and am interested in minimising fat gains on my next bulk. I’m already eating very clean (no alcohol, no cheats except for Metabolic Drive bars and fruit), and started adding cardio about halfway into my bulk. I’m now considering following Thibaudeau’s carb cycling codex for my cut and next bulk. What do you think?

Also, this is an unrelated question, but, hey, it’s worth a try… Would you do a 4/5 way bodybuilding split on a cut, or a 3/day split for strength with 2 days of complexes/lactic work for fat loss?

G

just read thib’s ‘carb cycling codex’ and it makes extreme sense, do that seems sensible to me, and doesnt reduce ur calories severely

u just hav high days, medium and low days for carbs, fats and protein stay the same :wink:

im rejigging my diet as we speak