How To Train After a Dieting Phase

Dec 14, 2022

Have you ever finished a dieting phase and just thought “now what?”

Have you struggled with motivation after dieting?

If so, you’re not alone! There are ways to help you overcome this tricky scenario and it involves a shifting of your priorities, to set you up for long term success.

Now, dieting is a tough pursuit which involves you to be very numbers focused, with your scale weight being a key progress indicator. Additionally, your energy levels inevitably take a hit too which can impact your training performance and overall enjoyment.

Yet, we don’t want to live in a perpetual state of low fatigue and poor training, nor do we want to have progress just measured by our bodyweight. This is exactly why once you’ve finished a dieting phase, it’s crucial to shift your focus and attack a new goal.

This is why I love focusing on strength and performance when my clients exit a diet, as it can help provide new direction and motivation. Plus, training is a lot more enjoyable too when you have more fuel in the tank which is important to capitalise on during a reverse diet back to maintenance calories.

So, instead of focusing on bodyweight to measure progress, we can focus on strength development as our big progression indicator. This allows us to maintain a numbers focus, but it shifts from the scale to the load on the bar! This is what’s happening at the moment with my client Bella and here you can see she’s punching out some monster loads after her recent dieting phase. 

Note, that it doesn’t matter whether your dieting goal revolved around a physique show as Bella’s did, or you just wanted to drop a few kilograms for summer. You still want to shift your focus post diet to beyond your scale weight and instead focus harder on attack training progression. 

However, this doesn’t mean you need to become a powerlifter either. Rather, you want to focus on your own preferred priority lifts to develop, plus attack the rep range that works for you. For instance, you could pick 2 x priority lifts to develop over the next 12-weeks and ensure your training program is designed accordingly.

  • Lower body priority = High Bar Back Squat 5RM (rep max) → 90kg goal (by week 12)
  • Upper body priority = Chin Up x max reps (at bodyweight)  goal of 5 reps (by week 12)

Whilst your priority initial goal may be nailing your reverse diet and then building muscle, you could still integrate these two performance goals to drive motivation as you exit your dieting phase. Plus, the rep ranges selected here are still going to aid hypertrophy potential too and they are simply a heavier training stimulus.

Alternatively, you could opt for more lifts (5) to develop and a longer time period (24-weeks). By focusing on a few more lifts, we can add a performance goal for our main movement patterns and major muscle groups. Moreover, the longer period allows the potential for superior progress too. So, you could select your performance goals from the following areas: 

  • Squat priority (lower push) = Low Bar Back Squat 3RM → 110kg goal
  • Deadlift priority (lower pull / hinge) = BB Conventional Deadlift 3RM → 130kg goal
  • Press priority (upper body push) = DB 45° Incline Press 6RM → goal of 30kg (2 x 15kg DBs)
  • Pull priority (upper body pull) = Chin Up 3RM → + 10kg added goal
  • Flex priority (anything) = BB Hip Thrust 6RM → 160kg goal

With Bella though, she loves heavy lifting and is super strong! This is why I still prescribed some of the big lifts during her initial 24-weeks with me, even though she was dieting for her first ever physique show. Yet our focus wasn’t pure strength either during this time and it won’t be moving forward either.

As we now have the luxury of time, I’ll use different training phases and more training specificity to better attack key lifts and take her strength to an even greater level in time. Doing this ensures Bella enjoys her training, which is an essential part of why we go to the gym and keep coming back in the long run as well. 

Ultimately, you can train anyway you want and customise it to suit your needs and preferences. However, you want to set some real tangible goals and always chase progressive overload, especially if you want to build your ultimate physique.

Finally, it’s important to remember one key thing - there’s more to life than fat loss! 

Thanks for reading,
Glen Carroll