Periodizing your nutrition is important for many reasons, but one of the most important reasons being that our bodies aren’t meant to look or stay the same year-round.
Our metabolism & bodies are dynamic matter. Meaning, they’re going to fluctuate week to week, month to month, year to year which is why results don’t tend to be linear or why a singular approach is more than likely not going to work long-term (aka why that 1200 calorie diet MFP spit out to you stopped working after a few months).
The purpose behind and the process of nutrition periodization entails strategic planning and adjusting certain variables to optimize results. Its purpose is to not only cultivate lasting results, but also reduce the risk of metabolic adaptation, to work towards the needs of your body, and promote psychological, physical, & emotional health throughout the dieting process.
There are 4 main dieting phases that are applicable to where & how to periodize your nutrition. These include cutting/weight loss phases (calorie deficit), reverse dieting, maintenance phases, and bulking/gaining phases (calorie surplus).
Alright so now that we know what nutrition periodization is and what the main dieting phases are, how do we apply that to our goals and where do you begin with tackling those goals?
This blog aims to teach you how to determine where to start your nutrition periodization journey not only based on your goals but also how to apply that to where your health & wellness is at RIGHT NOW.
It can seem like a complex process, but here at Clar-e-ty, we aim to provide you with all the clar-e-ty you need to take your health & wellness into your own hands.
*Important to note: we always ask our clients to understand their why before they start any type of dieting phase. It’s important to ask yourself the deeper questions and get to the root cause of why you’re seeking the results you’re seeking. Please don’t skip this step!! Your why will be what you lean on when things get tough.
For example: If you want to lose weight so you can be a better version of yourself and live a longer, healthier lifestyle for yourself, kids, grandkids, etc., this is what will ground you and keep you going. NOT the fact that you want to look good naked. It’s important to know the difference. Looking good naked is a valid goal, BUT is that why going to ground you when you’re 6 weeks deep in a 12-week cut and you’re hungry, cravings are high, energy is low, etc. and you’re questioning why you’re doing this? Maybe, maybe not which is why we encourage all clients to find their WHY before starting any type of dieting phase. So ask yourself how this goal serves you now.
Before we get into the details here is a template for a basic nutrition periodization plan and how we typically structure things here at Clar-e-ty:
The starting point is always dependent on the client and where they’re currently at, however, most Clar-e-ty clients start out either in a reverse diet or at maintenance when they come to us.
We believe in prioritizing and advocating for the overall health of our clients before we start diving into things like cuts because once the little nuances are taken care of, oftentimes the results are going to happen organically.
Now it’s time to take a look at each individualized dieting phase to help you figure out your jumping-off point.
And we’ll start with the approach that is most essential for your health and that is maintenance phases.
Your body's maintenance calories are its equilibrium. Your maintenance calories are specific to you and based on things like your basal metabolic rate and activity level.
Maintenance is where we should try to shoot to live for the majority of our lives. We encourage clients to get comfortable living at maintenance for the longest period of time possible since maintenance is essential for a thriving mind and body.
Living at maintenance also allows you to achieve body recomp at higher calories, build sustainable eating habits, give your metabolism time to repair and recover from dieting, and gives you the opportunity to be more successful in a cut or gaining phase down the road.
So how do you know if a maintenance phase is right for you?
If you just finished a reverse diet, it would be wise for you to consider chilling at your new maintenance calories for a period of time to allow your metabolism time to reset and to allow your hormones, nervous system, & body time to repair themselves from being in deficit.
On the flip side, if you’ve been in a bulking or lean gaining phase for over 16 weeks, it might be time for you to get back to your new maintenance calories more so to give yourself a break from eating that much food and to keep your metabolism on its toes by not letting it adapt to being in a surplus.
And now for one of our favorite goals. If you’re looking to maximize your performance in the gym, a maintenance phase is probably right for you, if not being in a slight surplus. Since your body will be thriving on all the energy and nutrients you’re giving it, why not put it to good use by getting after it in the gym?
Again, maintenance is where people need to spend the majority of the year if not the majority of their lives.
It might not be the sexiest phase of periodizing your nutrition but is absolutely essential for your physical & mental health.
Now that you’ve been living at maintenance for a while, you might want to shed some body fat. So next up we’ll be diving into what a fat loss phase entails.
An active fat loss phase requires you to be in a calorie deficit to achieve a goal of weight loss. If you haven’t read the Clar-e-ty blog on “The diet before the diet.” and you’re considering entering into a cut, I would HIGHLY recommend reading what some of the most important Clar-e-ty prerequisites to a cut are.
Some important things to ask yourself before a cut include:
Have you been living at maintenance for 3+ months?
Have you dieted in the past 6 months?
Again, it’s important to make sure you've been comfortable eating at your maintenance calories for a prolonged period of time to ensure you'll be more successful during an active fat loss phase.
Are you sleeping 8+ hours at night?