Increasing calories is an important aspect of building muscle. As we discussed in a previous blog post, you cannot build muscle and lose fat at the same time. So there should be a point in your year where the focus is on building muscle, and winter is usually a great time to do just that.
Increasing Calories in the Winter
There are two major reasons for increasing calories in the winter – maintenance eating and building muscle. For most people, there is a natural tendency to “fall off” dieting in the Fall and Winter. Because the urge to increasing calories is normal during these colder months, it makes sense to utilize this for muscle building. By doing so, this sets the stage for success in the Spring/Summer when fat loss is desired. In addition to heeding natural tendencies, taking an extended diet break during this period gives your metabolism a chance to heal/re-boot from cut phases.
(Remember: Over time your metabolism adjusts to whatever calorie level you’re eating consistently. So if you are in a cut for too long, that caloric level becomes your new maintenance.)
A winter reset (eating at maintenance) actually helps your metabolism to heal, giving your body a good amount of time to “remember” where TDEE is before another cut is attempted. During this time, many in the fam will choose to eat in surplus of their TDEE (Bulk). Bulking gives your body extra calories, which helps to build more muscle. Whether you eat at maintenance or bulk during the winter, either will help achieve greater fat loss in the spring. Too many dieters think that restricting calories for many many months will help get to goal faster. The truth is, without taking those breaks – you often feel as if you look worse because of the muscle loss from non-stop dieting. Just remember, you can’t show off muscle in the summer, if you haven’t built the muscle under the fat in the winter (or at some point throughout the year!).
It’s no secret that muscle building phases can cause some gains on the scale and “puffiness” on the body (as muscle builds underneath the fat layers, pushing it outward). In many parts of the world, winter tends to be the time where layers of clothing are worn. Those heavier sweaters, hoodies, sweatpants, blanket scarves, etc provide the perfect opportunity to stylishly “hide” areas you’d rather not flaunt, while you get down to business (building muscle). By fully embracing this as a time of year for muscle building, you can fully enjoy your fat loss phase in the spring and summer (with the benefit of increased metabolism!).
Be sure to take advantage of the colder months to rest, recharge and take a break from a reduction in calories. But do so with purpose (not simply “I’ll start over in Spring!”). Tracking calories and paying attention to your macros are still very important during this time. Be sure to enjoy yourself, but remember that maintaining now allows for a successful cut later.
This question we get asked the most by fam in our Online Community – “When can I switch phases?” It’s a question most members don’t want to hear the actual answer to. So before we dive into this post, consider what phase you are currently in, and whether you think you should be moving on to the next phase. This is especially important if you just recently switched into your current phase or think you can springboard from one phase to the next.
When you think it’s time – it’s not
In any given phase, the need to move on to the next one as fast as possible is reminiscent of our diet mentality ways. Jumping full speed ahead without any consideration of whether the steps needed right now are even mastered is usually the downfall for many. If you are constantly saying “I’m ready, what’s next?” it’s guaranteed you have not mastered your current phase. If you are content in your phase, happy to not move on and just stay where you are, then generally it’s time to move on.
When you decide to sit in a certain phase, you need to give 100% to the processes in that phase. That means if you are in a Reset phase, you are consistent. Calories are always being hit, macros are spot on, workouts are consistent and challenging. If you want to move to a Cut, but haven’t mastered these, then Cut will not go the way you want it to. Then this adds more time to your journey by trying a Reset again. This applies to all phases – even a Chill!
By asking “what else?” during your phase, you aren’t truly understanding and taking into consideration what change is needed. Think of each phase as a chapter in a math text; if you can’t understand the principles in chapter 1, you are certainly going to fail by chapter 10. Spend the time and truly dig deep and understand what each phase requires of you and master each and every step needed.
When it comes to changing your dieting mindset and embracing the EM2WL lifestyle, the first step is recognizing that there are several different phases to this journey – just as there are phases in other areas of your life. Each phase has it’s specific purpose and unique benefits, but your success for each one depends solely on your ability to own that phase and fully embrace living it.
Because EM2WL is a lifestyle, you’ll likely find that certain times of your year will lend itself more readily to specific phases over the others. Jumping from phase to phase as suits your life is normal, and even encouraged, however you can only truly be in one phase at a time. The compounding of the phases is where the magic happens, so your success in one phase is actually dependent on the attention given to previous phases. Trying to be in multiple phases at one time will only make progress take longer, so resist the urge to attempt multitasking your phases.
When mapped out for your specific goals, the phases will bring clarity to your end result. And because each person is unique, your plan will be remarkably different than someone else. Find out which phase you belong in currently.
The 5 Phases of EM2WL
This phase is for healing your metabolism and is generally the starting point for most dieters. Here you will learn what your TDEE is, and you will work your caloric intake up to that number. Reset is all about relearning how to eat and how to love yourself. You will increase your calories up slowly and listen to your body. Focus on hunger cues, feelings and what changes your body makes with proper nutrition. Consistency with your intake and your macros will become your focus once you have reached TDEE. Because this is a healing and rebuilding phase, there should be no focus on fat loss, and ditching the scale is highly recommended.
“Chill Phase” – Sample from the EM2WL Phases Lesson inside of the CTDM Workshop
Maintenance is about learning to maintain your current progress. This means eating at your TDEE level to keep the metabolism burning and still consistently hitting your macros. Usually this phase takes place between cut phases (diet break) or when your season of life needs a break. Things like holidays and vacations are a perfect time to be in a maintenance phase. Time spent in this phase can be as little as 1 week, or as long as you like! There should be no expectations of physical changes happening during this phase.
A Cut phase is when a reduction in calories occur and a focus on fat loss takes place. This does not mean instant changes will happen!A lot of what happens in this phase depend solely on what your previous phase was and how successful you were in it. This means that success in a cut may not show until your third or fourth cut down the line. Macros need to be consistently hit and a deficit of no more than 15% from TDEE will enable this phase to have a greater success. A cut phase should not be any longer than 6-8 weeks, and should always be followed up by at least a 1-2 week maintenance phase.
Chill means “CHILL”. This phase is for when life throws lemons at you and you need to make lemonade. A chill phase is beneficial for when life has gotten too hectic. Maybe you need to scale back on tracking, or you just want to practice eating intuitively and mindfully. If you are under major stress in other aspects of your life, then a chill phase allows you to focus your energy where it needs to be. This also gives you an opportunity to live your life without tracking and just “live.” This phase can be as long or as short as you like, and you can jump to any other phase once completed. Do not mistake this phase for a “free for all” eating phase, but there should be zero guilt for what you CHOOSE to eat during this time.
This phase is purposefully eating above your TDEE level so that muscles can grow and build. This phase is specifically to add more muscle massand should be done with a controlled increase in calories. A huge benefit to this phase is the increase in your strength and the focus should be on the barbell, not the tape measure! Bulking is typically encouraged in the colder months, where you can hide under bulkier clothing, and prepare for a cut phase in the spring.
Work with the Phases, not against them
Regardless of when you start living your EM2WL life, you will learn to appreciate the phases as you encounter them. Each one has specific food related, mind related, and body related goals with them. But the only way the phases work with you is if you work with the phases. Commit yourself wholeheartedly to the phase you are in and master the skills needed for it. Be willing to learn and challenge yourself in each one and know that over time, you will find yourself craving to be in a certain phase at certain points in your life. In time, your journey successes will compound in so many ways it will be impossible not to miss them.
Lean in to the process by starting right now. What phase are you in?
(Excerpt from 1 of 11 lessons on the EM2WL Phases inside CTDM Workshop)
Vegan protein almost sounds like an oxymoron. Protein mainly comes from animals or dairy, two of the largest eliminations from a vegan diet. So it almost seems impossible to get the suggested 30% of protein in a day in order to maximize fat loss. Many EM2WL vegans may think that this exempts them from the protein recommendations, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Vegan protein vs. vegetarian protein
It’s no secret that vegans and vegetarians can have a harder time hitting their protein macro. But it is not impossible, nor should it be excusable. Vegetarians have a slightly easier job because they can still eat dairy and eggs. Vegans however have to get a bit more creative when it comes to protein.
Nuts, seeds tofu and legumes often become the main focus for a vegan lifestyle. These items can certainly help fill in some of the vegan protein gap, but they also tend to have higher levels of fat and carbs attached to them. This means that the ratio can be harder to balance out for those striving to hit physique-specific goals.
For example, beans have a high level of protein, but the carb level also increases by 4x. This could mean that the beans carry 10g of protein, but the carbs could be 50 or 60g. This makes it very hard to hit macros such as 40/30/30. Vegans would need to pay closer attention to their vegan protein source, and it’s carb/protein/fat ratios to ensure that balance and still maximize their ability to lose fat.
Awareness is key. Simply knowing to pay attention in these areas will begin to open your eyes to items that may have been right under your nose all along. For example: many EM2WL vegans have found ways to increase their protein intake with simple swaps of plant based bread products. These give a much higher level of protein than regular bread. These can be a little hard to find locally, but if you are an international shopper you could try ordering from Here.
When it comes to balancing your macros, the only thing to keep in mind is that, for fat loss, protein should still hit that 30-35% mark. Vegans actually need to eat slightly more than a carnivore when it comes to getting in protein, simply because of the kinds of proteins they eat. They don’t process the same as meat and dairy do.
Allow carbs and fat to fall where they may, based on personal preference, so long as the protein hovers above that 30% mark. For a vegan this may take some time, (ok a LOT of time) to work your way up to that percentage, but the higher that level can get, the better off a muscle-keeping, fat-loss-seeking vegan will be.
A food tracker can be a powerful weight loss tool. When used correctly, it can give you a ton of data about your eating patterns and caloric intakes. For many, tracking food can mean the difference between eating enough calories and eating the right kinds of calories. However, the ultimate goal for the majority of #crushers is to be able to live and eat without the aid of a food tracker.
Intuitive eating vs. Food tracker
The goal to stop tracking comes with an important caveat. You have to actually track your food for a period of time in order to stop tracking later. So for many, this means understanding that if your goal is to stop using a food tracker, then you must be able to perfect intuitive eating, by knowing how your food choices line up each day.
By tracking, this allows you to see each day where your calorie intake actually hits, and where your macros fall in. This allows you to make notes of what you need to eat daily, and how your choices affect your macros for each meal. Paying attention to your daily food habits will set you up for success when the time comes to stop tracking. Your understanding of how to hit that protein goal becomes apparent after you track consistently.
Another good reason for using a food tracker is seeing if there are patterns in your moods and hunger cues. By tracking your moods daily using the notes section of your diary, you will be able to see if there are patterns to certain issues. Things like skipping breakfast causes you to binge eat later in the day. Or a pattern in eating a certain food brings on the bloat or gives you headaches/migraines. These cues can tell you a lot about your eating habits and how to troubleshoot them long after you stop tracking.
Finally, tracking your food allows you to be self aware. It keeps you accountable to your daily required calories, and hitting those macros. Both are necessary for fat loss. It also gives you the stepping stones to make these changes in your food a habit. Habits which need to be solid before you begin intuitive eating.
The goal for everyone is to eventually stop tracking food. But take the steps now to track so your foundation is solid in the future.