Posted 3 months ago

Transitioning from a dieting phase to a bulking phase

If you have ever dieted down to the extremes – or even just dieted for a prolonged period of time – you will know that with the joy of wrapping up a diet also comes a bit of apprehension around weight gain.

Although I have seen this more in females than in males, this can be true for anyone. After all, you’ve just spent however long focusing on losing weight, stepping on the scales expecting to see numbers go down, being meticulous and anal about your food… and now that’s supposed to change, just like that? And you’re going to “undo” all the work you’ve put in?

I get it, experiencing some fear and weariness around weight gain IS normal, but just as getting into the habit of dieting is just that, a habit, the same goes for the transition into a gaining phase. For the most part, you need to reframe the situation and focus on your next goals: to gain as much tissue as possible. But as always, this is easier said than done, so in this article I hope to provide you with some tangible advice that you can apply to your transition phase to make it psychologically easier (because let’s be real – physically, you/your body will be loving it).

Embrace it
“Duh, thanks Clara… for nothing!”. I know, I know. It seems silly to state the obvious, but just as it is important to not get caught up in the scales during a dieting phase, the same goes for a reverse/push phase.

There are times during our diets that we need to remind ourselves that our weight is not equivalent to our worth, and it seems that we forget to apply this to our gaining phases. Although we might find one phase easier than the other, we really need to learn to embrace both. Rather than drawing all of our attention to the obvious and necessary weight gain, how about we focus on all the things we can do more flexibly now?

If you’re struggling to “let go” of your lean physique, here are some tips for you:

  • Remember, that you are not just your body, and nobody actually cares about what you look like (other than you and your coach, for the most part). Those that matter, don’t mind, and those that mind, don’t matter, so embrace your body!
  • What are the things you can do now that you couldn’t do before? Meals out? Spontaneous day trips? Cooking without having to make a recipe fit your macros? Enjoy it!
  • Focus on the person you become when you’re not hangry all the time
  • Focus all our attention and energy into putting that fuel to good use – go and give it the big beanz in the gym!

The bottom line is that a shift in focus is imperative – set yourself new goals and get after it.

Nothing lasts for ever
There is definitely a point in a transition phase where you’ll probably just feel like you look a bit shit. This is mostly true if you are transitioning out of being super lean, rather than out of a shorter recomp.

In these instances, it’s important to be reminded of the bigger picture: what are your goals? What are you trying to work towards? Why are you doing what you’re doing?

Managing our focus of attention can lead us to notice the things that are actually important, such as our performance at the gym and in life across the day. Most people also suddenly forget how crap it can feel to be on an extreme diet and bully themselves for their appearance in this transition phase, but it’s just because our benchmark for what “lean” is has been completely skewed.

In the same way as a diet is short lived (in the grand scheme of things), so is the awkward transition from diet to push, and so is a bulking phase actually!! So don’t let yourself get so caught up in the “there and then” thoughts and miss out on the “here and now”.

Truth be told, everything in life is transient. As the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “No person ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river, and they’re not the same person”.

However, if you do want a tangible tip to make the transition phase easier, here it is: eat the same stuff you were eating in your diet, but eat more of it. Trust me, this advice has helped me reverse out of both my competition preps and mini-cuts through the years, and I stand by it!

Bodybuilding is a game of extremes
So many people go from lamenting being on a diet and “not being able to eat X, Y, Z”, to lamenting the necessary weight gain that comes with a push phase. Although it can be understandable, often it bears re-asking the question of: what do you want to want?

Read that again. It’s not about what you want now, but it’s what you want to want, i.e., the goals you’re working towards and are actively committing to now. If you want to sit in maintenance and slowly grow, then that’s fine! You can apply bodybuilding training principles to that process, of course you can, but the results won’t be as extreme.

*shrugs shoulders*

It is what it is. We cannot want to want an elite physique yet limit ourselves by our lack of willingness to commit to each stage of the process – and again, if full laser-sharp focused attention is not what you want, then that is absolutely okay!!!! But don’t waste your time comparing yourself to fitness models on Instagram if you are choosing a different path for yourself and your life.

As we say, bodybuilding is not for everyone and it shouldn’t be for everyone. A good coach will help you navigate those goals for yourself, and help you understand what you need to do to achieve the things you want for you. They might be able to help you see that the work that is required to achieve certain things is not worth it for you, and they should do this compassionately. But like I said, if you are committed to the bodybuilding journey, transition phases, extreme diets, and big pushes are things you’ll have to come to accept as being part of your new normal.

In short, yes – no longer being lean and going into “bulk mode” isn’t always comfortable, and you won’t get as many compliments or likes on Instagram, but bodybuilding is not about Instagram, it’s about building a body. And in order to do that, we need to both diet to the extremes and push up quite heavily, to add the tissue that is required to improve our physiques. Fully embracing it, focusing on being in the present moment, and noticing that time will pass anyway are all tips that can help you with that transition. However, remember that this sport is quite extreme, and discomfort is part of the norm.

& if the thought of pushing yourself excites you, then click the button below to enquire and get going.

Clara Swedlund MSc MBPsS