The Primer Phase – Practical Application

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Priming yourself for fat loss & muscle gain.

Sounds pretty damn good right?

That’s because it is, but many people don’t do this, and it’s why so so many people struggle to get into the shape they want. If you haven’t read The Primer Phase – the unsung hero of nutritional periodisation I highly recommend you stop and read that before continuing on.

If you have read it you know that the body fights changes in your body composition.

This is where a Primer Phase comes in, it primes you for success.


Priming for Fat Loss

The human body wants to remain the same.

It does this by up-regulating and down-regulating certain things that influence our energy use, in hope to keep our Calorie intake and output in balance. The longer you try to push an imbalance i.e. try & lose or gain weight, the harder it will push. Think about trying to cycle uphill, at first you’re full of energy and it’s all OK, however as time goes on you tire, the incline may even get steeper and the chances of falling back get higher. For example Leptin is one hormone that regulates hunger, as we diet it drops further and further, making us more hungry and for many leading to a breaking of their diet. 

One good example is looking at those who have attempted to lose too much fat for too long, such as the Biggest Loser contestants. Participants lose huge amounts of weight, every week, for several months, without taking a break.

What happens?

They see all the weight that they lost, come back on.

If they were to have a primer phase they would allow all those things that come down with a diet to up-regulate. This also allows the body to hopefully re-adjust to it’s ‘new normal’ and may help bring it’s set-point down somewhat, so that when you diet again, it puts up less of a fight (clearly seen in the graph below).

This is very similar to yoyo dieting.

Remember the flight to Australia (in part 1)? This is very much like the passengers appreciating a stop over to stretch their legs, they are thankful and therefore allow the pilot to fly in peace.

What if you have less fat to lose, and are dieting for less time? — As said above, you of course don’t need as long maintaining, you may be able to get away with nothing or you might need a refeed once a week and a break at maintenance when deloading (every 4th week or so).

The longer and harsher your diet, the longer you need to be at maintenance.

This can be clearly seen below with my two clients, one going through a mini cut, and the other a bodybuilding prep:

[bctt tweet=”attempting to lose fat continuously for too long leads to exponentially muscle loss risk” username=”revivestronger”]

Practical Application

  • A period of maintenance should be taken every 3 months of dieting or so, this will last approximately 1 month and then the diet can continue afterwards, if the diet is going to take many months of dieting after this then more time at maintenance may be required. If you’re done dieting then you can go straight into massing after the 3 months.
  • How to workout maintenance Calories? Due to the dynamic nature of the human body maintenance is a moving target, however we can do our best to give a ‘best guess’, this would be:
READ  Podcast 097: Mike Israetel - Active vs. Full Range of Motion

STEP 1.] Take your total Calorie intake over the past month & divide by 4 to give an average.

STEP 2.] Take this weekly average & divide by 7 to give a daily average.

STEP 3.] Take your total weight loss over the past month & divide by 4 to give an average.

STEP 4.] Take your average from step 3 & multiply that by 500.

STEP 4.] Take your Calorie average from step 2 and add it to step 3’s answer.

STEP 5.] Monitor your body weight and adjust as necessary.


Priming for Muscle Gain

Muscle gain is much slower than fat loss, and most should attempt to gain it around 2 to 4 times slower.

The weight you lose in a week should roughly be the weight you gain every 2 to 4 weeks or so (read why here).

This is because muscle takes much more time to grow than fat can be burned off, we all know this. Therefore, you’ll be looking to gain muscle over the long-term, over the course of several months. So if weight gain is so slow, why do we need to take breaks at maintenance? There are a few reasons:

1.] Build up of fat

2.] Adaptive Resistance – the more you do something, the less responsive you become

^ this combo leads you to become unresponsive to the training and nutritional inputs for muscle growth.

Obviously the slower you gain the slower fat will accumulate, however as said here, that might not be the best idea. Plus that doesn’t get around point 2 ‘adaptive resistance’, you see if you want to maximise muscle growth you’ll be training with increasingly high volumes — these are HIGHLY fatiguing, and if kept up will lead to burn out, this is down to chronically high levels of AMPk (which signals for the breakdown of muscle) amongst other things.

For example:

  • Mesocycle 1: Traditional Hypertrophy (focus 8 to 10 rep range)
  • Mesocycle 2: Traditional Hypertrophy (focus 10 to 15 rep range)
  • Mesocycle 3: Traditional Hypertrophy plus metabolites

After Mesocycle 3 you’ve really used all your tools in your hypertrophy training tool bag to keep accumulating and overloading training volume. It’s very clear now that increases in training volume are key to growing lots of muscle, therefore once you get to this point you reduce your volume via a primer phase.

Mike Israetel touches on this here:

From a training perspective, in the longer massing intervals you can run into the problem of becoming pretty resistant to volume while at the same time not in the position to increase volume. For example, if your MEV (minimum effective volume) is about 10 sets per bodypart per week and your MRV (maximum recoverable volume) is about 20 sets, you might do a month of training between 10 and 17 sets. Then you might do a month between 13 and 20 sets. Then you might do a month of metabolite training. So what the hell do you do in month 4? After the 3rd month of high volume AND metabolites, you’re not going to be very sensitive to hypertrophy of any kind, and the best move is to reduce your training loads to around your MV (maintenance volume) for a month or so so you can become sensitive to volume again and start ramping back up in the progression.

Bompa et al implement a similar strategy and suggest maintaining weight after the Hypertrophy Phase [2] in which the nutritional goals of this phase are to maintain much of the weight and solidify all of the muscle mass gained during the hypertrophy phase.

READ  Podcast 099: John Meadows - Breathing, Living, Bodybuilding!

That means perma-bulks are out of question.

OK, so why don’t we just jump straight into fat loss? This is related to our set point, in that by going straight into a diet after massing you’d be giving your body exactly what it wants, an opportunity to drop weight and get back to it’s previous self, that means muscle loss. 

We need to take breaks to maintain for several reasons:

1.] To prime our muscles to hypertrophy training once again (depending on body fat levels this may require a cut before massing again- explained here)

2.] To allow our bodies to find it’s ‘new normal’ and hold onto the muscle it’s put on

Practical Application

  • A period of maintenance should be taken after approximately 3-4 months of high volume training accompanied by massing and should last between 4 to 12 weeks before moving to more massing or cutting.
  • How to workout maintenance Calories? Due to the dynamic nature of the human body maintenance is a moving target, however we can do our best to give a ‘best guess’, this would be:

STEP 1.] Take your total Calorie intake over the past month & divide by 4 to give an average.

STEP 2.] Take this weekly average & divide by 7 to give a daily average.

STEP 3.] Take your total weight gain over the past month & divide by 4 to give an average.

STEP 3.] Take your average from step 3 & multiply that by 500.

STEP 4.] Take your Calorie average from step 2 and take away step 3’s answer.

STEP 5.] Monitor your body weight and adjust as necessary.


What Next?

 

Want to learn more about Primer Phases? We have you covered with an in-depth ebook!

 

==> How to Train in the Primer Phase – Part 3

Do you need any help with the above, feel free to drop me an email here.

Join my free facebook group or add me on snapchat (revivestronger) and ask your question there, I will respond asap. Or if you’re after a fresh training programme I have a free 4 week plan using DUP that you can download for free here.

One more thing…

Do you have a friend who would love the above? Share this article with them and let me know what they think.

[bctt tweet=”The Primer Phase – Practical Application” username=”revivestronger”]


References:

  1. M. Israetel et al. RP Diet
  2. T.Bompa et al 2003. Serious Strength Training. Third Edition
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