Ask any bodybuilder, powerlifter, strongman, athlete, CrossFitter, or fitness fanatic in general!
What the hardest part of getting in shape is and 99.99% of the time they’ll tell you that it’s the diet and nutritional side of the thing that sucks.
Getting in shape is far from easy, but if you’re able to dial in your diet, the process itself will become a whole lot easier.
That’s why today, we’re looking at the anabolic diet.
When training, no matter which goals you have in mind, it’s essential that you persevere and push through plateaus in order to continue making progress.
Nobody wants to find themselves regressing.
Which is again why it’s so important to get your diet in check.
This diet is one of the most effective diet and nutritional plans on the market today.
But just what is it about this diet plan that has helped it become one of the world’s most popular?
Well, we’re going to be looking at all of that, and much more besides, in this useful diet guide.
So, grab yourself a seat, put your feet up, get comfortable, and let’s learn more about.
Table Of Contents
In the world of health and fitness, there is a myriad of diet plans and protocols out there.
Which can get confusing when deciding on which you may wish to follow.
There are diet plans emphasizing high carb intakes, low-fat diets, high-fat diets, low carb diets, vegetarian diets, diets for bulking up, diets for slimming down, and diets designed to promote muscle growth.
As the name implies is a diet that is designed to help people build muscle.
Many of the diets that you come across nowadays are relatively new and have often been designed by social media influencers and Z-list celebrities hoping to cash in and make a quick buck off of other people’s insecurities around their weight.
What many people find so refreshing about this diet, however, is the fact that is not a new diet designed to make a quick buck.
The anabolic diet was created back in 1995 by DR. Mauro DiPasquale.
During the 90s, in the world of bodybuilding, sport, and fitness, anabolic steroid use was rife.
There were many doping scandals that came to light in that era, including those relating to the Olympic Games, and other sports such as baseball.
DR. Mauro DiPasquale recognized the dangers associated with steroid use, not to mention the legal implications, and so he decided to look for a viable, safe, and legal alternative to PEDs (Performance Enhancing Drugs).
The end result was what we now know as the anabolic diet.
Now, there is a lot of science behind this, but at its core, it is basically a high protein, fairly low carbohydrate diet.
The diet was basically based upon the diets followed by many bodybuilders from decades prior.
Including those during the ‘Golden Era’ of bodybuilding during the 1970s in and around Venice Beach.
This diet is designed to help people pack muscle mass onto their frames.
Whilst burning fat, getting stronger, and becoming more efficient athletes in general.
The diet is also designed to help manipulate people’s hormones in a bid to encourage the production of anabolic androgenic hormones such as growth hormone and testosterone.
People often, and incorrectly, assume that this diet is yet another ketogenic diet such as ‘keto’ or Atkins.
In truth, it is more like a carb-cycling diet that the aforementioned diet plans.
This diet is designed specifically with muscle growth in mind: It features a bulking phase, a cutting phase, and a maintenance phase.
For the first five days of the diet, followers of the diet will consume low amounts of carbohydrates.
Here, their primary macros will be fats and proteins.
In the next two days, however, they will reduce their fat and protein intake and will instead consume high amounts of carbohydrates.
On low carb days, the max number of carbs permitted is just 30 grams.
Which is roughly one medium-sized slice of bread.
On low carb days, roughly 60% of your macros will come from fats, with around 35% of them coming from protein.
The final 5% will be carbs.
You must follow 5 days of low carb intake in a row in order for the diet to work.
The diet is actually very beneficial from a social standpoint, because assuming that you follow it Mon – Fri.
If you’re off at weekends like most people, you can be a little more social because your two high carb days can be on the Sat and Sun.
These days, you can relax a little and enjoy foods such as pizza, pasta, chips, ice cream, and even the odd beer or two.
Here, you need around 50% - 60% of your macros to come from carbohydrates, around 30% to come from fats, and just 10% to come from proteins.
It is worth noting that these are just rough guidelines.
So please do not stress if you happen to get 11% of your macros from protein on a high carb day.
As mentioned, the diet is tri-phasic and so it features three individual phases, which are:
Interestingly enough, the very first phase of the diet isn’t the bulking phase like many people seem to think.
The first phase is the maintenance phase and it lasts for 4 weeks.
During this phase of the diet, as you can probably guess.
The idea is to consume just enough calories to maintain your body mass as it currently is.
Alternatively, you simply take your body weight in pounds and you then multiply it by eighteen.
This phase lasts for 4 weeks and it is designed to prepare your body for the next two phases of the diet.
Once you’ve completed week 4, week 5 will begin with the bulking phase.
This is where things start to get serious.
Now, here, you need to use a little incentive and common sense, as it is very much a matter of trial and error.
Basically, you need to experiment by upping your calories to determine how easily you are gaining mass, whilst still feeling great and performing at your best.
When we say mass, we primarily mean muscle mass as opposed to fat.
By that logic, you could simply consume an extra two thousand calories per day and watch your waistline expand right before your eyes.
The idea is to gradually build muscle mass while keeping body fat gain to a minimum.
As a general guideline for bulking, simply take the bodyweight that you want to be at ideally and multiply it by 15.
So, if you want to bulk up to 200 pounds, you would multiply 200 by 15, giving you 3000.
Therefore, you should consume 3000 calories per day.
Your goal should be to gain 1 – 2 pounds of muscle mass per week.
Here, you either need to bulk until you reach your optimal body weight or until you gain too much body fat.
Now, we move onto the third and final phase of the diet, which is the cutting phase.
This phase will begin as soon as you finish bulking.
It will last for as long as it takes for you to cut and be satisfied by how lean and defined you are.
Now, you will again restrict calories and will aim to slowly and gradually lose excess body fat, whilst preserving as much lean muscle tissue as you possibly can.
Now, you should create a caloric deficit of around 500 – 700 calories.
This means that you will consume 500 – 700 calories less than your body needs to maintain itself in its current form.
It is vital to keep weight loss slow and gradual, so aim to drop no more than 1.5 pounds per week.
Anything higher than this will result in lean muscle loss, which is what we want to avoid.
It’s vital to remember that you need to be training in the gym in order to meet your goals.
Now, when following this diet, it’s important to remember that your training will be affected.
On a Monday after your high carb weekend, you’ll find that your strength is up, your energy levels are up, and you’ll experience some awesome muscle pumps.
This is because your muscles will have plenty of glycogen stored in their cells, so you’ll work harder than ever.
As the days go on, however, your strength levels will drop and by Friday you’ll be feeling fatigued, especially during the cutting phase when you’re also in a caloric deficit.
Now it’s time to help you to prepare for starting the diet in the first place.
Before you begin any new diet, you need to weigh yourself to get an idea of where you’re at and where you need to be.
Set yourself a goal for how much you want to weigh, and how ripped you want to look at the end of the diet.
Be realistic with your goals and see where you can realistically see yourself once you’ve finished the diet.
It’s vital that you do everything in your power to ensure that you’re following the correct training routine.
You see, although the idea is to build muscle, you may find that a standard bodybuilding routine won’t work as effectively on the diet.
For example, if you follow a training protocol whereby you train heavy later on in the week, that will need to be altered because by the end of the week your glycogen stores will be so low.
Instead, your heavy days should really be Mon and Tues after carb loading at the weekend.
Next up, it’s absolutely vital that you make sure you go shopping and that you stock up on the essentials before you start it.
You will need to make sure that you stock up on plenty of high protein, high-fat foods, making sure to load up on healthy fats as opposed to unhealthy ones.
Buy in bulk and freeze whatever you can as this will make your life so much easier in the long run.
Yes, this diet is primarily a low carb diet, but the thing to remember is that for 2 days of the week, you need to load up on carbohydrates.
This means that you should make sure you have plenty in the house.
You can get away with unhealthy cheat type foods, though be sure to get plenty of healthy carbs as well.
Foods such as pasta, sweet potatoes, rice, fruits, vegetables, and cereals are all great choices here.
If you’re looking to lose fat, build muscle, and get in shape in a safe, healthy, and legal way, then this diet is definitely right for you.
You not only get to build muscle and get in shape.
But you also get to lead a relatively normal social life at the weekend without stressing about counting calories or eating too many carbs.
The diet is very effective and is definitely worth trying if you are willing to commit to it long term.
Reda is an ACE Certified Nutritionist, Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt and bodybuilder with 11 years of experience. He's been published on many influential websites such as lifehack.org, Wealthy Gorilla, Good Men Project and more.