Say you train hard for lean mass gain once a week+/-. How should you adjust your diet through the week? Assume fat-loss is a goal, but not direct fat-loss from exercise. (How should I eat around a training session, and at what point can i eat "normally")

I am especially thinking of:

  1. Caloric balance
  2. Balance between different macronutrients
  3. Eating healthy

In my case I split a program between early Saturday and early Sunday, and it is easy to have a calorie deficit Wednesdays. I eat quite healthy, with some semi-fasting, but perhaps to much cheating. One priority is to minimise DOMS and other kinds of soreness.
I am quite far from the state and ambitions of a body-builder, about 27% body fat.

Mostly diet cycle should follow exercise, but it can also be the other way around. The main principles are quite fixed, esp diet principles, and not training the same muscles very often.

  • Just for clarity, you aim for mass gain AND fat loss?
    – Alec
    Commented Mar 19, 2016 at 11:37
  • Yes, but fat-loss is not an important goal for my exercise.
    – Olav
    Commented Mar 19, 2016 at 11:47
  • Note that my breaks are quite long, so should be easier to combine the 2 than say a bodybuilder training 3 times a week.
    – Olav
    Commented Mar 21, 2016 at 18:56
  • 2
    If you want to gain mass you won't be losing fat no matter what calorie cycling articles you may have read. Also don't know what 'fat loss is a goal but not direct from exercise' means.. All fat loss takes place because of a caloric deficit whether from eating less or energy expenditure, there is no difference
    – YisraelU
    Commented Apr 14, 2016 at 20:33
  • 1
    My point is you wrote you are training for mass gain once a week, yet you want to lose fat. That's probably not going to happen. It's either one or the other. First pick a goal fat loss or muscle building, then people over here might be able to help
    – YisraelU
    Commented Apr 15, 2016 at 1:36

5 Answers 5


Focusing on your question alone and ignoring the rest of the information provided:

Say you train for lean mass gain once a week. How should you adjust your diet through the week to support this?

Taking your weight as a good example, it is fruitless (useless) to weight yourself every day because your weight fluctuates, weekly or even monthly is better because you will end up with an overall average snapshot of change. In the same way, your diet can be averaged over a week.

The 5-2 (while arguably is silly) diet plan uses this fact to help people lose weight. It removes 2 days worth of calories and causing a net-decrease over the week. If you were then to total the calories-in vs calories-out during the week you would see calories out would be (usually) more than calories in and so you will lose weight.

In summary, your diet over the week should be well balanced and based on your comments about your level of exercise and diet you should be eating at a calorie maintenance or minor deficit.

Your other question:

How do I minimise DOMS?

While you may not be able to prevent muscle soreness entirely, you may reduce the intensity and duration of muscles soreness if you follow a few exercise recommendations.

  • Progress Slowly. The most important prevention method is to gradually increase your exercise time and intensity. See the 10 percent rule if you need some exercise progression guidelines.
  • Warm Up thoroughly before activity and cool down completely afterward.
  • Cool Down with gentle stretching after exercise.
  • Follow the Ten Percent Rule. When beginning a new activity start gradually and build up your time and intensity no more than ten percent per week.
  • Hire a Personal Trainer if you aren't sure how to start a workout program that is safe and effective.
  • Avoid making sudden major changes in the type of exercise you do.
  • Avoid making sudden major changes in the amount of time that you exercise.

Finally, on a personal note:

It is clear your want to lose weight and gain muscle, and it is likely you can do this at your level. However, you need to make more sensible choices in diet and exercise if you want to achieve your goals:

  • Exercise 3-4 times a week, try to give yourself a day between each session.
  • Exercise for about a hour each time.
  • Have a consistent exercise regime, for strength try 5x5 Stronglifts or Starting Strength and for running try Couch-to-5k.
  • Cut the fad diets and fasting. Use a macro calculator and a calorie counter to accurately track your calories and adjust your diet to be consistent.
  • Focus on your CUT (diet) before you decide to increase calories to build muscle. You should only really consider BULKING after you reach a happy bodyfat percentage (~15-20%).

Gaining muscle mass requires a caloric surplus.

Losing fat requires a caloric deficit.

You can clearly see the contradiction. It isn't going to work, and especially not if you train for mass only once a week. You see, if you're in a caloric deficit, meaning you consume less than you expend, your body will have to provide the missing calories itself to maintain function. That energy is going to come from fat stores and possibly muscle, should protein consumption not prove sufficient for things it considers more vital (such as, say, keeping your liver running). Building muscle mass is an anabolic process which will require energy, thus calorie intake. If you are in a deficit, it is not a priority for your body.

Now, from this it is maybe not unreasonable to believe that it could be possible to build muscle and lose fat at the same time. After all, if you provide a stimulus to your body in the form of heavy weightlifting that signals it that its current state is inadequate so it must improve muscle tissue, while at the same time being in a slight deficit, maybe there's no reason to believe our biology isn't clever enough to invest in muscle tissue and burn excess fat (which is there as an energy store anyway). You'll find sources out there that state this is indeed possible for beginners in strength training, and that with a careful calorie and nutrient balancing you can "recomp": slowly lose fat while also slowly building muscle.

The problem with all of that is, that it's mostly hearsay. Conventional wisdom can be wrong, and just because something is repeated enough doesn't make it true. Even if it were true, progress in this way would be slow. What you can be sure of, however, is that a caloric deficit will result in weight loss, and that a caloric surplus (at least on top of your total daily energy expenditure without considering training and additional protein synthesis) is a requirement for muscle gain. So rather than gamble, you might want to go with what has been proven time after time to work. Focus on one goal, then the other.

  • This is not relevant, its not about doing both at the same time.
    – Olav
    Commented Apr 15, 2016 at 13:25
  • @Olav Yet you start with "Say you train hard for mass once a week". In the end what matters is how you average out over the week. You can't expect to fast one day and then eat a surplus on that training day to have a net different effect. Either the total will end up with a deficit, surplus or balance.
    – G_H
    Commented Apr 15, 2016 at 13:29
  • The relation to gain/loss of muscle to caloric balance is not very strict. The question ASSUMES that calori and related quantitative measures matters more at some periods than other periods (related to training). Also, it is not just a question of calories.
    – Olav
    Commented Apr 23, 2016 at 10:43

Try to consume 0.8 gram per pound protein a day and add HIIT program in your workout regime three times a week. In this way you will gain more muscle and HIIT program will boost your metabolism for increased fat loss.

  • And secondly DOMS cannot be minimised as this is the way of your body to react towards your act of stress and strain put on muscles during workout. Getting adequate sleep and proper nutrition will help in relief from muscle soreness much quickly.
    – Atul170294
    Commented Apr 14, 2016 at 19:40

I suggest a calorie deficit of 10% of you calculated calorie needs for fat loss. For example if you estimate you calorie needs to be 3000 kcal you would subtract 10% or 300 kcals which is 2700 kcal a day.

As far as nutrients, try to strike a 30/40/30 balance between Protein/Carbs/Fat.

I find that the best way to eat healthy is to eat as clean as you can 80% of the time. Lean whole meats, whole grains, fresh fruits and veggies, healthy fats like olive oil, nuts, fish, etc.

Avoid sugar of all kinds.

  • 1
    Based on what evidence/knowledge?
    – John
    Commented Apr 21, 2016 at 11:26

I would suggest that eat whatever you want to eat. Try making diet plan, have meals on time, 30 minutes morning and evening exercise is must. This will definitely work.

  • 1
    Making a diet plan is almost in direct contradiction with "eat whatever you want", meal timing has never been proven to have any significant impact (and I've seen at least one study where it was shown to have none) and exercise for weight loss is simply a way to increase a caloric deficit.
    – G_H
    Commented Apr 15, 2016 at 12:52

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