What Is The Anabolic Diet?
The Anabolic Diet has been around for sometime, but it is still a tried and true dietary approach used by both bodybuilders and regular people alike.
Dr. Mauro Di Pasquale introduced this diet to the world in 1995, as a twist on the already popular cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD).
This diet has worked wonders for thousands, helping them lose weight and build muscle.
However, the approach can be considered extreme, so make sure to read through the entire article to determine if it’s right for you.
What is the Anabolic Diet?
Basically, this diet has you eating very low carbohydrates for the majority of the week, while keeping both fat and protein high. This is done for 5-6 days of the week.
For the other 1-2 days, you would eat high levels carbohydrates, moderate protein, and extremely low fat.
Dr. Pasquale recommends that you keep your carbs under 30 grams per day during your low carb days – which basically means that you can’t eat any carbs at all!
How does it work?
Although the diet isn’t a strict ketogenic diet in the traditional sense, it operates under many of the same principles.
There are actually 3 phases of the diet, which we’ll explore in more detail in one moment: the induction phase, the bulking phase, and the cutting phase.
Also, if you’re wondering why it’s called the Anabolic diet, it is because Dr. Pasquale claimed that this specific type of macronutrient manipulation caused the dieter to experience steroid-like effects, including increased muscle growth and energy.
The veracity of this statement is debatable – but since the diet is very high in fat, which can increase your levels of testosterone, it is plausible that your body is kept in a more anabolic state while on the diet.
Low carb, high protein, high fat (5-6 days per week)
As I mentioned above, on the low carb days (5-6 days a week), you’ll be eating less than 30 grams of carbs. This doesn’t even allow for fruit, and is one of the more restrictive types of low carb diets.
In fact, if you were to eat such low levels of carbs all the time, you would go into ketosis; however, the regular carb re-feeding days prevent this from happening, thus making it a suitable diet for strength training, unlike more traditional ketogenic diets.
On these days, you’ll get the majority of your calories from fat (60-65% of your calories), and a decent component of it from protein (30-35%).
High carb, moderate protein, low fat (1-2 days per week)
On the high carb days, you’ll completely switch it up.
On these days, roughly 60% of your intake should be from carbs, 25% from protein, and only 15% from fat.
Most people choose to do this on the weekends, and to follow the stricter, low-carb schedule during the work week.
The different phases of the Anabolic Diet.
There are 3 different phrases of this diet, which I’ll briefly discuss:
The induction phase:
When you begin the Anabolic Diet, you should always start with the induction phase.
This means that you should eat at your maintenance choleric intake, and not try to either cut or increase your calories while you’re acclimating to the diet.
You should do this phase for the first 4 weeks of the diet.
Yes, I know that you probably want to either start putting on muscle or losing fat right away, but this phase is very important, so don’t skip it!
The bulking phase:
After you’ve completed the induction phase, you can start increasing the calories you take in if you’re looking to bulk up.
To determine how much you should eat, Dr. Pasquale recommends figuring out your ideal body weight and then adding 15% to that number.
So, if would like to weigh 190 pounds, then you should eat as if you were trying to get to 218.5 pounds!
He further recommends that you should be taking in about 20-25 calories per pound based on your goal weight – so in this example you would be eating between 4370 and 5462 calories per day.
You would continue doing this until you either reached the goal weight of 218.5 or got above 10% body fat.
The cutting phase:
Finally, after you’ve bulked up – and hopefully put on a good amount of muscle – you can start the cutting phase to strip away some of the fat you gained during your bulk.
This is done by maintaining a 1000-1500 calorie deficit each day.
To determine how much you should be eating during this phase, take your body weight, multiply it by 18, and then eat 1000-1500 calories less than that number.
Also, you want to be losing roughly 1-1.5 pounds per week. If you’re losing more than that, increase calories; if you’re losing less than that, decrease calories.
You’ll continue this phase until you reach your desired body fat level (at least under 10% body fat).
Note: after the induction phase, you can go right into the cutting phase if losing fat is your primary goal. Most people do a bulking phase first, but this is completely up to personal preference.
Will the Anabolic Diet work for me?
Yes, it could definitely work for you, and has for thousands. However, like any diet, the most important thing is to figure out if it is a manageable, sustainable diet for you, given your specific lifestyle and preferences.
To get a better sense of this, let’s examine some of the pros and cons of the diet.
The benefits of the Anabolic Diet.
Logging not required
While you are supposed to eat a the specific calorie levels mentioned above, most people that do the Anabolic Diet focus more on the macronutrients that they are taking in (their carbs, fats, and proteins), and don’t count calories each day.
In that way, it’s quite simple: there are certain foods that you can eat on certain days, and other foods that you can’t. It’s very black and white.
Increased fat loss
If you follow the diet, it is very likely that you’ll lose fat. This is because during your low carb days, most people find it fairly easy to maintain a calorie deficit eating only proteins and fats. On the weekends, you’ll eat a ton of carbs, replenish your glycogen stores, and feel pretty awesome.
Increased muscle gains
Many people that stick to the diet will see an increase in strength and noticeable muscle gains. This is because you’ll generally be taking in significant quantities of red meat, which is high in both saturated fats and cholesterol. This has the effect of increasing testosterone, and thus making it easier to put on muscle.
Improved energy levels
After you get used to the low carb aspect of the diet, some people find that their energy levels improve, due to lower, more stable insulin levels for most of the week.
The negatives of the Anabolic Diet.
Hard to gauge how much to eat
Since the main protocol of the diet is macronutrient cycling, it can be hard to know if you are eating too much or too little unless you are logging your calories.
There are people who try this diet to lose weight, but then get carried away and eat a ton of cheese, salami, and heavy cream during the weekdays.
The diet will only work if you’re in the right caloric range, so you can definitely be eating too much while you think you’re cutting if you’re not careful.
Possibility of increased cholesterol levels
While many of the people who’ve done this diet have claimed their blood profile actually improved, it is possible that you can increase your cholesterol levels by following a diet like this.
You are taking in a lot of fat – much of it saturated – so this is definitely a risk. Make sure you get your blood work done if you decide to try this diet so that you have an accurate benchmark.
It can be restrictive
There isn’t a lot of wiggle room in this diet. You can’t eat any carbs during the week at all. If you have a job where you need to be eating with clients/coworkers, or have a family who are unlikely to be accommodating to such extreme dietary conditions, then this might not be for you.
I like this diet personally. I have used it myself very successfully to drop substantial amounts of fat and put on muscle.
I should point out, though, that I do log my calories while I’m on this diet.
If I don’t, I find that I have a tendency to overeat by A LOT, and will then have weeks go by where I don’t make any progress.
The weekends are also pretty fun. You can eat loads of high carb foods, and not have it negatively impact your diet. On the contrary, they actually make you feel great and give you a gym-like pump as your glycogen gets replenish after not eating carbs all week.
However, I would say that the Anabolic Diet is definitely not for all people.
If you want a more balanced diet during the week, instead of saving up all your carbs for the weekend, then this probably isn’t going to work for you.