What are maintenance calories, what do we call a maintenance phase and who is it for?
Your maintenance calorie intake is the amount (rather a range) that allows you to maintain your body weight without changing anything (so at your current activity level). You are not neither in a deficit nor in a surplus. Note, that I wrote -body weight-, not -body composition-!
Although maintaining your current weight might not sound as sexy as weight loss, maintenance does not mean lack of results or stagnation. In fact, in my opinion eating at maintenance calories is the most fun way to work towards your body composition related goals.
Because at maintenance you won’t need to feel hungry or experience other discomfort of a dieting (caloric deficit) phase.
How do you still make changes happen?
Eating at maintenance allows your training to thrive on the fuel you are getting in. When you eat enough, you are able to train hard, gain strength, speed, endurance, and muscle mass! In a maintenance phase you can still progress, without focusing too much on fat loss. This is body recompositioning!
You don’t want to get TOO big, I know.
Believe me, when I say, you cannot.
In reality we are all after decent muscle mass.That is what makes us look toned!
If we just lose some body fat, we simply become a smaller version of ourselves. More often than not, what we really look for is a toned, healthy physique and a good amount of muscle mass is part of that.
How long do you need to spend in a maintenance phase?
There is no deadline on this. This is a totally healthy and functional energy intake. In fact, the longer you are out of a caloric deficit, the more effective your next diet (caloric deficit phase) will be.
The longer you are out of a caloric deficit the better your metabolic and hormonal health will be and therefore the more effective your next caloric deficit will likely be.
It might be time to give maintenance a go, if:
You are in between a cutting and bulking phase.
You have been dieting and training but your progress slowed down or stopped completely
You have been dieting (cutting calories) for 12 weeks in a row
You are happy with your weight but still looking to make a shift in your body composition without feeling hungry or worrying too much about nutrition right now
You are performance focused first
You need cut or bulk break due to mental, physical or emotional reasons
Staying at maintenance calories does not mean you cannot improve your physique, but it can take away the added stress of dieting and allow your metabolism to restore and get back up to speed again, allowing your body to recover better and show off your training results better.
What is your maintenance calorie intake?
Just like your caloric deficit does not need to be one exact number, rather a range, it is true for your maintenance as well. Your energy needs will depend on a number of different factors. Your maintenance range is relative to your current physique, activity levels, metabolic health and more.
Got any questions regarding maintenance or dieting? I would love to hear from you!