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  • Writer's pictureDavid Esser

How to Catch a Muscle-Building 'Rebound' After Dieting

I ended my summer dieting phase this past Thursday and am currently enjoying a brief Labor Day weekend vacation with some friends at a lake. I'll be home and back in the gym in a few days' time which will mark the start of my "rebound" phase.


During this rebound phase, I am planning to gain upwards of 10 pounds over a 1-2 week period, priming my body to grow during the winter months.


This is a little more of an advanced dieting tactic when it comes to muscle building. However, it is an extremely important one for those who regularly cut down for the summer. A well constructed rebound phase could easily end up being the best time for you to gain lean tissue.


Most people are familiar with the terms "bulking" and "cutting" when it comes to weightlifting and nutrition. "Rebounds" happen somewhere in between.


The rebound phase for any lifter occurs directly after a "cut" ends -- right before the actual "bulk" begins.


With a rebound, the goal is to quickly gain bodyweight, replenishing the muscles with water and glycogen while hopefully adding new tissue in the process.


Now obviously, any time you are intentionally gaining 5, 10, even up to 15 pounds in rather rapid fashion, it can get a little tricky. Gain too much bodyweight after a diet, and you're going to feel like you ruined all your hard work. Gain too little, and you're going to be battling the lasting effects of diet fatigue for several weeks after your cut ended.

 

Using myself as an example, I've both successfully caught a rebound and missed a rebound over the past two years.


In late summer of 2021, I gained 5-10lbs over the course of two weeks after a strict dieting phase and felt fantastic. Strength and performance in the gym shot up, and it primed my body for a very successful 40lb winter bulk.


In late summer of 2022, I completely missed my rebound. I returned from my summer vacation and spent weeks not gaining weight and struggling to perform in the gym. My strength was down. My recovery was down. My mental state wasn't the best, and I really didn't start making progress in the gym until late October.


After catching a rebound and missing a rebound, here's what I've learned:


1. Cheat meals post-diet are okay, just be smart


After any strict dieting phase, cravings are likely going to be high. From my experience, it's completely healthy and okay to dedicate a few meals post-diet to cheats. Just be smart -- hit a few cheat meals on vacation and then get back on plan.


2. Don't be afraid to be aggressive with your calories


As mentioned earlier, it's not uncommon for lifters to get extremely stingy with their food after a diet. They don't want to "ruin" all the fat loss progress they just made. From my experience, this is the wrong approach. Instead of slowly adding in 50-100 calories per week after a diet, it's usually better to jump right back up to maintenance calories or even a surplus so you can start gaining muscle quicker.


3. Train hard, but don't get caught chasing strength goals (yet)


With any bulk or offseason lifting plan, the goal is to get stronger. However, it's important to note that you're unlikely to make any real strength gains during this rebound phase. Remember -- you just finished a hard diet and your body is still recovering. Focus more on how you look and your bodyweight and save the strength chasing for later in the bulk.

 

With all things in fitness, there's never a "one size fits all" approach to things. However, in my experience, aggressively attacking a rebound phase with the goal to build muscle is a crucial experience for all lifters.


If you are trying to add muscle to your frame, crushing this rebound phase could easily elicit the most progress you make all year long.

 

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