Structuring a Diet for Fat Loss


By Ben Pakulski

Question:  “How do you structure a diet for fat loss?

Diet structuring for fat loss is a very popular and often misunderstood topic.  There are many different approaches and methods, such as maintaining a constant deficit by simply adjusting as plateaus are reached, or a calorie/carb cycling routine.

I think the first step is to optimize your hormone profile by detoxing.  Obviously the more estrogens you can get out, the more toxins you can get out, the less estrogen you’re going to have, and probably the less fat.  Then the second step is to increase your output, before you think about decreasing calories.  And the third step is then to decrease your calories a little bit.  Once you reach a certain point where it’s unlikely to be productive to go too much lower than ‘X’ amount of calories, you can begin a carb and calorie-cycling protocol.

I’ll break down the example as I often use it at say 16 weeks out from a contest:

After I’ve detoxed, I’ll start my fat loss diet in a slight deficit.  If I start dieting at say, 4,500 calories, I’ll stay there for the first eight weeks, and by the time that 8 weeks have passed, I should find I have my output to where it’s the maximum output I can sustain over the final eight weeks of my contest prep.  So for me that’s probably eight to 10 workouts a week.

I periodize that within there, don’t get me wrong.  I don’t do that straight.  But let’s say I get to my maximum sustainable output, I’ll decrease the calories by 300, and then I may add-in a little more high-intensity cardio.  Then two weeks later I’ll decrease the calories by 300.  When I get to about 3,600 or 3,500 calories, or maybe even as low as 3,200 calories, which I think is right around my basal metabolic rate, I’ll start cycling my carbs.  3,200 seems to me to be what my body needs to maintain its current muscle mass so I don’t want to go lower than that.  So, I might start by going two days low carbohydrate, one day high for the first week or so.  When progress slows, it might be three days low, one day high.  A little later then perhaps three days low, one day medium, and then one day high.  There are many different ways to structure it as long as it’s progressive towards losing bodyfat.

Again, everything needs to be scheduled.  Everything needs to be planned, or at least strategic, and this is the way I would approach it.  Caloric deficit first, then a cyclical carbohydrate intake until you achieve where you want to go.

During this protocol you’re maintaining the same calories every single day.  You’re just replacing the carbohydrates with fats and proteins to make up the calories.

I would never suggest going more than four days, maybe five, on a low carbohydrate diet before you get that high carbohydrate day again.  And I usually try to correlate my high carbohydrate day with either weak body part training or large body part training.

So for me, a weak body part may be my arms and my back, in which case I’ll take a high carb day on those days and increase the training volume a little bit.  Or I’ll do it on a day I train a large muscle like legs where I know I’m going to burn a hell of a lot of calories anyway.


Digital Muscle is proud to present the advanced training and nutritional strategies of Ben Pakulski.  Ben is the author and creator of some of the world’s most respected training protocols, including the best-selling MI40 Program.  Available at

With a degree in Kinesiology, Ben is regarded as one of the most advanced tacticians of building muscle and sculpting an elite physique.  A former runner-up at the Arnold Classic, Ben is also the architect of the best-selling muscle building program MI40. Digital Muscle is proud to host this blog where you’ll find many of Ben’s critically acclaimed strategies.  Ben was recently named co-host of the PBW Bodybuilding radio show.