The Anabolic Diet: Gain Muscle and Lose Fat

The Anabolic Diet: Gain Muscle and Lose Fat

Trying to gain muscle while losing fat can be difficult to balance.

To lose weight you need to burn more calories than you take in, which usually means creating a calorie deficit. But when you reduce calories to lose weight, you’ll lose muscle along with the fat. This is called muscle catabolism.

To gain muscle you need more calories - specifically, calories from protein - to repair muscle damage after your workout. As your muscles are repaired, the muscle fibres become stronger and thicker - which is how they grow bigger. This is an anabolic state.

Creating a balance between the positive and negative states of your metabolism is essential to losing fat while gaining muscle. An anabolic diet can help you achieve this by manipulating your metabolism to use fat as energy - even when you’re not at the gym.

What is an Anabolic Diet?

The use of anabolic steroids became popular in the 1950’s and throughout the 90’s, by bodybuilders and athletes who wanted to bulk up in muscle and increase strength in a short time. The steroids altered their metabolism, creating an anabolic state - leading to huge muscle gains and faster recovery from muscle damage. However the vast array of side effects were apparent - aggressive mood swings, high risk of liver disease, heart attack and stroke, just to name a few.

Enter Dr. Mauro Di Pasquale, a world champion powerlifter and biochemist, he studied the body’s reaction to steroids for a dietary alternative to the drug. And by 1995 the anabolic diet was born.

The Anabolic Diet has a higher daily calorie ratio from proteins and fats for 5 days, while the other 2 days are higher in carbs. This is called Carb Cycling.

Controlling your ratio of macronutrients can manipulate your body’s metabolism to naturally create an anabolic state - the same way as anabolic steroids do, but much healthier.

Benefits of The Anabolic Diet

  • Gain lean muscle mass and faster
  • Lose fat
  • Increase your energy
  • Reduce hunger
  • Improve your overall health

Before You Start   

This is an advanced diet that takes several weeks to take effect, so dedication and patience is essential. The purpose of the the anabolic diet is to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time, by increasing your protein and healthy fat intake and reducing your carbohydrate intake. The fats are burned as the primary source of energy and the extra protein will repair and rebuild muscle.

You can think of an anabolic state as your body “building up” and a catabolic state as your body “breaking down”. Your diet is the biggest factor changing your metabolism. It’s not just about eating healthy - it’s about eating the right healthy foods at the right times.

Before you start any diet you need to understand the basis of calories. Let’s take a look at the three types of calories, and their functions:



Carbs are the first source of energy your body uses. Carbs are broken down into blood sugar and depending on the complexity, the carb can be metabolized very quickly (simple carbs) or very slowly (complex carbs).

Eating a lot of carbs without using the energy means your body will store the excess sugar within fat cells, leading to weight gain.


Fat is vital to protecting organs, regulating body temperature and helping absorption of nutrients, and is your body’s secondary source of energy.

Once you have used your energy from carbs, your body turns to fat for fuel - this is the only way to lose excess fat, unless you train your body to do so.


Protein is your third source of energy - and your body only uses it as a last resort. Protein metabolizes into amino acids, whose function is to repair damage to your muscles, skin, bones, hair, nails and cells and rebuild the tissues stronger.  

During exercise, your muscle fibers are damaged with tiny tears. When you saturate your muscles with protein, you’re repairing and rebuilding stronger muscles, very quickly.

When you don’t consume enough protein, your body will begin to metabolise the amino acids stored within your muscles in an effort to maintain an anabolic state, creating a catabolic state instead.

How To Do An Anabolic Diet Right

Step 1 | Determine Caloric Needs

Use an online calculator to determine your daily calorie needs to maintain, gain or reduce weight. You’re going to use this number to determine the ratio of calories from macronutrients for your carb cycling.

Fats are more dense and account for more calories per gram than protein and carbs. This needs to be taken into account when determining how many grams of protein, fats and carbs you should be eating within the cycle.

  • 1 gram of Carbs = 4 Calories
  • 1 gram of Protein = 4 Calories
  • 1 gram of Fat = 9 Calories

Step 2 | No Carbs for 12 Days

Graphic showing calorie breakdown for a no carb day cycle

On your first 12 days, cut all forms of carbs completely. Without sugar from carbs to use for energy, your body is forced to use fat. Over the 12 days, your body will adjust to using fat as it’s primary source of energy.

Step 3 | High Carbs - 2 Days

Graphic showing calorie breakdown for a high carb day cycle

On day 13, start your first 2 day carb cycle. You haven’t eaten any carbs in nearly two weeks so you will likely feel lethargic  - but your body will adjust to this cycle after about 4 weeks.

The High Carb ratio should be 15% proteins, 25% fats and 60% carbs. Here’s an example of a 2,000 calorie diet on a high carb day:

Step 4 | No Carbs - 5 Days

During a no carb day, you can only have up to 25 grams of complex carbs. Luckily many fibrous and starchy vegetables are so low carb, so you can still fill half your plate and stay within the 25 grams a day.

If you consume too many carbs along with high protein and fat you will end up burning sugar and storing more fat - the opposite effect of what you’re aiming for - so stay within the 25 gram limit!

Step 5 | Cycle Steps 3 and 4

Continue to cycle your high carb and no carb days. The diet takes at least 4 weeks to become fully effective. You need to give your body time to adjust, because you’re essentially changing it’s behaviour.

Without dedication and consistency, your going to put your body through the ringer, will few results to show for it.

High Protein, Fat and Carb Sources

High Protein
High Healthy Fats
High Complex Carbs
Rye, Pumpernickel and other whole grain breads
Cottage Cheese
Olive and Canola Oil
Sweet Potato and other starchy vegetables
Greek Yogurt
Nuts and Seeds
Whole Grain Oatmeal
Skinless Chicken Breast
Salmon and other fatty fish
Dried Fruits
Whey or Casein Protein Powder
Dark Chocolate
Whole Grain Rice


Bring it all Together

If you want to gain muscle mass and quickly, the anabolic diet is a healthy way to get results. But it takes time and dedication to do it properly.

The anabolic diet works best in conjunction with strength training. You need to work your full body muscles to see the huge muscle gains the diet is capable of boosting. Check out our article on Strength Training for the ins and outs and a downloadable Mass Training Guide.
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