Why You Probably Shouldn’t Be Dieting (and what to do instead)

Published about 1 month ago • 4 min read

Welcome to 3DMJ Thursdays 💪

Every other week we send out practical tips and strategies for bodybuilders, powerlifters, and serious lifters of all types.

Today we’re going to discuss why the short-term, ego-driven urge to start dieting is sneakily working against you, and what nutrition strategies you should focus on instead.

The truth is that when most people catch the lifting bug, it’s because they saw someone online or in person with a body they want to achieve.

They rightfully assume FAT LOSS + MUSCLE GAIN will get them there.

But they often wrongfully assume the fat loss side of things matters more.

And the worst part about prioritizing fat loss is that it actually prevents you from creating a physique that naturally carries less fat with less effort — it directly shoots your goals in the foot.

Uninterrupted muscle gain must be your strongest priority almost all of the time because:

  • Muscle mass requires calories to exist and stay on your body, so you’ll be using your food more effectively at all times
  • Muscle mass builds the physical shape that you’re most likely looking for — it typically redistributes unwanted areas of roundness by creating more desired areas of roundness
  • Muscle mass allows you to lift more weight
  • Lifting more weight increases muscle mass

All of those factors create an ongoing positive compounding effect that builds the actual body of a bodybuilder.

If you immediately enter this sport by focusing on fat loss instead, you will delay the foundation your entire lifting career should be built on.


Of course there is a time and place for fat loss phases. It’s our job to help people get absolutely shredded for the competition stage, after all.

But our typical recommendation is that you should never spend more than 25% of any stretch of time in a deficit.

Put another way, at least 75% of your time as a bodybuilder should be spent well-fed, and likely in a slight caloric surplus.

Additionally and *very importantly*, you shouldn’t even embark on a fat loss phase at all until you’ve established a lifestyle to support it.

That’s what the rest of this newsletter is about.


We probably don’t need to tell you that it first involves the consistent execution of a well-structured training program.

That’s a given. We won’t spend any more time on that.

But every other part of the lifestyle skill-building is often overlooked.

It includes things like:

  • Consistent and plentiful sleep, rest, and recovery
  • A basic understanding about foods, their macronutrient contents, their portion sizes, and how to measure them
  • Learning about your own body’s maintenance nutritional intake
  • Consistently consuming enough calories and protein to support muscular growth
  • Establishing consistent approximate meal sizes and consumption times that align with your preferences, schedules and goals

If you don’t have those knowledge bases and skill sets in place, there is no helpful or productive reason to begin a diet or fat loss phase at all.


There are two main reasons we would strongly advise against dieting while learning your lifestyle nutrition habits:

REASON #1 - This learning curve is much more difficult and nuanced than you’d expect. It’s mentally taxing for anyone to pay at least some attention to every single thing you eat for at least a few weeks or months while you learn about foods and food behaviors. It’s that much more difficult to do while also being hungry and having low energy.

REASON #2 - It’s likely that your learning efforts will change your physique by default without any extra effort anyway. Almost every single athlete who has allowed us to start with a lifestyle-first approach to their nutrition ends up losing at least some fat as a byproduct of their new habits. When you’re more mindful of your food’s nutrition content and you have enough fuel to perform well in training, you typically add muscle mass, lose fat, or both. This often changes your body’s shape in a positive manner without any extra effort or restriction.

So it’s not that we’re against dieting.

We’re just against doing it at the wrong times and with the wrong tools in place.

It’s not only unproductive, it’s actively harming the future physique you’re trying to create.


Now that you know our dieting prerequisites, let’s get you learning them.

Here are some of our best resources to continue building your future fat loss skill stack.

VIDEO: "Should I Cut Or Bulk?" A Decision-Making Guide For New & Intermediate Lifters

This video will guide you through our fat loss criteria in much greater detail while also providing a rich explanation of the biological effects these lifestyle changes can have on your physique goals.

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PODCAST: Is Your Body Fat Set Point Holding You Back?

In your haste to lose fat, it might be worth understanding how the amount of body fat you tend to carry can be changed by the amount of muscle you have and what activity-based habits you have in place (outside of just lifting).

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VIDEO: Nutrition Tracking Research Overview: How It's Helpful & How It's Harmful

If you prefer diving into scientific literature, this is a great resource for learning what the data says about strict dieting vs flexible dieting and how knowing the difference can save you from unwanted negative consequences.

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PODCAST: What matters more than macros?

This show is a phenomenal introduction to the practice of behavior- and habit-based tracking vs. macronutrient or calorie tracking. Both types of tracking are useful at different times, and this episode can help you decide which is best for your personal context.

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COURSE: Nutrition Fundamentals For Lifters

As the title suggests, this is our foundational video course on dietary behaviors. It’s over 2 hours delivering every detail about energy balance, maintenance calories, body measurements, food tracking, and everything in between.

And last but not least, if you’d prefer individual guidance and support from one of our coaches, CLICK HERE TO WORK WITH US.

Thanks for joining us on this 3DMJ Thursday!

We look forward to sending you the next one in just a couple of weeks.

With gains and gratitude,

- Team 3DMJ


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