JH Building Phase Laws

With online clients, we work in different nutrition phases. 

We work in phases because your body adapts to what you are doing AND sometimes there just are certain phases of your life that call for different nutrition phases. 

The most important reason we do this is to get you away from ALWAYS trying to diet for fat loss. 

Read HERE about metabolic adaptation. 

One of the most overlooked phases in a successful client transformation and one way to combat metabolic adaptation is a building phase. 

A building phase is where you can make the greatest change with your body, especially if you have only ever done fat loss.

It can be tough mentally to deal with not being in a fat loss phase, but its imperative to a successful transformation, in most cases. 

Read HERE to see if you could benefit from a building phase. 

In this post, I go over the most important laws during a building phase to set you up for success during a building phase. 

Law 1: You must be out of a calorie deficit. 

The main goals of a building phase are to get you away from restricting calories and to build muscle.

Whatever you do, you need to make sure you are not in a calorie deficit. 

As I mentioned earlier, there are some adaptations your body has to a calorie deficit, that over time can become problematic. 

These adaptations aren’t going to put your body in the best position to build muscle. 

If your weight is trending down over time, then you are in a calorie deficit and you need to increase how much food you are eating or lower your activity levels.

At the very least we want to see your body weight maintain. Contrary to popular belief, you can be at maintenance level calories and still build muscle. Read HERE about body composition.

For best muscle-building results you can be in a surplus (but not too large of one). Research shows that gaining about .25 to .5% of bodyweight per week can maximize muscle growth while minimizing fat gain. 

A lot of people can still build muscle without having to go into a surplus. Read this social media post HERE on those times. 

The longer you have been training/the more muscle you already have, the more likely you need to be in a surplus to build muscle. 

You dont have to track your calories (but it is recommended if you have only tracked calories during fat loss phases), but at the very least you need to make sure you are not seeing your weight go down and are out of a calorie deficit. 

Law 2: You must commit to a building phase for ATLEAST 12-16 weeks. 

One of the biggest mistakes people make is going in and out of a building phase. 

They eat enough for a few weeks, feel a little fluffy and then go back into a calorie deficit “to clean things up a bit”. 

You end up just spinning your wheels and not making any real progress. 

Muscle takes time to build and if you go in and out of a deficit you can all but ensure you wont build any substantial amount of muscle. 

Plus you will be making future fat loss phases tougher by doing this. 

You must commit time to a building phase. 

12-16 weeks is a minimum. 

Most building phases should be much longer than this. Think more like 6 months. 

Stop doing your building phases with one foot in and one foot out. 

Law 3: You should go no longer than 4-6 hours without a lean source of protein

Meal timing gets overplayed, but it also gets downplayed. 

In a fat loss phase, we are a little more lenient with how long you go without eating (so long as hunger is ok). 

But in a building phase it’s important you avoid going long periods of time without getting protein in. 

This doesnt mean you need to wake up in the middle of the night to get protein in, but when you are awake you want to make sure you aren’t going too long without getting protein in. 

To make this easier, pick a number of meals you know you can stick to each day. 

For building, 4-6 per day seems best. 

Anything less than 4 for a building phase is going to be challenging in terms of hitting your protein goals. 

Law 4: You must eat within 2-3 hours of your workouts.


One of the main goals during a building phase is to build muscle. 

This means training performance is extremely important. 

Because of this, you need to make sure you are fueled for your training sessions and then recovered from your training sessions. 

A recent study showed that going into your training sessions hungry can hurt strength and muscle growth in your workouts (Naharudin et al., 2022). 

You dont have to get protein in 30 minutes after your workout, but you need to make sure that you dont go too long without eating around your workouts. 

The closer you eat to your workout before, the longer you can go after. If you ate 2-3 hours before your workout then it becomes more important to eat soon after. 

For online clients we have them focus on meals that are moderate to high protein, moderate to high carbohydrates, and low in fat and fiber. 

Law 5: You must track your training sessions. 

Since building muscle is one of the main goals of the building phase, you must track your workouts. 

One of the fundamental principles of building muscle is progressive overload. 

If you arent doing more weight, doing more reps, or improving your technique over time then you won’t build muscle. 

How do you know how to progress if you aren’t tracking your workouts?

Too many people dont track their workouts and they end up spinning their wheels because they dont know what they did in previous workouts so they never actually progressively overload. 

For online clients we have them track their: 

Sets, reps, and weight. We will also have them take videos of their form from time to time to make sure technique is solid. 

Law 6: You still must track things.


A lot of times clients think that since they aren’t in a fat loss phase they dont need to monitor things like body weight, measurements, progress pics etc. 

Or they dont track anything with their nutrition. You dont have to track calories but you still should track something. 

What ends up happening if you dont track anything is you increase the risk of eating too much (fat gain) or eat too little (no muscle gain) in your building phases. 

The biggest reason people shy away from building phases is they are scared to gain weight, so why would you not track to make sure you dont do that?

For me, making sure I tracked during my most previous building phase was a gamechanger in regards to putting on muscle and limiting fat gain. 

Activity isn’t as important, but you should have a baseline number of steps for overall health.  

For example, in my building phases, I just make sure each day I hit a minimum of 6k steps. 

With online clients we make sure they are still tracking important metrics during a building phase:

  • Weight
  • Progress pics
  • Hunger
  • Energy levels
  • Digestion
  • Sleep
  • Stress
  • Training performance

Law 7: You can be more flexible with your nutrition choices 

Since you aren’t in a calorie deficit you will have more calories to work with. 

Because of this, you can be a bit more flexible with your food choices if you want. 

Now this doesnt mean you can eat what you want, when you want, and how much you want.

But you can be more flexible. This is another benefit of taking a break from fat loss dieting. 

This can be a good time to get away from all or nothing thinking with food, and you get to enjoy more food and how you can use it to fuel your body, rather than always focusing on being restrictive around food. 

This phase is often overlooked but this is where you can make the biggest change with your body. 

At the very least you need to do a building phase to get away from fat loss dieting for a period of time. 


Hopefully, this helps you in your building phase. 

If you have any questions regarding a building phase or how to set it up for you, send me a message, id love to chat and help. 

You can also sign up for our 1:1 coaching program where I will coach you to ensure you get the most out of your building phase(s). 

Fill out the link HERE and lets get to work. 


Naharudin, M. N., Yusof, A., Clayton, D. J., & James, L. J. (2022). Starving Your Performance? Reduced Preexercise Hunger Increases Resistance Exercise Performance. International journal of sports physiology and performance17(3), 458–464. https://doi.org/10.1123/ijspp.2021-0166

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