Planned Overtraining – A Leaner Vacation

Its summer time now and were all eagerly booking our getaways. Sand, beaches, sites to see or even visiting loved ones. For all you fitneholics (copyright dibs :p), we know too well that for us, vacations are a bitter-sweet thing. While you can’t wait to get on that plane and leave all the stress behind, you’ve already started stressing on how to manage  getting your workouts in, and keep away the holiday pounds.

While more often than not, you’ve probably gained weight upon return and dreaded you’re time away, FEAR NOT!! For your next vacation will be nothing like your last. In this article ill show you how you can use you’re time off to come back leaner and stronger than you were leaving on a jet plane (sing along, you know you want to).  All while indulging in whatever your taste buds desire. You’ll be so surprised with your gains (and losses), that you’ll be eagerly planning your next vacation!!

Vacations are meant to be for relaxation and de-stressing. You get to sleep in, tan, visit sites, sleep in, see family and sleep in. Not to mention indulging in great food, dinning out and oh, did I mention sleeping in?!

If you’re anything like me, you’ve already started googling hotels with the best gyms and well-equipped facilities around your destination, made a list of essentials, gym clothes, running shoes as well as packing your shaker bottle and zip locking protein powders too.

First things’ First;

Most of you will fail at this. Many of you will try to change this and then blame the program. For the few that will pull it off, I congratulate you on some of the best gains you’ll have this year

You’ll be surprised with the results and guaranteed to enjoy your vacation. It’s a TFG promise (FYI: that’s better than scouts honor and a pinkie promise…..combined!!!)

Having said that, this is no easy task. You need to follow this to the T’ in order to reap the benefits. The following will require dedication and determination (especially for those with some years of lifting experience) but the results are well worth it.

The last thing I want to say is that this method is not for everyone. Apart from having the mental toughness and determination to pull this off, this approach is meant for those with lifting experience; more specifically, more than 1.5 – 2 years of consistent progressive lifting.

First off, ill start with the training side of things.

The Method

Think overtraining!

Yes, overtraining. While overtraining is a controversial topic in the fitness and lifting industry; often feared, misunderstood and used sparingly, STRATEGIC overtraining is exactly what we want in this scenario (more specifically, short-term overtraining).

“Overtraining occurs when there is a long-term imbalance between the training load and recovery processes that, for a given athlete, leads to a decrement in performance that takes more than 2-3 weeks to return to normal”

This is not what i mean

As you can see from the quote above, overtraining takes 2 – 3 weeks to overcome and at times even months to recover. Our aim here is to go beyond the general “overreaching” and flirt with overtraining.

You want to train beyond your ability to recover, ideally beyond making any gains in the 2 weeks prior your take off date. Unfortunately, there is no universal threshold for overtraining i.e. I can’t quantify how many sets and reps you should perform. In order to do so, you’d have to strap yourself to monitors and get daily hormonal blood tests and daily temperature readings; which would be too expensive and still not conclusive.

While we can’t extrapolate an exact bracket to induce overtraining, as it too individualistic and subjective, it’ll come down to you (hence why this is for intermediate/advanced lifters). I expect you have an understanding of your recovery abilities and know what your body can / can’t handle.

Generally speaking, I favor the extra work to come from volume (in this context) rather than intensity. Meaning, you’ll want to increase your sets/reps over speed and shorter rest periods.

Adding in Volume

  • Increase Number of Sets

Without increasing the weight you typically would use for a specified number of repetitions, you’ll add in an extra set or two to you’re usual routine. On your first week, experiment with increasing volume by 20% and see how you feel. The aim is to slightly induce a decrease in strength levels but no too much too fast.

  • Training Frequency

If you’re following a bodybuilding split, ditch it! Bodybuilding splits usually call for a muscle to be worked once per week. Our aim is to increase volume. Switching frequency from once per week to twice will do just that. I’m not going to tell you what split to follow but it should call for training every muscle group twice per week.

  • Forced Reps

It’s usually preferred to rep a couple of reps short of failure. The aim here will be to perform your usual Sets to failure and then some. Once you reach failure, have a spotter force in a few extra reps.

  • Increasing Sets & Frequency

Again depending on the kind of split you’re using, you can incorporate both methods, first week increasing workload and the second increasing frequency.

  • HIIT

Ditch your usual cardio and incorporate High Intensity Interval Training (‘HIIT’). If you don’t know what that is, I suggest you reconsider your experience level (oh, and I recommend you read this).

You’ll be doing 2 sessions of HIIT the 3rd week before you’re trip and add in a third for the last 2 weeks DEPENDING on your ability. If you cant handle the frequency, decrease it to 1 session and 2 sessions respectively.

Training Wrap up

While the outline may be vague, it is because it needs to be. Like I said, recovery is subjective and everyone will be following different routines.

The aim is to have you completely burnt out a few days before you’re trip. Basically, you should be feeling drained getting on that plane and really hating me :). If you feel like you’re getting a cold, then you’re spot on (cold as in flu). The objective is to lose strength levels but NOT muscle mass.

Exception to the rule

This protocol works best for a 1 week to 10 day vacation. However, if you are taking 2 – 3 weeks off, you need to switch your training style. If you usually lift in the upper rep range ( 8 – 12 ), switch to low reps (3 – 5) and vise versa.

Following your week off, start by doing the opposite. i.e. go back to your usual rep range.

The idea is to further prolong the stimulus change and benefit from the shock phase.

Now let’s get down to Nutrition

The 2 weeks up to your planned vacation date you will be very strict with your diet. No slip ups, no cheat meal, nothing!

  • Protein

The majority of your diet will be from protein. Aim for 1.5g / lb of bodyweight.

  • Carbs

Your carb intake on the first week will be below 50g (complex sources only). That doesn’t mean your target is 50g, it means that you should try to keep it as low as possible. Any carbs you consume should be pre or post workout. That means no coffee with your sugar, no bite of bread, no fruits here-and-there as snacks.

On the 2nd week, Carbs do not exist to you. ZERO (added) carbs on the last week leading up to your take off date. Your diet will consist of lean cuts of meat, veggies (non starch) and fat.

  • Fat

On the first week, You can have moderate fats (0.2 to 0.5 g / lb ). Keep your fat sources clean. Its better to stay away from nuts since they are calorie-dense and many over-indulge often underestimating how much they’ve had.

Avocados, eggs, olive oil etc are good, but watch your intake.

On the second week, stay on the lower end of the spectrum with the last two days having a protein intake 2g of protein with minimal fat i.e you will mainly consume lean meats with one serving of fat with one of your meals (tbsp of oil, half an avocado / 2 whole eggs etc)

The Holy Week


By now, you’re on the plane, on your way to your destination. The fun starts now.

As hard as this may be, you are to forget about lifting weights for a week. That’s right, no gym, and no workouts. What I want you to do is enjoy your time-off and splurge on what your heart desires.

The only form of exercise you will be doing is active recovery i.e. just stay active through walking, swimming etc. Instead of commuting, try to walk to places. At the beach, have a long swim or do easy laps in the pool.

Minimize fat consumption and load up on the protein and carbs. Try to keep it somewhat clean for the most part, yet indulge sparingly; cakes, desserts, pizza, pretty much anything goes for one of your meals. And you do that everyday for the WHOLE week, letting the overcompensation kick in. Watch as you grow day by day and get leaner as the days go by.

This happens because we’ve primed up the body to be at a state of growth, yet weren’t providing it with the resources to recover. By indulging in high carb foods, you’re body will use this opportunity and energy to grow. This is known as “over/super-compensation”

Don’t freak out if you bloat as this will be normal due to the water retention brought on by the increase in carb intake; it will subside as it gets closer to the end of the week.

If your time off goes past a week, start training using a full body split ( 3 sessions / week) on the second week. Keep reps high ( 8 – 12 ) and go for the pump. After the first week, start tapering back your carb intake and increase your fat intake. Once again, you’ll be surprised with what you see.

That’s a wrap folks!

Happy (“Lean”) Holidays!!


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