Rock The Holidays Part Two! The Glycogen Depletion Diet

What is a Glycogen Depleting Diet and how can you follow it? – Part 2

So you’ve decided that you want to enjoy this upcoming holiday meal to the fullest. All bets are off. You’re going to eat the fantastic holiday meal prepared and you’re going to savor every bite. Perfect. You saw my recent article on how we can train to put ourselves in a physiological situation that helps reduce the negative impacts of acute overfeeding and you’ve decided you’d like to do something about it. Training, however, is just one piece of the puzzle and in order to fully deplete ourselves of glycogen in apprehension towards the anabolic rebound heading our way we need to diet appropriately.

The Protein Sparing Modified Fast.

The quickest way to deplete glycogen from the muscle and liver is to drastically reduce dietary carbohydrate intake. Being in a caloric deficit is also crucial and will provide benefits when prepping for a day of what will surely be a caloric surplus. The diet I am about to describe is overly extreme and I am mentioning it now for reference because we will be taking some principles away from it. Traditionally this rigorous diet is designed to lower calories as much as possible for rapid weight loss and is used for extreme situations. The Protein Sparing Modified Fast (PSMF) diet prescribed for rapid weight loss under the supervision of a physician would look at your daily protein needs based on lean body mass and activity which would typically fall around 1.0-1.5g/lb of lean body mass. The more active and lean you are, the more daily protein required per pound of lean body mass. After finding how much protein you need to have the rest of the traditional diet is easy to set up. Unlimited amounts of coniferous vegetables, 6 fish oil capsules (to ensure you’re getting some essential fatty acids) and a Gatorade while working out.  One would need to supplement with 3 grams of sodium, 1g of potassium, and 500mg of magnesium. You would also want to supplement 1g of calcium. The traditional PSMF is an extreme diet and should be used acutely and no longer than 6 weeks. I am only mentioning it now for reference as what I am proposing is a higher calorie diet based off the traditional PSMF.

The Glycogen Depleting Diet.

This could also be the low carb, low calorie diet or countless other names. We’re not reinventing the wheel here we are just making dietary changes based off context and appealing outcomes. The purpose of this diet is to help us deplete glycogen and burn a little bit of fat in order to compensate for the caloric surplus approaching in 3 days. We’re going to be reducing our calories quite dramatically and dropping dietary carbohydrate intake low similar to the PSMF. We need to find out what your daily calorie intake is to maintain body weight, this would be your maintenance intake, theoretically the amount of calories you would need to consume per day minus the calories used for energy throughout the day that would leave use with a caloric balance of 0! If you don’t know your caloric maintenance level, that’s okay but we’ll just have to make a guess. There are some online calculators that you can use online to guess your maintenance level or you can use the general rule of thumb, 14-16 multiplied times your bodyweight. You can use a lower number range such as 11-13 if you believe your metabolism is incredibly slow or if you live a primarily sedentary lifestyle. Since we’re reducing calories later regardless, we will stay in the 14-16 range.

So, if you’re 210lbs and you think your metabolism is slow, we should go with the lower number (14) and put your maintenance level at 2940kcal/daily.

Now you use 50% of your maintenance unless it puts you lower than 1,200 calories. Don’t eat less than 1,200 calories while partaking in glycogen depleting training. This would mean someone with a body weight of 210lbs would be working with 1,470 calories the two days before your holiday feast. Since we want to spare as much protein as possible and hold onto all the muscle we can during this 48 hour period of dieting, we want our protein intake high at around 2.2g/kg or 1g/lb of bodyweight. This would put someone that weights 210lbs at 210g of protein. Your carbohydrate intake should be 20% at the highest or below, so for this example it would be at 70g of carb.

Math Alert: 4 calories per gram of protein or carbohydrate. 9 calories per gram of fat. A 210lb person with a “slow” metabolism would estimate at {14 * 210 = 2940kcal/daily} if we reduce calories by 50% we end up with a caloric intake of {2940 *.50= 1470kcal/daily}. If our daily caloric intake from carbohydrates is set at 20% then we should be eating {1470 * .20 = 294kcals from carbs. 294 / 4 = 73.5g of carbohydrates daily.

If you push the carb intake below 50g you theoretically could dip into a state where your body is turning protein into glucose which we don’t want. In summary you want at minimum 50g of carbs and no more than 20% of your daily caloric intake coming from carbohydrates. You have your protein and your carbohydrate intake set from calories so now you simply fill in the rest with dietary fats. In the example above we would end up with a daily fat intake of 37.3g of fat. You can round that to 40g for convenience sake as it won’t affect the efficacy of this diet. It is important to ensure you’re getting a good amount of essential fats when you bring fat intake this low. You should get at least 6g of a high-quality fish oil pill or MCT/coconut oil.

Here’s a complete breakdown for someone that weighs 210lb:

Total Daily Calories: 50% of Maintenance


~ 1470 calories

Protein (g)


840 calories

Carbs (g)


292 calories

Fats (g)


342 calories

General recommendations to follow the Holiday Feast.

After the two days of dieting and training, and the holiday feast. I would recommend training heavy after you eat. A full body workout full of compound exercises to make the most of your caloric surplus and state of anabolism. Here is a sample post feast workout:


4 x 6 @ ~85% of max


3 x 6 @ ~82.5% of max

Bench Press

4 x 6 @ ~85% of max


3 x 6-10

Now you’ve got the diet to go together with the training! If you have any questions or would like me to take the guesswork out of writing your own workouts don’t hesitate to contact me at

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