There’s no real “goal” that you are striving for in a maintenance phase. When you are in a cut, you have these goals of getting lean and ripped to have 239123 abs. That can be motivating and keep you on track, whatever that might look like for you. If you have goals of gaining lean mass, then it creates more of an incentive to eat your meals and your daily calories to get you closer to said goal.
According to research from the National Weight Control registry, approximately 20% of its members successfully maintained a 10% weight loss for at least one year. This means that for ~80% of people, the weight comes creeping back. This shows that obviously people don’t have a hard time losing weight. It’s not hard to crash diet for 6-12 weeks and lose a lot of weight. The hard part is keeping it off. A maintenance phase in my opinion will test your will-power and discipline more than a fat loss or building phase.
How do you know if you’re ready for a maintenance phase? from @strongerU mentioned in an article, “if you are at a place where dieting further just to get a little bit leaner, lighter on the scale, or whatever that is for you isn’t worth the tradeoff of feeling serious hunger, skipping out on social events, or seeing further drops in performance, then maintenance and eating more food is probably a thing you should start thinking about.”
What can you expect during a maintenance phase?
Increased calories - typically in the form of a reverse diet
More eyeballing food - rather than strictly weighing every gram of food
Weight fluctuations - more carbohydrates = more water in the body and glycogen replenishment. Make sure you are taking body measurements and not going strictly off the scale.
A maintenance phase is going to require you to find other goals or other things to focus on. Stop focusing on your body so much, what it looks like, or how much you weigh. Shift the focus to other biofeedback markers like performance, mood, energy, sleep, etc. The reason you should be disciplined during a maintenance phase is the same reason you were so disciplined during a cut or during a gaining period. You should want to work hard to maintain what you have earned through the hard work of a cut/gain. There’s definitely a little more flexibility and wiggle room, but still be accountable to yourself.