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  • Eating more vs. increasing recovery

    I think I've maxed out my nervous system. I've been following LeanGains using the StrongLifts routine. Using a calculator, I've kept my calorie cycling at values that equate to about half a pound of weight loss per week. I have gone from 175lbs to just under 165, which puts my calorie cycle currently at -25/+10%. Today, I just barely got my 5x5 squats at 210lbs. I failed to get even one complete set on the overheaaboutd press, and I didn't even attempt deadlifts because my back has been extremely sore for about a week and today's squats finally pushed me so that I was too scared to continue the workout. For all I know, my back was also the reason I failed my press.

    I know the science that allows StrongLifts to work so well in the beginning: it increases strength through the nervous system of a novice that significant gains are made without much growth in muscle. Eventually new muscle will be needed to make room for more nerves. I think I've reached that point, but I'm trying to determine if I need to start eating more, or if its time to decrease volume on the weights. I would prefer to maintain my weight loss of about half a pound per week, but if my body is telling me its ready to make new muscle, then couldn't I eat more and still expect to lose weight at the same rate? I would think the extra calories would be soaked up in the muscle building process.

    Thoughts?

  • #2
    In Starting Strength - which is basically very similar to StrongLifts - Rip tells you to eat, eat, eat. If you you hit a plateau, eat through it. I think you're going to find it very hard to build muscle with a significant calorie deficit because as you say the body needs extra calories in order to do this. I would say either keep the weight you lift the same for a few weeks/months until you get to your target BF before increasing calories, or increase calories and weight now and accept that the fat loss will slow down or stall.

    FWIW I think the biggest mistake you can make if you are very active is to eat too little. You will just end up getting run down and tired all the time. This is from personal experience.

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    • #3
      Eat more or rest more or deload a little bit. Worked for me, all those things at once, well, maybe more the last two than the first one as I tend to eat pretty constant no matter what I try to do about it.
      Female, 5'3", 50, Max squat: 202.5lbs. Max deadlift: 225 x 3.

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      • #4
        You're only giving us one lifting # to look at, but you seem strong. Not going to set any world records this week or be the strongest person in the gym but you're doing okay. Why do you want to keep increasing load while losing weight? Why not maintain your strength and make small adjustments to your food if you need to? The worry you have about maybe gaining some weight by eating more is valid.. it's a balancing act that can be hard to figure out.

        Once you reach your goal body size, if you want to play around and gain some big muscle go for it. At that point, if you gain 3-4lbs of flab it's no big deal, you can re-adjust and keep yourself within a few pounds of where you want to be. Wouldn't you rather that happen between goal body and goal body+5lbs, instead of where you're at currently?

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        • #5
          take a de-load week, do 70% of your 5x5 numbers, lots of stretching, sleep a lot, play a little.

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          • #6
            The gist I'm getting is that eating more will slow or stall weight loss regardless of needing extra calories for muscle growth. The suggestion that I keep my strength at where it is, instead of progressing, while waiting for my body to reach my desired BF% is something I hadn't considered. I guess I assumed that lifting the same weight will get easier and easier, meaning it will eventually become too easy to be considered a workout, and therefore burn less calories. This would make the carb refeeds from LeanGains potentially harmful and I imagine it would lower my level of conditioning. Being in the military, I have fitness standards to meet and I've been relying on weight lifting alone to keep myself qualified. If I stop increasing the weight, won't the other aspects separate from my strength be in decline?

            As for giving only one number, I gave the squats because that was the exercise that I'm starting to near my max on my current 5x5 routine. If you want the other numbers, here they are:

            Bench: 140 (still adding 5lbs every workout via StrongLifts; I know I can lift more if I wanted to)
            Pendley Row: 120 (same situation as bench)
            Press: 100 (this is the weight I failed to get even one set, I just don't know if I should blame my injured back)
            Deadlift: 210 (this is the weight I should have done if I hadn't cut my workout short; I'm still progressing though, just like the bench and rows)

            If I stick to maintaining my current level of fitness, should I continue to lift at the same volume as well, or is there room to at least increase my reps on a calorie deficit? Should I decrease my carb intake on refeed days? Or better yet, should I decrease my calorie surplus on those days?

            And most importantly, when my workouts eventually become much easier due to adapting to the same weight, will my activity level be considered "Light" in the context of calorie calculators? So far, I've been using "Moderate" and its been working well.

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            • #7
              Eat more.
              "Go For Broke"
              Fat Kine-230/24% @ 6'2"
              Small Kine-168/9%
              Now- 200/8%
              Goal- 210/6%

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              • #8
                Missing reps isn't a big deal in StrongLifts. Next workout, try it again. If you miss, try a third time. If you miss the third time, deload. This is a normal part of the process. Trust it.

                Your situation is similar to mine- I'm pretty okay on bench, good on squats, terrible with overhead press. Sometimes I have to deload on the OHP, sometimes I make it the third try. Trust the program.

                It's not a big deal if you increase recovery time, or decrease the number of workouts each week, you'll just make slower gains. Stronglifts has been great for me at 2x per week.

                Mostly I think that if you are still motivated to go to the gym then you aren't overtraining, and you should keep going. You should be able to take stronglifts as written to at least a 1.5x bodyweight squat, and probably close to 2xBW. If you're at 210 on squats, then you haven't even finished one cycle of the program. Keep going, and tweak a little bit if you need to.

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                • #9
                  I guess I assumed that lifting the same weight will get easier and easier, meaning it will eventually become too easy to be considered a workout, and therefore burn less calories. This would make the carb refeeds from LeanGains potentially harmful and I imagine it would lower my level of conditioning.
                  Really struggling with your logic here. Doing the same workout will make you less fit? I don't think so. Yes, your workouts probably will get easier because your conditioning is IMPROVING. And yet you think your conditioning will decrease?

                  Re: the carb re-feeds. If you feel you need less carbs, eat less carbs. Or vice-versa. The amount of carbs a person wants/needs seems to be extremely individual and I would advise experimentation rather than just going on what you see written on here or on Leangains.

                  Being in the military, I have fitness standards to meet and I've been relying on weight lifting alone to keep myself qualified. If I stop increasing the weight, won't the other aspects separate from my strength be in decline?
                  Do they not make you guys go out for runs anymore? But seriously, I don't see how.

                  If I stick to maintaining my current level of fitness, should I continue to lift at the same volume as well, or is there room to at least increase my reps on a calorie deficit? Should I decrease my carb intake on refeed days? Or better yet, should I decrease my calorie surplus on those days?
                  Can't really help you here, but I think you need to decide whether you want to focus on lowering your BF% or increasing your strength/fitness/conditioning. As far as I'm concerned they are completely separate goals. Even Martin from LG recommends cutting before a (slow) bulk.

                  And most importantly, when my workouts eventually become much easier due to adapting to the same weight, will my activity level be considered "Light" in the context of calorie calculators? So far, I've been using "Moderate" and its been working well.
                  I wouldn't put too much faith in calorie calculators. Yes, they give you a start point, but you need to experiment to see what works for you. And yes, I realise this could take weeks/months.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by zilog View Post
                    Do they not make you guys go out for runs anymore? But seriously, I don't see how.
                    Actually, they don't. There's a few things to say about that. I'm in one of the Navy's most intense schools academically speaking. The high stress means they go pretty easy on us regarding everything else military related. If I score high enough (and I have) on my PT test, then I am not required to take part in their PT. I get put on voluntary PT, which is great, since the Navy still follows a lot of conventional wisdom which we all know has its flaws. That being said, the PT that I have taken part in isn't even running usually, which shows how progressive the Navy has gotten. Instead, we usually do high intensity body weight workouts. I have been out of boot camp for about 5 months now, and the last time I ran outside of a PT test was actually boot camp. It's fantastic, because I loathe running so much.

                    So, I've been convinced to stop focusing on progressing in the gym and simply lose the excess fat first. Just to make sure, as long as I lift at the same (or more) intensity and eat sufficient protein, I shouldn't lose my strength, even on a caloric deficit, right? And I suppose put into context of the StrongLifts routine, when I inevitably stall and have to deload by 10%, I should just keep cycling that deload for the sake of cutting? What I mean by that is this: Take my squats. Let's say I fail to get my 5x5 on the upcoming 215lbs. Say I fail it three times, so I would deload by 10% (down to 195). I would then resume adding 5lbs per workout. If I fail at 215 again, then because I'm cutting, I should probably just deload again and repeat over and over again, right? Normally, on StrongLifts, I would go down to 3x5 at that point for the sake of continued progression. But I'm guessing I shouldn't do that if cutting is going to be my focus now.

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                    • #11
                      Are you following leangains correctly and going high carb/low fat on training days? You really should be going nuts on potatoes after training...the way calories are allocated to enhanced protein synthesis following heavy lifting should ensure that you won't gain much, if any fat.

                      Training days are like mini refeeds.

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                      • #12
                        The only thing I've modified on LeanGains is the -20/+20% calorie cycling. Instead, I've been eating about -25/+10% and I've been recalculating every time I lose 5lbs, so that I maintain a weight loss of about 1/2 lb per week. Everything else is spot on with LeanGains. At those percentages, I'm eating about 2000 calories on rest days and 2900 on workout days. Protein on rest days is about 200g, about 280g on workout days. Fat is about 115g on rest days, about 40g on workout days. Carbs is about 25g on rest days, about 350g on workout days.

                        I have tried potatoes and I've decided not have them. I tried substituting with rice, but even that's unpleasant. I think its the complex carbs...they always bloat me, increasing my waist size more than just a little. They always make me full to the point that I'm forcing food down, just so that I can keep my caloric surplus on the workout days. Instead, I stick to simple carbs: I eat a lot of whole fruit, as well as fruit juice. I eat peas, carrots, and green beans due to their higher than average carb density. I even eat honey by the spoonful.

                        The diet is going fine. I don't think I'm gaining fat, because my overall weight is going down. I started this thread because I was wondering if I should be eating more. But this was back when I was convinced that I needed to keep progressing in the gym to lose fat. Back when I thought my strength must continue to increase if I want to see additional fat loss. But everyone's saying that it isn't necessary, that I can maintain my fitness and focus on cutting.

                        So I guess the question now is if I should decrease my caloric surplus if I'm not going to be concerned with muscle growth. Should I drop my +10% workout day to maintenance level?

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                        • #13
                          I know this doesn't answer your underlying question, but fruits, fruit juices, carrots, and green beans aren't going to accomplish the same thing as starch. Glycogen repletion and super-compensation are the main goals after training. Maybe you feel bloated because you're eating too many fibrous vegetables or fats alongside the starch? I doubt if you ate plain potatoes/sweet potatoes with some lean meat, you would experience bloating, but ymmv.

                          I think the whole 'cutting' ideology is fairly silly, and it undermines the concept of Leangains. If you dissect the name, Martin created the protocol so you could gain (mostly)lean mass. By continuing to take advantage of that enhanced anabolic response post workout, and dialing down calories on rest days, you should be able to do that while continuing to mobilize fatty acids on rest days.

                          I personally think you shouldn't drop the +10%, and you could even increase it a bit. You're better off continuing to build muscle mass and strength which will lead to increased oxygen consumption and energy expenditure, which I'm sure you already know. It's a fairly slow process, and I think trying to speed it up too much is a big mistake.

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                          • #14
                            I'm only eating about 20g of fat in the post-workout meal. I'm pretty sure that I feel bloated because of the sheer volume of food I'm eating. I only eat 2 meals a day, one at 12:30PM and the other around 7PM. This is all I have time because I need to get to bed by 10PM in order to get a minimum even 7 hours of sleep and I can't fit in an afternoon meal because I'm still in school. Thanks to this, my post workout meal is about 2200 calories. There's just no room for high satiety carb sources.

                            I'm also not trying to speed up the process. I don't think it's too much to ask for at least 1/2 lb of weight loss per week. It's not like I'm already lean. I'd estimate my body fat at no less than 18%.

                            I don't know if it's a good idea, but I've been thinking of changing to a more drastic calorie difference, maybe -30/+15%. The downside to this is that I'm starting to venture away from the whole Primal way. That would increase my carb intake more, and decrease my fat intake more.

                            One thing I want to know is why starches are superior for restoring muscle glycogen. I didn't think there would be a difference.

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                            • #15
                              I'd say 20 grams is far too much fat for your post workout meal. I follow the same protocols as you (one meal a day, maybe two) and I try to keep fat as close to zero on training days as possible, especially after training. I rarely feel bloated after eating 2000 calories in the form of potatoes and moderate amounts of meat, egg whites, greek yogurt or whatever other lean protein source.
                              Too much fiber and too much fat in that post workout meal will blunt the insulin response, which is necessary for glycogen repletion. There's a lot of science behind that claim and if you haven't read any of Lyle Mcdonald's stuff on carb loading and refeeding, you should check it out.

                              Also, I don't see why you're venturing away from the 'primal' way. The primal way entails eating real foods that don't come in boxes and bags. AKA stick to the perimeter of your grocery store and you're good to go.

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