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How much of a caloric surplus is required to gain strength?

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  • How much of a caloric surplus is required to gain strength?

    After finally given the freedom to separate myself from the typical DOD diet while in the Navy, I started to follow the principles of LeanGains. At first, I ate the standard -20/+20% cycle. I found it was too difficult and uncomfortable to eat that many calories on lifting days. So I dropped it down to -20/+10%. I've been doing that for about a month now and seeing results. I currently have only two lifting days in the week. For various reasons, I want to increase that to three times a week, which would mean eating a calorie surplus more often. This would hinder my first priority, which is weight loss. Also, +10% is still uncomfortable o eat and I would like to drop it down to +5%. Seeing as my fitness goals is to increase my strength, not bulk up, I'm thinking that a large calorie surplus isn't that important, just so long as there is at least a slight surplus composed mostly of carbs (for the insulin spike).

    I just want to know if this would be alright considering my goals. I want to gain strength, bulking being an acceptable side effect, but mostly lose fat. I know math in these cases are never going to be accurate, but a calculator indicates that in order to maintain a weight loss of at least 1/2 lb per week, I will need to drop the calories on lifting days to +5% if I end up going from two to three lifting days. All this is assuming that my rest days of -20% aren't adjusted.

  • #2
    If you aren't trying to bulk, but only gain strength, you don't need much of a surplus, especially in fat. Your body's fat stores will be used for sustenance as they break down. Spike your insulin to put nutrients and glycogen back into your muscles, but I don't see any reason for much of a surplus.

    Lean Gains is designed for those who are trying to drop the last few pounds without losing muscle. It works for dropping more weight, but you have more room to play with a lower or non-existent surplus.

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    • #3
      The answer to the question depends on the individual situation. How fat are you, how fit, how for along in a training program, age, general propensity to be good or suck at strength training, and so on. There's not going to be one easy answer. Remember that increased frequency and intensity of weight training is going to up your metabo and burn more calories, partially offsetting any potential bacon-related fat gains.
      If you are new to the PB - please ignore ALL of this stuff, until you've read the book, or at least http://www.marksdailyapple.com/primal-blueprint-101/ and this (personal fave): http://www.archevore.com/get-started/

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      • #4
        You don't need any surplus to build strength, you can build strength even in a caloric deficit (I just had my pb in benchpress 4 weeks into cutting on 1500 calories a day.) Building strength is the bodies response to stress induced onto the muscle fibres, which will repair themselves stronger regardless of calories consumed.

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        • #5
          Glad to see that my theory is confirmed. Obviously, we aren't experts (probably), but having a second and third opinion all agreeing helps me a lot.

          Originally posted by tfarny View Post
          The answer to the question depends on the individual situation. How fat are you, how fit, how for along in a training program, age, general propensity to be good or suck at strength training, and so on. There's not going to be one easy answer. Remember that increased frequency and intensity of weight training is going to up your metabo and burn more calories, partially offsetting any potential bacon-related fat gains.
          I understand this but my calorie needs that I've calculated has already taken my activity level into account. It would be -20/+5% of my total maintenance calories, not my BMR. Specifically, that puts me at about 2100/2800 calories a day. That aside, I wasn't worried about gaining fat, I was concerned with my rate of fat loss. Even if I managed to force down the +20%, I would still loose weight (strictly according to the math), but my rate of fat loss would be unacceptably low (if I remember, something like < 1/3 lb per week) if I added an additional workout/surplus day. I wanted to keep it to at least 1/2 lb per week and doing that meant decreasing my surplus days to +5%.

          Anyways, while I'm on the topic of adding an additional workout day, I would like to ask some fitness questions but don't know if it's appropriate to put in the nutrition section, so I'm going to post it in the fitness section and if any of you who have already responded in this thread sees this, I would appreciate if you found my next thread and offered you opinions on it.

          Thanks

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          • #6
            You're treating this like it's a high school algebra problem when in fact it's a phd level biochemistry problem that you simply can't answer. All you can do is experiment and see what works for you.
            If you are new to the PB - please ignore ALL of this stuff, until you've read the book, or at least http://www.marksdailyapple.com/primal-blueprint-101/ and this (personal fave): http://www.archevore.com/get-started/

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            • #7
              Well, I wasn't really looking for answers. I was looking for opinions. There's no such thing as absolute truth on forums. If everything came down to experimentation, I never would have needed to read Mark Sisson's book, as I would have eventually found out all the stuff on my own. Like his book, I was looking for baseline knowledge on this thread to help guide me in my decisions on where to start. It may seem like I'm trying to be very exact, but that's only because the best way to get a general concept out of someone is to help them remember details of past experience by asking very specific questions in the way that I did.

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              • #8
                I have gained a ton of strength via leangains just eating at maintenance daily. I cycle macros, but not calories lately. I also switched from RPT to 5-3-1 training program. I prefer it for strength gains.

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                • #9
                  There's two aspects to strength - muscle mass and the physical capability of the muscles themselces, and a neurological component that dictates what fraction of our muscles' theoretical power can actually be attained.. One can boost the neurological aspects of strength without doing much for muscle mass due to the nervous system promoting stronger contractions and/or contracting a greater fraction of muscle fibers simultaneously, and these are typically a significant portion of the rapid "beginner gains" many people see early in a strength training program.

                  Muscle mass(which also boosts strength) is slower to build, and is aided more by a caloric surplus. That's not to say that you can't add muscle on a near-neutral energy balance, but it will be relatively slow.

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                  • #10
                    I don't think you can gain strength through diet. A steady routine of increasingly heavier and more challenging weights on a diet leaning more towards fat and protein will help, but I believe strength is built through exercise. If you eat more without exercising, you're just going to get fat.
                    F 28/5'4/100 lbs

                    "I'm not a psychopath, I'm a high-functioning sociopath; do your research."

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                    • #11
                      To the OP..caloric numbers are only estimations regardless of what formula you use. If your goal is fat loss then yes you need to eat at a deficit. Ideally you need to be lifting heavy weights to preserve muscle mass while you are dieting. You can still gain strength but this depends on what kind of stimulation you give your muscles. Note that you are always better off eating at a maintenance to reach your full potential.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by jsa23 View Post
                        Muscle mass(which also boosts strength) is slower to build, and is aided more by a caloric surplus. That's not to say that you can't add muscle on a near-neutral energy balance, but it will be relatively slow.
                        This was my belief as well, but after thinking about it (and hence, why I started this thread), if a surplus is required to make significant gains, then how can LeanGains work? Even with LG's +20% on workout days, the average, weekly caloric intake is still below or at maintenance, which is too avoid getting fat. I would think that rest days are just as important for muscle building, and yet the caloric deficit on those days don't seem to effect it (speaking not from my experience, but from the results of others who followed LG).

                        Originally posted by Damiana View Post
                        I don't think you can gain strength through diet. A steady routine of increasingly heavier and more challenging weights on a diet leaning more towards fat and protein will help, but I believe strength is built through exercise. If you eat more without exercising, you're just going to get fat.
                        Did you read only the title of this thread?

                        Originally posted by cayla29s View Post
                        To the OP..caloric numbers are only estimations regardless of what formula you use. If your goal is fat loss then yes you need to eat at a deficit. Ideally you need to be lifting heavy weights to preserve muscle mass while you are dieting. You can still gain strength but this depends on what kind of stimulation you give your muscles. Note that you are always better off eating at a maintenance to reach your full potential.
                        This ties in with my response to the first quote. If strength gains are slow, that's okay for now. My squat, pullup, chinup, and dip numbers will still go up simply because there's less weight to lift of my own body as I lose fat. However, that effect will eventually stop, plus my bench, deadlift, and row numbers will be unaffected. So I guess now my question is, will my gains be so slow that there will be weeks where no numbers went up at all? If that happened, I'm not sure how I'd keep m motivation.

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                        • #13
                          [QUOTE=atmetal;960505]This was my belief as well, but after thinking about it (and hence, why I started this thread), if a surplus is required to make significant gains, then how can LeanGains work? Even with LG's +20% on workout days, the average, weekly caloric intake is still below or at maintenance, which is too avoid getting fat. I would think that rest days are just as important for muscle building, and yet the caloric deficit on those days don't seem to effect it (speaking not from my experience, but from the results of others who followed LG).



                          Did you read only the title of this thread?



                          This ties in with my response to the first quote. If strength gains are slow, that's okay for now.
                          My squat, pullup, chinup, and dip numbers will still go up simply because there's less weight to lift of my own body as I lose fat. However, that effect will eventually stop, plus my bench, deadlift, and row numbers will be unaffected.
                          I really don't think that body fat loss is the reason why you would get stronger. I have never heard of this before. Yes at some point you will reach your genetic potential and this is even me talking at a maitenance caloric intake. If you can expe riment with calorie cycling and see if you can get stronger while still dropping atleast 1lb a week then try it. Workout days eat at maintenance/rest days eat at deficit.

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                          • #14
                            OK let's simplify:
                            If you can't deadlift your own weight, you can eat at a deficit and still get much stronger. you should stop overanalyzing shit and get to the gym.
                            If you can deadlift 1.5 times your weight, you might need to make a choice between pure strength and skinniness. Try it and see.
                            If you can deadlift twice your weight, you probably can't get stronger and skinnier at the same time.

                            Modify guidelines for age, general health, training history, sleep and recovery skills, and general awesomeness levels.
                            If you are new to the PB - please ignore ALL of this stuff, until you've read the book, or at least http://www.marksdailyapple.com/primal-blueprint-101/ and this (personal fave): http://www.archevore.com/get-started/

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by tfarny View Post
                              OK let's simplify:
                              If you can't deadlift your own weight, you can eat at a deficit and still get much stronger. you should stop overanalyzing shit and get to the gym.
                              If you can deadlift 1.5 times your weight, you might need to make a choice between pure strength and skinniness. Try it and see.
                              My deadlift 1RM is almost 1.5x BW. You're also telling someone who qualified for the Navy's nuclear power program to stop overanalyzing...it's just not going to happen. That, by the way, is why I seek guidance on a forum. I'm always under a time constraint and after two years of training, I will be on a submarine, forced back to eating a DOD diet. So it would be best for me to reach my goals before then.

                              It is because I wish to experiment that I am here. I simply wanted to make sure that strict adherence to LeanGains wasn't necessary and I got that answer rather quickly. The only thing that has kept the thread so long and given the appearance of over-complication is that fact that I'm polite and feel a need to reply to everyone who generously posts on a thread I created.

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