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Eating + Lifting to get Leaner and Stronger - Is it even possible?

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  • Eating + Lifting to get Leaner and Stronger - Is it even possible?

    Apparently, I am changing up my goals a bit from fat loss to strength (and hopefully fat loss, too) but I've been unsure about what to do about my nutrition.

    Bear with me…(skip to the last two paragraphs if you don't want the backstory.) To start with I am M/late 30s. I don't really know my actual body fat percentage right now but I have to guess it is close to 20%.

    In mid spring, I was determined to lose weight/bodyfat. I had already been been following a mostly paleo inspired diet for a few years, but I wasn't counting calories, just trying to keep carbs on the low side (under 100 grams), so this wasn't really Primal, but more like "just eat real food, not too much". It kept me from gaining too much weight but I wasn't doing enough exercise, especially in the wintertime. Bought the PB book and tried to follow that as strictly as I could. Did the 3x weekly walking, 1x weekly sprinting, the bodyweight exercises (but sometimes not as many reps as I probably should have) and didn't see much result other than feeling good. I like the sprinting in the FF shoes a lot.

    I downloaded the myfitnesspal.com app and have been tracking everything since the beginning of June. My weight went up a bit at first, then it started going down a little. It took a while to find the right caloric level to cause weight loss, which ended up being very low, around 1800 kcalto really start seeing results (a consistent decrease in scale weight). On the plus side, PB got me to be less afraid of "good" or "OK" carbs so I'm eating more rice and potatoes without feeling guilty, and I now realize that even ice cream isn't a big deal, now and then. (Whereas before I was really trying to avoid those types of foods, and just eat meat/veg.)

    I was convinced my metabolism was kind of "stuck" and I thought the bodyweight exercises were just not stimulative enough the get things moving. Plus I found the high rep counts tedious/boring and I knew this was hurting compliance, so I decided to get into the barbell weightlifting for my "lift heavy things" 3x a week.

    I started Starting Strength about a month ago partly thanks to the encouragement I found here. I am enjoying it a lot (though my squat form is still not good- I'll keep working on it) and I am seeing strength gains, and feeling great, though I don't think I look any differently. I like that I have a goal to work towards (move more weight on the bar each session). I am able to eat a lot more now (for the last two seeks I averaged 2800 kcals a day) and basically my weight stays the same, in that 215lbs neighborhood. If I have a couple of very low carb rest days (i.e. this past weekend) it actually can drop down to 211 lbs, but was back to 215 lbs today after a 300g carb day yesterday. I assume that's all just water-related fluctuations and is meaningless.

    Now the squats have started to get into that more challenging territory for me and I started to struggle making 3x5 on squats for the first time on Friday. Which is too soon. (Then again it could be for other reason because I'm making gains in my other lifts.) However, I'm wondering if I should be eating even more or what? Just keep doing what I doing? I really don't want to add more body fat if possible, I do still want to lose it, but I also do want to keep making strength gains and not stall out too early.

    Should I forget about the body fat issue for now and just pig out a bit? Or is there some special macronutrient ratio and "goldilocks" range of caloric intake that allows you to add muscle/strength while losing fat, if you get enough protein? Or is that wishful thinking - is it always "bulk" then "cut"? So much for Mark's "effortless weight loss"...

  • #2
    It's possible for lots of people; I'm trying to be one of them!

    Your weight will probably stay the same for a while if you're doing strength training but wanting to lose fat, so remember to take progress pictures and measurements. One month isn't a ton of time to expect to see visible changes.

    I'd vote to keep doing what you're doing. If lifts are going up and you're eating a decent amount (looks like) and not gaining, then don't change anything yet.

    ChocoTaco and other male lifters will inevitably be in for some more detail-oriented stuff.

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    • #3
      Adding muscle isn't the same as adding strength. If your goal is specifically to add muscle mass, it's going to be very hard to do from a caloric deficit.

      Muscle mass is also added at a very slow pace, on the order of 1/8 of a pound (dedicated amateur with average genetics) to 1/3 of a pound (dedicated pro with ideal genetics) per week. Anything above that is basically water, glycogen and fat. If you're on a caloric deficit and not losing weight while lifting, it's almost certainly not because you're gaining muscle at the same rate as you're losing fat.

      Comment


      • #4
        While doing Starting Strength, don't worry so much about you look. Just concentrate on adding weight to the bar. The muscle mass and bone density gained will stay with you for a long time, with all kinds of health benefits (improved immune system, more resistance to injury, etc). Anyway, it's a short term program. Most people only do it about 3-9 months.

        For nutrition, your main focus should be eating enough to keep making progress. If you're about 20% bodyfat, you probably don't need to pig out. Get lots of protein, get enough carbs to fuel your workouts, and eat enough good fats to feel satisfied. If you can keep getting stronger at 215, do that. If you need to slowly add weight to keep getting stronger, then do that instead.

        Just to emphasize this, Starting Strength is temporary. Once you're done, you'll be much stronger than when you started and can do whatever you want afterwards. Whether it's losing fat, adding more strength, or something different, only you can decide.

        Keep adding weight to the bar and good luck!
        In matters of style, swim with the current. In matters of principle, stand like a rock.

        This message has been intercepted by the NSA, the only branch of government that listens.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Jefferson1775 View Post
          While doing Starting Strength, don't worry so much about you look. Just concentrate on adding weight to the bar. The muscle mass and bone density gained will stay with you for a long time, with all kinds of health benefits (improved immune system, more resistance to injury, etc). Anyway, it's a short term program. Most people only do it about 3-9 months.

          For nutrition, your main focus should be eating enough to keep making progress. If you're about 20% bodyfat, you probably don't need to pig out. Get lots of protein, get enough carbs to fuel your workouts, and eat enough good fats to feel satisfied. If you can keep getting stronger at 215, do that. If you need to slowly add weight to keep getting stronger, then do that instead.

          Just to emphasize this, Starting Strength is temporary. Once you're done, you'll be much stronger than when you started and can do whatever you want afterwards. Whether it's losing fat, adding more strength, or something different, only you can decide.

          Keep adding weight to the bar and good luck!
          +1. Emphasis added.
          The Champagne of Beards

          Comment


          • #6
            Agreed with above. You can add density and strength while leaning out but size is not possible after a bit of beginner gains. x100 on the protein.

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            • #7
              Ive been doing S/S for the last 2 months, no weight loss but good body comp changes, visible increase of muscle mass on back, legs, belt holes going in right direction. I did find I have had to up carbs to recovery and feel ok to still function as a normal father and employee....

              Check out Leangains for protocoles for gaining strength and lossing fat. Have a look at the before afters and maybe try IFing. I been doing it for 4 weeks straight now, with the odd slip but going fine witha 16 to 20 hour fast and enjoying eating large meals in the evening. Makes me sleep better. I even did my first 36 hour Fast on the weekend and felt great the whole time.

              My story is similar to yours, bit older same BF. I started on MFP logging foods but eyeballed qtys etc. I have just started to tighten up diet again and started to log "everything" weigh and measure... mmm I was eating at least 50% more than I thought....

              cheers
              "Times fun when you are having Flies" Kermit the frog

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              • #8
                Should have also mentioned that currently i am logging everything on MFP for 2 weeks, checking BW at the end and that should give me a good baseline average for TDEE from there I will adjust cals to try and average a 1-2kg per week loss.

                Try and eat the same meals, do the same workouts etc for two weeks to give you a base line. Adjust up/down from there
                "Times fun when you are having Flies" Kermit the frog

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by StupidFatHobbit View Post
                  I downloaded the myfitnesspal.com app and have been tracking everything since the beginning of June. My weight went up a bit at first, then it started going down a little. It took a while to find the right caloric level to cause weight loss, which ended up being very low, around 1800 kcalto really start seeing results (a consistent decrease in scale weight). On the plus side, PB got me to be less afraid of "good" or "OK" carbs so I'm eating more rice and potatoes without feeling guilty, and I now realize that even ice cream isn't a big deal, now and then. (Whereas before I was really trying to avoid those types of foods, and just eat meat/veg.)

                  I was convinced my metabolism was kind of "stuck" and I thought the bodyweight exercises were just not stimulative enough the get things moving. Plus I found the high rep counts tedious/boring and I knew this was hurting compliance, so I decided to get into the barbell weightlifting for my "lift heavy things" 3x a week.

                  I started Starting Strength about a month ago partly thanks to the encouragement I found here. I am enjoying it a lot (though my squat form is still not good- I'll keep working on it) and I am seeing strength gains, and feeling great, though I don't think I look any differently. I like that I have a goal to work towards (move more weight on the bar each session). I am able to eat a lot more now (for the last two seeks I averaged 2800 kcals a day) and basically my weight stays the same, in that 215lbs neighborhood. If I have a couple of very low carb rest days (i.e. this past weekend) it actually can drop down to 211 lbs, but was back to 215 lbs today after a 300g carb day yesterday. I assume that's all just water-related fluctuations and is meaningless.
                  I'm glad you decided to change that up. <2000kcal for a cut is to low for any adult male, imho.

                  Originally posted by StupidFatHobbit View Post
                  Apparently, I am changing up my goals a bit from fat loss to strength (and hopefully fat loss, too) but I've been unsure about what to do about my nutrition.

                  Now the squats have started to get into that more challenging territory for me and I started to struggle making 3x5 on squats for the first time on Friday. Which is too soon. (Then again it could be for other reason because I'm making gains in my other lifts.) However, I'm wondering if I should be eating even more or what? Just keep doing what I doing? I really don't want to add more body fat if possible, I do still want to lose it, but I also do want to keep making strength gains and not stall out too early.

                  Should I forget about the body fat issue for now and just pig out a bit? Or is there some special macronutrient ratio and "goldilocks" range of caloric intake that allows you to add muscle/strength while losing fat, if you get enough protein? Or is that wishful thinking - is it always "bulk" then "cut"? So much for Mark's "effortless weight loss"...
                  I'm happy to see you've given yourself a greater hobby.

                  Weight loss - even fat loss - is a fairly short term goal in the greater scheme of things, but strength?... Well, being strong is always useful.

                  Disregard macronutrient ratios. Just mainly go for minimums - ie, count in grams rather than percentages


                  Protein: 1g per lb of bodyweight (or per lb of LBM) **
                  Fat: 0.5 g per lb of bodyweight (or per lb of LBM) **
                  That's it; these two are minimums. Fill the remainder of your calories with carbs ("ideal"), or if you would prefer to eat more fat/protein, go for it... to be honest, with me, I just make sure I hit my fat and protein minimums and then just count calories from there - not carbs. Easier.

                  For example, there's me. 5'5 male, 132lbs. BF I don't know, 10%?



                  Bulking calories: 2600
                  Protein: 130g (520kcal) **
                  Fat: 60g (540kcal) **

                  2600-540-520=1540

                  I can then use that 1540 to fill with carbs (1540/4 = 385) or I can fill it with whatever I like. Most likely fat, such as chocolate or bacon, maybe some fattier meats or ice cream, or maybe protein if I feel like some protein sludge or eating a crapton of butter chicken (delicious fat/protein/carby goodness). It really is for preference.



                  This is just my advice, anyway. Sure, you can "recomp", but usually that ends up with wheel spinning - a lean bulk and slow cut are, in my opinion, best way to go.

                  **I prefer basing off bodyweight rather than LBM, and I prefer having it as 1g for protein and 0.5 for fat rather than "0.82" and "0.45", simply because it's easier. I also don't stress if my minimum is under by a few grams for this reason, ie, 116g protein and 53g fat... I just like stuff to be simple. I hate overthinking this kinda stuff...
                  Dark chocolate and coffee, running through my veins...

                  Fitocracy Workout Tracker:
                  https://www.fitocracy.com/profile/Shadowknight137/?feed
                  MFP Food Diary:
                  http://www.myfitnesspal.com/food/diary/Shadowknight137
                  (Date is New Zealand Time UTC+ 12hours)

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    OK thanks everyone for your input! I will keep going a long as is and maybe increase intake slightly if I think I need to.

                    I've seen protein recommendations all over the place. Everything from .7g x LBM in pounds (Mark's PB) to much higher, like 2g x BW in kilos. I should be aiming for the high end of that range I take it? 2g/kg x 97kg yields about 200g per day.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by StupidFatHobbit View Post
                      OK thanks everyone for your input! I will keep going a long as is and maybe increase intake slightly if I think I need to.

                      I've seen protein recommendations all over the place. Everything from .7g x LBM in pounds (Mark's PB) to much higher, like 2g x BW in kilos. I should be aiming for the high end of that range I take it? 2g/kg x 97kg yields about 200g per day.
                      Just my opinion, but you are wasting time trying to get strong and lose weight at the same time. Do one or the other. It's hard seeing the scale go up, but when you are actively in muscle-building mode, the scale is your worst enemy. Do your strength training, eat good food like everyone mentioned above, and screw the scale. After a few months, step on the scale, check your body fat, and if you think you have extra flab--work on losing it for a few months. Your maintenance weight will change when you add muscle. So, if your goal at one time was to be under 190 or something, maybe your new goal needs to be 200.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by DeeDub View Post
                        Adding muscle isn't the same as adding strength. If your goal is specifically to add muscle mass, it's going to be very hard to do from a caloric deficit.
                        Yes, it is, or to put it different; strength is highly correlated to amount of contractible proteins (myosin/actin) in muscle cells - so in a physiological perspective, strength is something that you must grow! Lifting more weight progressively on certain lifts is often, but not always correlated to growth of muscle or strength. Every exercise or program that makes you grow more protein in fast twist muscle fibers makes you stronger...
                        "All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."

                        - Schopenhauer

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by StupidFatHobbit View Post
                          OK thanks everyone for your input! I will keep going a long as is and maybe increase intake slightly if I think I need to.

                          I've seen protein recommendations all over the place. Everything from .7g x LBM in pounds (Mark's PB) to much higher, like 2g x BW in kilos. I should be aiming for the high end of that range I take it? 2g/kg x 97kg yields about 200g per day.
                          Protein is like ammo. You can never have too much . Aim for 1 gram per 1 lb of BW as a minimum. Building muscle and recovering properly between workouts requires a lot of protein, especially with a program where the weight goes up each time.
                          In matters of style, swim with the current. In matters of principle, stand like a rock.

                          This message has been intercepted by the NSA, the only branch of government that listens.

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                          • #14
                            Hmm. Well today I was struggling again on some lifts. Could be form-related though. My squats are not too good.

                            I guess I should eat more…this is kind of messed up when I consider that I just spent several months trying to drop weight (and not doing so good at it). It's not an easy mental shift to make.

                            I see what you mean about ignoring scale weight though, because it tells you nothing about body composition.
                            Last edited by StupidFatHobbit; 08-21-2013, 01:48 PM.

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                            • #15
                              Well, maybe my opinion is redundant because I'm female, and "building muscle" is a different ball game for men and women but... I am currently losing fat and building muscle.

                              I'm looking at the progress pictures from the last six weeks, and I cannot believe the difference in my ass and abs. Even my lower abs are popping. When I looked in the mirror during a work out today, I could literally see the fat separating away from my muscles... it's really strange.

                              I'm basically eating less and moving more. What an original concept! I'm working out (to various intensities) five or six days a week, and eating protein-centred diet that satiates me and gives me energy.

                              So, while I don't know much about these things, my N=1 is that it's possible.

                              ETA: And I'm definitely getting fitter and stronger. I increase the weight on my lifts with every session, I can do more sprints / more laps of the pool each time, my form is improving... It's basically amazing to feel myself getting truly physically fit! And losing fat at the same time.
                              Last edited by YogaBare; 08-21-2013, 02:41 PM.
                              "I think the basic anti-aging diet is also the best diet for prevention and treatment of diabetes, scleroderma, and the various "connective tissue diseases." This would emphasize high protein, low unsaturated fats, low iron, and high antioxidant consumption, with a moderate or low starch consumption.

                              In practice, this means that a major part of the diet should be milk, cheese, eggs, shellfish, fruits and coconut oil, with vitamin E and salt as the safest supplements."

                              - Ray Peat

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