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Can you gain muscle and strength on a calorie deficit ?

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  • Can you gain muscle and strength on a calorie deficit ?

    Before my primal days I used to "bodybuild" and I found that I can easily put on a lot of muscle just by lifting hard and eating around 500-1000 calories over my maintenance level. But the foods I ate were mostly garbage from a Primal perspective and very sparse when it came to nutrients. I ate a lot of brown rice, bread, grain fed beef, protein powder loaded with sugar, skim milk, fast food, peanut butter, peanuts, peas, candy bars, and chicken. And that was it. I ate no fruit, veggies, organ meat, seafood, organic food, grass fed beef, etc

    Now if it was possible for me to gain a lot of muscle and strength while eating such a nutrient poor diet, would it still be possible for me to gain muscle and strength( maybe not as much) on a calorie deficit while eating an extremely nutrient rich diet ? Imagine a lot of organ meat and green vegetables. If I lift hard everyday and nourish my body with a lot of nutrients will I at least look muscular if I'm on a calorie deficit for an extended period of time or will I look like a stick figure because ?

  • #2
    Originally posted by Rick Rube View Post
    Before my primal days I used to "bodybuild" and I found that I can easily put on a lot of muscle just by lifting hard and eating around 500-1000 calories over my maintenance level. But the foods I ate were mostly garbage from a Primal perspective and very sparse when it came to nutrients. I ate a lot of brown rice, bread, grain fed beef, protein powder loaded with sugar, skim milk, fast food, peanut butter, peanuts, peas, candy bars, and chicken. And that was it. I ate no fruit, veggies, organ meat, seafood, organic food, grass fed beef, etc

    Now if it was possible for me to gain a lot of muscle and strength while eating such a nutrient poor diet, would it still be possible for me to gain muscle and strength( maybe not as much) on a calorie deficit while eating an extremely nutrient rich diet ? Imagine a lot of organ meat and green vegetables. If I lift hard everyday and nourish my body with a lot of nutrients will I at least look muscular if I'm on a calorie deficit for an extended period of time or will I look like a stick figure because ?
    Nutrient density won't really have an affect since building muscle is mostly to do with calories in/out. Quality of protein doesn't matter much if you get enough. You proved that argument when you were pre primal. 'Enough' only really counts for about 1g per lb bodyweight. Although, since cutting, you may want a little more. Any more than 1.5 and you're wasting money imo!
    You'll certainly feel better though, and be doing yourself a huge favour eating better, clearly a cut on a healthy diet is better as those nutrients may switch on the appropriate hormones etc. above all, stay happy. Makes deprivation a lot easier

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    • #3
      I just discovered that the answer for me was "no". I ate high-fat near-carnivore (GF ground beef, fish, bacon, liver, eggs, oysters, some cooked greens, berries, a little fruit, etc.) for three years and barely added muscle mass or made improvements in the gym. As soon as I added potatoes and full-fat yogurt, not only did my muscles swell with glycogen, but I've set new PR's week after week. By added I do not mean displaced. I'm still eating a pound of meat a day and four to six eggs most days, and berries, etc - but ALSO potatoes, carrots, yogurt, etc. My weight is up, and it's mostly in my shoulders, ha ha.
      Crohn's, doing SCD

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      • #4
        I'm pretty sure it depends on your experience level. The reason why is because you're gains will taper off after a handful of years of hard lifting. Reality is, you simply can't keep on making gains forever. This doesn't mean you shouldn't try. Just be realistic.

        So if you have been lifting for several years, I wouldn't worry about it. Just lift to stay strong and diet to cut the fat off. You might not gain any muscle but you will maintain muscle.

        It is also much easier to stay strong while you are already lean. Why? Because putting yourself in a calorie deficit, which is required for fat loss, also puts you in an energy deficit. So clearly in such a case, you can't possibly lift as much. Staying lean is a different story because you're eating at maintenance, which is enough to support your energy needs and lift optimally.

        That's why those who avoid dirty bulks will always be ahead of the game, lb for lb that is. Get fat and you'll always have to go back and pick up the pieces, unless you don't mind being a fat slob and risking heart attack by the age of 40.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Rick Rube View Post
          ...would it still be possible for me to gain muscle and strength( maybe not as much) on a calorie deficit while eating an extremely nutrient rich diet ?
          Nope. But you'll have better blood numbers from eating better food, including maybe better testosterone/hormone numbers.

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          • #6
            Why the deficit at all? Not understanding why there has to be a tradeoff unless you have some fat to lose. Doesn't have to be low nutrients/high cal OR high nutrients/low cal.

            Can't you eat well while in maintenance or in a surplus for your strength/muscle gains?

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            • #7
              Yes...if you are untrained with sufficient bodyfat to spare (in which case you can insource your caloric need to build some lean mass)

              No...if you are very lean or not a beginner lifter.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Rick Rube View Post
                Now if it was possible for me to gain a lot of muscle and strength while eating such a nutrient poor diet, would it still be possible for me to gain muscle and strength( maybe not as much) on a calorie deficit while eating an extremely nutrient rich diet ? Imagine a lot of organ meat and green vegetables. If I lift hard everyday and nourish my body with a lot of nutrients will I at least look muscular if I'm on a calorie deficit for an extended period of time or will I look like a stick figure because ?
                Yes you can look muscular and strong, but this depends on how much of a deficit you are talking and over what time period. If you are eating a small salad and 4 oz of meat once a day, then yes expect to reach stick figure status. If you are putting down a pound of meat, 1/2 pound of liver, and some vegetables.... well I think you'll be just fine.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Knifegill View Post
                  I just discovered that the answer for me was "no". I ate high-fat near-carnivore (GF ground beef, fish, bacon, liver, eggs, oysters, some cooked greens, berries, a little fruit, etc.) for three years and barely added muscle mass or made improvements in the gym. As soon as I added potatoes and full-fat yogurt, not only did my muscles swell with glycogen, but I've set new PR's week after week. By added I do not mean displaced. I'm still eating a pound of meat a day and four to six eggs most days, and berries, etc - but ALSO potatoes, carrots, yogurt, etc. My weight is up, and it's mostly in my shoulders, ha ha.
                  That makes perfect sense since insulin is an anabolic hormone.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Rick Rube View Post
                    Before my primal days I used to "bodybuild" and I found that I can easily put on a lot of muscle just by lifting hard and eating around 500-1000 calories over my maintenance level. But the foods I ate were mostly garbage from a Primal perspective and very sparse when it came to nutrients.
                    So there's your answer right there. Eat 500-1000 calories over your maintenance level but make it healthful foods, not garbage. Go ahead and eat all the potatoes and rice you want/can, too. It will help. So will eating a lot of high protein foods.
                    Female, 5'3", 50, Max squat: 202.5lbs. Max deadlift: 225 x 3.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by sbhikes View Post
                      So there's your answer right there. Eat 500-1000 calories over your maintenance level but make it healthful foods, not garbage. Go ahead and eat all the potatoes and rice you want/can, too. It will help. So will eating a lot of high protein foods.
                      Surely there has to be compromise though between health and calories. A healthy diet is naturally lower in calories and higher in satiation, especially where protein and fat are concerned. It is little wonder how bulking was achievable on a presumably low fibre un satiating diet..
                      And as an example, guru Sisson was a self confessed ice cream addict at the pinnacle of his sporting career

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                      • #12
                        I will usually lose a few pounds off the 1RM's if I do a severe cut, for example 30-40% below maintenance. I am in the middle of a slow cut now (15% under), intermittent days only. Doing this, I can slowly lower BF% and actually make mild gains. My usual 4-6 month plan is to cycle between 2 weeks of higher carb/calorie powerlifting at higher reps, then 2 weeks of lower cals with only strength maintenance lifting of many fewer reps.

                        So no, one cannot add strength at 30% below BMR unless serious lifting is a new thing for their body. It's just reality. Cycles of strength then cut, patience and execution of the routine is everything
                        "The soul that does not attempt flight; does not notice its chains."

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                        • #13
                          I saw a study some time ago that said yes, you could increase muscle on a deficit (and even with no protein) however this was using rats or mice which is basically useless. That being said, there are a lot of strong people the world around that don't eat a whole lot... then of course the leangains.com movement (however I'm not sure how much of a deficit if any they actually have, it's just IF mostly).
                          -Ryan Mercer my blog and Genco Peptides my small biz

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Nivanthe View Post
                            Why the deficit at all? Not understanding why there has to be a tradeoff unless you have some fat to lose. Doesn't have to be low nutrients/high cal OR high nutrients/low cal.

                            Can't you eat well while in maintenance or in a surplus for your strength/muscle gains?
                            Because I want to start practicing calorie restriction



                            and thank you everyone who replies to this thread

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Jenry Hennings View Post
                              Surely there has to be compromise though between health and calories. A healthy diet is naturally lower in calories and higher in satiation, especially where protein and fat are concerned. It is little wonder how bulking was achievable on a presumably low fibre un satiating diet..
                              And as an example, guru Sisson was a self confessed ice cream addict at the pinnacle of his sporting career
                              A healthy diet is not necessarily lower in calories. Anyone who wants to grow substantial new tissue has to eat more calories than he needs. There's no way around it unless he's new to weight lifting and/or really super fat.

                              I simply cannot lift more if I don't eat more. It's not a huge amount more though because I'm an older lady. I certainly do not need junk food to eat more.
                              Female, 5'3", 50, Max squat: 202.5lbs. Max deadlift: 225 x 3.

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