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  1. #1
    CaveWeirdo's Avatar
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    Weight Training while overweight

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    I'm female and weigh 218 lbs. I've lost 20 lbs over the last few months from eating primally.

    I go walking (with jogging sprints) 2-3 times per week and do girly push-ups sometimes. I have a long way to go with the weight loss but I motivate myself by visualising a badass future version of me that can do pullups and who has a killer butt! I see fitness models who have a bit of beginner bulk and that's how I'd like to look.

    I read somewhere that for a woman doing regular weight training I could expect to gain something like 10 lbs of muscle in a year. Makes sense to do some strength training now while losing weight, so that the muscle gaining will be partly done already when I'm starting to get lean. But how much of that gained muscle would be realistically maintainable over time, with a moderate calorie deficit?

    I also read in body-building sources that you can't lose fat and gain serious muscle mass at the same time, that if you're overweight you have to get lean first, then start the bulking/cutting. This seems illogical to me. Is there a particular % body fat where a leangains type approach would start being effective? And if so, why would trying it while overweight be ineffective?

    Would I be wasting my time if I started going all Arnie with the strength exercises now?

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    If you are not currently doing any serious strength training, then you can definitely put on muscle while you are losing fat. I've done it quite nicely. You'll need to make sure you are getting enough protein, but there's no reason to hold off on strength training until you're thinner. Increasing lean mass helps metabolically, and even more than that, it's good for your health in general.

    Also, I'd suggest focussing on measurements rather than the scale, particularly if you start seriously training, since you'll see fat loss that might be greater than your body weight indicates by itself.
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    Metric's Avatar
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    Sounds like we have some of the same goals with regards to building muscle. I'm on day 22. As of day 20, I had lost just over 11 lbs and lost 10 inches.
    Starting Weight: 208 lbs
    Current Weight: 166.8 lbs

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    Starting from a position of moderately-but-not-morbidly overweight, I've had awesome results from just focusing on core strength exercises (bench, overhead press, deadlift, squat, chin-up) and flat-out ignoring everything else (not saying you should ignore cardio, I'm just a hater). Since I started lifting "for real this time", about 3 months ago, I've dropped from 220 lbs - 205 (200 if I cut carbs for a few days), and from a 36" waist to 32", and from large to medium shirt size. Now that's only about 15 lbs, but doesn't take into account muscle gains - despite still having plenty of fat to lose, I now have very visible traps, shoulders, biceps, triceps, lats, upper chest, forearms, quads, and veins popping out on my arms & neck.

    It is true that cardio and strength training activate proteins that work against one another, and that training at a calorie deficit won't get you as much muscle mass as training at an excess. But both those points strike me as things that should only matter to bodybuilders and runners with dreams of going pro, but are largely irrelevant to the general pursuit of getting healthier, leaner, and stronger. All I know is I'm getting muscley and slimming down simultaneously, so what does it matter if the projected 10 lb muscle gain only ends up being 6.5 in the end, if the overall goal of looking and feeling better is attained?

    Also strength training just seems to be a more efficient means of exercise regardless of how lean you are. Cardio burns calories and conditions you for doing more cardio, but strength training adds muscle, adds more calories burned at rest, helps your cardiovascular system too, primes your body to shuttle glucose to your muscles instead of fat stores, and kicks up boatloads of neuroendocrine activity. But that's my limited understanding of the topic.
    “The whole concept of a macronutrient, like that of a calorie, is determining our language game in such a way that the conversation is not making sense." - Dr. Kurt Harris

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    Owly's Avatar
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    Also on the side of strength training, I was at Crossfit the other day and one of the women who's known me since I was new there commented that I must have lost about 40 pounds now. I've actually only lost about 25, but the change in body composition makes it look like a lot more.
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    Quote Originally Posted by CaveWeirdo View Post
    I'm female and weigh 218 lbs. I've lost 20 lbs over the last few months from eating primally.

    I go walking (with jogging sprints) 2-3 times per week and do girly push-ups sometimes. I have a long way to go with the weight loss but I motivate myself by visualising a badass future version of me that can do pullups and who has a killer butt! I see fitness models who have a bit of beginner bulk and that's how I'd like to look.

    I read somewhere that for a woman doing regular weight training I could expect to gain something like 10 lbs of muscle in a year. Makes sense to do some strength training now while losing weight, so that the muscle gaining will be partly done already when I'm starting to get lean. But how much of that gained muscle would be realistically maintainable over time, with a moderate calorie deficit?

    I also read in body-building sources that you can't lose fat and gain serious muscle mass at the same time, that if you're overweight you have to get lean first, then start the bulking/cutting. This seems illogical to me. Is there a particular % body fat where a leangains type approach would start being effective? And if so, why would trying it while overweight be ineffective?

    Would I be wasting my time if I started going all Arnie with the strength exercises now?
    Unlikely. Only a genetically gifted man would be capable of growing that much lean tissue in a year.

    Dr. Mercola Interviews Doug McGuff about High Intensity Exercise - YouTube
    “BODY BY SCIENCE” — ESPECIALLY FOR WOMEN »
    Health Correlator: Gaining muscle and losing fat at the same time: A more customized approach based on strength training and calorie intake variation

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    I agree that strength training is a more efficient way to do exercise anyway.

    I certainly wouldn't describe my walking/jogging as chronic cardio. I tend to walk briskly outdoors, which is an easy exercise for me since even at my top weight I always walked regularly. Then the jogging intervals are maximum effort, they are my sprints. I basically do a beginner's version of 'fartlekking' which seems very Grok-ish to me! I do up to a maximum of 5k per session but I personally think even longer distance runs are fine as long as you fartlek, and/or run on trails. I also would prefer to use bodyweight exercises since compound movements are obviously going to save time, and also perhaps create a 'balanced' shape.

    As for measuring, I seem to be losing inches very slowly overall. I'm 5 foot 8 inches tall and a natural hourglass shape (yep even obese I have a hip to waist ratio of 0.75!). Losing 20 lbs is noticeable in the mirror but I've only lost one dress size, because it seems to be mostly just my waist that is shrinking significantly. Having said that though, my muscles certainly feel different. I can't really see the definition but I can feel it. The running has made my butt muscles climb much higher up my back!

    I can see why exercising is good for weight loss. But there still seems to be a general consensus in body-building circles that weight loss is not good for muscle gain/maintenance. I can't understand why?

    That healthcorrelator article is interesting. I eat a clean primal diet and change my daily food intake in accordance with my activity, surely I am getting enough vitamins and protein to enable decent muscle gain, even with a calorie deficit?
    Last edited by CaveWeirdo; 05-23-2012 at 06:07 AM.

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    My understanding on the Health Correlator article is that it's not a good idea to diet down really lean and then gain muscle because of nutrient deficit issues, so it's better to do both in combination.

    Bodybuilders are in a different category than people who are simply trying to lose fat and gain some muscle/strength. They are looking to keep as much muscle mass as possible, and since you will almost always lose some muscle along with body fat, that's why they say it's not good for gain/maintenance. In the context of someone who's been bodybuilding for a while, that loss in muscle mass might be more noticeable, but you're not a bodybuilder, right? You're a relatively new person to strength training, you've got a fair bit of extra mass you'd like to lose, and you're (I hope) focused more on gaining strength than in building bulk. What's relevant to a bodybuilder preparing for competition is not necessarily going to be as important for you right now.

    For someone who has a lot of fat to lose and not much muscle, even if you don't gain as much because you're losing weight, you're still going to increase your muscle mass. As Chaohinon said above, if you gain 6.5 pounds of muscle instead of 10 pounds of muscle because you're also losing body mass at the same time, you're still ahead of the game when it comes to your lean mass and body composition.

    Also, js290, I think you underestimate just how little muscle mass a lot of women have when they start weight training. I don't think it's impossible for a woman to add a lot of lean mass in her first year if she's starting off very undermuscled. I've seen some statements that women's gains in strength tend to be higher proportionally than men's when starting to lift because we tend to be undertrained. I know I gained a lot of muscle mass in the last year while leaning out, partly because I work really hard to get in enough protein so that I don't lose too much muscle along with the fat.

    And hey, there's always our favourite powerlifting nerd, Staci, who put on 10 pounds of muscle in 6 months while lifting heavy. From her pics, I'd say the gains were pretty clearly lean mass. Granted, I would agree that Staci is pretty gifted as a lifter, but I don't think it's impossible for other women to see similar muscle gains in a year with work and good eating.
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  9. #9
    js290's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CaveWeirdo View Post
    But there still seems to be a general consensus in body-building circles that weight loss is not good for muscle gain/maintenance. I can't understand why?
    Lots of folklore in so-called body building circles because they pay too much attention to the outliers.

  10. #10
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    I can't help wondering if a lot of body-building ideas are based on some out-of-date CW principles...

    Staci is cool, she looks fab!

    Women generally will take longer to build muscle mass than men do, however, everyone's different. I'm hoping that I can still train and gain like I used to 10 years ago (I'm 30 so still young-ish!!), as I always seemed to put on muscle easily - for a woman. I played rugby at college and trained at the gym, and at one point I lost 2 dress sizes, but stayed the same weight!

    There are a lot of women out there who look sort of model-ish and have zero muscles, like, they flex their arms and you still can't even see anything. I think to myself, do they never move? Do they not do any household chores? Even when I was fairly sedentary, I still had biceps just from doing the grocery shopping! I guess those kind of women just have a very different body type to me, and I shouldn't judge them...

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