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

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    atmetal's Avatar
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    How much of a caloric surplus is required to gain strength?

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    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.

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    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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    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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    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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    atmetal's Avatar
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    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.

    Quote 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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    tfarny's Avatar
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    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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    atmetal's Avatar
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    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.

  8. #8
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    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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    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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    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

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