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Thread: Can you gain muscle and strength on a calorie deficit ?

  1. #1
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    Can you gain muscle and strength on a calorie deficit ?

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    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. #2
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    Quote 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

  3. #3
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    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.
    Steak, eggs, potatoes - fruits, nuts, berries and forage. Coconut milk and potent herbs and spices. Tea instead of coffee now and teeny amounts of kelp daily. Let's see how this does! Not really had dairy much, and gut seems better for it.

  4. #4
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    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.

  5. #5
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    Quote 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.

  6. #6
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    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?

  7. #7
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    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.

  8. #8
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    Quote 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.

  9. #9
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    Quote 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.

  10. #10
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    Quote 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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