T Nation

Advice for Body Recomp?


#1

Hey Coach!

I hope that this post find you well.

I would like to ask you for an advise for body recomp. My current stats are 187 height and 90.5/91 kg about 20% bf and i would like to become more lean and preserve as much muscle mass and strength as possible. At the moment i consuming about 3k calories a day. About 200 grams protein (powder, chicken, eggs), about 100 fat (from eggs and nuts) and the rest is carbs (oats, potatoes, rice). I do IF and lift around 5 times a week ( using lift based approach) Could you please share with me what would be the best way tto accomplish this? My end goal would be to be around 100 kg and around 10 % bf. Regarding my lifestyle and job: I work as IT support with rotating shifts. One week from 3 pm till 12 pm local time, next one from 7 pm till 3 am and i get to bed around 04:00am. Most of the days i am at home studying or doing chores, or other duties. For supps i take: 1 multivitamin, 6 grams omega 3, creatine, bcaa, protein powder, beta-alanine, potassium, magnesium

I was able to do some research and found out some articles by Paul Carter. He is suggesting to slowly lower the calories ~ 250 per week and loose approximately 1 pound per week.

Article: https://www.t-nation.com/training/how-to-stay-strong-when-dieting

Thank you in advance.

Kind regards,

George


#2

Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I prefer to be honest rather than sell you a dream and have you end up dissapointed.

Well first of all your goal is not realistic.

Losing a significant amount of fat while building a significant amount of muscle tissue a the same time is not possible unless you are a genetic freak, are just starting out, or using lots of drugs (even pro bodybuilders do not really build muscle while dieting down).

Now, assuming that you REALLY are 20% body fat; I find that EVERYBODY underestimate how much fat they really carry… those who think they are 20% normally are closer to 25%… but for the sake of the argument we will assume that you are indeed 20%.

It means that you have 18kg of fat mass and 72kg of lean mass (NOT muscle… lean mass is everything that isn’t fat… organs, skin, blood, water, glycogen, etc.).

In THEORY you might think that to get down to 10% you would need to lose 9kg. While it IS true that you need to lose 9kg of FAT to have 10% body fat, in reality to lose those 9kg you will in fact have to lose closer to 15-17kg . I find that for every kg of fat you lose, you normally drop 0.5kg from water, glycogen and intramuscular triglyceride. That’s one of the reasons why people fail at getting super lean: they underestimate how much weight they need to lose to get lean and when they lose the weight they THINK they need to lose and they aren’t lean yet, they get discouraged.

So if you MAINTAIN the muscle mass you have at the moment you would need to drop down to about 74-75kg to be a TRUE 10% body fat.

Now let’s look at the other side of the equation. You want to be 100kg at 10% body fat. This means that you would need to add 24-25kg of muscle!!! Let’s be generous and say that you will likely store about 4-5kg more of glycogen, water, intramuscular triglycerides, etc. you still need to gain 20kg of muscle!!!

Most serious trainees do not do that in their lifetime (naturally)! Much less while dieting down.

So honestly I can’t give you what you seek because short of telling you to takes tons of anabolics nothing I say will not get you where you want to be.

What I can tell you is this:

STOP THINKING IN TERMS OF NUMBERS. Think in terms of look (since you are look driven, not performance driven). Focus on achieving the look you want, not chasing theoretical numbers.

This is from an article on my website:

UNDERESTIMATING HOW MUCH WEIGHT YOU NEED TO LOSE

“Yeah, I have about 15lbs to lose to be near-contest shape”

No, you don’t.

See, most people grossly underestimate how much fat they need to lose to get in truly excellent shape. There are several reasons for this

1- They guesstimate their body fat level. This is what pretty much everybody does. “I’m 200lbs and about 15-16% body fat”. Well unless you have had yourself measured several times you can’t really know what 15, 10, 20 or 5% looks like on you. And let’s face it, most of us don’t have an objective view of ourselves anyway. Well let me tell you this: In my 20 years of working as a coach, I’ve rarely seen someone be close to his real bodyfat percentage when they “guesstimate” it. Most are AT LEAST 5% higher than what they think they are.

Heck, few people know what a real 10% looks like (at a true 10% most people will have good abdominal definition for example), so how can they know if they are 12, 15 or 20%? They can’t.

Underestimating how much bodyfat you carry by 5%+ could make a difference of 10-20lbs (I’ll explain why in a moment) in how much weight you really need to lose to get in great shape.

2- They only think in terms of fat mass to lose. Let’s say that they do get their bodyfat accurately measured. I’m talking DEXA, not calipers. Most caliper tests also severely underestimate bodyfat percentage (I was once measured at 4.1% and had at least 10-15lbs to lose to be in awesome shape). They will calculate how much fat mass they need to lose to get to their desired degree of leanness.

Let’s say that someone is 200lbs at 13% bodyfat. And their goal is to get down to 8%. Simple math would tell them that they need to lose 5% bodyfat, or 10lbs. So, in their mind if they get down to 190 they will be 8% and ripped.

When they get down to 190 they find that they don’t look great at all. Why? Because when you lose weight you lose more than just the fat beneath your skin (the one that is measured). You do lose glycogen and a lot of water (water from fat stores, water from inside the muscles, water held subcutaneously) as well as intramuscular triglyceride (fat marbling your muscles). It is my experience from working with hundreds of people that for each pound of fat you lose, you will lose 0.5lbs of water. And that is not counting the initial 2-3lbs initial drop in weight from the lowered glycogen stores that happens when you start a fat loss diet.

In reality, our 200lbs guy would likely need to lose closer to 18 or even 20lbs to get down to 8%, maybe more.

Now can you imagine if someone does both mistakes? He underestimates his bodyfat percentage by 5% and does not consider the initial glycogen/water drop and the water loss that goes along with the fat loss? Our guy might think that he needs to lose 10lbs to get in great shape whereas he will really need to lose 25 or even 30lbs!

Sounds excessive? Let me give you four examples:

First example: About 12 years ago, a young guy came to me wanting to do his first bodybuilding competition. The guy was around 220lbs and solid, but not lean. The kind of thick physique you see a lot in gyms, a combination of fat and muscle. He told me that he wanted to compete as a heavyweight or at the top of the light heavyweight class (so around 195-205lbs). I looked at him and told him “to be in true contest shape you will need to drop down to around 176lbs”. Of course, he didn’t believe me. Well, a few months later at his contest he was … 177lbs and he won the overall at the show, beating bigger men. The guy looked okay when he started, you wouldn’t have called him fat. But he still had to lose around 40lbs to look great. In all fairness, had he lost only 25-30lbs he would have had a very good “beach body” (not competition body), and that’s still a lot more than he thought he needed to lose.

Second example: An IFBB pro I worked with is 235-240 in the off-season. At that weight, he has solid abdominals, so he is not out of shape by any means. He last competed at a bodyweight of 205lbs. So even with abs and some vascularity, he still needed to lose 30-35lbs to be ripped, and that 30-35lbs has always been his dieting mark. When he competed in lighter weight classes, he had about the same amount of weight to lose before a contest, despite being in good “gym shape”. When he competed at 187 he would go up to 220-222lbs, when he competed at 176 he would go up to 210-215lbs.

Third example: When I started my current diet for my photoshoot I was 221lbs. And that wasn’t a sloppy 221. I had decent abdominals, a bit blurry but you could see all of them. I also had good arm vascularity. At the moment I’m writing this article, I’m 196-198lbs and I estimate that I will be 192 for the shoot and it will be my best condition ever. That will represent a weight loss of close to 30lbs to be in great shape. At my last photoshoot (the black and white pics from my website) I was 202lbs. I’m much leaner this time around and have a better upper body.

Fourth example: My friend Stephane Aube, a great coach himself, is also doing the photoshoot with me. Stephane started his diet at 254lbs (he is 6’2”) and while it wasn’t his leanest ever he still had arm vascularity and visible abs. Well two weeks out of the shoot he is 229lbs and likely will be 225lbs at the photoshoot. Again, we are talking about a 30lbs weight loss… starting from a decent condition.

In these four examples if we started out thinking “I need to lose 10-15lbs to be in great shape” there is no way we would have gotten to the degree of leanness we needed to be.

I understand that not everybody wants to be in contest/photoshoot shape. But going from “not in great shape” to “well defined” likely requires the same loss as for us going from “well defined” to “ripped”.

The moral of the story is that you will have to lose a lot more weight than you think to get to the kind of leanness you are shooting for. Starting with a preconceived weight to reach will likely prevent you from reaching your goal, unless you are a seasoned competitive bodybuilder and know your body.

What happens is that most guys play the numbers game. They can “accept” going from 205 “bulky” to 190 “lean”. But when they reach 190 and they aren’t lean and realise that they will need to drop down to 175-180 to be remotely close to being lean they freak out. They don’t want to be “small”.

Since you are 20-25% body fat the first order of business is to get lean. And YES that means that you will get “small”… not because you will lose muscle but because you carry much less muscle than you think. But if you stop the fat loss process because you feel small, you will NEVER get lean.

Once you get lean, THEN focus on building muscle while staying lean.

BTW you mentioned Paul Carter… well did you know that when he is trying to get really lean Paul consumes less than 2000 calories per day? Do you know that John Meadows (who has more muscle per square inch than anybody I know) diets down at around 2200 calories, which is also about what Marc Dugdale eats to get leaner… why would you (who have a lot less muscle) be able to get really lean at 3000 calories per day?


#3

Hi Coach

That’s interesting and suggests it is a common mistake for folks to overestimate their basal metabolic rate, etc? For example, results of my last DEXA scan coupled with an energy equation using the Katch McArdle formula suggested my average expenditure on workout days was 2,700 kcals. Now I know that’s not hard science but a 500 deficit at 2,200 kcals sounds like a rational plan. Yet the examples of Meadows et al sounds like I would be better shooting much lower given I’m much smaller than those guys. Any thoughts?


#4

I believe that one can shoot for a greater deficit provided that the calories are cycled.

For my current photoshoot prep (tomorrow!) I would say that my calories varied from 1500 to 2400, which is still below maintenance for me. I did not lose any muscle (I look fuller and my strength has not decreased at all, even increased on some movements). As far as staying VERY low for a while (without cycling calories) i believe that it should only be done if you have anabolic support to prevent muscle loss. BUT muscle loss is unlikely before you are around 10% provided that you don’t do anything stupid.

I think that theoretical caloric expenditure eval formulas are not adequate for most people. That’s why I personally prefer to have clients register they daily food intake for 5-7 days (including quantities) as well as their morning fasted body weight. When you average out the daily intake over the week it can give you a good clue about how much calories you need… if someone averages out at 2200 calories per day and did not lose or gain weight, then this is likely around maintenance level. Although to be even more precise I would only calculate the calories for the nutrients that are primarily used for fuel (carbs/fat)… so for example if you are consuming 2200 calories and 200g of protein per day on average it gives you 1400 calories from carbs and fat… if at that 1400 calories your wait stayed stable we can assume that 1400 calories from carbs+protein is around your maintenance energetic level.


#5

Hey Coach,

Huge thank you for the post. I deeply appreciate your pinion and saying the things their are. This is the reason i am huge fan of yours. This brings a lot of light to the situation i am in. Regarding my estimate fat % i am fully aware of what you said in one of the posts here that everyone does this and that you are ready to bet really good money that most people if not everyone is mistaking they body fat %. But yeah i am between 20-25 %. Actually i am more performance driven, however i would like to look good. I would sacrifice good looks for the performance.

Regarding your suggestion it’s confirms my current approach to the situation. I do not mind getting small if i will keep my strength. I’ve read that if do the things correctly i won’t loose much strength till i get to a single digit number of body fat. (quoting Paul Carter). I am currently on a low caloric deficit ~ 250 a day. Could you please share your oppinion on the following:

  1. Should i start carb cycling?
  2. I shared the foods that i eat the most. I am fasting till 5 pm local time on based on my working hours i lift either from around 11 am local time, or 13-14 pm local time. If i lift earlier on till the end of my fast i will have 20 grams of bcaa every two hours after the workout. If i lift from 13-14 i will have only 10 grams of bcaa till my fast ends. Here is my meal plan:

2.1 300 grams of potatoes + 250 grams of chicken
2.2 5 whole eggs + veggies
2.3 250 grams of chicken + veggies
2.4 100 grams of nuts - almonds, Hazelnut, Cashew, raisin. this is a mix 25% of all.
2.5 100 grams of oats + 2 scoops of whey.

I am currently taking 250 calories from the potatoes and keeping everything else the same. Is this ok? I know that this is not the best plan… Could you please share your opinion on what i can change here?

Once again thank you Coach.

Kind regards,

George


#6

Well you are bound to lose some strength on the compound movements when you drop weight; even if you don’t lose muscle at all. Heck, if you didn’t, powerlifters (and olympic lifters) competing in several weight classes would post the same numbers in all the classes they compete in. This is not the case, especially for the bench and squat. When a lifter lifts in 2 or 3 different weight classes his lifts are lower in the lighter class(es).

The reason for the strength loss is simply the drop in water retention and lowered glycogen storage. Water retention makes you stronger. That’s why a lot of powerlifters “bloat up” for a competition. The water cushions the joints, the body feels more “protected” and allows you to use a greater percentage of your muscle strength. On the other hand, if water retention decreases the opposite happen: the joints are less stable and the body protects itself by not allowing you to produce maximum force. Since isolation exercises are not a great injury risk, strength is not affected as much.

And intramuscular pressure due to an increase in glycogen, water and triglyceride improves your leverage, making a muscle capable of lifting greater loads without having more tissue. So, if these elements go down (they do when you are dieting down), your capacity to display strength will go down but that doesn’t mean that you are losing muscle.

I personally didn’t lose strength because I wasn’t using exercises that are affected by a decrease in joint stability/water retention. I confess to using more machines and even the Smith machine for pressing, when I train for bodybuilding that’s what I do because I get a much better contraction compared to the free weight versions.


#7
  1. I don;t like intermittent fasting in most cases. It might fit you, I don’t know. I used it in the past when I wanted to keep my body weight down but my performance did suffer.

2.The food choices are OK

  1. The caloric intake is too high IMHO

  2. Carbs cycling is a decent idea when you get leaner. At the moment I would go lower in carbs. When your body fat is high you likely suck at mobilizing fat so you need to force your body to use more fat for fuel.


#8

Thanks for the response coach, and good luck with the shoot tomorrow.

Could I pick your brains briefly on your recent post on exogenous ketones? My take on your summary was that they are useful for dieting - but only when you get to the ‘zombie feeling’ stage. I wondered whether they could also be optimally used when you are fat-adapted on a true keto diet to keep up, or even boost, workout performance without the need for peri-WO carbs or periodic carb-ups. Assuming there are no real cortisol issues, what are your thoughts on this tactic?


#9

Yep, it is likely. When I do a keto diet I use MCT oil pre-workout which does kinda the same thing. My issue with using ketone supplements that way is that it would not be cost effective. To get the same type of performance boost from ketones as from carbs when fat adapted you would need around 25-35g which would be around 3 servings of most keto products, which can become really expensive


#10

Coach,

Again thanks for the advises. Ok, i will try what you have suggested to your clients to measure the food and weigh my self every morning. For the calorie consumption i will start with 2500 and i will check it from there. Regarding the carbs restriction can i put more fat in my menu or i should also restrict it?

Thank you.

Kind regards,

George


#11

Thanks coach. That’s interesting, and the first time I have heard that.


#12

Protein at around 1- 1.25g per pound of body weight, the rest coming from carbs or fat. So if carbs go down , fat does up provided that you stay within your limit


#13

OK, so i will start with 2500 calories. I will keep the protein 1 g per pound, lower the carbs and up the fat as long as i don’t pass 2500 calories.

After a month from one i will adjust.

Coach, huge respect and thanks for the provided assistance.

I wish you all the best and good luck on the tomorrow’s photo shoot.

Kind regards,

George