T Nation

How to Best Recover During Fat Loss


Hi Coach, I am doing a program for fat loss but have noticed some trouble with recovery. Currently I am doing 3 heavy lifting days consisting of 3 compound movements each (mostly to maintain muscle mass). In between those workouts I do 3 days of cardio (various loaded carries, assault bike and rowing intervals, jogging, etc.). My question is what effect can recovery have on fat loss progress and how to best implement it in a program. I’m starting to think I need to reduce the lifting days to 2 in order to fit an active recovery day in during the week.


I would not reduce the number of lifting days but you might restructure them. By 3 big lifts I assume you mean 3 big lifts covering the whole body… you might decrease that to 2 big lifts per workout so you would hit everything twice per week instead of three.

I might also keep a small amount of volume for the neglected muscles like biceps and lats which are not hit as well with the big lifts.

But yeah “not recovering” can hurt you. If it’s neural fatigue it can make you more likely to cheat on your diet because you tank your dopamine levels and if it is physiological it will mean higher cortisol levels which, over time, will decrease muscle mass, make you retain water and eventually slows down fat loss by decreasing T4 to T3 conversion


Thanks for the response Coach! You are correct in your assumption, and I’ll try reducing the big lifts to 2 each session. I’ve heard a lot on recovery being important for muscle growth but not so much how insufficient recovery can effect fat loss. So if I’m only giving myself 6 big lifts a week (3 workouts of 2 big lifts), which would you suggest are the most important to include?


Here it goes… when you are dieting down your cortisol is already a bit higher (it is needed to mobilize stored energy), So if you do too much volume, especially “demanding” volume you risk jacking it even more.

So now you have chronically elevated cortisol. In the short term it can actually help you lose fat (it increases fat mobilization) but when it is chronically elevated it will slow down fat loss. How?

Cortisol can reduce the conversion of T4 (inactive thyroid hormone) to T3 (active thyroid hormone). So over time, chronically elevated cortisol will slow down fat loss. On top of that I increases the antidiuretic hormone, which makes you retain water (making you look fatter). So then the natural reaction is to do more and eat less… the result is only jacking up cortisol levels even more.

So yeah, getting lean is not simply a matter of doing more in the gym.


Thanks so much Coach! I appreciate your time and thoughts.