T Nation

Jim, I'm Too Damned Fat, Is Conditioning Your Solution? (AKA I'm Overthinking Shit)


#1

Jim,

Revised question: I would still like to hear Jim’s opinion on how one should address body fat levels while doing this program. In the book and in the posts I’ve read, he seems to always start with the assumption that you are not overly fat, and then implies “Do the conditioning, eat clean, and don’t worry about your physique because you won’t get overly fat”. While I don’t disagree with that sentiment, for those of us trying to get bigger and stronger who are already borderline too-fat, I’d like to know if he suggests dieting down to a more moderate bodyfat percentage before jumping into the program with both feet or not. I am not concerned with getting lean, but would like to at least stay under 20%bf(I am probably like 22 or 23 now).

It would appear to my reading that he almost implies that some level of fat loss will occur for us fatbodies while doing the program (and being in the required caloric surplus to be able to recover and get stronger), but I don’t want to be an asshole who puts words in people’s mouths.

Unless I hear differently, I am going to do the following:

Training:

BBB as prescribed in the original book.(4 days/week)
Add conditioning on 2 or 3 of my off days.
When it warms up, I’m going to build myself a prowler, but until then I’m going to do sprints on the treadmill and maybe something else if I find interesting ideas in Forever. My copy should be here in a couple days.

Diet:

With the exception of reducing my sugar intake a bit (aka returning to normal after the holiday binge), I don’t think I’m going to change much about my diet. I’ve been gaining a little too much fat since I started this program, but I also haven’t been doing any conditioning at all, so with the addition of the conditioning, it should put me about where I need to be. If all I do is stay about as fat as I am now while getting bigger and stronger, then so be it.

Original Post:

I work in the health field for my career (primarily doing health behavior research related to Type 2 Diabetes) and have both an undergraduate Kinesiology degree as well as a Public Health Master’s. I also have a constant influx of information regarding diet, weight, etc for my job.

My issue is, I’ve reached the point in my education (not strictly speaking about academics here) where “the more you know, the more you know you don’t know”. In other words, I find myself with paralysis of the analysis.

I read the original 5/3/1 book about a year ago, and according to the email I got today, my order for the Forever book is on it’s way. I really appreciate your desire to avoid over complicating things.

With regard to me and my goals. In high school I was around 200lbs of pure fat. In the army I was about 150lbs of skinny. Now, at 26 years old, I am 5’8", 205lb and around 22% bodyfat. I squat about 300 (long story but I haven’t been squatting very long), deadlift just shy of 400, bench maybe 245, and press 135. I’ve been doing BBB without a conditioning component for about 2 months (starting to add conditioning now, was just being lazy about it before).

My medium term goal (more than 1 year but less than 10 years) is to Deadlift 500, Squat 400, Bench 300, and Press 200 at a body weight of around 200lb and a BF% in the mid teens.

The issue arises when I attempt to create shorter term targets. I am, to my eyes, too fat, so the temptation is to focus on fat loss for a while. However, if I decide to diet my way to around 13-17%BF, it will take a good bit of time and that’s time I could be using to continue to build my lifts. Not to mention, when I go back to working on the lifts, even with clean eating, I will reverse some of the fat loss anyway. On the other hand, if I just stick with my current trajectory and keep working on building the lifts, best case scenario I will stay about as fat as I am now, which is not ideal as a young single guy trying to date.

Is the simple answer (not easy, but simple) to add the conditioning as programmed, maintain a lift building focus, and just work on cleaning up the diet a little more without specific caloric or macro targets? I eat fairly well, but there is certainly room for further reduction in sugars and simple carbohydrates. My training has rammed it into my head that body re-composition is simply not possible for anyone other than stark novices so I can’t see losing any of my body fat without sacrificing some lift progression to do so.

See what I mean, too much thinking, not enough action.

Any guidance would be appreciated. Looking forward to reading Forever. Thanks Jim.


#2

Not Jim here, but I think 5/3/1 would be perfect for you.

Re read the original, just the part about the principales. Over and over until it sinks in. There is a part about eating. Read that also.

Now, starting today, do the program. Heard a lot about Kripteria or Hardgainer or whatever. At this point, learning the principales is your #1 goal.

proper conditioning, assistance for your goals and you are set.


#3

Worrying about getting fat or about getting weak (or not strong enough, fast enough) is negative energy that will kill you before you start.

Here’s a simple plan:

  • Do conditioning (does that really need to be said). The forever book will guide you here. If you nees to get up half an hour early to get it done, so be it.
  • eat 500g meat per day
  • eat 12 eggs per day

That will give you your base of fats and protein. To that, add as many vegetables as you can stomach, 1 or 2 pieces of fruit and some carbs.

If you are really carb phobic - eat the carbs around when you train.

Aim to increase the meat over time. Monitor your fat levels and adjust as you see fit.


#4

As someone with no formal higher education in this field, I can tell you something you already know, which is that this is a LOT simpler than you are making it.

My advice is just lift. Tune up your diet and add conditioning 1-3x/week, and then give it time. Stick with it, obviously, and then give it a few months. The fat will take care of itself, unless you’re all about American portions. I am an American who eats American portions, and it’s great for bulking, but it makes dieting the hardest thing in the world. The biggest problem that my buddies and I have when trying to slim down for the summer is controlling our portion sizes, since we’re used to eating whatever we want whenever we want it. Once I realized that a single cheeseburger from McDonald’s is fine, but a large Coke, fries, and 3 double cheeseburgers isn’t, I was fine. Just my 2 cents

Edit/Disclaimer: I go to McDonald’s once every 5-6 months, I was just using that as an example. I do not recommend eating McDonald’s regardless of how you’re trying to manipulate your bf%


#5

I don’t have this problem. If anything, I’ve gone to eating some crappier food(to a certain extent) so that I could actually gain. I was sitting at about 180lbs for quite a while and wasn’t making progress, so I added a good bit of milk to my diet and became a little less strict about sweets (also because of holiday). I was probably 190 or so when I started my BBB protocol 3 months ago.

The issue I have is that in my mind, adding conditioning and reducing sweets would clearly reduce my weight if I didn’t increase my intake, but it would also possibly stall out my strength gains.

A big issue I have is that I’ve come to see really compelling evidence that weight manipulation through caloric surplus or restriction is actually not a “solid” as we think it is. Aka, the idea of “add 500 calories a day for X lbs gain” is not actually accurate and that view is overly simplistic. Weight is more driven by insulin and it’s peripheral effects. From here, I just end up down the rabbit hole and hold contradictory beliefs.

Belief A: You can eat “maintenance calories” or even above and still reduce body fat by manipulating insulin response through dietary carbohydrate manipulation.

Belief B: If I reduce my carbohydrate intake, I can lose fat, but I will cease to gain strength during this time.

Belief C: The anabolic and catabolic processes involved in fat and muscle metabolism cannot be separated, meaning you can’t grow lean mass and reduce fat mass simultaneously.

This leaves me with a lot of indecision. There’s no doubt that adding conditioning and cleaning up the diet a little more will make me feel better, but I have doubts that I will lose fat with that approach AND still get stronger.


#6

I see. Then i believe the best way to approach this problem is to let doubt rule, to avoid any actual doing and instead throw around various ideas and see if the fat dies from inaction.


#7

you’re only 3 months into a program that isn’t designed for pure strength (if you’re going after pure strength, there are other 5/3/1 variations that are better than BBB for that purpose). I highly doubt that reducing calories and losing 15lb and dropping a couple bf% will make you weak.

I understand your concern though. It’s difficult to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time without drugs, which is why most people (including myself) don’t even try. I will share my thought process with you about why I do what I do:

It’s easy to gain muscle in a large caloric surplus when coupled with smart & hard training. I eat as much clean-ish food as I can, aiming for a balance between enough crap to get 3000 calories each day and enough clean food to ensure I’m getting the micronutrients that crap food doesn’t have, all the while eating 200-250g protein and roughly double that in carbs. At the end of the day, my main and only focus is packing on as much muscle as is naturally possible, which obviously includes the not so awesome side effect of adding fat to my body.

The reason I chose this route is because it’s far easier for me to maintain muscle that I have built during a cut than it is for me to be skinny year round and try to eat just the right amount for me to gain mass but stay skinny. I don’t have the patience or energy to meticulously track every ounce of water and grain of rice that enters my stomach. That being said, there are easy tricks to maintain muscle during a cut; there are not as many tricks to stay thin and try to add exclusively muscle, and no fat.


#8

My primary focus is split between strength and hypertrophy so BBB fits that fairly well. I also just like BBB, it is “conducive to my head” as Tate would say.

I’m not proposing that losing that weight will make me weak, I’m suggesting that it will stall the progress. If I am not in an anabolic state, how can the body be adding lean mass and therefore moving more weight on the bar?

I don’t doubt that I could diet for 6 months, and MAINTAIN roughly my current lifts. What I am concerned about is essentially wasting that 6 month period by dieting down and then slowly gaining that back when I go back to eating in surplus to get stronger.


#9

My brain hurts


#10

See…


#11

Eat properly, train hard. You’ll be fine.

Youre going to stall at some point. That’s part of the game. Stressing about it before you even start is a very poor way to manage the situation.

Progress slow is one of the principles remember?


#12

there are easy tricks to maintain muscle during a cut

Easy tricks? I’m all ears, let us know what those are please.


#13


#14

Coach T wrote an article recently on the topic. IIRC, high intensity but low volume with copious amounts of protein will do it. So yeah, easy tricks. The two most fun things about working out: lifting heavy and eating a lot of meat.


#15

Well cutting carbs to lose weight is certainly effective, but I wouldn’t call it a trick…


#16

I skimmed through my copy of the original 5/3/1 today and came across the “Training Rules of Being Awesome”, which kinda solved some of my issue. It at least has moved me towards a more appropriate mindset.

I think my plan right now is to do the following.

Training:

BBB as prescribed in the original book.(4 days/week)
Add conditioning on 2 or 3 of my off days.
When it warms up, I’m going to build myself a prowler, but until then I’m going to do sprints on the treadmill and maybe something else if I find interesting ideas in Forever. My copy should be here in a couple days.

Diet:

With the exception of reducing my sugar intake a bit (aka returning to normal after the holiday binge), I don’t think I’m going to change much about my diet. I’ve been gaining a little too much fat since I started this program, but I also haven’t been doing any conditioning at all, so with the addition of the conditioning, it should put me about where I need to be. If all I do is stay about as fat as I am now while getting bigger and stronger, then so be it.

In terms of physique, rather than “cutting”, I think I will just double down on hypertrophy right now and plan for a dedicated fat loss period later in the year. The more I thought about it, the more I figured that I really don’t want to “cut” right now because I am still under-muscled. I should probably continue to focus on gaining for the time being and just try to minimize my fat gain by the addition of the conditioning and the reduction in sugar. I don’t think that is going to lead to fat losses, but that’s fine for now.

I would still like to hear Jim’s opinion on how one should address body fat levels while doing this program. In the book and in the posts I’ve read, he seems to always start with the assumption that you are not overly fat, and then implies “Do the conditioning, eat clean, and don’t worry about your physique because you won’t get overly fat”. While I don’t disagree with that sentiment, for those of us trying to get bigger and stronger who are already borderline too-fat, I’d like to know if he suggests dieting down to a more moderate bodyfat percentage before jumping into the program with both feet or not.


#17

Focus on performance goals; develop great eating habits. That is what I recommend.