T Nation

Live Debate: LL vs. Fortress!

Let’s get ready to ruuuuumble! Or at least have an interesting debate.

Dr. Lonnie Lowery and Robert “Fortress” Fortney bring their popular Experiments vs. Experience debates to the forum.

Remember, the live portion of this event (45 minutes on Friday night) will only involve LL and Fortress. After that, we’ll open up the thread to T-Nation citizens.

Let’s have a good clean match, boys. Let’s git it on!!!

Welcome all, to tonight’s live discussion between Rob “Fortress” Fortney and me, Dr. Lonnie Lowery. If you haven’t heard our usual audio program online, suffice it to say that Fortress and I talk about sometimes-controversial reader questions from a practical and a scientific perspective.

We’ve been known to tear up hotel rooms after “settling” who is right - but I think this online environment is relatively safe. (No, seriously, we usually agree to some extent; the wake of hotel room destruction is unrelated.)

Tonight should be fun because it tackles a reader question upon which Rob and I disagree somewhat - at least on a personal level…

“How much body fat do you two suggest I carry for best gains?”

Now, this inquiry was from an intermediate lifter of four years, who is currently enjoying continued size AND strength gains - although he’s competitive in neither (yet).

Comments, Fortress? (Luckily Fortress has agreed to a back-and-forth posting format, shutting his pie hole (er, withholding his hen-pecking at the keyboard) until I get-in something sensible among his rants…


Sorry 'bout that! T-Mag had signed me out, damn- it! Then again, it gave me a chance to look at another naked chick at my fave porn site.

Hell, yeah…get porky, dude. Do you want to be strong or a beach bunny? A six-pack is for wusses.


Okay, I’m giong to need some REASONS before I erase my abs in the quest for strength.

Whatcha got?

Look, how can you restrict calories, or, at the least, predict exactly what your body needs to stay anabolic? Ridiculous proposition. If you want to stay anabolic, you have to constantly feed the machine, with the thought that IF it needs something, it’s there. Got it?

Yeah, I can see both substrate-depletion (poorer energy storage) and sex hormone depression as possible mechanisms.

Glycogen loss, for example, is related to fatigue; sure most data come from endurance athletes in longer duration events but I think this is also true of just 60-90 minutes under the weights.

Fairly typical bodybuilding exercise can also depress intramuscular fat (triacylglycerol) levels by about 30% in some studies (depending on initial levels). So i agree that diet restriction during efforts to stay lean doesn’t help strength.

The T depression, though, can’t be blamed 100% on extreme leanness. An ongoing state of negative energy balance, as common to those who stay lean, is closely related here. Besides, with essential fat (minimum needed for health) down at just 3-4% for men, it’s theoretically tough to crush your T levels.

Besides, if (way) fatter = stronger, that’s a price that a lot of us aren’t willing to pay.

I don’t think the body EVER wants to stay very lean when it’s also being asked to become more muscular, and , therefore, stronger. Let’s face it, dudes who lift a hell of a lot when they’re lean are usually on drugs. And those guys usually end up hurt sooner or later. Usually sooner. Eating a tonne (I’m Canadian, okay?) is the only surefire way to constantly make the gains. If you’re a natural athlete. that is.

Hey, I’m not afraid of periodizing nutrition, just like many guys periodize their training. In fact, it’s important. Bulking up is a good thing (e.g. every Fall, Winter), while driving ultra-heavy weights. This is especially true for guys in their 20s and early 30s. Didn’t we talk about some of this in an audio show on the old T-mag site?

Anyway, after 35 y.o. or so, I think more cautious weight gain helps prevent an insidious annual climb in body fat due to the harder and harder paring-down process that follows a bulking phase, when it eventually comes time for “diet season” (e.g. Spring, Summer).

Like so many young trainers, I didn’t really start to grow in size and strength until I gave up on the whole “eat lean” crap that the mags spew. I was in my early 20s and really began to creep past 225 when I started eating a lot of hamburger, pizza, rice, blah, blah, blah…

That’s not to say Fortress thinks it’s necessary to become a fat bastard. But look at all the massive bodybuilders, especially, of years past; they always got mega huge in the offseason.

Let me ask you this: if natural powerlifters have to slowly get fatter and fatter over the years, in order to push top-notch poundage, HOW FAR ARE YOU WILLING TO GO, SUMO BOY?

How far am I willing to go? Hard question. I don’t think I’m too fat right now, truthfully. Of course, I also don’t think I have a swimmer’s body (ha, ha). But the chicks still clamor for Fortress. I’m very sexy.

It seems to me most top ntaural powerlifters are heavy, yes, but the physique just appears bulky, rather than “fat”. It’s functional weight. Look at someone like Brad Gillingham. His belly is monstrous, but it also looks strong, not jiggly.

Here’s a question: If strength is limited by fat gain, how far are YOU willing to go to stay a pipecleaner?


Ugh. The “P” word. That hurts. I see how it’s going to be.

Actually, I personally do well at an off-season (i.e. weight and strength focussed or just relaxed phase) body fat percentage of 12-15% (I used to hold it at 8-10%).

After non-competitive dieting, I like to be about 6% for at least two months, then SLOWLY regain. Extreme leanness and rapid rebound can activate pre-adipocytes, leaving a poor slob with more actual adult fat cells after each diet / re-feed! Victor Katch presented on this at the ASEP conference this past Spring. An unaware BB could actually suffer the fate of a typical “yo-yo dieter” over a few years of weight cycling: more total fat and an increasingly tougher return to condition!

For an actual competition, I’ve actually come in at negative body fat numbers via hydrostatic weighing but of course, that is impossible. I estimate that I’m about 3% in these circumstances. I don’t much worry over specifics at that point because body fat estimation equations don’t apply well to such freaky situations. I laugh at boasting from some bodybuilders (BB) that they are “2.25% fat” or some HOGWASH. The regression equations and other body comp methods are approximately +/- 3-4%. It’s not unheard of at all to think you’re 3% fat when you’re actually 6% (or vice versa); guys who don’t want to hear this should CRY HOME TO MAMA.

But back to approximate leanness… I, personally, can only hold competitive condition for 1-2 weeks, even if the lingering leanness feels pretty darn good for about 6-8 more weeks.

People need to realize that the ripped VISUAL state seen on successful competitive BB is also 5-10 lb. (or more) of dehydration and electrolyte tweaks. That comes rushing back within a DAY or two. Even at my small size (for a competitor), I regain 10 pounds by the Wednesday after a show. I know we’ve both heard horror stories of 30+ pound rehydration gains in a day or two ? not good for cardiac function, among other systems!

Pipecleaner! Pipecleaner! Ha, ha!

But, yeah, it’s true what you say about contest-day competitors and their ultra lean condition. It’s not a true representation of what realistic leanness is. I mean, there are so many jackasses in gyms who say, “I wanna be ripped by this Summer!” Huh? Like that’s what the frick they actually mean. But they’re so clueless I guess that’s what they do mean, eh? Poor bastards.

I carry anywhere from 20 to 30 percent bodyfat and feel like a killing machine. No wasted weight here.


What about the health consequences of being 20-30% fat and/or having a “power belly” and/or weighing over 250 lb. for say, a 5’10" guy? (I’m trying to avoid annoying talk on actual BMI specifics, etc.)


I don’t think 20-30 percent for a hard-training strength athlete is too high at all. And I don’t think it’s pushin’ too hard the future positive heatlth scenario. Really. Firstly, anyone who can get to 250-270 and still be under 30 percent bodyfat is probably a bit better on the strength genetics scale. Wouldn’t you say? And because of this, one way or the other he’d probable have a wee bit shorter existence anyway, yeah? Hard living, hard dying.

To be a man is to live brutal and die bruatl.

I can say from both a scientific and pragmatic perspective that dropping 10-20 pounds does wonders for those with tendencies toward hypertension. In fact, lifestyle changes are granted a full year now (vs. a few months previously) by health authorities as a primary means of controlling uncomplicated, mild hypertension. (As just one example of health.)

I suppose like so many other genetic traits (or “resistances”, in this case), it depends on the person. Recognition of family (disease) history and keeping tabs on things like blood glucose and blood pressure help a hradcore athlete make these kinds of decisions.

For me personally, it’s like switch: go over 210-215 lb. and BOOM! My BP is 145/90.

Sometimes one (an athlete) can make alterations in other facets of life to compensate for the hard driving he’s asking his body to do. For example, don’t smoke, drink, stay out all night. Also, perhaps do some walking, eat relatively clean, even though the calories are high, stuff like this.

But ultimately it’s an individual choice. And hopefully one that will be made by someone of reasonable inteliigence. Doesn’t it seem like it’s always the bozos who wind up truly fucked up?

I may not live as long as some little wuss-boy, but I also don’t think I’ll be taking a dirtnap anytime soon.

Hey, I ride the stationary bike several times each week! Lance Armstrong, look out!

My girlfriend, Samantha, thinks my heart rate is low most of the time. I only hit turbo when Fortress needs to decimate. I’m a cool dude, uh, dude.

I agree that it comes down to personal choice… aesthetics or gross body mass, either can be carried to extremes.

It’s always a trade off with health at some point, eh?

Any closing remarks?