"What are your goals?" If you ever pick up nutrition coaching or meal planning from Power Athlete, this will be the first thing you hear when you hop on your initial call with one of our coaches. Really, this SHOULD be the first thing you hear when talking to any coach that is worth their salt. For us at Power Athlete, the answer we get 90% of the time from our nutrition clients looks something like:
“I want to lose weight, lean out, gain muscle, and get stronger.”
Let’s throw this out there right now, it’s (probably) not happening. At least, not all at the same time. This isn’t me shooting your dreams down; this is just a reality check. While it can happen, it will take a lot of work...and chances are you aren’t there YET. So let’s tackle these goals one at a time. Getting stronger is simple: lift heavy weights. Now, either you’re going to want to lose weight or get jacked.
Lean and Mean
To lose weight, you need to be in a caloric (energy) deficit. Yes, there are other components to make the weight cut lasting, and to do it in a healthy manner, but A-Number-One, you gotta be in a deficit. This is the first step that we’ll take with our clients, and this is the foundation of our Leaning Protocols. Furthermore, we prefer (and the research tends to agree), to take a carbohydrate-reduced approach to weight loss. We don’t completely abolish the macronutrient, but we bring it down to levels requiring your body to mobilize fatty acids for metabolism. We do bring in carbohydrate refeed days, but explaining the purpose of those are for another time.
Building Your Meat Suit
To get jacked, or rather, to cause hypertrophy (increase of muscle mass), we take the opposite approach. Limiting carbs while pursuing hypertrophy will likely lead to failure, because carbohydrates are necessary pieces to the muscle-gaining puzzle. They are used to maintain high stores of muscle glycogen, which allows for stronger contractions (i.e. lifting bigger weights), as well as enhancing the recovery and adaptation process via augmenting muscle protein synthesis and decreasing protein breakdown. A fun side benefit of maintaining adequate carbohydrates is a fuller looking muscle belly, because with glycogen comes intermuscular water. There are other mechanisms to hypertrophy, so you may see SOME gains while leaning...but you’re definitely leaving much on the table.
It's A Long Road
So you see, it’s tough to allow for both to happen CONCURRENTLY. But, if planned correctly, you can cycle back and forth between leaning and bulking, allowing for a stair-step model to get to where you want to be. This approach, though longer, also tends to prove more sustainable. It allows your body to “take hold” if it’s new self, it’s new body composition, and learn to perform within whatever nutritional strategy you’re operating on. Be patient, be systematic, and, if need be, get a coach to act as your sherpa, as you make your way up the nutritional mountain.
PODCAST: Power Athlete Radio Episode 286 - Stan Efferding
RECIPE: Offful Good Meatloaf by Paula Lean
BLOG: Power Athlete Nutrition 101: Calorie Balance by Ben Skutnik
BLOG: Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself in the Kitchen by Ben Skutnik
Currently, Ben is finishing his PhD while serving a clinical faculty member at the University of Louisville, molding the minds that will be the future of strength and conditioning coaches. He also helps support the Olympic Sports side of the Strength and Conditioning Department there as a sports scientist.