Frequently Asked Questions
The path to your goal physique is a tough one, and often confusing. We get a lot of questions over email, and compiled below are the ones we get most often.
Go ahead and look through this list.
Use Ctrl + F to search for a keyword.
Hopefully we answered your questions here, if not email firstname.lastname@example.org for more help.
What is my maintenance? How do I set my macros?
Check out this simple calculator.
It gives you both your calories and macros depending on your goal. Also, this calculator gives you calories/macros for a specific Kinobody program. *Special thanks to Nicolas Stohler for making these awesome tools!
I've been cutting for a few weeks and now my weight has stalled. What am I doing wrong?
I've addressed this in detail in the post How to Track Fat Loss Progress but I'll write the short answer here.
A calorie deficit always leads to weight loss. It's a law of physics - the law of thermodynamics. If your weight has been stalling for several weeks the only explanation is that the calorie deficit is no longer present. There are two main reasons why your calorie intake needs to go down over time:
1. You weigh less, you burn fewer calories than when you started
A lighter body burns less energy no matter what type of activity you do. It's logical - it takes less energy to move 65kg around compared to 95kg. In addition, you burn less energy at rest. A lot of people think that lean body mass is the main predictor of resting calorie burn but this is not true. Contrary to what is commonly believed, skeletal muscle actually has a fairly low resting energy expenditure, roughly 6 calories per pound (13 calories per kg). In addition to that, fat mass which is commonly believed to be inactive tissue actually takes 2 calories per pound to maintain (5 calories per kg).
To put that into mathematical perspective, gaining 1 pound of muscle would be expected to increase resting energy expenditure just as much as gaining 3 pounds of fat. That is why total bodyweight and not lean bodyweight is the main predictor of your maintenance calories.
2. Your metabolism is slower
You can't damage your metabolism, that is a myth. Studies show that metabolic rate doesn’t slow down more than 15% than predicted even in the case of starvation like in the Minnesota Starvation Experiment. These people lost almost half of their bodyweight and still did not "damage" their metabolism. However, your metabolic rate does go down more than you would expect based on weight loss. This is related to leptin levels. Leptin is a master hormone involved in maintaining our metabolic rate and also controls hunger to a large extent.
The amount of leptin we have depends on our fat mass and our food intake. When we reduce our calories and we start losing fat, leptin automatically goes down causing a series of adaptations: our metabolic rate is slightly reduced, hunger is increased, testosterone levels decrease, and NEAT goes down. It's best to accept the fact that our metabolic rate will go down a little while cutting no matter what we do.
Does your waist go down and your weight stays the same?
Before you decrease your calorie intake you need to check if your waist around the navel is going down. The reason for that is because your waist circumference around the navel is a very good indicator of fat mass change. It may be possible for your weight to stay the same and your waist to go down. That’s reason for celebrating! Because it means you’re probably gaining muscle mass so fast that it equals the rate of fat loss.
Your bodyweight stays the same, but you’re losing fat and gaining muscle at the same time. If both your weight and waist are not changing, that’s when you adjust your intake. You need to eat less. The deficit is no longer present.
How often should I reduce my calorie intake while cutting?
It depends on how much weight you lose every week.
It's best to diet on as many calories as you can. So if you're still losing 1-1.5 lbs / 0.5-.8 kg per week, there is no point in reducing your intake. Actually, reducing your intake can affect you negatively because it can increase hunger and reduce workout performance.
Now, if your rate of weight loss has decreased to less than a pound (half a kg) per week then you can reduce your calorie intake by 10%.
You can do that in multiple ways:
- eat 10% fewer calories
- eat 5% fewer calories + burn 5% more energy through cardio / walking
- burn 10% more energy through cardio or walking
I personally recommend point #2. Eat a bit less and walk more.
I am eating very low calories and I'm not losing fat. Why?
There are tracking errors involved.
Most people get offended when I give them this answer because it implies they are not disciplined. But this is not what I'm saying. Here are some common problems:
- Maybe their calorie counting app has the wrong values for some foods. This way a few hundred calories go unnoticed.
- Maybe they forget to add in the two tablespoons of olive oil in their salad. It's very easy to forget about oil or gravy.
- Maybe they eat out a lot and underestimate the calorie content of their meal. What looks like 300g may actually be 400g. What looks like a lean piece of meat may actually contain 25g of fat. A bowl of pasta from a restaurant contains a lot more fat compared to what you eat at home.
- Maybe they stick to their diet perfectly during the week but go in a surplus on the weekend. 3 beers and a fast-food meal on top of your daily intake easily negates 2 days of dieting.
I'm skinny but I can't see my abs. Why can't I see my abs even though I'm lean?
A few months ago I wrote the post How to Get 6 Pack Abs - The Ultimate Complete Guide. You'll find all the answers there.
But I'll give you the short answer here. Having 6 pack abs requires two things:
1. A low body fat percentage (for men around 10%)
2. Well developed abdominal muscles
Having only one of them is not enough. You need muscle development AND low body fat.
I get a lot of emails from guys looking like this asking how much fat they still have to lose to see their abs. These guys are leaner than me right now, obviously their problem is not body fat. Their muscles are underdeveloped. This is why they lack ab definition.
At this point people ask: Ok then so what ab exercises should I do? Ab exercises alone will not be enough. It's not possible to develop your abs on their own without growing the rest of your body. To illustrate this, have you ever seen someone who looks like this picture?
Of course not, that’s ridiculous. The only way you’re going to get a core like that is if you get very muscular in general. So if you don’t have enough muscle mass to support a 6 pack your best strategy is to start strength training.
If you get strong on the main exercises at the gym it’s impossible not to develop your abs as well. You automatically get abs if you have big legs, back, and chest. Of course you’re going to be doing direct ab training as well. But you need to remember than ab training alone will probably not do much if you don’t get muscular everywhere else.
Should I cut or bulk?
If you're asking this question you probably are:
- relatively new to lifting (1-2 years max)
- unhappy with both your size and definition
You are afraid to bulk because you already have some belly fat and you'd like to get a 6 pack. You are afraid to cut because you look skinny with a shirt on and you know you'll just get smaller.
I think the best decision depends on a three factors:
- Your current body fat percentage
- Your level of muscle development
- Personal preference
My recommendations would be these:
If your body fat is higher than 15%, it's better to cut.
Yes, you will smaller in a shirt. But the benefits of losing some body fat far outweigh the temporary loss of size. Here's why:
- As a beginner you can build muscle while cutting anyway. Even though your overall size may go down, your muscle mass will increase.
- Cutting will probably improve your aesthetics more than bulking. Muscle definition contributes to the way you look more than muscle size.
- By cutting first, you set yourself up for a long bulking phase afterwards. If you take the first weeks to drop your body fat to 9-10% then you’ll be able to eat at a surplus for at least the next 6 or 7 months without going over 14- 15% bf and losing definition.
If your body fat is 12-14% or below, it depends.
If you have little muscle development, it's better to bulk.
You may really want a six pack but I think that should wait. It's possible that your muscles are not developed enough for you to have good definition at a low body fat anyway. Focus on gaining strength in the gym for 5-6 months, then cut.
If you have decent or good muscle development, it's up to personal preference.
I personally prefer muscle definition over muscle size. I would cut until 9-11% body fat and bulk slowly from there.
If you like being bigger, bulk until 15-16%, then cut.
Is a high carb diet best for gaining muscle? What diet is best for muscle growth?
Yes, carbs fuel workout performance and a high carb diet is usually best for muscle growth. Ideally you'd get around 1g of protein per pound (2g per kg), around 25% of calories from fat and the rest from carbs. However, calories and protein are much more important than the ratio of fats and carbs. Let me explain. How much and what you eat doesn't directly stimulate muscle growth. Getting stronger in the gym is what sends the signal that your body should build more muscle. Then your nutrition permits or doesn't permit that growth to happen.
In other words if your training is not progressing, nothing you do with your nutrition will make you more muscular. I fell in this trap two years ago. I was not progressing in strength but I thought I was going to grow because I hit my macros to the gram every day. I was dreaming. When your goal is gaining muscle you shouldn't spend much mental energy on getting the perfect ratio of fats and carbs in your diet. Most of your effort should be put into your training.
If you get sufficient protein and you fill the rest of the calories with a good balance of fats and carbs you get the best results you can get. Realistically, if one day you get 20% of your calories from fat and the rest from carbs and the next day you get 35% from fat and the rest from carbs - your body won't notice any difference.
Can my waist go down while my weight stays the same?
Before you decrease your calorie intake you need to check if your waist around the navel is going down. The reason for that is because your waist circumference around the navel is a very good indicator of fat mass change.
It may be possible for your weight to stay the same and your waist to go down.That’s reason for celebrating! Because it means you’re probably gaining muscle mass so fast that it equals the rate of fat loss. Your bodyweight stays the same, but you’re losing fat and gaining muscle at the same time.
If both your weight and waist are not changing, that’s when you adjust your intake. You need to eat less. The deficit is no longer present.
How to use refeed days while cutting? How often should I refeed?
The ShredSmart Program and the Aggressive Fat Loss program have you do 1 or 2 refeed days per week while having an aggressive deficit on the other days. This is what we tell people to do to keep it simple, but Greg and I actually do something different. We don't have planned, fixed refeed days, we take them when we need them. Recent evidence suggests that refeeds don't speed up your metabolism helping you lose fat faster and they don't prevent metabolic slowdown either.
You can read why in the post Do Refeeds help you Lose Fat Faster?
However, refeed days are still useful for other reasons:
- Physiologically they help boost gym performance by refilling muscle glycogen. And they also probably have a positive effect on maintaining healthy hormonal balance.
- Psychologically they reduce the stress of dieting because they allow us to eat more for a short period of time.
Greg and I have a refeed day in two situations:
- When we have a very poor workout. Eating more carbs will refill muscle glycogen stores and will likely restore your lost strength.
- When our social life demands it. The main reason I use unplanned refeeds is so that I can pair them with social events that happen in my life. Over a time period of 5-8 weeks of cutting there will inevitably be some social events that will make you eat more than you planned.Every week you have at least one event where it would be hard for you to maintain the deficit: a birthday, a holiday, a celebration, a dinner with the family, a business dinner, etc. Why not make that day your refeed day? This way you get the best of both worlds: enjoying the social event and refilling your muscle glycogen stores.
Should I workout fasted while doing Intermittent Fasting?
It’s not mandatory or beneficial. Based on what I know and experienced, fasted training is not much different from fed training when training volume is relatively low.
- Fasted training is slightly superior for fat mobilization.
- Fed training is definitely superior for doing high volume workouts.
I personally workout both fasted and fed, depending on my schedule. In all my workout videos I am fasted because we film in the morning when the gym is empty. When we’re not filming I workout after my first meal, around 4 PM. I make good gains regardless.
I would say this decision is up to you. If you like training fasted do it. If you like training in the evening, do that instead.
Does Intermittent Fasting improve fat loss?
Meal frequency and food distribution don’t affect fat loss and body composition. 2-8 meals per day will yield pretty much the same results for fat loss and muscle retention.
Problems start to appear when you go the extremes. Eating only one meal a day will cause you to develop unhealthy relationships with food where you train yourself to consume enormous amount of calories at each sitting. On the other hand, eating more than 6 meals a day creates the opposite problem. You think about food all the time because you’re having very little meals every hour or two that don’t satisfy you. Either end of the spectrum makes adherence to the calorie deficit more difficult.
Recently, the awesome researchers Alan Aragon, Brad Schoenfeld and James Krieger recently did a meta-analysis that looked at the effects of meal frequency on body composition. They found no difference between high and low meal frequencies. Their conclusion was this: Given that adherence is of primary concern with respect to nutritional prescription, the number of daily meals consumed should come down to personal choice if one’s goal is to improve body composition.
Does cycling calories and carbs improve fat loss?
Intermittent Fasting is often combined with calorie or carb cycling for the purpose of improving the rate of fat loss and muscle growth.
If you’re not familiar with it, carb cycling means alternating high carb days with low-moderate carb days.
For example most protocols involve eating high carbs on your training days and low carbs on your rest days. Other might have you eat 3 low carb days followed by one high carb day.
A notable difference between protocols is that some cycle calories as well as carbs and others keep calories fixed every day. This is an important difference.
You can see that on the protocols with fixed daily calories, fats and carbs are inversely related – meaning when carbs are high, fats are low and vice-versa. On the protocols that cycle calories as well as carbs, fat and protein intake remains relatively the same but carbs fluctuate a lot between days.
I get asked all the time if these strategies are superior to normal dieting.
I believe cycling carbs while keeping calories fixed every day is completely unnecessary and doesn’t improve results at all. Research clearly shows that as long as the calorie deficit and protein intake are the same, people lose the same amount of fat. Fat loss depends on energy balance not on the ratio of fats and carbs.
But cycling calories as well as carbs probably improves fat loss and muscle growth a little bit.
There are some studies that looked at dieting strategies in which every other day was a dieting day, and every other day was at maintenance. A review of the studies using these strategies concluded that intermittent caloric restriction was slightly superior for muscle retention compared to restricting calories on all days. Also, one of those studies found that fat loss was a bit higher in a group dieting only 2 days a week compared to a group dieting continuously on all days, despite the deficit being the same over time.
A lot of people on the internet also swear by calorie cycling, saying they got leaner faster and easier using this strategy.
We know carbs support training performance so if you can pair high calorie and carb days with training days, all evidence would suggest that you should have better performance. You must however make sure to eat at least half of those carbs before training – eating them after training wouldn’t have the same effect.
A high calorie day may also create a better anabolic environment for muscle growth. On the other hand, a low carb day that is also a low calorie day may improve fat oxidation because of reduced glycogen stores.
There’s solid evidence that a non-linear intake is superior overall.
But even with all that, I don’t recommend calorie or carb cycling for fat loss.
You’ll say: Why man? Calorie cycling sounds awesome!
Because even if it’s superior to a linear intake it’s probably only by ~5-10%. And there is a big, big difference between what is optimal from a physiological point of view and what is optimal in the real world.
The biggest problem with carb and calorie cycling is that you pay too big of a price in time and effort for the small benefits they deliver. If I have to make my diet less enjoyable, give up on some social events and put in 50% more time and effort just so I can get 5% better results, I won’t do it. It’s not worth it.
In the real world, optimal diets that are complicated deliver worse results. Why? Because people have a really hard time sticking to them.
Let me share my experience.
I used to cycle calories and macros every day in the past and I did it for more than 6 months. I did not notice any improved results but I noticed a lot of downsides to it:
- I was obsessed with my diet. If you’re truly going to stick to a carb cycling plan you can say goodbye to eating out spontaneously. You have to cook all your meals and weigh everything to the gram. Believe me that kind of diet is not enjoyable.
- When you cycle calories you never get used to an eating plan. Because of that you constantly think about food. The low calorie and carb days suck. You have to eat very little and you constantly feel deprived. You start to think of the high calorie days as some sort of reward. Looking at it from the outside it may be considered an eating disorder.
- I used to neglect my training because of it. You see, when you have a badass diet plan you tend to think that nutrition will do everything for you. All your focus is on your diet and for that reason you’ll start to underestimate the role of training and progressive overload. Don’t believe me? Ask any obsessed nutrition guy how his training is going. I can guarantee 9 times out of 10 he’s not doing jack in terms of strength progress.
- You cheat more often. Although your diet may be 5% superior to a linear intake, if you cheat often that actually makes it less effective than the more sustainable diet. That’s the truth and I’m sure you can relate to it.
This is how something that appears to be superior on paper becomes inferior in the real world.
I bet that someone sticking to a simple diet that he actually enjoys gets better results than someone obsessed with every little detail. It may sound counterintuitive but it’s true.
I recommend you eat the same calories and macros every day.
How can I measure my body fat accurately?
I made a video about how to estimate your body fat percentage. It explains everything. You can watch it here.
There are many methods you can use to estimate your body fat percentage:
- Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA) – such as those scales that have a metal surface and you step on the barefoot or those devices you hold with your hands at the gym
- Mathematical formulas such as the US Navy formula or the YMCA formula
- Skinfold calipers
- Bod Pod
- Hydrostatic Weighing
- Waist measurements
Out of these, I'd say the most reliable are DEXA, Hydrostatic Weighing, and Skinfold calipers. All the others are prone to huge errors.
I personally use two methods to measure body fat:
- Visual appearance
- Waist measurement compared to height
The easiest way I found to estimate body fat percentage is to compare your waist measurement to your height. Check out this table:
This is not 100% accurate of course. Some people naturally have wider or slimmer waists. But for most people, this method estimates body fat within an error range of 1-3%.
What's the difference between your programs and Kinobody programs?
The Kinobody programs are my biggest source of inspiration because I followed them myself for two years with great results.
I believe Greg's approach to staying lean while building strength is one of the best in the world. I highly recommend the Kinobody programs, especially those focused on fat loss.
The nutrition part of ShredSmart is almost identical to AFL. The reason for that is because the plan is great and I couldn't improve upon it (at least for now).
The philosophy of the programs is similar as well. I subscribe to Greg's view of the ideal male physique: good to great muscle development and low body fat. We believe developing the upper body more than the lower body improves proportions and aesthetics. Therefore, my programs too include less lower body training than would be ideal.
Where ShredSmart is different from the Kinobody programs is training. The routines are built upon a periodized model similar to the one promoted by Eric Helms in his Muscle and Strength Training Pyramid.
For this model to work, straight sets are used instead of RPT.
Every week, the weight on the bar and the rep range are changed. It goes something like this:
Week 1 - 200 lbs x 8
Week 2 - 205 lbs x 7
Week 3 - 210 lbs x 6
Week 4 - 200 lbs x 6 (deload)
Week 5 - 205 lbs x 8
Basically each month you end up increasing the weight by around 5 pounds.
I've personally tried both RPT and this system and I achieved better results with the latter. I believe that's because of the higher training volume and the periodization model.
Straight sets allow you to accumulate more heavy reps per workout while staying shy of failure. For people who are not highly responsive to strength training, this leads to better progress.
In addition to that, the periodization model makes strength progress predictable. My personal frustration with RPT was the constant loss of strength. Every 3-4 weeks I would go down in strength and need 2 or 3 workouts to build back up.
With a periodized model, this doesn't happen as often. The reason for that is twofold:
- Because you change the rep range often you don't second doubt yourself before a lift. This drastically reduces mental stress and boosts self confidence.
- You take frequent deloads to allow residual fatigue to go down. After the deload week your performance will peak.
How can I progress using micro plates?
For a long time I thought it was possible to make strength gains every workout. I believed that you could go in the gym and set a PR every time, as long as you increased the weight just a little bit.
I finally found out that is not possible.
The reason for that is because every time you push your body outside of it's comfort zone you generate fatigue. With each such workout, fatigue accumulates because the stress you put on your body is larger than your recovery capacity.
After 3-4 weeks of great workouts, you finally accumulate enough fatigue to cause a drop in performance. You simply cannot maintain a streak of PRs.
Trying to add weight every workout using microplates would look something like this:
workout 1 - 200 lbs x 5
workout 2 - 202.5 lbs x 5
workout 3 - 205 lbs x 5
workout 4 - 207.5 lbs x 5
workout 5 - 210 lbs x 3 + frustration and swearing
workout 6 - 210 lbs x 3 + frustration and swearing
workout 7 - 205 lbs x 5
workout 8 - 207.5 lbs x 5
You will inevitably lose strength at some point because your body does not get a chance to recover from the stress of setting PRs.
To avoid this, I recommend taking frequent deloads when progressing with microplates. Deloads allow fatigue to go down setting you up for another few weeks of good training.
Here's an example:
workout 1 - 200 lbs x 5
workout 2 - 202.5 lbs x 5
workout 3 - 205 lbs x 5
workout 4 - 207.5 lbs x 5
workout 5 - 202.5 lbs x 3 (deload)
workout 6 - 205 lbs x 5
workout 7 - 207.5 lbs x 5
workout 8 - 210 lbs x 5
workout 9 - 205 lbs x 3 (deload)
workout 10 - 207.5 lbs x 5
Why did you choose straight sets over RPT for the ShredSmart Program?
I believe straight sets are superior to RPT for two reasons:
- They allow you to accumulate more heavy volume each workout for the same amount of fatigue (or less)
- They are less psychologically stressful
Let me explain these points.
RPT is generally done like this:
225 lbs x 5 reps
200 lbs x 6 reps
185 lbs x 8 reps
TOTAL: 19 reps (that are heavy enough to stimulate adaptation)
Straight Sets could be done like this:
200 lbs x 6
200 lbs x 6
200 lbs x 6
200 lbs x 6
TOTAL: 24 reps (that are heavy enough to stimulate adaptation)
When the number of reps is equated, RPT is superior because you're lifting at maximum effort in all sets. The closer your reps are to failure, the more effective they are.
But the benefit of those maximum effort reps is not as high as doing an extra heavy set! Or two heavy sets for that matter.
The current research suggests that the main driver of muscle growth is volume that is heavy enough. Of course, not all volume is equal. The reps you perform need to be relatively close to your 1 repetition maximum to stimulate adaptation (5-10 reps per set).
Your sets do not need to be maximum effort to stimulate growth. Sets in which you keep one rep in the tank have been shown to stimulate strength and hypertrophy just as well as sets taken to maximum effort and failure.
With straight sets you can accumulate a larger number of heavy reps per workout which means better strength gains and muscle growth.
*Obviously more volume is better only up to a point. The number of heavy sets you perform need to match your recovery capacity. Once you overshoot your recovery capacity each increase in volume hurts your gains. But that's a topic for another time.
You say: Great! But why not do another set of RPT then? If RPT is better when reps are equated why not do more RPT reps?
Because RPT creates more fatigue than straight sets. For example, 24 reps done RPT style will feel much harder than 24 reps done straight sets style - even though straight sets are only slightly less effective.
This becomes apparent after 3 or 4 consecutive workouts. I found that the rapid accumulation of fatigue caused by RPT leads to unexpected strength loss. Or worse, strength fluctuations.
One workout you're strong and proud, the next workout you're weak and frustrated. RPT encourages 100% effort all the time and most people do just that. However when you're not recovered 100% you can't lift 100%.
With straight sets you put 85-95% effort into each set. As a result you accumulate less fatigue each workout. In addition that, when you do have a bad day at the gym you will probably still be able to complete the required reps. Or at least have a productive workout instead of a complete failure.
Adding one extra set of RPT can work. But you have to take two special measures:
1. frequent deloads to allow the fatigue to dissipate
2. stop one rep before failure in each set to prevent strength fluctuations
In this scenario, RPT is no longer maximum effort and its advantage over straight sets is no longer there.
Straight Sets are also less psychologically stressful. I found that RPT can create anxiety before lifting because people are not sure they can replicate or surpass their last workout. Mental stress can negatively affect workout performance and therefore reduce the number of reps that can be performed or the weight that can be lifted.
What do I do if I cannot complete the required reps one workout using the progression model from ShredSmart?
The ShredSmart Program uses a periodization model where you increase the weight slightly every week but decrease the number of reps. But what happens if you cannot complete the required reps one workout?
For example, what if instead of the desired:
workout 1 - 170 lbs x 6, 6, 6
workout 2 - 175 lbs x 5, 5, 5
workout 3 - 180 lbs x 4, 4, 4
workout 4 - 170 lbs x 4, 4
workout 5 - 172,5 lbs x 6, 6, 6
you end up doing this:
workout 1 - 170 lbs x 6, 6, 6
workout 2 - 175 lbs x 5, 4, 4
What happens now?
It's simple, you keep the same weight for the next workout:
workout 1 - 170 lbs 6, 6, 6
workout 2 - 175 lbs 5, 4, 4
workout 3 - 175 lbs 4, 4, 4
workout 4 - 170 lbs 4, 4 deload
workout 5 - 170 lbs 6, 6, 6
workout 6 - 175 lbs 5, 5, 5
workout 7 - 180 lbs 4, 4, 4
workout 8 - 170 lbs 4, 4 deload
What's important, is that you do not go to failure trying to complete the reps. If you see the second to last rep was very difficult, it's better to stop the set there instead of grinding the last rep. Perform all the sets prescribed with a heavy weight and your muscles will adapt.
I cannot perform the required reps for the ShredSmart progression model when working with dumbbells. If I raise from 40 lbs to 45 lbs for example, I am not able to do 5, 5, 5 but probably just 5, 4, 3. What should I do?
Will eating a very large meal in the evening affect my fat loss results?
Meal timing does not affect fat loss results as long as the calories are the same.
If you stay without your calorie budget, eating a very large meal in the evening is perfectly fine. Make sure it doesn't negatively affect your sleep.
Is the ThinkEatLift App available for Android?
The app is not available for Android at the moment, but it will be soon. We are currently working on it. We'll announce when it's available.
The ThinkEatLift App doesn't save workouts. What should I do?
That's the biggest issue we're working on right now. For some reason history is sometimes lost a few days after finishing a workout.
In future versions of the app, this will be fixed.
What are the best exercises for getting lean?
I believe lifting weights + walking is all you need to get lean.
Cardio or any other form of physical exercise does not lead to fat loss by itself. Sweat, effort, and intensity do not affect how much fat you lose. The only thing that matters is how much energy you burned doing that exercise.
As a rule, the higher the intensity of the exercise, the more energy you burn per minute. But that doesn't mean the exercise is better for getting lean than another lower intensity exercise.
For example, you can burn around 300 calories in two ways:
- 30 minutes of high intensity interval training
- 60 minutes of walking
Sure, walking takes twice as long to achieve the same effect but the fat loss results are the same.
The "best exercise for fat loss" doesn't exist. It's up to you to decide how you want to burn calories and achieve a calorie deficit.
My recommendation is to lift weight to focus on muscle growth and burn some extra calories by walking more.
What can I do to reduce water retention while cutting?
Water retention while cutting is normal because your cortisol levels increase. However, the way you create the deficit can have a huge influence on how much water you retain.
To reduce water retention as much as possible make sure you're doing the following things:
- Your calorie deficit is not higher than 25%
Reason: The higher the calorie deficit, the higher the stress put on your body.
- You get a large amount of your calories from carbs (around 35-45%)
Reason: Carbs increase insulin levels which correlate indirectly with cortisol levels.
- You have a refeed day at least once a week
Reason: Refeeding can reduce cortisol levels and cause rapid weight loss, a whoosh.
- You do maximum 2-3 hours of cardio per week, preferably low intensity cardio
Reason: Excessive cardio, particularly of the more intense variety (HIIT), and low calorie intakes increases cortisol.
- You eat a moderate amount of salt and you don't get high amounts of sodium from canned or pre-packaged foods
Reason: A high intake of sodium leads to water retention. It's not high sodium per se that cause water retention/water loss, but deviations from the habitual intake.
- You eat moderate amounts of fiber (around 15g for each 1000 kcal you eat)
Reason: A high fiber intake can cause water retention and bloating.
Can you have more than one goal on your goal card?
Your goal card is meant to have just one big goal on it - the one you want most at the moment.
The main reason you list only one goal is to force you to give it priority over everything else. Many people don't make progress in life because they have two or more conflicting goals and can't figure out which one to pursue first.
For example, you may have a goal to build a business and a goal to study abroad at a great school. While these are both good goals, they are antagonistic because they divide your attention.
Of course, you can have other goals small goals while you pursue the big one. I believe anyone needs a list of goals. But one must take priority in order to give you direction in life.
I cannot do weighted chinups or pullups, what should I do? I can barely do 1 or 2 bodyweight chinups.
Do Lat Pulldowns instead, until you can lift more than your bodyweight. At that point you will be able to do bodyweight chinups and pullups.
Here's how to progress to weighted chins:
- If you can only do between 1 and 4 reps, then you could do 3 sets of chinups every day. You’ll probably be able to do only 3-10 reps in total anyway so you won’t have any trouble with recovery. If you don’t have easy access to a pullup bar, then doing 3 sets 3-4 times a week is fine as well.
- If you go to the gym 3-4 times a week, do chinups in every workout until you build up to 3 sets of 8.
- When you reach 3 sets of 8, start adding weight. I recommend starting with a 5kg plate or 15 pounds. This will probably drop your reps down to 5 or 6.
You can read more here: How to progress from BW chins to Weighted chins
Can I eat less protein and still make progress?
I believe that most people don't even need more than 150g of protein per day. Usually, protein is calculated based on grams per bodyweight. That's fine for lean, muscular people. But those who are overweight get an unnecessarily high protein intake.
I'm confident to say you can reduce your protein intake to 130-150g per day without seeing any negative effects. I personally tried even lower intakes (100-110g per day) and I was still able to build muscle and strength. This is not a recommendation. I'm just saying you can eat less protein than ideal and still make good progress. This is especially true if you're a recreational lifter and not a competitive athlete.
Should I eat back the calories I burn at the gym and through cardio?
Your dilemma is probably this:
You used a macro calculator and it gave your a certain number of calories to eat every day based on your activity. But you also go to the gym or do cardio and that burns additional calories. Should you therefore increase your intake on those days to compensate?
The answer is usually no.
The formulas or calculators you used to figure out your intake, probably asked you about your average activity level. If that was the case, the energy you burn at the gym or through cardio is already accounted for in your intake.
For example, being lightly active means: sedentary most of the time, about 1 hour of walking per day, 3-4 workouts per week.
Those 3-4 workouts are already included in the calorie recommendations for lightly active people.
There are cases though where you can eat back the energy you burn. That's when you do some physical activity that is NOT part of your usual lifestyle.
For example, if one weekend you hike to the top of a mountain, you probably expend 1000 kcal that you wouldn't have burned if you stayed home. So you can eat 1000 kcal more that day.
If you go on vacation and you walk around 4 hours more than usual every day, you can eat back those calories you burned walking.
Only eat back the energy you expend on physical activity that is not part of your daily routine.
You can also search for your answers in my articles!
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