Q&A: Diet–Pt. 2

NOTE: This is part of a running series of Question and Answer posts answering questions from readers and redditors.

Q: I know that I need to eat with a calorie deficit in mind, but how many calories do I actually need to eat each day so that it’s not detrimental to my muscle gain/maintenance, and allows me to lose weight at the same time?

A: If you aren’t losing weight for an extended period (think 2 weeks), you are eating too much. Lyle MacDonald has the best adjustment technique I’ve ever seen here. The basics of it are: Drop calories by 10% each week until you are dropping 1-2 lbs a week, then stay there. When you are no longer dropping 1-2 lbs a week, adjust again. The only trick to this is to make sure you get enough protein. I suggest 1g per pound of bodyweight, as this makes sure you get enough no matter what your lean mass is.


Q: I’ve heard that if you cut too intensely, your strength will drop and you may even lose muscle. How can I avoid this?

A: This is an interesting topic, because it’s not exactly cut and dry. First, any time you lose weight, you are going to lose some amount of lean tissue. How much you lose is dependent upon a lot of different factors, most of which are not under your control, but there are a few things you can do to preferentially lose fat and retain muscle.

First, as mentioned previously, eat 1 g of protein per pound of body weight.

Second, keep lifting heavy, no matter how crummy you feel. You don’t have to keep the same volume, so you can drop some sets or reps on days when you are completely out of gas, but keep the weight heavy. A good rule of thumb is that you don’t want to go below 85% of whatever weight you normally train with.

Third, don’t get greedy and try to drop more weight. If you are losing 1-2 lbs a week, feel fine, are maintaining strength, and aren’t 400+ lbs, don’t try and cut another 2 lbs a week.

Finally, don’t go crazy with cardio. Cardio is fine for maintaining overall fitness (though you might want to keep this in mind), but don’t use it as a way to eat more food. Create your deficit through eating less. It’s easier and ultimately retains more mass in most cases.

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