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I'm 5'6 and 176 lbs with a high body fat %. I am overweight (with man boobs and big belly with love handles) and just started the StrongLifts 5x5 program.

While reading the starter pdf included, Mehdi mentions that I need to eat and maintain about 3000 Calories to keep up with the program and gain weight.

My question is, do I need to eat 3000 Calories or more a day even if I'm overweight? And if I don't meet the 3000 Calorie mark, will it affect my StrongLifts performance?

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Medhi has different articles to cater to different populations with SL 5x5 being the perfect fit no matter where you are... Want to gain weight and look like an Adonis? Want to lose weight and get stronger at the same time? Etc. The important thing is that you open your sights to other sources of information.

The facts are:

  • Any weightlifting program designed around big compound lifts using sets in the 4-6 rep range will help any beginner get stronger. This is from sources like Bill Starr, Jim Wendler, Mark Rippetoe, Dr. Kilgore, Glenn Pendlay, and yes, even Medhi.
  • As you get stronger you will have more lean mass. This means you will get heavier, even if your body composition doesn't change (i.e. same absolute amount of body fat).
  • Only as a beginner can you gain strength and lose weight at the same time. This is per Mark Rippetoe and Dr. Kilgore. Essentially, as you progress as a lifter, eating to lose weight will affect your max lifts.

I take it your goal is similar to what mine was when I started lifting weights: get stronger and lose fat. In fact, I'm still working on that process now and making decent headway. In order to pull off this feat, do the lifting program as laid out. Both Starting Strength and Strong Lifts are good beginner programs--particularly for guys in their 20s. It's still doable if you are older, you just might have to switch programs sooner than a younger guy. The other part is to eat to lose weight.

A few short tips:

  • Eat a minimum of 1g protein per pound lean mass (i.e. how much you way without fat). A reasonable target is still 1g protein per pound total body weight.
  • Eat fewer calories than is required to maintain your weight. You'll probably be surprised by how much that is. I would cut by 20% averaged throughout the week, and adjust accordingly.
  • Your body will use your body fat to make up the difference.
  • Add some conditioning after your lifting. Jog for 2 miles, run sprints, hit a tire with a sledgehammer, jump rope, anything that gets your heart rate up will help.

The article I linked to has a few tools of the trade that have been proven to work. You can even mix and match the tools together to help speed things along. The protein is non-negotiable for people who lift weights. Your body needs to repair your muscles and build them back up stronger after exercise. It needs protein to do that. However, try to get your protein from whole food sources like chicken, fish, and beef. This is better, and less expensive than protein supplements. Don't worry about timing the protein, but just try to get the daily requirement in. The only macronutrient that seems to respond better if you time it to post workout is carbohydrates. Carbs provide energy for your muscles, so they help with recovery. Post workout, your muscles will be hungry, so to speak, so having a meal higher in carbs at that time will help them recover better.

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Very detailed answer as usual Berin. :) –  Ron Jan 20 '12 at 13:52

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