My ultimate goal, as detailed in this question, is to "build sufficient strength to do standard powerlifts (squats/presses/deadlifts) in multiples of bodyweight - e.g DL 3x my body weight, Squat 2x my body weight", using Starting Strength in a reasonable period of time (6-8 weeks would be best, but I can stretch it upto 12 weeks if so required)

For that, I want to ensure that I'm eating correctly, both in terms of calories consumed and proportion of macro-nutrients absorbed. I used a number of sources to build some sort of a eating plan, I want the community's opinion on it (I don't want to find out, after 3 months, that I've been over/under eating all along!)

  • Before I started SS, I was a "skinny-fat" person, so I went looking for an eating plan targeted at people like me. I found this post in a supposedly reputable forum, which advised that I need to eat 10-20% over my maintenance calories.
  • Armed with that info, I used online calorie calculators (like this) to estimate my maintenance calories, which came down to between 2300 - 2400 calories for my body type/fat % etc.
  • Then, I wanted to know what balance of macro-nutrients to have every day - I followed Rippletoe's advice in his wiki, and decided to give a Carb/Fat/Protein ratio of 50/25/25 a try.

With all the above, the following became my diet plan for everyday:

Net Calories ~ 2700(2350 + 15%) KCal

Carbs : 337g = 1350 KCal Fat : 75g = 675 KCal Protein: 170g = 675 KCal

I want to bulk up both in terms of mass and lifting capacity in a week-to-week basis. My current stats are:

Age: 28,

Height: 5'11"

Body Weight: 159 lb

Fat %: 12-14 (using callipers)

I believe that for my height, a body weight of 175- 185 lbs with the same/lower fat % would help me achieve my strength goals.
My question(s) are:

  1. Is my target weight/strength goals realistic, given the time frame - if not, what should I be aiming at? (I'm not looking for a quick fix - its just that I'll have significantly less time once Fall semester starts, and I want to make the most of Spring/Summer).
  2. Am I eating too much/too little in terms of sheer calories?
  3. For my fitness goals, are the balance of macros sufficient?
  4. As long as I'm staying mostly clean of junk food/refraining from eating out more than once a week, are there any specific food items that are better than others that I should either try to get more of (veggies/fish) /try to avoid (red meat, whole milk etc) - despite them adding up to the exact total for each day? (In other words, are th sources of macro-nutrients important as well? )
  • At its core, this is a version of the excellent and popular How Do I Get Big question, for which this answer is OK for diet recommendations. The rest of this question needs to be narrowed down. There are five or six different questions being asked, since you're looking for comprehensive advice--which is understandable! :) Commented Apr 28, 2013 at 22:18

1 Answer 1


For a fun, yet practical reference on food, Paul Carter wrote an article based on the different diet fads over time. The basic take away is this:

  • Calories are king. If you want to gain weight, increase Calories. If you want to get thinner, reduce Calories.
  • Eat your protein. At least 1g/lb lean body mass (with the information you gave, is 136g at the low end. Let's just call it 140g as your absolute minimum. Anything more is not going to be used to build muscle.
  • Eat 90% good foods (i.e. real food, not fast food). 10% can be junk foods to keep you sane/happy. Don't forget your fiber sources, veggies, and fruits as well as protein.
  • Anything after that doesn't really matter too much. How many carbs or how much fat really depends on what you can get within your budget.

Don't over think it. If you aren't getting bigger, eat more. If you are gaining too much fat, dial it back a bit. Most folks I know that started with a low body weight took a lot more food than they or anyone else might have thought to get bigger. I can't give you exact numbers. The calculators provide estimates. Just eat and adjust the diet from there.

Strength Goals

In short, yes, they are unrealistic. You want a deadlift that is 3x your body weight, and at 159lbs that is 477lbs. At 185lbs that would be 555lbs. I've been lifting seriously for about 2 years, and while I'm not young, it took me about that long to hit about 500lbs deadlift, and my lean body mass is roughly your target total body weight.

It's tempting to plug in the numbers and fantasize over how long you can go without failing (in the sense of Starting Strength). My suggestion to you is to forget about targets and schedules and just do the program and see how far you get. If you start with just an empty bar on most of the exercises, it might take you upwards of 3 months to get to the point where you are stalling more often than you are progressing. If you start with more weight, that time could get shorter.

Bottom line is you will get stronger. You will put on muscle. But once you hit the end of Starting Strength, which even Rippetoe will tell you doesn't last forever, you'll have to find a new way to train to keep progressing and getting stronger. A lot of people switch to Texas Method which is very flexible. That gives you weekly or biweekly increases.

I can't tell you what you should expect at the end of it. I can tell you that I got to about a 300lbs squat at 250lbs before I had to switch off of Starting Strength. You might not get that high. You might even get higher, particularly since you are trying to increase your body weight a lot more than I was. Just take time to look back, appreciate the journey, and then keep pressing forward.

  • So, essentially what rippletoe claims here: startingstrength.com/articles/clarification_rippetoe.pdf is not something you agree with?
    – TCSGrad
    Commented Apr 28, 2013 at 20:54
  • The part that I referred to was "It translates to a 15-pound per week increase in squat strength, half as fast as the first two weeks but still very significant at about 60 pounds per month. This adds up to a 225-245 x 5 x 3 squat workout after 6-7 weeks of training for our novice male,IF HE HAS BEEN EATING CORRECTLY." I would be happy to get to that level in 6-7 weeks, in whatever my then weight is that point (with the same approx. fat %)
    – TCSGrad
    Commented Apr 28, 2013 at 20:55
  • @TCSGrad Rippetoe is just describing the math of the program: if you add 5 pounds to your squat in every workout, and eat and recover sufficiently to keep that going for x weeks, then your squat will go up by x times 15 pounds. That doesn't mean you can just decide to do SS for an unlimited number of weeks and have a world-record squat. Commented Apr 29, 2013 at 1:16
  • Read his book. In the SS book he describes not only that it's to take advantage of your beginner gains, and eventually you won't be able to keep up. That's because you are no longer a beginner. It's great. That's when the magic really happens. There's dozens of legit ways to get strong. This is designed for beginners, so you get strong fast. Until you can't any more. Commented Apr 29, 2013 at 2:00
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    The threshold is different for everyone. These linear gains last for a good long run. It definitely won't be longer than a year, but should be longer than a couple months. You will be squatting more than your body weight. You will be deadlifting more than your body weight. You may be pressing more than your body weight. You are younger than me, so you can probably push it longer than me. But you will eventually hit the place where the weight is too heavy to recover from one session to another--no matter how much you eat. That just means you aren't a beginner any more. Commented Apr 29, 2013 at 2:04

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