Good morning,

I am an avid lurker here and I try to answers that I feel confidently knowledgeable about to answer but after much reading between answers to my own questions, other questions, and comments, I am more unsure than ever of how I should proceed.

Let me put my goal into focus: to lose fat weight.

Right now I am not interested really in strength training even though I've been doing stronglifts.

I guess the biggest thing I'm skeptical or unsure about is what ACTIVITY I should be doing(cardio? HIIT cardio?)to most effectively lose fat weight.

I love the relative efficiency of StrongLifts but as I said I am a skeptic of what it claims. The biggest ones are "gain muscle while burning fat", "your body will be forced to pack on muscle to squat 300lb" , "more strength = more muscle". I'm not going to lie; the latter two claims sound like total broscience and yes I know that SL 5x5 is a sort of derivative of other 5x5s like Starting Strength. I have hit a 250lb PR squat doing it, but, at weight this heavy, my lifts seem to stall and plateau all over the place even though I have deloaded and plateaued.

To me, it doesn't scientifically make sense that one could actually gain strength on SL 5x5 that isn't just a vast amount of "newb gains" since you technically don't actually pack on weight, whether it's muscle or fat, unless you eat over maintenance. So if you're not eating over maintenance how can you reasonably sustain any kind of strength gaining progression? I feel like my diet is what has really hindered my progress on SL 5x5, since, to be totally honest I just don't eat that much. But now that I recognize that my primary goal right now is to lose fat weight, is a restricted diet with a strength training program even really the most efficient way to go if I'm not even really setting myself up to gain that strength? I understand the principals of intensity and volume but just don't feel like they apply the same to individuals who actually are primarily concerned with losing fat weight if you take into consideration the actual science behind weight gain and weight loss.

One of my other issues is my diet I believe. My TDEE is calculated to be 2439 calories/day, which if you take off 20% makes it 1952. I eat below 1952 every day but don't see any weight loss and I think it's because my body is used to what I eat. I consume around 1500 calories a day if I'm lucky. I tend to only eat when I'm hungry and I don't really load up much on junk food. But I'm still quite chunky. So this + the fact that my gains on SL continuously stall and plateau makes me wonder if I should be switching to HIIT cardio to reduce fat weight.

What do you guys think?


I do appreciate both answers so far and they make sense but I guess I'm just looking for something more grounded as maybe an acceptable method. I keep googling and googling and googling things like "stronglifts fat loss" and "5/3/1 fat loss" and keep seeing posts from guys who say: "No offense man but aiming for strength while losing fat is just going to be an exercise in futility in both areas" or "If you're going to cut, then cut, if you're going to bulk, bulk" or "trying to add strength while cutting sounds like a bad idea to me". So I just don't know what really to do.

The reason I'm so focused on finding something more grounded is because I keep reading that you need the intensity. Well I can't get stronger if I'm mostly attempting to cut which undermines the intensity. So does that mean I should cut and focus on HIIT cardio 5xWeek and then bulk up?

  • 2
    If you don't lose weight, maybe your TDEE was calculated wrong. I'd say just experiment a bit. Reduce calories by another 200-300kcal and see what happens (for at least 3 weeks). Alternatively keep your calories and add cardio. I'd go with HIIT, since it's much less catabolic than steady-state cardio.
    – user8119
    Commented Mar 17, 2014 at 14:22
  • Should I replace SL 3 days a week with 5 days a week HIIT cardio? Commented Mar 17, 2014 at 14:27
  • I wouldn't. If you want to keep muscle (which burn calories by themselves without doing anything) you shouldn't lay off strength training. Maybe you want to include cardio acceleration into your workouts or add HIIT on rest days. A change from SL to another workout regimen might complement that.
    – user8119
    Commented Mar 17, 2014 at 14:31
  • @ChristopherBruce If you can, do SL Tue/Thur/Sat and cardio/HIIT on Mon/Wed/Fri. Rest or stretch on Sundays :). Commented Mar 17, 2014 at 17:10
  • Regarding your edit: If you cut on any strength gaining program, you won't gain strength. You will, however, keep you existing strength instead. Switching all of your strength training for HIIT would probably cost you some muscle, which you wouldn't want. Bulking up afterwards would of course work, but you'd start from a much lower point than if you kept doing strength training. TL;DR what @Kneel-Before-ZOD said.
    – user8119
    Commented Mar 18, 2014 at 6:59

5 Answers 5


Hopefully, I can help you sort through some of the information. I think you have every right to be skeptical of the claims on the Stronglifts site, Medhi does tend to overstate things and not dig deep at all. However, broscience is still useful when actual science doesn't have any information on the subject. The good news is that there is still some science to help sort through some of the information.

First, broscience and my experience:

  • Lose fat and gain muscle: This is strictly during newbie gains or for very obese people, and it is important to note that it is losing fat not weight. I went from 210 to 235 during Stronglifts training but my clothes fit better. Basically your body is making up the energy deficit from stored fat.
  • Lose fat and gain strength: Unfortunately I did allow myself to gain too much weight over the past couple years. I'm working with a coach to help me lose the fat while still getting stronger. It's possible, but the fat loss is moving pretty slowly, but strength gains are moving at the rate they always have. I'm not exactly adding muscle, but I'm making better use of the muscle I have.

There are a few articles on the subject at Juggernaut Training Systems from varied authors. A couple key concepts is that details matter both in training and in nutrition; and recovery through other methods than eating through a plateau is paramount. That means you need to get your sleep and external stress under control. You'll find some of the authors are big proponents of nutrient timing (Nate Winkler), and others not so much. My opinion is that it is just something to experiment with once you've got the main bits on nutrition working.

Second, Science:

  • Combination of strength training and aerobic training helps: My coach wrote an article inspired by some scientific studies on the subject. He has links, but if some don't work just email him. Strength training raises metabolic rate, while aerobic training suppresses appetite. A guest post by Alex Veda details practical guidance for doing this.
  • Carbs are an important part of fat loss: Article covering a few scientific studies shows that a big breakfast can help improve fat loss, and carbs at night can do the same. My coach has me doing both, but we're fine tuning things all the time.
  • Thyroid function is an important part of fat loss: Many diets cause thyroid function to be severely compromised. This article provides information to keep it happy (note: studies are referenced in the articles referenced by the one I linked to).

Putting it all together:

The more lean you get, the easier it is to get leaner. The most effective way to get about getting thinner is to do things in this order:

  • Get your nutrition in order. Be honest and truthful with yourself while you are correcting things. Log every single thing that passes your lips, and see where you can trade some things you eat for others.
  • Add cardio to your training. Low intensity steady state (LISS) cardio is effective for burning fat, and lowering your resting heart rate. That also improves your sleep and ability to recover more quickly.
  • Adjust programming as necessary. You may hit the end of what you can do with Stronglifts sooner due to the fact you aren't eating what's necessary to gain muscle. That's OK. You'll need something you can recover better from, and Wendler 5/3/1 is a pretty decent fit for that.
  • Be prepared to take breaks from trying to lose fat and intentionally stay on maintenance for a couple months. This lets your body get used to the new body composition before trying to cut fat again. Do this when strength progress stalls or goes backwards.

Take measurements, that's a better indication of whether you lose fat or not.

  • So now over a year later how well did that carb diet after the "tuning". I read the "Article covering a few scientific studies", and did not like the author's interpretation of the studies cited. I am very interested in your outcome. Commented Apr 22, 2015 at 19:23
  • I worked directly with Greg Nuckols for a while, and got leaner and stronger during that time. We tailored everything based on how I was responding to the training and weight loss progress. The basics don't really change. Commented Apr 22, 2015 at 23:47

I've seen you ask and answer questions, so I'm certain you have most of the theoretical answers you seek. Now, to make them realistic (aka broscience that's working for me).

Don't eat when you are hungry. Eat when it's appropriate. Don't eat because you feel like it; eat because you don't want your body clinging to the fat you have. It's not just about eating lower calories; consistency is equally important. Even if you are eating lower calories but they are inconsistent, that won't help much. Protein-and-fiber-filled breakfast, protein-and-fiber-filled lunch, and light dinner.

I'm just about to start StrongLifts (because I just got all the needed equipment: bench, rack, etc); however, I currently lift weights constantly. I like well-defined muscles. The accepted theory is to not lift weights daily. However, I ensure I lift something daily. On my weight days, I lift heavier weights for definitions and strength; on other days, I lift regular weights (usually dumbbells) because they also burn fat. Those extra weightlifting are just to increase my metabolism, make me perform some work, and burn fat.

Also, I perform cardio every other day.Perform as much cardio or HIIT exercises as much as you can. I use Insanity and P90X; so, I know that they are HIIT-oriented. They help me burn fat; also, they help with my flexibility too. If you can get a similar program, use it. You want to burn as much fat as you want; so, you need to increase your consistency.

Also, you need to move about more. I used to be sedentary. I work in an office; so, sitting 8 hours a day is normal for me. However, I perform crunches everyday in my seat; other times, I'll go into the breakroom and perform some burpees, high jumps, pushups, or planks. I try not to sit for 3 hours without performing some exercise (even if it's just stretching). Don't just think you'll do HIIT exercises and that's it. Or you'll lift weights and be done. No! Move your body as much as you can. Park your car and walk (power walk when you can) to stores. Or run. Work that heart at every chance you get. Jump. Dance to music. Sit tall in your chair (instead of slouching).

Add pull-ups, chin-ups, and legs-ups to your repertoire. This should be for strength purposes. I should be able to lift myself (I don't care how strong a person is, if they cannot perform pull-ups, they aren't strong enough). Build up your strength by lifting yourself.

This might seem like a lot (someone commented in one of my questions that I was throwing everything at the fat....lol), but it's not really a lot. Pullups, chinups, legs-ups take about 2 mins or less. Same as for pushups, reverse crunches, and other calisthenics. You shouldn't think of them as exercises, just as normal daily activities (my pullup bars are on my bedroom or bathroom doors; this ensures I see them daily and constantly). The more active you are, the more active you'll want to become.

Now that you are doing all these:

  • Have a weekly journal. Measure your weight, chest, and waist sizes. Many people advocate measuring yourself once or twice a month. I don't buy that. Measure yourself weekly and record your lowest weight that week (not what you lost, but your actual measurements). This allows you to know the numbers to beat. I just completed week 10 of my weight-loss program and I've lost almost 30 lbs, about 7 inches off my waist, and gained about 3 inches on chest size (due to weightlifting). If I don't see any changes in a week, I simply modify the following week's exercise routine.
  • Based on the numbers you see above, your clothes should tell you similar stories. Chest should initially shrink and then increase. Your belt size should change. Your face should become leaner (meaning your sunglasses should feel different).
  • Invest in some tight shirts too; if you've got them, flaunt 'em :). The more you like your new body, the more you'll want to maintain it.
  • Take multivitamins (if possible, daily). You just don't want to lose weight; you still want to be healthy too.

I understand that these are anecdotal, but they work for me. And I know one person that it's working for as well. And these aren't hard to follow. Once I see them as normal daily activities or some new adventure, they just fit into my life.

Hope this broscience tips help.

  • Maybe I'm getting you wrong here, but I feel like you might be advertising 6-8 small meals. In that case I strongly disagree. How one splits their calories doesn't matter, as long as it fits their lifestyle. 6-8 small meals may work for some. Others eat 3 huge meals from 3pm to 11pm and it works too (intermittent fasting). Breakfast is not mandatory! I do agree on your bullets however. Keeping track is really important.
    – user8119
    Commented Mar 17, 2014 at 16:49
  • No, I'm not advertising 6-8 small meals. I'm simply saying that whatever it is should be consistent; that way, the body knows when to expect the intake and it actually receives it. This way, it has little reason to hoard the fat. In between the meals, if you wanna snack on fruits/veggies, you can; however, those aren't mandatory. I do the fasting thing sometimes too, when I feel I've taken in too much food. I don't know if breakfast is mandatory; however, I will still recommend it, even if it's just a shake. Commented Mar 17, 2014 at 17:08
  • Ah, I did get you wrong, sorry for that. I can agree on your consistency argument though. I've read some bits on hormonal pattering (the body having a 'schedule' for when food comes in) and how consistency benefits that. And there sure is nothin wrong with breakfast, if one wants to have it :)
    – user8119
    Commented Mar 17, 2014 at 17:42
  • RE: pull ups... I agree that pull ups are a very useful exercise, however inability to do them is not just the fact they aren't strong enough. It could very well be too much fat. You also don't provide any guidance for how to get strong enough to do pull ups. I personally get about half way up and can't finish the rep--that's due to the extra fat I'm carrying. Commented Mar 19, 2014 at 11:35
  • @BerinLoritsch Personally, I believe that whomever cannot perform a pullup isn't strong enough. If someone can deadlift or squat 400lbs but cannot lift their body weight of 200lbs, that's not strength. Of course, I could be wrong :) This (link)[nerdfitness.com/blog/2011/04/25/do-a-pull-up/] and this (one)[kayak-fitness.kayaklakemead.com/pullups-for-beginners.html] might help. But I also think cardio (especially jumping exercises) should be incorporated. The more comfortable one is in lifting their body, the easier pullups will become. Hopefully, I'm not wrong. Commented Mar 19, 2014 at 14:23

That's a very overarching question, but I'll do my best to answer it:

First off, the activity you do does not matter that much if your goal is to lose fat weight. Although it does matter if you want to keep lean body mass (i.e. muscle weight), so let's dive a bit deeper into this.

Basically, every diet is calories in vs. calories out. If you use up more than you provide you will lose weight. Whether you save those calories by eating less, doing more cardio or doing more heavy lifts doesn't really matter.
Although, if you can't train more (or just don't want to) or eat less, adding cardio is a good way to increase your caloric deficit and in turn lose weight faster. HIIT cardio would be my pick, because it's time-efficient, less catabolic and less boring than steady-state cardio.

On to muscles: I assumed you'd want to keep muscles, for a simple reason. Every pound of muscle burns an amount of calories (opinions on the exact figure vary), just by being there. So by adding muscle before, you increased your TDEE, which you'll want to keep high in order to lose that fat fast.
For keeping the muscle mass while dieting, it is important to challenge those muscles. Let your body know that they are needed, so your body won't burn those, but fat, instead. If you have to choose between number of reps and intensity, choose intensity.
A high protein diet may also aid in repairing damage done by workouts and in turn keep those muscles healthy and alive.

Now you mentioned having problems with losing weight, although you're well under your calculated TDEE. This might be due to a number of reasons, some of which are:

  • Your caloric deficit is too low. Your TDEE may be calculated wrong (e.g. due to body type). Try increasing your calorie deficit (with cardio or eating less) by another 200-300kcal and observe your weight for at least 3 weeks.
  • You're too stressed/don't sleep enough/overtrain. Stress/too little sleep/overtraining increases cortisol production, which is associated with increased fat storage and has many other adverse effects.
  • Your caloric deficit is too great (although I doubt it). If you eat much less than you need, your body will panic and enter "starvation mode" (actually, it's called metabolic damage). This will seriously slow down metabolism, hamper weight loss and decrease performance.

One of my other issues is my diet I believe. My TDEE is calculated to be 2439 calories/day,

How do you know that? What source?

which if you take off 20% makes it 1952. I eat below 1952 every day but don't see any weight loss and I think it's because my body is used to what I eat.

I don't think it works that way. If you are not getting enough calories, your body can't just "get used to that"--it has to get the calories from somewhere. If you are suggesting your metabolic rate slowed down, then your first statement about TDEE is no longer correct. But my guess is this is probably not the issue...see below...

I consume around 1500 calories a day if I'm lucky. I tend to only eat when I'm hungry and I don't really load up much on junk food. But I'm still quite chunky.

Key questions:

  • How long have you been on this calorie restriction?
  • What is your method of weighing yourself? (Is it super consistent?)
  • How do you know your daily calorie intake is "around 1500 calories"? Have you very carefully monitored your calories? Are you sure you are not making any mistakes, such as confusing how much a serving size is?
  • the fact that my gains on SL continuously stall and plateau makes me wonder if I should be switching to HIIT cardio to reduce fat weight.

My guess is you are looking for a magic technique, and, as you said, getting overwhelmed with contrary information and info overload. The first thing I would try is simply answering the above and then, depending on what you say, honing, and, ultimately reducing your calorie intake further. I'd bet you are just still eating too much.

For example, your statement, "I tend to only eat when I'm hungry", is a red flag for me: although a good plan for maintaining weight, is not, in my experience (I lost 60 lbs of fat) consistent with losing weight. Generally, when one is losing weight, one feels hungry and during those times cannot allow oneself to eat (one of the key reasons many people don't stick with it). I remember being quite hungry many nights (some worse than others) and just had to suck it up and go to bed that way.


This is not the answer you will want to hear, but the answer is: it depends. It depends on multiple genetic factors, it depends on your diet, it depends on your current muscle mass, it depends on medicines you may be taking that may affect your hormone balance, etc.

For many people (including me) trying to add strength or even trying to maintain power stats while cutting is simply impossible. For others its possible to get stronger fast without increasing fat mass, or to loose fat fast without loosing power stats, or yes to improve power stats while loosing fat mass. Some seem able to get stronger on a low-carb cutting diet while others seem able to be able to actually get leaner on a high-carb bulking diet. If you fall in one of these lucky groups, great, go for it. If you are like me however, you will have to interleave between longer cutting and bulking periods. And to make things more complex, as your body type and composition changes, the rules for your body may change with it. For me there seems to be some magic switch around 80 kg .. 84 kg FFBM (if my FFBM drops below 80kg, my body seems to completely stop burning fat no matter what program and diet I follow, above 84 kg FFBM, my body seems to go into some kind of fat burning mode if I drop my carbs.

I understand its not the answer you want to have, but you need to figure out what works for you. Find out your best bulking diet and program, find out your best cutting diet and program, find out how much you can cut your carbs while bulking and how much you can increase your carbs while cutting and than see if there is a way for you to combine cutting and bulking. I you feel like its reasonable to assume you can combine the two, interleave power training days and cardio days.Don't do cardio on your power training days. If you are unable to combine the two or you get bad results doing so, try to get a division of your training year so that you will bulk an amount of months and than cut for the remaining months. For me the 9/3 division seems to work best, but again that depends on multiple factors also.

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