The first time I started a strength program I found I could slowly lose a bit of fat during training. Training partner stopped, so did I and I lost a lot of fat (and bit of muscle). Looked good. Training partner ready to go again a year later so I've started lifting again.

Current Problem

After 2 months, I'm just turning into the Barney Rubble type - a tank - strong and solid but the fat's coming on too. There's no way the 12 pounds I've put on in 2 months is all muscle. My training partner is finding the same.


My uninformed opinion is that my body is demanding a quantity of protein for muscle recovery and because I'm not taking supplements or focusing on high protein foods, it's making me eat more food to get enough protein.


I train because I enjoy it. I don't wish to start taking supplements, special diets or counting grams of protein. But I don't want to pile the fat on because my appetite's gone up.

I'm the classic endomorph with wide hips, narrow shoulders so focus more on hypertrophy of upper body doing 8-12 reps for smaller muscle groups. I enjoy squats and deadlifts for the full body workout.

Current program

Greyskull LP, 3x5+, Bench (150lbs), shoulder press (125lbs), squat (290lbs), deadlifts (330lbs), V-grip pulldowns, barbell curls and pull throughs. 5-6 trainings per fortnight.

Walking 10-12 miles a day, 5-6 days a week, which when I'm not strength training, tends to keep the weight coming off slowly but surely.


6 foot tall, 45 years, currently about 235 pounds, ideal weight 210, get anorexic looking under 200.


Should I start modifying my training or even have spells to allow me to cut some weight off?

Followup to comments

Diet: very well read on nutrition and base diet pretty good, just not a bodybuilder's diet. I'd only get about 100g protein a day. Carbs are not excessive unless I go all day without eating due to task urgency, and end up binging. I know I shouldn't, stopping it has proved very hard though.

Training turns me into an eating monster. I suspect hill sprints will also cause me to eat more but I will try those.

The only way I've been able to avoid becoming what I call 'Rippetoned' is by not training, where walking all day on the treadmill desk slowly but surely knocks off weight.

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  • 1
    Wendler recommends hill sprints three times a week and I couldn't agree more. They melt the fat off, yet still build muscle and power.
    – Daniel
    May 23, 2014 at 12:56
  • 5
    It will be difficult to get a big change in body composition without adjusting your diet given that you're already doing pretty solid strength training. You mention you don't want specialized diets or counting grams, does this mean suggestions like "replace some of your carbs with protein" are out of the question? If so you're going to have a tough time. "Ounces are lost in the gym, pounds are lost in the kitchen." i.e. you can eat the calories you burned after a hard workout easily.
    – Luis
    May 23, 2014 at 13:23
  • 2
    What are you eating?
    – G__
    May 23, 2014 at 14:03
  • Add in some Cardio.
    – EricSSH
    May 23, 2014 at 21:35
  • Don't forget to focus on a healthy diet. Support nutrition.SE here: area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/44550/nutrition
    – Kenshin
    May 28, 2014 at 10:58

2 Answers 2


Food plus lifting equals get bigger

It seems like you're saying that when you walk a lot, eat moderately, and do nothing else that you lose a little bit of weight--likely fat, but perhaps also muscle. It also seems like you're saying that when you add heavy lifting and a lot of eating that you gain weight. Nothing about that is surprising:

  • (Lots of low-grade activity) + (Moderate food)= lose fat, probably lose a bit of muscle
  • (Lots of low-grade activity) + (Strength training) + (LOTS OF FOOD) = gain weight, mostly muscle but also some fat

It sounds like you want to lose weight while getting stronger. So, try the third or fourth option:

  • (Lots of low-grade activity) + (Strength training) + (Moderate food, mostly protein) = retain muscle, lose fat
  • (Lots of low-grade activity) + (Strength training) + (Moderate food, mostly protein) + (Short, high-intensity cardio) = retain muscle, lose fat

If you choose to do cardio, I'd put it at the end of your lifting workouts as a short finisher. Say, fifty burpees, or kettlebell swings and farmer's walks and burpees. Five to ten minutes of intense work.

Without more detail on your diet, there's not much more to say than generalities: eat right, eat less, strength train and do cardio. It's kind of to be expected that when you strength train and eat a lot that you're going to gain at least a little of both muscle and fat. That's how it works. But if you don't eat a lot, then strength training merely makes you stronger, not bigger. Your scale weight might go up, since muscle is heavier than fat, but you'll be engaging in body recomposition. (You'll look and feel better but weigh as much or more.)

  • Ok, so that sounds like it is possible to aim for a calorie surplus that purely feeds muscle growth rather than being portioned between muscle growth and fat storage. I was thinking by doing cardio or restricting diet that my strength workouts would become less effective.
    – jontyc
    May 24, 2014 at 15:53
  • @jontyc Your strength workouts will become less effective in such a scenario, and regardless you'll still be gaining some fat whenever you're on a surplus. I've conditioned my language, I apologize for the confusion. May 24, 2014 at 16:45
  • Always helpful, I appreciate it Dave. Thinking about it, most of the guys I see doing heavy squats and deadlifts are tanks, as are the guys in strong man competitions. I'll post another question in an attempt to reconsider my training goals.
    – jontyc
    May 25, 2014 at 1:52
  • 2
    @jontyc That's really it's own question, and quite a good one. The start of an answer is that I've seen 3x5 work quite well for novices trying to gain weight and for novices trying to stay the same weight but get way stronger. Maybe you should look into non-novice programming like 5/3/1 or Olympic weightlifting style routines that use lower rep ranges. But diet is always going to be central. May 25, 2014 at 10:03
  • 1
    @DaveLiepmann, I like that suggestion. In a calorie deficit you don't have the fuel for a linear progression program, so you stall out quicker. However, a calorie deficit is the only way to lose weight. I was able to keep getting stronger but still cut fat while doing something like 5/3/1. I also think that using 5/3/1 on the earlier side helps teach patience with the strength process. A lesson that is harder to learn after a beginner program like Grey Skull or Starting Strength. Oct 6, 2014 at 22:13

Everybody loves anecdotes so I'll start with one. I got to pick the brain of this great bodybuilder named Bernie Cooper once on Christmas Eve in a bar in Edinburgh. The man obviously did have some "assistance", but he told me the only thing he ever changed when "cutting" was that he added some cardio to his routine.

Anyway, the fact is this: You'll only be able to be so strong (myofibrillar), so sizable (sarcoplasmic), and so lean (body fat). The only limit is your genes, because they dictate how your endocrine system responds to the physical stresses you throw at it. The limiting factor in physique (aesthetics, strength, whatever) is how well you -- every system in your body -- responds to stress. The better you respond to stress, the better the results.

If you find you are not responding to stress in a way that is satisfactory, there are ways to eliminate stress. These may aid in giving you the discipline you need to achieve your goal. People choose various methods (steroids, meditation, alcohol, various cocktails of these things, etc), and the choice impacts the outcome. Some obviously have different consequences than others. You may not choose any of these things. Find what works for you to achieve stress-elimination if this is a problem.

Now, to be absolutely scientific about a solution, you'll either need to have a scientist do the work for you, or be your own scientist. All of these variables (strength, size, body fat, caloric intake, macronutrients, workout duration, even caloric expenditure), are measurable. You can take all of these things and plot them on a chart on a week-to-week basis and make minor adjustments until you approach perfection. That's what star athletes do (or someone does for them).

Another option is to choose a role model who has the strength/size/body fat/whatever you want and do exactly what he does. It is unlikely that what works for others who are in the top of their sport will get you on the podium next to them, however.

This is the answer nobody wants to hear (though we know it to be true) because it means we have to work for it. Good luck!

  • I always imagined cutting phases cut back on the load, but having a quick read around, I can see Bernite wasn't unique in keeping his strength training the same. I think you've convinced me it's time to start reading some programming texts - I've had my eye on those by Rippletoe and Low.
    – jontyc
    May 25, 2014 at 8:26
  • @jontyc I don't know if you mean it as tongue-in-cheek, but it's 'Rippetoe'. 'Rippletoe' (derived from 'Rippletoad') is generally used as a dig aimed at his figure. May 25, 2014 at 10:05
  • No, I didn't realize there was an 'l' and would never take a dig. Respect him greatly for the SS manual. I must have been reading too many digs.
    – jontyc
    May 25, 2014 at 10:22

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