I am a 19 year old male and trying to lose some fat (got a bit of love handles). I'm gonna guess I'm around 18-20% body fat.

I've been doing stronglifts for 2 months ish to get stronger, I'm at 255 squats etc (I weigh 205).

I've been eating the amount of food that I need to stay the same weight, around 2500 calories a day. Once in a while I eat mcdonalds or all you can eat sushi, etc.

If I cut my calories to 1800-2000 a day while continuing stronglifts, will I be able to lose some fat? How will it affect my lifting progress? If I wanted to lose weight fast (I hate dieting) - will it be a good idea to eat even less?


  • 2
    If you're trying to cut fat while gaining muscle, you're going to need to do better than guessing your body fat. Muscle weighs more than fat, so you simply cannot track progress based off of weight alone. For instance, you may gain 10kg of muscle and lose 5kg of fat, but if you aren't monitoring actual BF% and only tracking weight, you won't know whether the weight gained is from muscle or fat!
    – Moses
    May 24, 2012 at 18:07
  • I tried to use the fat measuring thing (it clips on to your flabby skin and measures how many centimeters) 2 years ago in a high school gym class. I don't know where to find one of those anymore :P. How do you guys measure your body fat easily and accurately on a regular basis?
    – cozos
    May 27, 2012 at 19:10
  • What you described is called a caliper, and you can buy them on Amazon. Alternatively, you could use a string tape measure to calculate body fat via the navy method.
    – Moses
    May 27, 2012 at 19:55
  • It is inaccurate to say muscle weighs more than fat. Muscle is more dense. A pound of muscles weighs the same as a pound of far. The difference is the fat will take up more space. Apr 28, 2013 at 18:00
  • Off-topic but equally important. How were you able to squat 255 lbs in 2 months? Did you start with an empty bar? Increment by 5lbs on every workout? Or increment by arbitrary numbers? More importantly is this: using good form? Without good form, you're more likely to hurt yourself with higher weights. Aug 15, 2014 at 16:58

3 Answers 3


I actually lost 5% body fat right after surgery by doing the 5x5 SL. I had cut a serious amount calories and maintained my diet with loads of protein and low fat. I would do my 5x5 in 30-40 minutes and do 20 in cardio, and on rest days I did 20 minutes of cardio. I ate around 2000 calories a day, which is about a 1000 less than I need to maintain my weight calories and also is very extreme. I took a rest day which was also my cheat day when once a week I would would have an additional 500 calories. I was 210 lbs on day 1, and at week 6 I was 192 lbs (18 lbs of weight loss). I ate tons of chicken, fruit for carbs, and low fat cheese and yogurt and gallons of water a day. In the morning, I had a protein shake as a meal replacement. I was extremely tired and would fall asleep super easily.

What I ate per day was:

  • Breakfast: Protein shake with skim milk
  • Lunch: Greek yogurt, string mozzarella cheese, 2 small granny smith apples
  • Dinner: 12 oz grilled chicken, 2 cups veggies, and 1/2 cup of potatoes or starchy food.

I was taking in around 140-160g protein, around 130 carbs max, and 15g fat a day.

So yes, keeping calories down while doing StrongLifts, plus cardio, works (or at least worked for me) to lose weight (hopefully fat).

  • I am somehow missing a result that answers the question. What's the bottom line here?
    – Baarn
    Dec 1, 2012 at 23:27
  • This detailed personal experience is great, thanks for sharing, Brandon. (Though personally I wouldn't go low-fat, it certainly worked for you.) Dec 1, 2012 at 23:52

Here's what I do and why:

(Note: some links are down below due to low reputation. Sorry for the inconvenience.)

Cardio - I do HIIT directly after my SL workout (1). This approach--along with details on sustained, moderate-intensity cardio--is outlined on the StrongLifts site (2). If I start to hit walls with my strength, I will switch to sustained, lower-intensity cardio.

Dietary minimaxing - I start with a moderate caloric deficit and will continue my training regimen as normal. When it gets to the point where I need to deload (after the third unsuccessful attempt at a weight 5x5) I will also add a few hundred calories to my diet (~200 kCal, though you can use more/less; experiment). This method will slow down your strength gains a bit as you will be hitting walls that wouldn't be there if you were at a constant surplus. The advantage is that you will be consistently losing weight during this process, which is my current goal. Lowering your carbohydrate intake can have a positive effect on weight loss also. I'd suggest a SKD or TKD if you want to get hardcore about it (the TKD generally works better for strength gains).

Intermittent Fasting - There's a lot out there on this eating pattern so I won't harp on it too much (3), but I highly recommend giving it a try. Once your body adjusts to the new rhythms there are a lot of hormonal and overall health benefits to this and almost no downside in most healthy people. I follow a protocol similar to the one outlined here, but my carbohydrate consumption is considerably lower. I will most likely add more carbs as I start stalling out more frequently in my SL program.

Experiment with this stuff and see what works for you. A lot of people like Paleo with SL, HIIT, and IF, and it definitely works. I prefer a more strictly ketogenic approach for the sustained energy levels the diet provides. Good luck!

  1. www.bodybuilding.com/fun/ask-the-ripped-dude-cardio-before-or-after-weights.html
  2. stronglifts.com/cardio-fat-loss-hiit-vs-long-duratio-cardio/
  3. www.leangains.com/2011/03/intermittent-fasting-for-weight-loss.html

It's good that you know about how many calories are necessary to maintain your weight. StrongLifts and Starting Strength have the same basic principles behind the program:

  • Get strong as fast as possible
  • Train whole body with major compound lifts
  • Minimal assistance exercise
  • Rest days are required between training sessions.

These are hard on your body. In order to keep increasing the amount you can lift, your body will need to use increasing amounts of energy. A common suggestion with these programs is to eat to support the program. Meaning try to out-eat a stall. That only works for so long.

You can use the pictures in Leigh Peele's blog for visually estimating body fat. Above 30% body fat, it's pretty useless to guess by site. Visual estimation is about as accurate as most other common forms of BF testing.

The bottom line is that the more you cut, the more your body will have problems trying to adapt and get stronger. 1800 Calories is the absolute minimum I would recommend you trying to eat in a day, and that only on rest days. I would recommend 2000 or 2100 on training days.

If you try to get most of your Calories in protein form, you will do better trying to lose fat. Do have carbs after you train, but don't overdo them and keep them low on rest days.

Consider adding HIIT to help speed up fat loss. High Intensity Interval Training such as Tabata style sprints, or other body weight exercise will also help. Just don't try to over achieve. Too much of this will affect your lifts.

Personal Experience

I gained weight, but lost fat while doing StrongLifts and Starting Strength (consecutively). This lasted for a good while, but 5x5 was a bit much on squats when I got to where you are now. I switched to Starting Strength (which is 3x5, and swaps power cleans for barbell rows) about that time. This helped me push myself for another couple months. I managed to get to 310 lb squats before I had to switch to a weekly progression program.

The suggestions above coincide with what I did at that time. Resist the urge to do a deep cut--particularly while lifting heavy. Only cut enough calories till you see the results you are after.

  • Cool. Thanks for the advice - how much did you eat while doing StrongLifts/SS?
    – cozos
    May 27, 2012 at 19:12
  • I ate fairly moderately. I think on average between 2100 Cal and 2400 Cal depending on if it was a training day or not. May 29, 2012 at 12:31

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