Burning Fat While Gaining Strength

Posted by Jason Ferruggia

Question: Jay, I just lost 25lbs of bodyfat and now my main focus is on getting strong and lifting heavy weights. I still want to continue getting leaner but the main focus is on strength right now. What kind of adjustments do I need to make in my training and diet?
Mike Flynn

Answer: Mike, if you want to keep burning fat the diet needs to remain tight. The majority of your carbs (50% or more) should come from veggies, about 25% from fruit and the remainder from brown rice, sweet potatoes and oats. I would either limit the starchy carbs to the early morning and afternoon or only have them on training days. Still I would cut them off at 6pm. I would also recommend keeping your sodium levels high. This will help you maintain strength while dieting.

Training sessions should be short, intense and heavy. Train hard and to the point of near failure but never train to the point where you literally fail and miss an attempted rep. That is the worst thing you can do for strength gains. This makes you weaker and like the saying, “success breeds success,” failure also breeds failure. Never attempt a set with a weight you’re not sure you can get. Also, remember that training hard and training smart are two different things. You can get fired up and hit smelling salts and head butt the wall for your main max effort lifts but you should probably turn it down a notch on assistance exercises or you risk burning yourself out. Of course, this is dependent upon your total volume, but in theory, it’s a good general idea to get nuts at the beginning and back off the intensiveness a bit toward the end of your workout.

Another thing that is important to note is that you need to be patient and be happy with small consistent increases over time. While it would be nice to add ten pound per week to every lift ad infinitum this is simply not possible. If it were we’d all be squatting 2,000 pounds after a few years of training. If you are on a streak where you can add 10-20 pounds per workout by all means ride it out. But after many years of training you may need to start making smaller jumps. This is completely fine and will actually lead to more consistent long term gains than huge jumps over a three week period that lead to a complete dead end plateau before you know it.

Use conditioning methods that will not interfere with strength gains. This will either be sprints done in the morning, six hours prior to your weight training workout or walking. These two methods will have the least impact on your strength gains. Sprints can be done three times a week and the total volume of the session should be 1000 yards or less. This is not speed training, because if it was the volume would be less than half that. It’s conditioning, with the goal being to lose fat without losing strength. Something like ten 100 yard sprints would fit the bill perfectly.

But if getting lean is a serious priority then I would also add in one or two steady state sessions on off days at about 70% of max heart rate for 30 minutes. Too much high intensity cardio (sprints, prowler, etc) will slow down your strength gains as well. Walking can be done every day for an hour if you like. This is best done first thing in the morning on an empty stomach.

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