Fat Loss for Advanced Lifters

Posted by Jason Ferruggia on September 20, 2010

Question: Jay, I know we have touched on this in the past (the optimal way to lose fat, while holding onto as much muscle as possible). However, lately I have had a chance to look at some different fat loss programs and wanted to get your feedback.

From past forum discussions in the past it seems like the main components of a solid program for fat loss while maintaining muscle are:

1. Diet
2. Conditioning Short intense -(Hill Sprints, Jump Rope) and Walking in the morning
3. Lifting heavy with basic compound movements 5-8 reps (Squat, DL, Press, Chins, Rows)

My question is where do body weight circuits and complexes come into play and why?

I have seen several “fat loss programs” that include them into their programming. However, does it make more sense to focus on jumping rope and hill sprints in addition to diet to take care of the fat burning. And use heavy weights to maintain muscle.

For example, I looked over a lot of programs that use a lot of cardio strength training protocols with short rest periods done circuit style.

However, based on my personal experience and our past forum discussions I feel like I might lose a lot of fat on those types of programs but might lose a lot of muscle as well. Perhaps it is geared to the average 170lb joe?

Would a better option for someone 240lbs be something like this (or am I way off with my programming?):

Mon/Thurs:Heavy Lifting

Foam rolling, Static Stretching, Dynamic Warm up

Incline Bench Press
Chin Ups
Core Work

2-3 sets x 5-8 reps, 10 reps

Finish with Jump Rope 10-15 mins 30 secs hard/30 secs rest

Tues/Sat: Hill Sprints 15-30 minutes, Foam Rolling, Stretching

*30 minutes walking in the morning 4-5 days per week

Diet based on lean protein, vegetables, some fruit, nuts, fish oil, green tea, water

Hopefully this post makes sense.


Get stronger to optimize fat loss

Answer: Ryan, I personally don’t like those types of circuit style workouts all that much, especially for anyone your size or strength.

Now, that type of training sells and is very appealing to the general public. I even have to add some of this type of stuff into the workouts at the gym because everyone and their mother has been brain washed into thinking that’s what they need to do. Because I have broadened my market at the gym I get a lot of people who want to do this stuff for the reasons mentioned above. So I throw it in to keep people happy, knowing full well that unless they are pre-contest dieting and have decent strength levels already it won’t do a single thing for them.

In fact, females who want to get lean would be much better served doing more low rep strength work., as I’ve mentioned before HERE.  Then they could actually get something out of those high rep circuit workouts they love so much instead of doing them with light weights and zero power output. But that’s a whole other topic.

What I would have you do has not changed since the last plan I laid out for you.

Getting lean is always going to be 85-90% diet. You can do nothing but singles and get lean. With NO cardio/conditioning at all. Hell, you could probably sit on the couch and get lean with a proper diet.

So that’s the first thing. The diet should be organic, grass fed meat, cage free eggs and poultry, fish, veggies, nuts, seeds and 2-3 servings of fruit early in the day.
Carbs should be at around 100-150 grams per day. Protein at 1-1.25 grams per lb. Fill in the rest with healthy fats coconut and olive oil to get the calories you need and supplement with a high quality fish oil.

There will be refeeds/carb loads based on body fat %. If you are over 20% there will be no refeeds until you get under. I know you are below that but I’m just pointing out facts.

When you get under 20% there will be a carb load day once a week. This will start at just 2-3 meals. When you get leaner it can increase to the entire day. This day will consist of oats, quinoa, brown rice, and sweet potatoes. When you get leaner you can have red potatoes as well. Fat will be low this day and protein will be at 1 gram per lb. Also be sure to drink a ton of water on this day.

As you get leaner and leaner carb load/refeed days can come more frequently- once every 5, and eventually once every 4 days.

If you are starting out already under 15% and have decent insulin sensitivity then carb cycling from the start is a good idea. 2-3 high days, 2-3 low days and 2-3 medium days. The high days will be at 2-3 grams per pound, the medium at around 1-1.5 grams and the low days at .5-.75 grams per lb.

That is the basis of getting lean- the diet.

Beyond that your training can remain at 3 days per week, upper-lower-upper or a rotating four way upper lower split. Big, basic exercises with an emphasis on strength gains, 5-10 reps (and definitely no more since you’re dieting), and adequate rest periods.

Beyond that I would add in fasted cardio in the morning at 65-70% max heart rate, like I had you doing in the past. You would start with three 30 minute sessions and work your way up to six. Also I like 1-2 sprint sessions per week of about 10-30 minutes. You just have to be sure that these sessions are done on days you have carbs. When you do high intensity training like that with no carbs it can become very catabolic. So low intensity cardio/conditioning on low carb days and high intensity on high carb days.

As you get leaner and leaner and closer to where you want to be you can bump up the steady state cardio by 5 minutes per day when you hit a plateau. And then another 5. Do this every couple of weeks. I wouldn’t go more than 45 minutes per session, though. Eventually if you were really intent on getting down to say 5% you could even do a second cardio session a few days per week at night on days you don’t strength train.

This plan is not that fancy or exciting and doesn’t make for a very cool product or even gym but that’s what works. That’s how you get lean and keep your size and strength. Or at least minimize the losses.

You’re right; you will shrink on those workouts and you will lose strength as well. You’d also end up looking flat. Everyone I know that’s over 200lbs of muscular bodyweight, including myself has gotten emaciated and flat as a pancake after one month on those types of programs.

They’re great for the average guy and for those that can only get three total hours of training in per week. But if you are really dedicated and can diet and do the necessary cardio, the plan I outlined is far more effective and will work wonders for you.

So again, the simple formula is:
1) Diet your ass off
2) Carb load once every 3-7 days depending on bf% and insulin sensitivity
3) Lift heavy
4) Sprint 1-2 x per week when glycogen stores are high (And the reality is you could even skip the sprinting. If I had to choose between the sprinting and the fast cardio the sprinting would get cut out.)
5) Do fasted cardio 3-6 mornings per week for 30-45 min*

*You can take BCAA’s before cardio if you are worried about catabolism.

Hope this helps.

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