Get Lean/ Get Strong
By John Alvino
It has been stated that a non-chemically enhanced lifter cannot get stronger while on a fat loss program.
The popular justification for this claim is that in order to lose fat, you need to create a caloric deficit through dieting and higher volume training. And caloric deficits are NOT conducive to gaining strength or building muscle.
This is why when most people want to get stronger and/or bigger, they go on a high calorie diet and reduce their training volume. Unfortunately, this usually results in unwanted gains in body fat. It’s a classic catch 22 scenario.
Then, when they try to drop their recently gained body fat, they usually follow a typical fat loss protocol (low carbs/low calorie diets, high intensity cardio, high volume resistance training), and although they may lose some fat, they can kiss their strength gains goodbye. And then they are right back where they started.
Does it have to be this way? Or can you lose your unwanted body fat while INCREASING your strength simultaneously? The good news is yes: you can (and should) increase strength while decreasing body fat.
In order to accomplish this, you must focus on three different aspects. Here they are:
1) Target the nervous system with your training – To a large degree, your strength is a function of the efficiency of your nervous system. This is because your nervous system is responsible for synchronizing and activating your motor units. For those of you who don’t know, a motor unit consists of a bunch of muscle fibers and a motor nerve cell.
Increased synchronization and activation basically means you will be able to utilize more motor units per contraction. This phenomenon will increase your strength dramatically.
How do you target the nervous system? Well, there are two ways to make significant neural gains.
The first is to lift heavy weights. In fact, the weights must be 85% or more of your 1 rep max. This will result in performing sets of 1-5 reps each.
The second way is to move the resistance at high speeds. Any type of explosive movement will do the trick here. Examples of explosive movements are jumping, plyo pushups, Olympic exercises and various med ball drills.
It is important to note that the nervous system can take up to 10 times longer to recover than the muscular system can. Therefore, in order to maximize this training technique, you should be sure to get near full recovery in between sets. For an experienced lifter, this could result in up to 4-5 minutes between sets.
2) Maintain or increase your lean muscle mass. This is critical, because even if you make neurological gains, you can still compromise your strength if you lose muscle tissue.
There are two things you must do to increase muscle mass during your fat loss program.
The first muscle boosting trick will involve your nutrition. The key is to NEVER stay sub caloric (below maintenance level of calories) or carb depleted for more than 3 consecutive days. Obviously you will need to reduce calories in order to lose fat.
Just don’t keep them low every day. Keeping them low everyday will result in losses in lean muscle mass. Instead, lower your calories and carbs on light training or off days and then INCREASE both carbs and calories on HEAVY training days.
The second trick is to include some hypertrophy sets in your routine. Hypertrophy sets involve using a weight which allows you to get 6-10 repetitions. The key is to keep the volume low on these sets.
Do not exceed more than 4 total hypertrophy sets for each movement pattern. More than that can result in overtraining and/or muscle loss.
Additionally, these sets should ALWAYS follow your heavier neural sets.
3) Stay hydrated and nutrient loaded. Training at high intensities while dieting can result in dehydration. This will decrease your strength and thus negatively impact your workouts and future gains.
The obvious way to try and combat this is to drink plenty of water. Be sure to drink a daily minimum of half of your bodyweight in ounces of water. Although drinking a sufficient amount of water is important, it is not enough all by itself to maintain a high level of strength performance.
Additionally, 30-45 minutes before your heavy workouts, consume a liquid meal consisting of 30 grams of protein, 500 mg of magnesium, ¼ tsp of salt, 5 grams of glutamine, 5 grams of BCAA’S and 60 grams of carbs.
This will help jam nutrients into the body, thus improving workout performance.
I have used this protocol with great success with many of my clients. But just recently, I put this protocol to the test on myself for 6 weeks. Here are my results:
Starting weight – 211lbs
Finishing Weight – 202lbs
Starting Body Fat% – 13%
Finishing Body Fat% – 8 ½ %
Trap Bar Deadlift Starting Max – 505lbs
Trap Bar Deadlift Finishing Max – 545lbs
I also did a Trap Bar Deadlift rep test. The test was simply 405 for max reps. At the beginning of this program, I was able to get 11 reps. After just 6 weeks, I was able to pull 20. Here is the video:
405lb Trap Bar Deads for 20 Reps!
I also performed a similar before and after test using a Military Press.
Standing Military Starting Max – 175lbs
Standing Military Starting Max – 205lbs
Those were the only two exercises I took maxes on. These are very good results. For strength athletes, the benefits of this protocol are obvious. But this is incredibly beneficial to anyone who looking to lose body fat as well. Give this protocol a try, You’ll be glad you did!
About the Author
John Alvino is a strength And Conditioning Coach, Fat Loss Coach, Vegetarian, Fitness Author, MMA Junkie, Ex Convict and Pit Bull Advocate from Morristown, NJ
Get his killer new FREE report at www.johnalvino.com