There is a misconception that if you are dieting, you are bound to lose strength in your beloved lifting.
This assumption is not necessarily valid.
Here are a few things you can do while dieting down that will keep your power and strength in the gym and might even increase it. This basic info is not the be all end all, but following these few simple tips can make your performance at your next meet much more effective, even if you’ve been cutting weight.
1) Intra-workout nutrition.
This is the most important tip. I am still shocked that athletes are missing what is now considered a staple in most pro athletes’ diets. Having the right mix of carbs and protein while you are training can keep your strength secure even when you’re dieting or cutting weight.
It is quite simple: having a steady stream of nutrition, especially fast-acting carbs and protein, will prevent catabolism and let you perform in the same level you’re used to. This is because your glycogen stores will be full enough to support your training, especially low-rep sets. You will not lose energy as you approach the middle and end of your training sessions, and there will be no “crushing” fatigue afterward as your recovery will be much more efficient — there will be not as much damage to fix.
Think of it as eating a full meal while you are training and enjoy the benefits of it on the spot. Personally, my favorite intra-workout supplement is Biotest Plazma.
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2) Have enough protein.
More than you will have if you are not dieting. When you restrict calories and carbs, it is a lot easier to lose muscle. This is a very general rule, but increasing your protein intake to at least to about 1.3 to 1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight can help tremendously to keep muscle mass on. If you keep your muscle, you are more likely to keep your strength. Remember muscle moves weight, not fat! Lose the fat but maintain the muscle!
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3) Cycle your carbs around workout time.
We already touched the importance of intra workout nutrition, but if you are dieting, you are most likely restricting your carbs in some way. This makes carbs timing even more critical than usual. What you want is to have the most available energy before, during and after the session (afterward for recovery and healing while before and during is to give you as much power you need to still train hard).
While dieting and trying to maintain or increase strength, you should have at least 85 percent of your daily carbs before, during, and after your session. If it is a super restrictive diet carb-wise, I would say even 90 to 95 percent, with most of it coming intra- and post-training. Personally, I would usually go with white potatoes post training and white rice before.
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4) Reduce stress from other areas of your life, and get enough sleep.
I know, easier said than done. But face it: dieting is stressful on your body, and if you do not cut some slacks in other areas you will be more likely to lose strength. Eight hours of sleep, proper hydration, and the right supplements can go a long way in the goal of keeping your strength while dieting. I consider curcumin, fish oil and 5-HTP as solid basic supplements in this regard.
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5) Pick your battles and adjust volume accordingly.
If you want to stay strong, you will most likely have to adjust your training volume. Heavy sessions require a lot of energy, and when you are dieting, you do not have as much of it.
So doing ten sets of leg extensions, six sets of leg press, and four sets of hamstring curls right after super heavy squats is probably not the smartest idea. Hit the vital lifts as heavy and hard as you can. Do minimal and only required accessory work and then go home to recover.
Follow these few simple tips and getting leaner will not mean getting weaker. Look strong and stay strong!
Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.