How to tell if caloric surplus is sufficient? How to tell if caloric surplus is sufficient?

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Thread: How to tell if caloric surplus is sufficient?

  1. #1
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    Default How to tell if caloric surplus is sufficient?

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    Hi all,

    So far on my NLP I've been basing my caloric intake on my average weight gain. Based on the idea
    that 3500 calories of surplus consumed = one pound of mass gain, I reckoned that I should gain
    about 900 g of body weight a week. I've gained well over that (1,2 to 1,5 kg a week),
    so I think I'm eating enough. But I've failed to complete all sets and reps of several of my lifts now,
    and before asking about other factors, I'd like to rule out the possibility of eating too little.
    Do you think this method of estimating sufficient intake is reliable?

    Thanks!

  2. #2
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    First: The First Three Questions | Mark Rippetoe

    Second, how are those calories distributed

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    Hi Robert,

    I checked the three questions before posting and I'm pretty sure it's none of those.
    But just to be certain:

    1- I rest until both breath and heart rate have returned to normal and I feel ready again.
    That comes down to 5 minutes for the press and bench, 7 for squat, 8 for deadlift.

    2- I just passed week 7 of the program. Currently stuck on squat at 112 kg (248 lb) after taking 2.5 kg jumps for while,
    on the deadlift at 130 kg (286 lb) for the second time after resetting from 10 kg jumps to 5 kg jumps, and on the press
    at 40 kg (88 lb) after taking 2.5 kg jumps. Barely got the bench moving again at 65 kg (143 lb) after 2.5 kg jumps.
    Additional info: lifted casually in 2017 before taking a long break, used to squat 100 kg, deadlift 140 kg, press 50 kg,
    bench 75 kg- all at higher body weight (all 5RM).

    3- I'm 1.91 m (6'3), 81 kg (179 lb). Used to be 75 kg (165 lb), gained about 6 kg in 7 weeks. Eating 4200-4300 calories
    a day at the moment, depending on whether it's a lifting day or a rest day. Food consists of whole-grain carbs, bananas,
    nuts, beans, dairy, and some eggs and meat. Milk amounts to 2 liters a day. Sleep is 8-8.5 hours every single night,
    decent quality but some tossing and turning in the early hours. Never feel tired.

    Do you mean distributed across the macros or across the day?
    Macro distribution is about 45% carbs, 30% protein, 25% fat.
    Breakfast is about 650 calories, pre-workout snack 200 calories, lunch 900 calories, afternoon snack 200 calories,
    dinner 800-1000 calories, late meal 550 calories, milk total 700 calories.

    Typing this all out made me realize I've been eating less than I thought.
    6 kg in 7 weeks is barely 900 g per day, not 1.2-1.5 kg.
    That should still be a 1000 calorie surplus, but it seems there's room for eating more.

  4. #4
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    #3 is the issue. 179 @ 6'3" won't get you very far. I would not follow the "3500 calorie rule" for the following reasons:

    1) It does not apply to lean mass it was based on studies on weight loss and biochemical analyses of fat tissue. We have no idea how many calories are necessary to build 1 lb of lean mass but we do know that you need to get stronger for this to happen.

    2) The number of extra calories necessary (or fewer for weight loss) to induce weight gain varies across individuals.

    Eat 4000 on ALL days and see what happens.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by vigilance View Post
    1- I rest until both breath and heart rate have returned to normal and I feel ready again. That comes down to 5 minutes for the press and bench, 7 for squat, 8 for deadlift.
    It sounds like your issue is definitely nutrition related, but rest can be trickier than when you feel you've returned to normal. That's what I've found, anyway. But if you're failing on your first set, it's doubtful you have a rest problem. If you succeed set 1 and subsequent sets break down, that's when looking at your rest interval is a good idea. That's been my (admittedly limited) experience, anyway.

  6. #6
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    Thanks Robert, that is very insightful.
    I'm interested in understanding this concept more deeply.
    What about a low muscle mass to length ratio causes one to fall behind on the strength gaining curve, given that a steady amount of mass is being gained? Is it the muscle angles and leverage?

    I re-read the part of SS:BBT about nutrition and I think I now see what the intended idea was. If a skinny guy were to eat at a ludicrous surplus (6000 or something instead of 4300)
    for the first three months, he would gain mass so fast that stalling would never become an issue during that time. Then afterwards, he could tone it down and finish his NLP without gaining much more weight.
    What I did was aim for the same end weight, but steadily rather than in the first three months - without realizing that this approach could interfere with progress.

    I'll stop basing my calculations on the 3500 calorie rule. Instead I'll increase intake based on what my lifts are doing.
    I assume you meant 4300 calories each day?



    Quote Originally Posted by CommanderFun View Post
    It sounds like your issue is definitely nutrition related, but rest can be trickier than when you feel you've returned to normal. That's what I've found, anyway. But if you're failing on your first set, it's doubtful you have a rest problem. If you succeed set 1 and subsequent sets break down, that's when looking at your rest interval is a good idea. That's been my (admittedly limited) experience, anyway.
    Yes, I agree. If I feel like during my first set I'm not performing at the expected level, I do not hesitate to increase rest. More rest has not helped me avoid failing sets during my current stall.

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    Quote Originally Posted by vigilance View Post
    Thanks Robert, that is very insightful.
    I'm interested in understanding this concept more deeply.
    What about a low muscle mass to length ratio causes one to fall behind on the strength gaining curve, given that a steady amount of mass is being gained? Is it the muscle angles and leverage?
    What do you mean? Yes muscle insertions, pennation angle, and leverage all play into this. Body fat changes leverage too thats why some gain is productive. You do need to eat 4300 or whatever number puts weight on you on all days of the week.

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    I meant to ask about the mechanics behind the reason I'm getting stuck now.
    When I started, I assumed that if I ate at this large a caloric surplus, my lifts would keep going up for months. Based on your reaction "179 @ 6'3" won't get you very far",
    I concluded that my body length and starting muscle mass somehow hinder my ability to get strong fast enough to keep up with the program.
    But I still don't understand why this is the case, in other words, what enables a shorter person at the same weight / heavier person at the same length to succeed under the same conditions?

    Also, I've started eating 4300+ calories every day now. I'll post again to let you know if it's working.

  9. #9
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    starting strength coach development program
    Leverage and contractile tissue. It's rather simple. You need to gain both muscle and fat to lift more weight for various reasons. You dont' have much density and poor leverage at your current height and weight.

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