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Thread: Very low calories but enough protein?

  1. #1
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    Default Very low calories but enough protein?

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    Dear Mark Rippetoe

    I started lifting around 6 months ago. I am 6ft and was 145lb when I started. I gained 20lb and am now 165lb. I am not sure how this happened but I put it down to newbie gains because I stopped gaining weight and wasn't even eating enough calories or protein to begin with (3500 calories per day is the most I got up to, and less than 1g of protein per lb of bodyweight).

    However it was not just not eating enough. I did not know how to apply progressive overload, and was doing the same weights every session. You can imagine how relieved I was when I discovered about novice linear progression.

    I am now at a point where I a highly motivated to start following a simple program that allows me to apply linear progression. I really like the Starting Strength program because of its simplicity and it is probably the one I will follow.

    Now we come to my question. As a physicist it has always bugged me in the back of my mind whether eating in a calorie surplus is necessary for a beginner. It seems like the novice phase can take one quite far, even if one isn't eating many calories, as long as one consumes enough protein (at least 1g per lb of bodyweight). Being a minimalist who absolutely detests any form of unnecessary excess, both in theory and practice (I don't like eating lol), I am wondering what reason there is for one to consume upwards of 4000 calories per day even as a skinny person, in the novice phase. The buggery (I think that's a word?) is increased by the fact that science has shown that beginners are able to gain muscle mass without being in a calorie surplus. (I think the other group of people for whom this works is fat people.) If you don't believe me, please search for this on Jeff Nippard's channel and I am sure you will find at least one video detailing this research. Moreover there are actual examples of people who have done this. Take for example Jonah Olzon, an extremely skinny powerlifter whose legs still look like very skinny (genetics?) but who can squat 400lb, deadlift 500lb and bench 264lb. I contacted him on instagram, and he said that he never was able to remain in a calorie surplus and was likely well below even maintenance. However he did eat enough protein in the form of beef burgers, protein shakes etc.

    I know of other examples, including people I know in real life who are extremely lean, but have that toned Bruce Lee look due to applying linear progression. Maybe their progress was slower than if they were in a calorie surplus and ate even more protein than 1g per lb of bodyweight, but speed is not my problem. I would rather save my money and remain healthy and mentally well while progressing at a slower pace, than force feed myself more calories than I need and gain tons of fat for absolutely no reason.

    Maybe I am misunderstanding something? If so, please enlighten me, but the conslusion seems very clear to me. A calorie surplus is absolutely not needed, even for extremely underweight beginners (e.g. Jonah Olzon), as long as linear progression is applied and enough protein is consumed.

    Could you please clarify this matter?

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by mathgainer View Post
    The buggery (I think that's a word?) is increased by the fact that science has shown that beginners are able to gain muscle mass without being in a calorie surplus. (I think the other group of people for whom this works is fat people.)
    Weights and Plates Podcast: #75 - Science Is Fake with Stef Bradford, PhD on Apple Podcasts

    Quote Originally Posted by mathgainer View Post
    Moreover there are actual examples of people who have done this. Take for example Jonah Olzon, an extremely skinny powerlifter whose legs still look like very skinny (genetics?) but who can squat 400lb, deadlift 500lb and bench 264lb.
    Those numbers are not that heavy for powerlifting, and this is also likely occurring in spite of what he does, not because of what he does. You are not Jonah Olzon.

    I can lift more than that maintaining a bodyweight of 175 lb with visible abs, mediocre genetics (24" SVJ), and no history of drug use. You know what I did do to be able to do that? I went as heavy as 205 several times in my lifting career before I moved that kinda weight at 175. See how that works?

  3. #3
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    You have not gained even 25% of the body weight that you could gain if you finish your NLP.

    Simply follow the program and eat as your stomach demands to be able to perform in each workout (that's what I did when I started strength training, it's not the most wordy, but it worked for me).

    I assure you that if you started with 145 lbs for 6 feet, you can get a lot of calories into your stomach per day.

    In a few months, tell us your PRs and tell us how much your BW is.

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    Yes, I posted that in haste. I am getting the blue book and will follow the program exactly as written including the diet/nutrition part.

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    I apologize if I missed this, but Mathgainer, how old are you?

    Quote Originally Posted by SouthernLifter View Post
    Simply follow the program and eat as your stomach demands to be able to perform in each workout (that's what I did when I started strength training, it's not the most wordy, but it worked for me).

    I assure you that if you started with 145 lbs for 6 feet, you can get a lot of calories into your stomach per day.
    I don't know that this is necessarily the right advice for someone at 6'4" who started at 145 six months ago, and has gained less than a pound a week so far. It worked for you, and it's worked for a lot of trainees, but the OP's stomach's demands haven't exactly naturally calibrated to an intake that supports the NLP for an underweight trainee.

    Quote Originally Posted by mathgainer View Post
    I am getting the blue book and will follow the program exactly as written including the diet/nutrition part.
    Excellent plan - you'll definitely need to take as disciplined an approach to nutrition as to the lifts. Both will take some discomfort, especially at first. You mention concerns about getting fat and being unhealthy, so this is something you'll need to keep in mind that will work against you with eating adequately. You're not going to ruin your health or get sloppy fat in six or nine months, but you can get pretty strong.

    Stick with it, and like Southern says, let us know your PRs and BW in a few months.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jason Donaldson View Post
    I apologize if I missed this, but Mathgainer, how old are you?



    I don't know that this is necessarily the right advice for someone at 6'4" who started at 145 six months ago, and has gained less than a pound a week so far. It worked for you, and it's worked for a lot of trainees, but the OP's stomach's demands haven't exactly naturally calibrated to an intake that supports the NLP for an underweight trainee.
    At 6'4" 145 he needs to be eating past the point of fullness. His body will suck those nutrients up just fine, it is starving for them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jason Donaldson View Post
    I apologize if I missed this, but Mathgainer, how old are you?



    I don't know that this is necessarily the right advice for someone at 6'4" who started at 145 six months ago, and has gained less than a pound a week so far. It worked for you, and it's worked for a lot of trainees, but the OP's stomach's demands haven't exactly naturally calibrated to an intake that supports the NLP for an underweight trainee.



    Excellent plan - you'll definitely need to take as disciplined an approach to nutrition as to the lifts. Both will take some discomfort, especially at first. You mention concerns about getting fat and being unhealthy, so this is something you'll need to keep in mind that will work against you with eating adequately. You're not going to ruin your health or get sloppy fat in six or nine months, but you can get pretty strong.

    Stick with it, and like Southern says, let us know your PRs and BW in a few months.
    I think it's critical that the OP tell us what their progress has been on their lifts. This way we will understand exactly what type of genetics we are talking about.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jason Donaldson View Post
    I apologize if I missed this, but Mathgainer, how old are you?



    I don't know that this is necessarily the right advice for someone at 6'4" who started at 145 six months ago, and has gained less than a pound a week so far. It worked for you, and it's worked for a lot of trainees, but the OP's stomach's demands haven't exactly naturally calibrated to an intake that supports the NLP for an underweight trainee.



    Excellent plan - you'll definitely need to take as disciplined an approach to nutrition as to the lifts. Both will take some discomfort, especially at first. You mention concerns about getting fat and being unhealthy, so this is something you'll need to keep in mind that will work against you with eating adequately. You're not going to ruin your health or get sloppy fat in six or nine months, but you can get pretty strong.

    Stick with it, and like Southern says, let us know your PRs and BW in a few months.
    I am 29 years old and 6ft not 6ft 4.

    Yes as I said I posted my original post in haste. I am consuming 4000+ calories + GOMAD at the moment and my lifts are continuing to go up. I will increase to 5000+ calories if my EXTREMELY stubborn bodyweight still isn't going up (I am going to start taking weekly averages to determine this).

    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Santana View Post
    At 6'4" 145 he needs to be eating past the point of fullness. His body will suck those nutrients up just fine, it is starving for them.
    As I said I am 6ft not 6ft 4 but I totally agree that my body needs the calories.

    Quote Originally Posted by SouthernLifter View Post
    I think it's critical that the OP tell us what their progress has been on their lifts. This way we will understand exactly what type of genetics we are talking about.
    I posted my progress in my other thread:
    What can I expect?

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    My mistake. At 6' you still need to get to at least 220.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Santana View Post
    My mistake. At 6' you still need to get to at least 220.
    How much weight should I be gaining per week to maximize my linear progression as much as possible? My goal is to gain as much strength and size as humanly possible.

    Admittedly I have not been tracking regularly as I said I would, but if I have a number to aim for I will definitely start doing this.

    I am now 170lb and my squat and other lifts are steadily increasing each week (I have started using 0.5kg plates for OH and bench press - are those small enough?)

    I am consuming 4000 calories per day including 1L of milk but I plan on increasing to 4L again slowly. Protein has been around 175-200g+ per day.

    I read an article by Mark Rippetoe recently where he said that 5-6000 calories per day (including GOMAD) and 300g of protein might be needed. I know that this isn't merely an exaggeration but how necessary is it to consume this much? Maybe it is related to how fast my weight increases, so if I am not hitting the appropriate number I keep increasing calories?

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