I'm a CrossFitter and caveman, and when I started on that path, my top two goals were to 1) lose fat and 2) become stronger. However, in the lats few months, it has seemed like these goals have been somewhat incompatible. I'm losing weight and I feel great, but I haven't been getting stronger on my benchmark lifts. Am I doing something wrong, or do I have to choose between these goals on a practical level?
Here's some background:
My more technical lifts (cleans, snatches, etc.) have been improving, but I've barely improved my squat 3RM in these 9 months (185# --> 225#), and my deadlift 3RM has been stalled (if not degraded) around 305# for months. When I did StrongLifts 5x5 on a SAD diet with high protein, I improved extremely fast in these lifts.
On the other hand, my overheads, pull-ups, push-ups, and gymnastics have greatly improved, my aerobic endurance is markedly better, and I've lost around 35 pounds.
I really would like to improve my main lifts, but I'm worried about gaining back fat if I increase my intake. Is there some change I can make to have my cake and lose it, too?
When people start working out, especially with crossfit, there's a novice effect where everything improves: you get stronger, faster, lose weight, feel better, etc. But once you reach a point you need to focus your efforts and pick a goal. Crossfit's random, unknown, and unknowable is great for the novice, but you will need a smart program after you start to level off. If you want to get strong, you will have to give up the metcons. If you want to go fast, you'll have to reduce the lifting. If you want to be great at the gymnasics, you will have to give up some on the lifts. That's just the way it goes, you can't be great at everything.
I was commenting yesterday about a guy worrying about a specific number for his percent body fat. I'll do the same here about specific lifts. I used to be like that and worry about what weights I was putting overhead or deadlifting and basing my self worth on the fact that I got or missed that 100kg jerk. But over the last 18 months I quit worrying about the number. I lift what feels heavy for today. If I'm having a good day, then I lift more. If I had a busy day at work and got less sleep the night before, "heavy" may be less weight. It doesn't matter, the goal is just to keep getting stronger. Since I quit worrying about specific numbers (Fran time, C&J, max pullups) and just train smart all of those numbers actually got better.
I guess basically, what I'm advocating is that you pick what you want, find out how to train for that goal, and go for it. Don't worry about specific numbers, just do your best and train faithfully to the program you pick, and you'll get better. But be aware that there are trade-offs and no one is great at everything.
Short answer...Yes, losing weight and gaining strength is difficult for novices (beginners to strength training) and almost impossible for more advanced lifters. To lose weight, a calorie deficit must be created. To build strength, muscle mass must be generated and a calorie surplus is needed. Two conflicting goals. That being said. If you have a higher BF%, you can gain strength and lose weight as your body will use your excess fat to bridge the calorie gap for recovery. This condition exists in novices.
Your squat and deadlift 3RM is your indicator for strength, not technical oly lifts. The fact that you are noticing strength losses is telling. The reason you have not made strength gains is because Crossfit is not a strength training program. Many CF gyms have begun to include separate strength training programs into their programming for this reason. Look up Crossfit Football and Crossfit Endurance for examples. Lift Heavy/run sprints (prowler work) has been the standard template for making people bigger, stronger, faster, with more endurance since antiquity. CF boxes that program in 2-3 days of separate strength training follow this template and just replace sprinting with met cons.
I would suggest adopting a strength training program like Starting Strength, add 2 days of sprints, and walk on off days to meet your goals. You will be achieve your goals and save a lot of $$$ in CF gym fees.
Check out http://leangains.com, which combines carb cycling and intermittent fasting for Great Win. More info or perhaps more approachable is http://rippedbody.jp - specifically http://www.leangains.com/2010/04/leangains-guide.html or http://rippedbody.jp/intermittent-fasting-leangains-introduction-benefits/
Whoops, I see you already do LG IF. Maybe you should concentrate on the nutrition and timing aspects. I've also found better success using rice and potatoes as my carb source, not fruit.
Losing fat and gaining muscle are incompatible if attempted on a 17 block diet.
Try unweighed/unmeasured plus CFfootball or other strength biased program and you should see muscle increase and fat decrease simultaneously.
Elunah - have you considered doing a strength training program instead of Crossfit?
I know I'm going against the Paleo Gods when I say that Crossfit is not the best thing for strengthening, but it's true.
I've increased my squat by a ton, and I'm still going... AND I'm losing weight.
Mark Rippetoe is a genius and all of his methods allow you to lift to your max potential. He also is so strict on form and doing correct technique that it will help you a LOT more in Crossfit which promotes flimsy technique and the ability to 'just do it'. Yes, we even saw this horrible technique at work on the Crossfit Games a couple weeks ago. If they used correct form, they would be able to lift a lot more.
Anyway, the program is your basic lifts. Squats, Deadlifts, Presses, Bench, etc. You start lower doing DEEPLY correct technique 3 sets of 5 reps. The next workout you add 2.5 lbs to each side. This continues until you start hitting your limit - I bought 1.25 lb weights for these moments. Sometimes I do the same weight 3-4 workouts until I'm comfortable and then continue increasing.
You don't need to gain weight to do this. You're building muscle, burning fat, and enhancing your body's ability to stabilize such weight for the range of motion.
I've really debated answering this, and started and discarded several answers. This probably should be a comment, but it has too many characters to fit.
When you say your goal is to "become stronger," why is that your goal? What does "stronger" signify to you?
Do you need to be stronger than you are now to function better during the day?
Do you equate increased strength (as measured by your main lifts) with better overall health?
Do you want to feel good mentally that you are lifting heavier weights (are you loving seeing the numbers go up, do you like putting the really heavy plates on the bar)?
Do you like the physical feeling you get from lifting near your maximum?
Or do you want your body to look a certain way?
I ask this because your approach will differ depending on WHY you want to be strong. I am not at all saying that one of the reasons above is more meritorious than others, or that you have to pick one (I personally mostly like to look good, although there are some "functional fitness" aspects for me as well).
I would note parenthetically that physical fitness has a number of components and I think aspects such as flexibility, coordination, accuracy, and balance frequently get short shrift in favor of power, strength, and stamina. I suppose CF helps with the other components (not a CF fan).
I assume that your question is implying are these goals conflicting if done simultaneously. I think they're totally unrelated goals that are almost impossible to achieve simultaneously, but can be achieved by the same person in the same lifetime in fairly close sequence. I think it's easier to lose fat first. When you add muscle your weight may go up but your body fat percentage will lower.
If I were you, I'd ditch the Zone and the Crossfit. Just follow the Leangains recommendations regarding calorie and macronutrient cycling, as well as the Leangains exercise advice. But just use paleo foods. It's hard to beat Paleo/Leangains for losing fat while gaining strength. If those are your goals, adding in crossfit and the Zone seem counterproductive, IMO.
First, do you want to lose "weight" or "fat"? The two are not necessarily the same. I would suggest only trying to lose fat unless you're in a competitive sport with weight classes. There are programs for improving overall strength and relative strength (strength relative to body weight). The former will induce some hypertrophy as well as neuromuscular adaptations, while the latter will be almost exclusively neuromuscular adaptations. From what I've read, you should focus on specific lifts and practice those when you lift weights. For example you mentioned your squat and deadlift. Instead of crossfit, go to the gym and practice your squat and deadlift with sets of two or three reps. This should increase your strength without a lot of muscular hypertrophy. I've heard on Robb Wolf's podcast that it's hard to have a really low body fat level while doing crossfit and glycolitically demanding work. I can't find the exact podcast, but here's a link along the same lines. Good luck to ya.
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