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Thread: Do I need more calories or less calories?

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  1. #1
    Senior Member Emmet J's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Lancaster and Morecambe MMA

    Default Do I need more calories or less calories?

    Right, sorry for the long post, but I'm in need of advice from you experts.

    In 12 years of doing MMA I'm now actually do less MMA than ever due to illness, work, fatherhood and laziness. I've recently rediscovered how much I enjoy weights however, having not done weights properly since I was young and fighting fit and didn't have to choose between MMA or weights or life. One thing I never did right, even when I was training properly, was diet correctly; that's what I'm trying to remedy now.

    My current goals are:

    1, Get stronger (which obviously means build muscle, and I assume means increase calorie intake)
    2, Burn off some body fat (which traditionally seems to require lowering calorie intake)

    My current workout schedule is:

    - 3 sessions of weights a week (all free weights and mostly lifting 3 sets of around 6-8 reps at about 80% 1 rep max, mixed in with some othe stuff including body weight exercises)
    - 2-3 sessions of cardio a week (well, 'fat burn' at least, since if I have a heavy bag session it's pretty cardio heavy for me, but 30 minutes on the cross trainer is hardly 'cardio')

    My current average daily diet (with rough calorie count) is:

    Breakfast (@ 7am)

    Bowel of muesli = 450kcal
    2 toast or muffin with butter and jam = 200

    Lunch (though I just sort of eat it throughout the day)

    2 sandwiches with butter and meat = 220
    Packet of crisps = 130
    2 fruit bars = 220
    Apple = 60
    Banana = 90

    Dinner (@5.30pm)

    2 pieces of meat or fish = 350
    Large portion of veg = 150


    3 biscuits at break each day = 180
    Protein shake after a workout = 250

    So overall, a relatively 'healthy' diet compared to some, but at an average daily kcal intake of about 2250 it's not very calorific.

    So my question is, should I be eating more or less to achieve my goals, given my current workout schedule? Either way what changes should I be making?

    Thanks in advance.
    LANCASTER AND MORECAMBE MMA - Home to Shay Walsh, Matty Steele and Alex 'The Marksman' Makhonin

  2. #2


    Hi Emmet,

    By no means an expert on the subject but have extensively researched nutrition and training over the last few years.

    Training-wise, I have seen a lot of people increase strength using the 5x5 programme, there's a lot of information about the programme on the net as has been around for some time! Pretty basic principle using progressive load to increase strength.

    I would split those two goals up personally and aim to put some muscle on in your first phase of training then adjust the diet, weight training to decrease fat. If you are out of shape, you are likely to see big changes in fat and muscle fairly quickly.

    For fat loss, I'd switch the steady state cardio for HIIT. There is evidence to support HIIT is superior to steady state plus you can get your cardio over and done with in half the time. Your HIIT sessions depend entirely on your current fitness level but you should be going all out on the 'work' period of your session. You mentioned not training due to illness in the first part of your OP, if that's an ongoing illness be sure to check with a professional before doing HIIT.

    Diet-wise, whilst you may be able to get away with eating crisps and biscuits whilst increasing muscle mass, you will need to cut these out for optimal fat loss. Your calorie intake is pretty low and will need to be higher to put decent size on. You can track what you're eating through myfitnesspal, this will give you an idea of how much protein/carbs/fats you are getting on a daily basis.

    Here is a good starting point for getting your diet in order:

  3. #3
    Senior Member Emmet J's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Lancaster and Morecambe MMA


    Hi Dragunov, many thanks for the reply.

    In terms of strength gain I'm seeing good results following the Prelipin's chart method (so essentially 3x6 at 80% of 1 rep max) though I am keeping the 5x5 in mind. My main issue with the weights is worrying about plateauing not because of method but because of diet. In simple terms, to gain muscle do I need to increase calorie intake?

    I see what you mean about separating the goals out, since one seems to interfere with the other. My big issue is that I want to use the time in between weights sessions in an effective way, and I'm not quite sure what that would be. Obviously not more weights since I don't want to interfere with my 'proper' weights sessions, so I was just thinking that steady state would be good for a bit of fat burn in between weights sessions. I should point out that I'm not trying to get ripped or anything, just burn some fat and not mess with my weight gains. Do you think the intensity of something like HIIT would have a negative impact on the weights?

    Thanks again for all your help.
    LANCASTER AND MORECAMBE MMA - Home to Shay Walsh, Matty Steele and Alex 'The Marksman' Makhonin

  4. #4


    No problem!

    Yes, if you're starting to plateau, increase calories. Once you have figured out your protein/fat/carb requirements my usual approach is to increase the carbs slowly (50g's per day) if fat gain is a little too quick for your liking, readjust. Also worth remembering that progress will slow down significantly after a period of time. Not sure how long you've been training consistently but the general consensus is that after 1-2yrs of consistent training, gains will slow down. If you are repping the same weight as your last session but lifting cleaner, it's still progress. The increased calories will support your recovery and capacity for higher outputs though.

    Quite simply, to gain weight of any kind you need to be taking on at least enough or more calories than your body requires for basic functionality + exercise. At the moment, your calorie intake is very low for a grown man training mulitple times per week.

    There have been many studies comparing HIIT vs Steady State Cardio with many suggesting that HIIT has a positive effect on skeletal muscle and fat loss so that would be the route I'd take if I were you as this would complement your weight training regime. (See Angelo Tremblay's study on HIIT for more in depth analysis).

    If you can get your hands on Serious Strength Training (pretty much an introduction to Periodisation) by Tudor Bompa as well, that will give you a solid idea of how to move on from your strength/size training phase so your training doesnt become stale.

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