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Training Experience While in a Calorie Deficit

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  • Training Experience While in a Calorie Deficit

    Hello fellow BBM forum members,

    I was wondering if anyone could share their experiences with regard to individual training sessions while in a calorie deficit. I am trying to manage my expectations appropriately and continue to face a bit of a learning curve with RPE programming in this context.

    This last week in particular, I have been in a steeper caloric deficit, and have endeavored to go into each session with no limiting beliefs; just warming up and trying to set RPE appropriately. But I am finding, especially in my @8 sets, that it feels like my muscles are just 'running out of gas' on the last few reps of the sets. This is a relatively new sensation for me and I just wanted to know what others' experience was.

    In the past when I have misjudged RPE (selected a weight that was too heavy) the sensation was very different. Anyway, I will keep training and plugging away and keep monitoring things for another week before I make any changes. Appreciate any feedback.

    For reference, I am running the 3-day hypertrophy template, and this past week was week 2. Previously came from doing the Bridge 3.0 and was basically at recomp level of calories for all but the last week of that program.


  • #2
    I've just finished the 12 week strength template at a slight deficit, tending towards maintenance in the last third. Context was that I signed up for a local competition while sliiiightly above my weight class (~76 kg c.f. 75 kg). I ran the first 8 weeks eating a pretty consistent 2200-2300 cal/day (via MFP), which resulted in a fairly steady weight loss down to ~73 kg. At that point the program moved from four to three days/week, and my weight basically flatlined until the meet where I weighed in at 72.7 kg.

    I don't recall feeling especially gassed or overcome during the higher volume period, notwithstanding the calorie deficit. That said, the 12WS template doesn't have much high-rep work; most everything in it tends to five reps or less. I was also fairly diligent about doing the GPP throughout (though I did it all as LISS because I hate HITT with a passion). I think that, if your calorie deficit is fairly mild, your body should adapt pretty well. You might simply still be getting used to the high-rep sets in the hypertrophy bias template.


    • #3
      Thanks for the reply. It's possible that I just haven't adapted to the ranges yet. I have been diligent about doing my GPP work throughout the Bridge 3.0 and have kept doing so into the new template. So we will see. Could have just been an off week, and perhaps I overshot the RPE, but it just didn't manifest in the same kind of experience in the past.


      • #4
        Everyone reacts differently. I always tend to lose strength gradually over the course of a cut. But some people don't and actually get stronger. I think these things are individual. Just use RPE, worry about hitting your RPE's, and don't worry about the absolute load on the bar. When you finish your cut and start gaining weight again your strength will come back.


        • #5

          I needed to hear that today!


          • #6
            For what it is worth,

            Within this last year I have done two "cuts" while using the endurance template. I think I've gotten better at each time, whereas these last two cuts I have either gotten stronger or maintained strength. Three things I've taken away from these experiences; (1) do not lower volume; (2) do not jack up intensity/weight; and (3) unless you're starving yourself (below 1500kcals), there's no reason why you should expect to get weaker or be more tired.

            On the last point, the BBM "nocebo" mantra has really helped. I try to talk myself out of feeling exhausted or tired, and when I can't I understand that its just because of calories. This has helped me a ton in the gym.


            • #7
              Originally posted by Joshuawholifts View Post
              [I] have endeavored to go into each session with no limiting beliefs
              That's probably the most important thing. Yeah, a deficit is never physically as good as a surplus for strength training, but from what I've seen, it's the mental side that defeats people far more often then the physical side.


              • #8
                Originally posted by Sean Herbison View Post

                That's probably the most important thing. Yeah, a deficit is never physically as good as a surplus for strength training, but from what I've seen, it's the mental side that defeats people far more often then the physical side.
                I agree. I think, by and large, trying to tie your success in strength training to the minutiae of your diet is foolish at best and can sabotage you at worst.

                Past a certain point (meaning you're not very, very low on calories), I think training at a deficit matters if you or someone else has convinced you it matters more than, say, good programming.


                • #9
                  I have been training at a deficit, mind you a mild deficit, for a number of months. For context I have done BBM Hyp v3 3 day and I am now currently doing BBM Hyp v3 4 day. Strength in all exercises has been maintained and body fat has reduced. However, as with all things there is a spectrum and nuance. For most of this current block I have been at a lower caloric level than the prior and I find that the last rep of what is to be an @8 set of 6 the RPE will jump. So it will be on track for an @8 and then the last rep may be a bit of a grinder and land at @9. Otherwise the 1@8 have been roughly the same, maybe 5% down. However (part 2), my allostatic load (life stressors) has been sky high in this current block and that has definitely impacted my training. So is it the deficit? Is it the allostatic load? I think a bit of both, but I wouldn't say that training on a mild deficit is crushing.