The stereotypical powerlifter isn’t necessarily lean with well-defined muscles – after all, their main goal is maximal strength (basically how strong a person is and how heavy they can lift) so they don’t typically worry about having the well-defined muscles that bodybuilders have. Another great thing about being a powerlifter is that they can get away with eating a wider variety (and volume) of food.
But can powerlifting actually help you lose weight? The quick answer is yes. Incorporating weight training into your fat loss journey – powerlifting training included – will help you shed pounds quicker. It helps increase your metabolic rate, and that means that every pound of muscle you have burns off more calories than every pound of fat you have, even at a state of rest.
To get there, here are a few things you have to consider:
Slow and Steady
If you want to be strong and lose weight, it’s imperative you take things slow and steady. Losing weight too fast means you’ll risk losing muscle mass, and you want to keep that if you want to stay strong while burning off all that unsightly fat. As you lose weight, your body shape will also change, which means the way you lift will also change. Aim for no more than 1.5 to 2 lbs of weight loss per week.
When you’re trying to lose weight, calories matter. Okay, you don’t have to literally count every calorie, but you should have a pretty good idea of what it is you’re putting into your body versus the amount of calories you’re burning off.
A caloric deficit means any shortage in the amount of calories you consume, relative to the amount of calories you need to maintain your current body weight. Your body takes the energy you need from the food you eat every day and essentially stores the extra energy as fat. When you eat less, this creates a calorie deficit, and your body is forced to use your stored energy, a.k.a. fat.
Experts in the weight loss arena recommend a starting calorie deficit of about 15%.
Take a look at what you eat for a week and get your average – if you’re consuming about 2500 calories a day, then that means you’ll only need to slightly adjust it so you’re doing about 2100 or so calories a day. Doesn’t seem like that much of a difference does it?
You can experiment with different foods, ratios, carb cycle, what have you – just keep an eye on those numbers, and you will see results.
After a week or so, you should get pretty good at “eyeballing” approximately how much calories something has.
Keep Your Protein Up
When you’re trying to lose weight, you’re also at risk for losing muscle mass – and strength – so it’s essential that you keep your daily protein intake as high as possible.
Protein helps support muscle protein synthesis and helps you retain muscle mass. A good rule is to consume 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight every day.
As a bonus, protein also helps you feel fuller for much longer.
Now We Train
Your nutrition will handle the majority of your weight loss, so just follow your standard powerlifting training – low volume, high intensity – and don’t forget to add in accessory exercises and conditioning work to aid in the fat loss process.
Also incorporate density training, which is when you’re doing more work in the same amount of time or doing the same amount of work in less time – this helps boost strength, hypertrophy, and helps you retain lean mass.
Dealing with intense workouts and heavy weights mean you have a bit more risk of injury, so always be mindful of your form when you’re exercising – and get the appropriate gear, like a lifting belt, to help you stay safe.
When you’ve achieved volitional fatigue – that is, when you can no longer perform an exercise to perfect form because your muscles are too tired – take a breather, and live to fight another day.