6

votes

finding it difficult to add/maintain muscle while on paleo

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created June 15, 2011 at 3:26 PM

6 months in and i have lost 40 plus pounds but I find that I seem stalled in terms of adding muscle mass. I fear that I may have even lost some muscle mass due to a reduction in strength I am noticign since being on the diet.

Any thoughts on ways to reverse this?

While i want to be lean I am trying to uncover the muscle that I created before going paleo, not watch it fade away with the fat even though I continue to lift 4-5x a week.

095ef76482234d3db444b77d7ed01c29

(2755)

on June 23, 2011
at 03:00 PM

with glycogen and water, making them stronger, allowing us to lift heavier. Heavier lifting means more strength...more strength means more muscle. More muscle means more metabolically active tissue and over time...less body fat.

095ef76482234d3db444b77d7ed01c29

(2755)

on June 23, 2011
at 02:59 PM

Generally, I don't recommend rice at all. But of all the grains, rice is the least harmful. so if one is "cheating" then rice is better than wheat or even worse...corn. Why brown rice over white? Brown is less processed and more nutritious. Why carb loading before heavy day? 1g of carbohydrate holds 4g of water. Glycogen and water filled muscles are stronger. By using this one day for carb loading we stay in a fat burning metabolism all week, and the one day of carb loading isn't enough to take us out of it and put us back into a sugar burning one...but it is enough to load our cells

510bdda8988ed0d4b0ec0b738b4edb73

(20888)

on June 20, 2011
at 03:19 PM

Ian, glad Sean added the comment to my question to that I would look for your reply. I haven't actually counted calories or anything for about 2 years, I've just gotten good at eye-balling it and knowing what I'm eating. But I made a sample day of my food and put a picture here (https://sites.google.com/site/themikelinks/figures/sample-food). Generally it's eggs+bacon for breakfast. Big hunk of meat and veggies for lunch. Another big hunk of meat plus fatty sauce for dinner.

B124653b19ee9dd438710a38954ed4a3

(1634)

on June 19, 2011
at 06:08 PM

Ian - Welcome to the site. Please don't much up the answers with questions. You can add a comment/question to Miked under his question, as I did on your behalf.

B124653b19ee9dd438710a38954ed4a3

(1634)

on June 19, 2011
at 06:07 PM

Miked - Ian should have put his comment (see the answer below) here. I'm commenting on his behalf so you see it.

B124653b19ee9dd438710a38954ed4a3

(1634)

on June 19, 2011
at 06:04 PM

why the recommendation of brown rice over white rice? And why carbing up before the heavy day?

219ce991d8c94447870c824680de53e0

(457)

on June 16, 2011
at 09:59 AM

As always thanks Jack!

219ce991d8c94447870c824680de53e0

(457)

on June 16, 2011
at 09:56 AM

Quilt - that is a VERY interesting and insightful response based on the fact that I am currently engaged in a pharmaceutical testosterone replacement therapy because of low testosterone serum levels. How would one go about assessing cortisol levels? is there a test that can be done?

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25472)

on June 16, 2011
at 12:40 AM

Your hormones are likely the issue. If your lost 40 lbs you need to assess cortisol levels because if the high they can shut off GNRH (testosterone production) and you will never gain muscle mass. The other effect is it increases your rev T3 and your weight loss will stall. Very common reason for plateau's. Infact the most common reason I see.

5e36f73c3f95eb4ea13a009f4936449f

(8280)

on June 15, 2011
at 09:20 PM

1 gram/pound of LEAN body mass. Not your bodyweight. You may be 217 pounds, but your lean bodymass could be 170.

Af1d286f0fd5c3949f59b4edf4d892f5

(18472)

on June 15, 2011
at 06:27 PM

yes. 'very clean' protein powder is tricky though. many have hidden ingredients. i use bluebonnet original flavor. best powder i've found so far. i've stopped looking. that milk sounds good too. raw is best in my opinion, but if not raw, then make sure it's not ultra pasteurized and not homogenized.

219ce991d8c94447870c824680de53e0

(457)

on June 15, 2011
at 05:38 PM

Ok just so I am clear, if I dont have lactose tolerance issues (which I dont) an organic grass fed whole milk offered here locally combined with a very clean protein powder would meet the criteria as well. Or maybe a smoothie (made by me with the aforementioned milk) with some berries would work well?

332d9f75d1077abafff6887681f6b130

(1081)

on June 15, 2011
at 04:30 PM

Chris, good carbs would be things like sweet potatos, beets, ect. They classify mostly as "tubers." Think minimally processed, grows below the dirt. But squashes are also a nice carb source. Milk (if you don't have lactose issues) is great for fat, carb, and protein. Also, some fruit can be a good boost, although dont gourge on it.

Af1d286f0fd5c3949f59b4edf4d892f5

(18472)

on June 15, 2011
at 04:28 PM

ChrisO - starches like potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, white rice. also, whole fruits, maybe a bit of raw honey, but the starch is where you get your bulk of carbs. Your body essentially turns the starch to glucose. It's quite different than eating sugar, which is half fructose. And even more different than eating/drinking fructose heavy items. some people find that they have to lay off the starchy items in order to get cut. Honestly I could give yo a canned answer of how to eat, but you are gonna have to experiment and find what you respond to best.

332d9f75d1077abafff6887681f6b130

(1081)

on June 15, 2011
at 04:25 PM

Yea, its an operator error issue. But to failure increases the odds of that error. When I have someone to workout with I'm much more likely to push myself to failure, but alas I'm usually on my own. But I do agree that its a proven method for gaining. My twin had great results on a to failure workout.

Af1d286f0fd5c3949f59b4edf4d892f5

(18472)

on June 15, 2011
at 04:23 PM

hey you know what, come to think of it, i suppose I don't actually rep to failure. I think I am saying the wrong lingo. Your comment above made me realize this. "The lift that you fail on..." I don't ever actually fail on a lift. I complete the rep. I just make sure that the last rep I do is definitely the very last rep I can do. What is that called? I am going to call it "Repping to Maximum Success" haha.

219ce991d8c94447870c824680de53e0

(457)

on June 15, 2011
at 04:22 PM

Jack,k thanks for the thorough answer. I have one follow up and this really applies to all three answers that I have received (thanks to all) the phrase "good carbs". What in your or whomever else cares to answer would fall into this category? I have fallen into that newbie Paleo spot of avoiding carbs as much as possible and this includes post workout. Please be specific as to what you eat please. Thanks again for the answer.

Af1d286f0fd5c3949f59b4edf4d892f5

(18472)

on June 15, 2011
at 04:17 PM

Hmmm. I see what you mean. but isn't that just "operator error"? lol. That sounds so mean. I don't mean it like that. I guess I hust think that the concept is still valuable, but you gotta keep good form, else you could get injured. Personally, I lift on a leverage type Powertec system with free weights, so probably it's easier for me to have good form than someone in a standard gym with typical free weight setups. But anyway, gaining is tough stuff, and if repping to failure is a tried and true method, then I think learning how to do it right is still a worthwhile effort.

5e36f73c3f95eb4ea13a009f4936449f

(8280)

on June 15, 2011
at 04:14 PM

Ack, exactly the same thing I was about to type. :)

332d9f75d1077abafff6887681f6b130

(1081)

on June 15, 2011
at 04:11 PM

I like your answer Jack, but I'm personally not a fan of "to failure" workouts. The lift that you fail on usually has such poor form that it raises the risk of injury. In the past, every time I've been injured lifting it was at the end of a "to failure" set that ended up with terrible form.

66e6b190e62fb3bcf42d4c60801c7bf6

(12407)

on June 15, 2011
at 03:56 PM

if u want to maintain, i'd say get in at least 200g a day. starch is not your enemy. start going mildly cyclical ketogenic- eat starch post workout and pay attention to your weight to see if it affect it over a period of weeks. starch pwo can do amazing things for dropping that stubborn bodyfat by raising leptin levels...

219ce991d8c94447870c824680de53e0

(457)

on June 15, 2011
at 03:39 PM

Thanks Lucky, but this brings up another question. I avoid starch like the plague on this diet. Also my ideal weight would probably be 205 and I am at 217 so that is 217 grams of protein a day. I find it hard to eat that much protein EVERY day, wouldnt you?

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11 Answers

6
332d9f75d1077abafff6887681f6b130

on June 15, 2011
at 03:59 PM

You should be eating 1 gram of protein for every pound of LEAN BODY MASS... not present body mass. That would be maybe 200 grams of protein in your case. And even that is on the higher end of the scale. It could be as low as 150-ish.

Make sure you are getting enough carbs post workout. They are not the enemy. Starchy veggies will help you replenish your glycogen and you will see better results in the gym. Gluconeogenesis takes 12-24 hours at least to start to replenish glucose, if you're doing a hard effort 4-5x per week, you may be pushing harder than you can recover [over training.] Try dialing back your workouts, maybe 3x per week with your recovery days being actual recovery days not just "reduced effort" days. Do this for a couple of weeks and you should see an improvement in best efforts.

So to recap: Eat carbs from good sources. Give yourself a chance to recover. Dial back your protein if you have to so that you dont squeeze out other macronutrients.

5e36f73c3f95eb4ea13a009f4936449f

(8280)

on June 15, 2011
at 04:14 PM

Ack, exactly the same thing I was about to type. :)

4
Af1d286f0fd5c3949f59b4edf4d892f5

(18472)

on June 15, 2011
at 04:01 PM

Chris,

Cut to your ideal weight first. If you say your ideal weight is 205, and you are at 217 right now, go another 12 pounds. This will allow you to start at 'ground zero'. Trying to lose fat and add muscle mass at the same time is possible (i know, cause I did it) but it's slow going and you have to be super dedicated. Also, your body has to be willing to accept that. Mine was, but yours may not be. Your body might be 'confused'. In other words... it may be asking itself, should be adding or shedding?

To repeat myself... I would get as cut as your comfortable with first. Then build muscle from there. This way, your body knows that you have entered muscle building mode. Then keep the high quality protein intake high like LB mentions in his answer.

Personally, I think eggs, beef, starch, and high quality pure whey protein or whole milk (if you are willing to eat dairy) is the surefire way to gain muscle.

I'm a hardgainer, but slowly and surely, I continue to add muscle week after week. I started at 163, then bottomed out at 148. Now I am at 156 and moving back upward. My goal is to return back to my original weight (of when I began my new eating program back in Aug 2010). But this time, I will be ripped and lean at 163, trading fat for muscle.

I've learned to not be in a hurry to 'get there' and instead just take it day by day and stick to the plan.

Cheers :)

Oh also, I just thought of something else. How are you lifting? If you want to gain strength (sounds like you are disappointed and have hit a plateau or even began going backwards) then I would recommend making sure that you rep to complete failure every time and don't do too many reps.

What I do is 2-3 sets of 5-6 reps per excercise. As soon as I am able to do 6 reps of any given weight, I increase the weight next time and power through at least 5 reps. Most people don't know that often times that last ONE single rep that feels impossible is where all the muscle/strength is gained. This is because that's when your fast twitch type 2b muscle fibers are recruited to participate the most. This is what 'breaks down' your muscles. Then, in the repair process, it builds it better and stronger.

Last Aug, I began with reps on the bench press of 5-6 reps of 160lbs (my body weight). Now, I do 5-6 reps of 280, and can likely max at twice my weight (I haven't maxed out in months so I really don't know). I'm not trying to sound like a muscle head bragging about my bench press (such a stereotypical thing to do I know). Im saying that this is what is working me.

Ok I think that's enough,

Cheers for real this time. :)

332d9f75d1077abafff6887681f6b130

(1081)

on June 15, 2011
at 04:11 PM

I like your answer Jack, but I'm personally not a fan of "to failure" workouts. The lift that you fail on usually has such poor form that it raises the risk of injury. In the past, every time I've been injured lifting it was at the end of a "to failure" set that ended up with terrible form.

219ce991d8c94447870c824680de53e0

(457)

on June 15, 2011
at 05:38 PM

Ok just so I am clear, if I dont have lactose tolerance issues (which I dont) an organic grass fed whole milk offered here locally combined with a very clean protein powder would meet the criteria as well. Or maybe a smoothie (made by me with the aforementioned milk) with some berries would work well?

332d9f75d1077abafff6887681f6b130

(1081)

on June 15, 2011
at 04:30 PM

Chris, good carbs would be things like sweet potatos, beets, ect. They classify mostly as "tubers." Think minimally processed, grows below the dirt. But squashes are also a nice carb source. Milk (if you don't have lactose issues) is great for fat, carb, and protein. Also, some fruit can be a good boost, although dont gourge on it.

Af1d286f0fd5c3949f59b4edf4d892f5

(18472)

on June 15, 2011
at 04:28 PM

ChrisO - starches like potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, white rice. also, whole fruits, maybe a bit of raw honey, but the starch is where you get your bulk of carbs. Your body essentially turns the starch to glucose. It's quite different than eating sugar, which is half fructose. And even more different than eating/drinking fructose heavy items. some people find that they have to lay off the starchy items in order to get cut. Honestly I could give yo a canned answer of how to eat, but you are gonna have to experiment and find what you respond to best.

Af1d286f0fd5c3949f59b4edf4d892f5

(18472)

on June 15, 2011
at 04:23 PM

hey you know what, come to think of it, i suppose I don't actually rep to failure. I think I am saying the wrong lingo. Your comment above made me realize this. "The lift that you fail on..." I don't ever actually fail on a lift. I complete the rep. I just make sure that the last rep I do is definitely the very last rep I can do. What is that called? I am going to call it "Repping to Maximum Success" haha.

Af1d286f0fd5c3949f59b4edf4d892f5

(18472)

on June 15, 2011
at 04:17 PM

Hmmm. I see what you mean. but isn't that just "operator error"? lol. That sounds so mean. I don't mean it like that. I guess I hust think that the concept is still valuable, but you gotta keep good form, else you could get injured. Personally, I lift on a leverage type Powertec system with free weights, so probably it's easier for me to have good form than someone in a standard gym with typical free weight setups. But anyway, gaining is tough stuff, and if repping to failure is a tried and true method, then I think learning how to do it right is still a worthwhile effort.

332d9f75d1077abafff6887681f6b130

(1081)

on June 15, 2011
at 04:25 PM

Yea, its an operator error issue. But to failure increases the odds of that error. When I have someone to workout with I'm much more likely to push myself to failure, but alas I'm usually on my own. But I do agree that its a proven method for gaining. My twin had great results on a to failure workout.

219ce991d8c94447870c824680de53e0

(457)

on June 15, 2011
at 04:22 PM

Jack,k thanks for the thorough answer. I have one follow up and this really applies to all three answers that I have received (thanks to all) the phrase "good carbs". What in your or whomever else cares to answer would fall into this category? I have fallen into that newbie Paleo spot of avoiding carbs as much as possible and this includes post workout. Please be specific as to what you eat please. Thanks again for the answer.

Af1d286f0fd5c3949f59b4edf4d892f5

(18472)

on June 15, 2011
at 06:27 PM

yes. 'very clean' protein powder is tricky though. many have hidden ingredients. i use bluebonnet original flavor. best powder i've found so far. i've stopped looking. that milk sounds good too. raw is best in my opinion, but if not raw, then make sure it's not ultra pasteurized and not homogenized.

219ce991d8c94447870c824680de53e0

(457)

on June 16, 2011
at 09:59 AM

As always thanks Jack!

3
77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on June 15, 2011
at 04:28 PM

Add lots of carbs. This is apparently a frequent problem on this diet. I lost 50 pounds off of my deadlift while I was eating strict Paleo! Don't worry you will soon recuperate your losses if you add back in the carbs. By carbs, I mean potatoes, tubers, fruit, dairy, rice...any or all of the above.

2
66e6b190e62fb3bcf42d4c60801c7bf6

on June 15, 2011
at 03:34 PM

adding and maintaining muscle on any dietary plan is for the most part dictated on your protein intake.

it's very hard to add muscle while leaning out but it's relatively easy to maintain while leaning out if you're doing adequate strenth training and eating protein at maintenance levels- ~1g/1pound of lbm

gaining muscle on paleo is easy if you are overeating with a lot of protein and starch. being able to do it without adding alot of bodyfat- now therein lies the rub...

219ce991d8c94447870c824680de53e0

(457)

on June 15, 2011
at 03:39 PM

Thanks Lucky, but this brings up another question. I avoid starch like the plague on this diet. Also my ideal weight would probably be 205 and I am at 217 so that is 217 grams of protein a day. I find it hard to eat that much protein EVERY day, wouldnt you?

5e36f73c3f95eb4ea13a009f4936449f

(8280)

on June 15, 2011
at 09:20 PM

1 gram/pound of LEAN body mass. Not your bodyweight. You may be 217 pounds, but your lean bodymass could be 170.

66e6b190e62fb3bcf42d4c60801c7bf6

(12407)

on June 15, 2011
at 03:56 PM

if u want to maintain, i'd say get in at least 200g a day. starch is not your enemy. start going mildly cyclical ketogenic- eat starch post workout and pay attention to your weight to see if it affect it over a period of weeks. starch pwo can do amazing things for dropping that stubborn bodyfat by raising leptin levels...

1
1586db0f16b2cef51ee4e71ab08ad1a2

(965)

on June 15, 2011
at 06:29 PM

I would recommend cutting back on your lifting. Go down to maybe three times a week, with your training being more high intensity. When you lift, how many reps do you do? You should be doing five sets of five. If you can do more than 5-7 reps of an exercise at a certain weight, you need to up the weight in order to gain more. If you can't do 5 reps, lower the weight a little. More info here: http://stronglifts.com/how-to-build-muscle-mass-guide/

Are you doing squats? Do you sprint? Try more exercises that use your whole body. Find a hilly field and pretend you're hunting. :)

Arthur De Vany is a huge proponent of working out less. He's in his mid-70's and approximately 200 pounds. His body is less than 8% body fat. Check out his book The New Evolution Diet for more thoughts on this. It aligns with what our ancestors did--make a big kill and then lazy around for a while.

Do you do cardio/long distance training? If so, I would cut that out, as it is working against your muscle gaining. If you're set on doing cardio of some sorts, do HIIT (high intensity interval training) instead. Outside of it being proven as a more effective method, it also emulates our ancestral patterning as well.

Best of luck!

0
5ff5439ef59cce014d6e1873c30a8cd6

on March 06, 2013
at 08:35 PM

I took a look at miked's food chart thing. it makes me want to start eating chocolate... but why no raw milk?? i like it better than heavy cream but to each his own.

0
24da420c8c044bdf47abab57726f32f3

on October 20, 2012
at 02:19 PM

Miked,

I'm new to this site and came across your post. What program/site is the above screen capture from? I'm looking for an easy "calculator" that I can track my nutritional intake. I was heavy lifter for 30+ years. I became bored and overweight, 285 and discovered CrossFit 2 years ago. I went from the Zone to Paleo about 6 monhs ago and I'm a lean 207. I have lost some strength and muscle mass so now I want to maintain my bodyfat and up my strength/muscle again.

Thanks, Mike

0
77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on July 18, 2011
at 12:59 PM

This is the right comment are you say thank you for this comment. The Build Mass Muscle so good in body exercise.

0
48be620e58d0ecf8725c0892a8a95d67

(30)

on June 15, 2011
at 10:37 PM

Miked.

I'm a very hardgainer. Please tell me a daily example of your diet of 5000 cals please

B124653b19ee9dd438710a38954ed4a3

(1634)

on June 19, 2011
at 06:08 PM

Ian - Welcome to the site. Please don't much up the answers with questions. You can add a comment/question to Miked under his question, as I did on your behalf.

510bdda8988ed0d4b0ec0b738b4edb73

(20888)

on June 20, 2011
at 03:19 PM

Ian, glad Sean added the comment to my question to that I would look for your reply. I haven't actually counted calories or anything for about 2 years, I've just gotten good at eye-balling it and knowing what I'm eating. But I made a sample day of my food and put a picture here (https://sites.google.com/site/themikelinks/figures/sample-food). Generally it's eggs+bacon for breakfast. Big hunk of meat and veggies for lunch. Another big hunk of meat plus fatty sauce for dinner.

0
510bdda8988ed0d4b0ec0b738b4edb73

(20888)

on June 15, 2011
at 09:44 PM

I'll echo some of the other answers here. I'm a hardgainer but have absolutely no trouble gaining muscle on paleo. I went from 200 to 165 when I started paleo and now I'm back up to 180 with no increase in fatness, so it's gotta be muscle.

Generally you want tons of protein, some PWO carbs to repleat your muscle glycogen. I'm doing about 5000 calories a day, 3000 from fat, and my only carbs are 2oz of grapefruit juice with breakfast and a sweet potato PWO.

My guess is that you're probably lifting too much. I lift heavy only once a week. The rest is metcons or rock climbing. One week my heavy lifting is 5x5's at about 85% (Squats, Press, Deadlift). The next week my heavy lifting is 3x3 at 90% (Cleans, Snatch, Squats). You need time for the growth hormones and muscle repair to do their work. Once I cut down on volume and increased the weight the muscle just started packing on.

B124653b19ee9dd438710a38954ed4a3

(1634)

on June 19, 2011
at 06:07 PM

Miked - Ian should have put his comment (see the answer below) here. I'm commenting on his behalf so you see it.

0
095ef76482234d3db444b77d7ed01c29

(2755)

on June 15, 2011
at 08:50 PM

Another way that hasn't been mentioned yet... and this really works wonders.

Your LBM x 15-20...start around 16 = your calories/day

Use your www.fitday.com account to plan your meals along these lines. Shoot for 1g protein /lb of bodyweight (a little less is fine though as long as at least 35% of your calories are from protein) Don't be afraid to eat fat...a lot of it, about 60% of your calories will come from fat.

Keep the carbs low for 5 or 6 days straight. (below 30g)

Then one day (the day before your heavy day) eat "safe starches" with every meal and the first meal the next morning... i.e. tubers like sweet potatoes or even white potatoes. If you must delve into grains...choose brown rice over white, white rice over wheat, and so on... but it can easily be done with tubers.

On your carb up day you will eat 1g of carbohydrate for every pound of LBM, keep the fat high and the carbs high, don't worry about protein...it will take care of it's self for these meals.

This way of eating works the best with 5x5 since it has a heavy day, a light day, and a medium day with plenty of scheduled days off (nice for cardo to keep the gains lean).

If you are't gaining...recalculate with 17 cals/lb of lbm...then 18... and so on until you are gaining lean muscle with minimal fat gains.

This plan works for burning fat too...just set your calories between 10 and 15 per pound of LBM.

I've never seen this fail for anyone who actually applied it as designed and stuck with it.

B124653b19ee9dd438710a38954ed4a3

(1634)

on June 19, 2011
at 06:04 PM

why the recommendation of brown rice over white rice? And why carbing up before the heavy day?

095ef76482234d3db444b77d7ed01c29

(2755)

on June 23, 2011
at 02:59 PM

Generally, I don't recommend rice at all. But of all the grains, rice is the least harmful. so if one is "cheating" then rice is better than wheat or even worse...corn. Why brown rice over white? Brown is less processed and more nutritious. Why carb loading before heavy day? 1g of carbohydrate holds 4g of water. Glycogen and water filled muscles are stronger. By using this one day for carb loading we stay in a fat burning metabolism all week, and the one day of carb loading isn't enough to take us out of it and put us back into a sugar burning one...but it is enough to load our cells

095ef76482234d3db444b77d7ed01c29

(2755)

on June 23, 2011
at 03:00 PM

with glycogen and water, making them stronger, allowing us to lift heavier. Heavier lifting means more strength...more strength means more muscle. More muscle means more metabolically active tissue and over time...less body fat.

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