T Nation

40 and Need Help Getting Ripped

I just turned 40 and I had a goal to be in my best shape by August 12th. I’ve been working out consistently for the past 2 years, usually doing an upper/lower split each each workout 2x per week. And then HIIT cardio 3x per week.
Nutrition for last 2 years has been clean, around 2200-2500 calories a day, with one day a week of a free meal.
I am 6’ and weigh 207, I would estimate my BF around 12-13% on skinfold.
1 1/2 weeks ago I decided to turn up the heat so I could try and get under 10% before August 12th to see abs. So I decided to try carb cycling.
I have been doing 3 low days around 50g of carbs, and close to 300g of protein and around 60-70g of healthy fats. Keeps me anywhere from 1800-2000 calories. I then go up to about 200-250 carbs on day 4, lower the fats, keep the protein. Then back to two low carb days for days 5 and 6, and then day 7 was a refeed with a high carb and 1 free meal (I.e. 4 slices of pizza)
I eat lots of clean lean protein, for example I’ve been eating 9 egg whites and 1/2 avocado for breakfast, 6-8 oz chicken breast with 1/2 sweet potato for lunch, chicken or eggs for dinner, and then in between the whole meals I have protein shakes with water, coconut oil, and cinnamon powder.
I stop most carbs besides the little bit in my protein shake by 7pm and stop eating by 8pm so I can get close to a 12 hour fast before meal 1.
I’ve been doing 5 days of lifting upper, lower, upper, lower, upper. And then doing HIIT cardio 3x a week usually morning fasted, and then adding in a couple days of 30-40 mins steady state. No take sundays off
I also drink about 3/4 - 1 gallon of water a day. I take fish oil, bcaa’s, went off my creatine for 2 weeks will start that again on Monday. I also drink lots of iced coffee first half of day.

So I thought I was doing the right stuff but I am seeing nothing! It’s only been 14 days but I would have expected to lean out a lot more than I have but I don’t see/feel it happening.
I am in slight ketosis via urine test, but I seem to go in and out of it showing only a trace of ketones. Blood sugar seems good when I test, before or 30 mins after a meal never higher than 110.
I am not feeling over trained, strength has been good and I don’t feel fatigued.

It just doesn’t feel like I am making progress. Looking for ideas on how I could improve my fat burning from experts who have actually done it and who know how to get a body fat down to 7%. I am willing to try anything, I just feel like I’m spinning my wheels.

Any advice anyone can give me would be awesome!
Thanks for the help!


@robstein is probably one guy to really listen to.

My experience of leaning out only really made one thing in your post stand out, which is a lot of ‘abouts’ and a regular cheat meal. When I leaned out, I made a point of being as accurate as I could be, and I had no cheats for about a year. I would think going from lean to really lean, those two factors will lay a big role.

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@MarkKO - thanks for the tag as always brother!

@bstrom - Congrats on your efforts to get lean man, I’ll do my best to provide some helpful info. I’ll start by address some things in your post, then give some further thoughts.

This looks good so far. If you could post a picture that would be helpful. Can you see your abs at all? You wrote that you “estimate” your fat is 12-13% by skin fold, does that mean you took skin fold measurements, or are guessing? If you can’t see abs at all, I think you’re above 12-13%. 12% is pretty lean, you should have a visible 4 pack by 12%.

Where did you get these macros? 50g carbs is very low indeed, and IMO 300g protein is WAY too high. I’m guessing you’re trying to go with 1.5g protein per pound, which is quite a lot, unless your way deep in a prep and muscle retention is a concern. I’d raise carbs to at least 100 and lower protein. 1g per pound is more than sufficient, 1.2 is the tops I’d recommend for a situation like yours. OR, you could keep carbs at 50g and raise fats, but I’d still lower protein.

On a “high carb” or “re-feed” day, lower the protein as well, 300g protein on a high carb day is quite a lot. On a high day protein is typically 1g per pound, so you could lower protein to 200, raise carbs and keeps fats where you have them.

That sounds good and clean! Ultimately, remember total calories will play the biggest role in your progress, whether from chicken and broccoli or pizza. Speaking of pizza…

If you’re trying to just get lean and aren’t too concerned about your conditioning, this wouldn’t be as concerning, but 4 slices of pizza is easily 1300-1500 calories, PLUS you’re on a high carb day as well. One day of eating like that can easily undo a week’s worth of caloric deficit, depending on how significant your deficit is. If you’re serious about getting to 10%, ditch the pizza and calculate EVERYTHING you’re doing, or have 1 slice or something, but 4 slices of pizza on a cut, just in my opinion, is counterintuitive.

If that works for you that’s cool, but again ultimately timing takes a back seat to total cals and carbs. On my prep on my medium days I’d have oatmeal and protein right before bed without any issues, so again it’ll come down to total macros/calories, not as much timing. Timing DOES play a role, but that’s the icing on the cake once everything else is in line.

Sounds good.

It’s important to understand fat loss takes time, you can’t expect to see significant results in 14 days. What kind of data are you keeping? Daily weigh-ins? Measurements? If you’re only going by the mirror, I highly suggest weighing yourself daily, taking measurements to have cold, hard data you can rely on. You may have lost 3lbs already, but if you’re not weighing, you wouldn’t know it. Additionally, if you HAVE lost weight and can’t see a significant difference, you’re definitely above 12% body fat.

Be aware that 7% is close to bodybuilding on stage conditioning, and it would take an incredible amount of time, discipline and sacrifice to get to 7%, and a lot longer than 2 weeks.

I know the feeling!

SO, after addressing all that, here are my thoughts if you really are willing to do what you need to do to get to 10% body fat. That arbitrary number is tossed around a lot, ultimately, you want to look conditioned, lean, visible abs and athletic, right? 10% is very lean, it’s certainly attainable but takes a lot of discipline, and time to do it right, so please understand that going in.

  • Track and calculate everything, don’t guess. Stick to your plan with rigid consistency, so you know if it’s working or not. If you want to continue with carb cycling, do it, and tidy up the loose ends.

-To piggyback off of that, get rid of the pizza. It’s not forever, it’s to get to your goal. Calculate your high carb day and be consistent. Not to say you can’t enjoy yourself. My high day I used to get a chicken sandwich with peppers and onions from my local pizza shop, amazing and helped me stay sane. But, NO CHEESE (pizza is high carb AND high fat, so you are really not helping yourself eating 4 slices of pizza on a cut). Whatever you do, calculate and track. Easy to do with a phone app or spreadsheet.

-Lower protein so you can have room for more carbs/fat. 1.2 should be just fine, totaling 220-240g protein.

-Consider adding some LISS (low intensity steady state) cardio sessions in the morning or after weights, like 20-30 minutes on the elliptical, bike or incline treadmill.

-Weigh yourself daily, first thing in the morning, after bathroom and before food. Then you KNOW if you’re on track.

-Ultimately, if you’re not loosing fat, you’re not creating enough of a deficit. It might be that 5 out of 7 days of the week you’re on point, and your refeeds are bringing you back, two steps forward, one and a half steps back type thing. Be relentless until you reach your goal, then go back to maintaining.

-Be realistic in that it takes time to get that lean and it might not happen by the date you want it to. Also be realistic with where you are, and take a skin fold caliper reading if you really want to know. I never know what body fat percentage I am, I’m either lean or enough, or not, happy with my conditioning or not. I did measure once towards the end of my last prep just to see because a lot of people were asking and I thought it would be good to have an answer, and it turned out I was 6%.

Hope this helps, please be sure to post with any further questions/updates!


Thank you very much! This is so helpful!!!
I just did a dexa scan and was 24% bf, so I know it’s always higher but you’re definitely right, I’m higher than i thought on skinfold. I was guessing as I am about the same weight and dexa scan is very close to the same when I was tested at 14% skinfold.
I cannot see past 1st abs so I am higher BF than I thought.

I will totally cut the protein back and up the carbs, that won’t be an issue at all. The pizza too, done!

I really appreciate you helping me, I seriously don’t know what I’m doing when it comes to this part and have just been reading different articles that confuse me, and that’s when I figured why not ask someone who has actually done it!
Thanks so much.
Here is a picture

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Thank you so much @MarkKO
His advice is really helpful! I am mentally prepared to do this and have wanted to do it my whole life just never knew how. I’m 40 but I’m ready to do it now!
Thanks again for the help!
Stay strong!


You’re welcome man, glad to help! You look great, visible shoulder bump, abs outline, full chest, it looks like when you get to the level of leanness you want, you’ll have a serious physique under the hood to show off! Already looking good, with your adjustments and some more time, no doubt you’ll get there.

Again, please don’t hesitate to post with further questions, updates, etc.!

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Thanks @robstein

One more question Long question :joy::joy:

I also tested my RMR and it came back at 1889 calories, so since the caloric deficit is important, what would you recommend I average a day?m for calories?

As far as my activity goes:
Currently I am doing resistance training upper, lower, upper, lower. Each workout is heavy and intense but only about 45-60 minutes.

I also do HIIT cardio 3x a week and have been adding in the LISS a couple times a week as well.

My job is a lot of travel but not much activity except walking. So all my activity comes from the above workouts.

Thoughts on recommended calorie intake based on that RMR?

If I did the 1.2 protein per lb of body weight that is about 245g of protein.
Carbs at .5 per lb of bodyweight would get me around the 100g of carbs
So those two equal 1380 calories, leaving me 620 calories of fat to have a 2000 calorie diet, which would be around 70g of fat.

Does 2000 calories sound right for my plan, or is that too low?
Would be
245 g protein
100 g carbs
70 g fat

Also I am not tied to the carb cycling, I have just been reading a lot on it and thought I would try it.
Would you suggest I still do it but just adjust the carbs higher like your earlier post, or is it better for me to just stick with a consistent day to day caloric intake?

Thanks again for your help!!!