T Nation

Adding Too Much Fat, Not Enough Muscle


#1

I've been lifting weights twice a week for six months, very traditional barbell routine: back squats, front squats, bench press, deadlift, chin ups, dips, very gradually increasing the weight.

I've also increased my intake of calories, with the aim of gaining a half a pound a week. Over six months, I've gone from 133 lbs to 145 lbs. So far, so good. I've also gone from 12% body fat to 17% (measured with a "Bod Pod").

But this means I've gained three pounds of muscle and nine pounds of fat. I think this is too much fat and not enough muscle.

Can someone please reveal what the solution here is? I am guessing it's not eat less. Should I just keep eating as I have been and lift weights three or four days a week?


#2

What did you eat yesterday?


#3

How much stronger did you get?

“Calories are permissive to the muscle building process. The driving force behind muscle growth happens in a gym, in a syringe or the combination of the two. Yes, Protein is also important. If you are not eating ‘enough’ you can hinder muscle growth. But once you start eating just ?enough?, eating any more on top of that will not FORCE more muscle growth.”

(Brad Pilon)


#4

I feel it will be difficult to add muscle training only twice a week.


#5

Yesterday? Literally:
Breakfast: Two eggs, two pieces of toast, coffee & milk
Lunch: Footlong roast beef sandwich
Dinner: Chicken burrito
Snack: An apple

I am this much stronger:
Back squat started at 85x3x5, now it’s 150x3x5
Bench press started at 65x3x5, now it’s 135x2x3

I know those are small weights, but note that I am not a big guy, I’m in my mid-forties, and I’ve never lifted before.


#6

Train harder, get on a program that incorporates progression so you’re doing “more” every workout, whether it be total poundage, increases in sets, reps, weight etc. over time.

You’re eating too much and not training hard enough for your genetic makeup.


#7

What does your lifting routine look like?

I normally wouldn’t consider the routine that much of an issue but my feeling is that you probably aren’t stressing your body enough with only two light sessions in a week.


#8

progress is good,
the older you get, harder to improve but possible
keep learning dont quit
if you are new to lifting try an established program like 531
where your workouts are laid out for you


#9

It is possible to gain weight/muscle with training only 2 times/week in gym, but you’ll need to hit big lifts with high volume in these sessions and do high rep accessory also.

There are plenty of 2-day templates in 5/3/1, which are really good for gaining strength and muscle.


#10

[quote]northerndriver wrote:
Yesterday? Literally:
Breakfast: Two eggs, two pieces of toast, coffee & milk
Lunch: Footlong roast beef sandwich
Dinner: Chicken burrito
Snack: An apple

I am this much stronger:
Back squat started at 85x3x5, now it’s 150x3x5
Bench press started at 65x3x5, now it’s 135x2x3

I know those are small weights, but note that I am not a big guy, I’m in my mid-forties, and I’ve never lifted before.[/quote]

I am far from a nutrition guy, but I wouldn’t consider a footlong sub and a burrito real quality nutrients. You can absolutely get big eating that way, but if you’re trying to minimize fat gain, they’re not going to be helpful compared to something less processed like a potato or some rice.

I know it’s trendy right now to say 'If it fits your macros" and all that stuff, but read some of John Meadows stuff and you’ll have an understanding of the importance of micronutrients and fiber. Food quality is a pretty significant factor to consider.

This is the diet I wish I had followed for years


#11

My normal lifting routine would look something like this:
Warm up, then these work sets:
Back squat 3x5
Bench press 3x3
Good mornings 2x10
Deadlift 1x5 (My deadlift started at 115 and is up to 180 lbs)
Chin ups 3x8 (but with some assistance, not 100% of my body weight)
This takes me somewhere around 50 minutes to an hour.

I’m not squatting or deadlifting as much weight as I probably should be able to, but I’ve discovered that I must have mobility issues that are holding me back. A slight lumbar strain a month ago while squatting put me on alert. I took a few weeks to recover (stretch, ice, much lighter weights, high reps) & got the all-clear from a chiropractor.

I agree that the quality of what I’ve been eating hasn’t been top-notch, and that too often it’s been processed stuff like sandwiches from the deli. I thought protein was protein as far as my muscles were concerned, but maybe it makes a difference.

Would 5/3/1 really be right for a novice like me?

I’m just trying to figure out what the priorities are. Putting it in order, it seems like it’s

  1. Figure out whatever form or mobility issues are holding me back with squatting & deadlifting.
  2. Increase the volume; if I can’t go heavier safely, then increase the reps and lift more days a week.
  3. Maybe eat a bit less, and definitely eat cleaner.

Yes?


#12

[quote]northerndriver wrote:
Yesterday? Literally:
Breakfast: Two eggs, two pieces of toast, coffee & milk
Lunch: Footlong roast beef sandwich
Dinner: Chicken burrito
Snack: An apple

I am this much stronger:
Back squat started at 85x3x5, now it’s 150x3x5
Bench press started at 65x3x5, now it’s 135x2x3

I know those are small weights, but note that I am not a big guy, I’m in my mid-forties, and I’ve never lifted before.[/quote]

No.

And your new work out


#13

That would be one tough ass diet to stick with.


#14

[quote]northerndriver wrote:
I’ve been lifting weights twice a week for six months, very traditional barbell routine: back squats, front squats, bench press, deadlift, chin ups, dips, very gradually increasing the weight.

I’ve also increased my intake of calories, with the aim of gaining a half a pound a week. Over six months, I’ve gone from 133 lbs to 145 lbs. So far, so good. I’ve also gone from 12% body fat to 17% (measured with a “Bod Pod”).

But this means I’ve gained three pounds of muscle and nine pounds of fat. I think this is too much fat and not enough muscle.

Can someone please reveal what the solution here is? I am guessing it’s not eat less. Should I just keep eating as I have been and lift weights three or four days a week?[/quote]

I’d suggest adding an extra day or two of training per week. If you’ve been doing full body, split it up along the lines of:

1 - Squat, bench, couple of accessories
2 - Bench, heavy rows, couple of accessories
3 - deadlift, press, couple of accessories
4 - Squat, press, couple of accessories

If you can add around 10 lbs a month to your lower body and 5 lbs a month to your upper body on your heaviest work sets your progress should be on the money. Remember that those increments are on your heaviest work sets, and will likely mean a much larger increase in max lift. After a while, you’ll find yourself using your max for your heavy work sets. When that happens, you will know for sure that your max has gone up a lot.

Example:

Max squat 220 lbs
Heaviest work set 5x176 lbs
Add 10 lbs per month for three months
Heaviest work set after three months 5x216 lbs
Heaviest work set after another month 5x226 lbs - your max now will be MUCH higher than 220 lbs, after only 16 weeks.

Also clean up your diet and consider eating more but higher quality food.


#15

12 work sets takes an hour?

  1. Eat more vegetables and just higher quality foods in general. I’d be hungry as shit or just overeat if I tried to exist off of chicken burritos and roast beef sandwiches.
  2. Add some high intensity or low intensity cardio (even walking)
  3. Lift at least 3 days a week, preferably 4. If you can only lift 2 days a week, you better be crushing it…and 12 work sets leads me to believe that isn’t happening.
  4. Lift with more volume-just adding some accessory work after your main lifts can go a long way towards this, and won’t hurt recovery much (especially with low frequency)

1/2 a pound a week is a good goal to shoot for but your frequency and volume are too low…the extra energy thus went to fat rather than building muscle. You’ve clearly gained a lot of strength on your lifts but not to the point where there is enough total stress on the system.

Hormones obviously have something to do with it as well but the training and diet are probably the main problems here.


#16

You might also have too high of a daily or weekly surplus. I won’t add to what’s already been said about reassessing your training frequency, progressive overload, attacking every workout like it’s your last one, etc., but diet could be a legitimate part of the problem, even with more training. I’ve never trained less than 3x/week when I’ve been active with resistance training, so I don’t really know much about 2x/week templates.

It’s been written about before on this site, if you do a search on the topic of bulking, but basically a standard accepted protocol is that you only need a several hundred calorie surplus per day (i.e…, 200-400 calories, at most - depends on the person) for optimal gains in LBM. Anything over and above that threshold just gets stored as fat, assuming you’re at a relatively lean point when you begin eating in a surplus, and that’s perhaps exacerbated in individuals who are already carrying around too much fat to begin with. Takeaway - you may be able to get away with eating less and still gaining mass; take a look at your daily intake to see if you’re still way above maintenance commensurate with your training volume, goals, etc.




#17

Real meat > processed meat any day.

Processed meats actually don’t have that much protein. They are very high in fat and salt.


#18

[quote]northerndriver wrote:
Yesterday? Literally:
Breakfast: Two eggs, two pieces of toast, coffee & milk
Lunch: Footlong roast beef sandwich
Dinner: Chicken burrito
Snack: An apple

I am this much stronger:
Back squat started at 85x3x5, now it’s 150x3x5
Bench press started at 65x3x5, now it’s 135x2x3

I know those are small weights, but note that I am not a big guy, I’m in my mid-forties, and I’ve never lifted before.[/quote]

Don’t worry too much about how much you lift right now. It looks like you’ve progressed nicely so far.

I would say it’s the frequency in which you train, and your diet.

It’s not mentioned often, but there’s food allergies that you should be aware of. Some people thrive on white rice (ie Me) and some not so much. Look into that.

I’d add, 2… heck three more days of training and try eliminating wheat from your diet if you’re so inclined. With that said, eat more. Healthy whole foods that is.