Advice for New Lifter Looking to Lean Out?

First of all, hello! :smiley:

I’m a relatively new face to lifting and fitness in general; I’ve always been a bigger nerdy theatre guy, and though for a short period of time I actually managed to get down to a weight I could tolerate on myself - granted, it was through of combination of depression and near-starvation (and a LOT of weed) - I have generally lived in the realm of 250-270 lbs.

Over the past few years I’ve finally gotten up the gumption to start taking weight training a little more seriously, and just in the past few weeks have started a basic routine for myself since I work from home and can focus more on my health:

  • I generally stay in the 10 rep/4 set range for all of my exercises, playing with weight every so often
  • Mostly upper body (bench press, rows, curls and shrugs, among a few others) with one or two leg exercises every day in the same rep/set range
  • Going for 5 mile walks at least three days a week
  • Following an intermittent fasting schedule (only eating between noon and 8pm) and a HUGE caloric deficit (I know it’s probably too much) - I’ve been keeping as low as possible, likely in the 1200 - 1500 range. One day a week I give myself a cheat day and eat whatever.

Current stats: 28yo, 5’ 11", 265lbs

Obviously I don’t have the perfect setup going, and I could really use some suggestions. My ideal goal is to get into the 210 - 220 lbs. range (to start) and lose some serious midsection fat, before building up some muscle (especially in the chest/shoulders region). (A huge fitness role model of mine is Joel Thomas, but I don’t expect to look like him anytime soon lol)

Admittedly, my main aspiration for this goal (besides generally feeling better about myself) is that I take part in an annual Halloween production in my town and my costume is…revealing, to say the least. I’d like to try and get down as far as I can before the end of September (which I know is probably pretty steep, but I’d still like to try.)

Based on this, could anyone give me some suggestions? I can provide other stats/info if necessary, but I could really use some advice.

Thanks, y’all! :slight_smile:

Make a more focused effort to Progressively Increase the weights you’re lifting. Every so often is not often enough. As a beginner you can push harder!

Higher daily calories, so you’re in less of a defecit, you don’t want to starve yourself and burn out. More protein! With calories that low you just not be getting much protein. You need that stuff to build muscles. Have a less shitty diet in general. Also, no cheat days. A whole day of slop is way too much. In my opinion, if you’re not starving yourself for 6 days it will be easier not to binge eat every week.

Walking is cool.

Keep your goal in mind to stay motivated.

What kinds of foods are you eating? Tell us about your diet. I think there is room to improve.

What about your lifting? Do you just kinda douche around with some weights? Is there any kind of plan?

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You’re making some big mistakes here. If you want to get the your newbie gains and get results fast. You need to do a few things right.

  1. Structured lifting program. It doesn’t matter what it is, but it needs to focus on compound lifts and progressive overload. I recommend taking a look at Johnny Candito’s free Beginner linear program. Or Jim Wendler 5/3/1 for beginners.
  1. Diet. Don’t starve yourself. You’ll lose both fat and muscle. Your strength will go up for a little bit, then it will crash and burn. You’ll mess up your metabolism, and you’ll start to lose motivation fast. You’ll end up not having energy to exercise, or do anything for that matter. You’ll think about food all the time, then binge eat and gain all your weight back. It might not be for a year or even 2 years, but it will happen.

What you need to do when you’re just starting is

  • cut out caloric beverages. Or limit them to 1 or 2 a week.
  • Make sure you eat 150g or more of protein every day. More is better
  • eat enough fiber and water that your insides aren’t cemented shut from the protein
  • make healthier food choices overall. The less processed the more nutritious it’s going to be and you’ll feel better eating those foods.
  • if you like to snack while watching TV or playing games, try to snack on fruits and veggies instead of chips and cookies.

Do this, and you will lose fat and gain muscle rapidly for at least 3-5 months. Once you start stalling on either gaining strength or losing fat, come back here and we can re-evaluate your training and diet.

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Thank you guys for your input so far! It’s really appreciated!

For the past few years I’ve been on-again-off-again with a mostly ketogenic diet, but it’s very easy for me to fall off the wagon. I mostly tend to stick to protein and vegetables (usually chicken in some variety and mostly broccoli/cauliflower) and avoid breads/pastas for the most part. And with the intermittent fasting (which I’m not entirely sold on) I usually don’t eat until about noon, and only do lunch and dinner (thinking of going back to breakfast, even if just a protein shake or a couple eggs with toast) I started off not eating breakfast because I used to work as a gardener, and eating in the morning made me nauseated when I started moving around right away at work.)

I guess I really just need help understanding how much/how often I should be eating, and how I should approach these beginning weightlifting regimens. What degree of caloric deficit should I maintain? What kind of ratio should I have between weight training and cardio? I know these are probably basic questions, but I appreciate all the info you can give.

I also should add that my free weights are somewhat limited; I have a set of 20lbs and a set of 25lbs, plus about six 14.3lb disks and two 10lb disks. I also have a 30lb weighted vest.

Unfortunately, my friend, I think you’re most effective bet will be to log everything you’re eating for the next two weeks, along with your average weight, and then report back here.

Ditch keto if you’re not sticking with it. It can be overly restrictive and not sustainable for a lot of people. Don’t worry about the total number of calories right now. Don’t even worry about being in a deficit. You’re a beginner and overweight, if you eat the right kinds of foods and train hard, the fat will melt off very quick. If you start going on diets and worrying about calories right now you can become obsessive about it and screw things up.

This is what you need to do with your diet.

  1. Eat as much unprocessed or minimally processed food as possible. You want meats, eggs, veggies, potatoes, fruits, beans etc.
  2. Significantly reduce your saturated dietary fats. Avoid butter, coconut oil, lard or any fats that are solid at room temp. Avoid cheese, whole milk, egg yolks, peanut butter, etc.
  3. Eat enough protein. At least 150g per day. Not in shakes, eat food. Chicken, fish, and once in a while beef and pork. Remember number 1 and 2 (don’t eat the chicken skin, don’t deep fry the chicken). Grill it, or pan fry it in vegetable oil.
  4. Give yourself a break once a week, for one meal. If you feel like it, have a couple beers and some pizzas, just don’t overdo it.

This is what I had for breakfast:
Sautéed in avocado oil; 1 can of drained and rinsed black beans, 1 chicken breast chopped, 2 cup of frozen spinach, big spoon full of canned pumpkin, salt and pepper with lemon juice on top.

Snack example:
Orange and 4 hard boiled egg whites.

Lunch Example:
Tuna salad sandwich (can of tuna - don’t drain it, chopped celery, tbsp olive oil, mustard, lemon juice, salt, pepper, hot sauce to taste), on 2 slices of grain bread.

Dinner example:
Salmon fillet or chicken breast on salad with peas, mushrooms, and sautéed yam cubes. Olive oil and lemon juice or cider vinegar for dressing.

You’re going to eat like this a lot. You can do lots of variations, but your diet will consist of a lot of the foods in the examples above.

The number one rule here is progressive overload. That means whatever you do for your workout, you need to try to beat it the next workout. That means either increasing the resistance or increasing the number of reps that you preform.

Here is a very simple example you can do with your equipment:

Workout A:
Goblet squats 3x8 (3 sets 8 reps)
Push ups 3x8
Incline push ups 3x8
Strict military press with dumbbells 3x8
Lateral raises 3x12
Skull crushers 3x10

Workout B:
Single leg deadlift with dumbbells 3x8
Body weight rows 3x8
Assisted chin ups and/or negatives 3x10
Bicep curls with dumbbells 3x10
External rotations with very light dumbbells 3x12

You would workout every other day, and alternate between workout A and B

Again, the goal is to progress. Start all exercises with a variation that is manageable. For example, start with pushups on your knees. If you can only do 6, then do 3 sets of 6. Next workout try to do 3 sets of 7, then 3 sets of 8. Then put on the vest and keep adding weight every time. Once you can do 3 sets of 8 with the vest, then try doing a full push up. Maybe you can only get 4, keep working up to doing more until you hit 8. Then add the vest again.

For pull-ups, get a pull-up bar that mounts to the wall or ceiling. Also get 2 sets of resistance bands like the ones linked below. Tie them to the bar, and loop them on your feet. Again, start with enough that you can do 8-10 reps, and each week try to remove some resistance or work your way up to 10 reps. Check videos on YouTube for correct form and progressing schemes for all the exercises you are doing. You should always be practicing form, and not lifting more weight than you can handle with good form.


Yeah this is dumb, no way you will be able to train with the real intensity needed to get serious results. Will tank your metabolism over the long term also.

At 265 you can get down to like 220 just developing good habits/eating like an adult and training hard.(then start gradual calorie restriction plans)

Run through fatloss templates off this site and you can get very good results by September…

or/followed by…

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Lyle McDonald “PSMF Diet” Category 3.

You are actually starting with a good foundation. Good work on putting this together on your own so far.

What type of character are you portraying in your Halloween production?

Keep walking a lot, intermittent fasting is good, but skip the cheat days.

Read as much as you can by Dan John. He is now your “everyday regular guy trainee looking to lose fat and be badass” coach.

Use a wide variety of dynamic exercises. Think of training protocols like a dynamic warm-up might look like: skips, hops, jumps, get down on the ground and back up, short sprints - pretty low intensity stuff, but done as a circuit to get your blood moving and lungs working. Start every session with 5-10 minutes of this, but make sure to keep these portion randomized and not too routine or easy to adapt to. That is your controlling factor here (not intensity or overload or volume).

As far as strength exercise goes, 5/3/1 as already mentioned. But I would use Easy Strength template as an opportunity to practice kettlebell swings, front squats, turkish get ups, and some REALLY basic upper body stuff like push-ups and pull-ups. If you can’t do push-ups and pull-ups with body weight, than IMO, you are leaving easy low-hanging fruit on the tree of progress and bench presses and pulldowns will do next to nothing for you.

I advocate spending several weeks (40 days in the case of EZ Strength) to get really good at kettlebell swings, squats, turkish get ups, push-ups and pull-ups. You need to re-tool aspects of your body, and that should be done with sustainable training. This program will seem easy, but that’s actually a really good thing for two reasons. Number 1, well you need to be good at these basic exercises so that you can use them later on in a more concentrated fashion to expediate fat loss. For example, don’t try doing Litvinovs (a kettlebell swing set followed by a sprint) if you don’t know how to swing. Don’t try to do Tabata front squats if you can’t front squat. Get what I’m saying? And yet in the future, we want to be capable of both of these modalities, because they are unrivaled in their ability to shred people in short time and work.

Number 2, during this period of low-intensity training, it will give you the time and energy to work the kinks out of your diet. If you come out training your ass off right away, you are going to fog your ability to read your bodies hunger signals, IMO. For example, if 20 reps squats are going to be your chosen method of working the body, well you are going to have a very hard time nailing down your diet over the screams of your stomach demanding sustinence.

So, practice your chosen strength lifts and chosen diet. Do it easily, and be really bad at it if you have to. Observe yourself. Then after a period of, lets say again, 40 days, you should be sufficiently prepped to go a little harder if you choose.

Also, I might add, you could add a variety of farmer walks to your dynamic movement exercise for both variety and intensity.

Here are some of my favorite foods:
pork, fish, beef, eggs, sauerkraut, broccoli, carrots, beets, garlic
*I’ll add that I raise my own hog, chickens, and make my own kraut
hazelnuts, walnuts, macadamia nuts, figs, apples
dark chocolate, peanut butter, olive oil, coconut oil
red vinegar (I drink 2 tbsp a day at least, it’s very refreshing in cold water), green tea, coffee

For supplements I take 1 Flameout per day, and a handful of Elite Pro Minerals, I also take 1/2 scoop of Superfood and 1/2 scoop of Power Drive in my green tea post workout. I train around 1-3pm and eat my first meal of the day around 3-4pm. If I choose to have another meal, it should be done before 7pm or so.

I also like to use weed products, so I might have an edible before my first meal; maybe 12.5g edible (I reserve this for super hard training that leaves my heart rate elevated for long periods of time as 12.5g edible with Elite Pro Mineral will guarantee I sleep deep regardless of any other factors) or I’ll toke before I get in the shower before 2nd Dinner; I find I am able to practice breathing exercises in cold shower much more reliably with marijuana. I would highly discourage marijuana use for the first 40 days though, just to stay consistent with your training and nutrition. You want to be as clear as possible to learn your bodies cues and signals during this re-tooling period. Also, for me personally, marijuana makes it hard to STOP eating. Used excessively it can be cause to confusion among neurotransmitter and hormonal receptions.

Seriously limit your grains and beans, but potatoes and squash are okay. If you insist on eating grains, I challenge you to start making your own fermented whole grain bread.

Some favorite books, just for fun:
Thus Spoke Zarathustra, original John Carter series, The Odyssey

Anyways, best of luck. This is all general advice I’m giving here, and you’ve gotten some good advice already. Best thing you can do is educate yourself, and if you find yourself overthinking, get yourself a journal and think on paper.

If I could sum this all up, 40 days of:

Simple Diet: meats, eggs, nuts, vegetables, green tea, vinegar, one or two meals a day, if you have grazing problems, have up to 3 meals a day, if you absolutely need carbs, stick to apples and figs post-workout, or get yourself some taters & carrots with a nice pork or beef roast.

Fat-loss training: dynamic movements progressing towards some sprinting so you can do Litvinov’s later on, regular walking, crawling, cartwheels, stuff like that as well

Easy Strength: practice swings for Litvinovs later on, front squats for Tabata later on, Turkish get-ups will make you mobile, farmer walks will make you strong, push-ups will highlight any strength leaks as this category includes all types of planks and planche as well, pull-ups are better than the scale for weight loss and will give you a crushing grip and ab strength.

The 40-Workout Strength Challenge <— there are actual several editions of this, but the philosophy doesn’t change, so use Google, Youtube, and T-Nation to your advantage

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Making your own fermented anything is great, and surprisingly easy! I make sauerkraut at home that turns out better than that $10/pound stuff at “healthy” grocery stores, and it costs $1/pound.

Thank you, all of you, this is a lot of advice I think I really needed! I think I’m gonna try the routines/diets you all suggested, see if they work for me. And I really like the idea of making my own bread; I actually just tried making a braided whole wheat bread from a video game cookbook and it didn’t turn out too bad.

@howie424, I’m playing Frank N. Furter in a local shadowcast production of Rocky Horror Picture Show. I did it last year and had a blast, and if you’ve seen the movie, you know what kind of costume I’m working with. lol

I think I’ll make it a point of bringing regular updates to this thread, just to make sure I’m staying on the right track, if you guys don’t mind helping the noob. :slight_smile:

Once again, thank you guys so much!

German Bread

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Just made 3 quarts this morning! Red cabbage and beets

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OKAY, so Day One update:

Holy crap. I HAVE been doing it wrong.

I tried out @galgenstrick’s Workout A suggestion, doing three rounds of each exercise one right after the other (25lbs for the goblet squats, 20lbs for everything else). I also ended up bumping up the 8 reps to 10, and…damn, I’m out of shape. lol

Had to do the regular push ups on my knees, and I could barely get ten incline push ups out on Round 1…obviously there’s room for improvement, and my arms are DEAD.

I’m going to stick with it, though, because it actually made me feel like I was WORKING something, rather than just screwing around with random exercises.

Plus I had breakfast for the first time in a WHILE, and it’s actually kinda nice to sit down with a simple little meal first thing after a workout. Just a couple of eggs on whole wheat toast with black coffee (I also used a nice dollop of Sriracha because I’m a fan of heat.) :slight_smile:


See brother, you got this. You are observing and appreciating the incremental things.

I suggest adopting a pet exercise that you can do daily. Kettlebell clean & press or a Turkish get up or something like that; a complex, easy to perform anywhere exercise that you can use as an anchor in your new training lifestyle. Run to your local sports supply box store or Walmart or the internet and find a light kettlebell. Personally I wouldn’t suggest anything less than a 44 for starters cause you’ll adapt quickly, but even a 20 pounder would be ok and be relatively inexpensive. And practice that Turkish get up or snatch or whatever every day, just a few reps. (I run a kettlebell snatch ladder daily, it only gets easier with time, never makes me strain or grunt or sweat but keeps the pattern alive)

Let all your other training be impersonal, a means to an end, exercises come and go, but find a lift that you can get real personal about. On those days when you are looking for motivation and you look in the mirror and don’t like what you see or you feel like giving up, whatever, had a bad day, bad lift, whatever the reason, hey maybe you had a GREAT day; stroke your pet lift, your confidence will rise and you’ll remember the work at hand. Or maybe you’ll hit your pet lift and you’ll realize, wow I haven’t progressed at this simple easy to do thing, maybe I need to re-evaluate and check myself, am I doing the daily things I should be doing? Something like a barometer, idk, I’m just vomiting from my brain at this point.

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Awesome to hear!

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This is what I got up to today; was doing well diet-wise until I started munching on this braided bread I made…luckily it’s almost gone. But I was still under 2,000 calories…I suppose it also depends on my macros, as well (which I’m still trying to understand the whole concept of…)

Tomorrow I plan on going on a lengthy hike, and then I’ll strength train again on Wednesday (I might wear my weighted vest on the hike, just to add some resistance.)

Some of the nutrient info is an educated guess (especially the braided bread). I couldn’t get exact numbers but I found the most similar foods I could and compared them.

Looking good man!

You can get away with eating a little more. I’d add it in the form of protein. You can aim for 2200-2500 calories/day right now. You need the energy to fuel your workouts and keep you motivated, and also keep your metabolism up. If the weight loss stalls, then you can drop 100 calories/day to start it up again.

Macros are pretty simple, they’re composed of 3 nutrients: protein (4 calories per gram), fats (9 calories per gram), carbs (4calories per gram).

Protein and fat are essential, and you will die without them. Carbs are not essential and you could technically live without them, but they support a lot of bodily functions.

Building muscle requires protein for protein synthesis. 1 gram per pound of lean body mass is adequate, more than that can be better. Protein is used to build/repair tissue in your body. When you work out a muscle it creates micro tears that are repaired stronger than they were previously.

Fat is required for brain health and hormone production. At your size, you don’t really ever want to go below 50-60 grams per day. And most of that needs to be unsaturated and preferably omega-3s

Carbs are your energy source, and also break down and convert to glycogen which is stored in your muscles. This gives your muscles the power they need for heavy weight lifting. Of course if you’re on a keto diet, your body behaves differently that what’s stated above, but only while you’re in ketosis.

Have you tried time-restricted feeding?

Time-restricted feeding? Is that like intermittent fasting?