T Nation

Bulking, Cutting or Maintenance for Skinny Novice


My name is Johan, 31 years old. I'm 6'3 and weigh 200 lbs. I never exercised before and want to start lifting weights. I already figured out that doing the Starting Stength routine is a good way to start. But I don't know what would be best to do diet wise. I am skinny and have very little muscle mass. Bulking up would be the general advice. But I also have a 38 inch waist, it is a fairly round belly that I absolutely hate.

What should I do the first couple of months? Bulk up and get an even bigger waistline? Cut down and risking to slow down the beginner gains? Or is it possible to go on a maintenance diet and gain some muscle while losing some fat and reducing the waistline? Summer is coming up and although I would like being a bit more muscular in summer, I would also hate to have a huge belly.

Please give me your opinion on what would be the best option. Thanks


If you've never lifted weights before you really shouldn't gain any fat the first couple of months, assuming your diet is not total crap, both kcal and food choice wise. A lot of people experience both fat loss and muscle gain when they first start working out.

Edit: So either maintain or bulk, eitherway don't go into a kcal deficit, when you are, as you say, already skinny.


It isn't as though your body only gives you two options:

1) lose fat and become weak and skinny, or
2) go into hibernation mode and only gain muscle while becoming obese

But unfortunately a lot of people seem to have gathered this impression from the internet.

My advice is to simply improve your lifestyle on the whole. Start by eating a healthy diet (does not need to be drastic), doing cardio several days a week, and lifting weights intensely a minimum of 4 days a week.


~Eat 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight daily to build muscle.
~Try to avoid sugar and trans fats.
~Although you probably don't have to count calories, don't be that guy that goes "health crazy" and ends up eating 100 calories of blueberries and yogurt each meal.

*Simple daily diet guideline that a lot of people seem to like:

-One pound of meat (any kind you like, does not have to be all in one sitting), half a dozen eggs (any way you like, doesn't have to be all in one sitting), and 2 protein shakes every day. Fill in the rest of your hunger with whatever you want (ideally complex carbs).

Organize 4-7 meals any way you want, do the same thing every day, or change it all the time, as long as you meet that quota every day. Just a suggestion, but like I said I let everyone in on that who PM's me asking for advice and I've heard nothing but success (I follow the same guideline myself).


~3-5 days a week of whatever you want.


~I realize internet nerds have made Starting Strength sound like a miracle beginner program, but it's really just a train that only stops in failure city. Unless you want lagging bodyparts and a bench/overhead press that never seems to go up, just train with a traditional program (refer to the Bodybuilding Bible link in the bodybuilding sticky: The Best of T-Nation).
~Most important parts of training: safe form, progressive overload, getting a pump, and busting your ass.

Good luck!


Not bad advice until this part.

Plenty of newbies have gotten off on the right start with Starting Strength.

Granted, as with any program, you'll need to learn to adapt it over time to meet your needs, but there's no way around that.


Like who?

No seriously, WHO?

I have yet to see someone jump on the Starting Strength bandwagon and not wind up with lagging bodyparts and stalled out lifts after several months of it.

Even if you could give me an example, or 10 examples, what does that compare to the hundreds of people who have gone from skinny to big (in the same amount of time or likely much faster) by simply training with a normal bodybuilding program?


Thanks guys for your advice so far. I like the general diet guidelines.