T Nation

Can You Spot My Problem?

I’ve been “lean bulking” for the last two years, however, my progress over the last five months has caused me to seriously rethink my life choices. Basically, I continue to lose lean muscle mass regardless of my training intensity and nutrition regiment. I feel like I’m really close to breaking through this barrier, but I just don’t know what to focus on next. Based on the info I’ve provided below, what would you suggest I focus on in the next three months?

Total weight: 160 lbs
Body fat: 6-7 %

Current Stats:
Total weight: 153 lbs
Body fat: 8%

4-6 sessions. 3-4 weight training, 1-2 HITT /yoga

Total Calories: 2500
Protein: 155 g
Fat: 85 g
Carbs: 280 g

Diet: Very clean. predominantly whole food, vegetarian based
No supplementation other than creatine

Do you do squats and deadlifts?

If not, those are good for a solid 10 lbs.

Are you trying to gain weight? If so, I think the clear answer is to eat more

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How are you obtaining the BF% and LBM data?

I don’t know how reliable those graphs are especially those counting muscle mass and body fat. Are those results from a smart scale? They tend to be quite unreliable and depend on factors like water retention. What about your strength? Does it go up or down? It’s unlike to lose muscle while getting stronger. What about the way you look?
My “go to” answer would be to train heavy on compound lifts and eat slightly more to gain “lean” weight. Christian Thibaudeau’s “best damn diet plan for natural lifters” is a great step by step guide to follow.
On the other hand a plausible explanation would be that you are heavily overtraining to the point of losing muscle and gaining fat due to excessive cortisol, but I guess you would knew if you trained that hard-often

I use an InBody scale once a month

For sure. The bummer is that as I’ve increased my total calories (2500 -2600) I’ve noticed my body fat increasing while my muscle mass remains stagnant or even decreases. Recomposition is crazy hard to maintain, but it seems to be the best way to keep fat off of my torso.

That’s true! Yeah, I do an equal split between upper body and lower body each workout.

It would help if you posted pics of your current physique, even if it’s just a mirror selfie.

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@NickV thank you for the tip, the Best Damn Diet Plan had a lot of good points I’m going to incorporate into my nutrition this month. Since I’m mainly vegetarian, splitting carbs is challenging but I think I can do it.

I weigh myself in the same state to optimize the InBody results, but you’re right that they can be off. Unfortunately, I’ve seen my strength take a hit over the last two months. I think I haven’t been as careful with my nutrition as I need to be. Thanks again for the feedback.

I don’t have a current leg pic, but my InBody results put my legs at 104% (43 lbs total) based on my ideal weight. which means they could use a little work - ha.

What does your weight training look like?

How are you tracking progression in the gym?

Building muscle is a slow process, but its even slower if you are scared of a little fat gain.


I’m super-confused by those charts. It says your lean muscle mass is 80.2. Guessing that’s kilograms?? But you said your current weight is 153 pounds. Huh?

What did you weigh two years ago?

What did you weigh five months ago?

That’s really not how you setup an effective total body workout. This is a much better example: https://www.t-nation.com/workouts/waterbury-method

With vegetarianism, or really any diet that limits specific food sources, you really do need to be dialed in at all times. What are your protein sources?

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If your scale measures percent body fat it most likely is an impedance measurement. For more precise measurements you need to have a consistent hydration content. IMO, that is most easily done first thing upon waking. But if you consumed a meal with excessive salt the day before, that might adversely affect your hydration content that next morning.

Without a good Gage, you might be getting more gauge measurement variation than actual body fat % variation. You want to minimize gauge measurement variation every way possible.

The issue I find with “lean bulking” is that it flips the relationship between training and nutrition and, in turn, makes both ineffective at their intent.

Food is an agent of recovery. We use it to recover from training. If training is not intense enough to necessitate said recovery, food does not get employed successfully in that way.

“Lean bulking” operates under the premise that we eat JUST enough to facilitate recovery from training and add a little muscle…but how the hell do we possibly know we’re doing that? The EXACT recovery demand of your training can NOT be predicted within 100 calories or whatever minimal caloric surplus you attempt to employ to minimize fat gain while maximizing muscular growth. There’s a significant chance of UNDERestaimating demand, which means lack of recovery and no muscle built.

I, instead, find it far more beneficial to let training drive nutrition vs the other way around. I train so hard that I NEED more food to recover, and then I eat until I’m recovered. When I’m training hard enough, eating is like a job, and I legit find it hard to eat ENOUGH to facilitate recovery despite prodigious portions and frequent feedings.

You’ve spun your wheels for a while as it is: it might be time to try a really intense program like Deep Water, Super Squats or 5/3/1 Building the Monolith and eating to recover from it.


Bingo. Further, you are placing WAY too much credence on info gleaned from a notoriously inaccurate device (the impedance meter). Stick that thing in a drawer, and don’t touch it again until/unless you reach a day you’re happy with your physique. On that day you can pull it out and see what it says, just for giggles.


Judging by your efforts to record data and make charts, you are trying to take an empirical approach to your progress. My latter years at my employer involved me assisting managers with their 6 Sigma Projects. There is some opportunity for the inferential statistics with some data that you are obtaining.

I’d add daily Body Weight data to your Percent body Fat (daily) data. Record your weight 5 body fat at the same time of day every day. When you get 30 days of data (Body Weight and % Body Fat), post them here and I’ll generate Control Charts (and post them) where we can discriminate between common cause variation and special cause variation. We can then check for correlation between Body Weight and % Body Fat.

Most everyone will tell you it is just confusing to weigh yourself everyday. But if you understand the difference between common cause and special cause variation, everyday weighing gives you more information.

If the statistics show correlation between Body Weight and % Body Fat we will know the additional body weight you gained came with additional body fat. The more data points improve Beta Error, which in this case would mean you added % body fat but it wasn’t enough assure correlation.

If all this is too tedious or too heady, I understand. I support your efforts attempting to create some data to verify your progress.

If you are already familiar with Control Charts and Correlation testing, these are just suggestions that you might consider adding to your charts.

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is this costly for each use or an at home devise? If at home I’d use it at least weekly and initially for 7 days in a row to see how it fluctuates. This is what I do with a devise at home and hydration has huge impacts on measurements… its more about long term trends but it needs frequent enough measurements to mean anything.

judging from the picture you can stop worrying about numbers and follow Pwn’s

Do you know what it will entail to maintain 6-7% bodyfat year round? Not trying to come off as a smart ass or anything, I’m genuinely asking. It will be a 24/7 job basically. Are you trying to make a living off your physique?

Do you eat seafood/eggs/dairy at least?

You are in good shape actually, and waaay ahead of general population. -You have room for manouvre so prob wouldn’t hurt to loosen things up for a short time
-1.once a week eat some pizza/have dessert
-2. Can try this below and then continue to run through proven Tnation programs Like Waterbury or 531 stuff as mentioned before…