T Nation

Can't Hold Weight


Hi everyone,

I've been training for two years, and have had some decent gains. I'm building a business that means I am often away from any gym for days on end, getting two hours sleep (often in a car) and eating erratically, but as often as I am able. Honestly, I don't need to hear man up and train, I love training, and it's killing me not to be able to do it, but I do not have the time or opportunity at the moment to do anything other than the odd pressup or chin up from a tree branch.

In the past month, I have lost 14lbs of muscle, more than half an inch on my arms, and am generally reverting very quickly to my natural weight. I'm looking at getting some bands, so that I can do some basic stuff, for reps, when I'm stood in the middle of nowhere. For the nxt few months though, training is going to be erratic at best.

Anyone have this problem? Any ideas on diet for maintaining muscle gains? I was 6'1 185lbs, 10-12%bf.

I am down to 171lbs, at a lower bodyfat.


The only way of maintaining gains.... is maintaining gains. Meaning, your muscles definitely need stimulation in order to "stay alive" and not have the body "optimize" itself.

So two things will allow you to maintain:

1) Eating at a maintenance(or surplus) calorie level

2) Stimulating muscles, even if it isn't max-effort or to failure.

Obviously doing only one of these will still be beneficial for maintenance, but obviously not as beneficial as doing both of them.

Perhaps, until you are able to find a more consistent schedule, you should invest in a weighted-vest and things like these, and get into weighted push-ups, weighted body-squats etc. That would give you some flexibility and also save you time since all you would have to do is open the trunk of your car for your own gym.

Edit: putting on a vest and sprinting up hills sounds pretty amazing.

Editx2: Colucci probably has some bomb ass exercises you could steal and make a nice 'ghetto' routine.


How long until things will stabilize for you so that you can eat and train regularly?

If you're losing weight, really, that has to do with food. With the stress and bad sleep, you're probably burning a lot more calories than before. If you want to maintain your weight, you're going to have to eat more. I've gone through stressful periods where I seemed to burn an extra thousand calories just from the stress.

As far as training where you are, you can stick with some basic calisthenic work... press-ups, situps, pullups. But bands sound like a decent option. Kettlebells are also quite portable and work for things like that. And there's more advanced bodyweight exercises, like one-legged squats, one-armed pullups, handstand pushups, etc. I'd recommend looking at the book Convict Conditioning.

Good luck.


It's not a training issue, even though figuring out something to do on a consistent basis would be a good idea. Even if it's two sessions a week, if it's well-designed, it'll preserve (and possibly build) muscle and strength. There are a few different routines in the Archives along those lines.

But really, it's almost entirely a nutrition issue. You're just not getting enough calories. If your daily schedule is that unpredictable, make it a point to start each day with a blender bomb - protein, milk, fruit, and other stuff to deliver a ton of calories - and then eat protein-rish, calorie-dense foods when you can through the day. Knock down another shake at the end of the day if needed.

If those numbers are accurate, you've lost a good amount of muscle, which is obviously not good. Quality protein and total calories are key.


Ha, no pressure. Thanks. :wink:

Without knowing exactly how much/little time can be carved out on a regular basis, there are a lot of variables in play. Unless bands/a weight vest/a heavy kettlebell or dumbbell are really an option, the basic variations of bodyweight stuff should be enough to tide him over. Pistol squats, airborne squats, push-up variations, pull-ups playing with grip width. "Cardio"-bodyweight stuff like burpees would be the wrong choice.

But the trick to bodyweight stuff is going to be keeping it challenging and under 10ish reps per set. Higher-rep bodyweight stuff is the last thing a tall, lean, light guy needs.

A super-streamlined routine, with a basic general warm-up, could take 15 minutes or so per session. Whether or not that's feasible in the OP's current week isn't clear. I'd say it should be, but if the guy is only sleeping two hours a night (and in his car, no less), overall time management might need some attention. No offense.

And to repeat... it's really all about the food.


If I am to assume 'eating as often as you're able' is meant very literally, then it doesn't sound like there is much to be done. If you can't eat more, you won't preserve muscular gains. Fortunately, it's relatively easy to put muscle back on, after you've gained it before. I have experience with this. What took me years to put on the first time took months the second time. So once your schedule becomes such that you can eat more, and hopefully train regularly, you should bust your ass and get back what you lost.


Thanks everyone for the input so far, I appreciate it.

For clarification, I have worked more than a hundred hours every week for the past five weeks, building a business that offers a product that is new to my target industry. So far it has been exclusively funded by me (trying to avoid minority shareholders), so money is extremely tight, and I'm not getting enough time at the moment for sleep to justify booking a hotel out of income that can be better applied elsewhere in moving my business forwards.

It also means I am doing the work of two to three people to keep costs down in the start up stage. I understand the instinct to assume that time management might be an issue, however, building a non-gym-based business doesn't leave me with time or access to proper training. I am also, due to the nature of my job, often away from ready access to regular, consistent food. Once I am in a new location, it makes very little sense to leave until the job is done, which can take up to a week (even saving money on fuel at this point is a big deal).

I could easily work less hard, or get a job working for someone else 'if i really loved training that much'. To give you an idea, I hadn't missed a training session, 4x/week, for more than two years (until just over a month ago), and went from 149lbs up to 185lbs, with visible abs. With an eye on my future though, I'm really looking for damage limitation at this point, rather than any kind of gains.

The smoothie bomb you suggested sounds like a good idea in theory, but relies on access to equipment that I won't be around on a regular basis. I'm glad to hear you think bands an bodyweight stuff might be an acceptable short term substitute.


That's great to hear mate. I'm hoping in a few months things will stabilise, and I will be able to get back to consistency.


Thanks man,

I probably am burning a lot more. I've also probably cut calories, because I haven't been training and haven't felt like I could justify eating my usual diet.


I hear you, then. Didn't mean to sound like I was raining on the parade or speaking out of turn.

If that's the situation you're in and you've got a lot of "life stuff" going on, it might just come down to riding it out, shifting your priorities to building your business and not getting burned out in the process, and then rebuild your body once you can get back in the groove.

Like Flip said, muscle memory-type gains generally come back much faster once food and training are brought back to where they need to be. Just take care of yourself as best you can in the meantime. Good luck with the business.


Not at all mate, I really appreciate your advice, and 99 times out of a hundred, especially on the internet, the answer is you can always find time if you want something bad enough. I want to train desperately, I just literally have no consistency right now, and no access to good food or regular equipment. I've hit a bit of a groove where I'm at least making time for some pressups an chinups. Hopefully adding some bands will let me tread water a little at least until I can get back to normality. Thanks again for your input.


This is not a case of CANT hold weight. This is your not doing what NEEDs to be done to hold it. Im a full time student, Full time employee, full time husband, and a full time strength athlete. Find a hour 3 times a week get in the gym put your head phones in and crush your self don't talk don't make trips to the water fountain train. As for eating I understand its hard to eat clean when its a crazy busy schedule but buying 2 Little Ceaser's Pizzas a day takes 5 mins to walk, pay and walk out, eat 2-3 slices every few hours and bang to large pizza down. It costs you $10 and maybe 30 mins a day total. Is it healthy no is it 3000+ calories and convenient hell yes


The bloke doesn't sound like he gets the chance to do that. He says he can't make the gym. If I remember right, the lad said in another thread that he used to be a boxer. Circuit training with some shadow boxing for now, to stay fit, then weights again if and when you have time?


Says he gets atleast 2 hours of sleep a night if you can survive off 2 you can survive off one there is his hour 3 times a week there. Maybe extreme but there are plenty of Business Owners, with families, and going to school who still make time to train. I seriously doubt for 22 hours aday he is completely unavoidably balls to wall busy.


get some BCAA pills and/or leucine and pop a couple times a day. Hydrolysed whey is even better but more pricey.

I've been in your situation, I would try and find a gym once a week for 45-60 mins and BRING IT and thats it. Only get a second workout in if feeling fantastic.

Deadlift 5x5 90 secs rest -(put everything into this don't worry if the rest of the workout suffers)
then dumbell rows, bench, and a pullup move in superset fashion with 30 secs rest for 4-5 rounds
8-12 mins of intervals on the rower or elliptical if I had time.


Reed, OP said he's likely to be in a much better situation in a few months. Whether this happens or not, who knows, but you don't think he'd be better off not giving a shit about training until then, focusing on whatever business he's got in the works, and pursuing training goals at that point? From a bigger picture perspective, this seems to me to be his best option. I feel like that would put him in a better position for future success across the board. Just my 2 cents.

If I were him, that's how I'd approach the situation. If I cared so much about a start up business that I was willing to live out of my car on 2 hours of sleep a night, it would seem like I would put training on the back burner until the business was up and running. I actually think it's strange that he hasn't already done this.


Maybe I am a extremist then haha if I don't train everything and I mean everything suffers for it Work, School, Home Life, everything and I have for gone sleep many times to get my session in especially in the Army with 24 and 36 hour shifts I still found time to make it happen(unit PT did not and does not count as a session).

I believe he needs to do what he believes is best but, if his business is more important than holding onto strength and mass then he should not be here bitching about not having time to hold onto it. He chose to start his business and knew it was going to be a burden on himself to get it started so unless he is willing to go a even further extra mile and do what he has to to hold on to what he had... he is not so therefore he needs to deal with it. Not meaning to sound so harsh especially to you but, I just have no0 sympathy for the guy.


Thanksfor the advice mate, will give it a go


totally agree with that. like I said earlier, I don't understand why this thread is even happening. There's something a little off about the way OP described his situation in conjunction to his 'desire' to train, but I'm taking him at his word. And according to his word, there really isn't much wiggle room.

I run a company and have plenty of obligations outside of my business, and have no problem getting to the gym and eating right, so I know that busy people can still train and eat. It just sounds like the OP isn't either physically or mentally prepared to train in his situation (I can't tell which is the case, but in the context of this thread it doesn't matter much).


Thanks Flipcollar, training is definitely on the back burner. I have hardly done anything in a month, other than a few chins and pressups. There's no doubt business progress is my priority. I'm just looking to do what training I can, if and when I get the chance. I enjoy it, an if I can keep any part of it in my week, I would like to, but only where it is not sacrificing something work related.

Reed - with the best will in the world mate, you're paid to work out, so the situation is apples to oranges. You aren't responsible for driving something forwards that depends exclusively on your individual ability to function.

There was no bitching in my OP. Like I've said, I could quit, join the army or work a normal job, and have plenty of time to train with a predictable pay check and only the stress of being shouted at to worry about. No surprises there. All I asked was whether anyone else lost weight drastically, and whether they had any tips for holding it under difficult conditions. None-the-less, thank you for your input.