T Nation

Could Use Some T-Nation Expertise


#1


About 4 months ago, I decided it was time for me to get into shape. As this is the first physical undertaking I've done which hasn't been accompanied by a letter grade, I'm the definition of "beginner".

I've definitely been doing my homework and reading up (I think I've read through at least 4-5 books on this topic now, not to mention all the articles here), but I was looking at pictures I take of my progress and got a little discouraged.

While I can definitely see some progress when I flex (I have a tricep!), and I'm wearing regular fit jeans for the first time in my life, not much progress is showing up in the pictures (which I've attached. So, I'm here to ask for some feedback on areas which I could improve on (of which I'm sure there are many).

First, I'll give the basics of what I've been doing:

Exercise:

I bought the Men's Health Home Workout Bible a few months ago and have been following that. I moved onto the intermediate section in early April. Basically, my routine is divided like:

Fri: Lower Body/Midsection
Sun: Arms/Shoulders
Tues: Chest/Upper Back

(Works better for me than doing Mon/Wed/Fri.)

Nutrition:

  • Meal 1: 4-5 Omega-3 Eggs, orange, 1 cup 2% Milk
  • Meal 2: Protein shake containing apple, flax seed, oats, nuts, low-fat yogurt, creatine, and whey protein (recipe from John Berardi's The Metabolism Advantage)
  • Meal 3: Turkey burger on whole wheat bun (w/ low fat cheese), potato, low fat yogurt (on non-workout days I'll usually do another chicken breast and side)
  • Meal 4: 1 can tuna, salad (w/ 1 tbsp fat free Italian or Ranch)
  • Meal 5: Large chicken breast, 1/2 large green pepper
  • Meal 6: Whey protein, 1-2 oz. mixed nuts

Supplements:
- Fish Oil Pill (taken with each meal)
- ON 100% Gold Standard Whey
- Higher Power Micronized Creatine 1000
- Multivitamin (taken with first meal)

One of my concerns is I don't think I'm getting enough calories. Going by Fitday, I average between 2100 and 2400 calories. I'm 5' 10" and about 168lbs. However, as you can see in the picture, I definitely could use to lose some more fat, so I'm a little apprehensive of kicking it up too much.

And, if I do, I'm sort of at a loss where to add more. It's harder than I thought getting more calories in my diet (something my sister gives me an evil eye over every time I bring up) while eating healthier food.

I've also noticed I've been really draggy lately. I figured that once I started exercising and eating better, I'd get more energy. Unfortunately, there hasn't been any. I've been considering trying some sort of energy product. Any recommendations? (I think I'll also be making an appt. with my doctor to make sure there isn't something else going on.)

Anyways, any help would be greatly appreciated.


#2

Current Picture
(Timestap is blurred out to avoid confusion. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the date was set wrong on the camera.)


#3

A few thoughts.

Your diet is good. This is a rare thing.

I’m not familiar with that training program. Men’s Health is rarely bad, but it caters to a much more ‘middle of the road’ demographic than T-Nation. Which means the workouts will sacrifice effectiveness for ease and simplicity. I could be wrong though. Post up what the workout was/is.

If you’re looking to cut, throw in some HIIT on your off days. Either that or drop your kcals a bit more. If your progress has stalled, you need to do something different.

However, you’re… you could stand to eat more, rather than less. Are you sure you want to cut first? If you do want to get bigger, add extra virgin olive oil to your meals. Or add peanut butter. Add more meals. There are many ways to subtly but substantially increase your caloric intake. And if you WERE trying to get bigger on 2400 kcal/day… don’t.

As for your energy levels, usually exercise improves them, yes. But they won’t make up for poor sleep habits, stress, and a damaging lifestyle. Not saying these are the causes, but they can be.


#4

I’m with Otep,if you cut up now, you’ll be looking like you’ve recently survived the Batan Death March or something.

If you stack on some muscle, there will be more to cut and it’ll be easier to do, as muscle increases metabolism.

Good on ya for getting going!


#5

I agree with Otep.

Especially your breakfast should contain more calories in form of complex carbs (e.g. oatmeal).

As for the workout routine, i don’t want to start another split vs TBT debate but for a beginner lifting 3x per week, a split like the one described in your post would be suboptimal.

There are quite a few good beginner programs out there, search for “Rippetoe Starting Strength” or “StrongLift 5x5” (which is basically Rippetoes with a modified set/rep scheme that some people like better)


#6

I agree with the others. I think you’d be better off gaining more lean body mass before you do any sort of weight loss.

I do, however, have a few dietary suggestions:

  1. Eat berries.
  2. Eat cruciferous vegetables(broccoli, cabbage, etc)
  3. Ditch the fat free bottled dressings. Just make your own as needed: olive oil, balsamic vinegar, mustard, and some fresh cracked pepper. It’ll taste better and be better for you.

#7

Maybe I missed it in your post, but have you lost weight? Gained weight? Stayed pretty much the same?

Have your lifts gone up? If so, by how much? One would expect good progress over 4 months for a beginner. Post your program.

Have you been dragging more recently, and if so, has the timing of your foods changed? I know if I eat even a small piece of bread, my energy levels shoot down sharply, but if I eat a small handful of peanuts, my energy spikes up.

I would recommend eat to lift, and worry about the fat later. The more muscle you have, the more you burn, and the less fat you will have.

Good luck!


#8

You’re a perfect canidate for starting strength.


#9

Your diet isn’t bad. However, I would avoid eating bread and potatos in the same sitting(eat green veggies instead).

What are your exercise choices? Loads? sets/reps?

If I were you, I would just focus on getting stronger. A year of powerlifting would probably do you a world of good.


#10

Looks like you need to lift heavier. Howling screaming cussing and spitting out blood between sets. Just my initial impression.


#11

[quote]Wimpy wrote:
I agree with the others. I think you’d be better off gaining more lean body mass before you do any sort of weight loss.

I do, however, have a few dietary suggestions:

  1. Eat berries.
  2. Eat cruciferous vegetables(broccoli, cabbage, etc)
  3. Ditch the fat free bottled dressings. Just make your own as needed: olive oil, balsamic vinegar, mustard, and some fresh cracked pepper. It’ll taste better and be better for you. [/quote]

my favorite for dressing is olive oil,balsamic,lemon juice and garlic

I agree dont worry about loosing,gain as much muscle as you can.yes you will get a little fat on there but who cares you will look much better bigger.
also when you add muscle on to your frame you will at the same time burn more fat to maintain the new muscle.
kind of like 2 birds there

[quote]zephead4747 wrote:
You’re a perfect canidate for starting strength.[/quote]
I am kind of biased here but I agree with this too its simple effective and hell ill admit it I am now a fanboy of this program.


#12

Your diet IS good. I’m rather shocked. But I really don’t see any need to change anything, except add a few calories at breakfast and with your tuna and salad meal.

I for one don’t think you need more carbs in the form of oatmeal.

I would reserve judgement on your overall calories until we see what your training entails–exercises, sets, reps, etc.

How recently has the low energy thing been present? Has it been present since you started, or only recently?


#13

First off, I think I found the solution to one of my problems. I think the combination of a flash plus my horribly pasty skin combined in some freak accident that just doesn’t make my gains show up. It’s like I’m a vampire, but rather than me not showing up, my gains just don’t. This is a picture with the flash off. Hopefully it gives a better idea of where I’m at.

[quote]Otep wrote:

I’m not familiar with that training program. Men’s Health is rarely bad, but it caters to a much more ‘middle of the road’ demographic than T-Nation. Which means the workouts will sacrifice effectiveness for ease and simplicity. I could be wrong though. Post up what the workout was/is.[/quote]

I’m not sure if there’s a way to do this briefly, but this is what it is:

Chest and Upper Back:
(It suggests between 6 and 10 reps for each set, with the last set being optional. I’m able to do the last set in most cases.)

Incline Bench Press 3 sets
Pronated Bent-Over Row 3
Piston-Style Bench Press 2
Piston-Style Bent-Over Row 2
Swiss-Ball Fly 2
Pullup or EZ-bar Pullover 4 (I do the pullovers. I’m not quite strong enough for the pullups)
Supinated Seated Reverse Fly 2

Midsection and Lower Body:
(Suggests 8-12 reps)

Weighted Crunch 3
Reverse Woodchopper 3
Lunge 3
Front Squat 3
Decline Leg Curl 3
Romanian Deadlift 3
Back Extension 3
Unilateral Standing Calf Raise 2
Seated Calf Raise 2

Shoulders and Arms:
(Suggests 6-10 reps)

Rotation Press 3
Alternated Upright Row 3
Standing Scarecros 2
Close-Grip Bench Press 2
Overhead Triceps Extension 2
Incline Curl 4
Pison-Style Hammer Curl 2

I should probably also point out that these are all done with dumbbells.

[quote]If you’re looking to cut, throw in some HIIT on your off days. Either that or drop your kcals a bit more. If your progress has stalled, you need to do something different.

However, you’re… you could stand to eat more, rather than less. Are you sure you want to cut first? If you do want to get bigger, add extra virgin olive oil to your meals. Or add peanut butter. Add more meals. There are many ways to subtly but substantially increase your caloric intake. And if you WERE trying to get bigger on 2400 kcal/day… don’t.[/quote]

Well, I’ve been under the impression that for a beginner, there’s really no need to focus on cutting or bulking initially, because you’ll lose weight and put on muscle simultaneously. Is that incorrect? If it isn’t, obviously you think I should focus more on bulking, so would that just entail eating more or is there other stuff I can do?

[quote]darwin420 wrote:
Maybe I missed it in your post, but have you lost weight? Gained weight? Stayed pretty much the same?[/quote]

I’ve stayed around the same. I think I started out at around 164 or so and am up to 168. (I’ve been wondering if that’s just because I’ve been burning fat and putting on muscle, making things sort of even out?)

Yes, they’ve definitely increased. For most exercises I’d estimate I’m increasing the weight every week or two. For example, I started doing bench presses at around 10 lbs dumbbells (partly because I was that weak and partly to get the form down), and now I’m using 37.5 lbs dumbbells. (I have powerblocks.)

[quote]Have you been dragging more recently, and if so, has the timing of your foods changed? I know if I eat even a small piece of bread, my energy levels shoot down sharply, but if I eat a small handful of peanuts, my energy spikes up.

I would recommend eat to lift, and worry about the fat later. The more muscle you have, the more you burn, and the less fat you will have.

Good luck![/quote]

I’ve actually been draggy for months before I started exercising. I think I was just hoping that a lot of that stemmed from the lack of exercise and the crap I was putting into my body. I thought I’d notice a difference, but I haven’t for the most part. That’s why I said I’ll likely be going to my doctor. I was anemic when I was little, so maybe it’s come back or something.

As to the rest of you (I didn’t want to quote everyone individually to keep this post as short as I can), thanks for the advice. I’ll definitely look into the nutritional advice and Starting Strength.

I did have a question regarding supplements. I’m about to buy my next month’s supply of whey and such. Would you guys suggest I change anything with what I’m getting or add other things?

Thanks for your time.


#14

And here’s a picture of my legs, (which is probably where I’ve noticed the most progress).


#15

Excellent. You’ll love Starting Strength.

As for whether you can lose fat and gain muscle at the same time as a beginner… In my opinion, it’s true, but it’s also very, very slow. It’s good while you’re still experimenting with diet and exercise (forming the habits to shop weekly, having a routine of sleep, learning to eat every 3 hours), but once you’re bit by the iron bug, you generally decide one and hustle towards that goal.

When you keep your eating habits in the middle, you end up with results like this:

[quote]Cavan wrote:
I’ve stayed around the same. I think I started out at around 164 or so and am up to 168. (I’ve been wondering if that’s just because I’ve been burning fat and putting on muscle, making things sort of even out?) [/quote]

Truthfully, you could do either.

As for supps, it depends on how much $$$ you have. I would advise continue taking fish oil and creatine, as they are the most cost-effective supplements I’m aware of. I would advise against the multivitamin, because I think they’re worthless. I also believe I am a minority on this issue, though.


#16

I agree with Otep about the multivitamin being worthless IF you are getting enough servings of fruits and veggies a day (10-15). So, good diet =worthless multivitamin, bad diet= possible benefit from multivitamin. With your diet, you probably don’t need the vitamin.


#17

[quote]zephead4747 wrote:
You’re a perfect canidate for starting strength.[/quote]

Agreed

Read this:


#18

Your energy levels are dragging because you have no carbs in your diet. I’ve done high fat, protein and low carb diets (i.e. no carbs except cereal for breakfast, fruit and veggies)… with a hard training program you’re energy levels will never get as high as you want.

You’ll get stronger alot faster with some whole wheat rice or some white or whole wheat pasta… Potatoes and sweet potato are good sources of carbs but I find that they are in the same category as fruit and broccoli when it comes to giving me real energy: IT DOESN’T!

Experiment though, low carb is obviously better for fat loss.

As long as you have your carbs and they arn’t sugary crap before 5pm and the portions aren’t really big you won’t gain fat from this either.

I see 1 whole wheat bun and potato… That’s probably okay if you add in 2 pieces of whole wheat or multigrain toast with natural peanut butter for breakfast… or a bowl of all-bran or kashi go lean… or whole oats with berries and maybe a scoop of protein.

Good luck!


#19

[quote]ninjaboy wrote:
I agree with Otep about the multivitamin being worthless IF you are getting enough servings of fruits and veggies a day (10-15). So, good diet =worthless multivitamin, bad diet= possible benefit from multivitamin. With your diet, you probably don’t need the vitamin.[/quote]

Judging by my diet, I’m not getting that many servings of fruits and vegetables though.

[quote]GripAndRip wrote:
You’ll get stronger alot faster with some whole wheat rice or some white or whole wheat pasta… Potatoes and sweet potato are good sources of carbs but I find that they are in the same category as fruit and broccoli when it comes to giving me real energy: IT DOESN’T![/quote]

When would you suggest I eat the rice and pasta? I’ve read that the best time to do carbs are post-workout, and I already have the two carbs there. Would it be better if I switched out the potato for some rice?

[quote]I see 1 whole wheat bun and potato… That’s probably okay if you add in 2 pieces of whole wheat or multigrain toast with natural peanut butter for breakfast… or a bowl of all-bran or kashi go lean… or whole oats with berries and maybe a scoop of protein.

Good luck!
[/quote]

Good suggestions, thanks. I’ll look into these.


#20

I didn’t catch your two post workout carbs… just your whole wheat bun and a potato…

You should have carbs with breakfast, it might slow your fat loss a bit but its really important to keep you awake and motivated especially at your stage.

The rest is okay… I tend to agree with the other poster that you should split your carbs up also so you aren’t having a bun potato and pasta in the same sitting.

Don’t go overboard with the carbs… its a fine balance and experience will help you most.

I’m roughly the same build as you ~166lbs 5"10.5: do you mind sharing the weights that your doing your program at?

Thanks and good luck