T Nation

Difficulties with Leangains


I started on leangains in early September. At first it worked great, lost a bit of fat, gained a bit of muscle got stronger (see: http://tnation.T-Nation.com/hub/TheBlade#myForums/thread/4900263/ )

Lately, I've been having trouble with it. I switched to shoulder strength-calf hypertrophy specialization. For the first month or so, everything's been trending steady, I couldn't seem to gain any muscle (as in, measurements weren't going up). I got a bit stronger, but not as much. My weight fluctuated: as I tried to go up in calories, then my waist got bigger and everything else stayed the same so I had to go down.

In the last two weeks, though, I somehow gained fat and lost muscle (up in waist, lowered other measurements). I wonder what's wrong?

My eating plan is:
Monday: low carbs, medium fat (workout other)
Tuesday: low carbs, low fat (off)
Wednesday: medium carbs, medium fat (workout specialization)
Thursday: low carbs, high fat (workout other)
Friday: medium carbs, medium fat (often low since I would often drink friday nights, so I cut calories at dinner to limit fat gain) (workout specialization)
Saturday: low carbs, medium fat (off)
Sunday: high carbs, medium fat (workout specialization

For example, a typical Monday is:
1-3 workout: 3 scoops mag10, 2 scoops anaconda. then post-wo 50g whey.
4: steak and veggies
6:30 greek yoghurt and protein powder
about 80g fat, 250g protein, trace carbs

Wednesday is:
12-2 workout: 2 surge workout fuel, 3 MAG-10, 1 anaconda. then post-wo 50g whey
3: sweet potato and egg whites
7: lamb and veggies
about 50g fat, 250g protein, 110g carbs

Sunday is about 200g carbs, 60g fat. thursday is about 150-200g fat, trace carbs.

I aim for 250g protein every day (which I actually increased from more like 210 in the last few weeks)

As you can see my leangains 16/8 window is around 1-9pm, give or take a couple hours.

I take plenty of BCAAs otherwise.

I also rock climb mondays and wednesdays. I take BCAAs during this.


I doubt your belly fat is going up and down fast enough to make that quick and noticeable a difference in your waist. If you were eating more food, you probably just had more food in your gut. If you want to know if you are gaining bodyfat, you need to measure it, not your waist.


Don't forget that as you get leaner, the waist measurement becomes more sensitive to the size of your meals. I can have almost an inch discrepency between morning and evening and day to day depending if the night before was a high carb meal post workout or a smaller meal on a low cal / carb day. I've also pushed myself too hard during the week (low sleep, high work stress, not enough food) and that leads to me appearing to hold onto more around my lovehandle area.

You may want to check you're getting enough sleep and food to recover on the days you need it. You could also take a break from low cals or up the carbs a bit on training days or dial back the training a bit.


How quick does bellyfat gain and lose?

The lower muscle measurements are certainly not some side effect, though. Any thoughts on those?


Measurements are always done at the same time during the week (Thur morning, before any meals), and my meals are pretty consistent

I've been wondering whether sleep deprivation might have an effect (especially with respect to the muscle loss). I'm getting between 4.5-5.5 hours per night. In these last few weeks it has steadily gone down from the 5.5 to 4.5 end. This is, unfortunately, unavoidable, as I'm in the last year of a PhD program and am pretty busy in general. I also have a feeling this will be a pretty chronic pattern in at least the next 10 years as I start my career. I do take melatonin and Z12 at night so I do feel rested, don't feel all that tired during training etc.
I read that sleep deprivation can affect testosterone and cortisol levels. If this could be reason, how would I counteract these effects? Any particular supplements you'd recommend to boost T and lower cortisol?

I'll try adding more carbs during the workout for my last week of the current program (in 1.5 weeks) where as I planned in my periodization it will be both a high volume and intensity week for my specialization muscles


There is going to be a ton of fluctuation in measurements. Glycogen, inflammation, water retention, est.

Stuff like that has to be looked at over time with average trends. Changing your diet after every measurement isn't the best idea.


So would you recommend just upping carbs periworkout to assist in the muscle growth stagnation (which is a trend for the last month and a half. muscle loss measurements have occurred in the last 2 weeks) for the time being, then only worry about fat gain if waist measurements go up for say 3 weeks in a row?


And...200g is your high day?? That just seems low to me. I'm only 150lbs and on all training days I eat around 275g carbs..


My body seems to take to carbs very poorly. This is actually more carbs than I'm used to getting, which is usually just 50g on workouts peri-workout and 150g on high day.

I have been considering experimenting with even higher carbs on specialization workout days, but I'd need to then lower fat intake elsewhere, which I fear will upset my hormone balance and has deleterious long-term health consequences as well.


Well said. I can vary and inch or so between days depeding on how much fluid retention i have and if i have some food still going through my system. And i measure at the same time morning after rolling out of bed and empyting anythign that needs it. Honestly if you are trainign your ass off you will not be gaining a lot of fat and certianly not enough to make that kind of diff. Also with that low of carb (200) on a high day your muscles could be glycogen depleted and there fore smaller.


What are you other stats, height weight age estimated BF?


On rest days I just increase the fats a great deal with fattier cuts of meat etc. And I reduce the carbs quite a lot. ..If you are worried about fat intake. You just need to get fat lower on the days you are stuffing a lot of carbs in. Keep fat high as possible on rest days man..


Agreed with Double and DS1973. Adding calories is adding food mass to your stomach. Its definately going to increase your gut measurements. Measure in the morning if at all. Never after meals. And really its the definition of these areas you need to pay attention to not the measurements.

And I know this is the Nutrition forum but what does your training look like at the moment? I assume you have dropped your volume on the body parts you aren't specialising on.


at 4 to 5 hours of sleep per night, maybe this is not the right point in your life to diet down further. If you're lifting 3 times per week and in a calorie deficit and not sleeping enough, that seems like a recipe for muscle loss. I know a Ph.D. is a lot of work (I did one in engineering and work in R&D now), but besides a few odd crazy weeks prepping for conferences or exams or party occasions, I still got 7-8 hours most nights.

What's more important, rock climbing or getting leaner? Think about that with everything else in your schedule. Maybe you'll drop things, or maybe you'll decide to save dieting till later.


Thanks for the responses.

I measure at the same point each week, so muscle glyocgen, food in stomach, etc. should be evened out trend-wise.

My stats are that I'm 5'9, 173.5 (mean weight over the last week). I estimate I'm at 9% BF.
I'm 25, have been training for 8 years now.

I was kind of wondering that actually, how much fat should I have on my medium and high carb days? On the one hand I was figuring I should have high overall calories on these specialization days, on the other, with the insulin spikes in the day, that could result in storage.

I always measure in the morning before any meals.

My training is Sunday, Wednesday and Friday are specialization days, monday and thursday other days.
Currently I'm specializing in Military Press strength and calf and forearm mass. Wednesday, for instance, is something like (reps and sets vary as I periodize):
A1 Military Press work up to 2rm
A2 Static Holds 5x(11-17s)
A3 Leg Press Calf raises 5x16-20

B1 Incline Bench work up to 3rm
B2 Preacher Reverse curl 4x9
B3 Preacher Reverse Curl +fat gripz 4x9
B4 Standing Calf machine 4x16-20

C1 Incline bench-supported lateral raises 4x12
C2 Donkey Calf Raises 4x16-20
C3 Kpipe Curls 4x10

D1 Rear cable raise 4x10
D2 Seated Calf Raise 4x14-18
D3 Wrist Roller 4x3-6

Today (thursday, an "other" day) I did
Pin pulls against bands ME

B1 Bulgarian split squats, 3x4
B2 Reverse Cable Wrist Curls

C1 Weighted Chinups 3x4
C2 Wegihted Dcline Situps 3x4
C3 Reverse Cable Wrist Curls

I'm not trying to diet right now., I'm trying to slowly gain muscle and strength while maintaining my body fat % at its current level.

I got 7-8 hours most of my time here, but most of the time I put in about 30 hours of studying/work a week (also did the same in undergrad. I'm lucky to be smart enough to get away with it) and sometimes even less. Now, having only one published paper and no end to my thesis research in sight with a likely funding cutoff in September '12, I'm putting in 50-60. I get the sense with the competitive research market out there (competing against people equally or smarter than I am), my future schedule will look more like it is now than it did during the good ole' days, in which case I'll just need to adapt.


@blade ... it's not so much the presence of insulin while dietary fat is being consumed. It's that you will be in a caloric surplus on your training days AND yes, insulin will be present in abundance with higher carbs.

The way things work on paper (keep in mind that it doesn't ALWAYS work out like this) ...is: when in a surplus dietary fat consumed will typically be stored.

Dietary fat is only the enemy on your surplus days for that reason..

If you assume a deficit, it doesn't matter. Which is why he recommends higher fat on rest days..you should be in a slight deficit on rest days.



Have you always trained that way Blade? I personally wouldnt use that setup for Specialising on bodyparts. I like the idea of training the muscle group on its own until its fatigued and then moving onto another part. The way you are doing it, the volume would be the same, but you never get as deep into fatigue as you would by straight setting sets and exercises. I realise there's more than one way to skin a cat but this is just how I would approach it.


So is he eating ONLY carbs and protein at a dietary surplus on gain days, then only fats and protein at a dietary deficit on the other days?

If so, then that'd be a fuckton of carbs, and quite little fat.

Well they're supersets, so it's just doing other exercises instead of resting. Sure the rest periods are slightly longer as a result if it's say 4 exercises supersetted, but I don't see how that'd make a difference. I still accumulate fatigue, more towards the end, but I actually manage to do more volume before the fatigue hits and hence can do more total weight.


Not only carbs or only fat..but, keeping fats around 20-40g on training days for most people is the general guideline.


Makes sense, as that's the bare minimum for sufficient hormone production, cell wall construction, etc. . Thanks