T Nation

Do I Have the Right Idea?


Right now I'm 5'10, 178lbs, probably about 15-18% bodyfat(can't see abs without flexing). In my most recent workouts I hit these, just to give an idea: squat 195x8, t-bar row 90x10, db incline press 70x5. A long way to go, I know.

I've pretty much been in ketosis the last 3 months or so. That with basic full body workouts has got me down to 178lbs from 200+. My original goal was to be able to see my abs, preferably without being a scrawny fuck. Problem is, right now I don't really see the point. I still have a ton of bodyfat to lose, and by that point I don't think I'll have much in the way of muscle mass, as I don't have much now.

I don't really know how to proceed. I still want to lose the fat, but I'd rather gain muscle at this point. From all I've read, building up a good base is the hard part, while fat loss can be attained relatively easily. But after 3 months of ketosis(got to where I was only eating one meal a day) and not enough training(one or two full body workouts a week), I feel like my metabolism sucks and my body doesn't want to burn fat or build muscle.

I feel like the full body workouts have been great to "break in", but I've switched to a 4 day bodybuilding split to better meet my goals(day 1: chest/triceps, day 2: back, day 3: off, day 4: legs, day 5: shoulders biceps, repeat when feeling recovered). From what I've read here, there's nothing wrong with going right at a split if you have exercise form down(I do). Is this true? Are there any drawbacks to going straight into a bodybuilding split from here?

Second, I don't know what the hell to do about my diet. I know I need to get my metabolism going again, and I need to get way more protein, but I'm terrified of gaining anymore fat. A pound or two I could live with, if it means I'm gaining plenty more muscle. But I don't want to go back to a 200lb fatass. If I hit that weight I want to look jacked. I still really want to see my abs too, but if that means wasting away to 150lbs, whats the point of that? So I guess I should do a slow, clean bulk. From what I've read here, I should: eat 4-6 meals a day, high protein. Is this correct?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!


How many calories and grams of protein are you hitting right now? How closely do you currently track this and your bodyweight?

As far as just my insight.

I'm not convinced the 4-6 meals a day is that relevant. I'm a lot more convinced that higher levels of protein are relevant to your current goals. Higher as in 1 to 1.2 (or higher) g per lb of your current bodyweight, not LBM.

Fat loss to a point is easier than building muscle, in mine and many others experience. I'd say pretty much until you can see your upper 4 abs fairly clearly without flexing, the fat loss is easier. For the most part you should be capable of 1 to 1.5lbs of fat loss a week consistently. And capable of getting stronger while losing the fat, considering where your current lifts are.

So, just to emphasize that point... if you have 20lbs to lose, you're basically looking at 20 weeks, whether it be now or later. Anything much more aggressive runs the risk of being contrary to your goals.

If your bodybuilding split includes heavy compounds (specifically a squat variant and deadlift variant) and you're measurably progressing on those, I think that should be fine for the "lose fat, get stronger" goals.


Also, just from a psychological standpoint, what is the lowest bodyweight you're comfortable going to in the pursuit of fatloss?


To start with, it was until I have a 6 pack, no matter what. Now I'm realizing that means dropping down to 150lbs or so. I haven't been that small since middle school, and I don't want that, as much as I want the ladies to see my abs. I guess I'd be fine with dropping to 165-170lbs, but anymore than that and I guess I wouldn't know why I'm bothering to lift weights at all.


If I can offer a (harsh) reality check, you could also say why are you bothering to lift weights when you've seen little actual progress over the last five years.

You dropped about 30 pounds of total bodyweight (seems to be equal parts muscle and fat) but you've also lost a bunch of strength. I think you need to set some specific goals and then achieve them. Forget the macho "ain't gonna be a small-ass pipsqueak" line of thinking. Step back, look at what you want to do and what you've done, and see what you need to do next.

What, exactly, did you eat yesterday?

Heads up, this kind of thinking is exactly how permabulkers end up staying kinda-sorta-mostly fat for years and years. If fat loss was "relatively easy", then you wouldn't "still have a ton of bodyfat to lose" after three months of dieting.

Saywhatnow? How and why did you get to this point?

Bodypart splits can be fine for sure, but understand that whatever you've been doing all these years hasn't worked. You've done some 5/3/1, some DC training, some Westside, 3x5, 5x5, your own programming, and whatever else I missed, and still haven't ended up in a great place. It's not just about the training plan.


Why? (And to repeat, what, exactly, did you eat yesterday?)

I don't think your body would respond well to a "bulk" right now. Decide on some specific long-term goals, break that down into shorter-term goals, and then figure out the smartest steps to get there.


Point taken, and thanks for the reply. For several years I didn't have consistent access to decent equipment, and for the rest of the time I was a lazy mofo, but you're right. 5 wasted years. That's why I'm here trying to get on track and figure out what the best way forward is.

What, exactly, did you eat yesterday?

I'm no longer in ketosis. For those three months, most days consisted of a large salad with grilled chicken, and maybe a handful of nuts or seeds later on. Pretty much lean chicken and veggies everyday, once or twice a day. Now I'm trying to figure out what to do with my diet, hence the thread.

Can't argue with that logic.

Thinking that less is more, I guess. I wanted to see the fat loss so bad that I cut down to 1 meal a day most days. Looking back, I'm not surprised I didn't have much energy to train.

I'm taking from this just hit the weights hard and stick to a program, yes?

Well, I'm out of ketosis now. Yesterday was: 8AM, 4 slices of bacon, 3 eggs. 1PM: Avocado salad, baked potato, 6oz steak, 4oz quail. 5PM: remaining 2oz of steak, another 4oz quail, and a handful of pumpkin seeds. I'm sure that's far from ideal, but even eating that much was difficult. My appetite is on the floor. But that's why I'm posting. Thanks for the links, I don't know why I haven't read them before(I've been here long enough).

I think you're right. So I won't jump to something new this time. I set out to get my bodyfat to a level where I could see a 6 pack without flexing, where I'd be comfortable with a slow, safe bulk. I'm gonna stick with that long term goal, even if it means losing more muscle mass than I'd like. I'll stay on the 4 day split and take the dietary advice in those links.

Sound good?


Maybe you missed these questions?

Based on your last response, it doesn't sound like you know that very well, but I'm just wondering. I've found that having some actual concrete numbers can help make better decisions about the kind of adjustments you need to make.

There are some really complex calculations out there to find your maintenance calories but with some basic math and good data you can get a pretty good idea of your actual maintenance calories.

Here's how I did it for myself. This is what I found to be the easiest to do while still being very accurate.

I tracked only two things:
1) my morning bodyweight, after using the bathroom
2) my daily net calories

For the net calories, it's just calories you eat minus calories burned from exercising. Per 10 minute period: 60 cal for lifting, 40 cal for brisk incline walks, 130 cal for HIIT.

There's apps for this. I used the "Lose It" app for the iPhone. There's others. I tracked those two pieces of data every day: net calories and bodyweight. (I also made sure to hit at least 1g protein per pound bodyweight.)

Once I had 5 days worth of data, I plugged it into Excel/Google Spreadsheet. I calculated the slope of my bodyweight, and the average net calorie intake. The slope * 3500 gives your actual calorie deficit, and if you add that to your average calories, it will give you your maintenance.

Just for the sake of completeness, if you don't know how to do that:

Create a new spreadsheet

In Column A, A1 through A5, put the dates that you took the measurements
In Column B, B1 through B5, put your bodyweight on each of those dates
In Column C, C1 through C5, put your net calories by date

Then, in cell E1, type "=SLOPE(B1:B5, A1:A5)". That will give you change in your bodyweight by day. In cell F1, type "=E1*3500". This will tell you how many calories below maintenance you were averaging.

Then, in cell F2, type "=AVERAGE(C1:C5)". This is your average net calories per day. In cell F3, type "=F2-F1". This will tell you your calculated maintenance calories.

Finally, in cell H1, type in "-1". This is your goal number of pounds to lose per week. In cell H2, type in "=3500*H1/7". This calculates the calorie deficit you need to hit every day. And last, in cell H3, type in "=F3+H2". This is your goal net calories to hit every day.

5 days gives a pretty accurate estimate, if you're truthful with your measurements. You'll need to adjust the formulas in E1 and F2 if you want to use more than 5 days, but this should give you a start.

Once you have the spreadsheet set up, plugging in the numbers and adjusting is very easy.


A photo, showing what the end results should look like.

I bolded the two important calculations.

On the left, this is maintenance calories. On the right, this is the goal calories.

Also notice how the weight and calories fluctuate every day. It's ok if things don't always go in the right direction, the calculations will still work.


Sorry for not answering those questions before. I weigh myself every morning on empty stomach, for the last couple weeks I've been between 175lbs and 179lbs. I don't track macros, except for carbs. As far as protein, I haven't been getting enough. 100-140 grams a day at most. That's something I'll fix.

Thanks for the spreadsheet! Definitely gives me a starting point.


Yeah, the protein thing is even more important with weight loss. In effect, you're making sure there's some extra protein in the bloodstream so that when your body is looking to burn stuff for energy, it would rather burn the protein that's already broken down than go break down some muscle. Even if it doesn't exactly work that way, I think it's a reasonable explanation.

I think it may be the single most important part in retaining muscle on a caloric deficit, lifting or not.

There's certainly extremes where people will bulk on excessive amounts of protein. The current research, both academic and anecdotal seem to show that .8-1g protein per pound bodyweight is sufficient for bulking and maintaining... not the 3+ grams that some people use.

I thought the spreadsheet explanation might be overkill... especially after saying that I thought this was easier than those "complex calculations". I've been documenting stuff at work the past couple days so I'm just kind of in that mood to be a little overkill with explanations.


There's also a second benefit of calculating your maintenance using real numbers like that: You can tell if you're screwing up your metabolism.

If at the end of the month you find out your calculated maintenance is significantly lower than at the beginning of the month, you're doing something wrong. It's just another data point to make decisions around.


Sounds like you've got a handle on which way to head, for sure.

Set the goals, figure out the plan and stick to it, monitor progress consistently and tweak as needed. Simple stuff and no real secret, but we all need reminders of it once in a while.