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Do I Have to Eat More to Gain Muscle?

This might seem like a ridiculous subject, but I’m actually surprised that I might have to eat

What’s your-
Height
Weight (both old and new, since losing 150lb is freaking amazing)

How much loose skin do you have?
Do you lift or do any sort of intense exercise? If so, what are your numbers? You simply will not build muscle unless you consistently do intense exercise. And depending on your height, weight, and training history, eating more may not be the answer.

But, in general, eat nothing but vegetables and fresh meat.

5’6"
25yo
180lbs (so still about 30 to lose, minus the skin)
started at about 340

Tons of loose skin. It’s rather disappointing to spend over 2 years losing all that weight only to still not look normal. I really should get surgery, but my insurance doesn’t cover it, and it’s $25,000. So it’ll be awhile. The docs all tell me there’s no way to fill it all in with muscle, but perhaps it might do something?

My exercise has primarily just been walking everywhere. That and the previous weight has given me thighs of steel (leg press 250-300lbs depending). Meanwhile, my arms couldn’t be needing more work.

But I haven’t really started with the gym yet. I have a membership and the means to go, but I’m overloaded with information and articles that I haven’t started.

My diet is just about that–fresh vegetables, fruit, lean meats, etc.

Finally, I’ve only just corrected a hormone issue where my testosterone shot up from 300 to around 900. I don’t know if that matters when it comes to the training…

[quote]magick wrote:
What’s your-
Height
Weight (both old and new, since losing 150lb is freaking amazing)

How much loose skin do you have?
Do you lift or do any sort of intense exercise? If so, what are your numbers? You simply will not build muscle unless you consistently do intense exercise. And depending on your height, weight, and training history, eating more may not be the answer.

But, in general, eat nothing but vegetables and fresh meat.[/quote]

I’ve seen a picture posted by a friend on facebook once. It was an individual who did more or less the same thing you did. I believe he was about 5ft 9inches and close to 400lb when he started losing weight. Now he’s roughly 200lb and looks to be pure muscle, with terrific numbers on his lifts. He still has a ton of loose skin, but for all intents and purposes he looks like a bodybuilder underneath all that.

So, while gaining muscle will not eliminate loose skin, it will give you some bulk for it to fit around.

Now that you’ve lost a ton of fat, your goal should be to become athletic, not merely filling in the loose skin. By becoming athletic, you not only build muscle while continuing to lose bf, but you also get a goal that you can strive towards that allow you to take your mind off the loose skin and other such things. If you can run a 6 min. mile, squat 300+, and deadlift 400+ then who cares whether you have loose fat? You’re already better off than 90% of the general population, and you know it.

In other words, strive for performance and not physique. Physique will come naturally or can be much easier to obtain once you reach certain basic strength/performance benchmarks.

Athleticism is basically comprised of three things-

Flexibility
Strength
Conditioning/endurance.

You must raise all three. There is no way around this.

Flexibility and general well being can be found by doing static stretches/mobility work and some form of soft-tissue work like foam rolling. For this, look up either the agile 8 program,mobilitywod, or gymnasticbodies. All of them will go a great way in helping you gain flexibility.

Just do the agile 8, scapular retractions, and shoulder dislocates combined with upper body static stretches if you don’t want to look anywhere. Those don’t hit everything, but for general purposes they’ll work. Take them slow and steady.

I also strongly urge you to look up flexibility exercises for the squat. Mobilitywod will have them, but mobilitywod also happens to have a really large archive and it’s difficult to find certain things. It’ll be easier to just search for flexibility exercises for squats online.

For strength, go read Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe. The book is terrific in teaching you the fundamental concept behind each of the big four lifts (bench press, overhead press, squat, deadlift), their bio mechanics, and form. While it’s obviously not the end all, be all, it’ll give you the basis for understanding how the lifts work, and that is awfully important. It’s sort of pointless to do things when you don’t know how they work.

Also look up all the various form-based articles on this website and online. The basic idea here is for you to understand what good form looks like.

Once you’ve done that, go look up stronglift 5x5 and follow that program. However, I would recommend that you do not increase weights quite yet. Instead, practice the lifts until you get the form right. If you see someone in your gym who has great form, then don’t hesitate to ask them for help on your form if you think you need them. Do not ask private trainers unless they have great form themselves; because PTs are paid to tell people that they’re being healthy, not actually training them.

With your form down good, follow stronglift 5x5 and add in certain assistance/ancillary exercises. These are exercises meant to target neglected or under-emphasized muscle groups. The muscle groups you want to be targeting in this are your hamstring (good mornings/romanian deadlift/hamstring machines), biceps (DB curls or BB curls) triceps (tricep extensions and tricep-emphasis dips when you can manage it), calves (calf raise), and core (leg raises, flutter kicks, planks, anything that isn’t a crunch or sit-up). There are others, but those are the most obvious muscle groups that also happen to be the beach-look muscles.

All of the above alone will probably take you a good 4-10 months to fully accomplish. Flexibility is the key- You must get flexible and have proper mobility in your body. Nothing will work otherwise. If you are flexible, then go balls out on stronglift 5x5.

While you’re doing all of the above, look to increase your conditioning. Look up the couch to 5k program and follow it, for example. Take it nice and slowly. Do not go onto the next week until you feel very comfortable with the week you’re on.

Once you can jog for 10-20 minutes straight, it’s time to add in intense conditioning. The basic idea would be interval training, in which you do some activity that shoots your heart-rate sky high (between 170-180 for young folks like us) for a brief period of time. Then you rest and do it again. There are tons of ways to do this and it’s up to you to find whatever you find the most entertaining.

As you’re probably aware, losing bf is primarily diet. Exercise will certainly help, but without proper diet you won’t get anywhere. Proper dieting requires you to track your every source of calories, etc. However, I have never done this and I haven’t read enough to feel even remotely prepared to talk about it. Hopefully Chris or somewhere else can help you on this. I’m sure you know much more than me about this.

I congratulate you on your amazing accomplishment! I truly do. What you’ve achieved is amazing, and I doubt I’ve done anything quite as difficult as you have done. Don’t be disappointed in yourself. Don’t lose focus, and keep in mind that weight-loss and becoming fit is a never ending journey for everyone.

And, yes, your test. numbers spiking up is a great thing.

A girl I used to date swore by cocoa butter for anything skin.

I wonder if a vitamin D or E supp would help?

[quote]1 Man Island wrote:
I wonder if a vitamin D or E supp would help?[/quote]

I believe it would. I’ve been adding vitamin E lotion and supps to help with stretch marks and other skin ailments. It’s too early to know if it’s working.

[quote]magick wrote:

Athleticism is basically comprised of three things-

Flexibility
Strength
Conditioning/endurance.

You must raise all three. There is no way around this.

[/quote]

I like the rest of your post, overall, and you obviously put some effort into it. However, for the sake of discussion, I am of the opinion that this is an incomplete definition of “athleticism”.

It ignores such qualities as agility, speed, balance, co-ordination, proprioception, kinesthetic awareness, spatial ability, timing etc. which are at least as important to genuine athletic performance as flexibility, strength and endurance. Of course, it could also be argued that my list of attributes is much harder to develop later in life than yours and so less worthy of attention, but still…

I don’t mean to nitpick, it just seems to me like you’re describing general “fitness” more so than “athleticism” per se, and I think it’s an important distinction.

excellent job on the weight loss!

I don’t suppose you would post before/afters?

[quote]leaftye wrote:

I believe it would. I’ve been adding vitamin E lotion and supps to help with stretch marks and other skin ailments. It’s too early to know if it’s working.[/quote]

A boner isn’t an ailment, sir.

[quote]batman730 wrote:
I like the rest of your post, overall, and you obviously put some effort into it. However, for the sake of discussion, I am of the opinion that this is an incomplete definition of “athleticism”.

It ignores such qualities as agility, speed, balance, co-ordination, proprioception, kinesthetic awareness, spatial ability, timing etc. which are at least as important to genuine athletic performance as flexibility, strength and endurance. Of course, it could also be argued that my list of attributes is much harder to develop later in life than yours and so less worthy of attention, but still…

I don’t mean to nitpick, it just seems to me like you’re describing general “fitness” more so than “athleticism” per se, and I think it’s an important distinction.[/quote]

You’re absolutely right. Just being strong and flexible and fast doesn’t mean you have the agility/hand-eye coordination/awareness required to catch a football thrown by a quarterback, etc. I just chose athleticism because it sounds better than “being fit” =D Fitness is an overused term these days, and it doesn’t really mean what it should.

Wow, sorry for the long delay for a reply. It was finals, and nothing mattered besides studying. Meanwhile, I still have a 4.0 with 64 credits!

Anyway, thanks for all this info. Here’s another question: machines.

Is it even possible to gain a lot of muscle with machines alone? It seems like if it was, that’s all people would use. Quite frankly, the machines look rather enticing --just get on and go.

Also, I had diabetes, high blood pressure, even my heart was enlarged. A previous doctor said that my EF was on the cusp of heart failure. Just everything weight/lifestyle related. Now, my numbers couldn’t be better without any treatment whatsoever. In fact, my last chest x-ray showed nothing wrong with my heart–it’s normal size again. In a lot of ways, you’d never suspect I ever had any of those conditions. (By the way, you’ll understand how I got to a mental place of not caring about living and otherwise eating everything in sight when my inevitable autobiography comes out. Move over, Augusten Burroughs; my story is far more interesting than yours!)

Oh, and I have complete clearance from my doctor for as vigorous of an exercise program as I want to pursue.

The exercise I did to help lose the weight was walking (as all the books say to start with). Believe me, I can outwalk the best of them now lol. However, it’s difficult to challenge my cardiovascular system on more strenuous cardio exercise (running for example). I mention my heart before to show where I have to start from. Would I need a special program to get myself conditioned?

Machines are great for a specific purposes or goals, but for building beginning strength and ability, they’re virtually useless. That’s mainly because they fix you onto a single plane of movement and remove all need for stability.

For example, I did 190lb on those bench machines when I first started out. Then I tried an actual barbell bench press and couldn’t lift more than 100lb. I could potentially generate the force to push something away from me, but I had absolutely none of the power required to stabilize and allow me to actually lift something in a certain direction.

Can you jog for 20 minutes straight at a 10min/mile pace? If so, then do whatever makes you feel like you’re about to drop dead at the end of it. Be it combat sports, normal sports, sprinting, hill runs, kettlebell exercise, whatever.

Interesting–I would have thought that you would start out on machines and then move to free weights…

That couch to 5000K program is what you would recommend in this scenario?

By the way, one big issue I have is: how do I know that I’m lifting at the right weight and need to go up to a higher weight?

And back to the original question: Could you direct me toward a diet plan that’ll help build up the muscle without gaining too much fat?

Like I said, the biggest thing keeping me from starting are the diverging opinions and advice.

Start with the bar, add weights as specified by whichever program you’re following. I recommend stronglift 5x5 or starting strength without the bulking eating and the 10lb/lifting day boost for squat. Very difficult to do unless you have a perfect diet/sleep pattern down.

I can’t do shit for diet because I don’t follow one. Basic idea is to eat at least your bodyweight in grams worth of protein.

[quote]laughatmyfunnysn wrote:

Is it even possible to gain a lot of muscle with machines alone? It seems like if it was, that’s all people would use. Quite frankly, the machines look rather enticing --just get on and go.[/quote]

Sure, it’s possible, but the reason you don’t see a lot of big people that have only used machines because only using machines is a restriction. The same is true with free weights. At some point during a workout session or your lifting lifetime, it makes sense to work with both for the best results for you at that time.

Wow, guys. Thanks for all this info. Okay, I’m gonna’ push it and ask for even more clarification… As you can tell, this machine vs. free weight is a strangely big issue for me…

So what if I can’t go to the gym with anyone or get a trainer? How would I do free weights if there was no one to spot me? (I personally don’t think I’d particularly enjoy the bar coming down on my neck…)

BTW, I moved from LA to the Midwest three years ago–anything different since I left?

You do not need spotters for anything besides the bench press, and even the bench doesn’t need spotters if you follow reason and don’t lift beyond your means for up to 250lb or so, which you probably won’t be approaching any time soon. That being sad, if you’re scared of dropping the weight then either do dips with progression into weighted dips or dumbbell presses. Both work perfectly fine.

The deadlift doesn’t need spotters because you can’t actually drop the weight onto anywhere besides your knee or thighs. If that happens, then you need to be working on form more.
The squat doesn’t need spotters so long as you’re using the safety bars on the squat/power rack. Intentionally drop yourself once or twice so you know how it feels like and you’re good to go.
The overhead press doesn’t need spotters so long as you’re lifting near the pins and can drop the weight onto it if need be. Or you can OHP in power racks and just set the safety bars to just below your starting point so you can dump it if you fail a rep.

This is also why you should start with just the bar on all the exercises, and possibly even lower than the bar (dumbbells). Start low. You’ll reach a number that makes you struggle sooner or later, and it’s preferable for it to be later rather than sooner. In between that time your body will get used to the act of lifting and begin to build muscle and proper muscle/mind connection so long as you’re using good form and lifting seriously. None of the spastic crap you see people do in the gym.

Again, thank you. That just answered a tremendous amount of my questions/concerns about free weights very concisely.

So what I’m taking away from this is: I need to learn the proper form before I really concentrate on the lifting, per se.

Then once I’ve learned the form, I can concentrate on the right weight/routine.

What you’re saying actually does make sense regarding building the mind-muscle connection before anything else. I do find that balancing the free weights is actually one of my biggest diversions.

Does this sound about right?

And in the meantime, should I be trying to build the muscle itself with the machines?

[quote]laughatmyfunnysn wrote:
And in the meantime, should I be trying to build the muscle itself with the machines?[/quote]

No. To simplify things for now, forget that machines exist. You can change that in a few years if you want to. Do all of your training with free weights and/or bodyweight movements like pull ups and dips.

[quote]laughatmyfunnysn wrote:
So what I’m taking away from this is: I need to learn the proper form before I really concentrate on the lifting, per se.

Then once I’ve learned the form, I can concentrate on the right weight/routine.

What you’re saying actually does make sense regarding building the mind-muscle connection before anything else. I do find that balancing the free weights is actually one of my biggest diversions.[/quote]

As I mentioned in my giant post earlier, yes. Focus everything on form and spend a long time building the proper mobility and flexibility to be able to do all the major lifts correctly. The squat will take the long time and should be your focus on this.

If you don’t do the lifts correctly, then not only will you stunt your muscle/strength growth (bad form always will become an issue sooner or later), but will also leave you vulnerable to injuries. It is difficult to get injured while lifting with good form, so long as you’re not being stupid and lifting beyond your capacity.

And you are finding it difficult to balance weights because stabilizing muscles are not up to the task. It’s why you see those people in the gym going all spastic when they lift weights that are just simply beyond their current ability. Certain muscles might be up to task, but others aren’t. As a result, they have to throw their entire body into it to generate sufficient force, which is dangerous.