T Nation

Feel Like I'm All Over the Place


Hi all, a guy I work with told me about this site today so I'm checking it out and so far it's great. Figured I would give a run down of where I am at. I am 5'9 and weight 121 lbs, about 4 months ago I joined my gym in hopes of muscle definition which I am achieving and lately it's moving fast.

The problem I am having is everybody has advice and none of it is the same as each others and to be honest I am getting frustrated, but most certainly not beaten. I don't want to lose anymore weight and I have tried increasing calories but to be honest I just can't eat that many. I have started Protein Lean which is only 130 calories per scoop and I do 2 a day, I also just started using Creatine this week. I love the way my body is starting to look, and definitely want to continue gaining but I need help with the eating part. I am at the gym 5 days a week for an hour to two hours depending on what muscle group I'm working on. I have cut my cardio down to once a week because of the weight loss. The main question is high reps/low weight versus low reps/high weight.

I don't want to be a body builder and yes I have crazy respect for those who are, but I want the definition and I just don't feel like I'm obtaining it. When I lift I can see the muscles nicely but when in a standing position I don't see much of anything and I'm driving myself insane over it. Any suggestions to my rambling would be greatly appreciated, especially with how many calories should I be eating?


Nobody can tell you exactly how much you should be eating. Try posting a day or two's worth of eating. Everything that goes in your mouth. Everything. From there some of the women can see where you may be able to make better choices.

As for the training, most of the women here will likely tell you go to low reps/high weight for your main compound movement and higher reps, lower weight for accessory work. But you're also in a place where women love to lift heavy, so take it for what it's worth. At 5'9, 120, you likely need to put on more muscle to get that muscle definition you desire. Therefore, it's more eating and hard work at the gym.

Start of with the diet and maybe even a sample of what you do when you go into the gym. We can go from there. Specifics are good :slightly_smiling:


Thank You for responding, I'm not good with the terminology of the gym so hopefully I don't sound like too much of a dope.

AM prior to workout 3 capsules Creatine
AM after workout 3 capsules Creatine
2 servings Raisin Bran with 2% milk
8 ounce glass with one scoop of Protein

Lunch unfortunately nothing bad I know

2 1/2 servings brown rice
1/4lb of Turkey Bacon
2 servings of Black Eyed Peas

PM Snack
8 ounce glass with one scoop of Protein

Like I said today was not a good day, no excuses just busy

Gym Routine for today:
Flat Bench, only lifting with the bar doing 4 sets at 20 reps each time
Declines again with the bar doing 4 sets at 20 reps
Inclines my least favorite, free weights at 15lbs ea. weight same sets/reps
Cables 20lbs 4 sets at 15 reps
Pushups 60
There is one that I do that I don't know what it's called, I am sitting down and pulling the bar that is attached to the cable down in front of me, that one I do at 60 lbs for 4 sets at 20 reps each set.

I also did Side Abs/Front Abs

Hopefully I can learn the lingo and not have to expain each one.


At 5'9" you need to put on some weight to get the definition you're looking for. Do you have a pic of yourself you can post? A solid weight for you is probably going to be at least 140.

You're never going to put on weight skipping lunch. You should be trying to get in a pasta dish with chicken or some type of protein source and veggies OR a sandwich with a side of fruit or veggies OR a protein source (steak,chicken,fish) with a side of potatoes and veggies. See the theme here?

Drinking whole milk will help you put weight on in a hurry.

Your routine is haphazard with too many reps. You won't look like a bodybuilder lifting heavy weights. Trust me I've been trying to do it for 6 years :wink: You need to hit the 8-10 rep range with something heavy. How many days do you have to lift and we can set you up with a more muscle-building routine.


Awesome advice, I do see the pattern and will sit down tonight and work out a proper meal plan. I was doing carbs for a bit but that was one of the back and forth advice that I was getting that I shouldn't be doing carbs, and should be doing more protein, my poor brain is a little scattered. I use to drink whole milk but I was having problems with the thickness but if it helps me gain weight I'll chug and shut my mouth. I don't have a recent picture of me but I can obtain one. I have 5 days a week that I can lift, in the mornings Monday through Friday.


Carbs are a skinny person's friend. Eat them, especially complex carbs (brown rice, sweet potatoes) and fiberous carbs (green veggies).

I have a woman I do M-F in the morning too :slightly_smiling:

I have her on a modified WS4SB 4-day routine with Wednesday as a core/cardio day - mostly to keep her happy with some ab work and to make sure her heart/endurance stays solid.

Give this a read http://www.defrancostraining.com/articles/38-articles/65-westside-for-skinny-bastards-part3.html

If it's way too confusing but you're interested in a routine like that let me know and I'll break it down for you :wink:

If not that's okay, there are plenty of great muscle building routines - many paths to your goal.


Going carbless is generally thought to be a good idea for people trying to lose weight and/or fat. You, my friend, need to eat. Carbs, protein, whatever. And lots more of all of it. For a meal plan, I find that I actually follow it when it's easy to prep a few days at a time. That way it only takes me a few minutes the night before to throw it all together.

The fact that you're lifting first thing in the morning and not eating anything prior to it has me a bit concerned. MOLLY/SARAH/someone can one of you chime in about what would be a good, light pre-training meal if someone is lifting in the morning. I've never lifted early in the morning and have always gotten at least some carbs and protein in me before I lift.

Finally, with regards to your training.... I'm about to give you some psycho-babble.... read it :slight_smile:

As women we are finally tuned and programmed to believe that if you lift heavy weights and low reps that you will basically wake up tomorrow and look like a man. You will have sprouted a penis and have to shave your beard. Sorry to break it to you, but that doesn't happen. Additionally, we are taught that the scale tells us how fat/thin/beautiful/etc we are. That's bullshit too. I consistently have my weight estimated low by about 15-20lbs. If I lived by what I saw on the scale, I'd have drowned myself by now. The mirror, photos and measurements are much better tools to judge progress and, ultimately, what you look like. I've always said that if I weighed 200lbs but still fit in a 6/8, I'd be okay with that. The scale is possibly the worst measurement of progress, success, fitness and beauty that we go by.

All of that was said to tell you that if you're weighing so little now, you are going to have to work for every bit of muscle you put on. That means lifting heavy weights and eating properly (more and more of the right kinds). In order for you to get that "muscle definition", you need to first build the muscle. Your weight will increase. But it's likely pretty necessary at this point. It sounds like you have at least your upper body big movements in there. Are you squatting and deadlifting? Those are muscle builders.

There are a ton of programs on this site and even the women on here use a ton of different programs. There are women who are currently using or previously used: Sheiko, WS4SB, Wendler 5/3/1, Maximum Strength, New Rules of Lifting for Women (btw, go find this book). The key is to figure out a program design that you like (the lifts) and do it. I will give you $1 million and my firstborn child if you lift heavy for 6 months and end up looking 'masculine' or even less feminine.

Okay, that's all my babble I have for tonight. I'm not even rereading it to edit it, so if it makes no sense and if I answered zero questions, I apologize. I need my beauty/less bitchy sleep though so I don't punch anyone in the face tomorrow at work :smiley: You have lots of work ahead of you, but it will be worth it in the end. Don't believe me? Check out a few of the logs on here. Read the first few pages and see where we all started. Then read the last few and see where we are now. Personally, I will never ever go back to my lifestyle pre-training.


I wouldn't either except for the part where I got laid more.

Good advice all round. You type as much as you talk but it makes sense.

Here's a tid bit for you (not Court - the original OP). I've been training power lifting for a year. A couple weeks ago I had a woman come up to me in the gym and admire my ass for how high and round it is. Not bad for 44. My point, besides self promotion, is lifting heavy can accentuate your femininity.

I will second Court's recommendation to get a copy of the Rules of Lifting for Women. Don't feel like there is only one way to do things. Find a template that appeals to you. Don't be afraid to try different things. What works for one person, mightn't work for another. You also have to enjoy it in order to be consistent.

Blah, blah, blah and eat more food.


Glad someone said it...


Well, your brother is a smart guy for leading you here!
I think the answer is simple really: eat big, and train big! You don't have to eat a lot, but just make the food is calorically dense..you can get away with eating more than you already are! Do you train really early in the morning that you can't eat?

Here is how I would do it:

Pre-workout- protein shake w/oats..supps

During workout-Surge perhaps?

PWO- recovery drink

An hour later- protein+carb meal

Snack- protein+fruit maybe?


And don't forget your good fats! I know it's hard when you reach out for advice and everyone has something to say..you just have to get it sorted out for YOU, and slowly figure out what works.


I think what Court was saying is to not be afraid of gaining fat for the muscle?

When you are trying to eat to gain "size," generally some fat is put on in the process. You are lucky..you get to EAT!!

I am pretty much at the opposite spectrum. I eat really basic and lo-carb to keep from gaining..it sucks.

Eat some carbs for ME!! :slightly_smiling:


Wow, that was a lot of replies still taking them all in so I will start from the beginning.

I workout in the mornings due to my work schedule of 3-11pm, I find that I have my highest energy at that time which is usually around 7am that I go in. For awhile I was eating oats with my protein prior to going in why that stopped I honestly have no idea. I know I need to increase calories in the appropriate way unfortunately for the longest time the number on the scale was my life line, and I think old behaviors kick in from time to time. I'm by no means afraid to gain weight and I want to and need to, I just don't want to gain it the wrong way, and when I sit down and meal plan and stick to that plan I stay at the same weight forever and yes my frustrations kick in and instead of changing it up and realizing that obviously it isn't working for me, I get defeated, which is the WRONG thing to do. From doing research I know I won't bulk and I'm not afraid of looking bigger either, I want the muscle, for myself. I want the pride that comes with it and the hard work, I'm more determined now then ever and I am a pretty stubborn woman so there won't be any turning around for me. Persistency is key.

With that said, I have had nobody to guide me in lifting, hell I don't even know the name of the machines I'm using, idiotic yes, I most certainly know how to use them properly but the gym I was going to offered no personnel trainer and I don't have anybody to lift with, so I have had nobody to push me, nobody to spot me but after this morning that has changed. I realized that yes I love the gym I was going to but I needed to be somewhere where I could advance and work with other women to achieve my goal, so I switched gyms and next week have a consultation with a trainer there who was highly recommended from a guy who also goes to that gym. So I am open to any new plan/workouts. I am starting with a fresh slate and erasing anything I was doing because honestly it was ALL wrong and I was just a dog chasing her own tail. So now that I'm done whining, here is my meal plan so far for today.

8 ounce protein shake with banana and strawberry added
2 servings of Shredded Wheat with Whole Milk

3 egg whites
4 slices of Turkey Bacon
1/2 cup cottage cheese
2 pieces of whole wheat toast with apple jelly
1 8 ounce glass of whole milk
1/2 canteloupe

Handful of Almonds

Grilled Chicken Breast
Sliced Tomatoes
1 slice of Swiss Cheese
1 Tablespoon of Light Mayo
Ciabatta Bread

Garden Salad with FF Balsamic Vinegar dressing

8 ounce plain yogurt with granola

Still deciding on what is for dinner.

I will definitely go and check out the sites given, and I will go and find that book.


Nope, I was saying that if she's putting on muscle, her weight will increase and not to freak out about it. The scale means jack shite in the grand scheme of things.


I hardly talk at all, not sure what you're smoking. I'm like the shy quiet girl in the back of the room that just smiles and nods. Occassionally I'll say hi if someone speaks to me directly.


Court I went in and read some of the older blogs and definitely see what you mean. Makes it easier knowing that I am definitely not the only one who has been in this position before. Also makes me more determined to achieve what all of you have.

I haven't been squatting or deadlifting, a guy I "was" seeing told me that I shouldn't be doing those because it will give me a thick back and I won't look femine, he was an ass and really the only thing he taught me at the gym was that his opinion was men are better then women and I'll never look like what I want to. So I dropped him fast. I wanted to start doing deadlifts two months ago and found a couple of guys who work out there who were willing to teach me and spot me with them, but the words of another made me change my mind, but since reading what you wrote and realizing I can obtain muscle definition and still keep a figure, I will start adding those into my workouts. Stupid question, what are squats? Is that where you have the bar on your back and you bend at your knees. Sorry like I said I'm ignorant to all of this stuff.

You are right about the work I have ahead of me, knowing it's obtainable is a great kick in the butt to get started. My meal plan is better today, though looking at it I do need to increase more in what I'm eating.


It's exciting to see that you are willing and ready to learn! Your questions about lifts aren't stupid. If you never ask, you'll never improve. Like Court said, New Rules of Lifting will be EXCELLENT for you. It will help you learn all of the lifts and it gives great instructions on how to do them properly. If you read this book, you will know more about lifting than most men (especially that stupid guy who said deadlifts will make you thick).

To echo Court again, eating more is key (especially before and after workouts). A skinny person thinking they will gain strength and muscle without eating is like a fat person thinking they will get lean eating Snickers bars everyday. But keep in mind that if you eat more of the right things, you won't put on extra fat (Check out some of the nutrition articles on the site, especially John Berardi)you will just put on some muscle, so you have more of an athletic look, not a thick back, hairy chest, or deep voice. Good luck and keep updated!


Thanks sbmart2 for your reply, I plan on going tomorrow to find that book, sounds like a great way to start learning routines that work for me. Being at square one isn't a bad thing, at least now I know what NOT to do. I am sure that book will tell me the complete opposite of what that guy was telling me.

That's a great statement about skinny person versus fat person, and very true. I start eating really good and then it takes like one day to get me off routine and I struggle to get the meal plan back. I have been trying not to focus on calories but on quality, which is hard because I'm a walking calorie counter and need to learn to shut that part of the brain off, but I will definitely check out the nutrition articles tonight.

Thanks again, I'm going to go and look for those.

Rest of meal plan for today.


1 thick turkey burger with sauteed mushrooms/tomatoes/onions in garlic oil
steamed broccoli, and cauliflower
1/2 cup brown rice plain
1 8 ounce glass of whole milk

Snack PM
1 8 ounce protein shake with fresh blueberries
cheddar cheese/apple slices


You remind me of what it was like when I started going to the gym almost 10 years ago! :slight_smile: I was just doing things to do them..
We all have to start somewhere!
And hey, I'm just NOW learning how to squat properly :wink:

You've come to the right place, and I hope to see you stick around..

I'm sure that book will help TONS, and you'll probably have some a-ha moments!


shields, how long have you been lifting? I assume it hasn't been too long. When you are a beginner, and want to gain weight (preferably muscle), there's no way you want to be working out 5 days, 1-2 hours. For sure not with that diet. And if you're a beginner and neurally inefficient, there's no way you should be doing a whole training session just for chest. The problem is that when you're a beginner, you don't recruit muscle fibers very efficiently. Then with a 5-day body part split, a whole week goes by before you really hit those muscle fibers again. Meanwhile their positive adaptation to be stronger peaked about 2-3 days after the workout, but by 7 days after, they are back to baseline. Progress is therefore slow.

It's not the training that builds muscle, it's the repair of the muscles that were worked in the training. And that repair requires raw materials (amino acids from protein, especially leucine) and energy (i.e., calories). So when you were training without eating, your training is highly catabolic, breaking down muscle during and after training. Then you were letting hours and hours go by in that catabolic state (when you skipped lunch for example). Your body didn't have many amino acids available (from protein) to repair the damage of the training.

Here's a good article about the squat:

Here's a really well thought out lifting program for women:

You might want to add more shoulder work to it if your shoulders are scrawny:

For an effective diet for building, check out Jen Heath's:

Being a calorie counter is NOT a bad thing, it's a great thing. If you don't precisely measure what you're doing, you never really know what worked -- or didn't work. Just switch your focus to GRAMS of high-quality protein, carb, and fat sources, following Jen's guidelines in the above article, and I'll bet you'll be very happy with the results.

Also, Surge Recovery is your best friend.


That makes absolute sense to me and explains why I haven't been seeing much result at all. I have only been lifting for 4 months, and definitely halfassed, did see some improvement in the middle especially with back muscles and abs. My shoulders are pretty good though, I have wide shoulders and my doctor always tells me they would be great for football, still don't understand what that means. I look at my body and it has amazing potential to have a strong build. So now I just have to connect the eating and proper lifting to achieve that. I am now starting to realize why eating prior and after is very important to lifting.

Usually with the lift schedule that I had I was told to keep chest and back away from arms, for example of what my week would have looked like is this.

Monday Arms
Tuesday Legs, Shoulders and Back
Wednesday Chest
Thursday Shoulders and Back
Friday Arms

next week

Monday Chest
Tuesday Legs, Shoulders and Back
Wednesday Arms
Thursday Shoulders and Back
Friday Chest

Now that I look at that I see what you are saying about the baseline after 7 days, both arms and chest are being effected by it and it makes sense that back and shoulders were advancing faster. I will definitely check out that site for lifting programs and everything else.

Can I ask another crazy, what is Surge Recovery and how does it work for your body.