First Time Building Muscle. Now Need to Lose Some Fat

I am in my first ever building phase. I have been in a surplus for the last year and now have some fat to lose. Was 157 in October 2021. Currently 185 at 26% body fat for female.

For the first time ever I am not worried about the specific number on the scale (in the past I have always wanted to get down to a certain number). I say this because for the first time I experienced weight gain but my clothes continued to fit me until I got to about 170. Now, I feel big and uncomfortable and would like to lose some fat. Every time I “start” - I feel more hungry than ever before. I probably restrict too much then rebound and gain a few pounds. This has been the cycle the last few months. Some has been muscle but I certainly have some padding all around. Also, I am shocked to say I am afraid to reduce calories as doing so might impact my performance in the gym.

Again, I say this since my approach to weight loss has always been one meal a day, which has worked in the past, but I was not weight training at the time. Any advice would be helpful for a first time cut while trying to retain my gains.

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Are you trying to “cut” (implies you want to get very lean) or just trying to trim down while maintaining gym performance?

Do you track calories and/ or eat the exact same thing every day? For how long?

Do you do any cardio/ conditioning?

How tall are you? How did you measure your body fat?

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I think the first thing you need to consider is time. What time frame do you have in mind? The fat didn’t get on there in a week and is not going to come off in a week.
What have you been eating?
Tell us exactly what you ate yesterday.

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What does this look like, in detail please. Your plan is OMAD but macros? Are you doing protein shakes during the day to stave off unnecessary hunger? When you’re eating your one meal, what food choices are you making?

Don’t put too much emphasis on this part. Unless you’re eating like a 5-year old while also sub 15% BF (for males, this is usually sub 10%, but we don’t have boobs so…) you’re not losing muscle.

Some training details would be good too. What program are you running ? What progress have you made ? What conditioning work did you do last week ?

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OMAD was always my go to in the past. Not anymore. It was not sustainable. I have learned how to eat like a normal person through the day. Currently not tracking anything, just trying to make sure I get enough protein in, most days aiming for 100-130 grams. In detail: back in May I attempted to reduce calories, probably ended up going to 1200 calories by the end of the week. Of course was starving, gym performance went down, rebounded to increase calories, gained a few pounds, went back to ballpark maintenance calories. A few weeks later, tried a more “moderate” approach starting June 1: 1500-1800 calories with a 130 gram protein goal. Did great for about two weeks, had a social event on a Friday evening and went downhill from there. Actually, just wish I had someone to talk me through this, day by day, week by week until I can get my footing. I feel like I am on training wheels and need someone to ride behind me, if that makes sense.

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I am trying to trim down body fat while preferably maintaining gym performance. If I lose 10% performance I am ok with that. I have tracked calories for a week or two, then an event comes up and I just stop. I strength train 4-6 days per week, have reduced my cardio to mostly walking after weights. I am 5’8. I measured my body fat on an InBody scale at my gym. My biggest issue is this is ALL new to me, which is exciting but I just don’t know what to do next (though that is not entirely true, I know exactly what to do, but I just can’t seem to apply it). Things that are new:

  1. body composition
  2. workout routine - always did some form of cardio/HIIT; first time strength training
  3. eating to fuel workouts - always did fasted cardio
  4. could starve my way through weight loss

Maybe it does not sound like much, but to me, this are all huge factors. I am grateful for how far I have come and for discovering the weight room, just want to make the next step.

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Regarding time: In the past I have always been able to practically guarantee 2 pounds + per week weight loss, averaging 8-10 pounds off in a month. This time is different for a few reasons. First, my body composition is different (more muscle - making me more hungry? Is that right? I have never had it so I don’t know if that is the cause). Second, I never cared if I lost weight from muscle or fat, all I cared about was the number on the scale. Third, I never cared about fueling my workouts, I always did fasted cardio and somehow managed to get it done, drink black coffee and eat dinner. Fourth, I felt like I was always on a diet - I have always done some version of one meal a day. I had zero concept of strategically raising and reducing your calories/macros for specific periods of time. Everything is so new now and I just find myself spinning my wheels and getting bigger every week. I would love to “get it off faster” - but I need: 1. coping mechanisms to get through the hunger; 2. Probably need an end date; 3. An exit strategy if I decide to do it fast. Again, since this is so new to me, I wonder if I attempt to do a deep deficit, I want to know how it will affect my workouts. All that to say, this is what I ate today:

Coffee with sugar and one date pre workout
Protein shake post workout
One slice of wheat bread and one tablespoon butter
Protein shake and two small peaches
1 cup peas, 3/4 cup white rice, 4oz ground beef
1/3 pint of Jenni’s ice cream
One slice thin crust pizza and a medium size plate of spaghetti and meatballs
Half a piece of chocolate cake

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I’d probably start here

It sounds like you’re doing well, so far - seriously! Take some credit: good job!

I do agree you’re overwhelming yourself.

If I were you, I wouldn’t count calories or do any of that right now; you don’t need to and it’s sabotaging you. I’d set yourself some rules:

  1. You’re already strength training 3-4x a week. Everyone will ask you for details on what this looks like, but it really doesn’t matter for this conversation; you’ve already indicated you’re happy with where this is in terms of muscle and strength. It’s just most fun for us to talk training.

  2. Pick a cardio baseline you can always do. We can adjust from there down the road. A 30-minute walk 3x a week is just fine. So is 3x 20-minute sessions on the stationary bike + 1 12-minute HIIT. Kinda whatever floats your boat here.

  3. Eliminate the obvious junk. You know cake, ice cream and pizza are not furthering your body composition goals; we don’t need to go any crazier than this right now.

Now I’ll add two more suggestions, because it seems like you tend to have a blow-up that completely derails you (not uncommon). Before that, though, I’d recommend reframing your mindset. CT says something along the lines of “you wouldn’t lash your other three tires because you got a flat.” Don’t let one event short circuit your habits.

Anyway, I’d recommend:

  1. Eating 4 meals a day that are pretty strictly on point. We can adjust and fine tune (and everyone will have their favorite macro ratio) down the road, but for now I’d just do the divide your plate method: 1/2 protein, 1/4 starch, 1/4 veggies. Fat tends to take care of itself. Don’t eat yourself stuffed and you’ll likely be fine; I also use small plates!

  2. Now you’re eating 28 meals a week, so you can take two meals to “loosen up” (not declare war on the buffet) and still be over 90% compliant. This is where you get that cake or pizza. The idea here is you don’t have to tell yourself you can never have something again, you limit the damage, and you should be able to stay on plan because that meal actually wasn’t a deviation.

Finally, since you’re looking for some sherpas, create a log here. Use it however you want, but sounds like the best use would just be checking down that you did your cardio and what you ate on a daily basis (don’t weigh it out). Probably your lifts as well, because we’ll see they’re doing fine and we don’t have to worry about that. Tag me and I’d love to watch your progress; I have a feeling you’ll crush it.

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@TrainForPain is spot on.

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We have a whole training log section which could be used for exactly that. It just helps with accountability when you know you have someone watching over you.

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Wow. Really grateful for this heartfelt and detailed response. It actually brought tears to my eyes, that someone actually gets it and can be so encouraging, I am not exaggerating. This is exactly what I needed. You gave some very specific yet adaptable and useful suggestions. Unreal. So the following is just going to be me unloading some thoughts based on your response in no particular order:

What I used to do:
Exercise was ALWAYS some sort of cardio. Eating was ALWAYS some sort of restriction - fasting, OMAD, etc. with zero focus on protein. I could manipulate either exercise or restriction and lose weight. If I was not losing weight I would just restrict more. Every single workout I ever did was fasted. In fact, I would go most days until 1 or 2pm with no food and black coffee. I think fasting can be a good thing for reasons beyond this discussion (self discipline, not feeling like you need to eat all the time and I know many people can benefit from both the discipline and the idea that if you don’t eat, you won’t wither away). For me, it is now exactly the opposite, I NOW need to learn how to eat like a normal person - through the day - sounds crazy but it is true.

Two years ago I discovered the weight room. My only regret is not starting sooner but I am beyond grateful for my path that lead me there. The last year has been extremely difficult for me personally and the gym was my salvation.

I could talk about lifting, weights, programming, PRs, etc all day but most people around you don’t want to hear about it, lol, and I understand. I only recently started tracking my workouts with reps, weights etc and in a few short weeks tracking my workouts has already been a game changer.

To give you at least some idea of how far I have come, when I first started weight training, I was hanging on to cardio so hard since that was all I knew: I would run/jog 5 miles before every weight session, including legs. Now, I walk when I feel like it, on most training days after training or later in the day. I did my first, albeit a little sloppy, unassisted neutral grip pull up about two months ago and I almost started crying.

Re: food/fuel: weight lifting has started to teach me that food is fuel and it can support my training. I weighed 160 at the end of June 2021 and was shocked at how much I was able to eat and actually dropped to 157 by the end of October 2021, then toward the end of November, my new found realization of eating so much finally got the best of me and I started to gain more and more weight (and to be fair some muscle). I was 170 before I new it, then 180 and now 185.

The coolest thing about weight lifting has been seeing myself weigh more but my clothes fit the same or my body fat % staying the same at a higher weight, it is like some kind of sorcery. However, now, I feel puffy and fat and my clothes don’t fit anymore. I keep reading and reading and researching - trying to figure out some of the techniques guys who have been training since high school use. Every time I try to get into a deficit, my hard wired technique of more food restriction takes over and within a week or two I am restricting so much that I rebound.

I love all your recommendations and will repeatedly refer to this response.

When you say “create a log here” - is there another forum to do that on?

Thank you again.

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I’m not ignoring you, I’ve just been on the road and just getting back in the house. I’ll respond more shortly.

For the logs, though, there’s a sub forum here:

@Andrewgen_Receptors Can you please let me know how to respond to a specific sentence in a post? Seriously, this entire thread was my first ever self created post.

Don’t put too much emphasis on this part. Unless you’re eating like a 5-year old while also sub 15% BF (for males, this is usually sub 10%, but we don’t have boobs so…) you’re not losing muscle.

This is good to know. Seems based on what I have been reading the last several months I have created a fear of losing muscle. Makes sense that we don’t want to lose what we worked so hard for but somehow thinking this has maybe prevented me from moving forward and now I just feel fluffy. Is it accurate to say as long as I hit my protein goal and keep training, muscle loss should be minimized in a deficit?

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No worries, highlight the word, line, sentence, etc. that you want to respond to and select “Quote” like so:


it should auto populate some text in your comment box.


Pretty much, yeah. Still, don’t crash diet and don’t try to lose too much too fast - aim for around 1lb per week, anything more will start wearing on you and your hormones.

Some information that may help lead you to success (female specific):

And for general reading (not specific to ladies):

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Maybe you should check out the new thread. It’s an OMAD type diet.

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There is actually some really strong science to support this method (whether Velocity Diet, or equivalent OMAD type). Was having a discussion about this with @Tim_Patterson.

All things considered, it sounds expensive at first - but if you’re reducing meal intake down to OMAD, your grocery bill reduction very well may compensate for the difference. I may end up going this route at some point - I just need to work myself up to it :sweat_smile:

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Several members have had great success running it. Now, that there is online coaching

That just makes it even better!

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Ok, I’m caught up!

We’re all with you, or, at least, have been there. We get you!

The velocity diet may be a great option… a little further down the road. My $0.02 would really be let’s get some of those lifestyle habits in place and have some success without extremes. Then you can appropriately use the velocity diet as a tool when you want to attack a ton of fat loss in a short time. You already are experienced with fasting, so I don’t think you’d struggle at all. I just worry maybe it’s not answering what we need to answer right now.

We’re all in your corner whatever you do! Just tag us in your new log.

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She said she usually did OMAD when dieting. It’s 28 days. That may be just enough time to break some bad habits and start over with a healthier approach to nutrition.

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