T Nation

Gaining Fat, Not Muscle?


Hey guys, I recently started Rippetoe's Starting Strength, and have been pretty consistent with the program for about 3 weeks now. The thing is, I at first felt stronger and could notice a slight change, mainly in my lower back and my legs. As of recently, I've only noticed a gain of fat, and thats in my abdominal area specifically.

I'm 5'9", 22 years old, ~16-17% and at 178 pounds as of last week. I haven't checked my weight recently, but I can feel a slight gain of fat in my stomach. The thing is, I've been eating about 2000-2500 kcal per day, since I figured I need to up my caloric intake for muscle gain. The thing is, I wasn't even eating that much before, like 1800-2000 kcal! I think my BMR is abnormally lower than most ppl my age. Should this be happening considering I'm not even eating that much more food?

My diet has been pretty healthy and clean, with more focus on protein, healthy fats from nuts, avocado's, fish oils, etc. Protein sources from mainly chicken, fish, eggs, cottage cheese, and a bit of red meat. Carbs are from sources like oats, high fiber foods, and whole wheat bread and rice usually post-workout. I decided to go out on a whim and by L-Leucine, hoping it could help me out. I'm getting pretty annoyed that I'm getting the opposite results than what i should be getting...


youre bound to gain some extra pudge on the stomach, i would say UP the cardio or adjust cals and reassess


If you're only lifting three days a week, that's presumably only three hours a week of exercise. Try adding in a couple days of energy work (light circuits, intervals, steady-state cardio). And non-exercise physical activity outside of that is welcome too. Of course you should find that you'll have to eat more, but this should tip the balance in favor of muscle gain.


Well, I was considering also doing HIIT on the off days of SS, but I hear that strength gains are greatly reduced, which I didn't want to do. I played some basketball with friends, and after about 15-20 minutes, my lower back was killing me (i had done the squat, bench press, and deadlift sequence the day before). My legs were better off than my back, but I felt like I couldn't put in that much energy.

It is about 3 hrs of lifting, but being in college, you get to walk around alot going from place to place in such a big campus. Though that is easily offset by sitting and studying for much of the day. I feel whatever food I ate went straight to my stomach with complete disregard for anything else.


YOU ALSO MAY BE THICKENING YOUR WAIST which would appear as fat, perhaps.

YOU ALSO MAY BE TAKING ON WATER with those complex carbs and cheese, my friend. That would appear as fat. Taking creatine, or anyhting with yohimbine? Expect to be bloated from yohimbine, ugh.

YOU ALSO MAY NOT BE EATING ENOUGH what are your macro breakdowns. I want to see a more specific diet plan

WHAT IS THE WORKOUT REGIMEN LIKE? how much volume? what exercises? what is the split?

strength is not concerned with fat loss. different mechanisms

FINALLY youre alread 17-18% my friend. that is fairly high. the muscle you may be filling out is probably pushing against the fatty tissue

PM me for more specifics


This. I had/have the same problem. I've actually gained an inch on my waist since I started 6 months ago. However, I look better than I did 6 months ago, so I'm not complaining.

Squats and deadlifts will build a lot of core muscles, and that's going to add volume to your torso. When you, like me, have a nice carpet of fat over all that muscle, it'll look and feel like you gained fat.

My advice? Stop looking at the scale, and do two things:

1) stop reading, go get a camera, and take front, back, and side photos of yourself, flexed and unflexed. Stash them away somewhere. Do this every 3-4 weeks. In 3-4 months, go back and look at the ones you took today. You'll feel better. :slightly_smiling:

2) Go to GNC or someplace (this is the only time I'd suggest ever going into GNC!) and drop $20 or so for a bodyfat caliper. Use it once a week consistently to measure your progress instead of the scale.


BUMP on the caliper. BUMP on the photos. BUMP on the bastard carpet of fat that waxes and wanes too quickly with my carb intake

ALSO your training for strength confuses me. I do believe you are training to get ripped and strength workouts should not be the primary focus, but merely a supplement, to that program. Dont worry so much about your strength, if you are primarily concerned with LOOKING GOOD.

That being said, doing HIIT on "off days" and NEPA on "on days" will help you decreas your BF%. In fact, I would say HIIT is almost very necessary.

DONT be focused on your BMR. I feel that this is a copout in a way, like, "why wont my metabolism let me get ripped?"

You have to make your body work, and its not easy. It shouldnt be easy. If it was easy, every Dbag would be walking around with a pigeon chest (and pigeon legs to match..ughh).

Seriously, I challenge you to write down, in minutiae, your workout, your diet, and your goals (your measurements, if possible).

At this point, I think we can give you some serious advice. now though, it's kind of hard. You are obviously very new.

Oh, P.S., yOu dont need L-Leucine. Maybe in a year with proper training, you will. Dont "play your ace card" (not that I have tried Leucine, but we will assume it does something) until you have built a proper foundation.

There is no miracle pill, routine, etc, and you will not wake up one day sexy as hell. its a lifestyle choice, a hard one, but one of the most rewarding, undoubtedly.

PM me if you need more


Here's a meal plan I made a post about a few weeks ago:

-Breakfast: 1 bagel (high protein, low carb) with either cottage cheese or peanut butter, 1 banana, 1 glass 1% milk
-Snack: 1 Peanut butter nutrition bar, low glycemic
-Lunch: Chicken breast, green beans, pita bread, salad
-Snack: Low glycemic protein or meal replacement shake
-sometimes, depending on my mood, I may drink some coffee with sugar free syrup and low fat milk
-Dinner: Lean Turkey patty, 1 slice lowfat cheese, whole grain bread
-before bed: used to do milk, but I hear casein protein is best, so Im gonna try eating some cottage cheese instead

This is my typical diet say, on a non-workout day. Obviously I also eat eggs, recently started eating oats, aim for high glycemic meals post workouts, etc.


Here is another post that is more of an introduction to myself with what I'm looking for as well:

22 year old male
Asian Indian
175-178 lb (changes based on time of day of course)
Body Fat: Est. 16-18%

Before I ask my question, Just want you guys to know that 6 years ago, I used to weigh around 210 lb, mostly fat. Being pretty tubby, I decided to do something about it, became active, changed some of my eating habits (now im a health nut), and lost 45-50 lbs in about 3-4 years time.

Got stuck along the way, but had advice from great people, and gained some great habits using some great products to help me out. I weighed 162 at my lowest point. Now, I combined cardio and weight lifting during most workouts.

I had no set training program or anything, but just tried to become more active and exercise. My standard was running about a mile (2 miles later on as my body got used to it) and then doing machines for about 30 min.

I did this for at least 2-3 times a week. Obviously I was a beginner and didn't know the benefits of free weights at the time like I do now.

With this process, I went from ~23-25%% Body fat to ~16-18% body fat (sorry for the ranges, Im estimating here based on my weight and some body fat measurements i had done at random times).

My problem is that I had slimmed down alot, it was very noticable physically, and of course I felt stronger and healthier. But I always had subcutaneous fat right below my stomach. At my weight of 160 lb, my family described me as being skeletal because my face looked like I was extremely skinny.

Yet, I always had a big gut. Fat always was located in my stomach and my upper chest. Thats right, I have slight manboobs lol, and still do (this is the only place I'd actually admit to that) Spent most of my life trying to hide it.

Around 3-4 months ago, after wanting to gain more mass and strength (since more muscle = greater metabolism) in hopes that it would help me with my fat loss. I decided to really get into it with free weights (started with barbells, now moving on to dumbbells + squats, deadlifts, press, etc).

Now that Im around 175-178, i probably gained about 10-15 lb, of course not all of that was muscle I'm sure, but a decent gain in that span of time. Now, my gut is bigger, manboobs are still there, but I do definitely feel alot stronger (esp with my core).

Now im at 1RM: 230 deadlift, 150 squat, 155 bench (recently incorporated squats, working on upping those now). To be honest, I'd like to continue with the mass-gaining, but my fat problem in certain areas really tends to affect my confidence level in daily life.

I was considering starting Rippetoe's Beginner's Strength Program (since I want to fix some form problems I've been having), or considering doing HIIT, but Im not sure. What should I do first to help me deal with my issue? Also, my end goal is to be 5-10% BF, six pack, and much stronger

I haven't told many people about these problems, let alone a whole community of strangers, but I hope you guys could really help me out. Pictures would help, but as of right now, I don't have access to a camera. If its necessary, I can post pictures at a later time. I know this post is a long read, but if you get down here, thanks for reading!<<<

Btw, thank you guys for the advice, it really helps! I'm gonna go look into buying some calipers. And increase in waist size does make sense now the way you guys have put it. Thanks.


High protein... bagel.. does not compute... EXTERMINATE!

No seriously. Bagels are bad. Very, very bad.

I'm a jew. I <3 Bagels. But they're just about the worst breakfast food on earth for a dieter. Worse than most cereals even!


Alright, here are the nutrition facts on the bagels that I'm talking about:

1 bagel
Calories 140
Total fat 2g
Sat fat 0g
Trans fat 0g
Sodium 370 mg
Total Carbs 19g
Dietary Fiber 9g
Sugars 1g
Protein 18g

Ingredients: water, wheat gluten, soy flour, inulin, whole wheat flour, oat flakes, natural sourdough, wheat bran, flax seeds, millet seeds, sesame seeds 2% or less of other ingredients

So there you go, 10g net carbs, 18 protein, 2 fat, which comes out to 28:58:13 ratio of carbs:protein:fat. Pretty cool find eh? And it still tastes pretty damn good, especially if you add peanut butter (which makes a great snack).

I know the protein is not an animal source, but it works nonetheless. Its actually called Perfect 10, by Western Bagel, and you can find it at Ralph's if you have one nearby. I live in CA btw.


Alright man, check it.

Those lift maxes you posted are totally inappropriate for your body size.

If you are truly 16% at 178, then expect to look good around 30 pounds below that (if were talking fat here).

Strength does not equal muscle. Remember that. The strength program you were on. Forget it.

Work your total workout volume to 24-30 sets.Do from 8-12 reps. Incorporate as many free weight exercises as possible. Keep the eccentric slow and the concentric portions of your lifts explosive. Workout 4x a week if possible. DO HIIT on off days. Walk a shitload on ON days

As for your diet:

I dont care if they are low carb. Get rid of the bagels. Get rid of the peanut butter. eat vegetables, eat whole nuts, eat beans.

Dont eat bananas unless it is post workout (in which case, there are better soruces for carbs.)

Get rid of the peanut butter nutrition bar.

Umm, protein shake is good, not sure what "meal replacement shake" is. make sure its a good source of protein, low carb.

No reason to have pita bread with salad and chicken breast. just ruined your meal.

That is too many carbs for a non-workout day for someone who ov\bviously has a terrible insulin response to carboydrates.

It hurts to hear, but you should not be eating anything that even resembles bread or fruit (oats, bagels, bread, bananas etc etc) and if you do it better be an hour before or after one of your new 24 set 10 rep each workouts.

Trust me, from experience, i know. carbs need to be shunned for awhile. you can still gain, just up the protein and good fat, and where are the veggies man?

oh, and you better be eating eggs

SO BASICALLY your diet is eh too carby for you and your wrokout is eh too low volume not intense enoguh for you. congrats, simple problem. change these things and you too will change.


Alright man, check it.

You go to Hell.

You go to Hell and you die.


Read this


And here is a little message to all the carbo-phobics on this site

"1. What do you tell the carbo-phobic people about your diet. I have explained this diet to a few guys at the gym and their reaction is always that "carbs make you fat". Why do you think people feel this way."

"1. The results speak for themselves. If the before and after pics of my clients don't speak volumes on the efficacy of my methods, I don't know what will.

The popularity of the Atkins diet, Palumbo diet, and other keto diets have all given carbs a bad rap.

I also think a lot of people use carbs improperly in their diets - they bump up carb intake without manipulating the other macronutrients, and end up eating too many overall calories. They end up gaining fat and blame "the carbs"."



Poetikaal is right. He is eating too many carbs for his style of life. Carbs are for fast energy (i.e. HIIT, lifting, running, etc) not "sitting around all day and studying" or "walking everywhere." Awesome avatar by the way. Banksy did some work nearby and my brother and I were able to find a few.


Not sure what that is even in reference to, but I said nothing negative in my post that required your unnecessarily negative response. Anyways...

If you feel you are not gaining sufficient muscle mass and possibly gaining fat, but in either case not losing fat, we can surely look to both diet and training.

I think carbs are great. I time them with a purpose. I dont eat them throughout the day when I am training to lose fat. I eat them when they will be most available for my body to consume.

otherwise, I have experimented with different nutritional plans and considering your current physique (AND BY NO MEANS AM I DEMEANING YOUR PROGRESS...YOU HAVE DONE WONDERFULLY SO FAR, so lets keep it going, right?).

By no means do I think carbs are evil. I eat them when appropriate.

However, look at what you are eating now, and look at the results. Look at what there is an abundance of, and look what is lacking. I think those are fair assertions.

And again, same with training. Your modality is currently out of synch with your goals. You will not lose bodyfat to the extent you desire training low volume for strength. When I go through strength cycles, I allow for some fat gain (some) because I know I am training differently, sometimes even eating a bit more.

I am aware there are different schools of thought out there, but if you step back and assess your current program, look at what you want different, then I believe you will agree with me.

peanut butter is too calorie dense for its volume. i prefer nuts.

any advice i offered was with the intent to help

sorry if i came of abrasively


and thank you candyman. much appreciated


"I haven't checked my weight recently, but I can feel a slight gain of fat in my stomach. "


Weigh yourself then.
From you vital stats I would say that you are skinny fat, ie you're BF% is high yet your weight is actually not that bad.


"That being said, doing HIIT on "off days" and NEPA on "on days" will help you decreas your BF%. In fact, I would say HIIT is almost very necessary."

I would not say that HiiT is necessary. Considering how intense Rippetoes is if you do a HiiT exercise on say a Tuesday/Thursday be prepared to be lifting a little lighter on Wednesday/Fri which is not what you want to be doing. If you want to do some cardio keep it less intense maybe 2x20mins. Although you can shove HiiT on Saturday and take Sunday off completely.


agree with you echelon. his stats do seem to suggest low lean mass to high fat mass ratio

but if hes not liking what he sees in the mirror, the scale wont give him an accurate picture of anything. i would suggest sticking to caliper measurements and mirror checks, you know?

However, i disagree that HIIT on off days will force him to lift lighter on other days. I am not saying do 45 minutes of HIIT, but 20 minutes of sprints or something on off days should not compromise his lifts on ON days. he may even need to skip HIIT and do more walkking on the day after a leg workout. but he shouldnt be scared. he can still do 20 minutes and keep it intense.


Thanks for all the advice guys. Though it sounds like many of you guys are telling me off, and I might punch you in the face if we were face to face, you guys really seem to know your stuff and much of what you are guessing is actually right. I'm kidding about the punching in the face by the way.

I was finally able to check my weight yesterday, and it read 179.4 (up from about 178.5 a week ago). Both measurements were taken at night before my workout and about 30-60 min after a snack. I guess I am skinny fat, which is alot better than being just fat like i was 6 years ago. If you guys didn't read the bible of a post earlier, Most of the fat in my body naturally tends to settle on my chest and my stomach.

At one point, I was 160 lbs, and I looked like an anorexic from the neck up, but was still fat in the upper body. Doing squats on SS has really leaned up my leg. I do think I've gained muscle and lost fat, but I need to get ahold of some calipers and measure it out. Once I do that, Ill let you know how it reads and you can get a better idea of where I am.

As for the criticism of the program I'm doing, I chose SS because I figured more overall strength would give me a better core (which im highly lacking) and a great base to start bodybuilding splits with months down the line. Also, I play alot of basketball, and I figured it would be a great program to give me better hops, stronger body, and just better athletic performace.

I was considering doing HIIT on the off days, but was highly discouraged to do so after I decided to play 60-90 min of basketball on an off day, and then having to lower my weights on the squats the very next day. Granted it was a long time, and HIIT is ~20 min or so, but it gives me doubts.