T Nation

Gaining LBM for Former Fatties


I've got a new plan to put on some lean muscle and am hoping that I can get some advice from people that are similar to me. I know from certain posters like chardawg, eric cressey, and nate dogg, that they have similar problems as me. When I try to gain mass I alwasy put on fat too easily. My fat always goes on my chest and my lovehandles first and it's just not a look that I like.

My biggest past mistake is that I increased calories too much ala massive eating and got fat quick. When I start getting fat too quick, I get aggrivated and my progress stalls. It's not the fact that I lose my 6 pack. It has more to do with most of my weight being gained in my midsection.


1) Increase calories slowly so that mayby my body will get better adjusted to the extra food. I'm hoping that I will slowly gain and as a result I will be able to increase calories without much fat gain.

2) I tend to have an imbalance between my upper body and my lower body. My quads and hams are ok but my calves are pretty small. I'm going to go on John Roman's DIR for 5-6 weeks and leave all upper body on maintenance.

3) Afte DIR, I'm going to try to work out quads and hams twice a week. I'm going to use something along the lines of antibodybuilding hypertrophy but I'm going to be squatting twice a week and working hams twice a week. During this time, I'm going to put my upper body on a maintenance workout also.

I figure since legs are my weakest bodypart that focusing on them will allow for more growth. Any help from the above posters or anybody willing to help would be greatly appreciated.


Well, as a former fatty myself who still has an ugly middle even down near 10%, I can agree with you.

Over the last few years i've run the gamut from dieting down with way too low calories on a low fat program to going on a massive eating cycle.

And i've fluctuated anywhere from 22% down to my current 10%, within a weight range of 226 down to 204. I will mention though all previous cut downs have ended around 13%, only this current one has ever gone to 10%.

First time (in last few years) I went on a gaining cycle I went with pretty much a 50c/40p/10f balance. Did that full time for about a month and found my middle increasing in girth pretty fast, would say around 70% of gain was fat.
No good.
So, cut down again, this time running a 40/40/20 balance on the gain cycle, and probably put on 50% fat with muscle.
Still no good, fat was bulging in middle quite fast.

So now, what i've been doing is overfeeding every several days while on my tdawg "cutting" cycle. And that has worked by far the best, with actual fat loss and lbm gain during.

This may seem like "noobie" gains, or maybe it's residual gains from the past when I was bigger. Or maybe just new stuff, who knows.
Over the last 2 months ive gone from 17%BF @ 221# with 183LBM to being 10%BF @ 214# with 192LBM.

Maybe when I get down to single digits i'll be able to handle going on full bore massive eating, but maybe not without massive fat gain. Don't know.


I have experienced the same problem. I think though that you are working in the right direction. You have to constantly experiment to get it just right.
What has worked for me is to drop my Fat % down into the single digits first befor I start a mass gain phase. This will give you a longer time to gain befor you get that feeling of being to damn fat.

One problem I had ( and have witnessed in many others) with the bulking and the fat gains was primarily mental. I would see the fat coming on and get worried that I was going to be a blimp again. So I would cut off the gaining phase to soon and cut the fat again befor I had added enough. I had to get over that hump befor I made some good gains. I know and accept that I can get the fat off again.

The other thing that has worked for me is to put down the majority of my calories for the day early on. For example I usually try to have 3/4 of my calories, or so done half way through the day and then finish off with the rest. This has allowed for me to add more lbm and slowed the fat gains during the over eating.

Just a few suggestions. The main thing is to keep at it. It is a long process of gaining then losing, but with some self exploration it will get easier. If it was easy then everyone would be HUGE and cut though.


Granted I have had the luxury of always being lean, but I am currently trying put on some quality mass the good ol' "clean" way. I think your rationale of slowly increasing kcals is the way to go. Personally, I have noticed that doing that works fine. I am currently eating upwards to 4500-4600 cals per day (on training days) and I have noticed little to no fat gain. I would add 100-200 cals per week and see how my body handled it. I think the main key is meal combos and timing and I won't go into detail about that, as I know you are one knowledgible mofo and know your shit...;o) I can get away with eating so many kcals cause I am eating SMART. I get the majority of my carbs during/post training and I eat alot of protein and veggies.

As for your training...I did Anti-BB and for the most part, I liked it. DIR is a great program, but I made the mistake of training everything else and not just doing maintainence work...so i felt a bit overtrained.

Your plan looks good. I see that you are part of the "Race to 200" thread, as am I. So I hope to be able to pick your brain as to what is working for you and what is not. Take care my man...T


Tony points out a very good point that I neglected. That is the choice of foods, timing, and combinations. I am no expert, but, I think that these can be one of, if not the most important factors to your question.



I definitely want to chime in on your latest thread, but I'm really strapped for time right now. I'm moving to Connecticut this afternoon for grad school, and I'll be tying up loose ends for scheduling, job interviews, and bank and apartment stuff for the next 4-5 days. Keep this sucker going; I'm 'bout to embark on a little mass phase of my own.

Later, EC


Would lifting twice a day while gaining help reduce the risk of adding fat?


Doing a lot of ab-training will keep the fat from accumlating on your stomach.

:: dodging the rocks being thrown at me ::

Ok, I'm obviously joking. You ought to consider adding a sprinting session 1 day a week eating at maintenance cals. This is probably the approach that I'm going to use, being that I seem to add fat rather easily.


TonyG: The slow calorie increase is what has worked best for me so that is what I'm going to stick with.

Phil: I also have had that problem in the past. I know I can lose the fat but I want to put on mainly LBM. I also follow massive eating combos just not the calorie guidelines. My carbs come from oatmeal, long-grain brown rice, sweet potatos, and surge. My fats come from fish oil, flax oil, and olive oil. My protein comes from all lean sources like chicken, tuna, lean cut steaks, and protein powders. So, I think I am making good choices.

NeilG: I tried 2 a day workouts, but I didn't like them. I got burned out on them pretty quick. Plus with work and grad school there is no way I could train twice a day now.

Akheron: The sprinting session is something I am considering. The maintenance day is also a good suggestion.

Thanks for all the replys and hopefully we can keep this thread going.


Ok, I have a question, then. I asked this in a recent post, but I think it's relevent here.

What is the best type of carb for people who gain fat easily? Should excessive fruits be avoided? What about things like potatoes, squash, beets, yams, etc? How about grains? Is there a best carb to avoid gaining fat? Or should it be a combo of all types? Anyone know?


NeilG: I'm recommending some article for you because I always like to read up on something before I will take others words for it. I don't know the exact issues but you can search it.

Foods that make you look good naked
Lean eating part 1 and 2
The Winning Formula

Personally I stay away from fruit and skim milk. I found that my body does not tolerate them very well. I stick with brown rice, wheat pasta, wheat bread, sweet potatos, and oatmeal. I also take r-ala with my 3 carb meals to help my carbs go where they are supposed to go. Vegetables are also good as everyone knows but I can't stomach them very well.



I would say to that, it also depends on the individaul. Everyone is different. I depends on the persons own insulin response to carbs. But if you are carb sensitive, stick with low GI carbs except for post workout.

I dont think that the experiment thing can be stressed enough. Everyone seems to be looking for the miracle answer. Its all about learning what works for you and trying different things, and this learning /changing/ experimentation process will most likely never end. Thats part of what makes this whole adventure of nutrition and training so much damn fun.

I dont mean to sound like I am preaching but, hey I would get bored if I didnt try different things. some work some dont.

Jason by the way it sounds like you are on the right path. Education and then experimentation.


JasonL, there are only 3 variables that need to be manipulated when it comes to putting on mass:

  • Diet
  • Cardio
  • Weight Training

Since your body seems to want to take the nutrition you provide it and preferentially store it as fat, I would make cardio a DAILY part of your routine. Why? Above and beyond any calories it burns, cardio has tremendous partitioning benefits. It makes you more insulin SENSITIVE (a very good thing).

Are you making compound multi-joint exercises the main part of your program? Pull-ups, pull-overs, dips, squats, bench presses, deadlifts, military or push-presses? Forget the isolation exercises as much as you can and focus on those exercises that have a reputation for thickening you up. Lay a foundation. Even if they're a weak point, I wouldn't worry about calves right now. Or let's say include it in to keep your sanity, but focus on the larger muscle groups (chest, back, legs).

With diet, calculating protein and fat intake is pretty straightforward. It's based on LBM. The trick to minimizing fat gain lies in manipulating carb TYPE, carb TIMING, and carb QUANTITY. Antiliberal gave you same great information, there. Do you see how me made slight changes to macronutrients to see what the result would be? That's EXACTLY what you're going to have to do with carbs.

And finally, you're going to have to work through whatever issues you have in your head about what you may feel is bloat and rising scale weight. LBM (going up) and FM (going down) should be the ONLY criteria by which you measure your success.

Great information you're getting!!! Good luck to you.


If your body is in a fat gaining mode it will store any excess calories as fat and do so even without gaining any muscle. I think instead of just trying to control calories in/calories out and the rate at which you increase calories etc. ask yourself first what is it that makes your body a fat storing wasteland in the first place? It's always going to be related to hormones somehow. Try to control those hormones through your diet and training and you'll take a big step in the right direction. That means, as tampa-terry suggested, incorporating cardiovascular activity for better nutrient partitioning. For this case I would be way partial to HIT as it has a much greater effect on Glut 4 which improves the carbohydrate/insulin sensitivity. I would also say that means all your workouts should include lots of full body basic movements to rev up the whole body anabolic and fat burning machinery. That would also mean paying particular attention to your meal and carbohydrate timing in relationship to your workouts. In addition, supplements are a big factor as well. Lots of fish oil stimulates PPAR alpha, which kind've turns on fat burning everywhere. The one hormonal pathway which IMO is very hard to control with diet and exercise is the androgen related one. You can influence the testosterone:cortisol ratio by staying stress free, getting enough sleep, and avoiding excessive stimulant intake. But still, some people probably shouldn't ever be increasing calories without being on some type of androgen boosting supplement.



I'm going to touch on a few things you brought up.

Cardio: I work a physical job and I get plenty of exercise throughout the day. I do a lot of heavy lifting with seafood that can weigh as much as 150 pounds. I have to pick these objects up about to my chest. So, pretty much I'm busy all day lifting stuff or doing some type of busy work. SO, I'm not sure if I need cardio or not. I might throw in a session or two of HIIT a week but I don't think I need too much more than that.

Compound movements: I've always done compound movements. I couldn't tell you the last time I did an isolation exercise. My workouts center around squats, deads, chins, bench presses, military presses, lunges, front squats, and others like those. I'm also focusing on calves for 5-6 months because my calves are out of proportion. In the past, I've kept putting off doing a calf specilization program and plus my calves are my weakest bodypart. Also, my chest and back is probably my best body part. My measurements are: Chest=44, waist=31, middle thighs=23, arms=15.5 and calves=14.5. As you can see my calves and thighs are out of proportion. Those two body parts are also my weakest lifts.

Nutrition: I follow massive eating guidelines but my calories are lower than JB's calorie guidelines. I know exactly where my maintenace is and that is how I adjust my diet. I've found that a 40P/35C/25F works best for me. I experimented with a 40P/50C/10f to a 40P/30C/30F macro breakdown. I've found with my work that I need a few carbs but not too many. My 3 carb meals are my first meal, my surge, and my postworkout meal. I also take r-ala with my carb meals which I've found to help out a lot with me. I also supplement with 15 g of fish oils which gives me a total of 6 g of EPA/DHA.

Issues: I don't really have issues with being fat anymore. I just would like to gain mostly muscle and minimize fat. I have all my fat cells left over from when I was tubby and if I bulk too fast, I put on fat rather easily. I'm just looking for tips from people that have been in my shoes. Sorry if I sound defensive but I'm just trying to better explain what I do so you can better understand my situation.

I'm getting some good suggestions though.


I've been in a similar boat to you in that when I up the calories too quickly, I definitely pack on fat way too fast.

I really like the idea of a very gradual increase in calories and I plan to do the same.

One suggestion is completely non dietary related and that is to include more variety of training stimuli. As CT spoke about this weekend, a combination of eccentric, isometric and concentric creates the most positive environment for your body to grow. Obviously, this is nothing new, but take a look at your last few months of training and see what you've been doing.

It might be time for some accentuated eccentric work or some maximal isometric pulls or presses into pins - use 3 different positions and contract maximally for about 6 seconds. Just make sure to include some new training styles - I know you've got the exercise selection down - I'm just suggesting that you use them differently.


Kelly- Excelent advice! I was just wondering if you know which stimulants affect the testosterone to cortisol ratio. Also how and to what extent this occurs. Thanks.


Great thread and very good posts. Thanks to all that have contributed. Storing this info away for later.

Why is it that fat cells have such great memory and refill so quickly.....brain cells on the other hand die off never to be seen again. Design flaw???

Good luck in winning this battle!


JasonL: You're basically asking the $1,000,000 question:

How does someone who has been training for more than
a few years, and has "already" improved "exponentially"
upon the genetic hand dealt to them, advance to the next
level and go beyond what nature intended for them.

Answer: Still haven't figured that one out yet. :frowning:

Over the decades, I have used more than a few of the
tactics oft expressed by Tampa Terry and Kelly Baggett
(In their intelligent postings at T-mag): mass dose
BCAA's, fish oil, carefully timed pig-outs, extensive
food/training log, HITT cardio sessions etc.

And the results have been remarkable!

But gaining additional mass without paying the hefty "fat tax" may not be in the cards for me... naturally!

Point: If you have made significant improvements as
mentioned above, thank God and don't compare
yourself to others with different genetic makeups -
And never, never quit trying to make small improvements.

Joey Z. steps down off soapbox...


Jason: Good point. I haven't really varied my training too much. I always switch up exercises every 4-6 weeks and switch up between strenght training and hypertrophy but that's about it. Looks like it may be something to look into.

I'd also like to say that I have bulked and had favorable results. My last bulking period was in march and I gained about 9 pounds with most of that being muscle. The problem is that I didn't maintain long enough. I only maintained for about 2 weeks. This time I will do it differently.

The two times I tried to bulk before this I also had setbacks. My first experience with bulking I went about 1000 calories over maintenace. I fell into the trap that one shouldn't do any cardio while bulking and obviously I got fat quick. My second time I bulked I ran into some weather problems down here. We had a hurricane and a tropical storm hit in one week. I started bulking and eating a lot and as a result of the weather, the gym was shut down a few days. I just got to keep trying.