T Nation

Getting lean


Phill and TT (and others with constructive thoughts)

I started in January of 2003 at 200 lbs. (a real fat boy)(I'm 5' 7") Started Atkins in May (and started lifting pretty seriously in August) and I'm now at 171 as of today. I'm 41 yrs old.
I would like to get lean enought to see my abs. I know this is under 10% body fat and my estimate of mine right now is probably 12%-15% (I just about don't have love handles anymore and they used to be pronounced--I do hold some fat in my lower back, butt and tops of my legs).

I am still in a ketogenic diet and as of this week it looks like this
6:00 a.m- Atkins shake 20 grams protein-120 cals

9:30 a.m 7 oz bag of tuna. salmon or chicken 40-50 grams of pro- 280 kcals

12:00 10-12 oz steak 90 grams pro 950 cals salad (spinach, cucumbers,olives) approx 100 cals (with dressing)

2:30 2 egg whites 14 grams of carbs 180 cals
4:00 work out

5:00 pure pro shake 45 grams pro 200 cals

7:00 chicken breast 80 grams pro 450 cals. salad (same as above 100 cals)

That puts me at about 290 grams of protein, approx 2400 cals. My estimate is less than 50 grams of carbs. I do have a glass of scotch on occasion in the evenings so lets call total cals 2550.

I am currently doing German Body Comp (just started this week) and have been following weights with a 15 min. session of incline treadmill. (I know the high reps are not ideal for a keto diet but i had been on a fairly low reps-heavy as i could go- regimen for awhile and the body comp has actually felt good so far.

I take a good multi first thing in a.m along with a "multi oils" from GNC.
I also take an amino acid supp right before and right after lifting.
I am taking hot-roxx and thinking of stacking with SAN-Tight. If I could point to an "ideal" it would be CT after his "transformation."

I had kind of plateaued from a body and weight standpoint before the holidays-although I did manage to maintain and now I'm wondering if this should "dial" me in. I'm looking for thoughts, suggestions, comments etc.


Well first thing i would do is ditch the:6:00 a.m- Atkins shake 20 grams protein-120 cals....im sure it is low quality(soy) protein,you can replace this with low carb Grow or somthing similar...Also maybe you should look into the T-Dawg 2.0.That diet has very favorable results on this site,and it allows for a "real" post workout shake which will help in atleast holding onto muscle mass...just my 2 cents,good work so far with the cutting,and keep it up


If you haven't had a refeed day, then do so. OR pick up your carb intake a bit over the course of a week, add in HIIT sessions. HIIT can be done via jump rope, rowing machine or eliptical at the gym, sprints (check our CT's "running man" article); even stair running.

My personal opinion would be to just begin to train heavy, ditch the protein shakes in favor of real food and gain LBM. By gaining LBM, it'll enhance your metabolism; which could be sluggish now due to being ketogenic for awhile now.

Also, you should be considering some type of post-workout drink like Surge (or a maltdextin/dextrose combo). THIS will certainly help you in maintaining all-important LBM. As a matter of fact, it sounds like you should be reading some of the nutrition articles here on T-Mag. Here's one about post-workout nutrition: t-mag.com/html/body_141post.html

As for what percentage would be necessary to see your abs? It depends. Yes, you can't be a fat tub-a-lard, but as for HAVING to be at or below 10%? Again, depends. At the rate you're going now, I doubt you will. Why? It seems you're not eating or training to gain LBM and will be stalling in your quest to lose excess BF. This combination will not be conducive to see them abs.

BTW, why do you want to see abs?


Patricia- Thanks for the input, great ideas. Why? Because I'm 41, haven't seen them since I was in 8th grade (I was Jr High wrestling champ at 92 pound weight class--I was a complete stud), think I'm close and if I don't do it now, may never get there again. (I also want to lift heavy weights and get big, rippling muscles).


Hey there!

Congratulations on having the drive to make a change in your body at age 41. I wish there were more people like you out there.

I do have a couple thoughts regarding your post. First, the mind is a powerful tool and it can either be on your side or against you. In a response you mentioned that you may never have the chance to see your abs again so it appears that the way you are thinking is AGAINST you. Try to change your perspective such that you know your abs are there to be shown AT YOUR WILL. If you have the will to bring them out AT ANY AGE it is possible.

As for what to do, I'd recommend a complete diet overhaul. John Berardi has an article on here somewhere about coming off keto diets (can't remember the name, but someone else could probably think of it). You've lost 30lbs, but personally I think you should've expected more from 7 months of keto dieting. Something seems "off". Perhaps think about the T-dawg diet or read "The New Diet Manifesto" for ideas.

Best of luck.


Atkins (or ketogenic diets in general) are good for pure fatloss but I don't think its a really good long-term solution. As Patricia correctly points out, the only way you are going to change the shape of your body is to add muscle.

I am currently on a "cutting diet" which is mostly low-carb/moderate "good" fats like flax and fish oil. My post workout meals however are very high in carbs. Once I got some help and got the post workout shake down (Mine is 45g of high-grade hydrolyzed whey isolate and 115g of dextrose) and wasn't chugging it but rather enjoying it over 15-30 minutes, I can tell its in my system; I get a "Surge". :slight_smile: My next meal is high in protein but is real food and fairly high in clean carbs; no fat. I know that I'm going to maintain my muscle mass on this diet and basically lose all the fat I want to.

The beauty of timing your carb intake is it goes to muscle preservation and energy levels and also if you are working out 4-5 times a week, you find yourself loving your carb meals which keeps you on track (you get 8-10 high carb meals a week). I'm telling you I can hardly wait for my 2nd post-workout meal... the "Surge" is good because its a lot of sugar and tastes really good, but there is nothing like that chicken breast and brown rice afterward.

The other advice about the low-carb Grow (or any high-quality protein) is very good as well. It allows you to get the correct fats in your diet when using the powder in a P+F protocol.

Good luck with your quest to see the abdominals!


Red Beer,

Hows it going .

You are getting some great advice as of yet. When I have a few later this eve. I will see if I can add something.

From the looks of the advice so far I will probably get beat to it.



Ok dude you are eating at regular intervals and getting enough protien.
So now eat more. Like everyone else said change the shake in the morning except I would say add some carbs to it. This will give you more energy for the rest of the day and make your body exspect more carbs. Also like lucid said add some/dextrose to your post workout shake. One more thing concerning diet to gain LBM like pratricia said you should definantly add a meal right before bed, if you are going to bed at 8pm then your 7 oclock meal will be fine but if not then you deffinanly need to add just one more meal.
I did not see the amount of days you were working out a week maybe, I missed that but, how many days do you work out in and how many days do you take inbetween your works.
hope to have been some help


I did some ketogenic diets and had fairly good results. One difference was i used a Cylical Ketogenic Diet which allowed recarbs at the weekends. This allows the body to supersaturate the muscles with glycogen without spillover to fat deposits. This causes an anabolic effect that helps maintain LBM better than the atkins diet and hence keeps your metabolic rate higher.

Managed to get down to ~6% BF from 12% in about 8 weeks. If you want to know more do a search for Lyle Mcdonald's Body Opus.

BUT i didn't like the fatigue nor the restrictive diet. Also when i eventually came off the diet and tried to gain, even while eating fairly clean I had trouble putting on lean mass only, as my body had become insulin insensitive and my metabolism had slowed somewhat.

As the previous posts have suggested, John Berardi and Lonnie Lowery have some good articles on dieting (both are critics of ketogenic diets). I'm trying to lean out at the moment with John Berardi's Don't Diet Diet and i'm having steady results. The big plus for me is that it easy for me to stick to and I don't really feel like I'm starving. My metabolism is being kept high and I haven't loss any LBM. Once I reach my goal I'll change to JB's massive eating and try and gain some mass.

Whatever you decide, good luck.


For someone who's done it (gotten to 6%) I would definitely add in HIIT sessions. You really need to add in aggressive short cardio sessions. Very few people can get away with not doing this when they're trying to get down to single digit bf%. At your bf level right now, I wouldn't do carb refeeds at this point. I would save these when you're already in the single digits and want to go lower. Also, you should take in most of your carbs after your weightlifting session. I went up to close to 100g of carbs/day and still was able to get down to very low bf%. I also did a HIIT almost every day except leg day. I also lifted heavy. Forget high rep work during a cutting session. When I wanted to get low single digits I found that doing 2 short HIIT sessions/day (10-12 min/session) did the trick but that was just me.


Red Beer,

Lose the Atkins shake for some real food or a high quality protein shake.

The first thing I would suggest is to read up on Berardi's articles and the Tdawg 2.0 diet. Many on this site have used this type of aproach with great results.

If you are wanting to get down to the single digits, and not lose to much LBM, you are going to need some carbs. Plain and simple. You are going to have to learn a healthy/beneficial relationship with all types of carbs. Learn how to use each type for what they can do. As a tool for you to use to help you reach your goals.

Also refeeds are going to have to be added in to keep from wrecking your metabolism, give yourself a mental and physical break from the hypocaloric diet, and enhance your gym performance.

A shift from a goal of losing BF and scale weight, to one of gaining/maintaining lbm, and losing bf%.

I would suggest that if you have been strict on this keto diet since Jan. last year that it is time for a little break. Take a week or two eating at maintenence and slowly upping your carbs to around the Tdawg recomendations, 70g on off days and 100 on training days. With most of your carbs coming from veggies and other high fiber low GI sources spread evenly throughout the day. That is except during the Post workout period, when you want to take in those high GI carbs. Again this period of adjustment will allow you time to read up here also and give you time to adjust.

Try and get that metabolism to boost back up. Use this two weeks to refire that metabolism, give your self a mental break, and hopefully build some lbm.

So if you want to stick with the High rep work, do it now, and try to use these extra calories to build some lbm. After that I would suggest the advice that Patricia and the others have mentioned, lifting heavy, or something like ABBH that combines both.

HIIT needs to be your one of your best friends. Check out the cardio round table for some great discussions on this. Your best bet is giong to be adding this in on the mornings to get the full effect of it's fat burning possibilities. Read up on (EPOC).

I would run some #'s for you to go with on the Tdawg diet right now, but they will be way off after you adjust to eating some carbs again. (Another reason for this break/adjustment period.) You are most likely going to put on some scale weight from upping your carbs, and the water weight that comes along with the stored glycogen. A bonus to this will be that the muscle you have as of now will be fuller and more pronounced.

Next, as mentioned, you need to be getting some type of protein and fats befor bed. This is going to help maintain your LBM in your over night fast.

That is all the time I have at the moment. You have got some great advice so far. Take that, and then study up on alll of the sources mentioned and come back with some more questions. Another good source is going to be Shiggy's thread "discipline help" and the Bows "Should I change my diet? a bit long." Both of these are loaded with all kinds of info from the ppl on the forumn about this type of diet.

With all that said if you feel that you dont need a break/carb adjustment period and want to just jump right in, that can be done also. Just need to run some simple #'s. But I would highly recomend slowly upping the carbs first, getting used to the P+C/P+F meal combos, post w/o carbs first, get familiar with Tdawg 2 and other nutrition info over the next few days. Also get a training program planned out, including cardio.

Great job so far,
Come on back to us with more ?'s


Hey, there, RBR!!! Congratulations on your progress thus far.

I actually like Atkins. It's not an optimal program for someone who wants to work out, but it's sure a big step in the right direction, seeing that it does manage/manipulate/control/limit carbs. And unfortunately, as is the case with you, people on Atkins will hit a plateau that they can't seem to get past.

So in the spirit of busting that plateau and helping you achieve your goals, I'll make the following suggestions.

  • Let's start with protein. I want you take in all the protein your body requires, but not one bite or one gram more. At 171 pounds and 15% BF, you have 145 pounds of LBM. 1.5g of protein per pound of LBM is a pretty good number. We could go a little lower, but it's a good number to start with.

1.5g of protein per pound of LBM works out to 217g of protein per day. Recommendation #1 is that you divide that number by 7 (the number of meals I'd like to see you eat) and take in 30g of protein each and every meal. Taking in more protein than your body requires results in a larger insulin response.

The reason I'd like to see you get in a 7th meal is that you're going 11 hours without taking in any protein. Get that "meal" in at 10:00 pm or in the middle of the night when you hit the restroom. Have a pre-made shake sitting in the fridge, waiting for you.

What you were doing is taking in 90g of protein in some meals (more than your body needs and can utilize) and starving your body for protein at other times (the 11 hours between your last meal and your first meal of the day). You can still have your steak, just divide it up into 3 pieces and make 3 meals of it.

  • Let's talk about PWO nutrition next. This is a huge area of opportunity for you and where Atkins and I part ways. Do me a favor and read John Berardi's "Solving the Post Workout Puzzle," Parts I and II. You're talking about a huge change in approach (Atkins to T-Mag), but since you've plateaud and taken things as far as you can, it's time to shake things up and take it to the next higher level. You wouldn't be here and you wouldn't be asking otherwise, right? (grin)

  • Cardio. You're doing some cardio PWO. I don't have a problem with that if you're able to get in and out of the gym in 45 minutes to an hour. That's an hour max for weights and cardio. Much beyond an hour, the negatives outweight the positives. Your body is highly catabolic. Cortisol levels are high, and currently you're doing nothing to increase/promote protein synthesis, nothing to refill muscle glycogen (for your next workout) and nothing to reduce/drop cortisol levels. And cortisol, as I'm sure you know, is the hormone that breaks down muscle into amino acids that can be converted into glucose to feed the brain.

What would be far better is if you break up your cardio and your weight lifting sessions. In other words, do some cardio AM and your weight lifting session PM. That would give your body two separate and distinct metabolic kicks in the butt.

  • Refeeds. This is an area that seems initially to defy logic, but you owe it to yourself to read up on what we call refeeds and cheat meals. In this case, I'd recommend that you search the forums vs. searching the archived articles. It's been discussed extensively, and there are tremendous physiological (and psychological) benefits. When I design diets for people and run the numbers, I include a 6-hour refeed (or cheat meal; call it what you like). Stomach is the limiting factor. No food combining, no counting or weighing. Anything goes.

But all that said, there are a lot of ways to conduct a refeed or cheat meal. There are strategic carb refeeds, with precise numbers you hit, and there are rampage-type refeeds. The period of time in which you're refeeding is highly variable, too. You need to educate yourself in this area, because it's another huge area of opportunity for you.

  • Fat. Here's another area of opportunity for you. You're getting in some saturated fat, but I don't see any EFAs (Essential Fatty Acids) or olive oil. Maybe it's covered in the multi oils from GNC, but a couple of capsules aren't enough to get the job done.

EFAs are essential for health. They're anti-inflammatory. They enhance cognition. And they also make you run hotter; i.e., burn more fat. Fat intake combined should be about .4 to .5g x LBM. 60g per day is a good number for you, but that's fat from all sources. I tend to eat lean cuts of meat so that I can get in my high-performance fats; i.e., flaxseed oil, olive oil, fish oil high in EPA & DHA (really high performance), etc.

  • Alcohol. The problem I have with alcohol is not the calories, even though it's a consideration. It's that it kicks you out of fat burning mode. I'm going to leave this one up to you. But if you were my client and if I were responsible for your progress, we'd definitely have to negotiate this one. (grin)

Okay. Those are my thoughts on your current situation. Have you read Shiggy's and TheBow's threads? Both threads cover in far greater detail my recommendations for dialing in diet, cardio and weights.

Hope this helps. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask!!!


Some really good suggestions so far, especially from TT but i have to disagree with one thing.

  • Alcohol. The problem I have with alcohol is not the calories, even though it's a consideration. It's that it kicks you out of fat burning mode.

It is my understanding that it doesn't, at least not while in ketosis. The problem with alcohol is that it is a very good fuel source to use while in fat-burning mode and the body will preferentially use alcohol as its source of energy. So meanwhile fat burning is put on hold until all the alcohol has been metabolised. So it is just the calories you have to worry about or if it's beer, carbs as well.


There are those exact #'s I was speaking of, and a explaination of each. Yet another great post TT. :slight_smile:

So now you just have a load of preparation, changes, planning, shopping, and above all self education through reading the suggested sources and coming back with some ?'s.

One area that I would also like to stress right quick that TT touched on is the fats that you are taking in. You really need to look into this issue. With the top source being a quality fish oil, so you get your EPA/DHA's.

I would also suggest that you look into MCFA's, from sources like virgin coconut oil, and their ability to give you energy and boost the amount of other fats that your body burns. If you can limit the amount of fats from other sources, the addition of MCFA's can be a great tool, as well as being damn tastey in shakes if you like coconut.

Your other area that is going to have a bevy of choices and approaches is your cardio. Dependent on your goals, time of training, time that you have to allow for cardio, etc.. Form HIIT to fasted state, each method has it's advantages as well as it's fans. This is the other big area that you need to study up on. Between the forumn threads mentioned, and the articles in the Mag, such as, the "cardio round table," you should be able to get a feel for each type. Thye big thing being that you do the cardio, and as TT stated seperating it from your training is going to be your best approach.

Good Luck



I also wanted to add that people are right about the platue and reaching the next level.

I had the same problem. I wasnt able to beat the platue, (in a healthy, non-self detructive way) until I switched from the Atkins approach to the T-mag approach. Atkins has it's place, but needs to be left behind after a certain point for further progression.

It can be a tough mental conversion, adding the carbs back and such. After getting it in your head that carbs are the enemy. Just have faith, and think of the carbs as a tool that is going to get you to your goals faster, and with better results.



If all else fails, you can always move to Biafra.


Thanks everyone for some terrific advice. Consider the Atkins shake ditched and I will do the proper pwo nutrition (carbs and all-egads!)

TT-I think you also have a good point about the steak- either its got get smaller or its got to be eaten in 3 meals.

I've got a decent "before" pic of how my torso looks now. If things change significantly (for the better of course)(grin)(in honor of TT)I will post the before and afters.

Once again, thanks for all of the constructive and substantive suggestions.


You're welcome, RBR. You've done pretty darn good thus far. I think taking things to the next level is just going to involve eating to hit numbers and just a little more precision.

Creed, I'll go check out my facts. You may be right about the ketosis.


The biggest problem I see is you're basically eating all protein. You need way way more fat. Oil to be exact. Fish, flax, olive, peanut butter, etc.


For the record, re the alcohol, creed is dead on the money, and I quote from Lowcarbfriends Low Carb Diet Newbie's FAQ:

"Can I drink alcohol on the diet?

"Here's the problem with all alcoholic beverages, and the reason it is recommended that you refrain from alcohol consumption on the diet: Alcohol, whenever taken in, is the first fuel to burn. While that's going on, your body will not burn fat. This does not stop weight loss, it simply postpones it: since the alcohol does not store as glycogen, you immediately get back into ketosis/lipolysis after the alcohol is used up. Keep in mind that alcohol consumption may increase yeast-related symptoms in some people, and interfere with weight loss. If you must drink alcohol, wine is an acceptable addition to levels beyond the Induction diet. If wine does not suit your taste, straight liquor such as scotch, rye, vodka, and gin would be appropriate, as long as the mixer is sugarless; this means no juice, tonic water, or non-diet soda. Seltzer, diet tonic and diet sodas are appropriate. Please note: if you have added alcohol to your diet and suddenly stop losing weight, it would be wise to discontinue your alcohol intake."

Thanks, creed!!!