T Nation

I am Confused!


#1

Hi,

I'm so confused about diet and supplementation and what my requirements are.

GENERAL INFO

Iâ??m a 41 year old woman. 5ft 4in (166.4cm). My weight is currently 69.5kg. I had a baseline DEXA scan 2 weeks ago. It said my %BF is 39 (devastated â?? I guestimated 35%).

It said my lean body mass was 40.5kg â?? 58.4% It said my BMR is 1,257 calories per day

The goal: I do not care what number it is when I step on the scales. What I care about is %BF and %LBM. The goal is to get to 25% BF. Iâ??d like to increase my muscle mass so I both look like I train, but also look sexy in a dress as well.

EXERCISE â?? GENERAL ROUTINE

On Monday I do Alwyn Cosgroveâ??s evil 8 barbell complex with a 20kg bar on a 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 pyramid set structure (I increase the weight to 25kg on the 3, 2, 1 sets). I take a 60second rest between sets. As a sidenote â?? Iâ??ve been doing this complex for a while now â?? and if it werenâ??t for this exercise my DEXA scan would be even worse than it was 2 weeks ago!!

Sometimes Iâ??ll also do a round of HIIT on the treadmill after the complex - anywhere between 3 up to 10 rounds of 30sec on and 1min 50 sec off at 14.5k/hr. Iâ??ll also try and do some floor work â?? lying leg raises, hip bridges and supermans.

On Tuesday and Thursday I do a weight/resistance training/metabolic workout with a PT.

On Wednesday I do a weightlifting class, and when that finishes Iâ??ll revert back to private weightlifting with my trainer

On Fridayâ??s Iâ??ll do the same as Monday, or Iâ??ll only do HIIT on the treadmill, but at least for 7 rounds â?? and no more than 10.

DIET - GENERALLY

Breakfast is usually steak and eggs with 2 kiwifruit. Lunch is chicken, or hot smoked salmon, or steak again, with steamed veg drizzled with EVOO and lemon juice. Dinner is whatever Iâ??ve got going for the kids, except I do not eat white potato, pasta, and I never eat bread.

I snack on fruit, carrots, biltong, nuts and full fat greek yoghurt (unsweetened) and sometimes thin rice cakes. I take no sugar or milk in my coffee.

My weakness tends to be on the weekends (as with most people), but I do try and moderate myself. And when I do cave in itâ??s for things like ice cream, pizza and chocolate.

QUESTIONS:

Iâ??m confused about how many calories to consume. Iâ??ve read everywhere that I need a calorie deficit, and every calculator Iâ??ve done gives me a figure of between 1,400 and 1,500 calories per day for fat loss. My PT keeps telling me itâ??s actually too low and I should just eat when Iâ??m hungry, but focus on the quality of my foods. Whatâ??s right here?

Supplementation confuses me as well. My workouts are pretty high intensity these days as Iâ??m getting better form and better work rate, and lately thereâ??s not enough fuel in the tank anymore. I understand that I need proper peri-workout nutrition, but thereâ??s so much information out there, and alot of it contradictory that it sends me crazy. What would be appropriate supplementation for me, given my goals and current routine?

I apologise for such an in-depth post but I wanted to give you a complete picture so the responses can be equally complete and targeted.

Thanks so much!


#2

Hello,

first thing’s first, relax! I was exactly in your position about 6 weeks ago.

Second, forget about online calculators. Most of them are unreliable and add some kind of arbitrary activity multipliers (which are often way too high). Also, they don’t take into account most of your daily activies (taking the stairs, walking around a parking lot, etc.).

The BEST way to determine how to calibrate your own diet, is to LOG your food for a week. Open up a free account at MyFitnessPal and log in everything you eat. This will give you a BASELINE from which you can make caloric adjustments.

Stop the calculation insanity!

You are probably undereating for all the activities and workouts you do. Your diet sounds ok in the protein department. If anything, you probably need more carbs to fuel all your workouts.

If your strength is improving, your protein is OK. If you feel sluggish and have low energy, you need more carbs. You don’t need more than 10-15% of your calories from healthy fats per day.

Oats, rice, bananas and such are good sources of carbs.

Forget supplements, most of them are a waste of money. Buy a good-tasting hi-quality protein powder, and maybe some creatine for overall health, performance, and lean mass(5g a day is enough).

Check out this article about a firefighter’s transformation. He was underfeeding and instead of reducing his calories he bumped them up (with carbs) to fuel his workouts.

Even if carbs are not the answer, you still need to figure out what you’re eating right now, so you can make the appropiate adjustments.


#3

[quote]MeanderingGirl wrote:

My weakness tends to be on the weekends (as with most people), but I do try and moderate myself. And when I do cave in itâ??s for things like ice cream, pizza and chocolate.

[/quote]

1/2 the problem right there. Over 40 this will hit you hard. Plan refeeds/high (clean)carb meals on the weekend to mitigate the cravings


#4

Hello,

Thank you for your responses.

I should have been a bit more clear…due to all these calculators telling me I should be consuming between 1400 and 1500cal/day, I’ve been logging - to the gram - what I’ve been eating for the last 3 months, careful not to go over that threshold…I’m a bit over it to be honest.

As for the pizza or other bits and bobs…that’s usually once or twice a month…not every week - but I agree that these things should be planned and properly accounted for.

Thanks again.


#5

How long have you been following the training program and diet described in your original post and what changes have you seen in that time? Also, since you’ve been tracking for the past couple months, what were your calories and macros coming out to?


#6

[quote]MeanderingGirl wrote:
I’ve been logging - to the gram - what I’ve been eating for the last 3 months, careful not to go over that threshold…I’m a bit over it to be honest.[/quote]

This actually puts you in a great position to start upping your calories. You know exactly what you’ve been eating so you can start adding a couple of hundred calories per week. If you do it right you won’t put any weight on for a while as your metabolism will see the small increase as a green light to speed up. You’ll be able to continue like this until you notice your weight goes up, then you know you’ve found your maintenance cals.

It’s counter-intuitive but it works, like in Keki’s example of the fireman. Personally, I’m a 6’4" man and earlier this year I was stagnating with an intake of 2500 cals/day. I now eat about 1000 cals/day more and I’m losing bodyfat.

Maybe someone can explain in better than me!

Related: https://www.T-Nation.com/diet-fat-loss/g-flux-redux

“And trust me, it’s very possible. I have 105-pound figure girls (drug-free, mind you) who are still losing fat on 1,800 calories a day. They’re simply exercising enough to ensure fat loss at this intake level.”


#7

[quote]TrevorLPT wrote:
How long have you been following the training program and diet described in your original post and what changes have you seen in that time? Also, since you’ve been tracking for the past couple months, what were your calories and macros coming out to? [/quote]

Hi Trevor,

The training as outlined originally - I’ve been doing that for just short on 3 months. The scales haven’t moved one bit…but I can say that my body comp has changed some. I can see that my hips have slimmed down a little and I definately carry more definition in my arms and around my knees, and my butt has rounded and lifted, but my mum-tum is freaking stubborn and persists! lol. I can say with certainty that I’m stronger.

I have been counting calories consistently and operated on the basis that if something didn’t fit in in my calorie allocation - I wouldn’t eat it…I was not focused on macros at all…whilst they were automatically tracked within my app, I paid no attention to them, so can’t answer your question about macros. Sorry. I am now paying more attention to my protein consumption and ensure that I’m having some type of protein at every meal. My trainer recently told me I need to earn my carbs, so I’m mindful of that also.

I’m definately missing something…but I just don’t know what!


#8

[quote]Diddy Ryder wrote:

[quote]MeanderingGirl wrote:
I’ve been logging - to the gram - what I’ve been eating for the last 3 months, careful not to go over that threshold…I’m a bit over it to be honest.[/quote]

This actually puts you in a great position to start upping your calories. You know exactly what you’ve been eating so you can start adding a couple of hundred calories per week. If you do it right you won’t put any weight on for a while as your metabolism will see the small increase as a green light to speed up. You’ll be able to continue like this until you notice your weight goes up, then you know you’ve found your maintenance cals.

It’s counter-intuitive but it works, like in Keki’s example of the fireman. Personally, I’m a 6’4" man and earlier this year I was stagnating with an intake of 2500 cals/day. I now eat about 1000 cals/day more and I’m losing bodyfat.

Maybe someone can explain in better than me!

Related: https://www.T-Nation.com/diet-fat-loss/g-flux-redux

“And trust me, it’s very possible. I have 105-pound figure girls (drug-free, mind you) who are still losing fat on 1,800 calories a day. They’re simply exercising enough to ensure fat loss at this intake level.”[/quote]

Hi Diddy Ryder,

When I went for my DEXA Scan a few weeks ago, they gave me a eating plan…just weights of foods and a choice of different proteins and veg and/or rice. When I asked them about the calorie content they refused to give it to me, but told me that it contained all the macros that I’ll need to drop down to 25%BF, but I will require a new plan after 6 weeks due to the changes in my composition. Fair enough - that makes perfect sense I thought. I went home and through my calorie counter app inputted all their meals, and it came in at 1,200 calories per day. That’s less than my RMR. That’s what started me on this path of utter confusion.

Thank you for the link to the article - it’s a very interesting read.


#9

[quote]MeanderingGirl wrote:

[quote]TrevorLPT wrote:
How long have you been following the training program and diet described in your original post and what changes have you seen in that time? Also, since you’ve been tracking for the past couple months, what were your calories and macros coming out to? [/quote]

Hi Trevor,

The training as outlined originally - I’ve been doing that for just short on 3 months. The scales haven’t moved one bit…but I can say that my body comp has changed some. I can see that my hips have slimmed down a little and I definately carry more definition in my arms and around my knees, and my butt has rounded and lifted, but my mum-tum is freaking stubborn and persists! lol. I can say with certainty that I’m stronger.

I have been counting calories consistently and operated on the basis that if something didn’t fit in in my calorie allocation - I wouldn’t eat it…I was not focused on macros at all…whilst they were automatically tracked within my app, I paid no attention to them, so can’t answer your question about macros. Sorry. I am now paying more attention to my protein consumption and ensure that I’m having some type of protein at every meal. My trainer recently told me I need to earn my carbs, so I’m mindful of that also.

I’m definately missing something…but I just don’t know what!
[/quote]

First off, congratulations on your progress. It may not be everything that you wanted/ expected, but many people spin their wheels and make no positive improvements at all. Also, 3 months is not a huge amount of time, so keep that in perspective before getting down on yourself.

If you’re going to keep tracking your food, I STRONGLY suggest tracking your macros vs just your calories. In fact, I would say that it is probably better to not track your calories at all and just follow some general eating guidelines (protein at every meal, mostly whole foods, lots of vegetables, eat when hungry, etc.) than to only look at calories. I feel that tracking macros, however, is probably better than either approach.

There are a million approaches to setting your “baseline” macros, but honestly if you’re getting at least 0.8 - 1 grams per lb of bodyweight of protein, a decent amount of fat (maybe 30-40 grams for you) and some carbs, you’ll probably be fine. From there, you can adjust by subtracting or adding carbs and fat as needed. Remember that each gram of protein and carbs contain 4 calories and each gram of fat contains 9 calories, so if you know your macros you automatically also know your calories. On apps like myfitnesspal, the calorie number displayed may or may not match what you would expect it to by looking at your macros. This is fine – just look at the macros.

All this said, I suspect that after dialing in your macros you will find that you need more calories (from carbs, probably) to support your activity level. And remember, if all of this turns out to be too daunting for you, you can absolutely make progress without counting or measuring everything, assuming you follow some general guidelines and are mindful about what you’re eating. Find the approach that works for you. Sustainability is the name of the game here.

Best of luck.


#10

[quote]MeanderingGirl wrote:

DIET - GENERALLY

Breakfast is usually steak and eggs with 2 kiwifruit.

I snack on fruit, carrots, biltong, nuts and full fat greek yoghurt (unsweetened) and sometimes thin rice cakes. I take no sugar or milk in my coffee.

[/quote]

Something to be aware of: Be very careful of your fruit intake. A lot of people don’t realize that fruit sugar is most easily converted into fat. You can have a calorie deficit and if you are eating too much fruit, you will have a difficult time losing bodyfat. I tell my clients to limit their fruit intake to 1 fruit a day if they are trying to lose bodyfat.


#11

[quote]Babypowerlifter wrote:
Something to be aware of: Be very careful of your fruit intake. A lot of people don’t realize that fruit sugar is most easily converted into fat. You can have a calorie deficit and if you are eating too much fruit, you will have a difficult time losing bodyfat. I tell my clients to limit their fruit intake to 1 fruit a day if they are trying to lose bodyfat.
[/quote]

While I’ve often heard this repeated in fitness circles, I’m
not convinced. In a fixed caloric setting, that statement
implies that fruit either decreases TDEE or ramps up
gluconeogenesis, and neither seem particularly likely to
me. Luckily, this has been studied (a small sample):

Effects of two energy-restricted diets containing different fruit amounts on body weight loss and macronutrient oxidation

Metabolic and behavioral effects of a high-sucrose diet during weight loss

This article is probably a good overview of the scientific
literature to date:


#12

I don’t get how this forum still says that fructose from fruit has to be avoided. It’s not high fructose corn syrup, I have never seen a conclusion to that, and lots of people eat a ton of fruits a day and are perfectly fine.
Nothing personal but this seems weird to believe in this. Will always appreciate reading opposite constructed inputs


#13

[quote]sctb wrote:

[quote]Babypowerlifter wrote:
Something to be aware of: Be very careful of your fruit intake. A lot of people don’t realize that fruit sugar is most easily converted into fat. You can have a calorie deficit and if you are eating too much fruit, you will have a difficult time losing bodyfat. I tell my clients to limit their fruit intake to 1 fruit a day if they are trying to lose bodyfat.
[/quote]

While I’ve often heard this repeated in fitness circles, I’m
not convinced. In a fixed caloric setting, that statement
implies that fruit either decreases TDEE or ramps up
gluconeogenesis, and neither seem particularly likely to
me. Luckily, this has been studied (a small sample):

Effects of two energy-restricted diets containing different fruit amounts on body weight loss and macronutrient oxidation

Metabolic and behavioral effects of a high-sucrose diet during weight loss

This article is probably a good overview of the scientific
literature to date:

http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2012/02/is-sugar-fattening.html[/quote]

I am curious where you came up with the increase in gluconeogenesis statement. I am not correlating where fructose’s propensity to convert to TG’s results in a ramp up of gluconeogenesis.

From what I can gather, the issue with excess fructose is that most cells have inadequate amounts of GLUT5 proteins to transport fructose within cells. The liver is capable of doing this and thus does so readily. However, with excess fructose, a limited capacity of cells to utilize it, and a limited capacity of storage, the liver is forced to convert fructose to TG’s. Further compounding that, is the fructose metabolic pathway to TGs is simpler than that of glucose to TGs. Taking all of that into account you end up with a sugar that converts quite easily into fat.

I think you would have to be eating a large amount of fruit for this to become an issue though, and is most likely a moot point if you are just eating whole fruit.


#14

[quote]sctb wrote:

[quote]Babypowerlifter wrote:
Something to be aware of: Be very careful of your fruit intake. A lot of people don’t realize that fruit sugar is most easily converted into fat. You can have a calorie deficit and if you are eating too much fruit, you will have a difficult time losing bodyfat. I tell my clients to limit their fruit intake to 1 fruit a day if they are trying to lose bodyfat.
[/quote]

While I’ve often heard this repeated in fitness circles, I’m
not convinced. In a fixed caloric setting, that statement
implies that fruit either decreases TDEE or ramps up
gluconeogenesis, and neither seem particularly likely to
me. Luckily, this has been studied (a small sample):

Effects of two energy-restricted diets containing different fruit amounts on body weight loss and macronutrient oxidation

Metabolic and behavioral effects of a high-sucrose diet during weight loss

This article is probably a good overview of the scientific
literature to date:

http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2012/02/is-sugar-fattening.html[/quote]

I found some other studies that show a damaging effect of having a high fructose diet. Disclaimer: I am not a scientist nor do I have a scientific background so I might be missing something entirely. From what I can tell though, eating small amounts of fruit is probably fine, I just wouldn’t make it a major part of your diet. I have seen in myself and others people who juice fruits or eat them regularly as snacks and they usually have a hard time losing bodyfat and can’t figure out why because they think that fruit is “so healthy.” It’s still sugar. There’s fiber there, but your body still processes it as sugar.

Rat offspring fed high fructose diet are at risk of developing metabolic syndrome later in life.

In rats, HFr consumption for 6 wk caused dyslipidemia, insulin resistance, reduced plasma adiponectin, adiposity, and adipose tissue inflammation.

Adiponectin resistance and proinflammatory changes in the visceral adipose tissue induced by fructose consumption via ketohexokinase-dependent pathway.


#15

[quote]schanz_05 wrote:
I am curious where you came up with the increase in gluconeogenesis statement. I am not correlating where fructose’s propensity to convert to TG’s results in a ramp up of gluconeogenesis.

From what I can gather, the issue with excess fructose is that most cells have inadequate amounts of GLUT5 proteins to transport fructose within cells. The liver is capable of doing this and thus does so readily. However, with excess fructose, a limited capacity of cells to utilize it, and a limited capacity of storage, the liver is forced to convert fructose to TG’s. Further compounding that, is the fructose metabolic pathway to TGs is simpler than that of glucose to TGs. Taking all of that into account you end up with a sugar that converts quite easily into fat.

I think you would have to be eating a large amount of fruit for this to become an issue though, and is most likely a moot point if you are just eating whole fruit. [/quote]

Ah yes, I certainly wasn’t clear. My objection isn’t to fructose
being converted to triglycerides, but that this fact would lead
to a net reduction in fat metabolism in a caloric deficit, which
I feel is the salient (and not bought by yours truly) claim. This
needs a mechanism such as decreased TDEE or metabolic
preference of lean tissue over stored and circulating TGs and
FFAs.


#16

[quote]Babypowerlifter wrote:

I found some other studies that show a damaging effect of having a high fructose diet. Disclaimer: I am not a scientist nor do I have a scientific background so I might be missing something entirely. From what I can tell though, eating small amounts of fruit is probably fine, I just wouldn’t make it a major part of your diet. I have seen in myself and others people who juice fruits or eat them regularly as snacks and they usually have a hard time losing bodyfat and can’t figure out why because they think that fruit is “so healthy.” It’s still sugar. There’s fiber there, but your body still processes it as sugar.

Rat offspring fed high fructose diet are at risk of developing metabolic syndrome later in life.

In rats, HFr consumption for 6 wk caused dyslipidemia, insulin resistance, reduced plasma adiponectin, adiposity, and adipose tissue inflammation.

Adiponectin resistance and proinflammatory changes in the visceral adipose tissue induced by fructose consumption via ketohexokinase-dependent pathway.


[/quote]

Thanks for the links! You’re right that fructose metabolism is
implicated in some unpleasant pathologies, but it’s not at all
easy to get there. In this study that you linked:

they induced metabolic syndrome in the mice by giving them
ad-libitum drinking water at 30% fructose concentration. They
found from a previous study of theirs that a lesser concentration
does not induce MetS in a reasonable amount of time.

Even though 30% fructose in drinking water is insane, I think
we agree that sucrose-sweetened liquids are not ideal in the
context of an ad-libitum diet, or even in a calorie-controlled one:
it won’t necessary slow weight loss, but it will increase hunger
due to low satiety. I think you’re quite right to advise your clients
against fruit juice, and even some whole fruits that offer relatively
low satiety, like bananas, when there are better alternatives such
as oatmeal and potatoes.


#17

Hi folks,

I’ve been bogged down with work so haven’t had the opportunity to respond at all.

I wanted to thank you all for your input to my query.

A quick update…I’ve decided to not count anything!

I have no idea how many calories I’m consuming - but I figure it’s more than the 1500 I was previously consuming because sometimes I’m just ravenous. I’m not counting macros either but I have upped my protein consumption by including protein supplement after each training session and included a little more during my meals at each meal, and I’ve left my carbs at current consumption; ie: just vege and fruit (usually 1 and sometimes 2 small per day).

At some point I will probably need to start tracking again, but I will be paying far more attention to macros instead of calorie (thanks Trevor).

I’ve also started sipping on BCAA’s mixed with a half serve of carbohydrate (dextrose) during my training sessions and I’ve found that my training is hugely more productive; I’m getting heaps more work done and working with much more intensity which I love. I feel like i’m bursting with energy at the gym.

I’ve completely eliminated all processed foods so zero pizza, zero icecream - which were my 2 weaknesses. And you know I don’t even miss or crave them. I’ll give them to my kids and husband but I simply don’t require them. Everything I’m eating now was once alive and is in it’s most natural form and I simply don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything at all.

I read a fantastic article - on here somewhere I think - and there was one line that said “a slice of pizza doesn’t force itself into your mouth” or something like that…and it was kind of like an epiphany…

That g-flux article posted by Diddy Ryder above was a brilliant read and also helped square things out in my mind - thank you…

So, good news is I stepped on scales this morning and it’s moved by 3kg since my original post - so I’m quite pleased indeed. I did say that I don’t care about the number on the scales - and this remains true, however it’s my only indicator of progress in between DEXA scans. Trainer gave me hell for not listening to him in the first place about calories, but he’s also very pleased that the definition in my legs and arms is displaying quite nicely now.

Thankyou folks; I’ve really appreciated your collective input.


#18

Great news!

FYI Get off the dextrose(a junk carb) and replace with Plazma depending on budget, even a half scoop makes a significant difference and you will start to lean you out even faster.