T Nation

Idealism - What Now?


#1

I am 52 years old, 6'1", weigh 185 pounds and am at about 14% body fat. I would like to get to 10%. I have abs, but would like to be leaner.

I'm confused about where to go from here and am not even sure this is the right forum, but figured I would throw it out there and see what happens.

I have been lifting off and on for thirty years, but have been in the gym pretty serious for the last two years. My diet is okay, but not great. I like to drink a few beers and have a sweet tooth. I lift 3-5 days a week on a three day split, do cardio three or four days a week, and do karate another two or three days a week.

Two years ago I was 215 at 25% bodyfat, so I am making progress, but I feel stalled, and am confused - should I continue trying to cut or should I try to add mass?

I know that muscle burns more calories than fat, and I know that at 52 it will be tough to add LBM, but I am on TRT. My LBM has gone up significantly in the last year on TRT, and I suspect if I just ride it out I might achieve my goals, but I truly wonder whether I should be cutting or clean bulking.

I've been fucking around with FFMI and realize I could potentially get to 170lbs of lbm, about eight more than I am now, and be at 10% BF at 185 pounds, my current weight, but again, wonder if I should cut or build mass.

Most of my friends tell me I am too skinny, and my female colleagues call me manorexic, but they only see me in clothes and don't realize my BMI is borderline overweight.

So, lift and gain, or cut to get to 10% body fat.

Let er rip!


Putting on 10 lbs of Muscle?
#2

[quote] My diet is okay, but not great.
[/quote]

That’s the issue right there. Until you clean up your diet, you will not get leaner. At our age (I’m 53), the diet has to be spot-on to get/stay lean. Absent supplementation well above-and-beyond TRT, you can’t out-train a bad diet.

Want to be leaner? Bite the bullet and diet.


#3

EyeDentist:

Thanks for weighing in, pun intended, appreciate your take. I read your thread a few months ago and was motivated by it so I definitely appreciate your take.

But, to be clear, clean the diet up and go to 180 to get to ten percent or clean the diet up and add another five pounds of lbm and maintain 185?

Even with my beer and candy habit, and they aren’t that out of control, I struggle to eat enough, hit the whey twice a day and casein before bed.

So, diet to 180 or clean the diet up and add lbm to get to 10% at 185? Frankly, I think I would look best at 190 with 172 pounds of lbm but that means adding about ten pounds of lbm, not easy at 52, even on trt, right? I’m not adverse to supplementation beyond TRT.

Or, am I just overthinking it all?


#4

You’re not a beginner and not very young, so “re-composing” for your goal will be very slow or impossible. Ten percent body fat is very lean, so you will have to just cut.

As said, to get to the sort of shape you are speaking of, you will have dial in on your diet, not just use portion control and make good choices. Do you know how many calories you are consuming now? You can still have a beer here and there while getting leaner, so long as you know your total caloric amount.

I’m not into aggressive bulking, but it certainly is more practical to gain muscle with some added fat gain.

You are free to use roids if you want, but using more T than for medical purposes at middle age seems unadvisable to me considering the side effects, particularly a potential prostate problem. But then again, as stated before, I am someone who would never use T above what’s used for TRT if there were not some serious reward for risking my health (fame and fortune). After reading and hearing about god knows how many problems people have because of roid use, I’d never use it just for personal appearance and I’m not convinced there is a “right way to use them”.


#5

Assuming your T levels are in the normal range (and that you’re not a genetic freak along the lines of a Ronnie Coleman), adding 10# of LBM at your/our age would be a daunting, multi-year undertaking, and would likely require the addition of a significant amount of collateral adipose tissue. You would then be in your mid-late 50’s with a lot of fat to lose. Not the way I would go.

Your goals are your own, as is your sense of what is tolerable from a risk/reward perspective. But that said, I am with Brick on this score–if the only benefit is looking better (as opposed to, say, advancing/continuing one’s career as a highly-paid athlete), the risk/reward ratio of supplementation beyond TRT (which while I am not on, I have no problem with, provided the individual is legitimately hypogonadal) is simply not worth it.

Additionally, I would point out that the sort of re-comping you’re talking about (ie, gaining muscle while simultaneously losing fat) would require profound alterations to your hormonal milieu, alterations that would extend well beyond simply pushing your T levels to supranormal levels–we’re talking about taking thyroid meds, clenbuterol, hGH, etc. (I hasten to add, I am no expert on this subject). Very expensive, with poorly-understood ramifications for long-term health, and to what end/goal? And is that goal really worth the risk?

Edited for concision


#6

At your age the additional LBM ‘ship has sailed’. Obstructing the decline is your ideal. Cleaning up the diet until you reach your bodyfat goal and working your ass off to maintain should be your objective. It’s not surrendering; it’s being realistic. FTR I’m working on 53…


#7

Thanks for all the great feedback. Much of it confirmed my own suspicions but reading it makes it more clear for me.

I’m not yet willing to give up on adding LBM but realize that the key is diet, more specifically timing and cycling. I’ve been right around 2500 calories a day but think cycling calories and carbs, and specifically carbs around my workout, is going to help me. The LBM ship may have sailed but I’m still not willing to give up trying.

BTW ED, I reread some of your stuff and that opened my eyes on these points, and have incorporated PB more. We’ll see how it works out.

Thanks again.


#8

Also go zero candy/sugar for a month or two and then just have once a week for a cheat meal


#9

[quote]BlueCollarTr8n wrote:
At your age the additional LBM ‘ship has sailed’. Obstructing the decline is your ideal. Cleaning up the diet until you reach your bodyfat goal and working your ass off to maintain should be your objective. It’s not surrendering; it’s being realistic. FTR I’m working on 53… [/quote]

I absolutely don’t believe this to be true. At 50, and 200#, I’ve added 10# LBM in the last 2 years, without body composition being a goal, working for strength.


#10

[quote]OTHSteve wrote:

[quote]BlueCollarTr8n wrote:
At your age the additional LBM ‘ship has sailed’. Obstructing the decline is your ideal. Cleaning up the diet until you reach your bodyfat goal and working your ass off to maintain should be your objective. It’s not surrendering; it’s being realistic. FTR I’m working on 53… [/quote]

I absolutely don’t believe this to be true. At 50, and 200#, I’ve added 10# LBM in the last 2 years, without body composition being a goal, working for strength.
[/quote]

Right on OTH! Ten pounds of LBM in two years is phenomenal. Personally, I think I can still add LBM, and believe I have in the last two years because I am nowhere near my genetic limit and have TRT supplementation, but I also believe it gets more and more difficult to do as I sneak up on my limits and as I get older.

I struggle to quantify my LBM gains because I have changed methods to determine my BF percentage over the last two years, different scales, calipers, hand held BIA calculators, and I manipulate the scales to reflect what my eye sees. For example, on one scale I am 26 years old because it gives me a reading similar to what my eyes tell me. The other scale doesn’t have an “Athlete” mode so I just subtract three points from it. The calipers are about three points lower than the scales, so I discount that, but I know that I weigh about the same as I did a year ago and that I am much leaner, am wearing 34 inch slacks instead of 36 inch slacks, and I have abs (not a six pack, but abs nonetheless).

I think it can be done, but the points made are valid; it is a lot harder and diet is my issue, specifically learning to cycle.

I’m much like EyeDentist in terms of philosophy. I am adipophobic and that causes me problems getting enough calories to bulk, and I feel the biggest challenge for me is to stay injury free so I tend to go a bit easier in the gym than I could. I figure it’s better to be in the gym lifting at 90 percent of max than to push it and miss time due to injury.

I also do LISS cardio and almost no HIIT to avoid injury (I walk between 18-30 miles weekly). And, for the first time, this week, I am taking a recovery week and actually dropping weight and bodyfat - not much, but some. Of course, it might be the peanut butter and lower carbs. I am also in my fourth week without creatine so it might just be water (back on creatine today).

I do tend to overthink shit, should probably just get in the gym more often and lift like an animal, but I gotta be me.


#11

I’m not adipophobic like you describe, but when I started hitting the gym again in April after a few months off, during which I added a gut, I was definitely not happy with what I saw in the mirror. I don’t eat clean by any means, but I did cut out soda completely, and most other straight sugar foods (I give a pass to donuts and such at work, which used to be hard, but became easy after I trained my gut to not want them.) What I found is, if I eat for strength gains, avoid junk, and work my @$$ off in the gym, my body composition takes care of itself. I haven’t had myself tested in years, but from past experience I’m sitting at 15-17% right now, down from at least 22% back in april, while gaining muscle, eating about 3500 Kcal per day, give or take.

Like you said, though, you gotta do you, and what’s important to me might not be what’s important to you. To me, having just a little bit of cushion around my midsection is a fair trade for having traps, arms and shoulders that are eye-catching, and not being able to button my top button. Back when I was doing Crossfit I was cut down to around 10% at 165#, but my wife prefers me to have some meat on my bones, and when I get a 6-pack she starts accusing me of trying to trade her in for 2 25-year-olds… :P"

Of course, not to try to peddle Crossfit, but you should read Christian Thibaudeau’s article on his Crossfit experience, up on the main page right now. One thing it will do in spades is to improve your body comp, and if you do strength work on top of the WOD’s, you can gain muscle as well. Just a though.


#12

[quote]OTHSteve wrote:
I’m not adipophobic like you describe, but when I started hitting the gym again in April after a few months off, during which I added a gut, I was definitely not happy with what I saw in the mirror. I don’t eat clean by any means, but I did cut out soda completely, and most other straight sugar foods (I give a pass to donuts and such at work, which used to be hard, but became easy after I trained my gut to not want them.) What I found is, if I eat for strength gains, avoid junk, and work my @$$ off in the gym, my body composition takes care of itself. I haven’t had myself tested in years, but from past experience I’m sitting at 15-17% right now, down from at least 22% back in april, while gaining muscle, eating about 3500 Kcal per day, give or take.

Like you said, though, you gotta do you, and what’s important to me might not be what’s important to you. To me, having just a little bit of cushion around my midsection is a fair trade for having traps, arms and shoulders that are eye-catching, and not being able to button my top button. Back when I was doing Crossfit I was cut down to around 10% at 165#, but my wife prefers me to have some meat on my bones, and when I get a 6-pack she starts accusing me of trying to trade her in for 2 25-year-olds… :P"

Of course, not to try to peddle Crossfit, but you should read Christian Thibaudeau’s article on his Crossfit experience, up on the main page right now. One thing it will do in spades is to improve your body comp, and if you do strength work on top of the WOD’s, you can gain muscle as well. Just a though.[/quote]

OTH, thanks for the response, a lot of it resonated with me. My wife accuses me of having a girlfriend because I have abs, but I explain that I have no time for a girlfriend when I am in the gym so often. And, she doesn’t like me at 185 because I am skinnier than she and she thinks it makes her look fat.

I get the mass thing, but am more inclined to be lean. I was at a friend’s house last Summer and in his pool. When I got out he started laughing and I asked why and he said, “Dude, you are fucking ripped.”

Of course, I am not ripped, but the response was welcomed. I do want to add width, like ED talks about, but also want to get to 10 percent, just my gig, not judging.

Thanks for your take. My adipophobia stems from having been a fat bastard in a previous life and not wanting to go down that road again. It also informs my insane desire to get to ten percent. I lost a shitload of weight in college by extreme caloric deficit and think I fucked up my hormones then, now I am paying for it, on TRT and fighting for every ounce of LBM.

Live and learn.


#13

[quote]OTHSteve wrote:

[quote]BlueCollarTr8n wrote:
At your age the additional LBM ‘ship has sailed’. Obstructing the decline is your ideal. Cleaning up the diet until you reach your bodyfat goal and working your ass off to maintain should be your objective. It’s not surrendering; it’s being realistic. FTR I’m working on 53… [/quote]

I absolutely don’t believe this to be true. At 50, and 200#, I’ve added 10# LBM in the last 2 years, without body composition being a goal, working for strength.
[/quote]

I’m calling bullshit here…everybody over estimates the amount of muscle they have when they are not lean.


#14

[quote]OTHSteve wrote:
I haven’t had myself tested in years, but from past experience I’m sitting at 15-17% right now,
[/quote]

…like I said…get into single digits and let’s see how much LBM you have.
**I’m not picking a fight; however I’ve been at this for over thirty years; there are planty of pics & video in my profile. At 15-17% it’s not possible to properly track LBM gains.


#15

[quote]BlueCollarTr8n wrote:

[quote]OTHSteve wrote:
I haven’t had myself tested in years, but from past experience I’m sitting at 15-17% right now,
[/quote]

…like I said…get into single digits and let’s see how much LBM you have.
**I’m not picking a fight; however I’ve been at this for over thirty years; there are planty of pics & video in my profile. At 15-17% it’s not possible to properly track LBM gains.
[/quote]

Ok, that’s a fair challenge, so I’ll tell you what I’m basing my numbers on. Of course I may not be 100% correct, and my guestimates on my BF% could be off, but I think the method I used to arrive at 10# LBM is reasonable.

Back in April 2013, when I had just been working on powerlifting for like a year, I weighed 185# when I blew my left pec tendons and was off the weights completely for the rest of the year.

In January 2014 when I started lifting again, I weighed 200#, with no gain in muscle, probably a loss in fact, and I looked horrible, probably 25% BF but still looked like I had lifted before. going extremely light on bench of course, I started back, and did 5/3/1 for 10 months straight. Starting in December I took 4 months of due to various factors that included my own laziness ultimately.

In April I started lifting again, weighing in at 205# or so, and in May I started back on 5/3/1 again. Now, 8 cycles later, I weigh 200#, with visibly more muscle all around and the same or slightly less BF% that back when I weighed 185%.

I could be off on that, and it’s possible that since I have more muscle, it visibly shows through more and gives the illusion of less bodyfat, but the two have to go somewhat hand in hand, and I am 15# heavier. Plus, that comparison is going back to April 2013, and going back 2 years takes me back to November 2013 after I had been in recovery from having my pectoral tendon reattached in July, and had actually lost muscle. Even if my BF% guesses are off, a comparison of my body 2.5 years ago with my body now is fairly empirical. If my Lean gains over this time wasn’t 10#, it wasn’t far off from it.

Finally, no offense taken for the challenge. Exceptional claims should be challenged. You can go look at my logs over on the training logs page http://tnation.T-Nation.com/free_online_forum/blog_sports_body_training_performance_bodybuilding_log/old_guy_trying_to_get_strong , as well as my previous log on the Crossfit boards, to see that I’m not making these numbers up out of my ass. I wish I had taken pictures from before, but my wife already thinks I’m egotistical as it is, and if I was taking selfies or asking her to take pictures of me flexing, she’d really think I was out trying to hook up with younger women. Maybe I’ll start doing videos of workouts and getting her to record, that might seem innocuous enough to her, she’ll just think I have a big head, not that I’m trying to cheat on her…


#16

[quote]OTHSteve wrote:
At 50, and 200#, I’ve added 10# LBM in the last 2 years, without body composition being a goal, working for strength.
[/quote]

O.K. I think I follow your reasoning. A couple of years ago you weighed 165 lbs. at 10% BF (148.5L/16.5F). Currently you weigh 200 lbs. and estimate about 20% BF (158.5L/41.5F). That seems plausible. IMO…the real question is if you leaned-out back to 10% BF would you weigh 176 lbs (158.4/17.6F)…I took a look at your log. Very respectable work being done indeed!


#17

[quote]BlueCollarTr8n wrote:
At your age the additional LBM ‘ship has sailed’. Obstructing the decline is your ideal. Cleaning up the diet until you reach your bodyfat goal and working your ass off to maintain should be your objective. It’s not surrendering; it’s being realistic. FTR I’m working on 53… [/quote]

You and EyeDentist are uninvited to the TN Christmas brunch. :wink:

Agree. I’m 46, and if I work my booty off and eat right I have a better chance of … wait for it… maintaining. It’s realistic, it’s just very hard to get excited about maintenance. Awhile back I asked Stu if he thought I could have gained 3 lbs of muscle over a two year period, and… well, the answer wasn’t very optimistic.

edited


#18

[quote]Powerpuff wrote:

[quote]BlueCollarTr8n wrote:
At your age the additional LBM ‘ship has sailed’. Obstructing the decline is your ideal. Cleaning up the diet until you reach your bodyfat goal and working your ass off to maintain should be your objective. It’s not surrendering; it’s being realistic. FTR I’m working on 53… [/quote]

You and EyeDentist are uninvited to the TN Christmas brunch. :wink:

Agree. I’m 46, and if I work my booty off and eat right I have a better chance of … wait for it… maintaining. It’s realistic, it’s just very hard to get excited about maintenance. Awhile back I asked Stu if he thought I could have gained 3 lbs of muscle over a two year period, and… well, the answer wasn’t very optimistic.

edited [/quote]

Take a gander around you at the people your age who are not maintaining, and you will find yourself feeling a lot more excited about it. (Excited enough to get me back on the brunch guest list? Only time will tell, I suppose.)


#19

[quote]EyeDentist wrote:

[quote]Powerpuff wrote:

[quote]BlueCollarTr8n wrote:
At your age the additional LBM ‘ship has sailed’. Obstructing the decline is your ideal. Cleaning up the diet until you reach your bodyfat goal and working your ass off to maintain should be your objective. It’s not surrendering; it’s being realistic. FTR I’m working on 53… [/quote]

You and EyeDentist are uninvited to the TN Christmas brunch. :wink:

Agree. I’m 46, and if I work my booty off and eat right I have a better chance of … wait for it… maintaining. It’s realistic, it’s just very hard to get excited about maintenance. Awhile back I asked Stu if he thought I could have gained 3 lbs of muscle over a two year period, and… well, the answer wasn’t very optimistic.

edited [/quote]

Take a gander around you at the people your age who are not maintaining, and you will find yourself feeling a lot more excited about it. (Excited enough to get me back on the brunch guest list? Only time will tell, I suppose.)
[/quote]

True. Mostly I’m fine with it because I really enjoy my training. If I didn’t, it would be a lot harder. And truthfully, I’m really happy with where I’m at. Maintaining as best I can is good.

About things that are a downer, there was another thread recently about strength gains. People were talking about how newbie gains are often more about learning to recruit the muscles you already have. We all know that, but it’s less fun to think that I might be better at my bench or pullups this fall because I’ve just become more skilled at them over time.

As for brunch, if you guys are cutting, or maintaining on much less food than you’d really like to eat, then I guess it’s back on. :slight_smile:


#20

[quote]BlueCollarTr8n wrote:

[quote]OTHSteve wrote:
At 50, and 200#, I’ve added 10# LBM in the last 2 years, without body composition being a goal, working for strength.
[/quote]

O.K. I think I follow your reasoning. A couple of years ago you weighed 165 lbs. at 10% BF (148.5L/16.5F). Currently you weigh 200 lbs. and estimate about 20% BF (158.5L/41.5F). That seems plausible. IMO…the real question is if you leaned-out back to 10% BF would you weigh 176 lbs (158.4/17.6F)…I took a look at your log. Very respectable work being done indeed!
[/quote]

Thanks, Bluecollar, I appreciate it. As far as where I’d be leaned out, that’s a good question, but I’m not going to find out anytime real soon. I am basically training and eating like I was 20 years younger, and so far it’s working for me, but I’m realistic enough to realize that there is a limit to what I can gain naturally, and I want to come as close as possible while I still can, and the clock is ticking. Once the gains stop coming, I’ll consider cutting back on the BF% and see where I level out at. Before that happens, though, I want a 315 bench, a 225 overhead press, and a 500 squat and deadlift, and those won’t happen by cutting. I’m nothing if not overly ambitious :P"