T Nation

Low Carb Weight Loss and Working Out



My first post here - I would like to start a thread that (hopefully) gains the attention of those more experienced and intelligent than I on balancing low-carb diet weight lose effort and working out.

See, I am 42 years old, just over 6 ft, 350lb fat body. Even though I am mordibly obese I am very healthy (knock on wood) in regard to my heart and suffer (as of today) from no illnesses.

I was not always fat. In fact I was a pretty decent athlete and stayed in good shape up to my early 30's when I quit smoking, had kids, and got involved in a caustic relationship. Now, the kids are raised, the soon-to-be-ex-wife is no longer in the picture, and I am left with many years of abuse riding around on my body.

My goal: To methodically obtain a 200lb frame again that is stronger than it has ever been (note: I'd be happy with 225 or so if it was more muscle than flab).

I'm not fooling myself into thinking that I could ever look like many of you on this site - but your dedication, drive, and determination has been a big reason I decided to write this post so I would like to ask for advice on how best to achieve my goal.

I have been on Atkins for the last 3 weeks and have really noticed a difference in my energy levels (going up), my pants are already fitting looser, and I am ready to go back to the gym. What I am missing is a solid workout routine that ensures I'm not wasting my time on useless exercises or the wrong exercises. The internet searches provide more confusion than help.

My plan: Go to the gym for 1.5 hours per day / 5 days per week (weekends rest).

My current strategy: 30 minute cardio warm up. Stretches (as much as a fatboy can stretch) and 'wake up' exercises like jumping jacks and push up (the few I can do now). I can currently bench right at 200lbs at failure (I know, that is a joke to many of you, but I'll get there) and I'm even weaker on squats (very hard exercise for me cause of my stomach/sack of fat). I cycle through the usual curcuit of exercises (e.g. Monday chest and back, Tuesday thighs and calves, Wedneday biceps and shoulders, etc...) and I am needing a solid and reliable weekly regiment that I can perform and work up to.

If anyone has a serious, helpful suggestion (even if it is to tell me to go away to another site)I would greatly appreciate the guidance. If you have a solid workout regiment that I can follow that will let me maximize weight lose AND see gains in strength - please reply back.

I see myself as a large lump of clay (in more ways than one...) and as a work just beginning.

Your comments/advice/suggestions would greatly be appreciated!


Welcome, Bob! You’re at the right site for old fogies. Lots of info on Geritol, Frank Sinatra, Hovarounds . . .

Seriously. Atkins is a good start for healthy weight loss. Tip #1: kick up the protein levels more than suggested, you’ll need it for the workouts.

Observation: at your weight, you’ve got more muscle than you suspect. hauling that body around has been a workout in itself. You’re benching 200 right off the bat - I’ve struggled for years and still can barely make 165. Once you trim up, I think you’ll be very pleasantly surprised with your squatting.


Hello and welcome, as a former fat man myself I and others here will be glad to give advice and encouragement.

First change to a Paleo diet, can work longer and a bit healthier than Atkins (I have done them all). Buy a foam roller it will be your friend and read the mobility sticky at the top of this forum.

Second steady state cardio for you is great but I would split it up a bit for now, do three days of cardio and two days of lifting. Some may argue this point however you cant start out balls to the walls cause you will be to sore and end up giving up. Steady and consistent and remember this is a marathon not a sprint. You are really a beginner and dropping weight is your first concern and diet.

Third getting strong is really important for longevity but you have to get 1 and 2 dialed in first in my opinion. This will get your mind right about diet and exercise, then you start dialing in serious lifting.

You do this for the next 3 months PERIOD no cheating or laying off unless you get an injury and you will see a new beginning.

Then we all can give advice on 5/3/1, boring but big, etc.

Good luck you will get a lot of good advice and nobody is going to run you off.


DJHT speaks good advice


Thanks Bulldog, whenever I had patients that were trying to start back or start period to a exercise program this was always my advice.

How many guys on here have started logs, did it for a few weeks and then never come back? You know why cause they start out trying to do what a lot of guys on here have been doing for years. That is setting up for failure, have to be realistic on this life changing potential.


Hey Bob,

Welcome to 035.

You’ll get lots of great advice here on training, nutrition, recovery, etc so you should be happy you’ve taken the first step.

I think for someone at your weight, given your goal of ‘fat loss’, nutrition is going to be success factor #1, followed by work output (exercise). I’ve done Atkins in the past and know of people who have done Paleo with great success.

One dieting strategy I think is very successful is measured progress and constant evaluation. I am not sure what your diet looked like before you started Atkins so perhaps you could answer that question?

If it wasn’t the cleanest then I think you would have seen results regardless of the diet.

My biggest concern when folks begin a diet is that they go a little extreme with things and leave themselves no room to adjust to constantly make that measured progress.

Cav is correct in that you’ll want to increase protein (say 250g/day over 6 meals) to ensure some muscle gain/retention during the fat loss. If your diet wasn’t clean, the first thing I would do is clean it up and keep carbs in your diet. One effect of a drastic change from an unhealthy diet to a ‘low/no carb’ diet is the lack of energy which usually forces folks to break from the diet/exercise program. I’d maybe suggest 200g carb/day as well, broken out into 75/75/50 over your first three meals (or first two meals + post workout meal on days you lift weights).

Fat content should be around 45g/day spread out over your last 3 meals. A good rule of thumb is to either consume Protein/Carb meals or Protein/Fat meals; avoiding carbs and fats in the same meals. There’s plenty of evidence that proves this works.

Eventually as you begin to lose fat you can make adjustments to lower intake (generally carbs) but it won’t seem as drastic as an Atkins diet.

That’s my .02.

But the key to a successful diet is finding what works for you; both mentally and physically.


Wow thanks all for your comments it is greatly appreciated!

Cav: I am a meat eater anyway, so I am getting plenty of protein (got my Metamucil RIGHT HERE!).
And I can MAX 200, not workout with it. I?m working out at 100, 130, 150, then back down till failure on a normal day.
Worked my chest a little yesterday after my cardio and feeling it today, but in a good way.

DJHT: Don’t know what a foam roller is, but will look it up (and the Paleo diet).
My current plans is to hit the gym Mon-Fri with 30 min cardio per day min before lifting. Is that not a good idea? I thought that for weight lose and general beat myself back into shape cardio was key.
I know as I progress I will want to start confusing and pushing my muscles to maximize development (one of the few things I actually was able to learn surfing the net).

Previous diet: Anything I wanted (pizza, burgers, fries, pastas, candy, EVERYTHING that make a body round)
Current diet: Meats (ranging from T-bones to lean cuts), eggs, salads, green veggies, much water and some diet sodas (Atkins Phase 2 ? eating 3 to 4 times a day)

On the low energy piece: went through that back in week 1 and have recovered and now have more energy (I get antsy now sitting still) than before starting Atkins.
Am taking vitamins, L-Lysine, L-arninine, and L-carnitine.

Would any of you have a suggested workout regiment to help me maximize weight lose (for now)? I have the will and drive, just not organized right now.
Something like:

Warm up
30 minutes cardio (tread mill/elliptical/basketball/etc?)
Big bouncy ball situps w/weights (till failure)
Bench: 4 sets of 8 reps
Inclined Bench: 4 sets of 10 reps
Suicides: 2 sets of 20 (second set till failure)
10 minute cool down walk around the track

Warm up
30 minutes cardio (tread mill/elliptical/basketball/etc?)
Big bouncy ball wall squats: 2 sets of 4 (warm up)
Squats: 4 sets of 4

Once I get a workout regiment figured out, I will close this thread out and start a new one to track my progress (w/pics)

(Side note: I was 365 a month ago and am now down to 350, so I?ve got a good start).


Let me amend my comments, based on DJHT and Ddot.

I’ve done Paleo and it’s been the most effective diet I tried. It’s more strict than Atkins, though, didn’t know if it would prove too much for a beginner. If you have the willpower for Paleo, then go for it. One nice thing, Paleo does keep your belly satisfied.

I also take a protein supplement. It’s egg based, so Paleo compatible.

We’re all in agreement that the published diets are aimed for average sedentary people and you’ll need to kick up protein for workouts. In Paleo terms, that means at least 2 lbs of meat every day, for a big guy like you, make that at least 3 lbs, preferably more.

On Paleo, carbs consist of fruits and veggies. Fruit is the most fattening. The most drastic weight loss program involves dropping fruit and veggies altogether. Not so drastic involves some fruit - an apple, banana and some berries per day. I will defer to DJHT on how severe the diet needs to get at which time.

Oh, and be sure to keep sipping water through the day.

EDIT: Whoops, you snuck in just as I was posting!

Congrats on your current diet, very close to Paleo.

I understand 200 is your max on bench, but to a skinny beginner, 150 is a max. So the figures may seem misleading - you can’t seem to squat much, but since you’re hauling a lot of dead weight with it, you’re stronger than you think. DJHT may be able to help us with what to expect.

Oh, and like your avatar!


Cav: thanks, that is pretty much what I took your suggestions to mean :slight_smile:


Bob I was 305 at my heaviest, I dropped weight with running, bicycle and punching a heavy bag. I did that for 6 straight months and lost 100 pounds with a low carb diet. I then started lifting serious with some steady state cardio on off days. Then moved on from there.

What I was trying to help you avoid is hitting everything at one time, there are very few people that can do this really life changing event.

You have lost 15 pounds that is awesome, and you really sound motivated. We are here to help.

So what type of cardio are you doing?

How many calories a day are you eating?

What time of day are you working out?

What are you doing pre and post workout calories?


DJHT: I am alternating between treadmill and eliptical machines for now. As I get a bit lighter I plan on getting a basketball back in my hands and also hit the local football field for some old fashioned sprints and laps.

On the weight lifting thing: I am not looking to bulk up now, but to find those exercises and lifting that can assist in my burning off the fat and help to get my muscles to wake up again. I realize that there is a difference between weight loss and muscle gain and (at times) the two can be at odds with each other. Again, if you have some workout suggestions I would be really happy to get them from you.

Calories: I don’t know… I have been mainly focusing on carb count and staying away from those foods that I love so much. Question for you, by eliminating carbs I am strictly limiting and focusing my diet to a few food groups. Wouldn’t counting calories be just making it harder to find food to eat? I guess I am a bit confused on that.


Calories: You can lose weight on a snickers bar diet, you may be weak and unhealthy but you will lose weight. You want to lose FAT not any muscle you have. Right now you will be dropping a lot of water weight due to the decrease in Carb intake, but if you are taking in 6000 calories a day of protein and fat your weight loss will plateau. Everyone is different on the amount of calories a day they need to intake to maintain fat loss. Finding your amount takes some trial and error.

Cardio: Solid thoughts and cant argue, throw in the stationary bike in my opinion and if you have access to a rowing machine. So everyday of the week you could do a different machine for cardio, will help prevent breakdown especially for your knees. At your current weight to much treadmill will kill your knees, hell at any weight and the goal is not to become a cardio bunny. You are just trying to drop fat.

Program for Weights: 5 sets of 5: In my opinion is a good place to start, have one big lift a day, like bench or leg press (squats come later). Accessory work to help maintain mobility and small muscle group strength. If you plan on doing 5 days a week cardio and weights should not be hard to do.

Bench 165 X 5 X 5 (Take about 1-2 minutes in between sets)
DB incline 30-40 X 3 X 10-12
Skull crushers/French press 50 X 3 X 10-12

Between the cardio and this work-out should put you about the right time frame. Just a thought. Rule of thumb with the 5 X 5 is that if you can complete the sets and reps then go up in the weight. If it was easy go up 10 pounds if it was kind of hard go up 5.



One question, what do you mean by ‘accessory work’ ?


Sorry should have clarified. Most of us work off the big 4, Bench, Deadlift, Squat and Military Press. Anything other than those are accessory work, like curls, tricep work, croc rows etc.

Most of the meat heads in here have been lifting for a long time and we all look at these 4 as the staple of strength training.

Now if you ask Kanada he will laugh and call us power lifters and say the whole goal of this journey is to build our bodies, (I will not argue this point). However again most of us have an internal drive to make these 4 lifts substantial as our base.

Personally I have done this for years but as of this year have started to work more on my “functional” strength training. Feel free to check out my log would be easier than putting it all down here.

I understand about getting over whelmed with information and where to start, you dont want to be a marathon runner. You dont want to look like you have cancer or AIDS, you want to look like a fucking bull, strong and lean and mean. So dropping the fat, building a base of strength will take you a good solid year. You probably will not be down to 200 pounds, but if we can get you to the 250-260 range you will be a fucking beast.


Diet: DJHT is dead on. You want to lose FAT; the weight part should be a symptom of that. You should also be aware of how many calories you are ingesting though. 1g of Protein or Carbs is 4 calories. 1g of Fat is 9 calories. You can then make caloric/nutrient adjustments based on your progress (drop carbs, etc).

Cardio: I’ve always believed that Cardio is necessary and to make sure you do it, find something YOU are comfortable with. When starting back into it I find an introduction period should consist of medium intensity steady-state cardio (like a stationary bike, treadmill, etc). Once you start to feel better in the gym you can add in HIIT (high intensity interval training) if that suits you.

Weights: DJHT’s suggestion is a great one. You could break that out into 3 or 4 sessions targeting different muscle groups. My advice on weight training is pick a compound free weight movement as the starter (Bench Press, Squat, Deadlift, etc). Because they are free weight, your body has to do more work to complete the movement and thus burns more calories. Machines could be used at the end of sessions once you begin to fatigue. Just my $.02.

From personal experience, if body re composition is the major drive behind the change, and there isn’t a major focus on strength or size, total body sessions REALLY work (read up on some of Chad Waterbury’s programs). I did this back in '07 and made a major body re-composition without a great deal of cardio. Today I am concerned about size (and to some degree strength) so I do way more cardio and am seeing similar if not better results. Different ways to skin a cat.


^ Agree, about the full body. I just worry about breakdown at our age, he is working on body change and life style change. One injury can stop or stall progress for longer than he really can afford. That was why I would not recommend the squats or Dead at this point until he gets a little leaner and better shape. Leg press, bent over rows etc. If he can get down to the low 300’s then we start working on his squat and DL.

What do you think ddot?


Wow all, great advice!

I think I have what I need to form an initial workout schedule for the week.

Let me get the logs set up and then I’ll post my strategy for your comments.

I think you guys are awesome and thanks for the support!


^ hey man I enjoy it and to help another father and old guy is what we are here for. The reason a lot of us put a log on here is for the support and for the commitment. We all look and comment in each other logs so that you will know friends will be looking every day. This keeps you motivated.

Dont give up and keep posting.


Recovery is a huge (major) piece. Absolutely.

As for squats and deadlifts, it’s one of those things where ‘Can the movement be performed?’. Load is a different issue. For strength, I would say leg press is probably the route to go since there’s probably a bigger chance of a greater strength curve on that movement (at least to start). For conditioning, I think squats, regardless of weight are more effective. Could be goblet squats, BW squats, whatever, even walking lunges.

That said I can agree that leg presses might be a good starting point.

I’ve always believed and used an induction phase into anything (whether it’s a new program or new diet). It primes the body.

Bob, you say you are healthy and no illnesses. Any nagging joints?