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Manual Labor Nutrition: Lean Gainz or Skinny Fat?

So im starting a physically demanding job this week, working at a truss/lumber yard. lots of moving around, swinging hammers, lifting and placing wood pieces for 8 hour shifts 5 days a week.
Ive read conflicting articles on how this can be both beneficial and detrimental to physique, strength and gym performance. Some claim it will make you look flat, fatter and potentially LOSE muscle size, and others say you will get lean as fuck, stronger than ever, and even increase muscle size. This most likely came down to the differences in diet. The guy who got weaker probably wasnt smart with his nutrition.

I wanted to use this job as an opportunity to help me get lean, mean and shredded before summer and I go back to school. With the combination of this added workload along with my regular workout schedule im going to assume that ill need to make some nutrition changes. My protein will remain the same, 1g-1.3g per pound of body weight, I usually have my carbs around 250-300g and fats between 40-50g. Which will be most beneficial to add to my eating plan, more fats, or more carbs? or does it even matter? Maybe just eat more of both.

Obviously im going to be in a deficit, as i dont plan on over eating, but should I worry about muscle loss? If my protein is high, my deficit is not something crazy low, and im continuously lifting, and obviously working a manuel labor job my body SHOULD want to keep the muscle I have or even gasps be inclined to build more??

Any advice is greatly appreciated.

If the job is a physical as you think, I wouldn’t worry about this.

For the 1St week or 2 I’d be inclined to not go overly hard in the gym as you will have less recovery time.

Low volume will be your friend. I prefer to increase intensity but you may prefer to play around with frequency of training bodyparts.

The job is very physical, jumping on and off tables, moving timber, picking up thousands of pieces of wood swinging hammer all day. Nothing is extremely heavy, which is why I would consider it a conditioning workout! So im going to go out on a limb and assume its going to be fantastic for fat burning if my protein and lifting stay consistent.

Yes I was planning on just sticking to a few select exercises which will give me the most bang for my buck. Chins, dips, deads and rows.

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If you have your diet on point with plenty of protein then you are already halfway there. Now you just need to maintain intensity in the gym. That’s the stimulus to hold onto muscle. Just lifting continuously is not enough. You’ll need to maintain workload/intensity in the gym to the best of your abilities.

Dunno exactly what kind of work you’ll be doing but I doubt it’s intense enough to provide the stimulus to hold onto muscle so it might be a stimulus to lose muscle lel. Usually people are forced into cutting while working a physically demanding job and make it work as well as possible. It’s not optimal and probably on the less effective side of things. Oh well you already got the job…

So on the pros side of things it’ll assist in creating a caloric deficit and maybe improve you work capacity and other attributes which can carryover into lifting. On the cons it’ll accumulate stress/fatigue/take up recovery resources away from your actual lifting. If your lifting goes down the shitter because of this you can expect more muscle loss while in a deficit.

Protein is plenty high. Carbs are a fuel source for all kinds of relatively intense activities so I suggest keeping carbs as high as possible while still dropping weight at the desired rate. This way you can maximise gym performance. Watch the scales and how you feel/perform in the gym and adjust accordingly.

Also you will need to maximise your recovery and fatigue management due to all the extra work you’ll be doing outside the gym. Pre much train smart, eat right and sleep loads.

Other than that maybe take it as easy as possible on the job and save it for the gym.

Think Layne Norton has an article “HOW TO BALANCE A PHYSICALLY DEMANDING JOB AND WORKING OUT” over at biolayne. com

Good luck.

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How the Strongmen, powerlifters and weightlifters of the past get strong and still have an income to survive on is beyond me.

I can only assume they were all lawyers and accountants.



I’m probably going to do some construction labouring in Spring & Summer (nice weather tactics!), and one of the aims is to see what effect it’ll have on my strength & physique.

I’m a big believer in the old physical jobs being a large part of good health, especially for men.

I think you’ll get very lean & you’ll develop strength in planes of movement you haven’t used before. You’ll develop more complete strength & muscle development. The physical jobs give you 3 dimensional strength.

How long will you be doing this job? It’s a great experiment ! Take before & after photos, dude.

I’m not trying to be a grumpy old man here, but it’s relatively recent that our only physical activity came in the gym. I was in much better condition (stronger and leaner) when I did physical work all day vs. now when I’m sedentary all day save the ~hour I am in the gym. I know it sounds crazy, but doing more will probably just make you better. You’ll be sore for 10 days, then fine. Just don’t complain/ take a bunch of breaks, or the grumpy old men like me will be mean to you.


I did factory work packing and stacking for a while but I wasn’t in a deficit. I was eating quite a bit. Training was alright probably not so much the work but the less sleep that affected me. Got elbow tendinitis lol but I could still lift fine it was just annoying.

Think of all that submaximal work at your day job as “active recovery”. I actually feel and sleep better in the summers when I have to cut the grass and do a great amount of physical work to help my dad.

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I’ve worked physical jobs on and off since I was a teenager, and I’ve also lifted as able, both during physical labor job periods and during office work. I’ve observed a few effects through the years:

If the work I’m doing doesn’t involve lots of hiking with a pack or bending down to lift heavy things, I quickly lose some leg strength and mass. However, if I squat and lunge, bike, or do similar activities a couple times a week though, I retain strength and size, and the moderate lower body exercise complements my work ability.

Standing, walking, and carrying objects 8 hours a day really does burn more energy than sitting and typing for 8 hours. For the first couple weeks on the job, don’t fear Da Carbz or Da Caloriez. The increased caloric need is especially true if you aren’t accustomed to manual labor. Your body will likely burn more calories, needing food as - you guessed it - fuel for working. As a Bible verse says, “Eat for strength, not drunkenness.”

My strength and muscle mass retention varies by muscle group, depending on the job’s specific tasks. For example, I’ve not worked a job that builds huge pecs, but I have done work that creates mean transverse plane strength (twisting core motion; ever raked gravel uphill for hours at a time? :grin: )

Last observation - your simple routine of 4 key lifts is excellent, particularly when first starting. As you progress, you’ll note what you’re able to do, what you need, and what you can back off from. Some jobs develop strength unevenly, so don’t be afraid to modify your program and teach yourself new skills. For instance, if you can’t hammer ambidextrously, learn how to with your weaker hand. This will decrease joint inflammation and wear while improving your skillset. You may find other exercises helpful in maintaining muscular balance and joint health, like wrist curls/reverse curls, or some abs to support your back k, etc. Listen to your body and use the gym as a corrective tool.

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These threads are hilarious.

Ever actually been on a building site? They’re full of fat, out of shape dudes doing manual labour.

It’s really not going to affect your physique anything like as much as you think it will.

Because they drink half their body weight every night.


Bingo! The dudes knocking back10-12 bud lights are putting down 1450+ cals.

The dudes that just go for broke and hammer down the Captain and Cokes are even worse off.<----Guaranteed to turn you into a bloated pig.

Eat well with a few snacks (peaches, apples, etc.) through out the day to keep your energy levels up. 3:00 or so is the witching hour during the day when most people really need a good shot of caffeine and sugar.

Start strong and stay strong through out the week. If you find yourself dragging ass by Thurs. and Fri. adjust a little upward through out the week until you don’t.