T Nation

Need Some Guidance, Starting Over

39 years old, former minor league baseball player, now out of shape dad bod! Haven’t worked out in probably 3 years now. I made a goal to be in the best shape of my life by 40. I want to look lean fit and muscular again, no more dad bod!

I started my changes with getting my diet right about a month and a half ago and then I started lifting again about 3 weeks ago. so far I am down about 20 lbs.

I have been on TRT therapy for a couple years and I just had rt knee surgery so I can’t do any lower body for about 3 months.

My issue is a store most of my fat in my gut (apple shaped body type) I have included photos and my DEXA scan results.

My upper body has always been weak in comparison to my lower so with not being able to so anything lower body for a whiel I want to really focus on cutting fat and doing what I can to grow size and strength in my upper body.

I would love some help on workouts and splits and anything else you guys can provide to help me achieve my goals. I am not looking for quick fixes, I am looking to grind it out and work!

I want to put on a pretty good amount of muscle size, I’d like to look like Jason Momoa, but also have the conditioning and stamina to go out and hike for a day or play a game of basketball, or run around and coach my kids sports.

At this point in my life my goals are aesthetics and healthy living so I do believe a certain level of athletic conditioning is necessary just for good overall health and energy. But I have no desire to run a marathon or even a 5k lol.

I think the first thing you can do to help yourself, and probably receive more guidance from the forum, would be to give us a better idea of where you want to be in a year, and in 5 years. Fitness means different things to different people. So when you say you want to be in the best shape of your life, it can mean a lot of things. Some people say that and then train to run a marathon. Some people take that as wanting to be a competitive athlete, or a bodybuilder.

Are performance goals more important to you, aesthetics, or both? How much do you value strength vs conditioning?

And finally, it would help if you posted what you consider to be an ideal physique TO YOU. It can be performance-based, aesthetics-based, just pick someone, an actor, a celebrity, an athlete, whoever, that you either want to look like or perform like.


Oh, and congrats on beginning this journey! I began my career as a competitive athlete at 30. My ex wife was pregnant with our son, and at that time, I did something similar to what you did. I promised myself I’d never get the dad bod, and that I’d get into the best shape of my life for both my family and for myself. Best decision I ever made.

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Thanks flipcollar for the advice.

So for me it means I want to look like Jason Momoa, but also have the conditioning and stamina to go out and hike for a day or play a game of basketball, or run around and coach my kids sports.

At this point in my life my goals are aesthetics and healthy living so I do believe a certain level of athletic conditioning is necessary just for good overall health and energy. But I have no desire to run a marathon or even a 5k lol.

Thanks for the quality response, that’s exactly what I was looking for.

so this part is easy. Quite honestly, that’s just going to mean committing to being active regularly, doing those sorts of things a few times a week. There’s not really any specific training I would recommend for a modest goal like that. If you’re eating well, and you’re as lean as your physique goal, this part will fall into place.

This is harder, but definitely a reasonable goal. That’s an awesome physique to chase.

The way I would approach this is by attacking your bodyfat first, so you can see what you’re actually working with in terms of muscle mass. You don’t necessarily need to start by dieting down to Momoa-level leanness, but at least to the point where you can clearly see abs.

I’m going to assume that you don’t have any major dietary restrictions since you didn’t mention any. The diet approach that I prefer is the Vertical Diet from Stan Efferding. The basic concept is that you center your diet around quality red meats, white rice, and vegetables, mostly greens. If that sounds tolerable to you, start with that. I don’t believe forum rules allow me to actually link you to the appropriate places to learn about it, but a google search will turn up results pretty easily.

If that doesn’t sound like a diet you could stick to, then let me know and I can recommend other approaches based on your needs.

Nutrition is going to be the most important part of this, but of course workouts matter too. There are just a whole lot of ways to get to the physique you want. If I were you, I would peruse the articles section of TNation and find a workout plan that you think looks appealing. I personally like a lot of Christian Thibadeau’s templates, Wendler’s 5/3/1 programs are great, and Dan John is a favorite. You need to pick a program based on what equipment you have access to, how much time you can devote to the gym, stuff like that.

The most important aspects of training are intensity and consistency. I imagine these will not be a problem for you given your athletic background. So: show up to every workout, even when you don’t feel like it. Keep your nutrition as consistent as possible. And when you’re at the gym, crush your workouts.

Last note: I don’t use many supplements, but I love Plazma from Biotest, sold on this site. It’s a workout drink that is unbelievably useful. I drink a Plazma shake every single time I go to the gym. It’s one of the few supplements out there that I think makes a real impact.


Is it really that much of a game-changer? I’m good with Biotest supplements, I use ZMA, Rez-V, Curcumin and Flameout, but never bit on Plazma. You definitely know what you’re doing training-wise, so I may have to add that to my shopping list next month.

I believe so.

I only buy a couple Biotest products regularly. Plazma and brain candy. 1 brain candy every morning, and Plazma for every training session. I have to really like something to invest in it.

I’ve also used almost every Biotest product that has been produced in the last 10-15 years. I used surge workout fuel for awhile. I think metabolic drive is great. Mag 10 is really good too, but I only used that for a short period of time, as Plazma came out soon after and is more useful in my opinion.

Plazma makes a huge difference in the quality of my workouts. Every now and then I have to pick up a drink like Body Armour from the store if I forget my Plazma at home, and I can tell the difference in my performance every time.

The best implementation of Plazma, for me, has been on competition days. I’ll generally end up mixing up about 6-8 servings to get me through the day. It’s nice because it’s easy to consume to keep my energy high, doesn’t bloat me, etc. The last show I did was the first time in a couple years I’d forgotten my Plazma. I felt like death at the end of the show. I was cramping all over, just feeling like absolute shit. I won’t forget it again.

How many servings do you get out of 1 package? It’s pretty pricey, and I’m wondering how long 1 package would last me, with a 3 days/week training schedule.

Ah diet, so this is hands down the biggest hurdle for me and always has been. I am puerto rican and cuban and I am a foodie. I love food, good tasting food. I’ll spare the long drawn out message about how much I love food lol.

I know food is my kryptonite but i also know how important it is in achieving my goals. The biggest thing for me is I need variety and flavor. I can’t eat the same meal everyday for a week, i’m just not capable of that. I have tried low cab, paleo, keto, low fat, and just good old fashion calorie counting. I really don’t have a problem with any of them as long as I am able to provide my self with variety and balance. I like dairy and I like carbs, I find it easier for me to cut carbs over dairy though. As far as fruits, vegetables and proteins go I will eat whatever, not picky there but again I need variety, I just cant eat grilled chicken and steamed broccoli every day.

Also going back to your first message about goals, I have set a preliminary goal to get down to 10-12% body fat, that is goal #1, once I achieve that, then I will go after my gains.

Most of us fall into eating the same thing because it’s convenient. It’s not necessary and you’re only limited by your intelligence, imagination, and cooking skills.

What were you doing from age 34 to 39? You added over 20 lbs of lean body mass and decreased your body fat % while gaining weight.

If you’re going to count calories then you can multiply your body weight by 11 and start there. I’m currently doing that and it allows me to eat 2500 calories a day. I find myself hungry a lot because I have a big appetite but I’m not dying.

Here’s a recent article about how to put together your nutrition plan.

If you don’t want to change WHAT you eat, your other option is to manage portion control. I eat a lot of food you would probably enjoy, but I do things like when I go out to a restaurant I immediately cut half of all my portions out and box it. At home, I eat out of a bowl or a ‘kid size’ plate. I get the flavor I want, but control my calories within my budget. I also just started tracking my food with the myfitnesspal app, and it’s really helping me manage exactly how much I’m eating. I also eat a large (about 4 cups) raw veggie salad for lunch most days, which helps me stay full. Here’s a breakdown for a couple of my days last week to give you an idea if you could eat like that:

2/20/19 food for today:

Breakfast: Shake = 1 cup whole milk, 1 large egg, 1 scoop quick oats, 1 1/2 scoop protein powder. 1 navel orange.

Lunch: Large salad = spinach, bell pepper, snap peas, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, cucumber, mushrooms, carrots, radishes, onion, olives, 2 tbsp of olive oil, 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar. 1 can of tuna with Frank’s Red Hot. Went heavy on the olive oil on today’s salad.

Snack: 1 small tin of sardines with Franks Red Hot. 1/2 of the last of the gigantic apples.

Dinner: Homemade chicken fajita bowl = chicken breast, bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, guacamole, sour cream, salsa, black beans, corn, cheese. 1 12 oz glass of whole milk.

Bedtime: 1 scoop protein powder with creatine.

Totals for today 2278 calories, 201g protein, 169g carbs, 90g fat.

2/22/19 food for today

Breakfast: Shake = 1 cup whole milk, 1 large egg, 1 scoop quick oats, 1 1/2 scoop protein powder. 1 navel orange.

Lunch: Skipped, driving to Kansas City.

Dinner: J. Gilbert’s Steakhouse: 1/4 of a roasted beet salad. 2 pieces of sourdough bread with about 1 tbsp butter. 1/2 of a rare 18 oz ribeye. 1/2 serving of roasted Brussels sprouts. 1/2 serving of mushrooms with truffle butter. 1 scoop vanilla bean ice cream. 1/2 of a creme brulee. 1 small cafe latte.

Bedtime: 1 scoop protein powder with creatine.

Totals for today 2012 calories, 185g protein, 151g carbs, 86g fat.

you’d have to look at the label, I believe it’s 20ish servings per bag. I only use 1 scoop per workout, so I get a fair bit of mileage out of 1 bag.

Okay, that would get me through a month and a half on my current 3 training days/week schedule, I think that’s worth a try. Thanks.

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well since I didn’t even mention chicken or broccoli, that’s good, lol.

The vertical diet does NOT suggest you eat any chicken. You can, but it’s not necessary. You can eat any cut you want of red meat, and ground meat is also ok. It’s recommended that you use high quality meat (grass fed if possible, wild game is really great too). That should give you quite a bit of variety. You can cook it how you want, season it how you want, whatever. There’s also no limit on variety of vegetables.

The diet is focused on getting high quality protein, high quality fats from that protein source, and easily digestible carbs (the white rice). It is ALSO about getting a full array of micronutrients, which are present when you eat a variety of vegetables and quality red meat. The old bodybuilder diet of chicken and broccoli is the opposite of what this diet is about. Chicken and broccoli lack micronutrient variety, and they lack healthy fats to help with digestion and overall cellular health.

You can’t do this diet if you aren’t willing to minimize dairy intake, though. That’s really the only caveat. You can go very high on carbs with the white rice, you have a ton of options in terms of full meals, but adding a substantial amount of dairy will affect your digestive health, and negatively impact the diet as a whole. It’s also very easy to over-consume dairy, as most dairy products are very high quality.

If you absolutely cannot overcome the need for some dairy in your life, then just set a very low limit, and hit it daily. Maybe 100-150 of your calories every day could come from a dairy source. That way you at least get SOME to fulfill your craving, but it doesn’t have a large overall net impact.

good to hear! please let me know how you feel about it once you’ve gone through your first bag, I’m always curious to hear about other peoples experience.

I would also say that I had a positive experience with it, and if costs weren’t astronomical it would definitely be a part of my regular stack ($70USD + $35USD shipping / 0.75 = $140CAD + $25 Import/Customs Fee = $165/bag (!!!) (this is assuming I just order 1 bag at a time with no discounts (but even saving $50 off of that price makes it too much for my wallet)).

I did not find that it gave me a significant enough of an improvement to my energy or workout capacity vs. another protein/carb source to justify the costs. I haven’t tried adding the Citrulline Malate or L-Citrulline to my current stack to see if that would get me additional results, but costs have kept me from re-ordering the product. $10CAD/lb of whey isolate mixed with some dextrose (super cheap) has seemed to provide me with some decent workouts/results, so for now that is my main pre/intra-workout nutrition.

Not bashing on the product whatsoever, if it was sold locally I’d likely be purchasing it. Our dollar currently sucks and import fees seem to be only going up, so it just doesn’t make financial sense for me to use this product.

Yeah, flip often makes it sound amazing but at £114 inc. shipping for 20 servings, I’d be reticent to buy it even if it was guaranteed to double my deadlift.

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I’m by no means a nutrition/bodybuilding expert, but wouldn’t it be easier if you built muscle while having a good amount of fat first instead of losing fat and so much weight and then trying to work your way back up? Point is, why do you want to lose fat first BEFORE building muscle when they can be done at the same time?

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I’m not solely focused on loosing fat, but i am more concerned with loosing fat then gaining muscle at this time for a few reasons. Overall health, physical appearance and personal confidence being the 3 biggest to me.
I want to get big as well don’t get me wrong but my first goal is to feel better in my skin and feel more healthy too.


I worked out off and on during that time, one of the biggest changes I believe though was finding out I had low test and getting put on TRT by my doctor.

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