T Nation

New Member - Looking for Guidance

Hey everyone, I’m a 27 year old male who has been fairly skinny my entire life. Recently I’ve been looking through various sites such as this and I noticed that I’ve been gravitating towards Tnation, in particular the forums. I decided to begin a serious attempt to gain muscle and strength. I had messed around with weights for months at a time without any noticable gains in strength or visual improvements for the past year or so.

I began lifting at home 2 months ago in a spare bedroom following the 5/3/1 for hardgainers program I found on this site (which I have questions about).

As of right now I am around 180 lbs and am 6’1" tall. I’ve been trying to gain weight, and have been eating as much and as often as possible while trying to avoid gaining too much fat.

My daily food intake looks like this-

6:30 am
Protein shake (1 1/2 scoop)

8:30 am
Peanut butter sandwich (2 slices whole wheat bread, 2 tbsp natural PB)

10 am
1 cup brown rice
1 cup ground beef

12 pm
1 1/2 cup brown rice
1 1/2 cup ground beef

4 pm
1 cup rice with vegetables and 1 to 1 1/2 cups cottage cheese depending on how hungry I am

Post workout protein shake

7 pm
(An example for dinner, all are similar with meat/protein, vegetable etc)
5 scrambled eggs
Big handful spinach
Onions, tomatoes, jalapenos
Large flour tortilla
3 slices bacon

Before bed
Another peanut butter sandwich

Are there any holes/deficiencies in my diet that I should fix? I have been questioning my fat intake- I have no clue how much or little I should be eating in order to gain lean mass. Also, am I doing myself a disservice by cramming in the majority or my calories and protein in a smaller timeframe in the second half of the day?

I apologize for a long post, just trying to stay ahead of the curve and give as much info I can. I’m pumped to start learning as much as I can and be able to finally grow a bit and not look like a twig.

The easiest way to manage it is to divide your plate up.

1/3 to 1/2 of it a protein source (meat, fish, egg, protein powders, etc)
The rest carbs (rice, potato, pasta, quinoa, etc) and veggies
Drizzle of fat over the top.
(Or some equivalent)

And have it 3-4 times per day.

Then monitor the scale: 1 - 2lbs per month to minimize fat gain.

This allows you to deal with what trips up most diets - a rigid plan that is impossible to stick to when life happens.


My first question is, have you been gaining lean mass? If yes, then that answers most of your questions in that you don’t need to worry. If you aren’t, then you aren’t eating enough (if you’re simply not gaining any weight); or if you’re just getting fatter, then you’re eating too much and/or possibly too much/little of different things. When you eat is way down the list of priorities.

Thanks strongman and markko for the replies. A “diet” is a new concept to me so I appreciate the input. I have definitely noticed that I’m gaining muscle, albeit slowly. As far as weight gain goes, I wouldn’t say it has been a steady increase. I have gained around 5-6 lbs in the past month and a half and have been floating right around 177-180 for the past couple of weeks. I’m assuming weight gain won’t always be steady which is why I’m hesitant to just add in another meal because I think I’m plateuing. Like I said, I’ve never done this before.

Due to the work I do, I have both extremes of tdee and they could be on back to back days ie: programming controls on a computer for 8-10 hrs and the next day putting 600# cast iron boiler sections in place and fitting 3" steel pipe, or somewhere in the middle, being out on service calls with lots of climbing stairs/ladders with tools. This is before I go home and work out. Weekends typically consist of working on the house… tiling floor, drywall, shoveling, yardwork etc.

Should I be eating in surplus on days I sit in front of a computer, and beyond surplus on days that are intense at work and home? Or should I just eat as much as I can whenever I get the chance? Thanks again for the replies

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Strongmangoals- that would definitely make my life easier just having four meals a day portioned out that way. Meal prep is something I’ve been trying to iron out since starting. Trying to figure out how much rice/beef/ vegetables to cook for the week has been difficult to gauge for me, as well as how big a portion should be per meal. Thanks for the tip.

I’ve seen multiple articles stating that you can only “use” about 40g of protein at a time. Anything over that isn’t wasted but it doesn’t get used to right away. I use that to guide me.

It might help you break up your meals if you shoot for 30-40g per meal with 60-80g of carbs as well.

Fat intake can vary from person to person. I’ve seen 85g recommended as the minimum but there are people with great physiques that eat much less.

If you want to come to the dark side and measure and track your food then use something like My Fitness Pal. Start with the recommended macro percentages and adjust the protein up to meet your needs. Drop your fat to make it balance. Start with that and see how you do.

I also eat an even amount regardless of my day. I used to eat more on training days to account for the calories burned but I ended up with really high days and really low days that left me hungry. I don’t like being hungry so I just keep it even every day.

It sounds like you’re on the right track, so you probably don’t need to change anything. Of your weight doesn’t budge for another week or so, eat a bit more.

Awesome, I will try tracking for a few weeks and see exactly where I stand as far as a macro breakdown is concerned. I have done it a few days at a time before just to get an idea, but never religiously.

I’m thinking the best thing for me now would to be slightly increase my intake with one small additional meal, probably early in the morning. I have no problem cramming more food down my gullet per meal, but reading what jmaier wrote about optimal protein intake being around 40g makes me think I could spread it out a bit. I can’t imagine it would do any harm.

Thanks everyone for the input and ideas, I really appreciate it. You’ll be hearing from me with more questions at some point I’m sure.

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