T Nation

Nutrition and General Confusion


#1

Guys, I need your help ...

Ok my situation:
I have been training seriously for a little less than 2 years. I am 21, 74 Kg and 174cm tall. Around 18% BF if I had to guess.
I have been doing 5/3/1 the whole time.

1RM 10.2013:
DL ~105KG BP~65 Squat~75

1RM 04.2015
DL~150 BP~90 Squat ~125

So I used to be quite happy with this, but lately I have been wanting to do everything at once. Get stronger and lose fat while gaining muscle...
I only have 6 more weeks to train before I will be traveling for 2 months (3 weeks of which will be hiking (Annapurna Circuit) and one I am expecting to be hard labor (volunteering in Nepal).

This somehow fucks with my head I kind of started thinking that all the strength I gain now will be lost (which I realize is completely stupid) and I decided to lose some weight instead.

So I started with the following 2 weeks ago:
Fasting (some nuts and peanut butter during the day) till around 5-7 (until after the workout) with eating roughly 2250 Kcal a day. I honestly love it during the day, but it makes the workouts soo weak.

The workouts were so shitty that I even stopped writing them down. Deadlift went down to something like 120*3 (from 120*10 a few weeks before).

1 and a half weeks ago I started doing the 10.000 Swing KB challenge (I thought I just wasn't used to training fasted and since I had read so many good things about it I wanted to give it some time and the conditioning/cardio felt very good, fasted)

Today I felt great on the way to the gym and decided to do some Squats before the swings. I missed the 2nd rep with 100Kgs... I had never missed a Squat in my whole life and did 100*8 just a month ago...

Honestly, what I need is just someone to tell me what to do. I think what my goals are, which started to become clearer to me whilst writing this, is just to �lean out� but don�t lose strength in the process. That just makes me crazy.
The best progress I made was last December when I ate 3.500 Kcal a day (around 220C, 185F,200P a day). I didn't gain a pound but got quite a bit stronger, then it was Christmas and I couldn't keep up with the training.

I quite honestly don�t know what do now. I think most importantly I need to get my nutrition fixed. But I don�t know how much to eat. Eat breakfast or not? (I like it not eating bf, before I always had oats and milk and stuff)
My nutrition itself is pretty good, pretty low in carbs (maybe too low) and pretty high in fat (I eat a lot of ground beef). Something like 40/30/30 I would say.
The reason why I am asking you guys to �just tell me what to do� is that I feel like if I start looking around again I will just do the next stupid thing...
Training wise I thought it might be best to do something like 5/3/1 with 5 progression (I think AMRAP sets will just make me go crazy until I get a bit stronger again) and Swings as conditioning after each workout, I like 2 days on, 1 off. If I feel like I need it I take a 2nd day of from time to time.

Writing this down has already helped me organize my head a bit and made me a little less mad (I was furious before, after missing that Squat�) I just want to emphasize that it wasn't just a bad day.

Any help would be appreciated! If I was a writer I'd say I have a writer's block atm.


#2

You will lose plenty of weight with your 2 months in Nepal, so it doesn’t make much sense to me to try to lose more beforehand. What I would do is this: 5/3/1 3-4 days a week, hard conditioning 1-2 days per week, easy conditioning for a total of 1-1.5 hours per week. Eat a lot of calories and drop the fasting – it clearly isn’t doing you any favors.

6 weeks of proper training probably isn’t going to make a huge positive difference, but 6 weeks of intentionally making yourself weaker has the potential to do some harm. Stop freaking out, just eat and train for the time being. Enjoy your time in Nepal, accept that you’re going to lose some strength and size, then hit it hard when you come back.


#3

It seems fairly obvious to me that your experiment with fasting is an utter failure. You’ve lost A LOT of strength, an amount that I consider to be completely unacceptable. You weren’t very strong to begin with, so it shouldn’t have been hard to maintain your strength while dieting down. I would abandon the fasting strategy immediately, and start eating more regularly. Some people do well with fasting, but it clearly doesn’t work for you, regardless of whether or not you like it.


#4

thanks to you two,
obviously you are right. Even though I like the fasting it doesnt seem to work. I thought my body would get used to training fasted but it doesnt seem so.

So, how much do you think I should eat approximately. Does 2.800kcal sound reasonable?

The reason why I am unsure about that is that in the end of last year I got kind of stuck with that amount. I stopped getting stronger, but I also didnt lose any weight.

Although, now that I think about it, I didnt really do anything cardio related back than.

So I will aim at 2.800-3.000 kcal a day, I usually get at least 150g P a day. Carbs around the workouts.

And for training “5/3/1 3-4 days a week, hard conditioning 1-2 days per week, easy conditioning for a total of 1-1.5 hours per week.” sounds right.

Or would you advice me to eat 3.500 kcal again, the amount that I know will work. (would be kind of stupid not to, but it sounds a lot related to losing weight)

Thanks again. I have the hope that I will gain back the strength very quickly, I guess a big part of it is the fasted training rather than strength itself.


#5

my guess would be that 2800 kcal could be reasonable, but everyone is different. Without trying it, it’s impossible to know definitively. 150g protein should be sufficient though.

Here’s what I would do. You could start at either 2800ish, or 3500, and simply be willing to adjust based on the results you start to see. If you start at 2800 and don’t gain muscle, raise the calories. If you start at 3500 and get fat, lower the calories.

And definitely don’t weight train in a fasted state. That’s absolutely the worst thing you could do for yourself. Your body can best utilize protein and carbs in the window directly before, during, and after weight training. It’s counterproductive not to take advantage of this.


#6

You are 74 kg i.e. 163 lbs? You aren’t going to lose weight at 2800 kcal unless you’re doing a huge amount of conditioning or have a super fast metabolism.

Honestly, if you only have 6 weeks of training before your trip, I would focus on strength/muscle and not worry about cutting.

Starting at 2800 kcal is fine, but based on some of your comments I am skeptical you’re tracking calories / macros correctly. 3500 kcal is a lot for someone who weighs 163 lbs and if you weren’t gaining weight, something is off (again, unless you were doing a huge amount of conditioning/cardio at the time). Also your macros – 220C, 185F, 200P – included way too much fat.

A simple starting point for muscle gain is 17 kcal / lb of bodyweight, with macros set at Protein 1.1 x BW, Carbs 2xBW, Fat .5 x BW.


#7

“Honestly, what I need is just someone to tell me what to do.”

Then you need a coach.

By the way, I believe at your stage you will get far quicker gains with a linear progression program rather than 5/3/1. Not speaking about powerlifting performance here, but a general strength training, linear progression plan, such as Greyskull, Stronglifts, or Jason Blaha Novice or whatever.


#8

Ok, so I thought a little bit more about it.

I think 2.800 kcal is a good start and I will have more carbs and less fat.

Btw, I attached a screenshot of a days worth of food during the time when I ate 3.500kcal a day (no idea where it will show up in the post). I eyeballed the quantities, but I think it is quite accurate (I only cook for myself). Also note that I always had some nuts after dinner which I didnt write up, to fill the rest to 3.500. But it doesnt really matter much I guess.

In general, I think I overstated the fact that I will be out of the gym for two months in six weeks. I think this caused the problems in the first place but I am not really looking for anything short term, more like finding a new organized starting point, if you know what I mean :slight_smile:

It might actually be a good opportunity to try something linear again.

Ok, so one thing I have had problems with is actually determining how much to eat. If I start with 2.800, how do I know if it is too much or too little? Do you guys look at the weight? Strength increase? I have never been able to really figure this out.


#9

[quote]biobohne wrote:
In general, I think I overstated the fact that I will be out of the gym for two months in six weeks. I think this caused the problems in the first place but I am not really looking for anything short term, more like finding a new organized starting point, if you know what I mean :slight_smile:
[/quote]

I think it’s kind of silly to try to find a new “starting point” a couple weeks before a 2-month long layoff. Your needs when you get back from Nepal will be different from what they are now. Not only that, but even if you start a linear program now, by the time you truly get into the groove of things it will be time for you to ship out. I wouldn’t make any major changes now, just eat plenty of food (2,800 calories is probably fine, but so is 3,300) and lift 4 days per week. When you get back you can assess your current needs and go from there. Then it may be a smart time to start up on a linear program if you want.

As for knowing how much to eat, it depends on your goals (obviously.) This is what I’ve been doing the past 6 or so months and enjoy the results Ive seen: If you’re trying to lean out, eat an amount that allows you to lose 0.5-1.5 lbs per week without impacting your strength in a serious way. If you are losing 2+ lbs per week or lose 1 lb per week but are feeling weak and shitty, adjust calories upward slightly. If you fail to lose an average of 0.5-1.5/ WK for several weeks, adjust calories down slightly or add some conditioning. The same thing is true if you’re trying to gain size, only progress tends to be slower in that direction so you should make adjustments on a bi-weekly or monthly basis. Try to gain somewhere in the ballpark of 2-5 lbs per month. If you’re gaining more than that you’re likely gaining a fair amount of fat, so keep an eye on it. If you’re looking softer and gaining 5+ lbs per months, adjust calories downward. If you go a month (or even 2 weeks) without gaining weight, adjust calories upward. You obviously also want to be improving your strength during this time as well.

Essentially, I have an idea of what I want my bodyweight to be doing (increasing, decreasing, or staying the same) and otherwise just chase performance goals in the gym. If my weight isn’t doing what I want OR performance significantly suffers, I adjust my intake.


#10

Thank you very much for that!

It makes total sense, I also decided after I wrote the last post that I am going to stick with 5/3/1 for now.

Today, I did kind of a refeed day and tomorrow I’ll hit the gym again, not fasted like before. I hope for the best.

I will definitely keep in mind what you wrote about the determining of the amount of food that I need. I needed numbers like that to shoot for.

I will report back :slight_smile:


#11

I just did the Annapurna circuit, you will lose A LOT of weight. 5 - 8 hours a day up and down hills at a decent pace, unless your carrying a kitchen on your back you will burn fat. The food is basic rice and veg, with a bit of meat here and there.

I felt pretty weak when I came back, but it all came back after a week or two once I had re adjusted. Quite frankly if I was you I’d be doing some hiking, getting your joints accustomed to it, particularly if your carrying a heavy pack. Strength is useful, but the type of strength endurance you need for this is very different to throwing weights around in the gym. When you look at the strength of the sherpas and porters relative to their size, you will know what I mean.


#12

Awesome that you liked it, I am really looking forward to it :slight_smile:

I have already done quite a few treks in New Zealand and Tasmania, although mostly 2 years ago. I always feel like it’s just about getting used to hiking again for a few days and afterwards being tired is just in your head.

Also, I have never actually hiked without tent and stuff, so it will be nice and light. 25 kg plus gets heavy quickly, although I always used to carry a can of beer for every evening :smiley:

Did you carry extra food? It seems that their food is not very high in protein, but do they serve lentils often?
I was thinking about bringing some extra stuff, some protein powder etc.

Oh, and a totally unrelated question: do they have decent coffee on the trek or only instant?


#13

[quote]biobohne wrote:

Ok, so one thing I have had problems with is actually determining how much to eat. If I start with 2.800, how do I know if it is too much or too little? Do you guys look at the weight? Strength increase? I have never been able to really figure this out.
[/quote]

Here’s how you do it. You use your noodle and common sense.

If you are gaining muscle and strength with little or no fat gain, it’s enough. If you are not, and feel overly hungry, getting flat and tired, it’s too little.

If you’re getting fat, it’s too much.


#14

[quote]biobohne wrote:
Awesome that you liked it, I am really looking forward to it :slight_smile:

I have already done quite a few treks in New Zealand and Tasmania, although mostly 2 years ago. I always feel like it’s just about getting used to hiking again for a few days and afterwards being tired is just in your head.

Also, I have never actually hiked without tent and stuff, so it will be nice and light. 25 kg plus gets heavy quickly, although I always used to carry a can of beer for every evening :smiley:

Did you carry extra food? It seems that their food is not very high in protein, but do they serve lentils often?
I was thinking about bringing some extra stuff, some protein powder etc.

Oh, and a totally unrelated question: do they have decent coffee on the trek or only instant?[/quote]

I carried some energy and protein bars but that was it. The food is pretty basic, you can get meat but bear in mind it will of been carried up the mountain and won’t be fresh. I ate vegetarian the whole time, most protein came from eggs. There would be nothing worse than getting really sick up there… Coffee was instant from what I could tell.

Given the recent earthquakes I also don’t know what the trails are like now…


#15

I did two weeks of technical rescue work in a place where I did not care to eat the food. Thanks to the absolute mess of Plazma and I3G that I brought, I actually lost weight and gained muscle mass by the end of it, despite being in a calorie deficit (I’m still shocked that I lived, much less kicked ass on 1300 cal of mostly Plazma per day at around 250 lbs).

Doing a month of less severe (less frantic hauling of lines, climbing ropes, running around setting up equipment, etc) manual labor, while drinking MAG-10 instead of breakfast and crappy lunches had a similar effect (dinner was usually meat, rice, healthy fats, and superfood). I felt a bit beaten down at the end, and was somewhat surprised when my chiro informed me that I’d put on a lot of muscle.

I’d suggest packing in MAG-10 if you can, coconut oil or other “ketone producing” substances are probably good because ketones more efficiently use oxygen than glucose. Also get a handle on your electrolytes (being in ketosis without this will cause real trouble), screwing that up at altitude will be misery.