T Nation

Over 50 - Train Hard But Diet Is Failing Me


#1

Only started weight training 2 years ago at 49. Prior to that I did nothing, so I started at square one. Progress has been slow. I tried to eat clean and tracked macros but really didn't know what I was tracking to. 5 months ago I started serious diet and tracking. I have a personal trainer 7 days per week so I eat the same everyday except 1 cheat meal on Friday. I prep meals on sundays an eat clean & mostly organic. Menu is a mix of: b&s chicken breasts, lean beef, eggs, salmon, green vegs, salads, black beans, chick peas, 1 apple post workout, brown rice, sweet and white potatoes. Protein shake (water & powder) post workout and 4pm. 5-6 meals around 400-500 cals each to reach my macros.

2400 cals per day 250g Protein / 140g Carbs / 70g Fat

Supplements: glutamine & BCAAS pre & intra-workout, fiber (daily cleanse), MCT oil pre workout.
I stopped creatine a couple of weeks ago to see if it was causing water retention. I drink 4-5 liters of water. Tried various fat-burners and only found yohimbine to have any effect.

Training rotates between arms, shoulders, chest, back, legs, core, abs, strength (Deadlift, back squat, bench press).

My scale says I'm at 18.5% body fat. I was at 21% in April (same water levels 56% for the comparison). I currently weigh 161lbs, was 167lbs in April. I feel more muscle, but can't seem to see them very much. I only started fasted cardio 3x per week about a month ago so that may help.

Am I under-eating? Maybe my testosterone is gone (being 51 doesn't help) or I am training too much (even though we are rotating body parts). Having my testosterone tested September 1.

Top left is 2 years ago. Top right is 5 months ago. Bottom are last week.

Any advice is appreciated.


My 8 Month Transformation
#2

What exactly are you concerned with?
What specifically do you feel like should be different?


#3

I don't find my muscles are growing. I keep reading that I should grow my muscles and the fat will take care of itself. That's why I'm wondering if I am eating enough for the muscles to grow.


#4

How is your strength? Do you track your lifts in the squat, bench, deadlift or other lifts? Do you have personal records that you record? If so, are they improving?


#5

Aight, just in case @flipcollar didn't see your post in the last thread, I tagged him for you. Just use the @ sign and start typing their screen name and you'll get to choose from a popup who you want to tag.

I'm 52 and my scale tells me I am 13.8% BF. My hand held tells me I am 14.5%, and my PT tells me that I am 18% based on seven site caliper measurements. I had a long discussion with him, because I think I really am around 14%, but the logarithm used to calculate body fat assumes a great deal of visceral fat once you are over fifty, which is why 18-21 is good, 15-18 is lean, and below that is ultra lean - it's different based on age.

That being said, don't get hung up on the scale - use the mirror. It sounds like your diet is pretty good. But, what's your height and weight? That will give a better idea of you calories and subsequent macros.

Get your testosterone checked. If you are low, it's way hard (impossible) to add LBM at our age.

Two years ago I was 215 or so at 23% body fat (I'm 6'1"). I started TRT (T was 170) and kept lifting, albeit more intelligently from shit I learned here, and I am now 190 @ 14%. I have been there and it can be done.

You will find tremendous advice and support on this forum. Just don't get pissed when people tell you the truth. For instance, when I tell you your scale is wrong and you are more than 18%, I say it to make the point that it is just a tool to measure progress (but it is wrong). I don't say it to bust on you, but to help.

Also, you should post your routine. Personally, I would cut the cardio completely if I were you. I know that sounds fucked up, but it's true. I believe you probably aren't lifting properly as well. I know you have a personal trainer, but those guys make their money on housewives wanting to get into a bikini, not helping dudes get jacked - just saying. There are a ton of dudes here that can help you with that, Flip is but one.

Finally, all of the above is just my opinion. Feel free to ignore it, and if anybody wants to flame me, fuck 'em.

Go lift, good luck!


#6

I do find my strength increasing. I'm up to 245 Deadlift, 205 back squat and 135 bench press. I had a hard with any of those in the 95lb range. Even with dumbells my stength has gone up. Row is up to 55lbs from 20lbs, overhead press is 2x35lbs, I can do 10 pull ups and 20 push-ups which I couldn't do when I started. I just wish I had more physical to show for it, but I may be expecting too much too soon. I'm starting to understand that 2 years is not a long time and I have a long way to go. I just get distracted by 6, 8, 12 month transformation pictures.


#7

Thanks myth, I appreciate it. I did forget to put that I'm 5'8" and 161lbs. I am having my testosterone checked in 2 weeks so hopefully that may be an indicator, I do have faith in my PT because he is all about form on any exercise. I have learned a lot and credit form for my increases in strength, he's the third one and I've had him for a year. The two previous were what you described, basically using a bunch of machines with light weights.


#8

Glad to help. I went to this website that I like to use

https://tdeecalculator.net/

and for your height and weight and bodyfat, at moderate exercise, your total daily energy expenditure is 2,578 calories, so if you are truly at 2400, you should be losing weight. How do you track calories?

For what it's worth, I started seriously power lifting in March and my current 1RM DL is 295 (you can watch it on my training log, The Pursuit of Mythical Gains). It does suck, but I got there in five months with two resets and I used a coach for technique three times, not a PT. However, I'm going to tag @Aragorn as well because he is a pretty knowledgeable PT and maybe he will weigh in. Most guys here will bash PT's, but I am actually trying to become a C.S.C.S. to make some side money while teaching and coaching, and, to just get better, so I'm not as cynical.

I'd be willing to bet you are low. If you are, see what you can do to find out how to raise it rather than jumping on TRT right away. If you are not secondary, you may be able to jumpstart your own without doing TRT. If you do go on TRT, do your research. The Low T forum on here is awesome - a lot of very knowledgeable guys. Just ignore @Hostile when he asks if you watch porn - he's not right.

So, I'm going to STFU now and let some other dudes weigh in. So many of them are so much smarter than I am, so i don't want to sidetrack your thread.


#9

Thanks for the tag sir! On my phone so I will check back tomorrow probably when I can easily reply from a full computer. Also remind me to welcome you to the club when you pass the test!

Only thing the you need to watch out for is the continuation of a) glorified pubmed warriors with initials CSCS after their names and b) people who make things more complicated than they need to be in the name of "being scientific" or "being sport specific". Oftentimes the simplest intervention is the most effective.

The temptation to make everythng ultra complicated is there because you "know" more. The real test is how simple and elegant you can make the RIGHT move.

Thoughts on this thread to come.


#10

You hit the nail on the head right now--it is an uncomfortable truth about the body that nobody wants to accept. They all want to believe that they'll look like Arnold in 12 weeks. Or 1 year at the outset. That said you have made really good overall progress!

This is an encouraging sign. When the strength goes up typically the physique follows. You've made very good overall progress since you started. Now, the question--how much strength have you gained since April, and where were your calories in April compared to now? In other words, have you changed anything about your diet?

Do you eat the same amount every day? Do you count beers/alcohol, or "small" items in your calorie totals? These things add up over time. Have you changed cuts of meat? That can have a major effect if not tabulated. There are instances where both of those mistakes add up to 10-15% of a daily calorie intake, which means they can kick you out of fat loss and into maintenance or even gaining. Even BCAAs can be overdone. All three of these things are things that have happened to first time competitors or fitness buffs that I know.

What does your weight training look like? I mean, sets/reps, details.

The other thing to evaluate is what your Number 1 priority is: is it getting more muscle? Getting stronger? Leaning up? The case is often that you can do a couple things reasonably well, but you can't do everything well at the same time. So, you need absolutely CRYSTAL clear priorities.

If you are training for overall fat loss and strength (as opposed to specific bodybuilding), you'll find significantly more utility out of a higher frequency split than "arms, shoulders, chest, back, legs, core, strength". Arms do not deserve their own day and do not cause massive calorie use. Neither does abs/core. Training for fat loss is all about using the most calories possible and the most muscles possible at each session. Sure, there are ways to go overboard and that is simplifying it a bit TOO much, but the goal is to mobilize tons of resources. Arms are small muscles compared to say...your back or your legs.

A better fat loss split would be something like Upper/Lower, Conditioning OR off, Upper/Lower, Cardio, OFF. Or even a push/pull/legs, OFF, Upper/Lower, OFF split. Something that works more muscles at a given time.

If your biggest priority is size and specific body part gains I would suggest other modifications to your training but slightly less overall, since body part splits can be used very successfully to put size on.

What does your fasted cardio look like? Why is it fasted as opposed to some other time throughout the day?

A final training consideration is that you may want to start training a bit more like an athlete with multiple methods--weight training, regular cardio, weighted conditioning, etc. Too much of any one can lead to eventual stagnation in body comp. This is because eventually your body does become more efficient at what you are doing...even if it's lifting weights. I'm not talking about "muscle confusion" or any bullshit like that, just that your body is designed to adapt.

For right now I think you may be missing something in your diet, but I would encourage you to start working on higher output in training. There are ways to do that without frying your body and spine with high loads.


#11

Another note--I would take a waist line measurement right at the belly button for another way to measure progress.

If your scale weight is not going down but the waist measurement is, you're on the right track. If they're both going down, great. As long as one of them is moving you're in the right direction. Trends over time matter, not any one measurement since water and salt intake can vary and then cause scale or waist fluctuations on any 1 day.


#12

Thanks @Aragorn for the tips. You bring up a lot of valid points. My goal is to build muscle and from what I have read body fat will take care of itself seeing that I eat well. I'm worried I don't eat enough to build muscle and that's why the body fat isn't budging much. I have been very strict at tracking everything that goes into my mouth. I don't drink so that helps. Prior to April I was tracking my food but was eating all kinds of stuff to reach my macros. Not garbage, but stuff like pastas, stews, large portions, etc. Anything to reach my macros. Now everything I eat is the same and bland, I don't add sauces or anything. Just use olive, avocado or coconut oil to cook and salt & pepper. Sometimes hot sauce.
I understand your thoughts on the type of training my PT has me doing and I will be asking to change it up to what you recommend: upper & lower body splits, conditioning, strength. I did some of that over the winter and had to increase my food intake because I was always hungry. I always train first thing in the morning so the fasted cardio is steady state 20 mins then I eat a banana and 2 tbsp peanut butter and I go to the gym for my session. I only do fasted cardio 3 days per week though. Maybe I should drop the cardio for awhile.
I guess where I'm lost is for someone @ 51 who's 5'8", 161lbs and trains 7 days a week, how much should I eat and what would be a good macro makeup: high protein, Low carb, high fat? Or another mix. Or should I follow the carb cycling program I read here: [https://www.t-nation.com/diet-fat-loss/carb-cycling-that-actually-works]. (https://www.t-nation.com/diet-fat-loss/carb-cycling-that-actually-works). Or should I boost my carbs high to gain muscle and next spring cut back on carbs to drop some fat. I have been around the same weight for months so I know my body is swapping fat for muscle but I think I have hit a plateau and need to increase my food intake.


#13

The need to eat more doesn't surprise me whatsoever, just look at the boost in energy requirements by training. Also it shouldn't surprise you given what I said and what you know about serious athletic training (cough cough, Phelps's 13,000 calorie days). In any case, varying your training is in MOST cases best for overall size AND overall leanness. If you're a competitive bodybuilder, no. But if you want to be lean and jacked, most probably yes.

The reason is very basic and exactly what I said above: your body can adapt to any one tool you use (weights, cardio, sprints, weighted conditioning, etc). It can adapt to any one requirement. Weights is the hardest to adapt to, and in some sense as far as strength goes you never really ADAPT to it, but in terms of metabolic demands and leanness it does adapt because the more you practice something the more efficient you get at it...and the more efficient you get the less calories you use for the exact same task. You start running, you suck wind after 5 minutes and everything hurts after 30 minutes, but 6 weeks later you run for 30 minutes and feel ok. That's great for running, not great for fat loss--it means your body figured out how to become efficient and burn less calories to achieve the same result as the first time you did it.

The goal of getting lean is to be as IN-efficient as possible in calorie use: preventing metabolic adaptation. This is a different subject entirely from adapting to a weight load to force muscle to gain strength or size, so don't think about it that way.

Since you don't want to adapt, use more than 1 tool at a time: the body has a much harder time adapting to a mix of methods than it does any one method (side note: this is why even coaches who dislike steady state cardio for fat loss will use some in a program in addition to HIIT and weights).

Ok, so you say you want mostly to gain muscle right now, but you are under a small misunderstanding: to gain appreciable muscle you need a calorie excess. No ifs and or buts. To recomp your body fat SLOWLY you can play with that a bit and sort of eat a maintenance level of calories, focus on getting stronger and over time you'll get leaner especially if you use multiple tools in your training toolbox. But if you want significant muscle you need a calorie surplus. This also means you will not lose fat. You can gain slowly and gain less fat than a dirty bulk, stay fairly close in body fat to where you started...but you still won't get leaner.

There is a bit of an exception when one goes from only using 1 single training tool (weightlifting) to using multiple methods for the first time, because of the demand on the body's resources, but I tell people not to count on it. So you need to decide what your biggest single goal is and then accept the other consequences of pursuing that one primary goal.

I still think you should change your split, I just want you to be aware.

Training-wise: If you are doing fasted cardio and then pretty much immediately going to the gym for a strength workout (within 30 minutes) then you need more than just a banana and 2 TB peanut butter. At the very least I would have carbs and protein with me DURING my weight sessions as well as before. At least another banana and a scoop of protein powder.

It's not a problem to only do 20 minutes of fasted cardio 3x a week (assuming it's easy steady state cardio rather than hard/demanding steady running or biking). I would fuel your workouts better though.

I would take at least 1 off day, and would rather you take 2 off days from all training--if you do end up changing your workout split you definitely do not want to push that to 7 days a week in the gym. There's a reason theres only 4-5 days of weights in there. Obviously walks or bike rides around trails or the neighborhood aren't counted, but it is more demanding.

Diet wise: Eat for your goals. Seriously. It sounds trite but it is the best way to do it. Are you always hungry now? Do you feel adequate energy for your training (in general, bad days happen of course)? If so then I would make small changes but I wouldn't do crazy things abruptly. Generally speaking small modifications are easier to tolerate physically. Adding 600 calories in one fell swoop is a bad idea.

In general if you feel always hungry, I would add calories. If you feel pretty even most times then I would not add a ton of calories until your new split happens and your body spools up. I think your protein is good, or even a bit higher than necessary. I won't say 'too high' because I think protein is fine, but if looking to lose fat as a primary thing there comes a point of too much, because your body can convert it to glucose. I think that's not the big worry for you, but it is possible and it has happened to people that I took on as clients.

I like carb cycling and I like moderate carbs. You don't have a bad diet, it would mostly be adjustments to nutrient timing. I would suggest you put the most carbs around your biggest activity times of the day--pre-training/post training, and during the first half of the work day. I think you can add carbs but I would do so carefully (small additions). I would take the most carbs on your hardest training days and the least carbs on your easiest training days. For fat you can do whatever, but in the interests of feeling 'full' I don't like to go too low personally. In any case you need some amount of fat to run your immune system, joints, etc., so I would never go lower than about 30% of your lean bodyweight for long periods of time.

Gauge the swapping out of fat for muscle by your belly button measurement and any other measurements you might have like bicep or legs combined with strength levels or scale. That's the way to tell.

I might suggest Carbolin 19 for help with muscle and fat loss, and TUDCA for insulin sensitivity at ~750mg - 1000mg a day (get the powder, its way more cost effective at that dose) It's known as a liver supplement but it has demonstrated remarkable ability at improving muscle insulin sensitivity, which is great for both fat loss and gaining lean mass.


#14

Apologize for random bolding of text, I don't know how that happened.


#15

I think you are bang on @Aragorn. Thanks so much. You've confirmed many of my suspicions. I was thinking thst I need to drop one or two days of training and go light or somd form of "active recovery" I read about. I'll work with my PT to get a better split and revamp ehat I eat bdfore my workout. I will use the waist measurement you recommend. I think it will help be a better gauge. I think I get down on myself when I look in the mirror day in and day out. Pics are helpful, but measurements mean a lot more. The scale is also not a good gauge.
No worries about the caps - thought you were yelling at me which I need sometimes anyway:)


#16

Yeah no need for 7 days. Actually would say its a recipe for injury for guys over 40 let alone 50.

Consider these, either will lean you out fast...

https://www.t-nation.com/workouts/meltdown-training-1
https://www.t-nation.com/training/athlete-lean-athlete-strong


#17

Always inspiring to hear older guys putting in the time and commitment, as you describe. I'm a bit younger than you with many years of training experience but listening to you is very refreshing. I can't add too much to what has already been stated. The main point is you should be in touch with your body by now. What I mean is, if you feel you are progressing in terms of strength = you ARE progressing. If your appetite is stable and you're not cycling episodes of binging and dieting = your diet IS working. If your energy levels are stable and you have normal morning wood = your T levels ARE normal, etc. Getting the latter checked is fine so good luck with that. I personally think years of poor insulin management require long term repair. Trying to gain muscle when you have a noticeable spare tyre around your waist is a bad strategy. Getting lean, even if it makes you look stringy, is worth it in the short term pain if it means longer term gains. Supplements like fish oil, curcumin, transresveratol are worth long term commitment in helping you with this. Good luck and well done so far!


#18

Thanks @RampantBadger these are helpful.


#19

Thanks for the encouragement @JamesBrawn007. Your point of leaning out first is worth investigating further. I'm really liking this site for the amount of information as well as the encouragement in the forums.


#20

The amount of information here is staggering. I've been here since 2001 before they had forums, and it really just blows your mind. Forums on the other hand...can get rough lol. Generally speaking encouraging but very blunt and direct. Not about sparing feelings, more about results.