T Nation

Strategy Question 8 Months Out


My goal is to look as good as I can (without stupid risks to my health) for a cruise in January for 20th wedding anniversary. I reviewed my last 10 years of training logs, and now have analysis paralysis.

My intent is to string together a few blocks of training and eating to get the most out of my training. I’m stuck because I think my metabolism has slowed too much to cut more fat, but I am not yet lean enough for a clean gain.

Frankly, I have never been very lean. Once a fat powerlifter, I’ve trained to lean out for about 5 years. Two injury setbacks wiped out much of my progress, but I am still down 40lbs. (I was also a slow learner w nutrition.) Today, I look fairly jacked vs. the general population, but not yet in the BF% range that coaches say you should get to before trying to add clean muscle. (5’9", 195lbs dry, 46" chest, 34" at navel.)

I see classic signs I need a break from cutting. My maintenance diet is ~11 cals/lb BW. I don’t drop any fat until I get under 10cals/lb. I am weaker than I was even a year ago. Lots of joint aches, limited recovery, etc.

My avg macros the last 3 months: 210g protein, 125g of carbs (5 days ~95g, 2 days ~185g) and 75g fat. I eat mostly paleo + post-workout protein, very little junk, no wheat or sugars.

Here are some strategy options I came up with:
A. Slowly add more carbs, and gradually increase my training volume to match
B. Try a zig-zag, (like Dr. Teta suggests on this site) 2-3 weeks of higher calories, then 2-3 weeks lower, repeat. Training volume to match.
C. Shock the body with 3-4 weeks of big eating and high volume training, then reassess.
D. Drop to 9 cals/lb, and give it a few more weeks.

I train mostly full-body workouts, lots of dynamic effort and olympic variations, with a mix of conditioning finishers. I’ve made the most progress recently, bodycomp and strengthwise, doing high frequency, low volume plans like Dan John’s stuff.

Any suggestions? Anyone else been here? What am I missing?


What you actually eat would he helpful.


Breakfast is 4 whole eggs, half an avocado and shredded potatoes fried in ghee.
Lunch is 10oz chicken breasts, spinach, and salad veggies w olive oil and vinegar.
Dinner is grilled meat (usually salmon, steak or pork) and baked potatoes or sweet potatoes
Whey shake post workout (I lift after kids are in bed)

I eat extra 1-2 potatoes on my higher carb days.


Hey man, you’ve obviously been training a lot longer than I have, but your situation was very similar to mine so ill share my experience.

I used to try to eat with a very keto/paleo structure and it worked for a while. I realized early that my body didnt respond very well to carbs. Results in the beginning good, but after a while they stalled, i just sorta lowered carbs and cals but if i ever had even healthy carbs, i would feel bloated and horrible. i felt like i was putting on 10 pounds every time i ate some potatoes or something. A friend turned me on to some Lane Norton material and it made me realize i was basically training my body to reject carbs and higher calories. Took the reverse diet approach, started with a half cup uncooked of rice a few meals a day, adding on to it, and eventually the weight started coming back off.

Basically a long winded way to say your purposed suggestion to slowly add carbs back in worked perfectly for me, and i was a lot happier as well! haha


I had been avg about 100g of carbs this week and last. I went to 160g yesterday and 220g today, and I have gained 7lbs since Friday morning. I see what you mean about not tolerating carbs. Even if it is a lot of water weight I still feel pretty lousy.

I will go back to 100g for a couple days then try another day or two at 150-160g. I think I’m not ready for 200+ yet.

Nothing quite like the steep end of the learning curve.


thats exactly how i was brother! It eventually evened out and with a little patience i can handle a pretty regular load of carbs and not feel like i’m going to burst. After the weekends and if i feel bloated or shitty i cut back, if not i keep them in.

Figuring this stuff out with always the best part of the journey! “long in the road. hard is the way”

Also if anyone else knows the actual science behind this and wants to toss it in it would be awesome!


any chance you’d post a picture of your physique? You’re asking us what you can do to look your best, but we don’t have any idea what you look like now. I don’t have any idea how to give you direction without this.


Id start off by just upping your good fats and then if/when start to add bodyfat up the volume of assitance work in the gym


This is me pre workout tonight w about 7-8lbs of new carb bloat. Reintroduced wheat yesterday for the first time in >30d, and my abdomen blew up like a balloon. I think I will stick w the paleo carb sources and stay off grains. If the bloat wasn’t bad enough, They made me drowsy like Benadryl. I like badgers idea about increasing cals without more carbs. I will probably do that on the 5 days a week I am not training squats.

Can’t quite see it here but I have pretty good separation between the front and medial delts, and for the first time in my life I have veins contour on my biceps. My wife noticed that my two triceps look very different from each other this week. The inside head of my tricep is really small on my dominant arm. We’ve been married 19 years, so I saw that as a sign of hitting some new lean territory. Obviously have a ways to go before anyone would say I was cut.


Agree with Badger that you need to get your cals up (luckily you have enough time). Whether you increase fats and/or carbs (I would try both…slowly) is up to what you respond well to. Essentially reverse diet to bring your maintenance level up so there’s actually something to cut when you’re ready to.

One word of warning though, if you go the low-carb route and plan to binge on the cruise on anything you see (who doesn’t?), expect to look quite different at the end of the trip than you did when it began.



It’s almost January. Did you get to where you wanted to be?


Ha! Still making progress. I got sidetracked in July when I displaced an SI joint. Could barely stand up for about three weeks, and had to totally rebuild my conditioning. Did a ton of sled work in Sep/Oct/Nov, I am now doing a more traditional Upper/Lower BB split, switching up my HIIT and now ramping up my LISS.

I’m on my phone, I’ll upload a pic tonight if I can. I have a little ab definition for the first time in my life, and visible veins on my biceps. Not into the 10% BF range I’d originally hoped for, but I am probably at an all time low. I still have five weeks to pull another 5-6 lbs off, so the goal is still the goal.


Oh, and the carb experiment didn’t go well. I gained fat. After doing a bunch of reading, I decided I wasn’t lean enough to metabolize carbs efficiently. The lower carb thing is working. What I have done is once every five days I switch to a day of minimal fat w 140-160g carbs. It’s always on a heavy training day, and the overall low Calories seems to keep the bloat away. That has helped keep the progress going. (I got the idea from Shelby Starnes Two Weeks to Shredded article)