T Nation

Weight Loss versus Muscle Mass

Some stats: I’m 29. I weigh 180 pounds. I’m about 5’ 10"

First off, thanks in advance for reading through my dilemma; I realize that people on these forums probably hear these same topics on a continual basis. I’m just basically looking for advice - I’ve read through most of the articles, and I find the evidence to be relatively inconsistent on these questions; therefore, I’m looking for some recommendations from people with experience.

Here’s the deal: throughout my life, I’ve sort of been on a weight roller coaster. As a teen, I weighed over 230 pounds; then, I graduated from high school, went to the gym, and lost about 60 pounds. Then, when I started my junior and senior year, I shot back up to around 190 pounds. Then, I got married, and I got serious about running and lost a ton of weight; for awhile, I weighed 145 pounds! But - alas - I went to graduate school and gained almost 45 pounds over three years. Recently, I got divorced, and obviously I’m concerned about my appearance now that I’m thinking about dating again; as a result, I’ve gotten back into running and started weight lifting hardcore.

I’ve been working out for about 6 months. I really consider myself more of a runner than a bodybuilder; right now, I’m training for a marathon, and I run about 20-30 miles each week (with one long run of between 10-16 miles on the weekend). However, I’ve been down the running road before, and I know that it puts you in great shape but transforms you into a little shrimpy weasel man. I don’t want to be shrimpy. So I’ve also been weightlifting for the first time in my life. I go to the gym 4 times/week - alternating between different muscle groups (chest/triceps, back/biceps, shoulders, and legs). I’ve made some pretty considerable gains; for example, with the bench press, I started out doing 3 sets of 8 reps with just the bar; as of Monday, I’m now doing 3 sets of 8 reps at 125 pounds. I’m pretty happy with my progress, for the most part, and I’ve definitely been losing fat; I’m down from a 38 to a 34 jean size. But here’s the problem -

I haven’t really lost any “weight,” and this makes me really uncomfortable. I started out weighing about 185; now, I’m at about 180. I still have a considerable layer of fat covering my stomach and upper chest. I don’t like it. But I’m not sure what to do. What I’m doing seems to be working; on the other hand, it also seems to be moving quite slow. So how do I get rid of this extra layer of fat? If I just keep lifting and running, will it eventually just disappear? Or should I cut calories and get rid of my little belly and then worry about building muscle mass?

Over the last couple days, I’ve cut back to 1800 calories, but I find that it’s miserable. I mean, I’m burning 500-700 calories/day, and on top of that I have all this new muscle. But I’ve never “cut calories” while doing such intense, regular exercise before; to give you an idea, I ran 16 miles at a 5.5 MPH pace this weekend, which took 3 hours and burned about 2,200 calories.

I honestly don’t know the right course of action. One thing for sure - I hate this little belly! :slight_smile:

Thanks,
K

[quote]kennyminot wrote:
I’ve been working out for about 6 months. I really consider myself more of a runner than a bodybuilder; right now, I’m training for a marathon, and I run about 20-30 miles each week (with one long run of between 10-16 miles on the weekend).[/quote]

Some key questions: When is the marathon? Have you ran marathons before?

If it’s important to you, which it probably is (and that’s fine, by the way), I’d say tolerate the slow-ish fat loss while you train (and eat) for performance, and then once the race is finished, switch to a full throttle fat loss phase to attack your goal more aggressively.

Your training plan could probably be streamlined and fine-tuned, but at the end of the day, since you are getting stronger and the fat is dropping, you’re somewhere on the right track.

[quote]But here’s the problem -
I haven’t really lost any “weight,” and this makes me really uncomfortable. I started out weighing about 185; now, I’m at about 180.[/quote]

Which is more important to you, getting that scale to read a smaller number or improving the look of your body. Those two results aren’t always connected.

Like I said, you’re telling your body to do two different things at the same time: burn fat and learn to run an effective marathon. Prioritize in the short-term and focus on one at a time for better all-around results.

Read about the G-Flux concept of nutrition:

Basically, the more you train, more you should eat, even if you’re trying to lose fat. And gee whiz, look at this exact question from that article:

:wink:

Also, just as an idea, you might want to take a look at Rachel Cosgrove’s “Attack the Fat” program on the FigureAthlete site (TMuscle’s sister site). It’s not a “woman-specific” routine, but it’s a solid fat loss program that she used to get ripped after competing in the Ironman triathlon (and getting soft in the process).


This was really helpful. These articles seem like exactly what I need; I mean, my body is obviously telling me something is wrong (1800 calories just isn’t cutting it; obviously, if I’m feeling hungry, there is some kind of problem).

To answer your question, I’ve never run a marathon; I ran a half-marathon in October, though, and I’m moving toward doing one in the first time in April. As such, I do have some time to focus on aggressively attacking the fat.

The g-flux article was great. Thanks!