Why Are T Nation Men So Chubby?

Ha! Forgive the clickbait title. But we did conduct two Twitter polls recently that beg some questions:

Honestly, this seems to prevalent among most men I see in public gyms. But why?

Is it, “My goal is max muscle gain or max strength, not leanness.”

Or simply, “I love lifting and eating!”

I guess I’m asking because, as a middle-age man, I’m starting to see my friends and even other people in the fitness biz beginning to suffer from various maladies that could be prevented if they just leaned up a little (not shredded abz, bro, just getting “not fat”). I mean, these guys lift hard but are still on 3-4 prescription meds with side effects.

Also, I’ll admit, it’s personal bias. I’ve never seen the point of being “big” if a large part of that bigness is excess body fat. Hey, if you’ve built a great chest but your gut sticks out further than you pecs, well, that’s not the look I’m after. And every marker of health drops when that happens, plus overall lifespan.

Your thoughts?


Working on getting leaner but it is that but in reverse order. Or, probably more accurately, I love eating and I find benefit in lifting.

1 Like

For me, neither. Leanish now, but for the longest time it was switching goals too often. I wanted to be strong (competed in powerlifting), but also look good. As soon as I would lose a bit of strength, I’d go back to “I need a bit more food after lifting”, and not lose more weight.

I think having a clear goal with an understanding that other goals might go in the opposite direction has been good for getting lean. But for me at least, I need to keep thinking along those lines. That it is okay if I can’t lift quite as much for now, that it is okay if I just do my main lifts, and do a bit more cardio until I reach my goal.

I’d say I am in between the abs and the abs are hiding. They are blurry, but if I flex I have them. I also seem to store all my fat on my stomach, so that’s a bummer.

I think this is a reasonable goal. I call it “walking around leanness” or “the 4-pack diet.” In other words, there’s no strict, life-changing dieting required and no marathon cardio sessions. You’re healthy-lean, but not unsustainably ripped. You’re able to build muscle and strength because calories are adequate but not excessive.

And if you want to get leaner and discover those other two abs, it only takes some minor adjustments and a few weeks.


For me personally it’s because I was only 125lbs most of my adult life, I don’t care one bit that I carry a little bit of extra timber bench pressing the old me for 30+ reps. Things may change in the future but right now I’m happy being at a higher body fat.

I think T-Nation users in general are a more mature (age-wise) audience less interested in the typical aesthetics you’d see on other various platforms (not that there’s anything wrong with that). From my experiences here there seems to be more focus on strength, longevity, and philosophies that they can lead a balanced life and have a good body that they don’t have to go over the top with diet to maintain. With that said, i’d wager a lot of our longer-term goals would be to be leaner. The short term goal is more weight on the bar though.

Most people kill it in the gym and flub it in the kitchen because the gym is only 60-90 minutes of work. It’s easy to be “on” for that amount of time: being that way for the remaining 22 hours is where the difficulty exists.

And, consequently, we are a reflection of what we do for 22 hours a day: NOT for 2.

Pair that with the fact that leanness is about NOT doing. We are ALL do-ers. We love to do. “What do I do to get bigger?” You train hard and you eat big. “What do I do to get leaner?” You DON’T eat. Stop eating so much food. That doesn’t settle well: dudes always want to know WHAT to eat to get lean, when really it’s about what NOT to eat. It’s hard to rectify.

All THAT said, there IS something to be said about being too lean. I got to my biggest and strongest when I let my abs fade for a while and just chased strength and size. There’s a lot of dudes that won’t let their abs get the slightest bit blurry, and they are stuck in a perpetual medium t-shirt…

My 20s were an awesome time to get huge. My 30s have been a great time to be lean.


A wife, three kids, mortgage, running two businesses and traveling cause me to not prioritize myself. Essentially, If I don’t do what it takes to cross off the above’s needs, there is utter chaos and issues almost immediately. If I don’t eat right, lift for awhile, the impacts are not fully realized for months/years.

Also, food is too available and easy, when the above list is stressful. That said, I’ve removed a lot of the stressors from my life and for last 4 weeks I’m back on track in a way that is more sustainable than just trying to add something to an already packed life. I replaced overbearing work life with healthy habits and regained 20-40 hours a week.


Very well said. Diet/health maintenance is all-day discipline, and unlike a big lift or tough workout, it’s hard to get psyched up about NOT eating something delicious.


My girlfriend likes me in my Medium shirts!

Yep, for me it involves just avoiding the stupidest things (sugar drinks, ice cream, full bags of chips, etc), and doing simple modifications to get a bit more protein in.

Although this time of year I tend to want a bit more leanness. So, I am doing a bit more cardio (LISS), and trying to eat a bit less calorie dense food.

1 Like

A “fun” aside is this story from the first time I took home “Best Lifter” in a powerlifting meet. I was cutting fat down to the 181 class. During that time, I got roped into picking up a dozen pizzas to support an office function. I loaded them into my car, smelled them the whole ride to the function, delivered them there, opened up the boxes, looked upon the glorious pizza…then took out my salad, ate it and moved on.

I told myself “This is what first place tastes like”.

Getting best lifter was definitely better than a slice of pizza.


40’s are often when people say, “Great time to get healthy!” because that decade is when all the reality checks start kicking in. Reminds me of one of our memes:


My wife likes me more when my shirt is off :wink:


My wife likes me when the lights are off. oh wait.


It is not click bait. The majority are no way strong & thick, have you seen the check-ins? What about the yearly contests? Most are soft and out of shape.


Here’s a tough-love conversation I had with myself a while back:

“Hey Chris, you were obese at age 20 and lost all the fat and got healthy. Then you started seriously lifting weights and are now in 190s and pretty lean. You’re just soft over 200 pounds. You built about as much muscle as your genetics allow (30+ pounds) without steroids. Congrats! You won! Now, let’s get painfully honest, Chris. Do you really think you could gain another 20 pounds of pure muscle at age 51? No, it’s not in the cards. So, stay lean, keep lifting, and don’t neglect the cardio/metcon work because, at this point, “winning” meaning maintaining, working on smaller physique goals, being healthy, and keeping up with your fit wife on mountain hikes. You should also floss more often.”

It was a tough conversation. And Chris was being quite a dick about it for a while.


I spent my 20s and 30s as a way too fat to be healthy powerlifter. But, that weight let me hit some drug-free numbers that I’m really proud of – not because they are so amazing but because of what it took to eke out the last few pounds. Knee issues finally ended my powerlifting career in my late 30s and after being in denial for several years I am finally willing to admit that my knee issues were a blessing in disguise because but for them I’d still be 250+ pounds chasing numbers and doing that at 44 at the bodyfat levels I was carrying would be a bad idea.

I’m now at a healthy bodyfat level. I still wouldn’t describe myself as lean, but I’m happy with where I’m at and see no need to make the sacrifices that I’d need to make to have fully visible abs.

One final thought: I also recently admitted to myself that given my chronological and training ages building more muscle just is not in the cards any longer. At first that was depressing and then it was a little freeing – what is needed to maintain muscle seems to be a lot less effort than to build it, at least at my current age of 44.


I think it’s possible that the T-Nation crowd may be harder on themselves in this regard than the general population. I’d bet there are a lot of dudes on here who would put themselves in the ‘yep but they’re hiding’ category, when the average person on the street would look at them and say ‘yea you definitely have abs’.

Like, I’m probably sitting at 10ish % bodyfat right now, but at my best I’ve been significantly leaner, so right now, I could feasibly say ‘they’re hiding’ because of my basis for comparison/my own standards.


I’d say the same is true for strength. The goal, after a certain point, is to be really strong in your 40s, then 50s, then 60s… but not the strongest EVER for a 1RM on a certain lift. Coach Lee Boyce made a good point about this even for guys in the 30s.

I agree, stay strong, but how strong do we need to be as a regular person not competing in powerlifting? And, getting lofty here, what is strength anyway? Three lifts? How about climbing a rope with no legs? That’s not strong?

A smart lifter in his 40s or 50s is probably stronger than 98% of the population. Gotta factor in the risk-to-reward ratio when it comes to chasing another couple of pounds on a main lift.


I am here at 34. I was up in the 230s at 5’10" chasing powerlifting numbers. Even recently I convinced myself to go up in weight to accomplish a long time goal of a 4 plate bench. I regret it. I was looking pretty good at 195. 215 didn’t look nearly as good. Now I am about 205 and can’t do a 4 plate bench anymore. There just isn’t much use in being able to do that in everyday life (or even in having a pleasing physique).

I feel like some of my lifting numbers in the past have resulted in me not being satisfied and wanting to lift more weight. After my latest bench and deadlift PRs, I have been about 3 months on the former and 8 months on the latter of not feeling the need to get to the next big number. It is kinda nice.