T Nation

Worked Out for 4 Years, Still Skinny Fat

Hi there, I’m a 34 year old male and have been working out for four years with the aim of getting big however have practically nothing to show for it. Im 5ft 9, weigh 80 kilos (176 pounds) and am at 21% bodyfat. I’m basically the same weight I was when I started working out, only more toned and with less fat which isn’t very impressive :frowning:

My workouts currently consist of a 4 day split which I found on another site (with a couple of changes). I do the following:

Tuesday shoulders and calves

Dumbbell shoulder press (3x 6-8 reps) - currently at 20k each hand
Standing barbell press (3 x 8-10 reps) - currently at 35k
Dumbbell lat raises (3x 10-12 reps) currently at 9k each hand
Upright row (4x 8-10 reps) currently at 35 k
Seated calf (raise 6x12-15 reps) currently at 40k

Thursday chest and tri

Dumbbell chest press (4x6-8 reps - currently 34 k each side)
Incline dumbbell press (4x 6-8 reps- currently 30k each side)
Fly machine (4x 8-10)
Dips 4x 8-10 with 10k weight
Triceps barbell curl 4x 8-10 currently at 35k)

Saturday back and biceps

Row machine reverse grip 4x 6-8 (currently 57.5k)
Wide grip pull up - four sets to failure
Bent over dumbbell row 4x 8-10 reps (currently at 18k each hand)
Standing barbell curl 4x 8-10 reps (currently at 30k)
Alternate seated dumbbell curl (4x 8-10 - currently at 12k)

Sunday legs

Squat 4 x 8-10 reps (currently at 90k)
Seated leg press 3x 6-8 (currently about 220k)
Deadlift 3x 6-8 (currently about 70k but I struggle with technique)
Leg curl 3 x 6-8 (currently 65k)

In terms of diet, I was previously aiming for about 4000 calories and 300g of protein a day broadly as follows;

Breakfast: Porridge and Reflex Instant mass shake (400 calorie serving)
Morning snack: reflex instant mass shake
Lunch: chicken and pasta, piece of fruit
Afternoon snacks: 2 instant mass shakes
Evening meal: chicken + pasta
Before bed: bread and tuna - or something else to get the calories up to 4000.

Although I was putting on weight, most of it was fat so I’ve cut back on the calories, largely by replacing the mass shakes with whey protein which has lost me some fat, but also some muscle.

I’m currently now at a complete loss at to what I should do as no matter how much time, effort or money I invest, I make so little progress. I’m close to either deciding to try the steroid route, or just to give up full stop - but before doing so I thought I’d just post this message to see if anyone out there, particularly anyone who has overcome similar problems, has any suggestions on what I should do.Any advice would be much appreciated.

Many thanks in advance

Rob

[quote]Gilead101 wrote:
I’m close to either deciding to try the steroid route, or just to give up full stop[/quote]

Um, no. Both are horrible options at this point, especially for those reasons.

My advice is this:

  • get your squat and deadlift numbers up (also your standing overhead press, but that’s definitely less important)
  • get your intensity in the gym up
  • focus on getting your bodyfat down to the 10-15% range
  • seriously add in some cardio 2-4x a week; preferably HIIT and maybe some steady state

everybody wanna be a bodybuilder but dont no body wanna lift no heavy ass weight.

ponder this my child and one day you will be enlightened.

I was skinnyfat too. I got out of it by doing what most everyone else here does, and am progressing still by keeping up those same habits.

If I could do it all over again, I would’ve just purchased Wendler’s 5/3/1 book earlier. It would’ve saved me a lot time spent on trial by error. If you follow the diet, lifting, and conditioning 100% as written, you’ll lose bodyfat and gain strength and muscle.

At this stage you are analyzing a bunch of variables, but you don’t know what is working and thus what should be a control. If you don’t want to spend $20 on 5/3/1, another good option would be to follow a split off kingbeef’s thread, do 15-30 mins cardio daily, follow a sensible diet like paleo or carb backloading, and start a log up on here - if you put up videos and comments, people will coach you along.

I’m chiming in because your profile is exactly the same as mine. 180lbs, 5"8 was up over 18%bf. You can check my pic from back in April. My April pic is scary because like you was a dedicated gym rat with NO results. Yo-Yo’ed for years. Embarrassing. I will list what I did to get where I am now which is a decent first step. I think I COULD look better, but I am trying to bulk so I’m puffy from water and carbs. I saw my top abs in the early fall before I started to “bulk”. Basically, you need to cut before you build.

This is ordered as I was mentally able to dial in further and further as I went along.

  1. Implement food diary (Used LoseIt app) with anal like precision every bite!
  2. Reach caloric deficit. consumed 2500 kcals, “exercised” SIXXXXXX times per week
  3. Purchase heart rate monitor
  4. Implement barbell based circuit training 3x week, 4 mile runs 2x week, incline walking 2x week
  5. Implement “2 a days” twice per week

Plateau
In retrospect to preserve more muscle I would have eaten more protein and made those 4 mile runs 2 mile sprints instead

  1. Dial in macros more
  2. Begin eating clean
  3. Begin making my own food and toting it everywhere and looking like a total tool

Bulk

  1. Begin “T-Nation” style routines based on bang for buck compound moves
  2. Begin creatine supplementation and utilizing sleep aids once in a while for recovery
  3. Implement carb-cycling to control fat gain based on coach Thibs articles

EDIT:
Last implement
12. Remove wheat from diet (bread, flour, cereal, etc)

focus on increasing your deadlift and squat. test pullups every week. good indicator as to how much fat your putting on losing. i dont like a lot of things about crossfit but for you it might be a good idea, do it for a few months wih a good diet fat will fly off

I think the red flag is in your diet. Mass shakes are filled with shit. If you want a high calorie shake, make your own. You should eat more whole foods(including veggies) and drink less shakes. Your training looks fine.

lots of good solid posts in here. I was gunna say what guy above me said, mass gainers are usually mostly sugar.

If you wanna lose fat, cut sugar and most simple carbs. once you start to plateau slowly add carbs back in post workout. eat more protien, specifically high quality protien, from animals, make sure there is no soy or whey concentrate in your shakes (isolate, hydrolysate, and casein are all good but serve different purposes)

You’re split looks decent but if its not working for you, then do something else.

there are only 3 variations of routines that work, high intensity (lift some heavy ass weight), high volume (lift alot of weights alot of times), and high frequency (lift everyday). Choose something new and give’r shit.

here are some examples:

high intensity - 5/3/1 or something similar
high volume - german volume training, serge nubret, others
high frequency - olympic style programs, sheiko, and this is my fav short term program http://danjohn.net/2011/06/even-easier-strength-perform-better-notes/

Have ur lifting been going up over the years, or r u lifting the exact same? If it went up, how much did u originally start with when u first started?

Are you lifting what you feel like you can handle? Or utterly pushing ur self? I can tell u the steroid method is foolish… nothings worth having health problems years down the line for.

I’m 31, lifting for the same amount of years, same height, except I weigh 212 with 17% body fat. My problem was the complete opposite of urs… I had to lose weight. U on the other hand, all u have to do is eat right and lift to gain… wish I was in ur boat. Have u kept track of ur cardio or caloric intake? I have a feeling ur either not eating enough OR burning off way too Mich… u need a caloric surplus to gain mass.

[quote]zenontheterrible wrote:
lots of good solid posts in here. I was gunna say what guy above me said, mass gainers are usually mostly sugar.

If you wanna lose fat, cut sugar and most simple carbs. once you start to plateau slowly add carbs back in post workout. eat more protien, specifically high quality protien, from animals, make sure there is no soy or whey concentrate in your shakes (isolate, hydrolysate, and casein are all good but serve different purposes)

You’re split looks decent but if its not working for you, then do something else.

there are only 3 variations of routines that work, high intensity (lift some heavy ass weight), high volume (lift alot of weights alot of times), and high frequency (lift everyday). Choose something new and give’r shit.

here are some examples:

high intensity - 5/3/1 or something similar
high volume - german volume training, serge nubret, others
high frequency - olympic style programs, sheiko, and this is my fav short term program http://danjohn.net/2011/06/even-easier-strength-perform-better-notes/ [/quote]
I like this rotation of the three you said.
I prefer for high intensity using DC or Myoreps
high volume, advanced GVT instead of GVT or dave tate’s routine here http://www.T-Nation.com/free_online_article/sports_body_training_performance/my_greatest_gains_ever_dave_tate

for high frequency Dan John’s 40 days program.
I only did 20 days of the 40 day program and then did only 3.5 weeks of the Dave Tate routine (modified for my tastes) and I was really please with the results.

Really good posts here, dont bother usin juice man u dont need it.

Diet yes is first, the less processed food and sugar you eat the leaner u will get. Vary your protein sources and eat more often with smaller portions. Eating every 2.5 hours high quality protein with proper fats and unprocessed carbs will feed the muscles.

Focus on improving your numbers in the biggest lifts. Put the big rocks in the jar first, do compound lifts first then isolation movements till u have gained more mass.

Focus on bodyweight thru space movements like weighted chins and dips, squats, deadlifts, and dont neglect the push press overhead as it builds the shoulder girdle and will improve both pressing and pulling movements.

Hardcore sprinting is stellar for conditioning, keep it at a ratio of 60 secs rest per 100 yds sprinted,and go for 1000 yards total. For example u could do 5 sprints of 200 yds resting 2 mins between each to start so u can build the strength to sprint. Then ten sprints of 100 yds resting 1 min between. The most fun and explosive and beneficial is running 20 50 yard sprints at 100% capacity resting only 30 secs between each. I promise that will get you leaner and jack up your testosterone production which will help you immensely!

O ya forgot to MEGABUMP dubyas advanced GVT reccomendation, its my favorite and most used program. Do the advanced 10x5,10x4,10x3 not the 10x10. Will get you accused of juicing.

[quote]sesumatse wrote:
Really good posts here, dont bother usin juice man u dont need it.

Diet yes is first, the less processed food and sugar you eat the leaner u will get. Vary your protein sources and eat more often with smaller portions. Eating every 2.5 hours high quality protein with proper fats and unprocessed carbs will feed the muscles.

Focus on improving your numbers in the biggest lifts. Put the big rocks in the jar first, do compound lifts first then isolation movements till u have gained more mass.

Focus on bodyweight thru space movements like weighted chins and dips, squats, deadlifts, and dont neglect the push press overhead as it builds the shoulder girdle and will improve both pressing and pulling movements.

Hardcore sprinting is stellar for conditioning, keep it at a ratio of 60 secs rest per 100 yds sprinted,and go for 1000 yards total. For example u could do 5 sprints of 200 yds resting 2 mins between each to start so u can build the strength to sprint. Then ten sprints of 100 yds resting 1 min between. The most fun and explosive and beneficial is running 20 50 yard sprints at 100% capacity resting only 30 secs between each. I promise that will get you leaner and jack up your testosterone production which will help you immensely!
[/quote]

your nutrition adivce is full of misinformation.

Lol sugar increases the glycemic index of a meal, forcing insulin production and chronically elevated insulin levels make u more insulin resistant which makes u fat, period. Processed food is full of dyes and chemicals that reduce anabolism by increasing the toxic load on the body and the total lack of dietary fiber will increase the rate of carbohydrate absorbtion resulting in the insulin response again.

Eating the same source of protein for every meal is not optimal for this reason. Every protein surce is only as strong as its weakest link, as in its content of specific amino acids. Vary the protein sources, which have different amino acid profiles, and have a greater more balanced pool of aminos to feed the muscles.

Eating unprocessed foods more frequently stimulates the metabolism by demanding energy for digestion while feeding the muscles more often the nutrients they need, more muscle ,less fat. U saying one meal a day is better?

Proper fats-Getting the correct ratio of omega 3s to omega 6s will have a strong effect on gene expression in the body. So u can get this, genes tell the body to produce proteins, and getting this ratio right turns on muscle building through increased protein synthesis from heightened mitochondrial activity. Also stress hormones, specifically cortisol is reduced. So ya those dont matter much huh?

Waiting

I really loved these classes in school,btw

[quote]sesumatse wrote:
Lol sugar increases the glycemic index of a meal, forcing insulin production and chronically elevated insulin levels make u more insulin resistant which makes u fat, period. Processed food is full of dyes and chemicals that reduce anabolism by increasing the toxic load on the body and the total lack of dietary fiber will increase the rate of carbohydrate absorbtion resulting in the insulin response again.

Eating the same source of protein for every meal is not optimal for this reason. Every protein surce is only as strong as its weakest link, as in its content of specific amino acids. Vary the protein sources, which have different amino acid profiles, and have a greater more balanced pool of aminos to feed the muscles.

Eating unprocessed foods more frequently stimulates the metabolism by demanding energy for digestion while feeding the muscles more often the nutrients they need, more muscle ,less fat. U saying one meal a day is better?

Proper fats-Getting the correct ratio of omega 3s to omega 6s will have a strong effect on gene expression in the body. So u can get this, genes tell the body to produce proteins, and getting this ratio right turns on muscle building through increased protein synthesis from heightened mitochondrial activity. Also stress hormones, specifically cortisol is reduced. So ya those dont matter much huh?

Waiting [/quote]

first thing the ole have to eat every 2.5 hours is a myth it does not increase metabolism or have any effect on nutrient absorbtion. varying protein sources will have a miniscule if any difference at all to gains. eating processed food vs natural food has a very small difference on body compostition there is no difference eating say 400 calories wotrh of pizza vs 400 calories of rice and chicken. there are multiple natural pro bodybuilders who prep for shows eating poptarts and ice-cream.

Well it’s a pity you are thinking of giving up Gilead 101.
I’d say you need to take a few days off. Hell take the week off and just re charge the batteries and get your head right. In a week come back to the gym but with a whole new program.
Also dump the pasta and bread and start eating vegetables, eggs, rice and nuts.

As for your training try a new split. Nothing wrong with the one you had but it’s probably a wise idea to try something new and fresh even if it’s just to get you back enthused again. Plenty of good 4 day splits out there. Or you could just keep it basic and do a push, pull split. Doesn’t really matter but I would focus on getting strong in at least one of each movement plane. The 3 powerlifts are obvious choices. Looks like you need some help with deadlifting so perhaps check out the how to lift series on Dave Tate’s site. A quick tip is dump your current rep range and just focus on triples.

One cool thing about focusing on strength for one exercise per session is it keeps you motivated. You actually go to the gym thinking right last week I benched 100kg for 3 reps so tonight I’m going to hit 105kg or whatever it may be. Doing this gives a sense of achievement.
Another thing is if you are used to always training lifts in the same rep range then maybe try a new rep range. An example is if you normally do squats in the 8-10 range then maybe try switching to 3-5 rep range. This gives a totally different stimulus. You will get stronger and above all else you will make progress which is what it’s all about.

Don’t chuck it in just yet pal. Just try a new and fresh approach.

Hi

Many thanks to everyone who has responded to my message of last night ? I really appreciate it. I was on a bit of a downer about the whole situation last night but it was good to know that so many people were willing to respond to a request for help from a complete stranger on the internet ? even though I know you guys must have seen 1000s of similar messages before!

In terms of how I?m going to take this forward, I agree I need to get my b/f down, before trying to bulk, and also start a new programme as the current one doesn?t seem to be working and trying something new might get me more energised. I?m therefore planning to do the Advanced GVT programme, which feels like it could work well. I?ll also start doing 2-3 cardio sessions a week and keep my calories at below maintenance level until I get my b/f down to about 12%. Does that sound like a sensible approach?

I?m glad my mention of AAS prompted such a strong reaction! Whilst it?s tempting, I really don?t think I want to risk damaging my health so I?ll forget that one.

Just a couple of other points to follow up on comments/questions others have made:

  1. Mass Shakes ? I note the comments about why these in general might not be good. However, the one I?ve been using, Reflex Instant Mass, derives most of its carbs from oats rather than sugar ? a typical serving would give you 482 calories, 52g protein, 50g carbohydrates, 3g sugar, and 8.2g fat ? which seems to be quite a good mix?

My reason for asking this point is mainly laziness; I work quite long hours so preparing an extra 2-3 meals during the day would be a hassle, although I?m willing to do it if it will make a big difference. (Obviously, I realise that mass shakes aren?t great if I?m trying to cut my bodyfat so I?ll cut down on those anyway).

  1. My weights have been going up (slowly) over the years e.g. My squats started at 60k, Dumbbell Bench at around 14k each hand, Leg Press at 100k. (Admittedly, my programme was set by a personal trainer who I think was going way too easy on me). I am really pushing myself (honest!); the weights I listed are the most I can do for each exercise; when I can successfully meet the rep target for each exercise then I?ll increase the weight. The really frustrating thing is that I can see a lot of guys at my gym who, although not huge, are in pretty decent shape, but they seem to lift lighter weights than I do!

Thanks again for your help

R

Ryan, after having used gear myself as the professional bodybuilders do, I can tell you that u can get away with eating anything u want and it all turns to muscle while ur on to a point.

The rest of your claims fail the test of science, such as eating every 2.5 hours doesnt stimulate the metabolism. Digestion is an energy intensive process,and your body must produce energy to digest your food and that means metabolic stimulation, especially when eating fiber rich foods like vegetables.Some vegetables are actually calorie negative, meaning they make your body burn more calories to digest them than they give your body.

LLLOL about the pizza vs chicken and rice. Macronutrient profiles are painstakingly manipulated and recorded by professional bodybuilders in diet preparation. Hmm pizza has maybe 15 grams of low quality protein per 400 calories, chicken breast has much ,much more protein per 400 calories and much higher quality.

Ever looked at the nutrient profiles of proccessed vs natural foods, ya they are the same. Just ask a nutritionist and look at their face. Also the glycemic index of pizza, and processed food is high, again resulting in a chronically elevated insulin levels.

Gilead,

The advanced GVT if done exactly how Poliquin advises will shock you.

The veggies, eggs, rice , and nuts is as sound a reccomendation for your diet as ur gonna get from previous poster. I say throw in some steak, chicken breast, and fish as well cause ul get really hungry on the gvt.Also, natural trainers should do the advanced GVT split over 7 days as the 5 day split will crush a non elite athlete with less than 5 yrs training, its brutal and requires adequate recuperation time and so damn worth the effort it requires!