T Nation

Working Hard But it's Hardly Working


I've had a rough time these last years, like many others, and recently I just snapped out and decided to do something about it. Anyway I won't bore you with the details, the short version is that I want to burn the fat accumulated during a long time of inactivity.

I set up a plan and a diet for this, but it seems it's not working at all. I go to the gym 6 times a week, alternating lifting sessions with HIIT cardio sessions, and either wednesday or thursday off. My current lifting plan is a pretty standard push/pull plan:

Workout A

Bent-over Rows
Should Press

Workout B

Bench Press

I usually do 3x8 sets, but sometimes I switch it up and something a bit different like 5x5. I won't post the numbers because they are pathetic, but at least they go up almost every workout. At some point I'll add some extra arm work like dips and some biceps curling, but this is what I do right now.

For HIIT I aim for around 15 minutes of real work, plus 5 minutes warmup and 5 minutes of cooldown. I've been increasing the difficulty every week, and right now I'm sitting at 8 intervals of 30 seconds of all-out sprinting plus 90 seconds of resting. I know it doesn't sound like much but the last 4 intervals are an honest-to-God march through hell, specially after squat day.

As for my diet I don't have the exact numbers at hand, but it's basically between 1500 and 1800 kcals depending on if it's cardio day or lifting day. On lifting day I usually eat a bit more like a PWO shake and so on. I eat regularly, and have around 5-7 meals per day. My macro split is around 45% fat, 35% protein, and 20% carbs. I don't think there's anything really weird: sugars are kept to a minimum, fat is mostly unsaturated, and most of the protein is from dead animals.

My stats are:
27 yo
185 cm
20-25% body fat depending on which formula to believe
80,0 kg
~1800 kcal BMR

I want to burn the fat no matter what. The problem is that I have been doing this for 3 weeks and there is virtually no difference since day one. I measured my waist a few days ago and the difference is so small that it could be a rounding error. I started at 80,6 kg but even a couple days ago I was weighing 81,1 kg. This makes no sense to me since I bust my balls like there is no tomorrow on every workout and I don't eat that much.

This is the first time in a long time that I'm really going all-out for something. I want to give this my best shot, and at some point hopefully start to put some quality muscle. However while the lack of results hasn't demotivated me one bit for my workouts, it is incredibly frustrating. I feel like I'm doing something wrong or that all this effort is for nothing, and at the end of the day I don't want to spend my time just howling at the moon.

I don't know what to do right now. I can lower the calories I eat, but I'm already hungry almost a lot of the time. I was also thinking about going to the gym twice a day. Basically add a normal cardio session in the morning every day before going to work, but my schedule is tight enough that it is going to be really really tough to do that. Does anyone know where I'm fucking up or what else to do? I'd like to know what more experienced people have to say about this.


By my calculation you are gettign 157.5g of protein daily, that's definitely not enough especially when cutting. Raise this to 250-300g atleast without touching anything. When losing fat you're going to want to lower carbs and raise protein always, this along with an increase in activity will do it. You can play around with having more carbs on training days than on days with just cardio or off days. Carbs should be for breakfast and pre and post workout only.

If you raise protein significantly I have no doubt your results will improve.

I know you aren't asking about a program, but you should check out Madcow/Linear 5x5, there even arm assistance work in it.

Good luck


Wow I thought my protein intake was a bit on the low end but I didn't realize it was that bad. By the way do you mean adding all that extra protein without substracting carbs or fat? Wouldn't that be too many calories in total?

Also, what is one supposed to do after a HIIT workout when cutting? I've read that HIIT should be treated like a normal lifting workout and take the usual PWO meal, but I've also read that after doing cardio one should wait at least 1-1:30 hours before eating anything, what gives? Right now I just wait, but I'm not sure if that is the best thing.

I know about the Linear 5x5 program, but I hate to squat and deadlift on the same day. After doing squats my legs usually shake and I can't do deadlifts properly :slight_smile:


Trav is right, but if you want even better results, try some fasted cardio. Keep your starchy carbs to breakfast and PWO meals. When you wake up in the morning (depending on when you trained the day before) your body should be in a bit depleted of glycogen stores. Then, when you are blasting through your intervals in the morning - which, if you thought they were hell before, wait until you do them with no energy in the a.m - you will be using your fat stores as a primary fuel source.

I have used this method every cut phase for myself. I have a photoshoot in 9 days, and have dropped 19 pounds in 12 weeks, and I am NOT a big guy. You want monster results, you have to work like a monster.

Let us know how this works.


I'd subtract a bit of your carb intake, but it's okay if your caloric intake is a bit higher than it was. You can adjust that later, for now just worry about performing well in the gym.

As far as the HIIT, most people would agree that you should treat it like a lifting session and eat around it accordingly. Low intensity can be done fasted, but you should still eat something after. I don't waiting that long after would any benifite, if you're going to eat the same amount anyways then you should have it when you need it: after you've been working hard.


Unless im doing my conversions wrong you are 6'0 tall and weigh 176 pounds and that is at 20% BF.... this means you basically do not have that much muscle mass.

IMO you really dont need to try and shock drop the fat that you have. You need to balance out your diet and drop the HIIT program. Concentrate on building muscle and throw in some extra cardio 3 times a week. By building muscle you will in the end burn more calories. You might not lose the fat as fast as you want but in a year you will be around the same weight and much leaner. You will thank yourself.

250 - 300g of protein is overkill for you. Just focus on cleaning up your diet and balancing it out 40/30/30 or 40/40/20 P/F/C @ 200G of protein.


Focus on building muscle - I agree with that. But the macro breakdown you just suggested only gives him 2500-2750 Cal. That's barely maintenance at his bodyweight.

OP, work hard and eat big for the next six months. You'll be amazed how little fat you'll gain and how much muscle you'll pack on. If I recall, I was packing down almost 4000 Cals a day when I was your weight and saw almost no fat gain until I hit 200lbs.

140.8lbs of muscle + 35.2lb fat = 20%
164.8lbs muscle + 35.2lb fat = 17.6%


If your not keeping a food log, you should. Weigh everything and keep exact calorie counts, I've found if my diet is in check the results are sure to follow.


Maybe you're training too much?

The stress from over-reaching is going to produce alot of cortisol, and that makes fat loss impossible.
I suggest you work on your diet, adding as much varied, fresh, stuff as possible, cut out refined carbs (bread, pasta etc) use rice, beans, veg, and fruits instead.

Cut the HIIT to 1x week, replace 1 with another days rest instead, and replace the other with some fasted / SS cardio. Get plenty of sunlight, and learn to relax, and recover properly from your workouts, you want to be fresh and motivated for your next session.

Be consistent and disciplined with WHAT you eat, instead of focusing entirely on macroes/quantity.

Disclaimer: This advice worked for me, but it may not work for you.


I like the thread title. I recommend Cron O Meter to keep track of your food intake or for keeping a food log.


3 WEEKS !!!!!! Your freaking out over the fact that you havent morphed into a greek god? Where did you get the idea that 3 weeks is a long time in regards to any type of program? Id might be a little worried if it was 3 months with no progress . But Three weeks?My man you have been reading to many supplement adds.


Hey guys thanks all for the replies.

Just to clear this up, I didn't write my diet in detail in the first post because I didn't remember the exact numbers, but I have one and I don't eat any refined carbs except for the juice I use to mix my shakes. The only other carbs I take is whole grain bread, but I'm trying to figure out a way to replace it with something better which I can also bring to the office. I also use a scale to weigh my meals, believe me I'm trying to do my homework lol.

mokaloka99 you are right, I'm pretty much a textbook skinny fat. But I don't see how what you are suggesting is any different than what I'm doing now, 3 days lifting and 3 days cardio. Also I'm really not too keen on raising my calories to 2700, my metabolism is super slow. Like dinosaur slow.

However what you say makes a lot of sense, and when I started this I was torn on what to do first (burn fat/put muscle). I went with fat burnin first because I really can't afford to put a single gram of fat more. I want to burn this shit off at least into a more tolerable BF level, and then maybe change plans.

Anyway I measured myself again and I noticed that I dropped a few cms from both chest and waist this week without actually lowering my body weight, so maybe I'm not doing as bad as I thought.

My plan for next week is to add a fasted cardio session (not HIIT though), improve the diet by replacing the bread and adding some extra protein, and probably raise my calories a little bit depending on my energy.

By the way Cron-o-meter looks good I'll give it a shot. I hate the interface of fitday.


I would recommend focusing on your strength training more so than your cardio; it will give you more bang for your buck since more muscle = more calories burned.

In my opinion, strength training 3xWeek combined with HIIT 3xWeek is overkill; you'll stall on your strength gains if you do HIIT so often because it's very taxing, and thus messes with your recovery. Try doing steady-state cardio instead. You can do steady-state cardio for a longer duration than HIIT and it's less intense, so you'll be able to burn more total calories with less effort, meaning you'll be able to improve your strength gains since you're not always wiped out by the interval work.

Just my 0.2 cents...


I agree 3 weeks is F all. Give yourself 52 weeks of consistenly eating 220-300g of protein 100-150g of fat and <50g of vegetable only carbs [except PWO carbs] and then you'll be fine.

weeks? come on. What the hell did you think would happen? If anything your BW went up cause fo the fluid retention caused by the muscle damage and training shake. Get off the scale for 5 weeks and then come back.



Time for a quick update if anyone cares. I changed a few of things, first I tried doing the morning cardio stuff, but that is too much for me right now. I'm usually sore and I kinda like it, but doing two workouts a day left me completely drained and my weight training was shit. I'm shelving that for now. What I did is add a short cardio workout after weight training depending on how tired I feel. If I have some energy left in the tank I spend it, but I don't overdo it.

Next I made some changes to my diet, and now it looks like this:

Breakfast: oatmeal, whey protein and some piece of fruit.
Lunch: chicken with beans
Snack: nuts (almonds, walnuts, etc.)
PWO: shake
Dinner: chicken with carbs (rice usually but I try to vary this a bit).
Snack: nuts/peanuts

It's not written in stone, for example sometimes I replace the dinner with a salmon filet on cardio days but I know exactly what I'm eating. It's around 1600-1900 cals (I eat a bit more on weight lifting days), and the macro spread depends on the day but it's roughly 40/40/20 (P/C/F). In any case my protein intake is always at least 180g. Compared to before I'm eating more carbs and from better sources, a lot less fat, and more protein. This diet works much much better for me than the one with high fat intake. Obviously the diet is a permanent work in progress, but I'm dropping BF and my lifts increase every week, so I'm gonna keep improving this and ride the newbie gains wave for as long as it lasts.

I also bought some calipers to measure BF and one of those auto adjusting measuring tapes to track progress better because inaccurate data makes me crazy, and it makes quite the difference. Anyway I know that I was freaking out in the FP but in the end the replies actually helped me so it was worth it. The only thing left now is to keep working hard and patience...