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Need to lose body fat, not weight, stuck at 15.5%

Discussion in 'Advanced Weight Loss' started by pcm2a, Aug 4, 2008.

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  1. pcm2a

    pcm2a New Member

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    Hello all!

    I am male 29, 5'7", 136 pounds and ~15.5% body fat. My #1 goal is to lose body fat, my #2 goal is to increase muscle.

    I have been trying low calorie (1500 cal a day) and even unhealthy low calorie (<1000 a day) and have been stuck at the ~15.5% for over 6 months.

    I have also tried for one month a low calorie and < 20 carbs which hasn't made any difference at all either.

    Now I question if low calorie plus high cardio/medium weights will ever get me any lower than 15.5% body fat. Would I be better off eating high calorie foods that have high carbs and protien (protien shakes also) and doing high weights and medium cardio?

    Which would be better for losing body fat (not weight) past 15.5%, or give me a better working example:

    Food:
    1. 2500-3000 calories a day, high protien, high carbs.
    2. 2500-3000 calories a day, high protien, low carbs/no carbs.
    3. 1500 calories a day, low carbs < 20 (current stuck at 15% with this)

    Exercise/Weights:
    1. 6 days a week of 80% weights 20% cardio (1-2 hours a day)
    2. 6 days a week of 50% weights 50% cardio (1-2 hours a day)
    3. 6 days a week of 20% weights 80% cardio (1-2 hours a day) - (currently stuck at 15.5% with this)

    Thanks!
     
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2008
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  3. Steve

    Steve Member

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    Are you male or female? If female, how are you going about assessing your body fat?
     
  4. pcm2a

    pcm2a New Member

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    Lol, I guess that makes a pretty big difference. I am male. I have been assessing my body fat with a crappy weight scale (foot) that also reads body fat. Before I started losing weight I was ~ 24% body fat and 186 pounds. That has came all the way down to the current.

    I have also used the body fat device at the golds gym, that the personal trainers use, a couple times. You hold it in your hands out in front of you. It reads similar in the 15-16% range.
     
  5. BigMOFO

    BigMOFO Active Member

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    Do you see any difference in the mirror?

    BIA is not the most accurate form of body fat measurement, so don't get too discouraged by the numbers if your atleast seeing improvements in your physique
     
  6. pcm2a

    pcm2a New Member

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    Not really. For the past > 6 months where I have been stuck at 136 and 15.5%, my arms and chest have gotten more toned (not bigger) and if I suck my gut in you can see a nice 4 pack. I still have the same amount of gut hanging over my pants and about the same amout around my neck (those are the only two places left).

    From what I can read the body fat needs to go down for those final areas of fat to be gone. I know for certain that more cardio, weights and low calorie or carb isn't going to change anything anymore unless I go starve in the desert maybe.

    I just wondered if some high calorie protein diet along with tons of weights and less cardio would be the key to get the rest of the fat gone. Hard to imagine more calories and protien = less fat, but I know you can't build muscle without it (since my muscles are stronger and toner but not bigger).
     
  7. pcm2a

    pcm2a New Member

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    I have been reading all I can find about losing body fat and gaining muscle and I have come up with a kind of hodge-podge of information that if implemented might help me or do nothing at all.

    1. eat low calorie (which I've been doing forever now) and low carbs one week
    2. eat low calorie and high carbs the next week (rice, potatoes, veggies not mcdonalds and chips)
    3. pick up some creatine, whey protein, and glutamine.
    4. twice a week (4 day rest between) do a full body weight workout, and drink all of #3 before and after the workout
    5. all other days do low intensity cardio, not running, just walking, bike, etc
    6. 1-2 days a week do abs hardcore (already do this)

    On the above would I build any muscle, even though I am still on a calorie deficit? I do not want to take in massive calories in order to build muscle with the side affect of gaining the fat that I am trying so hard to lose.
     
  8. Steve

    Steve Member

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    I don't think you get it.

    Building muscle takes excess energy. You need the excess to facilitate the growth. If the excess isn't there, what are you going to build muscle from?

    Some novices and overly fat people can certainly gain muscle while losing fat. Given that you've dieted for a while now and lost a good bit of weight, I wouldn't expect to be adding any appreciable muscle mass while dieting.

    It's just not how the body works, more often than not.
     
  9. Steve

    Steve Member

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    So low calorie always. What's low calorie in your world? And again, how does low calorie lead to muscle growth?

    In addition, what do you think the point is of rotating your carb intake?

    Why?

    Why?

    Probably not.

    I want to own a yacht, a dozen homes, and a couple of exotic cars too... all while not working.

    Hint: Conflicting goals will leave you frustrated as hell. Pick a goal and stick with it.
     
  10. Susan V

    Susan V New Member

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    I love this! See - I had a clear goal - I wanted to lose 5 lbs. of fat. But what I was doing was building muscle instead. Which is totally cool. But I still want to lose the fat - but I don't want to lose the muscle I've gained. It's enough to make your head spin!
     
  11. pcm2a

    pcm2a New Member

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    Well, my main goal for over two years now has been to lose all of my weight and have a flat stomach. I have done what I felt is everything humaly possible and have gotten close but have not made a single bit of progress over the past 6 months.

    When I said low calorie, I didn't mean some lame diet plan or "eating better". For over a year I have done hard core calorie counting. I have eaten between 1000 and 1500 calories a day (counted and calculated) except for once or twice a week I will eat a bad meal, like mexican, where I am going over that but probably not over 2500-3000 calories.

    For two years now (wasn't doing the hardcore calorie the first year) I have been going to the gym 5-6 days a week. I do all body weights (including free weights, and cable machines) ~twice a week and the other days I do cardio (bike, elliptical, treadmill) and I through in a hard abs workout for 30 minutes once a week.

    Also, for the past 4 weeks, to give it a try I have done the same low calories but I have cut out the carbs to < 20 a day. Hasn't really made a difference, except in my amount of happiness.

    So now I'm stuck in a rut for 6 months with no weight loss (dont care about less weight) or body fat loss (15.5%) and a gut still hanging over. The rules of the calorie deficit = body fat loss seem to no longer apply to me.

    I read one article that said once you are stuck in a rut, try rotating that carb intake to get things moving again. That is the only reason I brought it up. But since lots of carbs and no carbs hasn't done me any good, rotating them probably wouldn't either.

    Whats the key that I'm missing here?

    If I try to have a calorie surplus to build muscle, I am certain I will start gaining body fat insted of losing it.
     
  12. pcm2a

    pcm2a New Member

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    My weight amount doesn't bother me as much as the body fat and gut hanging over. I would even be willing to compromise the muscle I have for less body fat and gut. I would actually like to weight more, but not by the addition of fat.

    I've talked to a few personal trainers but they seem to be more experience in initial weight loss, or "bulking up" neither of which helps me.
     
  13. Steve

    Steve Member

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    Common goals are build muscle or lose fat.

    When the goal is to build muscle, you really need to be in a caloric surplus. That's not to say it's impossible to build muscle while dieting... but chances are good you won't. Especially if you're not overly fat or completely new to training. Just b/c you need a caloric surplus, however, doesn't mean you need to pack on slabs of fat. The secret is eating just enough to trigger hypertrophy while not so much that you're storing a ton of the excess to fat. Some fat gain is inevitable. But that should not be cause for concern.

    When the goal is to lose fat, you need to be in a caloric deficit. When you're eating under maintenance, you're providing less energy than is required to maintain your body. The body needs that energy, so it gets it from the only choice it has: the existing tissues. In a perfect world, this is fat. In the real world, it's fat and muscle. And that's where a lot of people go wrong. When you aren't carrying a ton of fat, losing muscle while you lose fat is a very real risk. Too many people solely focus on the scale and not more important metrics such as measurements, bf%, pictures, reflection, etc. To stave off muscle loss, you really need to ensure adequate protein is consumed and a well balanced weight training program is in place.

    Muscle building is a very intensive process, energetically speaking. Muscle itself is a very metabolically-expensive tissue. The body, already not getting enough energy to support what it has, is not going to make that situation worse by adding more. The best that most of us are going to do is lose fat and maintain the muscle we have. This is what leaves us with the nice, toned look that most are going for.

    In general though, it's a constant process. For instance, I've gone through dozens of cycles where I'm either bulking up or I'm cutting down. I could stop and be happy with where I'm at but I like the 'chase.' I like the continual progress. So I'll bulk up by eating a caloric surplus sufficient enough to trigger muscle gain. I'll continue doing this until I'm either a) bored or b) uncomfortable with my weight gain. At this point, I'll revert to a caloric deficit (while doing all the right things to preserve my old and new muscle) to shed body fat down to lean levels.

    The net result is an improved physique, assuming your 'improved' is the same as mine.

    Where some go wrong is they want the best of both worlds now. Unfortunately we are all governed by the physiological laws that dictate what is and is not possible. Without drugs, you aren't going to be able to accomplish what a caloric surplus (bulk) and a caloric deficit (cut) simultaneously.

    You might lose some fat and gain some muscle but it's a very inefficient road, IME. You'll much better serve your purpose/goal by focusing on one thing at a time using sane methodology and enjoy the ride.
     
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  14. pcm2a

    pcm2a New Member

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    Twice a week I do a real solid weight workout. Currently I do nothing different during the workout days than my calorie deficit diet. The thought was maybe drinking that garbage would help my muscles build a little bigger rather than current just getting stronger but not bigger. From what you are saying I assume that my body will just burn off the drink rather than doing anything useful with it?


    Just like I do a full body workout to strengthen/tone my arms, chest, back, etc, I do a good workout (with weights) for my abs to do the same to them. If I suck in my belly fat you can clearly see a beautiful 4 pack, and starting on the 6. Without the guy sucked in you can't see them at all. Took a long time with the abs to get them to this point.

    You mention in your post going by pictures, relection, etc. I have done this as well and over the 6 months my waist size is the same, pants fit the same, felections (waste wise) is the same, body fat the same. My face, arms, chest is better than it was 6 months ago, but minimally so since there wasnt much to improve on there.

    The problem here is that every site in the world says to lose that extra bit of belly fat, just do a calorie deficit diet. Well, what do you do when that doesn't work? Do an even greater deficit? At 1500 calories a day (3 meals 2 snacks) I think it is already considered an unhealthy amount (I am never hungry, always content), doing 1000 or less would be very unhealthy I would think.

    I read one site that site if you get stuck in a rut, eat REAL bad for one week and then start the diet again. Seems questionable though. I appretiate all of your comments and sugguestions!
     
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2008
  15. Steve

    Steve Member

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    1000 is pretty low given your stats.

    How many times did you take breaks from dieting and/or training during this time period?

    For two years now (wasn't doing the hardcore calorie the first year) I have been going to the gym 5-6 days a week. I do all body weights (including free weights, and cable machines) ~twice a week and the [/quote]

    I'd be interested and seeing what this workout consists of, although I doubt it's making much a difference.

    How do you go about your cardio? Do you just go at an intensity you feel comfortable, do you time it, do you shoot for a certain HR?

    Why?

    That's probably the last thing you need, to be honest.

    Thermodynamics still apply, don't be fooled.

    It's probably simply a case of punishing your body without adequate recovery to a point that it's finally fighting back. What should be a caloric deficit isn't any longer.

    That doesn't mean thermodynamics don't apply to you.

    Yea, I wouldn't suggest it at this point.

    Acute evil for a chronic fix
     
  16. Steve

    Steve Member

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    Creatine doesn't make you bigger. It helps with recovery.

    Protein is protein. If you're in a caloric deficit, it's not going to magically build muscle.

    Glutamine: Don't waste your money.

    How long does your total body workout last?

    We know that each of your ab workouts last 30 minutes.

    Assume each of your total body workouts last an hour. This is 3 hours of total resistance training per week.

    1/3 of that is for your abs.

    That's silly.

    You see your abs b/c you've reduced your body fat sufficiently.

    Not b/c you've done an hour of abs per week.

    See my above post.
     
  17. pcm2a

    pcm2a New Member

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    Thanks again for the responses so far, I think this has been more helpful that everything else I have read and people talked to.

    None. I have swapped routines before, going to 4-5 days a week part weights part cardio, all weights slim cardio, all cardio no weights, etc. I have no stopped dieting or working out. My cardio workouts are usually an hour, doing different machines sometimes and sometimes the same machine for an hour. I also walk the dog for 30 minutes 5-6 days a week at night (he loves it!).

    It takes me about an hour and a half and consists of chest, tri, bi, back, and legs. Low emphasis on legs due to a bad knee and all of the cardio. I have also tried breaking it up into just chest/tri (45min to an hour) with 1-2 days rest then (back/bi) and legs in the middle somewhere. Like you said with the calorie deficit it probalby doesn't make much of a different except for swapping up routines to burn a little more calories.

    As for my ABS, the 30 minute AB workout is 2 sets of 30 (instead of 3x10) on 5 different ab/weight machines and then some regular situps and stuff. Abs are always sore for a few days after and can lift a great deal more than say a year ago.

    That actually makes a good deal of sense. So if my body is just used to the current deficit what do I do to get it started up again? I could give it an even worse calorie deficit (I did that one time back around 150lbs when I got stuck, went for < 1000 a day and got things moving again then moved back to 1500). Or do I need to actually stop exercising or stop dieting and then start again after some X number of days? I want to make sure during those days I don't gain body fat, since that is counter productive.
     
  18. pcm2a

    pcm2a New Member

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    I guess I shouldn't have said "stop exercising" in there at all as an option. My fianceand I go as part of our daily routine for a long time now and really enjoy it. The gym isn't a burden :) We even go when we are on vacation!
     
  19. Steve

    Steve Member

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    Glad to hear.

    Here lies your problem my friend.

    Think of your max stress potential as a bucket. You have different stressors that fill that bucket. Life (job, relationships, etc), exercise, caloric deficit, etc.

    The bucket has a limited capacity and the body deals with all the various stressors in much the same way.

    If you chronically keep your bucket filled to the brim (or worse, overflowing) you're going to run into a brick wall. Either you're going to drag ass, you're going to stall, you're going to lose motivation, etc, etc.

    Our bodies are pretty freaking amazing, no doubt. But they are not unbreakable. They can't be 'beat on' without recovery. Our bodies actually demand recovery. If you don't give it recovery, it's eventually going to make it so you have to; injury, plateau, etc.

    What's wrong with the knee?

    I would avoid that routine. You want to be hitting your muscles as frequently as possible. Once per week frequency is suboptimal.

    I'd also place less emphasis on arms. In reality, I'm curious to see exactly what you're doing in terms of exercises, set, reps... although this is a moot point until you get your body back 'in shape' to lose weight again.

    I would not view weight training as a means of burning calories. Certainly it expends energy. Lying in bed expends energy. More importantly you should be viewing weight training as a means of muscle preservation as you diet the fat off.

    My point is you don't do 5 different exercises for your chest or your legs. So why do it for your abs? It's just one muscle group...

    Bro-science, meaning all the bodybuilders who don't truly understand physiology or biomechanics believe you have to 'blast the muscle from all angles bro" but that's far from true.

    Muscle contraction is muscle contraction.

    People tend to focus on their abs b/c that's where they have a fat storage problem. But all those isolated crunches aren't doing anything for the fat. If anything, you're building muscular endurance in the abs.

    To boot, tons of flexion exercises (such as crunches) can be counterproductive and even injurious. You have to remember, the primary function of the core is isometric stabilization. Without it, you'd bend in half, lol.

    You have to watch how you're defining 'counter productive.'

    If I used your lenses regarding productivity, anytime I gained some fat I'd be failing. If you look at my pictures in my album... I'm not failing. The long term is what matters. Don't get hung up in the short term thinking it's going to make or break you. People who do this are the same people who spin their wheels for 6-12 months without making any real progress. Sound familiar?

    I think you said your weight is 136, if I remember correctly. This means your maintenance intake is probably somewhere around 1800-2000 calories.

    If I were you or you were my client, I'd come up with some sort of systematic plan of getting your caloric intake up to that level. I certainly wouldn't do it overnight, instead, we'd lay out a systematic step-up in caloric intake.

    We'd also tweak your exercise plan concurrently. At first we'd probably remove all stress and eventually start you back up.

    You have to let your body's systems (predominantly hormonal) 'reset' so to speak.

    Weight gain during this 'resetting' period is a possibility.

    What's better?

    Minor weight gain (which will be a lot of water along with some fat and muscle) in order to lose weight effectively afterwords or another 6-12 months of spinning your wheels?
     
  20. pcm2a

    pcm2a New Member

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    I tore my meniscus a few years back either playing racquetball or wakeboarding, I'm not for sure. I had surgery and they trimmed about 15% out, and after my rehabilitation and what not for 6 months my knee never really got better. I have no pain unless I put a lot of stress on it and then it hurts and swells. So no squats, running, heavy racquetball, and I sure miss running. The last MRI I had a year ago showed a small tear where the lame doctor didn't get it all out. I've just given up on those types of leg activities rather than bear another 6 months of rehab anytime soon.

    What do you mean by this exactly? For my abs I'm doing exercises to make sure I hit my upper, middle, and lower abs, along with my sides. I know each machine "kind of" gets on all of them but some are set more for lower or upper.

    As for chest, for example, I sure do at least 5 chest machines too. Some examples would be incline bench, incline freeweight, incline flies, flat bench, decline bench, I'm sure you know what I mean, so I must have missed the point on this one. I'd say for a chest workout I do at least 5 machines, and then 3-4 that are only for tri-cep. Similarly for back and bicep.

    I don't follow some exact plan when I go. I'll pick 4-5 chest machines and 3-4 tricep machines. I try to pick some that I didn't pick the time before to swap things up and keep it interesting. I'll always hit incline, mid, and decline, upper and lower back, etc. I always do 3 sets of 10, some weeks I go the 10, 8, 6 approach making the weights heavier. Some weeks I go for low weight, 14-18 reps, and then some weeks I just picka mid weight and do 3 sets of 10 with it. I like to keep things fun and changing.

    Calorie intake:
    So it sounds to me like the best plan of attack is to raise my intake back up to my maintenance level of 1800-2000. Currently I'm running around 1500, so what kind of gradual process would you recomend since that is only 300-500 calories. I could hit that easily just by eating an extra helping of beans and a protein bar during the day.

    Another question would be for what amount of time would I maintain the 2k intake before I start to slowly cut it down again to lose more body fat?

    And a final question would be, can I continue doing my exercise routine that I am pretty happy with during this time? Not step it up but just continue as I am. I ask this because if I'm hitting the gym doing cardio for an hour and then walking the dog for a while, I'm burning at least 250-300 calories I would think. That would be coming out of my already low 1500, or soon to be normal 2000.

    I guess I should also ask, since it is an option (just not a good one) if I increase my calorie deficit would it trigger omre fat loss too? I know it might be a bad path to go down but I would like all my options ;-)

    Thanks!
     
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2008
  21. Steve

    Steve Member

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    Can someone bump this for me... I'm heading out the door and want to reply later or tomorrow.

    Thanks
     
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