Episode 326 – My stomach has gone down, but after strength training for 40 days shouldn’t I look more muscular?

Written by Jonathan

Today, I’m going to hit up the old mail bag. It’s been a while since we’ve done a Q & A show and we got a really interesting question that I think applies to many people, so we’re doing to tackle it here.

Here’s the email question from Slow Progress Sam we’ll call him.
I’m a 33 year old male that weighs 167 lbs. and is 28% body fat. I’ve been dieting for 71 days and lifting weights for 40 days, following a very basic beginner strength training program. My stomach has gone down, but after strength training for 40 days shouldn’t I look more muscular?

Slow Progress Sam did send in some pictures, but asked me not to share them. Which is okay because I can explain what’s going on. On Day 1 he has a belly that hangs over his shorts and no muscular definition, on day 71 of dieting and day 40 of lifting his belly is at least 2” smaller probably 3 and hardly hangs over his shorts at all. Also, I can see the outline of his shoulder muscles, the ridge under his shoulder blade in his back and definitely the beginnings of an outline around his triceps and biceps in his upper arm.

Slow Progress Sam I can understand your frustration, you’re probably working really hard and you feel like for how hard you’re working you should be getting more results, especially in the way of becoming more muscular. Based on what I can see and what you’ve told me, you’re progressing at the exact rate I would expect, maybe even faster. Which I know in itself is at best probably only somewhat reassuring, so I thought we could go through some strategies to help reset your expectations and some metrics to watch so that you can see some positive progress even if it’s not at the speed you want.

First up – You didn’t send me your goal or goals, are you trying to stay at around 167 lbs. but instead of being 28% body fat you want to be 10 or 15% body fat so that you look really muscular? Are you trying to weigh 150 lbs. as an arbitrary example, but have a lower body fat percentage and look more muscular? Are you happy to stay at this body fat percentage, but want to weigh 200 lbs. and be really strong and muscular? Are you trying to weigh 200 lbs. And be 10 or 15% body fat?
Do you know what you’re shooting for or what outcome you want or would be happy with?

I’m going to assume that it’s something like weighing about the same to slightly less, but having between 10 and 15% body fat, which based on how you wrote your question and the actions you’re taking, is what I think you’re after, but if it’s not you need to be clear on that, so that you know where you’re going, because if it’s to be more muscular, that may mean weighing more and it will probably mean not dieting and eating more food and making different and better food choices thank you have been.

Once you’re clear on the outcome you want, you then need to find some metrics that can be measured. You’ve done this a little bit here, you sent in your weight and body fat percentage, which is good except I don’t know if this is your current weight and BF% or if those are your starting numbers. For me and my answer it doesn’t matter, but for you it does, because having that data can help you see trends and that you’re heading in the right direction, or simply put making progress. If you can see week over week and month over month your BF% trending down then you know you’re on the right track. This can be really helpful because after a month you might be able to see that you lost 3 lbs. of fat and gained 2 pounds of muscle, even though to you, when you look at yourself in the mirror you might feel like you haven’t changed at all.

If you don’t have a scale, you can use a tape measure on your waist circumference, you can gauge based on how your clothes feel or you can come up with another metric that works for you and your unique situation if it’s becoming more muscular, you could track the amount of weight you’re lifting on a couple different lifts like pull-ups, bench press or deadlift. They may not indicate that you’re necessarily becoming more muscular, but they will definitely indicate whether or not you’re getting stronger and sometimes that in itself is motivating enough, over the periods of time the other metrics you’ve chosen aren’t improving at the rate you want.

Which segues into this next point. No matter what your goal is, it’s never going to come fast enough, it’s never going to come fast enough and it’s almost always going to come with periods of frustration, because you’re going to feel like you’re working so hard and it’s going to seem like nothing is happening, which make the metrics all the more important, because when it takes such a long time, you need to see progress in some areas to stay motivated and no matter what, when it comes to sustainable weight loss, when come to getting stronger, when it comes to looking more defined and muscular it always takes a long time, way longer than you think it will, it’s just the reality of the situation.

Slow Progress Sam, I know you’re a bit frustrated right now, but to me it looks like you’re progressing as I would expect and you’re definitely on the right track.



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