Weight and Resistance Training - Getting Weaker and Not Losing Weight (Long)

10-03-2005, 06:01 PM
Hi all,

I’ve been lurking on this wonderful board for a few months now. You all really seem to know your stuff. Now that I am stumped I was hoping you could offer me some insight.

I am so frustrated with my health & fitness goals. I am a 30-year old female – 5’2”, 125 lbs. I am dedicated to healthy eating and fitness, but I have noticed that I am gaining about one pound a year. I definitely want to stop this and would honestly love to lose 5-7 pounds to get back to where I was before law school. I generally refuse to weigh myself, but the nutritionist I met with urged me to do so. So I weigh in about once every week or two. Sometimes I go down a pound or two and other times I go back up. I am sure it is water weight, but it is frustrating and underscores my reasons for not wanting to weigh myself.

For years I worked out 4-5 times/week doing at least 20-30 minutes of cardio and 20-30 minutes of weight lifting, usually circuit training. Last November I decided to intensify my workouts and began following the splits on Krista’s website. Then I transitioned into the BFL program for the weight lifting portion.

I currently work out 7-9 times a week (with one day of rest). I usually do 30-50 minutes of moderate to intense cardio (running or sometimes elliptical) Mondays-Friday, a long run on Sundays (60 minutes – around 6.5 miles), and then at lunchtime I do 50-60 minutes of weightlifting M/W/F (alternating upper & lower – 3 sets of each exercise, 6-8 reps) and a second, shorter (20-30 minutes) cardio session Tuesdays/Thursdays. As for weights, I track my workouts, and at each session I try to either do one more rep or lift more weight for each exercise. This has been great and is especially evident as I near my goal of being able to do 8 pull-ups by the end of the year (I could only do one in January and could do 5.5 a week ago).

As for eating, I am a pretty healthful eater. I track my intake using fitday, and I currently shoot for around 1900 calories/day (more on weekends – but not enough to thwart my weight loss goals).

For the past two months I’ve increased my protein intake to balance with carbs (ala BFL), but having not seen any real improvements I am reverting back to my normal diet, which includes lots of whole grains/veggies and fewer animal products/somewhat less protein and fewer processed food.

Despite all of the above, I feel like I am unable to lose the few pounds I wish to. What’s worse is that in my last two workouts I have actually decreased my strength. Part of this might be because I injured my shoulder a week and a half ago [I was trying to get the 25 lb. dumbbells into position to do chest press on the ball]. Meanwhile, I will say that my running times just keep getting faster, which I am very happy about.

I know I am not fat or overweight, but frankly, my clothes are tighter than they used to be and I am not content with that. I don’t feel like I can exercise more than I am now, and when I try to reduce my calories further I wake up hungry or become ill.

Any advice to offer? I did meet with a nutritionist who determine my RMR as 1440 cal., and suggested the 1900-2100 cal/day target for gradual weight loss. I know that if someone presented this question to me I would guess that they were not accurately counting calories, but I am pretty sure that I am. Without making myself sound to fanatical I do try to measure food and count everything.

I am just so frustrated. Do you have any advice to offer? Thanks!

10-03-2005, 06:10 PM
My initial thought is to drop the long run. I know that sounds counter-intuitive, but a few years ago I was training for a half marathon while maintaining my same lifting schedule and eating. My trainer, currently my boss, kept warning me that I'd lose muscle and get fatter. I scoffed at the idea. How could I possibly get fatter if I was doing MORE? Well, he was right. I gained a pound or two, my body fat went up about 4% and my strength significantly decreased.

I'm sure Ilene and Ellen will be along and tell you the opposite :D


10-03-2005, 06:32 PM
Another thought ... you seem to be assuming that the pound that you've been gaining per year is fat -- have you ever considered that you may have gained pounds of muscle (which is a GOOD thing!), not fat. Do you check your BF % regularly? That will tell you whether those pounds gained are muscle or fat.

I would really be surprised if you haven't added any muscle, considering the workouts you've been doing recently. And, of course, adding muscle makes the scale go up. Which is why the scale is not a very good measure of fitness!!

As you probably are aware, your weight is considered perfect for your height. Regardless, your BF % would give you a much better insight into whether you genuinely have pounds of fat left to lose or not.

If you really do still have fat to lose, I second Mel on cutting down on the cardio. More is definitely not better. I'd also consider revisiting the calories issue -- I'm not aware of many people who can lose on 1900/day, especially someone as small as you are already. I weigh more than you do, have a higher RMR and still have to cut to 1200-1300 in order to budge a pound.

Good luck and let us know how you're doing!

10-03-2005, 08:43 PM
ditto to the advice that is already given.

10-03-2005, 11:20 PM
I agree with what the others have said, but you may also want to change your routine up a bit. The body adapts to any workout after just a few weeks, so you will want to change it up often. Ypu may also want to have 2 rest days but make one an active recovery and do light yoga/pilates and the other take off completely.

10-03-2005, 11:29 PM
My first thoughts were the 1900 calories/day seem a bit high... Maybe shave off 100-200 calories/day to start and go from there to see if you are still gaining weight. My second thought was also that you were making muscle but then you say your clothes is getting tighter. I only run 3-4 times/week and my long run is run is 10-12k, it's usually only 5k ... Like Frimgirl said you may need a chnage of routine...

10-04-2005, 09:25 AM
I'm sure Ilene and Ellen will be along and tell you the opposite :D


Actually, Mel, I am in total agreement with you. Since I started running my weight has not really changed by more a a couple of pounds in either direction (most based on TOM). I run for the joy of the run, not for the weight loss.

Elizabeth, Warning, this is a long response. I have a couple of suggestions based on my experience that I would like to share. But you need to know, my primary goal now is not weight loss or dress sizes (that is a bonus) but improved health and the banishment of high blood pressure, cholesterol and Type 2 Diabetes.

First, are you doing straight cardio or including High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) during your session? For me moving to HIIT has resulted in a more effective workout and better cardiovascular health. Do you have a heart rate monitor? You should be doing most of your cardio workout at about 70-75% and up to 85-90% for short bursts. I'd suggest starting with 1 min for every 10 min. If you do not have a heart rate monitor, through the first 10 min you should be able to carry on a conversation with slight difficulty or sing outloud. For the next min you should punch it and be almost gasping for breath. I promise, this will tweak the work out. I'd suggest doing this on your indoor cardio days and not your long run for the first few weeks, then add to your long run. You may also want to tweak your cardio programs and play out with all those little programmed routines on the equipment - you need them both to keep your body guessing what is coming and to relieve bordom.

On the subject of your long run: how is it different from an hour run on your regular cardio days? Also, how are you fueling for it? This leads directly into diet questions:

1) I agree that you may want to tweak back 100-200 on the daily calories and see how that works. I also applaud your move back to whole, unprocessed food. I have had to experiment and through trial and error I have found that my best ratio is 50-55% carbs, 25-30% protein and 20-25% fat (or something like that -I am a little under the weather and math is hard right now).

2) Eat more whole and unprocessed foods most (90%) of the time. Avoid eliminating entire food groups from your diet, but do avoid manufactured chemical additives to food like partially hydronated oils and high fructose corn syrup. We know that partially hydronated fats are "trans fats" and lead to high cholesterol and hardening of the arteries. Maufacturers use it primarily to increase shelf stability and, yes, it is cheap to produce. Additionally, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) does not occur in nature and is used by food manufacturers because it is cheaper than sugar. Unfortunately our bodies have two reactions to this. It turns on a signal in the brain that say "yum, sugar", never gets a real sugar hit because the body cannot metabolise it as sugar that can be used by the cells. So we get a double hit because the brain still wants sugar (can you say craving?) and the HFCS goes right into fat stores. Become an avid label reader. Yes, HFCS is in soda and candy and chips, but also in things like pickles and soups. Be wary.

3) How are you fueling for your long runs? Do you use gels or gatorade? For runs of 1-2 hours you do not need these things. They are also filled with simple sugars for endurance runners that need quick fuel to glycogen depleted cells. For times under 3-4 hours this just converts to unused sugars and fats. Just be sure to carry water with you. On hot, humid days you may need electrolytes or potassium. I use a drink mix from Emergen'C that I mix with a liter bottle fo water. So, what should you do for for a run? Eat a good (small) breakfast an hour or so before your run - a slice of whole wheat toast with lowfat cheese or full fat (natural) peanut butter or a couple hard boiled egg whites, cereal with skim milk or yogurt and fruit. Have a similar snack ready when you are done. I keep a half a PB sandwich and an orange in my car (and of couse, additional water) If your runs get higher in duration you may want to take a high quality carb on the run with you.

Back to the long runs and how it differs from your weekly cardio program: check out some running sites and figure out a way to mix up your runs (intervals, hills, easy runs, tempo runs) increase your mileage or duration for your long runs and mix in additional cardio activities and resistance training as well as felxibility (yoga and Pilates). Here are some suggestions:

Hal Higdon: http://www.halhigdon.com/
Jeff Galloway: http://www.jeffgalloway.com/
Runner's World (my fav): http://www.runnersworld.com/home/0,,s6-0-0-0-0,00.html

Also, learn to listen to your body. You want to listen for two very different and important clues: Do you need more rest (may actually change from day to day or week to week) and do you need to change up either your cardio or restistance routines. The body does adapt and change keeps it guessing.

This is a lot of information. Take your time to digest it (no pun intended), try things out and let us know what works for you. Good luck, Elizabeth

10-04-2005, 09:53 AM
Ellen AWESOME post!!

10-04-2005, 10:15 AM
Thanks, Ellen, great post! :)

10-04-2005, 10:45 AM
Wow, everyone. Thank you so much for your responses. You’ve given me some good advice and a lot to think about.

Can you explain to me why dropping the long run will help me lose fat? Does it have something to do with the idea that cardio breaks muscle down? I saw this on Krista’s site but when I initially noticed my belly gain when I reduced my cardio and increased my weight lifting. This led me to where I am now with all of these workouts.

Unfortunately, I do think that the additional weight is fat. First of all, my waistbands are tight and I do have more of a belly. Also I did have a body fat test (caliper method). I was about 18% about 3 years ago, and when I was most recently tested (in February) I was 20-21%. Despite this, I know I definitely have added muscle. Not only can I see and feel it, but more importantly I can see how much stronger I’ve gotten by how much more I can lift. When I started last November I could squat 45 lbs – now I can do three sets at 110. I could only do one pullup and now I can do 5; I can now curl 50 lbs - you get the idea… I love the strength. I think muscles are SEXY and frankly, are one of the keys to lifelong health for so many reasons. I am not as concerned with my weight number as the fact that my waistbands are uncomfortable by the end of the day. I simply refuse to buy new clothes. I want to stop this trend now rather than later.

As far as calories, I will try scaling it back a little. I think the nutritionist said 1900 because I work out so much. I guess if I workout a little less then I could do fewer calories. If I go lower than 1600-1700 I wake up hungry. [Any ideas on how to handle this?] FYI, many days I do come in around 1600, but then occasionally I am closer to 2000 (certainly on weekends).

That is good advice about variety. Here is what I currently do for cardio:

Sunday, long run. For several months this was on the treadmill. I would generally do something like 1 min@ 5.0 mph; 1 min @ 5.5; 1 min @ 6.0; 1 min @ 6.5; 1 min @ 7.0, and repeat 12 times. I started slightly increasing the speed recently (i.e., 5.2, 5.7, 6.2, 6.7, 7.2). Since it has gotten cooler recently, I have resumed running outside. My course is pretty hilly. The past two weeks I have run the first 3 miles at a consistent pace (around 9:45 miles) and then run/walk for the last 3 miles. I try to vary the intervals here – one week was 3 min:1 min. run/walk ; this weekend was something different – 45 sec. run: 15 sec. walk.

As for my other cardio sessions, I try to make sure I have a good variety. My routine is something like Monday/Wednesday/Friday: 30-45 minute run on treadmill at steady pace (around 6.2-6.8 mph) or elliptical/stairmaster at moderate pace; Tuesday/Thursday: AM – intense 45-minute intervals (either pyramid-style like Sunday run or run/walk with high intensity running) PM-(usually just once/week) short workout – usually 20-25 minutes very fast (I’ve tried HIIT but I think I have pushed myself too hard – trying to run at 9.0 mph). I try to change it up quite a bit. Sometimes I will use the incline on the treadmill for the whole time, or just for intervals; and I do use the programs on the machines to keep my body guessing :)

Any suggestions on how to change it up based on the above.

I am definitely on the same page as you. I keep reminding myself that overall health is the goal, not vanity. Of course, there is that darn waistband issue which is really getting me down. I am a big nutrition nut and try to eat very little processed food. I am extremely conscious of (perhaps fanatical about) the issues you mentioned (trans fat and HFCS). Thanks.

Thanks for reminding me about HIIT. I started trying it, but didn’t stick with it (see my note above about hitting it too hard). I think I will try it again, but not to the point of practically vomiting ;) I do have a HR monitor, I’ll try to use it as a gauge.

Thanks for the thoughts on how I should be fueling for the long run. I specifically asked my nutritionist about this, but she never got back to me. Since it usually an hour, I just try to have more carbs for dinner the night before. I started having a little Gatorade afterwards, but my husband thinks that is worthless.

And thanks for those links. I will check them out.

Thanks again everyone.

10-04-2005, 11:55 AM
From my experience and my reading, any cardio where your heartrate is up there for over an hour is catabolic: you are burning muscle for fuel no matter whether you've carb loaded the night before or not. That's why I suggested dropping the long run. I try to do the minimum cardio necessary for weight maintenance and heart health, and the maximum amount of weight lifting. This works for me; I'm a recovered distance runner and would really rather have a lot of muscle. I do HIIT most of the time, but not to the vomitting point! It's not necessary or real pleasant to push yourself that hard.

If you are doing all that cardio for weightloss rather than because yu enjoy it, I'd take a look at your nutrition, your lifting and the type of cardio that you do, rather than doing more. I think more or even the amount that you are doing now is too much!

As for the hunger issue...waking up hungry in the morning isn't a bad thing! Being hungry all day is. If you are eating even 1700 calories of lean protein, compex carbs, fresh vegetables and fruits, that's a lot of bulky food. You mentioned that you are very aware of fats in your diet. Are you getting enough "good fats" to feel satiated? At least 20% of your calories? If you are eating a very low fat diet you may never feel full. If that's the case, try a drizzle of olive oil on your salads or a tablespoon of natural peanut butter (as long as you can stop!)


10-04-2005, 12:07 PM
I agree with Mel. Running (or any sort of long duration cardio) is a fantastic way to lose hard earned muscle. The combination of dieting plus lots of cardio is going to encourage your body to adapt to the stress by dropping lots of "useless" muscle unless you are very careful.

I would favor doing shorter more intense cardio to condition your heart while maintaining your strength. I think you could stick with 1900 Cal/day (should be close to maintainance for someone your size) and do some bodybuilding to change your BF% and then, maybe, diet to lose a few pounds and get your ideal physique.

Now, if you just want to be light, then I would stick with the running and drop your calories, as suggested above.


10-04-2005, 01:39 PM
I try to do the minimum cardio necessary for weight maintenance and heart health, and the maximum amount of weight lifting. This works for me; I'm a recovered distance runner and would really rather have a lot of muscle. I do HIIT most of the time, but not to the vomitting point! It's not necessary or real pleasant to push yourself that hard. Mel

Thanks, Mel. I am trying to digest this information. I know everyone is different. Would you mind giving me an idea of what my routine [i]should[i/] be? I am a little scared that if I cut down the cardio I will gain... But I have faith in you :) (FYI, the pushing myself to that point hard wasn't intentional.)

If you are doing all that cardio for weightloss rather than because yu enjoy it, I'd take a look at your nutrition, your lifting and the type of cardio that you do, rather than doing more. I think more or even the amount that you are doing now is too much!Mel

I like a little cardio, but right now I am sick of it. I just went back through a month's worth of fitday entries. I average about 1774 calories on weekdays. I average 30% calories from fat, 43% calories from carbs, and 26% protein. As you can see, I am getting enough fat. Most of it is good fat - healthy oils, cottage cheese, soy milk, fish and lean meat.

As for the hunger issue...waking up hungry in the morning isn't a bad thing! Being hungry all day is. If you are eating even 1700 calories of lean protein, compex carbs, fresh vegetables and fruits, that's a lot of bulky food.

It is not waking up in the morning that is a problem, it is waking in the middle of the night that I am trying to avoid. When I try to go below 1700 calories I will usually go to bed with a tinge of hunger - sometimes it goes away but other times I have to get up in the middle of the night and grab a snack (otherwise I stay awake for hours trying to ignore the hunger pains). I try to keep it healthy when I do that (a slice of soy cheese, or cottage cheese) but not only is it bad for health, IMO, to eat like this, it makes it harder to wake up in the morning and go to the gym when I haven't slept well.

Thanks again. I am really taking your advice to heart.

10-04-2005, 01:53 PM

I was reading all the posts - and they are excellent! I basically have nothing to add except my own experience. About 2 month ago i did 100km mountain bike ride and triathlon and after that notices BIG amounts of fat gathering around my waist. It was strange as I was still eating healthy, nutritious food, averaging about 1300-1500 cal/day, doing weight training, running, walking every day, etc. I did not change anything, I did not expect that my body changes, and I did not expect to get broader waist line when I NEVER in my life accumulated weight in the waist area - mostly in upper arms and hips. So once I was not feeling well and I went to see a doctor and after tests I found out that I was having hypotiroidism - lack of thyroid hormones which cause metabolism slow down and lead to unexpected gain in weight. Now I am slowly progressing towards dose of medication adjustment, but I already see a difference in my jeans - like I am back to normal me but slowly.

It is just a kind of reminder - probably if something happens what you do not expect - checking with your doctor is not a bad idea.