Scrawny Limbs, Padded Torso - Diet or Weights?

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    Mar 31, 2008 3:21 AM GMT
    Puberty was a godsend--growing tall pulled me up and out of the chunky little boy that had been fattened up by a loving Southern family, and now, I'm a junior in college, and finally trying to get really healthy and fit. I'm just in a bit of a dilemma.

    My arms are scrawny--in some pictures they look as though they don't even fit my body. My midsection, however, still remains quite "plush," with a fairly equal distribution in my stomach, love handles, and chest.

    I've been scouring the net for advice, yet most tips seem conflicting. I want to build up my arms, but lose the weight around my stomach and on my chest. From what I read, it seems like I can't build any muscle without increasing nutrients and calories, but I can't lose weight unless I burn more calories than I take in.

    I've taken iguanaSF's advice to heart, understanding I need to keep that healthy ratio between calories ingested and calories burned. My question is how do I go about this effectively? Worry about taking in fewer calories to ensure I'm burning a little more each day, or worry about building muscle and hoping that this workout, as well as my current diet allowing for muscle to be synthesized, will make changes in diet unnecessary?

    Thanks to those who've already made thoughtful responses, and thanks to all future responses as well!

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    Mar 31, 2008 5:24 AM GMT
    TorenJacobs saidFrom what I read, it seems like I can't build any muscle without increasing my calories and nutrients, but I can't lose weight unless I cut calories. Thanks!

    Not quite true. Careful of being dogmatic. Every person is different and will need to figure out what works best for you. There are "rules of thumb" but they will always be wrong under some conditions.

    For example, if you just start going to the gym -- assuming you stick with it past the first 4 weeks or so. You will probably make the best muscle gains in your entire lifting career. I'm not going to say why. I will leave that as a relatively simple exercise for the reader (hint: muscles break down/grow in response to increased stresses... really big hint: moving from never working out to working out versus working out for 5 years and getting a little more intense in your 5th year -- which do you think is more stress on your muscles?)

    Also, don't fall into the trap of "losing weight = cutting calories." This drives me nuts.

    Important: Losing weight = lowering the ratio of calories taken in relative to calories burned.

    You can keep your McDonald's every day diet, and in theory lose weight if you start burning more. Why do you think many kids who eat MickyD's every day don't gain weight? Cause they run around like little atom bombs burning a ton of calories relative to their older siblings whose life consists of sitting at desks, cars, and the couch.

    So, my advice for you:

    Start just going to the gym. Hold off on diet changes initially. Hit the whole body (don't neglect legs) but focus on weak areas (i.e. hit those first, when you are fresh and have the most energy).

    After 4 weeks or so, see how you are doing. If you're losing a bit of weight around the middle cause of the extra calories burned, keep it up. If you don't seem to be losing any "bad" weight, then toss in some cardio and start to tweak the diet. And by tweaking the diet, I mean putting what you eat every day in a spreadsheet, with 4 columns: calories, carbs, protein, and fat, and making adjustments to bring things into a better balance. Just making the spreadsheet will be a real eye opener.

    Full disclosure I'm a scientist by training, and I hate it when folks change too many variables at once, cause then they can never learn what works, thus my advice to just start with the gym only.

    Given your age, your picture (cute icon_smile.gif, and the problem you've described, I think you have an easily solvable problem. The guys here will help out a lot -- and they won't rant as much as I do icon_smile.gif

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    Mar 31, 2008 10:50 AM GMT
    TorenJacobs, you could have a physique similar to mine. I have very thin forearms and wrists, but I have a 41" chest. My upperbody has always been big. My ribcage is huge. I have lost weight around the midsection and waist so I am a bit disproportionate. It is like mother nature changed her mind halfway through the creation process.

    I work out on my arms by benchpressing, but I will never have thick wrists.
  • GQjock

    Posts: 11649

    Mar 31, 2008 11:01 AM GMT
    The term that a lot of trainers that I know use the term
    ... skinny-fat

    which is basically what you described
    a guy who's not overtly fat but has a bit of a spare tire and not too much muscle on him

    like all of us
    you need to make a commitment to living a healthy lifestyle
    and that INCLUDES both diet and exercise
    you need to get to the gym at least 3 times a week
    and eat at least 3 meals a day
    that are lo in fat
    lo-moderate carbs
    and hi protein
    no fast foods and no much in the alcohol dept

    if you press the metal to the mettle on that you'll be good to go
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    Apr 03, 2008 6:52 PM GMT
    Just wanted to thank everyone for their help! Although I know going by the good ol' rules of empiricism (thanks iguana :winkicon_smile.gif, I shouldn't have messed with my diet just yet, but I have begun giving myself a little help in the food department by adding a lot of vegetables that were not there before, cutting down on the starches a bit, and eating more lean protein, and I've been feeling great.

    I've gotten myself to get active in the evenings by doing body-weight exercises (e.g. pushups, squats, and bicycle crunches) as well as improving my flexibility with a little yoga. (My secret weapon is practicing my "awesome" dance moves while my roommate's out with my music turned up loud, which feels like I'm hitting my whole body with a nice long cardio session.)

    I feel great, and I'm feeling really motivated to keep it up. I've managed to pull through two weeks now, and I get such a good feeling after working out that I feel as though I don't ever want to stop.

    Haha, I know it's really that first month that might mean success, but I'm optimistic.