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I am 22-year-old software developer that started with fitness one and a half year ago and I am looking for some advice.

Some info

Starting weight: 86 kg - 189 lbs Actual weight: 73 kg - 160 lbs

Activities - ALWAYS BEFORE DINNER (~5pm):

  • Monday: Chest and back
  • Tuesday: Legs and core
  • Wednesday: Arms
  • Thursday: 1 hour of swimming
  • Friday: Shoulders and back
  • Saturday: Chest (a bit), legs and core
  • Sunday: 1 hour of swimming

Food

  • Breakfast: 1 egg (only egg-white), oatmeal with skim milk
  • Lunch: 1 egg (only egg-white), oatmeal with skim milk
  • 1 hour before workout: Banana
  • Dinner: Whatever my mom prepares (I only eat normal portions), Low fat & high protein Greek yogurt

Drinks

  • Only water
  • Open to shakes/energy-drinks if they could help increase energy/mass

Sleep

  • 7-8 Hours a day

My problem

I have grown a lot of muscle but I almost always feel a shortage of energy before my workout. I am not sure how I could increase it, what kind of food should help me out here? Thanks in advance!

  • What time do you go to the gym at? From your formatting, it seems to be before dinner? How much sleep do you get? You also tagged energy-drinks, is it because you're open to the idea of pre-workout drinks/shakes? – Yousend Sep 26 '16 at 18:08
  • Updated my post :) – Jdruwe Sep 26 '16 at 18:14
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    I think your diet would benefit from some vegetables and fruits, like tomatoes and apples, for example. It could be so that your lack of energy comes from the lack of vitamins or some other micronutrients if you are not taking some supplements. – Enivid Sep 29 '16 at 18:14
  • Actually you are not going to feel much energy while dieting. – Sergey Oct 7 '16 at 14:41
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I'm going to stab in the dark and assume you are getting home-cooked-style meals (which usually have around a 20:40:40 protein, carb, fat macronutrient split). I don't need a calorie counter to tell you that you are cutting pretty hard with that diet, by restricting both fat and carb intake and trying to fill your calorie needs for the day through protein.

This works (as you have no doubt found out) in helping you lose weight and gain some muscle (called re-composition).

Problem is, if you are working out 7 days a week at a high intensity then you are going to run into fatigue pretty fast with that listed diet. You simply are running on "empty". Your lifting progression will stall, your running times will stall, you will feel tired all the time.

Advice:

  • Ensure your rest is good quality, you need around 8 hours good sleep every day. This varies by individual, keep increasing it till you have a balance that suits you.
  • Ensure you are eating enough, if you are happy at your weight (and I would be), then calculate your TDEE and eat at a maintenance of calories using a sensible recommended macronutrient split (40:X:Y protein/fats/carbs). Again, this is highly personal so play with it and check the scale every few weeks, maintain consistency.
  • Put in a rest day. You don't need to do nothing, a walk for 20 minutes or so is fine but don't do anything above low intensity on at least 1 day a week. The amount of rest you need depends on your movements in the gym: lots of compound movements (barbell: squat/bench/deadlift/row/press) will need more rest days than accessory-focused work (curls/tri-extns/flys etc.) if you want to progress.
  • Cheat. You could get some caffeine tablets, drink a energy drink, have a strong black coffee, eat a carb-bar, etc. All these provide quick energy for your workouts, just be wary of what you put into your body and do your research on pre-workout using labdoor.com or similar sites.
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  • Thank you so much for this information.You are right about the cutting, I am losing a lot of weight lately. I am thinking about making 'Tuesday: Legs and core' into a rest day. I hope that my core and legs do get enough training with the swimming. I used a TDEE calculator and am allowed to eat 2,776 calories a day, I am not quite sure what Macronutrients plan to pick, do you mind taking a look? tdeecalculator.net/… – Jdruwe Sep 28 '16 at 12:17
  • What is your opinion about the following: Moderate Carb (30/35/35): - 208g protein - 108g fats - 243g carbs – Jdruwe Sep 28 '16 at 12:49
  • Not to rubbish all your gym program too much but if you want to seriously progress in your lift numbers then I would recommend jumping onto 5x5 stronglifts, its 3x per week and you can fit cardio between the workouts. The program is simple compound movements and is well understood as a good way to progress for people who have not followed a rigid progression program before. The deload to start the program will give your body some time to recover from your current fatigue too. – John Sep 28 '16 at 13:53
  • In terms of macronutrients, more carbs = more energy to complete workouts. Personally, I abandoned my 40:40:20 and went to 40:35:35 once I started running 10k twice a week on top of my workouts. Basically you just have to stick to it and listen to your body closer. IMO that site pitched me at about 300 calories too much for an maintenance so take its advice with a pinch of salt and be ready to reduce/increase as necessary. Moderate is a lot more exercise effort than you think. – John Sep 28 '16 at 13:56
  • No problem, go check out the app if you are going to do it, the app makes it a million times easier to track progress and complete the workouts. – John Sep 28 '16 at 14:09
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First of all, you need to have break days. You are working out all 7 days a week, and that way your body doesn't get enough rest to recover. It's not any specific recovery, but the recovery of your system to prepare for the next workout. I know some people who workout all 7 days a week and are doing fine, but in your case, it's not the same are you feel drained out. Your sleeping hours seems okay, but what about sleeping pattern? Do you usually go to bed at a particular time? That also determines how you'd feel the next day. From your diet plan it seems like you are heavily focused on protein, to gain mass, but remember, muscles need fuel or calories. If you feel like you have gained enough of muscles, you need to feed them with sufficient amount of calories. So, you need to make sure you are including the right amount of cards in your diet.

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For anyone who thinks over-training is not an issue, and is telling other people the same, please educate yourself before posting. Overtraining is not only real, but also dangerous. No responsible person should be insinuating to anyone that it does not apply, both to ordinary and elite athletes.

Overtraining is not only a real, acknowledged phenomena, it has been the subject of intense study spanning decades at institutions like the NIH and all accredited universities. There is no controversy amongst academic researchers, doctors and exercise PhDs. that overtraining is very real.

In the end, it pays to consider your sources with respect exercise advice. You can listen to the hit and run postings of anonymous internet posters and end up hurting yourself, possibly permanently, or you can listen to what people whose entire professional lives have been dedicated to studying exercise are telling you.

Here are some links to what is the tiny tip of the iceberg of current research on overtraining being conducted by doctors and PhDs. Such research extends back at least 40 years and more

Overtraining Syndrome

From Mark Jenkins, MD Rice University: http://www.rice.edu/~jenky/sports/overtraining.html

Overtraining: Undermining Success? Paige Kinucan and Kravitz, Ph.D.

https://www.unm.edu/~lkravitz/Article%20folder/overtraining4.html

Urhausen, A., Gabriel, H., & Kindermann, W. (1995). Blood hormones as markers of training stress and overtraining. Sports Medicine, 20, 251-276.

http://coachsci.sdsu.edu/csa/vol13/urhause1.htm

Bishop, P.A, Jones E., & Woods A.K. (2008). Recovery from training: a brief review. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research., 22(3):1015-1024.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18438210

Gleeson, M (2002). Biochemical and Immunological Markers of Overtraining. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine. 1: 31-41. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24688268

Meeusen, R, Watson, P., Hasegawa, H, Roelands, B, & Piacentini, M.F. (2006). Central fatigue: the serotonin hypothesis and beyond. Sports Med. 36(10):881-909. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17004850

Seiler, S. & Hetlelid, K.J. (2005). The impact of rest duration on work intensity and RPE during interval training. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 37(9):1601-1607. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16177614

Weiss, LW. (1991). The obtuse nature of muscular strength: The contribution of rest to its development and expression. Journal of Applied Sports Science Research. 5: 219-227. http://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/abstract/1991/11000/the_obtuse_nature_of_muscular_strength__the.9.aspx

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  • Thanks for posting alot of links, I've checked out two of your links, but don't really see anything conflicting with the idea that overtraining is not worrysome for those who are casuals or even moderately work out. It is only a worry for serious and relatively serious athletes. Feel free to point me to some specifics in one of the links you posted, unfortunately I do not have time to read them all. – Muntasir Alam Oct 8 '16 at 0:51
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OK I am going to get basted for this perhaps because weightlifting beliefs are form of religion , but since I am also a sw dev. I feel for some reason you need to be told what you're doing wrong. You are training way way way too often. I am going to guess you are doing multiple sets and multiple sets of different exercises for your arms back chest legs etc. Here's what's going on with your body.

Either you are training hard enough during the course of at least one of your multiple sets to induce growth, or your not. If you are training hard enough for one of your sets then all the other ones are a waste of energy and just causing you to release yet more stress hormones and depleting you of energy you need to recover from your growth-inducing set. You only need one set for each muscle group to trigger off the maximum hypertrophy (muscle growth) you're going to get. Your muscles are looking for a "signal" that they need to grow. Once they get that from you, they will grow as much as they can in response to that signal. This is also known as 'training to failure".

Doing set number 2 is just sending the same signal again. But your muscles understood you the first time. Yet you do it again. And again. And again. Then you go to another exercise for the same muscle group. You are beating your body down operating under the false premise that more is better . More is not better in weight lifting. Specifically, doing a second and third and fourth set is NOT going to get you more results.

The other mistake you're making is related to the first. Since you're doing multiple sets, and it takes time to do those sets, you can't work your entire body in one session. So you go back the next day (and abuse those other muscles). The problem is, all of your body's subsystems which deal with stress are getting worked out again, along with the "new" muscles. You are releasing the same stress hormones, the same exercise-related waste products into the same bloodstream yet again. Those systems are being stressed every single day according to your schedule.

But the way hypertrophy works is, your body has to RECOVER from exercise or it won't grow as much as it could have, or at all. If you never let it recover, you're interfering with its growth. You never let it recover. You just keep re-stressing it. By continually doing this, you're driving yourself into a state of over-training. Soon, all progress just stops and you're tired all the time.

Do this. Pick one exercise for each muscle for at most a total of 8 or 10 (or even less, 5 or 6). So that's like leg presses, leg curls, pullover machine, bench or flies, bicep curls, tricep pushdowns, and lateral raises for your shoulders. Do ONE set of each of those choosing a weight you can only do for 8-12 reps despite your greatest effort. When you can't do another rep during a set, try like your life depended on it to do another one anyway, and keep trying like that for 30 seconds. This should be a real tribulation for you. It's no fun to work until you truly and really can't do another rep then continue to try to do one as hard as you possibly can, with no movement of the bar, every second for 30 full seconds. That's why you never see anyone do it.

That is called "high intensity exercise". That is the unique and specific signal your muscles evolved to understand. That and nothing else will kick off maximum hypertrophy.

Then, after you're done with all your sets, get out of the weightlifting gym for FIVE full days. FIVE.

If you want to swim after TWO full days of doing absolutely nothing except using your thumb to push the buttons on your remote, then go ahead but don't exhaust yourself.

On the SIXTH day go do it again, with a very slightly heavier weight, or strive for more reps, or both. Keep accurate records to insure yourself that you are in fact getting stronger each time. You'll see. Every time you go back to the gym, you'll be significantly stronger. You won't be tired.

If you want to also get a cardio workout, then move from one exercise to the other as fast as you can bear. Notice how hard your heart and lungs are working. Much harder than they do when you're swimming. Moving fast between sets and going again to failure is murder. You're probably find you're disinclined to keep doing it. If you do, however, you are getting 3 days of cardio every six days and you're getting really fit without grinding yourself into nothing by overtraining.

The reason it's so hard is because your heart and lungs cannot supply you with enough O2 during anaerobic exercise, by definition. Weightlifting in a high intensity fashion is anaerobic. Moving from one anaerobic exercise to the next is going to drive your heart and lungs into despair. Moving quickly from one to the next to the next for 6 or 10 sets is going be so stressful it will be the thing that stops you from completing your set and not the weight. So in this way, it can actually interfere with maximizing the muscle-building potential of your workout- you quit not because the individual muscle was exhausted, like you wanted, but because your heart and lungs were!

It will never get any better, because you can't keep that level of heart and lung stress up for 10 minutes. This is the same as saying no one will ever sprint a mile, no matter how fit they become. Your body is not made to work that hard for that long and it will force you desist.

So what I am saying is- you can get a good heart/lung workout in lifting weights, but gate the rapidity with which you move from set to set, if you want to maximize muscular hypertrophy in the gym and not heart lung fitness. You should always fail at an exercise because the muscle you were working failed, not because you were about to collapse from heart / lung exhaustion. You're there to lift weights and increase strength after all.

HTH. Give this a try and see if you don't have more energy and better results and more time in your life for non-gym things too !

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  • Hmmm thanks for you insight, something to think about! :) – Jdruwe Sep 27 '16 at 20:07
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    -1. Your post is full of nonsense claims not supported by any data. It is unlikely the OP or anyone here will ever train to the extent that their body will have trouble recovering even if weightlifting is done 7 days a week, it is more likely a very horrible diet or laziness. – Muntasir Alam Oct 2 '16 at 12:25
  • Muntasir, you need to educate yourself about the body's ability to recover from exercise. – Kirby225 Oct 6 '16 at 13:15
  • I don't usually find myself agreeing with @MuntasirAlam but you really need to re-edit the post and put some links in to back your claims. Overtraining is definitely real, super-compensation is definitely a thing: fitness.stackexchange.com/questions/2679/can-you-overtrain/… but the super-compensation window for resistance work is much shorter for novice lifters than you are claiming: fitness.stackexchange.com/questions/19831/… – John Oct 7 '16 at 8:20
  • @Kirby225, are you going to post any data to support why I am wrong? Or just babble – Muntasir Alam Oct 7 '16 at 14:25

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