I'm a student who has struggled with my weight since I went off to college, particularly during my sophomore year. I'm a 5'11 male, and I would guess my starting weight as I entered college was around 175-180 lbs.

After I started working during my sophomore year I started eating out a lot more due to a lack of time to cook and prepare meals (and extra money in my pocket). Before I knew it hit me I had put on almost 30 lbs and was sitting at 206.

This was definitely a depressing thing for me. I was very active in high-school and in-shape. I never had to worry about what I ate because of playing sports and just being generally active.

After I saw 206 on the scale I immediately made a change in my diet and started working out again. I went from 206 to 190 in about 3 months. However, since then (almost 8 months ago) I have hit a plateau and struggled to lose anymore. Now a-days I hover more around 193-195.

I'm looking for advice on what I can change in my eating habits and workout routine to keep dropping the weight. I'd like to lose another 10 at least.

The changes I've made in my diet are this:

  • Extreme cut back on soda. I used to drink a mountain dew every morning for the caffeine, and maybe another soda around lunch time. I stopped buying soda to keep at home and will only drink it at a sit-down restaurant. I would say on average I consume about 1 soda a week now, maybe less (Coke Zero).

  • No late night carbs. I was/still am a late night snacker. I used to eat a bagel before bed every night. Looking back I think it's hilarious how stupid this was, so I stopped doing that.

  • Started going to the gym again. I would say 2-3 times a week after class. More recently (within the last month), I've been going 4-5 times a week.

My gym routine looks like this

  • Stretch for 5-10 mins.
  • Walk and stretch one lap around the track.
  • Run 1 to 1.5 miles around the track. On average I run about a 9 minute mile.
  • Walk 2 laps to cool-down.
  • Get on the bike (indoor) for 15-20 minutes of interval training.
  • Walk another lap to cool down.
  • Next, I do some sort of weight training. Depending on how busy the gym is, I might go into the free-weight section and do about 15 minutes of weight training. Or maybe hop on the rowing machine for the same amount of time.

At this point I'm usually done with my workout and head home. On nicer days I walk home, about a mile. During the winter I take the train back.

Now, I will admit that I struggled a lot during the winter to get to the gym. I never completely stopped, but there were weeks when I could only get there once. I'm a full-time college student and I also work about 30 hours per week at an office job. So it can be really hard to get motivated to workout. I started carrying pre-workout with me to work and taking it just before I leave the office. This always makes me energized and pumped enough to get to the gym.

The first thing I'm looking for advice on is my gym routine. I think it was good enough to get me started when I first needed to lose weight, but now I need to ramp it up to get over this next hurtle.

I've always been cautious to do too much weight training while I'm trying to lose weight, so that's why I focus more on cardio. I'd like to be lean and muscular, not thick and muscular. Though, maybe there's certain types of weight training that will help more with weight loss.

Second, I think I could also improve my diet. I'm very busy, so I tend to eat out a lot. It's very rare that I eat fast food like McDonalds, Taco Bell, etc. I usually go to this Mediterranean Grill by my office that offers very healthy options.

Most days I get a chicken wrap that includes rice, mixed greens, garlic sauce, onions, and feta (~700 Cal). This is a common type of meal that I eat at home as well. Or a turkey sandwhich on wheat with a slice of cheese.

My one fast food weakness is Chipotle burrito bowls (Chicken, Rice, Veggies, Cheese, Sour Cream, Lettuce. ~1000 Cal). Which I have about once or twice a week.

I'm also a very big snacker. I tend to try and buy healthier snacks like Skinny Popcorn, or whole-grain goldfish or cheese-itz. I usually try to limit myself to one serving or so (~200 Cal). I would say I snack about 2-3 time a day.

I drink 2-3 bottles of water. And sometimes add a flavor packet or squirt to it (0 Cal). Some days I also have a coffee from home or starbucks. Which I would guess is around 300 Cal. Though, I probably only have about 2-3 a week.

I think the snacking is an issue because my other meals aren't filling enough (excluding the Chipotle). At home, I would say I try to eat about 600 cal meals. With my total intake for the day being around 1600-2000.

I don't drink alcohol very often, maybe once or twice a month with some friends, which is usually followed by some drunk food as well.

If there's anymore information I can provide let me know.

It's very apparent that I have excess fat in my stomach and chest area. I don't have man boobs, but there's definitely fat there. I'd like to have a more well-defined chest so my shirts fit better and lose the excess stomach weight. I realize you can't target specific areas to lose fat, I just wanted to share my goals.

Sorry for the wall of text. In short, the two things I'm looking for help on are:

What can I do to improve my workout, how many calories should I be trying to burn in a 45-60 minute workout? What should I be doing differently?

How can I improve my diet? Are there any red flags? What can I add to my diet? How can I avoid being hungry all the time?

And also, any supplements to recommend? (Pre-workout energy boost, meal substitution, etc.)?

  • 1
    Why do you think a bagel before bed ia hilariously stupid? If you are a student, I would highly recommend picking up a basic nutrition class as an elective. Same with some for credit activity classes.
    – JohnP
    Mar 24, 2018 at 15:10
  • @JohnP for someone trying to cut weight, eating a bagel at 2am every night would seem like a bad idea to me.
    – 23k
    Mar 24, 2018 at 17:04
  • Don't buy into pseudo science and myths. Calories are calories. If you are in a deficit, a nightly bagel is no more likely to get stored as fat than a 10 am apple. The type of carbs might have an impact, but weight gain/loss is almost solely about calories in vs. calories out.
    – JohnP
    Mar 24, 2018 at 21:59
  • @JohnP Are you seriously still saying a calorie is a calorie? A bagel is refined flour and an apple is a whole food. How about tire rubber vs broccoli? Both have calorie counts, so they must be the same, right. They have totally different affects on insulin. Food timing does, too. Talk about pseudo science.
    – michael
    Mar 30, 2018 at 20:46
  • Snacks + chipotle really doesn't have much place in an aggressively healthy diet. And I'll respectfully disagree that "calories=calories". 200 calories of almonds vs 200 calories of wheat thins has a very different impact on your body. Insulin production, blood sugar, fat storage promotion, and appetite suppression are nearly 180 from each other. And that's without even getting into the other nutrients (or lack thereof).
    – Eric
    Apr 1, 2018 at 17:11

3 Answers 3


I think logging your food is probably going to be your best bet. Forget all the noise about what you should eat, when you should eat it, etc... That’s way more advanced than you really need to worry about at this point in time. Besides, sustainability is a major factor with permanent change. Anyone can stick to some fad diet for a little while, but very few do for life.

The benefit to logging food is not just so you know how much you overate in a single day, but as you become consistent with it, it can do the following:

  1. Make you more aware of how much exercise erases from what you ate. Hint: It’s not nearly as much as most of us would like.

  2. You’ll begin to recognize different foods for their caloric content. Go out to eat with friends? You can look at a menu and get a great idea of the “damage” you’re about to do. This can help keep things to a minimum, especially with limited healthy options available.

  3. Perhaps most important is that you’ll start to find where calories are adding up. Sometimes there are healthy, albeit calorie dense foods in one’s diet that significantly rack up the calorie count. That doesn’t mean you should stay away from them, but rather may need to cut back a little. Nuts and avocados are offenders of this - great for you, but watch how much you eat!

As far as exercise goes, I would try building more muscle. Trust me, bodybuilders take years of dedicated hard work to get that thick. Doing 3 sets of 12 reps isn’t going to make you turn into the Hulk.

For that matter, running a mile to a mile and a half isn’t doing much. Traveling a mile, whether walking or running, burns about 110 calories. The way I see it, you’re basically burning off some juice for your HIIT workout and weightlifting session. If you’re taxed from cardio and weightlifting before HIIT, you’re not really going to maximize the benefit of the HIIT.

I honestly think you’re better off weightlifting with good intensity 2-3 days a week and doing HIIT and/or long, steady-state cardio 2-3 days a week (depending on your goals). Do that while maintaining a calorie deficit of approx. 500 calories a day and you’ll be on the right path.

If you’re performing solid, intense workouts, you’ll start to experience the right cardio/muscular gains. In turn, this will help start the metabolic processes of burning fat - especially visceral fat.

One other thing I’d like to note: MOST people actually know what they need to do to lose the weight. They might not like the answers and often times they’re hoping for some sort of miraculous cure for their weight problems. Maybe, just maybe, there will be some insight that someone will give them and the switch will flip? I hope you get some of that, but deep down you probably know where the weaknesses are and whether or not you’re performing in the gym as intensely as you could be.

Eat clean and hit it hard. You’ll watch weight disappear.

  • Thanks for the advice, I think this answer will help me the most. When you say 500 calorie deficit, is that 500 under the standard 2000 calories per day?
    – 23k
    Mar 31, 2018 at 18:44
  • 1
    It’s 500 calories under your basal metabolic rate (BMR) + exercise burn. It’s just a fancy way of describing how many calories you burn on a day when you just laid in bed and did nothing. I’m 6’2”, 180 and my BMR is approximately 2300/2400 pounds. I try to keep a consistent intake of 2000 calories. This keeps me at a deficit for most of the time, but also gives me wiggle room. When you exercise and become active, you’ll burn more too. Just keep it about 500 short. You’ll burn a safe 1 pound a week. Try the MyFitnessPal app. It’s a great way to understand all fhis.
    – Frank
    Mar 31, 2018 at 19:14
  • Any specific suggestions for weight training? It's harder for me to bench/squat as I go to the gym alone. But I'm sure there's some machines that can replace those.
    – 23k
    Mar 31, 2018 at 21:21
  • I would suggest Athlean-X. His YouTube channel is superb and his program is fantastic. Try Googling “Athlean-X” followed by each of these exercises: “Dumbbell chest press,” and “Bulgarian Split Squats.” That’s just an example of an alternative exercise for the ones you mentioned. I would HIGHLY suggest doing this for any new exercise you attempt as he offers unique insights on form and posture that are critical to lifting safely and effectively. For that matter, before you even start lifting, I might suggest a posture check from a PT.
    – Frank
    Apr 1, 2018 at 19:03

It sounds like those chicken wraps and Chipotle are what are hurting you.

I am a software developer. I hit the gym in the mornings hard enough to soak my shirt, then I clean up and sit at a desk all day. I've monitored my calorie intake for many months, and I have found that my desk job burns about 1,500 calories a day. On days I go to the gym, I can add 200 to 300 calories to that.

A Chipotle burrito is a wonderful thing, but nothing says you can't take a knife and cut it in half - saving the other half for later.

What you need to do is get control of the calories you are taking in. Carrying around a little notebook, writing down your foods, and looking up everything you eat is a pain and time consuming. I bet you have a smart phone, though. Right? Get an app. Here's a free Android app that I like:


You can use the barcode to scan a food item if it has it, but it also has a lot of common foods (like Chipotle and Duncan Donuts).

You can put in your goals, and see how it goes. If you are not losing weight, adjust your goals.

The app will display log reminders for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner, and it subtracts from your day's calories with every meal you put in.

I'm sure there are other apps that are great, too. That's just the one I've found that I like the most.

  • Do you do anything to burn those 1,500 calories at work? Or does it just naturally happen? I have the same occupation as you. I have my Apple watch on constantly and don't find that I burn even close to that amount of calories while at work. I get up at least once an hour, sometimes go for walks, etc...
    – 23k
    Mar 29, 2018 at 22:48
  • I wished. Mostly I'm stuck sitting. My calorie requirement has been an ongoing learning process. Here's a screenshot from today: i.imgur.com/Xdzb3uA.png My app is currently set for an 1,800 calorie day, but I know I gain weight if I am hitting that. How many calories a day does your watch tell you that you are burning?
    – jp2code
    Mar 30, 2018 at 12:46
  • The number seems a little high, but it says I burned a total of 2,894 calories with 859 coming from 77 minutes of exercise throughout the day yesterday. I live in a big city so I'm sure walking to public transit is counted towards some of that (in addition to going to the gym). Still, that seems high for one day. But I guess it's sitting on my wrist and monitoring my heart-rate all day, maybe it's not off? What do you think?
    – 23k
    Mar 30, 2018 at 18:07
  • The calories burned counters on apps or wearable tech are notoriously inaccurate. However, if you feel they're consistently inaccurate, as in inaccurate to the same degree everyday, you can go off the changes in numbers day to day, rather than the numbers themselves, and adjust accordingly. But don't assume the calorie numbers are accurate.
    – Jun Kang
    Mar 30, 2018 at 19:13
  • If I run on the treadmill for an hour, sweating my balls off, it only shows me burning around 300 calories. Are you using Metric calories? lol
    – jp2code
    Mar 30, 2018 at 21:57

Please try to do weight training, and after that indoor bike. Can you do biking for 40 min? Watch your pulse, and keep it around 60%-70% of your max. You can watch something on phone, read a book, listen to music, podcasts. Just move your legs. To be honest 1 hour tree times a week is not much. Looks like bare minimum.

If time is your limit. There are different options for training - hiit, tabata - are on one end of scale. Idea is that weight can be lost by tweaking metabolism. In other words you are loosing weight not only when exercising. Walking for long time is on the other end. Some people says that an hour at gym per day, and sitting for rest of day is bad idea. So we should rather move whole day, with some more effort from time to time. That is more natural - from perspective of our evolution. Hint - stretching in front of TV is also an exercise. Switch chair with gym ball.

Note that fat makes the process much more difficult. Maybe that is not a big issue in your case, but still. Fat has significant influence on the way our body reacting on insulin. Muscles have their role as well, but they are at other side. From that point it is good to build muscles, normal size muscles...

Counting calories is good idea. I can't recall reference, but I have heard that people with that habit has much less chance on yo-yo effect. So good for you.

If your diet is not working, or you feel it should go much better - I would advise visiting doctor, and blood tests. If you don't want to do that - think about diabetic diet. My first bet is problem with sugar level. But it can be also lack of D3 vitamin, or something else - say thyroid problems.

In general you must loose if not eating enough. On the other hand, we are not taking all from food, if there is no need for that. We have different metabolisms. So there is slight space that makes two people eating same things and behaving differently. In your case, at very first look - your body reacted on initial change, but now it adopted to new reality, or maybe it is lack of sun, so D3 level is low... Just go and do blood test - you will know what is going on.

  • "60-70% of your max" - What method do you recommend for determining their max heart rate?
    – JohnP
    Mar 27, 2018 at 14:33
  • Good point. I have smart watch... from time to time I'm stressing body to the point that I'm considering as max - usually that is max of my HR. By default 220 - your age. Perhaps I should explain why it is considered like that... Mar 27, 2018 at 15:46
  • 2
    Please do not promote 220-age. It is useless, based on flawed information, and has been debunked for quite some time.
    – JohnP
    Mar 27, 2018 at 15:47
  • @MichałZaborowski More recently (within the last month) I've been getting to the gym 4-5 times a week and trying to stay an hour to an hour and a half. Like I said, I'm a college student and also work ~30 hours a week. Some days it's just hard to get to the gym. Homework, work work, trying to maintain a social life, etc... I appreciate the advice.
    – 23k
    Mar 27, 2018 at 23:50
  • 1
    @MichałZaborowski - There are more updated methods for an estimation. That formula and any value derived from it is crap. It could encourage someone to go too hard as easily as keep them slow.
    – JohnP
    Mar 28, 2018 at 14:07

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