I'm in my mid-30s. I've always been thin and had a very high metabolism. I've been doing Stronglifts 5x5 for a little over 3 months. I've increased my weight in each exercise a fair amount over that time. I've taken breaks after running a 10k, and while feeling a little sick, but for the most part I'm sticking with the program.

I eat eggs and salad for breakfast, have a protein shake before lunch, eat beans and potatoes for lunch (or something similar). I try to eat a burger for dinner, but my wife is a vegetarian, "which pretty much makes me a vegetarian", as Samuel L Jackson put it. I eat yogurt and cottage cheese before bed.

I've gained several pounds since starting the program. My muscles feel healthy and firm, but they don't seem any bigger. My gut however has grown enough that it's obvious to others. What's going on with me?

Edit: the comments imply that my question is perceived as "how can I stop gaining weight with this diet". My real question is, why am I not putting on perceivable muscle, though I'm following the workout, and the dietary advice of the workout (which is, for skinny people, essentially "stuff yourself with protein and calories")? My muscles aren't growing but my stomach is, is what it comes down to. And I am increasing the weight often enough that workouts are becoming quite difficult.

  • What is your weight and how many calories are you consuming each day. Also, how many grams of protein? Apr 18, 2018 at 18:11
  • Please consider quantifying your initial and current bodyweight and work-weights for each exercise. How tall are you? How does the fit of your clothing now differ from its fit when you starting training? Apr 18, 2018 at 18:13
  • Does that burger have a bun? A burger bun and potatoes would be quick things to ditch.
    – Eric
    Apr 18, 2018 at 19:33
  • How did this problem turn out in the end, OP? Nov 12, 2020 at 9:00
  • @DaveLiepmann I'm doing fine, it just took awhile to get the hang of it. I workout smarter (focusing on consistency rather than slapping on weight faster), I try to run more in warm weather and do some hiking, and I eat smarter (more protein, less sugar / beer). I avoid protein powder and my diet is relatively simple. Nov 14, 2020 at 6:14

3 Answers 3


Programs focused on 5x5 or 3x5 are jack of all trades programs with just enough volume to induce a bit of growth in very skinny beginners who never did any exercise in their entire life, and just enough weight to cause a bit of strength adaptations.

Talking from personal experience, if you were active in your past a 5x5 program wont do much and you will stop progressing in 3-5 months.

You need a program for you to maximize the minimum. Specificity of training is very important, train either for strength, muscle building or fat loss or whatever other athletic goal you have. Mixing everything may work to a point but its not optimal.

  • 1
    Interesting, I've done Stronglifts years ago as well, and I've always thought that one does 5x5 until they plateau, then switch to 3x5, and that people get big this way. What are some alternatives you can recommend? Apr 19, 2018 at 2:22
  • Switching from 5x5 to 3x5 will increase your recovery but growth will remain the same pretty much. If you want strength go for as many sets as you can for 1 or 2 reps, basically go to failure. This way your strength will blow up and after some weeks muscle growth will follow. If you want fast muscle gain go for 10x10 for main lifts and 5x10 for accesories once a week and 3x10 on all lifts twice a week, drops sets are fine too. Or aim for a total of 15-20 hard worked sets through the week for each large muscle group. Bulgarian lite can be another option for fast strength.
    – user28419
    Apr 19, 2018 at 2:30

Like you, I have gained some pounds after starting the program. If you are able to keep increasing the weights on the bar and have done this for over 3 months than you are also gaining muscle mass. I started noticing a difference after 4 to 5 months so do not worry. Like you my appetite went up. That is something you have to control. Like they say, "You get a six pack in the kitchen" not in the Gym so be careful in the kitchen! Count your calories, it is a simple equation, if you burn more calories than you intake, your body will grab the extra energy from your fat and it will melt away slowly but that is not easy. Your body will also send hunger signals before switching to using fat and this is where your mental will needs to kick in. (Drink water to help when that happens) Good luck.

P.S. For calorie calculations, you can search online or use these...

Here is a link to a site I use to count calories from food: http://www.calorieking.com/foods/

Here is a link to a site I use to count calories I need for my body: http://www.calculator.net/calorie-calculator.html

Here is a link to a site to show how much calories are burned per exercise: https://www.healthstatus.com/calculate/cbc

Also a pound of body fat can contain between 3,400 and 3,750 calories, so this give you a bit of an idea what difference you need to establish to loose weight. This article is a good one to discuss the calorie deficit impact on weight loss: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/calories-in-a-pound-of-fat#section2



Simply put, you’re not burning enough calories to match your intake (however little you might feel that is).

Vegetarian doesn’t necessarily equal low calorie either. Although, generally speaking, it is much lower in calories than what a “normal” American eats in one sitting. For example: One large avocado, two handfuls of walnuts and some beans could easily be a 1000 calorie meal.

Furthermore, there is this “high fat” thing running around health communities - including vegetarian. I’m not here to extol or disparage the virtues of such an approach, only to mention that foods high in fat are generally calorie dense so be careful.

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