Okay, so my title was probably exaggerating. However, I have a variety of questions regarding physical fitness that I would love to be answered!

I am an 18-year-old university student studying engineering (this will be important in a bit), and I am somewhat of the athletic type. The problem is, I have trouble getting to the gym often because my busy schedule disallows it. As of right now, I am just shy of 6'5 and am 235 lbs, I would love to be a lean 210 with muscle definition. So here's what I have been doing and what's not working:

Ever since I stopped playing active sports a couple of years ago I have attempted to hit the gym at least once a week but also go on runs and do bodyweight exercises at home. However, I just sit around a lot because of school and have put on some unwanted fat. At this point, I go to the gym every Tuesday and Thursday, one day I do upper body with cardio and the other I do lower body with cardio. It just seems that even though I have been trying to push myself, nothing is changing. I have noticed almost no muscle gains and my heart rate is still getting quite high after only running a mile (I used to be a long-distance runner). I should note that I sometimes get migraines after working out, but this probably due to me not getting enough food before exercising and pushing myself too hard while running/lifting. Is my approach correct? Are there some exercises that would be beneficial for me? Should I run more than 2 miles a time to try to burn off more calories?

Another thing I want to mention is how I eat. I often eat healthy, rarely eat out and usually have a meal full of veggies once a day with the others being balanced. Being my size and age, it's recommended that I get nearly 3000 calories a day. This seems really high to me and I don't feel as though I should be eating that much if I want to lose some of the fat I have put on. With that being said, whenever I eat meals that have a lower calorie count but still have good volume and make me filled I get stomach pains that go away as soon as I eat more. Should I be eating 3000 calories or am I not getting the right types of food in me? One solution I think I might need is eating a lot more protein (chicken, red meat, eggs, fish, etc.)

My main reason for wanting to lose some weight/fat is for the future. Sure, I would love a six-pack, a nice chest, great muscle definition, but I am worried that I could have health problems in the future if I keep gaining weight. At my height and with the engineering job I will be doing in the future, being heavy would cause all kinds of back/neck/lower body problems. I want to ensure that I will be healthy for the future!

Any tips would be greatly appreciated!


1 Answer 1


To paraphrase Dan John, weight loss is simple; have a friend tie you to a tree and come back in three days. I can guarantee that you'll lose weight.

Since you say you're an engineering student, if you accept the hypothesis that your bodyweight is determined by energy balance (calories in vs calories out), and that the balance being positive leads you to gain weight, what would lead to losing weight?

The thing about recommended daily caloric intake calories burned by activities, and even the calorie value of the food we eat, is that it's all estimates. There's no mathematical calculation available on the internet that can tell you exactly how many calories you should consume on a daily basis, they're merely a best guess based on a few bits on information.

If you're eating 3000 calories a day, and putting on weight, then drop it by 250 - 300 a day, sit at that for a couple of weeks and see if the weight gain stops. If it does, and you appear to be neither losing or gaining, then you've found your maintenance calories. Drop it by another 250 - 300 calories and you should start losing.

Once you've started losing, stick at it for a while. Don't be tempted to drop by more, it's much better and more sustainable to lose weight slowly and form the habits and behaviours that allow you to maintain that weight loss than it is to try something stupid like a 5 day juice fast then rebound so hard by gorging on pizza and beer that you end up putting on more weight than you lost.

Notice how I've said weight loss and not fat loss? There's a reason for that.

Josh Hillis, a weight loss coach whose philosophies on weight loss I'm coming to respect more and more, boils it all down to two main things:

  1. How much you weigh is determined by how many calories you eat.
  2. Your bodyfat percentage is determined by the quality of the food you eat.

This goes along with my observations of various people I know who've seen great changes by ditching junk food and cleaned up their diets, so until someone else come up proof to the contrary, it's what I'm choosing to believe.

Just to address the training side of what you're doing, unless you have a very good reason for doing what you're doing, I'd recommend changing to a full body routine Tuesday / Thursday, and throw in some cardio on other days if you can. Your training should be geared around getting stronger with the big lifts (deadlifts, squats, overhead work and pull ups). You can do a little something every day to help, I like kettlebell swings, you can throw in several sets of 10 in about 20 minutes once you're proficient at them.

  • I love what you said about "how much you weigh is about the calories you eat, your bodyfat percentage is determined by the quality of food you eat." Recently, I have tried to cut back calories a bit but I found myself getting tired and even having a sore stomach. So would a good suggestion be, as I said in the original post, try to keep up the volume of food and maybe cut back calories a bit to help with an initial weight loss? Jan 13, 2020 at 16:06
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    As an engineering graduate, I want to emphasize the strength aspect. If you're anything like me, you're spending a lot of time slouched, at a desk, and at a computer. Get your back strong and it will help improve your posture (which by itself can make you look much better). A good posture is also great for your long-term health. Also, as a tip: go to bed.
    – C. Lange
    Jan 13, 2020 at 16:14
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    @ThatOneNerdyBoy If you're finding yourself getting tired, make sure you're drinking enough water (at your size, you should be getting around 4 liters a day, though build up to it, and that's not just water, it includes other drinks, though your main source should be plain water), and that you're sleeping enough (8 hours at least, though I know it's hard as a student).
    – Dark Hippo
    Jan 13, 2020 at 16:15
  • @ThatOneNerdyBoy That quote is from a book called "Fat Loss Happens on Mondays" by Josh Hillis and Dan John. It's one of the best "diet" books I've read and I'd happily recommend it to anyone.
    – Dark Hippo
    Jan 13, 2020 at 16:18
  • @C. Lange Both your tips are something I am striving for. I have definitely worked on my posture, and I try to drink lots (hard sometimes because that means leaving class to pee all the time :) ) Jan 13, 2020 at 16:20

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