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  1. #1
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    Intense fatigue in high-rep workouts, no muscle pump and skinny-fat/puffy look

    Hey guys,

    I’m a 32-year old male / 5’8 / 145lb. The handheld bodyfat monitor estimates my BF% to be 15%. But I think it should be closer to 20% (I see my upper abs but carry fat in my lower belly and love handles).

    I am a skinny fat individual and my goal currently is to gain size while minimizing fat gain. I eat around 2550 calories a day (320g-C, 150g-P, 75g-F) and workout every alternate day (PPL split). I am a vegetarian and my meals look like this:

    Breakfast smoothie:
    2% milk - 300ml
    Oats - 75g
    Whey protein isolate - 48g
    Almonds - 10g
    Walnuts - 10g
    Strawberries - 62g
    Blueberries - 30g
    Pumpkin seeds - 14g
    Dates - 12g
    Peanut butter - 32g

    Lunch:
    Rice - 17g
    Quinoa - 15g
    Tofu - 200g
    Kidney beans - 35g
    Garbanzo beans - 35g
    Mixed vegetables - 100g

    Snack:
    Whole wheat bread (2 slices)
    Hummus - 56g
    Banana - 1
    Mandarins - 1
    Coconut water - 330ml

    Dinner:
    Eggs - 2 whole
    Sweet potato - 150g
    Spinach - 20g
    Red bell pepper - 50g
    Nonfat Greek yogurt - 170g

    I work out between my snack and dinner. I am following a 3 phase/3 month program where phase 1 focuses on heavier weights and low reps (5-8) and phase 2 focuses on moderate weights and moderate reps (8-12). When I recently switched to phase 2, I am able to hit the target 8-12 rep range in my first set but reach failure by rep 6 on my second set even after a good 3+ min rest. Also, I feel like throwing up towards the end of my workout. I didn't have this problem in phase 1. Also, I struggle to see any muscle pump at all. The day after my workout, I seem to have shrunk in size (more skinny fat look!). I meticulously track my lifts to make sure I am progressively overloading either in weight or volume.

    I do not add any extra salt in my foods since I already look puffy on my face and attributed it to water retention. Myfitness pal estimated my sodium intake to be 1700mg while the recommended intake was 2300mg. I thought this could be the reason I feel weak and added 1g of salt in intra-workout water. I also take C4-ripped pre-workout but the situation didn't improve. I do not take creatine since male pattern baldness runs in my family and I am on finasteride to combat it. Although the impact of creatine on MPB is debated, I didn't want to risk it.


    Are you able to see what I may be doing wrong here? Thanks a lot.
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  2. #2
    Registered User air2fakie's Avatar
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    You didn't give any specifics, but your workout program sounds kinda crappy. It also sounds like you've only been working out for a little over a month. You should also track your weight if you're not doing so.
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  3. #3
    Registered User aravind2705's Avatar
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    Thanks air2fakie. My current workout program is as follows. I have been lifting for a year seriously.

    Day 1
    Incline bench press (4 sets of 8-12)
    Barbell military press (4 sets of 8-12)
    Reverse dumbell fly (4 sets of 8-12)
    Skull crushers (sets of 8-12)

    Day 2
    Lat pull down (4 sets of 8-12)
    Underhand barbell row (4 sets of 8-12)
    Dumbell shrugs (4 sets of 8-12)
    EZ bar curls (4 sets of 8-12)
    Hammer curls (sets of 8-12)

    Day 3
    Hack squats (4 sets of 8-12)
    Seated Calf raises (4 sets of 8-12)
    Leg raises (4 sets of 8-12)
    Decline twist (sets of 8-12)

    Day 4
    Flat bench dumbell press (4 sets of 8-12)
    Dumbell shoulder press (4 sets of 8-12)
    Lateral raises (4 sets of 8-12)
    Overhead extensions (sets of 8-12)

    Day 5
    Chinups (4 sets of 8-12)
    Meadow rows (4 sets of 8-12)
    Smith machine shrugs (4 sets of 8-12)
    Incline curls (4 sets of 8-12)


    Day 6
    Sumo deadlifts (4 sets of 8-12)
    Seated Calf raises (4 sets of 8-12)
    Incline crunches (4 sets of 8-12)
    Cable chops (sets of 8-12)
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    Feeling sick/nauseous could be a lot of things. It could be diet, fatigue, sickness, breathing technique or (what is likely) too much volume.

    Is this a custom made routine? I know you said it's PPL but it doesn't seem to be something I recognise.
    Currently cutting.
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    Hi Spanishdream,

    Yes, it is a custom-made routine. I also suspect high volume to be the reason. Can you suggest any lower volume routine that I can follow?

    Thanks.
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    Registered User air2fakie's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by aravind2705 View Post
    Thanks air2fakie. My current workout program is as follows. I have been lifting for a year seriously.

    Day 1
    Incline bench press (4 sets of 8-12)
    Barbell military press (4 sets of 8-12)
    Reverse dumbell fly (4 sets of 8-12)
    Skull crushers (sets of 8-12)

    Day 2
    Lat pull down (4 sets of 8-12)
    Underhand barbell row (4 sets of 8-12)
    Dumbell shrugs (4 sets of 8-12)
    EZ bar curls (4 sets of 8-12)
    Hammer curls (sets of 8-12)

    Day 3
    Hack squats (4 sets of 8-12)
    Seated Calf raises (4 sets of 8-12)
    Leg raises (4 sets of 8-12)
    Decline twist (sets of 8-12)

    Day 4
    Flat bench dumbell press (4 sets of 8-12)
    Dumbell shoulder press (4 sets of 8-12)
    Lateral raises (4 sets of 8-12)
    Overhead extensions (sets of 8-12)

    Day 5
    Chinups (4 sets of 8-12)
    Meadow rows (4 sets of 8-12)
    Smith machine shrugs (4 sets of 8-12)
    Incline curls (4 sets of 8-12)


    Day 6
    Sumo deadlifts (4 sets of 8-12)
    Seated Calf raises (4 sets of 8-12)
    Incline crunches (4 sets of 8-12)
    Cable chops (sets of 8-12)
    You're doing these every other day, so it takes ~2 weeks to do? (reverse db fly isn't a push btw)

    You might want to try a proper novice program.
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    Cut/Bulk/Repeat Spanishdream's Avatar
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    To be blunt, custom made routines are rarely good from new lifters. You're much better spending your time on a proven, solid routine designed by someone who knows what they're doing.

    All Pros - https://forum.bodybuilding.com/showt...hp?t=179232481

    Fierce 5 - https://forum.bodybuilding.com/showt...hp?t=159678631

    In your particular case, I'd probably recommend Fierce 5. It focuses on quick progression adding weight to the bar weekly.
    Currently cutting.
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    Originally Posted by air2fakie View Post
    You're doing these every other day, so it takes ~2 weeks to do? (reverse db fly isn't a push btw)

    You might want to try a proper novice program.
    Yes it takes me 2 weeks to do this routine. I initially tried to do it in a week but my strength started dropping possibly due to poor recovery. I will try a novice program on bodybuilding.com
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    aravind2705 is offline
    Thanks Spanishdream. I will switch to Fierce 5.

    For calorie tracking, do you suggest that I use fitness trackers for making sure I eat in a surplus? Or do you suggest the traditional method of tracking my weight and ensuring the weekly average is slowly going up?
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    Are you active outside of the gym? Walking or anything like that?

    Your calories and macros seem adequate, assuming you're counting them properly.

    Maybe track a few days in cronometer.com and see what your vitamins and minerals are looking like - if there is a deficiency.

    My last thought would be to consult with your doctor if the extreme fatigue persists.
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    My quick 2 cents. Eat more eggs and drink more milk (I know you are a vegetarian). Cut back 50% on your workout volume. I do half of what you do each week. I'm 55 and had been lifting 2 years when I took that avatar pic. Used to be 5'8" and about 135 lbs when I was 17. There is no reason why you can not be 175 lbs and muscular by the time you are 35.
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    Originally Posted by DougyF7 View Post
    My last thought would be to consult with your doctor if the extreme fatigue persists.
    Probably just taking every set to failure, and needs a juicy steak. It's a daily diet of snacks and side dishes.
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    Originally Posted by aravind2705 View Post
    Thanks Spanishdream. I will switch to Fierce 5.

    For calorie tracking, do you suggest that I use fitness trackers for making sure I eat in a surplus? Or do you suggest the traditional method of tracking my weight and ensuring the weekly average is slowly going up?
    I agree on the fierce 5. Something quick I would suggest is plugging your food into cronometer to see if there are any deficiencies etc, just to be sure.
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    Originally Posted by aravind2705 View Post
    Thanks Spanishdream. I will switch to Fierce 5.

    For calorie tracking, do you suggest that I use fitness trackers for making sure I eat in a surplus? Or do you suggest the traditional method of tracking my weight and ensuring the weekly average is slowly going up?
    Both. Weigh everything you put in your mouth, track your weight gain over 3-4 weeks until you know you've hit the right amount. 200-300 over maintenance and you're golden.
    Currently cutting.
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    Originally Posted by DougyF7 View Post
    Are you active outside of the gym? Walking or anything like that?

    Your calories and macros seem adequate, assuming you're counting them properly.

    Maybe track a few days in cronometer.com and see what your vitamins and minerals are looking like - if there is a deficiency.

    My last thought would be to consult with your doctor if the extreme fatigue persists.
    Originally Posted by desslok View Post
    I agree on the fierce 5. Something quick I would suggest is plugging your food into cronometer to see if there are any deficiencies etc, just to be sure.
    Thanks DougyF7/desslok. I will track on cronometer.com for possible deficiencies.
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    OP, in all seriousness, eat some real food to help with the fatigue. It may be a placebo or even mental motivation effect, but if you want to gain muscle & not look fluffy, don't eat like a rabbit.

    No one I know who lifts naturally with good results eats solely "clean" foods. Mix some actual meals into your vegetarian diet - pizza, pasta, lasagna, curry, burritos, stir-fry, omelettes, plant-based burgers, etc.
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    Originally Posted by aravind2705 View Post
    Hi Spanishdream,

    Yes, it is a custom-made routine. I also suspect high volume to be the reason. Can you suggest any lower volume routine that I can follow?

    Thanks.
    It's not particularly high volume. Especially since half of it is isolation work and it's only 3 workouts per week.
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    I would suggest shooting for the lower rep ranges like when it says 8-12, try for 8 reps for example. High rep isn’t going to do anything for size or strength.
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    Originally Posted by paulinkansas View Post
    My quick 2 cents. Eat more eggs and drink more milk (I know you are a vegetarian). Cut back 50% on your workout volume. I do half of what you do each week. I'm 55 and had been lifting 2 years when I took that avatar pic. Used to be 5'8" and about 135 lbs when I was 17. There is no reason why you can not be 175 lbs and muscular by the time you are 35.
    Originally Posted by Spanishdream View Post
    Both. Weigh everything you put in your mouth, track your weight gain over 3-4 weeks until you know you've hit the right amount. 200-300 over maintenance and you're golden.
    Thanks guys. I will track my weight over the next few weeks and adjust my diet based on the progress.
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    Originally Posted by air2fakie View Post
    OP, in all seriousness, eat some real food to help with the fatigue. It may be a placebo or even mental motivation effect, but if you want to gain muscle & not look fluffy, don't eat like a rabbit.

    No one I know who lifts naturally with good results eats solely "clean" foods. Mix some actual meals into your vegetarian diet - pizza, pasta, lasagna, curry, burritos, stir-fry, omelettes, plant-based burgers, etc.
    Yes I do need to up my calories to avoid the skinny fat look and its hard to get enough calories from clean foods entirely.
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    Originally Posted by JaymzJ View Post
    I would suggest shooting for the lower rep ranges like when it says 8-12, try for 8 reps for example. High rep isn’t going to do anything for size or strength.
    Got it. I have started the Fierce 5 program. Hoping to gain some good strength numbers in the next few months.
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    I've said it before and I'll say it again... what adult male uses the word "belly" to describe their stomach?

    Just me or is it just a weird word to use? I don't think I've ever said that in reference to myself.... I know I'm off topic but it always stands out to me.
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    Originally Posted by AdamWW View Post
    I've said it before and I'll say it again... what adult male uses the word "belly" to describe their stomach?
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    Aside from that, good point.
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    Originally Posted by AdamWW View Post
    I've said it before and I'll say it again... what adult male uses the word "belly" to describe their stomach?

    Just me or is it just a weird word to use? I don't think I've ever said that in reference to myself.... I know I'm off topic but it always stands out to me.
    Maybe because it's not a problem you have to worry about? xD

    Jk, but I actually intentionally say it instead of stomach, since the stomach is obviously an organ in that general area, but using "abdomen" instead often sounds too formal.
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    Originally Posted by AdamWW View Post
    I've said it before and I'll say it again... what adult male uses the word "belly" to describe their stomach?

    Just me or is it just a weird word to use? I don't think I've ever said that in reference to myself.... I know I'm off topic but it always stands out to me.
    Agree. Real men use the term "tummy".
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    Originally Posted by EliKoehn View Post
    Maybe because it's not a problem you have to worry about? xD

    Jk, but I actually intentionally say it instead of stomach, since the stomach is obviously an organ in that general area, but using "abdomen" instead often sounds too formal.
    I mean when I have a pain in my abdomen... I never say "I have a belly ache"... maybe that's just me?

    Stomach... gut... mid-section... "Belly" has this childish/adolescent ring to it.
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    Originally Posted by AdamWW View Post
    I mean when I have a pain in my abdomen... I never say "I have a belly ache"... maybe that's just me?

    Stomach... gut... mid-section... "Belly" has this childish/adolescent ring to it.
    Right, but didn't you just use "stomach" in the previous message?

    Yeah, I'd agree if talking about the actual stomach, but (and I didn't read the entire thread, in case I missed something) "belly fat" would be an exception since "stomach fat" sounds like it's referring to the actual stomach organ.
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    Originally Posted by EliKoehn View Post
    Right, but didn't you just use "stomach" in the previous message?

    Yeah, I'd agree if talking about the actual stomach, but (and I didn't read the entire thread, in case I missed something) "belly fat" would be an exception since "stomach fat" sounds like it's referring to the actual stomach organ.
    I guess the subject doesn't often come up for me... but I think if I was going to comment on myself, i'd probably say "fat around/on my stomach"... something like that.
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    Originally Posted by AdamWW View Post
    I've said it before and I'll say it again... what adult male uses the word "belly" to describe their stomach?

    Just me or is it just a weird word to use? I don't think I've ever said that in reference to myself.... I know I'm off topic but it always stands out to me.
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    Originally Posted by AdamWW View Post
    I've said it before and I'll say it again... what adult male uses the word "belly" to describe their stomach?
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