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Been told I need to "get lean" - but I weight train and don't "diet" - so how?

(71 Posts)
Pabboo Sun 11-May-14 12:58:39

I have been weight training since December 2012. I love it, and along with intermittent fasting and calorie counting I have got myself to a size I am pretty ok with.
I have since stopped the fasting and calorie counting as they were driving me a bit nuts, and now weight train and eating healthily, sensibly (80% of the time).
I have now got to a position where I am happy to focus on lifting more weight, hitting personal targets and worrying less about the number on the scale.
I am 5 foot 8 and my waist is a little over 28". I am size 12. The number on the scales shows about 73kg, but that has gone up as my weight training has progressed with little change in my waist measurement. So it's pretty meaningless IMO.

I hurt my knees (long standing problem, probably not helped by squatting with heavy weights) and have had 2 arthroscopies in the last 2.5 months. The last was 1.5 weeks ago.

My surgeon mentioned after my op that I have "well built thighs" and in his opinion I shouldn't "bulk" them any more, but instead focus on "getting lean"

So the mean little voice in my head says "he was being polite, "well built" meant fat".

I don't want to stop weight training. Finally, I have found an exercise that helps my self esteem, and let's me see my body as something strong and something to be proud of. Well I did. Now I worry I should be trying to lose weight and not let my thigh muscles get any bigger.

And I am not sure how to do that now. I know my body fat is probably around 25% and I would like it to be nearer 20%. My plan had been to keep being sensible with the food, and lifting the weight to increase my muscle mass (which will burn more calories).
I have not done anything for 2 weeks as I am still in pain and it hurt too much to lift when I tried. But was going to start some lifting (upper body) again this week.

But now I am not sure if I need to change my approach. I don't know how to do much more cardio until my knees are less painful. I am not a big fan of huge amounts of cardio to loose weight anyway as it just tends to make me hungry and I then eat more and it quickly counteracts the exercise. Not so with weight training, I find.

Anyone on here have an ideas?

EBearhug Sun 11-May-14 13:04:11

If you want to do cardio, have you considered swimming?

If you focus mainly on frontcrawl and backcrawl, you can get most of the power from your upper body, plus the kick on those strokes should mostly be coming from your hips and using the whole leg, so it's okay if you have knee problems - but it is also possible to swim those strokes without using your legs at all -it's what you do if you're focussing on improving your arm technique anyway.

Don't do breaststroke, if you've got damaged knees, and even if you haven't, you shouldn't do arms only for breaststroke, as it puts strain on the back in a way the other strokes don't.

It might still make you hungry, though.

ThatBloodyWoman Sun 11-May-14 13:07:57

Lower weights and higher reps.

He meant muscular thighs, not fat ones.

Have you considered ballet or pilates?

Suzannewithaplan Sun 11-May-14 13:08:08

I don't know how you're structuring your weight training but I find that more frequent and higher volume training helps to reduce body fat.
I've been reasonably lean whilst only weight training and eating pretty much whenever I wanted but I've only been very lean when I added in cardio and ate very 'clean'

Suzannewithaplan Sun 11-May-14 13:10:26

Oh and we'll done you, keep on lifting and building up muscle, muscle is GOOD, get as much as you can grin

sj73 Sun 11-May-14 13:11:53

It sounds like your surgeon is being a nasty little chauvinist and is giving you his personal opinion on how he thinks women should look. Heaven forbid they should build muscle! What business has he got commenting on your thighs unless it is for medical reasons? I wonder however, if he was trying to make a comment on the muscle weight putting pressure on your knees, which might be his point? He might have been suggesting that your quads bulked up might cause damage to the ligament? Although the fact you are building muscle in your quads would also mean you are generally strengthening the whole leg and area around your knee, which would have to be a good thing. Sounds to me like a strange and rather misinformed remark for him to make.

I lift heavy like you and I think it is a wonderful thing feeling strong. For the first time in my life, I don't want to be thin, I want to be strong. It sounds like you are benefiting from it hugely both physically and emotionally. It's funny how just one small comment can get us doubting ourselves when it comes to appearance, which is shite.

25% body fat is brilliant! If you want to go lower then it's worth looking at sites like bodybuilding.com for advice on diet when you are bulking/cutting. It's a bit of a science when it comes to weightlifting and losing fat but keeping muscle.

Don't give up the weights and ignore the scales as they don't mean much when you are building muscle.

wooly31 Sun 11-May-14 13:13:07

Not sure what your surgeon was getting at, if he feels that heavy weight lifting- squatting or lunging- for example is risking further damage to your knees then perhaps see a sports physio for advice about technique and maximum weight? From what you wrote it sounds like an aesthetic comment, which you can safely ignore. The size of your thigh muscles per se is hardly going to affect your knees. If you stop weight training then you risk your weight going up and your strength going down- worst of both worlds.
I feel a bit annoyed on your behalf and would consider writing to him for clarity about precisely what he meant <bad mood today>

wooly31 Sun 11-May-14 13:13:40

cross post sj73- agree!

EdithWeston Sun 11-May-14 13:14:32

Thatbloodywoman beat me to it.

I think you need to vary your training, and also suggest Pilates, ballet or yoga as possibilities for the desired effect.

sj73 Sun 11-May-14 13:15:32

You could supplement your training with some HIIT sessions.

Beware of doing any endurance cardio as this will counter any gains you make weight training.

EdithWeston Sun 11-May-14 13:15:50

If, of course, as sj73 has put it, you do actually desire the effect!

Pabboo Sun 11-May-14 13:17:51

Thanks for replying!

ebearhug Swimming is definitely a good option. I should start doing that ASAP I think - once the stitches are out. Yes it will make me hungry, but probably not as much as running for 30mins!

I have a personal trainer and he is working me through a programme where for a month or two we do very low reps and very high weight (or chin ups etc) and then move onto lower weight and higher reps. The aim being to hit a target - body weight (plus) dead lifts, body weight chins ups etc.
so suzanne kinda your approach - which has left me with "well built" thighs.... hmm

thatbloodywoman thankyou. I think ballet would be dire for my knees. Bent Pilates and/or yoga would probably be worth considering.

It's trying to find time to fit the extra classes/swims in as well as working a long way from home 4 days a week and having a 4yr old..... How do people do it?! I barely manage my 3 weight training sessions

RhondaJean Sun 11-May-14 13:18:08

Tell him to fuck right off.

Op, you sound fit, in good shape and and do not let this nasty chavanistic little mini god (in his own head) make you feel bad.

Too many women fuck about with the low weight high rep oh I don't want to put on muscle shit. Be strong, be healthy, lift big and remember you are doing your body good.

Aaargh this has really really annoyed me.

ThatBloodyWoman Sun 11-May-14 13:18:43

I agree that the muscles should actually be stabilising the knees if anything.
I think he was probably commenting that increasing the muscle bulk further may impact on your knees.

I have also enjoyed lifting heavier weights than women nornally like to in the past, so I can understand the appeal.

I would see if there are any gym staff who can advise -some are highly qualified.
Or consult a sports physio?

Suzannewithaplan Sun 11-May-14 13:19:31

Muscularity in your legs will stabilize and protect your knees, maybe the surgeon is just jealous, peeved at his own puny pins

Suzannewithaplan Sun 11-May-14 13:22:08

Well built thighs are to be prized above all else, what could be better than a woman with a good quad sweep?

ThatBloodyWoman Sun 11-May-14 13:23:00

But for a period of time, dealing with this particular issue, lower weights and higher reps will be the only way surely to keep training without bulking further, until the op has checked out whether this is impacting on her knees with another specialist Rhonda.
It's not to mean anything else.

Thistledew Sun 11-May-14 13:24:44

It does sound like a confused and ill-thought out message. Muscle is lean, so adding more muscle will not make you less 'lean'. I would either go back to him and ask for a clarification or find a good sports physio who can give you some advice about the best way to build the right sort of muscle to protect your joints.

Paboo how old are you and how are you getting your body fat measured? 25% bf and 28" waist at your height sound very healthy. Getting much lower would almost certainly mean being very, very careful with your diet, to a point where I some people might think it unhealthily obsessive and/or boring and unsustainable, especially if you enjoy your food and have a decent social life smile. Like Suzanne, I have only been at my leanest when training very hard (HIIT) but also eating very, very carefully. I actually wasn't as keen on the aesthetic result as I thought I would be (face too thin and I'm naturally curvy, look a bit odd slightly ripped), also I realised that to maintain it is a constant battle that would make me miserable.

I'm confused about why your surgeon would care about how bulky your thighs are (radar is up for men who think women with muscles unfeminine hmm)...

Anyway...first I'd ask yourself why you want to get to 20% body fat, what that will mean for you/what are you doing it for....then you could consider more HIIT and attention to diet. Incidentally, I'm also finding hot yoga a great complimentary exercise and I definitely feel leaner since I started doing it. I never liked yoga before, I took it up this year because I know I need to loosen up my shoulders and chest (the negative effect of boxing and weights), I've been surprised at the difference it's made, especially in a short space of time.

wooly31 Sun 11-May-14 13:27:40

Yes, I can't let this go!! Seriously, if he is NHS, would it help you to write a note via his secretary along the lines of (or if private can you contact directly?):
Dear Mr Twig Leg Surgeon
My knee has healed very well but I am concerned about a comment you made regarding the size of my thighs. You suggests they were "well built" and over muscular and suggested I avoided further "bulking". I lift heavy weights and enjoy the health benefits this brings. So, I would be very grateful if you could clarify whether this was an aesthetic comment or whether I risk further damage to my knees by continuing to lift weights (I have good experience and have been well trained in optimal lifting techniques) as I had rather thought weight training would, if anything, improve their stability.
Love and hugs

<sorry still cross>

cardamomginger Sun 11-May-14 13:27:42

I'd see a good sports physio who knows about the injuries and surgery you have had and who can advise on the best way to protect yourself through muscle build up, the best exercises to do in to protect yourself and whether there is anything you need to avoid either in the short term or the medium term.

I wouldn't necessarily focus too much on what he has said (in my experience surgeons aren't always the most clued up about exercise), but I wouldn't ignore it either. A good sports physio will be able to advise you best.

X posted with last 15 posts!

GarlicMayHaveNamechanged Sun 11-May-14 13:29:18

It sounds like your surgeon is being a nasty little chauvinist and is giving you his personal opinion on how he thinks women should look.

Yep, my first thought too! It's the only explanation smile As PP have said, strong leg muscles support your knees. Maybe take extra care that you're using those muscles and not overloading the joints. I'm pretty certain he meant "You're too muscular for a woman, why don't you slim those thighs down like a nice girl."

BetterWithCheese Sun 11-May-14 13:29:24

I agree, this needs clarification as to whether there is a medical basis to his comment or just his non-professional opinion. You could use some if the suggestions here if there is a medical need to "get lean" or keep doing what you enjoy if he was just giving unsolicited advice on your appearance. If it is medical advice, surely he would have accompanied it with guidance on what you should be doing or a referral to a physio for this advice. I suspect he was trying to be "helpful" hmm

RhondaJean Sun 11-May-14 13:30:24

I disagree actually, the op is already working with what sounds like a good personal trainer who has a plan in place that does not involve lower weights and higher reps at this point. She is unlikely to be particularly bulked anyway as women do not have enough testosterone to build muscle hugely without taking steroid supplements. Genetically she may, like me, be prone to larger and stronger legs but that is not a bad thing!

A good sports Physio would be your best bet for proper advice as surgeons, unless they have an interest in weight training, are unlikely to have a grasp of the benefits.

But yes I am pretty sure the only way to stabilise your knees is to improve muscle strength around them so it should be helping not hindering.

Ballet is ridiculously bad for your body is it not?

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