3

votes

Am I destined to be a hopeless wimp forever?

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created July 03, 2012 at 2:58 PM

I'm beginning to think it's nearly impossible for my body to build muscle. Like, at all. For serious.

I'm female, 30 years old, about 128 lbs. (At my heaviest, about 12 years ago, I was at 136, and have been down to 122.) From the age of 18 I've recognized the importance of using food as fuel. I ate whole grains, low to moderate fat, and high protein. I ate a lot of chicken breasts, fish, and used protein powder to reach the 1-gram-per-pound-of-ideal-body-weight, and ate fruit once or twice a day. About a year ago, though, I went full-on paleo. I've ditched chicken for the most part and stick with (usually) grass-fed beef, pastured pork, butter & coconut oil, veggies, & occasional fruit.

Working out has also been a part of my life since around 18 and for the longest time I'd mix it up with things like ellipticals, weight training, tae bo, and stationary bikes. When I went paleo, I moved away from long elliptical sessions to more "primal" workouts, like long walks, once-weekly sprinting, and Mark Sisson's body weight lifting protocol. Now, for the last 6 months, I've been doing crossfit 3x/week, sprinting 1x/week, and doing lots of walking.

Here's the problem -- I'm a wuss. I always have been, and I'm afraid I always will be. I started crossfit because I'd had so much trouble getting stronger, and I figured that if this didn't do it (since it'd be the first time actually working with a coach, rather than on my own), then I'm hopeless. Now...I think I'm hopeless.

When I started crossfit, the box was just opening, and I was one of few people who even really knew what crossfit was all about. I was pretty comfortable that I'd fare okay given my "athletic" background and that I'd started doing crossfit workouts on my own. But just about everyone was stronger and faster than I. And here I am, 6 months later, just BARELY any stronger than I was on day #1. While everyone else is progressing and getting stronger and looking better, I feel like I'm going nowhere.

Today, for example, we found our new max front squat. Mine? 106 pounds. ONLY 106 pounds. And what's worse is that that's the SAME max I had 3 months ago. In three months I made NO progress? Get out.

WHAT GIVES?? Otherwise, on paper I seem pretty healthy. Resting heart rate of 43-45 bpm, low body temp, low blood pressure, I feel good, I look decent (though I wouldn't mind shedding some belly flab). I do have hypothyroidism and wonder if that could cause any issues?

My diet is probably about 1500 cals a day, with ranges from 1200-2000, about 60% fat, mostly grass-fed/pastured meat & eggs, veggies, occasional fruit. Over the years I've experimented with different pre- and post-workout macro ratios, and currently workout fasted, first thing in the a.m.

As a final note, I'll say that my crossfit box is great. The coaches don't just throw random WODs at us, but follow a structured weight-training progression, so I really can't blame it on them.

So the point of this rant is -- I've been incorporating weight-training for over 10 years and still lift like a little girl. What is up with that?

D9951bf124145e23d4d205dee9fd1c27

on July 14, 2012
at 06:58 PM

Starting Strength is recommended by a lot of strength guys who have their own programs to sell as one of the best places to start

D9951bf124145e23d4d205dee9fd1c27

on July 14, 2012
at 06:53 PM

PS, the above answer is also one to definitely take note of, rest, recovery and scheduled deloading!

F0a3e3f17d9a740810ac37ff2353a9f3

(3804)

on July 04, 2012
at 03:05 AM

@Lynn: Contact me at [email protected] and I'll work-up a basic strength-training for you, no charge.

4ef079c57d2140bba4dbf4e30240a645

(4413)

on July 04, 2012
at 01:39 AM

This website explains the issue of using T4 only better than another other, IMO. Stop The Thyroid Madness www.stopthethyroidmadness.com/

4ef079c57d2140bba4dbf4e30240a645

(4413)

on July 04, 2012
at 01:38 AM

Ruth thyroid labs can be uhmmm well... a clusterfuck! If you don't have a doc who understands thyroid issues then they might erroneously think that you are fine as long as you are in the reference range. If you have been on T4 only (syntroid) for years, its imperative that you get your Free T3 checked. Many people with hypothyroid cannot convert "storage" thyroid (T4) to "active" thyroid (T3). If you have the autoimmune form of hypothyroid then you are more at risk for not converting. I personally need a small amount of Synthroid in combination with desiccated thyroid (Nature-Throid.

76c885d7d27e6c83542ea493ca866dcd

(2178)

on July 04, 2012
at 12:52 AM

I've been on Synthroid for a few years, and my numbers are all where they're "supposed" to be -- is that what you mean by stabilized?

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on July 03, 2012
at 10:37 PM

My first program ever was West Side for Skinny Bastards.

4ef079c57d2140bba4dbf4e30240a645

(4413)

on July 03, 2012
at 10:19 PM

Perhaps more of the 1500kcal should come from protein. That might help. Also, why not address your Hypothyroidism?

4ef079c57d2140bba4dbf4e30240a645

(4413)

on July 03, 2012
at 06:52 PM

hmmm... - or perhaps you are over-simplifying it. And she does say she has hypothyroid so Im unclear what you are even referring to.

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on July 03, 2012
at 06:36 PM

Starting Strength by Mark Rippitoe is an amazing strength training program. Google it...body builders and strength trainers both recommend it and they hardly ever agree. It will take you through novice to the end of linear progression in your training. This is just up to a BB squat loaded with your a little over your weight for a woman.

61c1efcc482019e016c45270b18c7453

(645)

on July 03, 2012
at 06:21 PM

You're over-complicating the matter. If she really has a thyroid problem then it's something that she didn't mention. You're adding a variable to this that the OP said nothing about. What we're basing our opinion on is on the information given. If there are factors that she did not mention then it's on her. Why assume something that isn't there? Second, if that really is a problem then she should be talking to a doctor and not an online community.

4ef079c57d2140bba4dbf4e30240a645

(4413)

on July 03, 2012
at 06:07 PM

I couldn't agree more. It think many people answering this Q do not understand hypothyroid.

4ef079c57d2140bba4dbf4e30240a645

(4413)

on July 03, 2012
at 06:05 PM

Rob I think its ridiculous to assume that someone who eats 1500 cal a day and has belly fat and hypothyroid is in a state of calorie deficit. I seriously doubt its that simple. .

E40b2fc9ddcf702bab9d61d28b8c8440

(505)

on July 03, 2012
at 05:40 PM

Sam, what do you mean by "real strength workout"? Signed, another young woman who also wants to build muscle and has little interest in Crossfit "boot camp" type gyms. And who cannot even do one real push-up! : ( Thanks!

7bf306ada57db47547e9da39a415edf6

(11214)

on July 03, 2012
at 05:37 PM

You still lift like a little girl because you are- well you are a little woman now. There are realistic goals and approaches- I suspect you could improve your lifts if you went the powerlifting route, but your frame is your frame. If I trained seriously and stayed drug free, the best I could expect is maybe 200lbs on my 6'3 frame. I used to think it was more, but now I realize how much steroid use is out there. Where would you put the extra pounds of muscle?

4ef079c57d2140bba4dbf4e30240a645

(4413)

on July 03, 2012
at 05:35 PM

maybe you need more protein and less fat to help gain muscle. I don't think that "too low calorie" is the issue at all as others imply. Telling someone with hypothyroid who has belly fat doesnt make sense at all! If you have belly fat as you say then how could you be too low calorie. Seems to be that you need a higher percentage of protein. You say 60/% of Calories from fat so how much protein are you eating? Also are you treating your hypothyroid? Might make a huge difference, as well as checking testosterone as I mentioned.

631b29d5ab1146e264e91d08103bb72c

(1277)

on July 03, 2012
at 05:16 PM

Post a link to your affiliate's programming. Thanks.

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on July 03, 2012
at 05:07 PM

If you eat tons fat protein and vegetables and do cross fit you'll get fat. Period.

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on July 03, 2012
at 05:06 PM

Korion, you obviously didn't read my whole answer. I did not say muscle building just came down to eating protein and lifting and I know that there is more to it than that. Reread my answer if you have to.

B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on July 03, 2012
at 04:58 PM

I'd use milk...

B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on July 03, 2012
at 04:57 PM

*"she will be looking really, really good- assuming she has the rest of her stuff dialed in"* that really says nothing, ... Muscle building is not as simple as eating enough protein and lifting. I think Dan makes a very good point.

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on July 03, 2012
at 04:56 PM

and I just looked at her diet the one she's on sucks too if she wants to get leaner and stronger. She should follow the ratios I just suggested, not the one's she's doing now.

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on July 03, 2012
at 04:55 PM

If she's doing what I just wrote, it's likely not her diet that's the problem. It's definitely her exercise choice and possibly her rest and supplementation.

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on July 03, 2012
at 04:52 PM

she will be looking really, really good- assuming she has the rest of her stuff dialed in. Plus, if she's new to lifting properly (which she is), she'll get even faster/better results.

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on July 03, 2012
at 04:51 PM

Actually, dan, I think you're wrong too. The most important things for body recomposition (increased muscle mass and reduced body fat) is your exercise selections, your nutrition regimentation, your supplementation, and your rest/recovery. Lets say she has all them dialed in but nutrition (she doesn't, cross fit sucks for building muslce, but let's pretend). If she consumes 150g protein, 100g carbs, and 55g fat, that gets her to 1500 cals. If she consumes the 100g carbs with 30g pre workout, 40g immediately post workout, and then another 30g in the meal following....

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on July 03, 2012
at 04:28 PM

You're eating and exercise choices are not conducive to your goals- it's as simple as that.

61c1efcc482019e016c45270b18c7453

(645)

on July 03, 2012
at 03:22 PM

@Crowlover, that's ridiculous to assume such a thing. If she's burning more calories than taking in for months if not years at a time how is that going to help her gain muscle?

4ef079c57d2140bba4dbf4e30240a645

(4413)

on July 03, 2012
at 03:18 PM

That doens't make sense at all Dan. If she is eating a hefty amount of protein and some fat ans some small amount of carbs she would still be well within the 1500 cal per day and it would be enough to support muscle gain in a woman.

  • 76c885d7d27e6c83542ea493ca866dcd

    asked by

    (2178)
  • Views
    2.3K
  • Last Activity
    1259D AGO
Frontpage book

Get FREE instant access to our Paleo For Beginners Guide & 15 FREE Recipes!

12 Answers

6
8f2d9842fdfec224a425c0f77c4ee34d

(1241)

on July 03, 2012
at 03:10 PM

It is very likely that you are not eating enough. You never mentioned your height, but an average of 1500 kcal/day would likely make it nearly impossible to gain muscle.

4ef079c57d2140bba4dbf4e30240a645

(4413)

on July 03, 2012
at 06:52 PM

hmmm... - or perhaps you are over-simplifying it. And she does say she has hypothyroid so Im unclear what you are even referring to.

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on July 03, 2012
at 05:07 PM

If you eat tons fat protein and vegetables and do cross fit you'll get fat. Period.

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on July 03, 2012
at 04:52 PM

she will be looking really, really good- assuming she has the rest of her stuff dialed in. Plus, if she's new to lifting properly (which she is), she'll get even faster/better results.

61c1efcc482019e016c45270b18c7453

(645)

on July 03, 2012
at 06:21 PM

You're over-complicating the matter. If she really has a thyroid problem then it's something that she didn't mention. You're adding a variable to this that the OP said nothing about. What we're basing our opinion on is on the information given. If there are factors that she did not mention then it's on her. Why assume something that isn't there? Second, if that really is a problem then she should be talking to a doctor and not an online community.

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on July 03, 2012
at 04:55 PM

If she's doing what I just wrote, it's likely not her diet that's the problem. It's definitely her exercise choice and possibly her rest and supplementation.

B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on July 03, 2012
at 04:57 PM

*"she will be looking really, really good- assuming she has the rest of her stuff dialed in"* that really says nothing, ... Muscle building is not as simple as eating enough protein and lifting. I think Dan makes a very good point.

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on July 03, 2012
at 04:56 PM

and I just looked at her diet the one she's on sucks too if she wants to get leaner and stronger. She should follow the ratios I just suggested, not the one's she's doing now.

61c1efcc482019e016c45270b18c7453

(645)

on July 03, 2012
at 03:22 PM

@Crowlover, that's ridiculous to assume such a thing. If she's burning more calories than taking in for months if not years at a time how is that going to help her gain muscle?

4ef079c57d2140bba4dbf4e30240a645

(4413)

on July 03, 2012
at 03:18 PM

That doens't make sense at all Dan. If she is eating a hefty amount of protein and some fat ans some small amount of carbs she would still be well within the 1500 cal per day and it would be enough to support muscle gain in a woman.

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on July 03, 2012
at 05:06 PM

Korion, you obviously didn't read my whole answer. I did not say muscle building just came down to eating protein and lifting and I know that there is more to it than that. Reread my answer if you have to.

4ef079c57d2140bba4dbf4e30240a645

(4413)

on July 03, 2012
at 06:05 PM

Rob I think its ridiculous to assume that someone who eats 1500 cal a day and has belly fat and hypothyroid is in a state of calorie deficit. I seriously doubt its that simple. .

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on July 03, 2012
at 04:51 PM

Actually, dan, I think you're wrong too. The most important things for body recomposition (increased muscle mass and reduced body fat) is your exercise selections, your nutrition regimentation, your supplementation, and your rest/recovery. Lets say she has all them dialed in but nutrition (she doesn't, cross fit sucks for building muslce, but let's pretend). If she consumes 150g protein, 100g carbs, and 55g fat, that gets her to 1500 cals. If she consumes the 100g carbs with 30g pre workout, 40g immediately post workout, and then another 30g in the meal following....

2
Medium avatar

on July 03, 2012
at 05:12 PM

You need your thyroid stabilized before accomplishjng anything. Fatigue is a major common complant w hypothyroidism.

76c885d7d27e6c83542ea493ca866dcd

(2178)

on July 04, 2012
at 12:52 AM

I've been on Synthroid for a few years, and my numbers are all where they're "supposed" to be -- is that what you mean by stabilized?

4ef079c57d2140bba4dbf4e30240a645

(4413)

on July 03, 2012
at 06:07 PM

I couldn't agree more. It think many people answering this Q do not understand hypothyroid.

4ef079c57d2140bba4dbf4e30240a645

(4413)

on July 04, 2012
at 01:38 AM

Ruth thyroid labs can be uhmmm well... a clusterfuck! If you don't have a doc who understands thyroid issues then they might erroneously think that you are fine as long as you are in the reference range. If you have been on T4 only (syntroid) for years, its imperative that you get your Free T3 checked. Many people with hypothyroid cannot convert "storage" thyroid (T4) to "active" thyroid (T3). If you have the autoimmune form of hypothyroid then you are more at risk for not converting. I personally need a small amount of Synthroid in combination with desiccated thyroid (Nature-Throid.

4ef079c57d2140bba4dbf4e30240a645

(4413)

on July 04, 2012
at 01:39 AM

This website explains the issue of using T4 only better than another other, IMO. Stop The Thyroid Madness www.stopthethyroidmadness.com/

2
F5be4be097edc85690c12d67ee1a27c0

on July 03, 2012
at 04:36 PM

If you want to actually be stronger and it means a lot to you, lift weights outside of crossfit. Or quit your WODs or whatever you are doing. Can you go to the gym and lift on your own? Each day you should be able to increase your weight by 5 pounds. You should be using perfect form. If you aren't, you need to reduce your weight and start over the correct way.

Warmup starting with just barbell: (45 lbs x 5 reps) (65 lbs x 4) (75 lbs x 3) (80 lbs x 2) (85 lbs x 1)

Workout: 90 lbs (3 sets x 5 reps). YOU MUST be hitting parallel.

Next workout, add 5 pounds to your max weight. Adjust your warmup weights as such. Strive for perfect form. If you must, repeat the same weight for 2 or 3 workouts but you really shouldn't have that problem until you get up higher.

I assure you, you will will able to lift a lot more this way than your regular crossfit stuff.

2
C326acd0ae246a39c5685f2ba72e3136

on July 03, 2012
at 04:18 PM

Add more calories. I'm sorry but Cross-fit may not work for you if you goal is purely muscle increase and strength. I would ditch basically ALL cardio except for a sprint session 1-2 times a week. Stick ONLY with the basic exercises that stroke the metabolism and use many muscle groups. Squats,deadlifts, chin-ups and dips/Bench press. ONLY these exercises. You want to use the least amount of energy while getting the most out of each and every workout.

1
04279e3fadb7caef2a9bff98eb09ea36

on July 14, 2012
at 06:15 PM

a lot of good points have been made here and I agree that you need to add some calories to your diet. It's nearly impossible to add muscle if your calories are even or in a deficit. In addition to that, you need to remember that exercise does not build muscle. RECOVERY does! Make sure that you are getting adequate rest after a workout. You may even need a deload week to catch up. http://www.tonygentilcore.com/blog/the-deload-week-and-why-you-should-use-it/

1
F0a3e3f17d9a740810ac37ff2353a9f3

(3804)

on July 03, 2012
at 04:33 PM

Dump Crossfit. Do a real strength workout, eat to satiety in a diet adequate in protein.

You can go through lots gyrations with complicated lifting protocols, meal-timing, macro-ratios, and supplements, all of which might gain you a few percentage points in strength gains over a simple workout and good diet. Fine if you're preparing for a bodybuilding competition or athletic event, otherwise hardly worth the trouble.

Also, as others have said, if training and diet are in place, recovery becomes the limiting factor.

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on July 03, 2012
at 06:36 PM

Starting Strength by Mark Rippitoe is an amazing strength training program. Google it...body builders and strength trainers both recommend it and they hardly ever agree. It will take you through novice to the end of linear progression in your training. This is just up to a BB squat loaded with your a little over your weight for a woman.

F0a3e3f17d9a740810ac37ff2353a9f3

(3804)

on July 04, 2012
at 03:05 AM

@Lynn: Contact me at [email protected] and I'll work-up a basic strength-training for you, no charge.

E40b2fc9ddcf702bab9d61d28b8c8440

(505)

on July 03, 2012
at 05:40 PM

Sam, what do you mean by "real strength workout"? Signed, another young woman who also wants to build muscle and has little interest in Crossfit "boot camp" type gyms. And who cannot even do one real push-up! : ( Thanks!

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on July 03, 2012
at 10:37 PM

My first program ever was West Side for Skinny Bastards.

D9951bf124145e23d4d205dee9fd1c27

on July 14, 2012
at 06:58 PM

Starting Strength is recommended by a lot of strength guys who have their own programs to sell as one of the best places to start

1
5b4f57d4d3a66a882eca8ddf87103510

on July 03, 2012
at 04:03 PM

Start with the fundamentals. I wouldn't worry about things like testosterone levels or any other really specific possible problem until you're sure the basics are right.

  1. Is your training right?
  2. Are you eating enough?
  3. Are you getting the right recovery / sleeping enough?

On the training front, consider whether what you're doing is actually building strength. Are you lifting heavy enough? Are you getting enough volume? Are you really pushing yourself? Are you doing things which are very technical (e.g. olympic lifts) but have low weights?

I know you are doing weight lifting, but is it a strength program, or something else? A dedicated strength program will do much more for strength than one that is more endurance focused, or more technical. If you fail to gain strength on a classic 5*5, squat/deadlift/bench/row/pull-up/overhead, adding weight each session, then you know the workout isn't the issue.

Others have covered the food issue, with the basic idea just being to eat more.

Recovery is crucial. I'm not a crossfitter myself but it sounds as though sessions are typically pretty tough. Are you sleeping enough? Do you feel sore before workouts ever?

I realise this sounds rudimentary, but I do believe the basics are always the right place to start. If you do a classic lifting program, eat tons of good stuff, sleep tons and still don't gain strength then it's time to start asking the more detailed questions.

1
61c1efcc482019e016c45270b18c7453

(645)

on July 03, 2012
at 03:26 PM

Here's a simple answer. Take a chapter out of bodybuilding nutrition.

If you want to gain muscle bad enough then you should start counting calories. Read this sticky from bodybuilding.com. It will you help you a lot with the basics of caloric intake.

http://forum.bodybuilding.com/showthread.php?t=121703981

The premise of this is to calculate your body's maintenance calories and then go over it by a certain ration depending on your goal and activity level.

I understand that Paleo is against the concept of caloric counting, however it might be necessary in your case if you want to achieve the goals you desire. You'd be surprised at how little or how great the calories in some foods are. With Paleo it's ridiculously easy to hit your macronutrient requirements as well just because of the nutrient dense foods we eat.

1
4ef079c57d2140bba4dbf4e30240a645

on July 03, 2012
at 03:17 PM

I know you are only 30 but still... your testosterone level may be lower than normal. Lots of people's hormones are messed up from this toxic place we live.

I didn't get mine tested till 40 but Im certain it was also low in my 30s. I wasn't until I got mine to a higher level that I was able to gain ANY muscle mass. It was striking the difference and that was with my Free Testosterone level still be very low for a woman but at least having some. Im still tying to get it closer to the midpoint of the reference range.

Might be worth looking into.

1
4ec0fe4b4aab327f7efa2dfb06b032ff

(5145)

on July 03, 2012
at 03:12 PM

You're not going to be building much muscle eating only 1500 calories a day. You need to be in calorie surplus to build muscle. At this point you're probably barely holding on to the muscle you already have.

I know the focus is on big, strong weightlifter types, but check out leangains.com for a protocol that has helped a lot of people gain muscle while not gaining fat.

0
D9951bf124145e23d4d205dee9fd1c27

on July 14, 2012
at 06:45 PM

Good answers so far but im guessing if you really want to add strength then the best bet would be to look into pure strength training, as already mentioned 'Starting Strength', or Stronglifts or for a slower, more steady progression Wendlers 5/3/1 programme, if you want more functional strength maybe even look to strongman (strongwoman?) training. But as a lot have mentioned, you need to eat a lot to gain strength so i'd start with that as a priority and work on the basic training from there. Strength gains can and will take a while to get there but slow and steady is the way forward for it. And if in doubt, and if dairy is in you're life, G.O.M.A.D!!!

PS, the above answer from Heather is also one to definitely take note of, rest, recovery and scheduled deloading! And even from a mental point of view, thinking you are a 'puny wuss' wont help the mindset to not be.

D9951bf124145e23d4d205dee9fd1c27

on July 14, 2012
at 06:53 PM

PS, the above answer is also one to definitely take note of, rest, recovery and scheduled deloading!

0
510bdda8988ed0d4b0ec0b738b4edb73

(20898)

on July 03, 2012
at 05:26 PM

Couple of thoughts:

You're comparing yourself against other Crossfitters. In general, they are from the fitter half of the population, so you're comparing yourself against people who are better than average.

It took me nearly 3 years of serious Crossfit training (after a year or two of doing it on my own) to get good enough to be invited to the special Saturday afternoon fire-breather class. 6 months isn't enough time for anything really.

Don't get discouraged with plateaus. Two years ago I fought for 9 months to add 5 lbs to my dead lift. In the last two months, I had three max effort days, and each one I added 10 lbs. Sometimes you just need to wait for a breakthrough. That could be building up more general conditioning or learning new body position for a lift. Just keep at it.

Also, eat more. Crossfit requires a huge fuel intake. I do nearly 5,000 cals a day to maintain my weight and strength.

I'm also saying all of this instead of "drop Crossfit" because you already said your programming is smart instead of random WOD. If that weren't the case, I would have give you that advice too.

Answer Question


Get FREE instant access to our
Paleo For Beginners Guide & 15 FREE Recipes!