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Any tips for cutting fat and building lean mass for a lady?


danica

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So I'm 55 lbs. down and at the home stretch with 20 more lbs. to hit my target for 17% body fat. I'd like to dial in my nutrition so I can cut the fat but still maintain my muscle mass. I could use some advice on protein intake and whether I should just cut the weight and THEN build muscle mass or if it's possible to do both at the same time. I feel like I don't really know enough to hit this the most effective way. I lift weights, CrossFit at least 4 days a week and I've been kind of intermittently running but I'm sidelined for a couple weeks due to a healing stress fracture (no running, no jumping and no heavy lower body weight). Help!

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danica

Level 3 Warrior Assassin 

See my instagram for photos of my training and also my Sphynx cats.

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Congrats on your loss so far!

 

Protein - aim for around 0.8g protein per lb of your bodyweight. Eat an overall calorific deficit (less than you burn) to cut weight - how much that will be is up to your own size, height, activity level etc. You can use calculators to estimate it but they are just estimates, and you may need to eat more or less to try and find the amount you lose consistently at. The high protein will maintain your muscle/strength.

 

To build new muscle, you need to eat at a calorific surplus, so the two can't happen at the same time. Aim for around 400 extra cals a day. Google some articles on bulking advice to read up on the process: here's a good one to start with: http://strengthunbound.com/bulking-complete-guide-for-beginners/

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warrior : level 8

str: 20.75 | dex: 13.75 | sta: 11.75 | con: 9.75 | wis: 8.25 | cha: 4.75

''Difficult' and 'impossible' are cousins often mistaken for one another, with very little in common' - Locke Lamora

 

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In addition to getting enough protein, you shouldn't be worried about losing muscle mass so long as you keep lifting heavy.  Intensity is more important than volume when you're trying to maintain muscle while losing fat.  So it's okay to reduce the reps/sets if you need to, but keep the weights/general resistance heavy.

 

As a heads up (though you've probably already noticed), you might find that these last few pounds come off much slower than the previous ones did.  As fat comes off, the overall calories you burn each day decreases because there's less weight your body has to move around.  Don't get discouraged!

 

When you decide to switch to building muscle is up to you.  Once you decide to begin, take a month or so to ramp up to the "standard" surplus.  If you add the extra food nice and slow, you'll minimize the fat gain that always tags along with muscle building.

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Intensity is more important than volume when you're trying to maintain muscle while losing fat.  So it's okay to reduce the reps/sets if you need to, but keep the weights/general resistance heavy.

Can you quickly explain why that is?

How about a glass of purgatory with a splash of heaven?

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It's just been the experience of many people who cut, and the research appears to support it.  You don't have to change anything about your lifting when you cut (you could keep the volume and intensity the same as before), but it's common for exercise to become more draining if you're in a deficit.  If it's become too difficult to make it through the normal routine, you could either 1) add back some calories, or 2) make an adjustment to the lifting.  If you're going to make an adjustment to the lifting, your options are to change something regarding your intensity, volume, or frequency.

 

To maintain your muscle, you need to maintain your strength.  After all, it was the requirement for greater strength that caused your body to build the extra muscle in the first place (along with a host of other important neurological and metabolic adaptations).  Strength is about many things, but you can think of it being primarily about force production and tension.  If you lower your intensity (the resistance you lift), you decrease your required force production.  If you decrease your force production, you don't recruit as many of your muscle fibers (namely, you don't do as much for your large type II's).  If your muscle fibers don't need to be so big, they won't be!  So lifting heavy (keeping up intensity) is required to keep the cross-sectional area of all your muscle fibers nice and large.  Intensity, volume, and frequency all play a part, but when it comes to this one measure, intensity tends to be the more important one (but don't take this to the extreme and think you can just do 1 max rep per week and call it good). 

 

Of course, that's not to say that you won't look smaller if you decrease the volume.  There are two DEBATED forms of hypertrophy.  The one I described above is sometimes called myofibrillar hypertrophy: it's about the growth of your muscle's actual contractile units.  To maintain them, keep up the tension/force required.  The other is sometimes called sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, and it refers to everything else your muscle cells need to do what they do: fluids, glycogen, organelles, capillaries, etc.  The thought is this kind of hypertrophy contributes to your muscular endurance (how much volume you can do) and makes your muscles visually "swell up."  Just how separate are these things, really?  People go back and forth on it all the time.  But, it's possible that when you're in a deficit and have reduced your training volume, you might lose some of this muscle "swell" and look a little smaller, even though the size and force-producing capacity of your myofibrils are the same.

 

All of that said, I'm sure there are people out there who have done the reverse of what I've said (lowered the intensity, increased the volume) and haven't felt like they've lost any visual amount of muscle.  They exchange strength for endurance, and somehow the visual result isn't that different, and maybe that's all that matters for them.  As always, it's about personal goals.

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That is really helpful for me. I've kept the weight the same but have noticed a slip in the reps. Now I know I'm still on the right path!

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warrior : level 8

str: 20.75 | dex: 13.75 | sta: 11.75 | con: 9.75 | wis: 8.25 | cha: 4.75

''Difficult' and 'impossible' are cousins often mistaken for one another, with very little in common' - Locke Lamora

 

Link to post

It's just been the experience of many people who cut, and the research appears to support it.  You don't have to change anything about your lifting when you cut (you could keep the volume and intensity the same as before), but it's common for exercise to become more draining if you're in a deficit.  If it's become too difficult to make it through the normal routine, you could either 1) add back some calories, or 2) make an adjustment to the lifting.  If you're going to make an adjustment to the lifting, your options are to change something regarding your intensity, volume, or frequency.

 

To maintain your muscle, you need to maintain your strength.  After all, it was the requirement for greater strength that caused your body to build the extra muscle in the first place (along with a host of other important neurological and metabolic adaptations).  Strength is about many things, but you can think of it being primarily about force production and tension.  If you lower your intensity (the resistance you lift), you decrease your required force production.  If you decrease your force production, you don't recruit as many of your muscle fibers (namely, you don't do as much for your large type II's).  If your muscle fibers don't need to be so big, they won't be!  So lifting heavy (keeping up intensity) is required to keep the cross-sectional area of all your muscle fibers nice and large.  Intensity, volume, and frequency all play a part, but when it comes to this one measure, intensity tends to be the more important one (but don't take this to the extreme and think you can just do 1 max rep per week and call it good). 

 

Of course, that's not to say that you won't look smaller if you decrease the volume.  There are two DEBATED forms of hypertrophy.  The one I described above is sometimes called myofibrillar hypertrophy: it's about the growth of your muscle's actual contractile units.  To maintain them, keep up the tension/force required.  The other is sometimes called sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, and it refers to everything else your muscle cells need to do what they do: fluids, glycogen, organelles, capillaries, etc.  The thought is this kind of hypertrophy contributes to your muscular endurance (how much volume you can do) and makes your muscles visually "swell up."  Just how separate are these things, really?  People go back and forth on it all the time.  But, it's possible that when you're in a deficit and have reduced your training volume, you might lose some of this muscle "swell" and look a little smaller, even though the size and force-producing capacity of your myofibrils are the same.

 

All of that said, I'm sure there are people out there who have done the reverse of what I've said (lowered the intensity, increased the volume) and haven't felt like they've lost any visual amount of muscle.  They exchange strength for endurance, and somehow the visual result isn't that different, and maybe that's all that matters for them.  As always, it's about personal goals.

I know this is an old thread - but this detailed analysis was SO informative. Thank you!!

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