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If you decrease caloric intake but increase protein intake can you build muscle and lose fat simultaneously?


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First off I know that everyone says you can't build muscle and gain fat simultaneously, but would this actually work? What is it that enables muscle gain - purely protein intake or do you have to increase all macronutrients and calories too?

 

I know this question is kinda dumb, but I was just thinking about it because I've been trying to eat at a calorie deficit for a while now but only recently started increasing my protein intake within that calorie deficit, and (this may not be true) but I feel like I am eating more protein than I used to be when I just ate whatever and at maintenance... :')

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Other than "newbie gains" when you first start working out and your body says "holy shit what's going on here", no. Fat loss requires a caloric deficit and muscle gain requires a caloric surplus. Eating lots of protein will help prevent loss of lean muscle when you're at a deficit though, so it's a good idea.

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Nope.  Muscle is built in caloric surplus (which would inevitably bring a higher protein count normally).  Fat is lost in caloric deficit.

 

As I'm sure Waldo will pop in and say, you CAN get stronger in a deficit, especially as you start with newb gains.  The point of increasing protein when in caloric deficit is that the uptick in protein helps maintain your muscle more efficiently with the lower energy available. (Presumable this is due to the body no longer having to synthesize amino acids to maintain/repair the muscle and they can just pull them up from the diet, but I've never been particularly adept at biochemical pathways.)

 

It's a dream of everyone to build muscle while cutting fat.  The reality is we can't do both at the same time.  Strength is another matter, but even that last its limits.

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One of my favourite fitness people is Ben Greenfield. I dug up an old podcast where he addressed this question. I'd urge you to review the entire answer, but in particular I want to highlight a specific passage:

 

Ben:  So let’s tie all these together – what all these comes down to is that if your goal is to burn fat and build muscle at the same time: a.) you need to be in a calorie deficit and it looks like that calorie deficit should fall somewhere between 500 and 1,000 calories more than what you’re actually eating, okay? So if you find out that your total body’s daily needs are 3,000 calories per day to sustain everything that you’re doing, you’d undercut that and you’ll eat some over between 2,000 and 2500 calories per day.  And you would combine that with the one thing that seems to somehow cause your body even in the state of calorie deficits to increase protein synthesis or to at least maintain protein synthesis – and that is resistance training, that’s weight training.

Brock:  Yeah.

Ben:  Okay, so the other very, very important things that you’re not be at a protein deficiency, and if you want to not be at a protein deficiency, anyone easily do this without risking not being a calorie deficit you would include things like amino acid capsules or amino acid powders which are a low or no calorie sources of protein that can enhance or maintain the rate of protein synthesis without dumping extra calories into your body.  Now, I know that this seems to defy the laws of thermodynamics that you would somehow be able to have a maintain rate of protein synthesis in the absence of adequate calories or in what would seem to be a catabolic state but the fact is that there are multiple studies out there that show that the combination of adequate protein resistance training and a calorie deficit allows you to indeed burn fat and build muscle simultaneously.  So the last thing, the last recommendation that I would have for you so that you don’t risk thyroid issues or like the starvation mode, long term of potential down regulation of your metabolism while doing something like resistance training with the calorie deficit, I would have at least one week – a one day per week or potentially depending on your level of physical activity, one meal per day that’s more of a refeed either carbohydrate refeed or a calorie refeed.  So let’s say, let’s choose the calorie refeed – that’s gonna be the simplest example of how to do this from Monday thru Saturday, you would eat let’s say, 2500 calories if you know that you actually need 300 calories.  You’d get adequate protein meaning you would never want if you want a number, you would never wanna undercut protein by more than 0. – you need to get at least 0.55 g of protein per lb. of body weight, okay? That’s the minimum amount of protein that you need to maintain muscles 0.55g of protein per lb. of body weight.  And then on a Sunday, you would eat 3500 calories, right? An ad libitum calorie day to ensure that you don’t down regulate your metabolism because within about 4 weeks of consistent calorie deficits combined with physical activity, you’ll tend to see a down regulation of thyroid hormones.

Read more https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/2015/08/episode-328-full-transcript/

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6 hours ago, Orion Antares said:

You can do a recomp diet. A slight deficit on rest days and a slight surplus past the added calorie need of your training session on work days. It's slower for both but overall can average out in total time vs combined bulking and cutting cycles.

 

 

 

It absolutely does not average out in total time.  Recomping moves at a fraction of the speed of bulking and cutting.  When recomping you spend much of the time at true maintenence, neither gaining muscle nor losing fat (can also be seen as a mobilization cost, there is an inefficiency period around each switch, when rapidly switching you amass a ton of inefficiency).

 

For a beginner male, a good year of recomping might net 6-8 lbs of muscle gain and fat loss.  A good year of bulking-cutting (2-4 cycles) could net more than 20 lbs of muscle gain and fat loss.  It seems like a lot, but in reality it is like watching grass grow, gaining muscle is a very, very slow process even where everything is optimal.  Recomping is a good bit more effort than bulking-cutting as well.  

 

Recomping is borderline pointless, I would never recommend that someone do it.  If you don't want to gain much fat when bulking, cycle every 2-3 months.  In that short of a time, even your spouse would not notice any fat gain. (Plus cutting is super easy, you only have to do it for 2 weeks or so).

 

 

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2 hours ago, Waldo said:

 

 

It absolutely does not average out in total time.  Recomping moves at a fraction of the speed of bulking and cutting.  When recomping you spend much of the time at true maintenence, neither gaining muscle nor losing fat (can also be seen as a mobilization cost, there is an inefficiency period around each switch, when rapidly switching you amass a ton of inefficiency).

 

For a beginner male, a good year of recomping might net 6-8 lbs of muscle gain and fat loss.  A good year of bulking-cutting (2-4 cycles) could net more than 20 lbs of muscle gain and fat loss.  It seems like a lot, but in reality it is like watching grass grow, gaining muscle is a very, very slow process even where everything is optimal.  Recomping is a good bit more effort than bulking-cutting as well.  

 

Recomping is borderline pointless, I would never recommend that someone do it.  If you don't want to gain much fat when bulking, cycle every 2-3 months.  In that short of a time, even your spouse would not notice any fat gain. (Plus cutting is super easy, you only have to do it for 2 weeks or so).

 

 

So, how would that cycle work? Two months of bulking, then two weeks of cutting, then back to bulking? 

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14 hours ago, Elastigirl said:

So, how would that cycle work? Two months of bulking, then two weeks of cutting, then back to bulking?

 

I found this article a very interesting read, it made a lot of sense to me:

http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/muscle-gain/general-philosophies-of-muscle-mass-gain.html/

 

He is basically advocating for a slow/small bulk/cut cycle. eg, for a woman, lose weight slowly while trying to maintain as much muscle mass as possible (heavy lifting) until you are in the low 20s bf%, then eat at a tiny surplus for several months until your body gets back up to high 20s bodyfat. And repeat...

 

This stops you from looking fat while you're building those nice muscles ;)

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On 7/22/2016 at 6:19 PM, Elastigirl said:

So, how would that cycle work? Two months of bulking, then two weeks of cutting, then back to bulking? 

 

Yes, exactly.

 

Gain like 5 lbs or so, then cut away the 3 lbs of extra fat and repeat.

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Why would it?

 

Actually the opposite is true.

 

Metabolically the opposite of what happens when you cut occurs.  Cut for a long, long time and your metabolism drops, quite severely if you cut way too long when lean (or the extreme case, have an ED).  The more time you spend bulking, the more your metabolism rises (independent of the contribution from new muscle).  If you have a depressed metabolism, this could cause a huge swing; hundreds of calories/day.

 

Even little things.  People that cut too much and bulk too little are often cold in a warm room.  People that bulk a lot and cut a little are often warm in a cold room.  (yes, this is just a notable physical manifestation of metabolism).

 

Its also notable in things like hair, skin, energy, etc...  Bulking causes the release of growth hormones (incl testosterone).  You hair grows faster and stronger.  It causes your skin to turn over faster (tho you can get acne because of the increased hormones) (good though for loose skin issues, also the generally nasty skin that comes from long cuts (again, see the extreme case of ED sufferers)).  Lethargy isn't really an issue when bulking, energy is in ample supply.  And because of the increased hormones, chances are you'll be eager to get it on more often.

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3 hours ago, sophietheadventurer said:

 

would that short a 'bulk' period repeated over a long time cause any damage to your health? i.e. nervous system, metabolism, etc.? 

5 lbs over 8 weeks isn't a huge calorie surplus. Only about 250 calories a day over maintenence. 

@Waldo

Losing 5 pounds in two weeks sounds a bit daunting to me. I don't think I have the willpower to carry that off ,at least not without being a total grump. Would a cycle of cutting for a month, bulking for 2 be effective? I don't need to be super ripped, just a middle aged gal who wants to put on some muscle and stay lean.

 

 

 

 

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16 hours ago, Elastigirl said:

5 lbs over 8 weeks isn't a huge calorie surplus. Only about 250 calories a day over maintenence. 

@Waldo

Losing 5 pounds in two weeks sounds a bit daunting to me. I don't think I have the willpower to carry that off ,at least not without being a total grump. Would a cycle of cutting for a month, bulking for 2 be effective? I don't need to be super ripped, just a middle aged gal who wants to put on some muscle and stay lean.

 

 

Well you wouldn't have to lose 5 lbs.  If you gain 5 lbs, 2 of it being muscle, you only need to lose 3 to get back to your starting point in fat mass (which is a lower BF% than where you started because your lean mass is higher).

 

Also, cutting after bulking is totally different; at first its a welcome reprieve from overeating every single day for weeks.  Its the same way that first week after a long cut is, except that instead of "yay, I get to eat", its "yay, I don't have to eat."

 

You could cut at any rate you want.  However certainly err on the side of "too fast"; too fast when you've been bulking the last couple months is a totally different magnitude of deficit than it is if you haven't been bulking the last couple months.

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1 hour ago, Waldo said:

 

Well you wouldn't have to lose 5 lbs.  If you gain 5 lbs, 2 of it being muscle, you only need to lose 3 to get back to your starting point in fat mass (which is a lower BF% than where you started because your lean mass is higher).

 

Also, cutting after bulking is totally different; at first its a welcome reprieve from overeating every single day for weeks.  Its the same way that first week after a long cut is, except that instead of "yay, I get to eat", its "yay, I don't have to eat."

 

You could cut at any rate you want.  However certainly err on the side of "too fast"; too fast when you've been bulking the last couple months is a totally different magnitude of deficit than it is if you haven't been bulking the last couple months.

Thanks.This is very helpful

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Why not muscle hypertrophy via high protein intake with calories at tdee or slightly lower?

 

 

We need to stop blindly accepting things without questioning and thorough study. Why physiologically is a caloric surplus be necessary to gain muscle assuming protein content is kept high (1-1.3g/lb of body weight)? Have studies shown this to be true, that you cant gain muscle without eating at a caloric surpus? On a physiological level, carbs are not needed to build muscle and assuming you are eating enough protein, the pathway required to build muscle does need energy in addition to this protein, but not necessarily a surplus. Even when eating in a deficit, your body can access the energy it needs to build muscle from stored fat (recompositioning). Why is recompositioning slower than standard muscle hypertrophy during a caloric surplus? Why would this energy required to build muscle have to come from outside sources? I need studies and physiological information about muscle hypertrophy requiring a caloric surplus first before I will just accept what I'm being told while my intuition is telling me it shouldn't be true.
 

watch:
https://youtu.be/MFo_wQq8M3Q
https://youtu.be/DOy-QDS7axU
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ud7CnPJcK6U

 

Links of interest (please add more):

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muscle_hypertrophy
https://sci-fit.net/bulking-deficit-gaining/
https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/103/3/738/4564609
https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/99/2/276/4571468
https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/89/1/161/4598235
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26817506
https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1550-2783-11-19
https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-015-0100-0
https://www.dropbox.com/s/bvia8flijju4hf1/J. Nutr.-2015-Campbell-2076-83.pdf?dl=0
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26248565
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23679146
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24595305
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26817506

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1373635/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17229738

https://idmprogram.com/fasting-and-muscle-mass-fasting-part-14/

https://www.ruled.me/mythbusting-training-on-keto-diet/

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13 hours ago, lowestprime said:

Also, we need to stop blindly accepting things without questionig and thurough study. Why would a caloric surplus be necessary to gain muscle assuming protien content is kept high (1-1.3g/lb of body weight)? On a phisiological lvl, carbs are not needed to build muscle and assuming you are eating high protein, the pathway required to build muscle does need energy in addition to this protein, but not necessarily a surplus (i.e. gaining muscle while eating high protein and exactly at your tdee, no caloric surplus) Why would this have to come from outside sources?

 

Why would this have to come from outside sources? I need studies and phisiological info about muscle hypertrophy requiring a caloric surplus first before I will just accept what im being told an what my intuition is telling me after having studied this online for months.

 

 

I'm not able to watch the videos, but what that describes is "Recomp," which as noted above is incredibly slow and over all an inefficient way to convert fat to muscle.  Perfectly doable, but most people won't have the patience.  Carbs as a diet macro aren't needed to build muscle, and no one said as much - fat and carbs are the energy macros and you can fuel yourself with either one.  But Recomps are hard and slow because breaking down molecules to create blocks for growth is doable, but slow.  A lot easier to buy the blocks in the first place with some outside energy to ensure the body has access to the stuff it needs, plus some.

 

As for studies, scientifically I'm not sure where to point you without a really long head dive into PubMed.  I can tell you that the sources you linked either explicitly mention the need for increased calorie energy to build muscles (from either fat or carbs), or have no relevance to what you are claiming.  A lot of nutrition science has wonky methods, but you can look at powerlifters and bodybuilders and see their common trends over time, however unscientific that may be.  When you start exercising things are pretty easy and muscle/strength gains happen with fat loss.  That trails off over time.  Nature of the beast.

 

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Just now, Tanktimus the Encourager said:

I was just about to tag you RP.

 

:P

 

Not my best answer.  Bit ramblely and unfocused today, and if I dive deeper I'm never going to get work done.

 

But for not the first time I wish people weren't so squeamish about muscle biopsies.  I would love to run a series of experiments using people who are couch potatoes, "rest day" athletes, novice exercising people, and experienced people, and see how diet, exercise routines, and other variables promote growth or weight loss, and tie in some more molecular methods of quantifying hypertophy via gene expression.

 

But, uh, yea.  All of that requires a large group of people who would be okay getting multiple muscle biopsies over a period of several weeks or months.  Even if I could FIND the people (....and funding), I'm pretty sure an Ethic Committee/IRB wouldn't approve it.  A few mouse models might work, but I don't think that works well enough for exercise science, though it could cover the gene expression side of it.

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TL;DR of my ramble post:

 

-Recomp exists as a method of fat loss and muscle gain

-Recomp is slow as hell

-Energy sources can be internal (excessive fat stores) or external (Carbohydrate or Fat macros)

-Gaining muscle is made easier from external sources as they are more readily available for the body to utilize as soon as it recognizes the damage to repair (aka - figures out you exercised).

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20 minutes ago, RisenPhoenix said:

 

:P

 

Not my best answer.  Bit ramblely and unfocused today, and if I dive deeper I'm never going to get work done.

 

But for not the first time I wish people weren't so squeamish about muscle biopsies.  I would love to run a series of experiments using people who are couch potatoes, "rest day" athletes, novice exercising people, and experienced people, and see how diet, exercise routines, and other variables promote growth or weight loss, and tie in some more molecular methods of quantifying hypertophy via gene expression.

 

But, uh, yea.  All of that requires a large group of people who would be okay getting multiple muscle biopsies over a period of several weeks or months.  Even if I could FIND the people (....and funding), I'm pretty sure an Ethic Committee/IRB wouldn't approve it.  A few mouse models might work, but I don't think that works well enough for exercise science, though it could cover the gene expression side of it.

 

I would sign up for this so fast. I'd also love to see some very tightly controlled nutrition and exercise studies (that don't involve a lot of self-reporting). 

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32 minutes ago, RisenPhoenix said:

 

:P

 

Not my best answer.  Bit ramblely and unfocused today, and if I dive deeper I'm never going to get work done.

 

But for not the first time I wish people weren't so squeamish about muscle biopsies.  I would love to run a series of experiments using people who are couch potatoes, "rest day" athletes, novice exercising people, and experienced people, and see how diet, exercise routines, and other variables promote growth or weight loss, and tie in some more molecular methods of quantifying hypertrophy via gene expression.

1

Well, you could use me as a test subject. :biggrin-new: I'm eating on a calorie deficit right now and starting to lift from being a couch potato. I was 310-ish pounds and, before hitting the gym 4 days a week, I did bodyweight training and lost 30 something pounds. I have been doing weightlifting for 2 weeks now. I'm registering my lifts, repetitions and weight loss.

 

Is not a strictly controlled environment but it could be nice data.

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5 minutes ago, lowestprime said:

 

I can see the videos.  I'm just at work and can't spend an hour on Youtube.  As it is I spend way more time here than I should during the work day.

 

But some slightly more digging into text shows the first is trying to sell you something.  Yes, fasting helps you lose weight - because you usually end up cutting calories, and less calories = more fat loss (in the beginning at least).  And the second from what I've gathered skimming the re-cappers in the comments is what was said previously here - the answer is you need to be in surplus to gain muscle, UNLESS you are just starting.  Which is what we have been saying.  With a tinge of "Keep everything level with your TDEE" and we go back to "That is Recomp, and it's slow."  Which brings us back to where we were previously - possible, but slow, and probably more frustrating for a newbie.

 

12 minutes ago, Sylvaa said:

I would sign up for this so fast. I'd also love to see some very tightly controlled nutrition and exercise studies (that don't involve a lot of self-reporting). 

 

I mean, I would, too.  I'm certain there are methods for muscle biopsies which are minimally invasive.  The issue I imagine is how long it takes the samples to get to processing, sinec the RNA used for the expression studies would degrade quickly.

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5 minutes ago, Drake Alexander said:

Well, you could use me as a test subject. :biggrin-new: I'm eating on a calorie deficit right now and starting to lift from being a couch potato. I was 310-ish pounds and, before hitting the gym 4 days a week, I did bodyweight training and lost 30 something pounds. I have been doing weightlifting for 2 weeks now. I'm registering my lifts, repetitions and weight loss.

 

Is not a strictly controlled environment but it could be nice data.

 

I have debated trying to do a meta-data study collecting data here, but it falls apart for a lot of reasons.  We all self report our losses.  Not everyone uses the same methods to lose weight.  Everyone has different training methods and intensities.  The only thing we all have in common is we're Nerds. :P

 

I mean, I started as couch potato, lost 50 pounds doing martial arts and bodyweight stuff, switched over to just aikido, then did aikido and 2 or 3 or 4 times a week lifting, then back down to twice a week, and now I'm just doing aikido again.  All over the last 5 years.  And that doesn't even touch the times I've played with my caloric intake, learning to actually eat more to help my performance, and become comfortable with food again.

 

I rag on how shitty nutrition science is with their methods, but as my n = 1 shows, not exactly a cakewalk dealing with people.

 

 

....which is why I prefer doing my research in a petri dish.  My cells don't talk back to me and my DNA samples are pretty much always going to do what I want them to. (Well... within reason.)

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3 minutes ago, RisenPhoenix said:

 

I have debated trying to do a meta-data study collecting data here, but it falls apart for a lot of reasons.  We all self report our losses.  Not everyone uses the same methods to lose weight.  Everyone has different training methods and intensities.  The only thing we all have in common is we're Nerds. :P

 

I mean, I started as couch potato, lost 50 pounds doing martial arts and bodyweight stuff, switched over to just aikido, then did aikido and 2 or 3 or 4 times a week lifting, then back down to twice a week, and now I'm just doing aikido again.  All over the last 5 years.  And that doesn't even touch the times I've played with my caloric intake, learning to actually eat more to help my performance, and become comfortable with food again.

 

I rag on how shitty nutrition science is with their methods, but as my n = 1 shows, not exactly a cakewalk dealing with people.

 

 

....which is why I prefer doing my research in a petri dish.  My cells don't talk back to my and my DNA samples are pretty much always going to do what I want them to. (Well... within reason.)

I'm with you there. A controlled environment with all vectors contemplated would be amazing. The same type of people, height, weight, health, lifestyle, eating habits, gender, ethnicity, body composition, etc. All of that in a controlled climate and environment with the same training, nutrition, sleep time, water intake and test time. In different categories and body fat percentages. Doing routine experiments and comparisons biological and chemical.

 

We only need the money and the test subjects :adoration:

 

It would be like experiment heaven!

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