. . . at the same time!
While it is certainly not an easy thing to do, building muscle and losing fat can be achieved at the same time.
Here's how to work at it but keep in mind, everybody has a different body and not all things work for all people. What I am about to share are my rules and while there are many floating around out there, these particular rules are mine.
I am 5'7", male, 180lbs, 30"waist.
Q. Does this mean that these tips are exactly what everyone should do?
A. No. These are simply rules of the road that worked for me (and what may also work for you, too.)
Disclaimer: Are these rules 100% backed up with loads and loads of evidence-based research? Actually, most of them are because that's typically how I roll, but there are some that are purely anecdotal and some with a little bit of my own flair. I hope this makes a difference to you in some way.
1: Muscle Stimulation
When it comes to building muscle, we often put the cart before the horse. So many put nutrition before exercise way too often. Why? Because there's not so much out there to talk about related to nutrition. There's online and offline content for days. Books about Keto. YouTube vids about Paleo. You name it.
In reality, I would argue that about 75% of what ultimately goes into building muscle is in the muscle stimulus – a.k.a. the training itself.
Without the training, protein doesn't really have any desire to fuel muscle growth without actually stimulating the muscle to grow - with training.
Without the training, carbs just fill you up and don't jettison into the cells to fuel muscles. Without the training, the caloric surplus doesn't serve any solid purpose and over time, having a caloric surplus with a light training schedule will cause gains but not muscle gains, mostly fat gains.
Stimulating the muscle is what deems the muscle relevant.
I'm always stimulating my muscles (4 to 5 days per week) and I hardly ever miss a workout. If I do, I find a way to keep stimulus on my muscles in some other way. Stretching, walking, cardio.
Now, for most people, even if you're in a caloric deficit, protein can potentially allow you to build muscle. That's kind of wild, right? You can even be in a deficit (and at least maintain) as long as your protein needs are met.
Dr. Don Layman has really done a lot of work in this field, and he's made it pretty clear that we can really handle a lot more protein in one sitting than what people think.
Worrying about eating a lot of protein in one sitting isn't ideal, but if you're goal is to build up muscle and you are actively training, and you have an opportunity to get 50 grams of protein in one sitting, get those 50 grams.
No matter what, whether you're eating 20 grams or 100 grams, a good chunk of protein is going to get oxidized in the liver. The rest will be efficiently used by your body.
I know that whey protein is getting a lot of press these days, but in my opinion, getting protein from whole foods is always going to be better. I know that whey is always going to be a thing, but whenever you can, try to get the real deal. Whole foods are just going to give you the micronutrients you need, and the creatine that you need, especially from red meat.
3: Periodic Carbs
Three times per week, I train solo. These training sessions are hypertrophy sessions - basically that means moderate weight (I can lift it pretty easily) and a lot of reps. (i.e. 20-25reps x 3 sets.)
Twice a week, I meet with my personal trainer for power building sessions. These sessions are high intensity. Kettlebells, *powerlifts, and pushing to limits, etc. It's during these two power building sessions when I have some periodic carbs. I’ll have some watermelon or some higher glycemic carbs during these workouts.
Q. Why do I do this?
A. It gives me extra "umph."
Having periodic carbohydrates intra-workout (now and then) is a good idea because it is a safe time to have carbohydrates without the risk of high blood sugar spikes because those carbohydrates get sucked almost immediately into the hard-at-work muscles; this action is independent of insulin because of the way the muscles are actively moving at that very moment during the workout time in the gym.
This is why Doctors encourage "a walk right after dinner." Walking after dinner helps you absorb the carbs almost immediately into the muscles you need to walk and less unabsorbed while you sleep becoming fat stores. So there really is a lot of truth in "walking off your dinner."
*Note: powerlifts are - Barbell bench press, Barbell Squat, and Barbell deadlifts.
Skipping cardio, even if trying to build muscle, is a no-no.
When you increase blood flow, you increase capillary density, and you increase tissue perfusion and that means you get more blood delivered to the nooks and crannies of your muscles.
That's more oxygenation, more ATP, and ultimately more potential nutrient delivery.
You definitely increase the ability to potentially build muscle by being more cardio vascularly fit. Now again, factor in your calories there, too. If you have to do a bunch of cardio and you don't compensate for it, then yeah, it's going to be hard to build muscle.
When you're trying to build muscle and lose fat, it is much better for you to move a lot and eat a lot than it is to eat a little and move a lot; with the secret being, "move right after you eat."
Moving a little and eating a lot is just a recipe for slowing down and messing up your metabolism. It's always the best-case scenario to keep your metabolism high, so eat a lot, then move a lot, right after you eat.
My best tips:
-if I'm trying to burn fat, I'll move a lot and eat a lot, but I'll be in a slight calorie deficit
-if I'm trying to build muscle, I’ll move a lot and eat a lot, but in a slight calorie surplus
5: Fluctuate within the pillars of training and add variety
What do I mean?
The four pillars of training are:
To achieve the most results, fluctuating around within these four pillars is optimal. Please allow me to explain further:
One week I'll really focus on higher intensity training (shorter workouts that are high intensity.)
Other weeks of focus on volume.
Other weeks I'll focus on frequency (having multiple training sessions as much as I can.)
Other times I'll focus on duration (in particular with cardio.)
If you do the same kind of volume with the same kind of intensity all the time, you're never “shocking” the muscles.
You have to have "progressive overload" within these four pillars of training. Occasionally add more volume. Occasionally add more intensity or more weight. Occasionally add more workouts (which is progressive overload via frequency.) Occasionally train longer for progressive overload via duration.
This kind of training is where most people miss the mark. They tend to hit the gym and do the same routines over and over again.
Now, back to my #1 tip - Muscle stimulation:
My cardinal rule: train to 80-85% of failure.
I have found that as I move into my mid-50s, if I train to 95% or 100% capacity, I'm just torched, but more importantly, I run the risk of injury, and nothing is going to hinder my ability to build muscle more than getting injured.
The research is pretty strong when it suggests that we can really get a lot of benefit when we train to 80%-85% of failure. We don't have to train to maximum failure and the older you get, the less this is encouraged. Getting hypertrophy results really comes between 80% and 85%.
So, stop just one or two reps before failure and you'll start to see those muscles grow.
Hope this helps. Stay well and train safely.❤️