Myths of Fitness might not be the greatest name for this series but it’s all we have for now. The whole reason that I made up such a boring and vague name comes from my immediate desire to spread this information. Now, I am sure that we have said this before, but it IS possible to lose fat and build muscle at the same time. Here I will explain it shortly without getting into detail about the scientific and specific aspects that are better explained through some links below. This is a better explanation for people who want to know the truth and those links provide the better explanations for those who want to know the reasons that make it true.
First and most importantly, you as an individual need to figure out what your goal is! The reason why I have a general problem with P90X, Insanity, Total Immersion Swimming, and other similar programs that are products you need to pay for is because they act like these programs are the solution to everyone’s needs. This obviously is not the case since all individuals interested in getting in better shape are different anatomically, physiologically, psychologically, etc. Basically, everyone is physically and mentally different from everyone else. So you need a program that caters specifically to your needs. While I have many problems with those products the one reason why I do like their popularity is that they are helping get people off of the couch. (Just be careful that once you get off the couch you don’t get hurt because it’s in the nature of some of those programs to accidentally let that happen.) But my rants about those products, triathlons, obstacle races, and Crossfit will come at another time. (It will be a “the good, the bad, and the ugly.”)
Going back to how I started the last paragraph… what is your goal? If you want to be massive then your goal is hypertrophy and mass gain. If you want to be super lean then you’re on the other side of the spectrum. If you want to maintain your appearance, it’s another different story. Professional bodybuilders, pro athletes, endurance athletes, martial artists, dancers, professional eaters, and everyone else on this planet should take different approaches to reaching their goals and this is where we come back to that myth of not being able to build muscle and lose fat at the same time.
If you focus on one goal (I struggle with this) then it is typically easier to achieve. Or at least you can achieve it quicker. Bodybuilders go through a bulking cycle where they pack on extra mass and fat in order to help their muscles go through hypertrophy. Once they have achieved their desired size in terms of specific muscle groups, they continue to exercise rigorously while cutting. While they are in a cutting cycle, they will lower their body fat and mass significantly while maintaining a significant amount of their hypertrophic progress in their muscles. That is the end result of what you see when you watch the Olympia or the Arnold Classic. I won’t go into significant detail about their diet and supplementation other than the fact that they try to eat more calories while bulking and a caloric deficit while cutting. This is the optimal way to maximize gains in a mere aesthetic manner.
However, if you are more interested in building “functional” muscles (don’t take me using functional literally. Every workout leads to the growth of functional muscle. Some would argue that some forms are more “functional” or useful than others) then you should consider find what program suits you best. Everyone can be classified as a mesomorph, ectomorph, or endomorph. (See our old glossary of fitness terms for an explanation.) In order to find the perfect mix of macronutrients and exercise in order to build muscle and lose fat you need to go through something called… trial and error. I cannot be convinced that there is a single “adonis ratio” that calculates every person’s needs equally. We are all far too different. You can hire “coaches” to help you and guide you but be careful and make sure they have your best interests in mind. You might hear of a coach telling a client to eat under 20 grams of fat a day. Please do not listen to them. You need fat to control hormone production and for hundreds of other functions. But that is another post we’ll talk about at another time.
Bottom Line: You can build more muscle if you are just trying to build muscle. You need the excess calories and other factors to help you gain mass. You can cut more fat is you are just trying to cut fat. You need the caloric deficit and other factors to help lose fat. However, if you are interested in doing both at the same time… you can. Obviously it isn’t possible to maintain a caloric surplus and deficit at the same time but for beginners, overweight individuals, and exceptional people it is more likely to be able to build muscle and lose fat at the same time. Also, depending on your macronutrients, you can “build muscle” (in various ways, not mass necessarily) while on a slight caloric deficit or a caloric balance. You won’t build quite as much muscle or lose quite as much fat, but you can still be efficient and help reach YOUR goals. Don’t listen to anyone else since you have YOUR goals and it is YOUR body. My goal right now… be happy in life. If I want ice cream then I’m having ice cream. And you should do the same because happiness is a key factor in staying hungry and fit.
Here are two great links to two great individuals that I look up to in the scientific side of the fitness industry. Jim Stoppani provides individuals with hundreds of phenomenal workout programs… many for free. Congratulations to Dr. Layne Norton in the birth of his son. Best of luck to your family.
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