The notion that you need to boat load on calories to ensure muscle growth is one firmly entrenched in bodybuilding culture.
However, as soon as I started working with drug-free physique athletes over 20 years ago, I realized the bulking and shedding thing just didn't work for normal people.
Those that do it drug-free realize pretty quickly that bulking (a nice term for getting fat) meant more than twice the effort to shed the extra lard and they lost a lot of hard earned muscle in the process.
This area peaked my interest so much I went on to complete a number of clinical research studies with regular people to demonstrate quite clearly that even average gym-enthusiasts are able to build significant muscle and shed fat at the same time, even without cutting calories. [1-4]
Denis Ac knows how to build muscle and shed fat at the same time.
He did it with one hand! Read Denis' story here
But time never changes, I still hear neanderthals in the cyber gyms question the idea that can you really gain muscle and lose body fat at the same time.
I think they just want a justification for the donuts...
A great colleague and amazing Scientist, Stu Phillips and his team have pioneered a ton of great research on protein metaboilism and exercise training that improves body composition. One of Stu's recent trials took my work one big step further.
Two groups of men underwent a 4-week period of intense training. Both groups performed a combination of strength training and high intensity cardio training.
During this training period both groups were placed on a caloric deficit. In other words, they were on a ‘diet’.
One group received 2.4 grams of protein per kg of body weight while the other group received 1.2 grams of protein per kg of body weight.
Both groups lost weight during the 4-week period.
Both groups lost body fat during the 4-week period.
The group that received lower protein intake maintained lean body mass while losing body fat.
However, the group that received higher protein intake increased lean body mass while losing body fat.
While this group actually increased lean muscle mass, the also lost more body fat than the group that received lower protein.
To transform, you have to build muscle - the awesome transformation of MP Specialist Kirsten Jones
Higher protein intake (greater than RDA) helps to maintain lean muscle mass under conditions of caloric deficit –otherwise known as ‘dieting’.
Make sure these protein rich meals are frequent throughout the day - more of it will be deposited into muscles.
To ensure that protein is directed to muscles, you'll need to keep your lower energy carbs up with each meal, that means plant material such as vegetables to promote steady insulin levels that keep nutrition directed to muscles and away from fat storage.
The important message is, to transform you'll need to build muscle and the research shows us, you can do this without having to consume a boat load of empty calories. Get to it.
Effects of supplement timing and resistance exercise on skeletal muscle hypertrophy. Cribb PJ, Hayes A. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2006 Nov;38(11):1918-25.
Effect of whey protein isolate on strength, body composition and muscle hypertrophy during resistance training. Hayes A, Cribb PJ. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2008 Jan;11(1):40-4.
Effects of whey isolate, creatine, and resistance training on muscle hypertrophy. Cribb PJ, Williams AD, Stathis CG, Carey MF, Hayes A. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2007 Feb;39(2):298-307.
Longland T.M. Oikawa S.Y Mitchell C.J. Devries M.C. Phillips S.M. Higher compared with lower dietary protein during and energy deficit combined with intense exercise promotes greater lean mass gain and fat mass loss: a randomized trial. Am J Clin Nutr 2016;103:738–46