There’s a heated debate going on in the world of fat loss…
Can you burn fat and simultaneously gain muscle? Most experts claim that you can’t because building muscle requires a net surplus of calories while fat loss requires a net loss of calories. By this logic, you can only have one or the other, but not both.
A recent study suggests that if you slow your weight loss roll, you may be able to gain muscle and lose fat…considered the holy grain of weight loss.
In this study, researchers had one group attempt to lose 0.7 percent of their bodyweight per week (approximately 1 pound per week for a 154 pound person) while the other group attempted to lose 1.4 percent of their bodyweight per week (approximately 2 pounds per week for a 154 pound person). During the course of the study, all of the subjects followed the following guidelines:
- Consumed 5-7 meals per day
- Had a recovery drink with dairy and carbs within 30 minutes of finishing their workout
- Consumed a minimum of 1500 calories
- Consumed 1.2-1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight
- Consumed 4-6 grams of carbs per kilogram of bodyweight
- Permitted a multi-vitamin and cod liver oil
- Trained 4 times per week
At the end of the story, the slow-weight loss group gained 2.1 pounds of muscle while simultaneously burning fat. The fast weight loss group gained no muscle but did lose fat.
How to Use This Information:
I have often recommended that my clients aim for one-half to one pound of fat loss per week, while many experts suggest 1-2 pounds is recommended. This study suggests that you can actually gain muscle while losing fat if you just take your time!
If gaining muscle is not important to you, then this research suggests that you may be able to increase your rate of fat loss to 1-2 pounds per week. That being said, I feel that gaining muscle is an important goal, especially if you want to keep that fat off! So, take my advice, slow it down and aim for .5-1 pound per week, no more.
Garthe, I., et al. (2010). Effect of two different weight loss rates on body composition and strength and power-related performance in elite athletes. Int J Sport Nutr Exer Metabol. 21 (2):97-104.