Muscle Building and Fat Loss: Part 3

The reason that I’m doing a mini series on muscle building and fat loss, Designing A Training Program, and Muscle Building Strategy – all at the same time is because if you read them all. you’ll realize that they all fit together to make one master system. This system includes building the program, building the diet, and building the muscle, while losing the fat.

In the first two parts of this series we’ve learned that as the body begins losing fat and dealing with lowered calories, it’s going to be pretty tough to gain any muscle mass. If you read the Fat Loss Facts post on refeeds, you may see how we can begin to get over this hurdle.

Another name for this type of, in this particular context where muscle-building is also the goal, is cyclical dieting. You alternate a low-calorie and carbohydrate intake with a higher calorie and high carbohydrate intake. This means you can go back and forth between periods of anabolism, or tissue building, and catabolism, tissue breakdown. If losing fat is the goal, the unfortunate reality is some catabolism will take place, this system will both minimize this negative, and offer some anabolic muscle growth periods as well.

This is similar in approach to using periodic refeeds, or cheat days, on a diet. It allows you to refill muscle glycogen and generate an anabolic response, and it also serves to reverse some of the hormonal adaptations that occur during dieting. When combined with the Lean Bulk approach, a sound Training Program, all of these hormones can work together to build a muscular lean body.

Combining the Lean Bulk approach during the muscle mass building phase, and using periodic refeeds during the dieting phase, will continuously build muscle year round, all the while either maintaining a decent body fat percentage, or in fact lowering it. I feel this approach is superior to any other form of cyclical dieting.

Most muscle growth and fat loss plans are either/or approaches. You are either solely focused on muscle-building, or only concerned with fat loss. Even other approaches to cyclical dieting are largely just variation s of fat loss plans with different refeed windows. Some refeeds would be one meal, or a 24 hour free for all. One meal isn’t likely long enough to allow your brain to begin upregulating the suppressed hormonal adaptations that occur during a restrictive diet, and a 24 hour refeed likely will just allow for fat gain.

The Lean Bulk approach I’m a proponent of is focused on eating slightly above maintenance during the building phase, and slightly under maintenance during the fat loss phase, with two-week maintenance periods before each phase begins to allow the hormones to normalize.

The reason I came up with this approach is that none of what I have learned about refeeding made a lot of sense. Leptin levels will certainly begin to rise during a refeed, but do they stay elevated once the diet begins again, especially the typically restrictive fat loss plans?

There is a lag time of several days between the drop in leptin and the drop in metabolic rate. Therefor it is highly unlikely that a short refeeding window will reverse this. Most likely, I’d expect it to take a similar amount of time for the reversal to occur. There are no studies dealing with this particular portion of caloric restriction. It really is only useful for those seeking low body fat levels, and science in general isn’t concerned with that.

None of this is to say that short carb-loads – refeeds aren’t of benefit. They refill glycogen, turn off catabolism and will induce an anabolic response. They also let you eat some of the food you’re really craving, which is beneficial psychologically. The actual effect on metabolism is likely to be very minor though. Instead, a longer refeed is necessary. The drawback, of course, is that longer refeeds have a tendency to put too much body fat back on which goes against the entire goal of dieting.

This once again points to the Lean Bulk approach as one that will be very effective, in that there are no periods of severe caloric restriction, just like there are no periods of massive fat gain. The majority of the muscle gaining happens between 10 to 15 percent for men, and 19 to 27 percent for women, and that serves to always keep you close to being in ideal shape, while still allowing enough body fat accumulation to make for a great mass gaining environment. When the upper number is reached, it is time to eat slightly under maintenance to get back to the low number.

If very low body fat levels are desired, then the Fat Loss Facts system is an approach that will serve you well. If staying in great shape year round, and constantly building muscle is your goal, then I encourage you to try the Lean Bulk approach, combined with the training program recommendations as well. I think you’ll be surprised how well it all goes together.

Happy Lifting!

This article was researched and written by Matt Taylor

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9 comments for “Muscle Building and Fat Loss: Part 3

  1. October 2, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    Oh I’m not afraid of a lot of reading (on this subject.) I do it all the time. Okay I’ll study up some, I think you are confusing me! LOL

    • Lifestyle and Strength
      October 2, 2012 at 6:03 pm

      I apologize for confusing you my friend!

      • October 2, 2012 at 9:25 pm

        No apology necessary!!!

        Phew okay I think I got it! Not sure why I was so confused after going back and reading everything that I had already read before. I think it helped to read it altogether at once. So 4 months bulk, 2 weeks maintenance, 4 months diet, 2 weeks maintenance, repeat. Right? I know the 4 months is a rough thing. I guess the main question is how to know exactly how much more to eat. Are we talking like 500 calories or what? It’s probably different for me than most too as I’m naturally lean and really it seems like no matter what the heck I do I stay at 180 lbs, but I don’t think I’ve ever given a real bulk and cut thing a fair enough chance either.

        • October 3, 2012 at 9:32 am

          A +/- of 500 would definitely work. Another reason why I added the two week ‘normalization’ diet weeks is not only to allow hormones to adjust, but so that 500 calories won’t turn into a 1000 calorie swing in either direction. The duration of the ‘bulk’ portion is more dependent on body fat percentage. This doesn’t have to be exact, but if you are roughly 10% now, an additional 500 daily cals, providing you are training hard, will take about 4 months to add up to 15% body fat. The reality is that you need to gain some fat to gain some muscle. Then the moderate 500 calorie deficit on the other side should allow you to retain most of the muscle you built while you drop back down to 10%. This is the essence of the Lean Bulk. You should be heavier at 10% next time, then repeat!

          • October 3, 2012 at 12:50 pm

            Brilliant!!! I better get my body fat tested again, I’m guessing 13ish% right now. Either way I’m starting a bulking phase regardless. Just want to know what I’m working with.


          • Lifestyle and Strength
            October 4, 2012 at 5:59 am

            I think you’ll be pretty pleased with this approach. All of my lifts are up considerably just due to the commitment to the caloric surplus, the periodized training plan I’ve been promoting, along with a very serious recovery component. I lok forward to hearing about your great results!

          • Lifestyle and Strength
            October 4, 2012 at 6:01 am

            PS If you’d like to write about your experience, or anything related to training, I’m all for it!

  2. October 1, 2012 at 10:05 pm

    So if I’m reading this right you are basically saying switch your diet from bulk and cut every two weeks, correct? Man I love all this info!

    • Lifestyle and Strength
      October 2, 2012 at 6:15 am

      No, that’s not quite correct. You need to read the earlier installments to get the whole plan-a fair bit of reading, but it will be worth it!. There are two week ‘maintenance’ periods between each phase though. This goes together with the training program etc links that I have at the beginning of the article. I cam up with this late summer and am doing it myself with great results. I got tired of not making gains, and poured over information and almost accidentally came up with the Lean Bulk. I don’t know if that name has been used before, but as far as I know this system is unique.

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