Some where along the way, you had decided that “enough was enough,” and that this was the time you were going to finally get into “the best shape of your life.” You felt that urge inside of you to obtain the body you had always dreamed of. If only you were thinner, leaner, or stronger, you could finally really be happy. The urge is over whelming and you’ve made the decision that you won’t let anything stop you. You don’t care how much time, money or effort you have to put forth, you will make it happen.
Your next step is to find a gym…the right gym. You want someone to help you. You don’t care how much it’s going to cost. You come across a gym that everyone is ranting and raving about. You check them out online and it’s filled with people who are in shape, fit, and sexy. When you take the plunge the coaches start working with you right away. They talk to you about your training, your nutrition, your sleep, your supplements, and everything. These beautiful and fit people are all around you, and everyone seems so happy.
When the workouts start you are a little surprised by what the coaches are asking you to do. It’s not quite what you had in mind, in fact, it seems a little counter intuitive to what you thought you needed to do to get in shape, but hey, everyone says these guys are the best, so you want to give it your best shot. At first you’re sore, and tired, but eventually you can start to feel your strength and endurance build. Although the workouts are getting more challenging you’re more easily rising to that challenge. Your appetite for nutritious food is growing, and you avoid the junk because it makes you feel like junk when you eat it. Everything seems to be going great, until…you step on the scale.
After weeks or maybe even months of hard work, you’ve barely lost any weight, or maybe, even worse, you’ve put on a few pounds! You don’t understand what has happened? “I should have been doing more cardio,” you think to yourself. “I should have been eating less,” you start to look back to all those old “rules” of weight loss that you expected to be doing when you walked into your fancy gym.
What happened? You defied science. Go ask any experienced coach, personal trainer, physique competitor, or any athlete that competes in a sport with weight classes, and they’ll all tell you the same thing: “It’s impossible to gain muscle and burn fat at the same time.” That’s right, all these athletes use “bulking” and “cutting” phases of training to achieve their desired effect of becoming more muscular with less body fat. There are two exceptions to this rule however:
- If you’re on performance enhancing drugs like anabolic steroids
- You’re a new trainee
How do you know that you did in fact burn fat and build muscle? Your clothes fit better. Your waist is now smaller, and hopefully, you were smart enough to take some “before pictures,” and although you didn’t notice the changes as they happened slowly day by day, now that you look at today’s picture vs. 8 weeks ago, you can see a huge improvement in the way you look. Your overall body weight hasn’t changed because while you lost fat, you replaced that tissue with muscle. Which means not only are you now leaner, but you’re also stronger. More muscle=faster metabolism, and greater work output which both lead to easier fat loss.
The science of burning fat and building muscle simultaneously isn’t quite understood, but one thing is for sure…it’s an ideal situation, that doesn’t last very long. The process of bulking and cutting is a lengthy one, and one in which you have to sacrifice certain things in your life for prolonged period of time. The idea behind this process is that you are at a surplus of calories during the bulk so you can build muscle and strength. Unfortunately because you’re at a caloric surplus you also put on a little bit of fat as well. Once you’ve reached your goal weight, you begin your “cut” where you start to shed the body fat that you added, but of course not without losing some muscle and strength in the process. The idea is that the muscle to fat gain ratio when you bulk and the fat to muscle loss during the cut are both favorable, otherwise there would be no point. Sound like a lot of work? It is. Imagine if you could skip that and just build muscle and burn fat at the same time. Well, you can, and that is EXACTLY what is happening when you’re a new trainee on a great program. Unfortunately most people simply look at the number on the scale, and then complain to their coach. You’ve just accomplished the DREAM and you’re whining about it!
We all have things that motivate us, and a lot of times we are setting our goals on a certain date due to an event: A wedding, a vacation, beach season, a new job. While there is nothing wrong with putting a date on your goal, it’s important to think about the long game, and while we’re doing that, let’s point out the fact that a lot of times our bodies don’t look the way that we think they will at a certain weight. Do you have a friend or relative who’s leaner than average, but can eat seemingly whatever they want? That’s merely a function of their metabolism. Our metabolism is THE most important thing in building a healthy and lean body. Of course we all understand the concept of calories in vs. calories out, but those lean people stuffing their faces? They can eat a high volume of food and still be at a caloric deficit. Doesn’t that sound better than having some sluggish metabolism and having to drastically reduce our calories to lose any weight/fat?
Now we get to the question: What improves our metabolism? (in order of importance):
- Food. That’s right, eating stimulates your metabolism. This happens in two ways:
- Food (particularly carb and protein) stimulates your thyroid which is the primary gland responsible for metabolism regulation.
- Thermic Effect of Food: The ingestion, storage, and processing of food requires energy. This is known as the thermic effect.
- Exercise. Most people think that exercising more will boost their metabolism, and it can, but it can also suppress your metabolism if you over do it. And although we all think of “cardio” (aerobic exercise) as fat burning, it’s actually anaerobic training (like lifting weights) that leads to greater POST exercise energy consumption…meaning you’ll be burning more fat after your workout has ended, not just during the workout itself.
- Sleep. When your body is rested it produces hormones appropriately. Hormones are the most powerful things in our bodies. It’s our hormones that burn fat or store it. If your sleep is out of sync, it’s likely that your hormones will be.
- Gut health. The stomach has been called “the second brain.” It’s also been said “you are what you eat,” and aside from your mouth, your stomach is the first place to come in contact with the food you eat, and its job is to process that food and disperse it to the various systems of your body. Properly digesting food, absorbing the nutrients from that food, and properly disposing of the waste is a big deal. So much so that people have even used “fecal transplants” to help them lose weight. That’s right, putting the poop of a lean person in an overweight person can lead to weight loss. The science of it is still developing, but a contributing factor is thought to be that the leaner people have healthier guts producing better digestive bacteria.
Check back for part II soon!