What Does Dieting Really Mean?
In order to discuss this topic I need to explain what it means when I say "diet". I am referring to a reduction of calories from your normal metabolic rate. What the heck does that mean?
If your bodies daily caloric need is 3500 calories per day and you are trying to lose weight and are now eating less than this amount you are considered to be on a diet no matter what your macros are. Macros? Macros, short for macro-nutrients, that's how much protein, carbohydrates and fat you are consuming. If you are new to weight training or if you have had a long period of time lapse since your last training session, and I am referring to years not weeks or months, you may build muscle no matter what kind of diet you are on because your muscles have never experienced the weight training or resistance training movements and stress, so naturally it will try and adapt by getting bigger and stronger even when you are dieting. Now this doesn't happen over night but I have seen people gain muscle mass within months of following a weight training and nutrition regimen. For your convenience, I will provide you with an easy to use calorie counter at the end of this blog so please continue reading.
The myth behind the saying "you cannot build muscle while dieting" came about from the process of bodybuilders dieting down after being in a state of what they call "muscle building or bulking". Now, while in this state they are usually consuming a tremendous amount of calories, more than their body needs. Yes, they may be building muscle but they are also adding fat to their bodies and are bloated from inflammation and water retention. When they start to diet and reduce their daily calorie consumption, they not only loose body fat they get weaker in the gym. The train of thought behind the negative effects of this method was, "now that I am weaker I am not moving the amount of weight that I used to so that means I am not gaining muscle or worse I am losing muscle. This is completely false.
When you change the way you eat your body will change. Whether it gets weaker, stronger, gains fat or loses fat, there is change. This change when lowering calories changes the bodies hormones which causes the weakness in strength. In addition to that your muscles are trying to figure out what is happening so it reacts to this change. Once your body adapts to this change it should and usually does go back to it's original strength and may even get bigger and stronger depending on the type of weight training regimen you are doing.
Keep Off The Scale!
Many people use the scale to determine if they are losing body fat which may be a big mistake. You can gain muscle while losing body fat. In fact I prove this in my 30Days 2Burn! Fitness Program where my body weight stays the same but I look a lot leaner. One of the best and cheapest ways to determine if you are losing body fat is to use skin fold calipers or simply try on a pair of pants that may have once been tight on you. If and when you get down to below 20% body fat one of the best indicators is judging yourself in the mirror eery other day or weekly depending on the diet plan you are following. People tend to lose fat around the waist, butt or, if you are a woman, your boobs. So you have to stop stepping on the scale and make an investment in skin fold calipers. Do not get the cheap plastic one as they wear out and break easy. Below are my recommended calipers.
Why Macro Nutrients Are So Important.
If you are on a diet one of the things you really need to focus on is the amount of protein, fats and carbohydrates you are consuming. I hate and am not a big advocate of counting calories but if you can understand and know how much lean body mass you have, this would be a big help in assisting you in reaching your goals. When it comes to protein, most experts would recommend you consume .50 grams to 1 gram of protein per lean body mass. I recommend less but it all depends on what type of program you are following. This is where skin fold calipers can be very handy. The goal is to know what percentage of body fat you have this way you can reduce that percentage form your total body weight, this will determine how much of your weight is actual muscle tissue. I see people making this mistake very often. If they weigh 250 lbs they end up eating 250 grams of protein. This can cause some serious kidney issues and I do not recommend this. An example of doing this correctly would look like this; eat between 75 - 150 grams of protein if you have determined you have 75 lbs of body fat and your total body weight is 175 lbs. There are 4 calories per gram of protein, 4 calories per gram of carbohydrate and 9 calories per gram of fat. It is very important to get an idea of what you are eating so you don't over eat. This will also aid you in eating the correct amount of daily calories required for you to reach your goal(s).
When individuals diet down and reach below 10% body fat, their muscles seem to be pretty resilient in maintaining themselves, that is the reason why they look so defined. Just because your muscle may be weaker from the reduced calories and loss of water, doesn't mean there was a loss of muscle. Many people drop carbohydrates when they diet, that reduction of carbohydrates causes your body to lose water. Every gram of carbohydrate you consume can hold about 3 grams of water. This is another reason people get weaker in the gym or feel that they have muscle loss, they are actually losing water that was held in their muscle now creating the look of a smaller muscle. This is precisely the reason why bodybuilders carbohydrate load a few days before they go on stage, it's to increase the volume of water they are holding in their muscle creating a more full muscle. Combine this with being very lean the muscle volume will stretch the skin creating a more vascular look.
When dieting down you are reducing calories, because of this reduction and change in macro-nutrients you will most likely be lacking the vitamins and nutrients your body needs to sustain itself. If this occurs your body will get what it needs from your muscle. Now, don't be too alarmed, you must be severely reducing the amount of calories for this to occur as it is very rare that your body will have a catabolic breakdown. This happens when people starve themselves for extended periods of time and because of this, their body actually starts breaking down muscle tissue. The process of catabolism occurs in patience that suffer from anorexia or starvation. You should not be starving yourself to lose weight, you should be reducing your overall calories based on your metabolic rate but not starving yourself. The calories that you are reducing should also be from carbohydrates. The process of restricting carbohydrates minimizes and/or prevents the hormone insulin from spiking. You want to prevent this because insulin is a fat storing hormone and once it spikes the fat burning process stops. This is where vitamin supplementation may come in handy. Under normal circumstances, the more muscle you have the more calories your body needs to sustain itself and the more fat you can burn. To sum this up you fist need to determine how much muscle you have by using skin fold calipers, you then need to determine your metabolic rate which will assist you in determining how many calories you need. From there you need to play around with your macroeconomic percentage to determine how your body reacts to those percentages. Another huge part to this is to know the macro nutrient make up of the foods you eat.
By knowing what the nutritional make up of the foods you are eating you will be able to determine what vitamins and minerals you are lacking. When following the ketogenic lifestyle the three main nutrients you may lack are potassium, magnesium and sodium. This is a great time to supplement with the vitamins and nutrients you are lacking in order to assist not only with muscle retention but also overall health, not to mention the money you will save by not taking the supplements you do not need.
If you are interested in learning more about the ketogenic diet click here for my free quick start guide
The Importance of Weight Training.
My last recommendation to prevent muscle loss while dieting is to weight train or do some sort of resistance training. Studies have shown weight training prevents muscle loss. People who want their muscles to look bigger an get stronger need to weight train. In order for the muscle to grow it needs a reason to. That is why I always recommend weight training sessions consist of sets to reach complete failure. This simply means you keep on performing repetitions until you cannot complete full repetition. Do not stop there, you want to attempt at least 3 more repetitions after you have reached failure. Those 3 attempts will give your muscle a reason to grow. If you don't force it to be used it does not need to grow. Ever see a persons arm or leg after being in a cast for 6 weeks? The muscles are not being used so the body reduces the muscle mass since it is not needed. Once the person starts using it again, the mass returns. The same process happens in weight training. The more you use it the bigger and stronger it will get, this is your bodies way of adapting to it's environment. Now don't go out and do this everyday, you should follow a system so that you do not get injured or over train.
I hope this article was useful to you. If it was please share it with a friend or family member, be sure to visit my YouTube channel for great videos that I am sure will assist you in achieving your fitness goals.
Don't forget to check out my 30Days 2Burn! Fitness Program where I take you through 30 days of my life and show you full days of eating and bodybuilding routines.
Here is a link to the calorie counter I promised you.
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