Losing Fat While Gaining Muscle

      88 Comments on Losing Fat While Gaining Muscle

If you’re a long-time reader, you may remember a post in which I recounted how a YouTube commenter I nicknamed “Cliffy” kept insisting that kids get fat because their parents feed them too much, period.  No amount of evidence or reason would budge Cliffy from this position.  Cliffy was (according to Cliffy) a lean, muscular gym rat — and therefore knew everything there is to know about the biochemistry of body composition.

I didn’t mention it in that post, but in another series of exchanges, Cliffy also insisted I did not (contrary to what my mirror and scale were telling me) become both leaner and more muscular after I tightened up my diet and switched to Fred Hahn’s Slow Burn workout method.  Cliffy explained that it’s physiologically impossible to gain muscle mass while losing fat mass, and in fact pretty much everyone who loses weight loses some muscle mass.  He knew this because some body-building guru he worships said as much.

I tried telling him that I did indeed put on muscle even while losing weight, that my arms and chest and thighs had become noticeably thicker while my waist shrank, but Cliffy explained that I’m an idiot (and a fat, lazy old man) and only thought I’d gained muscle because the weight loss gave me more definition.

So I looked up a clinical study in which women lost body fat while gaining muscle mass and posted the reference.  (YouTube won’t take links in comments.)  Cliffy read the study and replied that it’s sometimes possible for people who’ve never worked out and are therefore “untrained” to gain muscle while losing weight, but not for anyone who’s been regularly lifting weights – which I had been.  When I asked how being “untrained” makes the physiologically impossible become possible, he explained that I’m an idiot (and a fat, lazy old man) and must not have been “trained” even though I’d been lifting weights regularly before switching to Slow Burn.

I thought about Cliffy when Jimmy Moore posted the results of his nutritional ketosis experiment earlier this week.  When Jimmy started losing weight again after cutting back on protein and adding more fat to his diet, I was happy he’d reversed the creeping weight gain that had baffled him, but I wondered if the lower protein intake would lead to muscle loss.  That fear was put to rest when Jimmy and Christine visited us last week.  His arms looked thicker than when I saw him in July, not thinner. But of course Cliffy would insist that was just better definition creating the illusion of extra muscle mass.

Wrong once again, Cliffy.

If haven’t read Jimmy’s post, here’s the quick summary:  Two months ago he underwent a very accurate body-composition test called a DXA scan.  He had another DXA scan on Monday before leaving for Australia.  The test showed that during those two months, Jimmy shed just over 16 pounds of additional body fat while gaining just over six pounds of muscle.  He gained two pounds of muscle in his arms alone.  If that doesn’t sound like much, try this little thought experiment:  picture a one-pound lean steak.  That’s how much meat Jimmy put on each arm.  So yes, his arms are definitely thicker, not just better defined.

Cliffy would jump in at this point to insist that Jimmy was clearly “untrained” until recently.  Hogwash.  Jimmy’s been lifting weights for at least a couple of years, maybe longer.  I worked out with him on the low-carb cruise in May.  He was impressively strong.  “Untrained” muscles don’t push that much weight.  He may have been training harder lately, but he wasn’t “untrained” in May.

One of the speakers on the same low-carb cruise was Dr. Jeff Volek, who has conducted much of his research on athletes.  (It was Dr. Volek , along with Dr. Steve Phinney, who convinced Jimmy to try getting into nutritional ketosis to reverse his weight gain.)  I mentioned Cliffy’s theories to Dr. Volek one night and asked if it’s physiologically impossible to get leaner and more muscular over the same time period.  It’s not impossible at all, Dr. Volek replied; we’ve seen it happen over and over, even in athletes.  (Here’s a study in which athletes lost fat and gained lean body mass.)

So the bottom line:  don’t believe the myth that if you lose weight, you’re inevitably going to lose both muscle and fat.  If you work out and eat right, you can actually gain muscle.  I lost fat and gained muscle.  Jimmy lost fat and gained muscle, despite eating less protein than he did previously.  Athletes have lost fat while gaining muscle.

And Cliffy’s still an idiot, even if he’s not a fat, lazy old man.


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88 thoughts on “Losing Fat While Gaining Muscle

  1. Bullinachinashop

    Ah yes, the eccentric exercise Jonathan Bailor also insists fat people should do. I’m really torn. I should give it a shot but I’m loving powerlifting. Last week I back squatted 405 and I was psyched, it’s so fun! The problem is I’ve seen powerlifters’ physiques and its clear as crystal that power lifting does nothing to burn fat, probably does the opposite.

    I’m sure there are some lean powerlifters out there, but the top competitors are more interested in strength than leanness. Kind of like NFL lineman who have big bellies but are strong as orangutans.

  2. DJ

    There are guys like “Cliffy” all over the internet, unfortunately. Did this Cliffy also happen to be a mailman? 😉

    Most body builders and runners are still under the impression that they absolutely MUST load up on carbs either before or after their workouts… so it doesn’t surprise me that a body builder would believe it’s impossible to lose fat and gain muscle. As long as you’re giving your body the nutrition and energy it needs (by eating enough of the right foods in sufficient quantities) there’s absolutely no reason that you can’t gain muscle while losing fat.

    I’m sure that it all stems from the belief that to lose weight, you have to cut your calories. So if you’re not feeding your body sufficiently while working out, it makes perfect sense that you’d lose muscle as well as fat.

    That was part of his (ahem) logic: gaining muscle means calorie surplus, losing weight means calorie deficit, you can’t do both at the same time. I tried to explain that perhaps my muscles were taking up more protein calories as my fat cells were releasing more fat calories, but he refused to consider the idea.

  3. AndreaLynnette

    I love how this jackass thinks that his opinion somehow negates reality. If my calves have gotten an inch in circumference bigger over the last four months, and are harder, not squishier, then I did not lose muscle in my calves. If I have, during the same time period, lost 15lbs, then I must have, somehow, lost fat while gaining muscle. Unless Cliff’s theory is that I lost weight a few ounces of fat on Monday, then gained an ounce or two of muscle on Tuesday…. I guess then that would fit his theory. His precious, precious theory.

    Here’s what really gets me: I’m having success, you’re having success, and rather than applaud our efforts, people like Cliffy have to stomp all over us because their pet theory is more important than our actual reality of getting better! Shame on him, and everyone else like him, who is so wedded to theory that they can’t see the actual, honest-to-goodness truth!

    Also, I have seen your recent pictures, Tom. You may not be a bronzed god, but you’re not fat! If this guy thinks you are, then he has a problem that I don’t think even good anti-psychotics will correct.

    Cliffy and others who disagree with me like to point to pictures of me from years ago and then call me fat. Well, yeah … back then.

  4. Daniel Kirsner

    You should talk to A. Scott Connelly about this. He’s difficult to track down, but well worth the effort.

    The mistake the “Cliffys” of the world make is equating “weight” with “energy”…along with a few other related errors…

    They assume that because your dietary energy is below maintenance, causing a net loss of energy from your body, this means that all tissues in your body are subject to the same catabolism. The big goof is failing to understand that fat contains far more energy per unit of weight than muscle, other tissues, and water. In your example, and that of others, you were “robbing” energy from bodyfat to “pay” for additional muscle. Thus speeding the fat loss process as an added benefit.

    For the same reasons, it is possible to gain weight while on a below maintenance diet (Casey Viator in The Colorado Experiment [google] is the classic example) and to (briefly) lose weight while eating above maintenance….

    I tried to make that argument with him: my body was tapping fat to make up for the fuel shortage while directing dietary protein to muscle. He couldn’t bring himself to accept the possibility.

  5. Bob Johnston

    My experience is that you don’t even need to be lifting weights to gain lean tissue. I was already low carb when I gave up Diet Pepsi (my addiction, I drank a LOT) and lost 14 lbs of fat and gained 6 lbs of lean muscle mass (according to my scale and calipers) without making any other changes during a period when I wasn’t lifting weights.

    I haven’t touched anything with Aspartame since.

    Interesting result.

  6. b-nasty

    It’s overly simplistic to say that a caloric surplus is required to add even an ounce of muscle. I think what is commonly known, but misrepresented by fools, is that to gain a ton of mass quickly, it is only really done on a massive caloric surplus (of any diet.) It makes sense, muscle tissue is expensive (metabolically), and your body won’t go jacking you up if it thinks food is scarce.

    However, this doesn’t mean that there isn’t a huge gray area where one can add a decent (but not Arnold-esque) amount of muscle at or slightly below one’s energy needs.

    Unfortunately, the research just hasn’t been done or done with athletes that are actually well-adapted to a LC diet. Interesting to note, however, is that bodybuilders do frequently use a low-carb diet (Cyclic Ketogenic, Targeted Ketogenic) to drop body fat gained during a bulk (massive calories) while keeping most of the muscle gains. This shows that at worst, a LC diet isn’t as catabolic as a regular low-cal diet.

    For the record, I’ve been weight lifting for over a decade and switching to a very low carb diet hasn’t hurt my progress in any way. In fact, the increase in protein (I don’t do low protein LC) seems to have helped a good deal. Exercising where I hit my glyoclytic pathway has suffered, but with low rep-high load, I don’t notice it.

  7. Brian

    I always thought it must have been something simple with Jimmy’s stall. Good for him!

    Now I’m off to make a sandwich out of two slices of lard, pasted together with butter! Yum.

  8. lantenec

    I love it when someone tries to argue that I didn’t see what I saw with my very own eyes. That’s when, in the words of Arthur Jones the inventor of Nautilus, it’s time to “smile and walk away: you’re talking to a fool.”

    In fact, I violated my “arguing with idiots” rule when debating Cliffy … but heck, it was kind of fun.

  9. Liz

    Cliffy can’t bring himself to agree with you because his workouts, diet, and genetics look favorably on him. I can find plenty of guys who “eat cleaner” and work out as hard and don’t look like Maxim-reading fratboys. A lot depends on genetics, age, etc.

    Yup, if you’re not born with a certain proportion of fast-twitch muscle fibers, you’ll never develop big popping muscles.

  10. Daniel Kirsner

    Bullinachinashop–fat powerlifters are almost exclusively found in the unrestricted (superheavyweight) weight classes. In the lower weight classes powerlifters tend to be very lean–because they have to be. A good parallel can be found with boxing and the heavyweight vs. other divisions. While resistance training, whether for bodybuilding, powerlifting, or shits ‘n’ giggles helps a bit with staying lean, diet is of course vastly more important.

  11. Bullinachinashop

    Ah yes, the eccentric exercise Jonathan Bailor also insists fat people should do. I’m really torn. I should give it a shot but I’m loving powerlifting. Last week I back squatted 405 and I was psyched, it’s so fun! The problem is I’ve seen powerlifters’ physiques and its clear as crystal that power lifting does nothing to burn fat, probably does the opposite.

    I’m sure there are some lean powerlifters out there, but the top competitors are more interested in strength than leanness. Kind of like NFL lineman who have big bellies but are strong as orangutans.

  12. DJ

    There are guys like “Cliffy” all over the internet, unfortunately. Did this Cliffy also happen to be a mailman? 😉

    Most body builders and runners are still under the impression that they absolutely MUST load up on carbs either before or after their workouts… so it doesn’t surprise me that a body builder would believe it’s impossible to lose fat and gain muscle. As long as you’re giving your body the nutrition and energy it needs (by eating enough of the right foods in sufficient quantities) there’s absolutely no reason that you can’t gain muscle while losing fat.

    I’m sure that it all stems from the belief that to lose weight, you have to cut your calories. So if you’re not feeding your body sufficiently while working out, it makes perfect sense that you’d lose muscle as well as fat.

    That was part of his (ahem) logic: gaining muscle means calorie surplus, losing weight means calorie deficit, you can’t do both at the same time. I tried to explain that perhaps my muscles were taking up more protein calories as my fat cells were releasing more fat calories, but he refused to consider the idea.

  13. AndreaLynnette

    I love how this jackass thinks that his opinion somehow negates reality. If my calves have gotten an inch in circumference bigger over the last four months, and are harder, not squishier, then I did not lose muscle in my calves. If I have, during the same time period, lost 15lbs, then I must have, somehow, lost fat while gaining muscle. Unless Cliff’s theory is that I lost weight a few ounces of fat on Monday, then gained an ounce or two of muscle on Tuesday…. I guess then that would fit his theory. His precious, precious theory.

    Here’s what really gets me: I’m having success, you’re having success, and rather than applaud our efforts, people like Cliffy have to stomp all over us because their pet theory is more important than our actual reality of getting better! Shame on him, and everyone else like him, who is so wedded to theory that they can’t see the actual, honest-to-goodness truth!

    Also, I have seen your recent pictures, Tom. You may not be a bronzed god, but you’re not fat! If this guy thinks you are, then he has a problem that I don’t think even good anti-psychotics will correct.

    Cliffy and others who disagree with me like to point to pictures of me from years ago and then call me fat. Well, yeah … back then.

  14. Daniel Kirsner

    You should talk to A. Scott Connelly about this. He’s difficult to track down, but well worth the effort.

    The mistake the “Cliffys” of the world make is equating “weight” with “energy”…along with a few other related errors…

    They assume that because your dietary energy is below maintenance, causing a net loss of energy from your body, this means that all tissues in your body are subject to the same catabolism. The big goof is failing to understand that fat contains far more energy per unit of weight than muscle, other tissues, and water. In your example, and that of others, you were “robbing” energy from bodyfat to “pay” for additional muscle. Thus speeding the fat loss process as an added benefit.

    For the same reasons, it is possible to gain weight while on a below maintenance diet (Casey Viator in The Colorado Experiment [google] is the classic example) and to (briefly) lose weight while eating above maintenance….

    I tried to make that argument with him: my body was tapping fat to make up for the fuel shortage while directing dietary protein to muscle. He couldn’t bring himself to accept the possibility.

  15. Bob Johnston

    My experience is that you don’t even need to be lifting weights to gain lean tissue. I was already low carb when I gave up Diet Pepsi (my addiction, I drank a LOT) and lost 14 lbs of fat and gained 6 lbs of lean muscle mass (according to my scale and calipers) without making any other changes during a period when I wasn’t lifting weights.

    I haven’t touched anything with Aspartame since.

    Interesting result.

  16. Buy wartrol

    Building muscle requires eating more calories than you burn while losing fat requires eating fewer calories than you burn.

    So you’re denying the existence of the many controlled clinical studies in which people lost fat while putting on muscle?

  17. b-nasty

    It’s overly simplistic to say that a caloric surplus is required to add even an ounce of muscle. I think what is commonly known, but misrepresented by fools, is that to gain a ton of mass quickly, it is only really done on a massive caloric surplus (of any diet.) It makes sense, muscle tissue is expensive (metabolically), and your body won’t go jacking you up if it thinks food is scarce.

    However, this doesn’t mean that there isn’t a huge gray area where one can add a decent (but not Arnold-esque) amount of muscle at or slightly below one’s energy needs.

    Unfortunately, the research just hasn’t been done or done with athletes that are actually well-adapted to a LC diet. Interesting to note, however, is that bodybuilders do frequently use a low-carb diet (Cyclic Ketogenic, Targeted Ketogenic) to drop body fat gained during a bulk (massive calories) while keeping most of the muscle gains. This shows that at worst, a LC diet isn’t as catabolic as a regular low-cal diet.

    For the record, I’ve been weight lifting for over a decade and switching to a very low carb diet hasn’t hurt my progress in any way. In fact, the increase in protein (I don’t do low protein LC) seems to have helped a good deal. Exercising where I hit my glyoclytic pathway has suffered, but with low rep-high load, I don’t notice it.

  18. Brian

    I always thought it must have been something simple with Jimmy’s stall. Good for him!

    Now I’m off to make a sandwich out of two slices of lard, pasted together with butter! Yum.

  19. Nabla

    Bullinachinashop: Konstantin Konstantinovs is an absolute beast, and lean as hell. Jamie Lewis is another lean top-level powerlifter, and I’m quite sure there are several others.

    Powerlifting in itself doesn’t make anyone fat, it’s the diets they are eating. Many believe that being a fat blob makes you a bit stronger – which may very well be the case in squat and bench (due to decreased range of motion and things like that) but generally not in the deadlift – and use that as an excuse.

    If you like powerlifting, you certainly shouldn’t give it up just because someone else recommends an another type of training. If you are worried about fat gain, keep your diet in check and supplement with some fat-loss-oriented assistance work if necessary (uphill sprints would be my first choice, but find what works for you). Congrats on your squat, keep up the good work!

    The muscle gain vs. energy balance discussion seems to have grown into a stalemate due to different backgrounds. Losing weight while gaining muscle certainly is possible, but the increases in muscle mass tend to be small. When truly maximizing muscle gain, a certain amount of increase in fat mass is generally unavoidable. However, for the more healt-and-not-being-a-fat-fuck-oriented recreational trainer, fat loss with maybe some minor-ish gains is probably the optimal solution.

    The same goes for the debate about the necessity of carbs for training. For someone serious about bodybuilding, higher carbohydrate intakes are often advisable. (I don’t know about any top-level bodybuilder who got there eating strictly low-carb. If someone can prove me wrong, go ahead). For someone looking to lose fat or just to stay lean, a lower-carb approach will work fine.

    Finally, the bigger (as in more muscular) and more advanced an individual becomes with respect to strength training, the slower and more difficult muscle gains become, whether losing weight or not. I think most readers here fall in the less-advanced category (yours truly included), who can still make gains rather easily. So, what is quite easy for you, may be much more difficult for some debatically challenged individual mentioned in the post.

    Just like with losing fat. The more you lose, the more the rate of loss tends to slow down.

  20. lantenec

    I love it when someone tries to argue that I didn’t see what I saw with my very own eyes. That’s when, in the words of Arthur Jones the inventor of Nautilus, it’s time to “smile and walk away: you’re talking to a fool.”

    In fact, I violated my “arguing with idiots” rule when debating Cliffy … but heck, it was kind of fun.

  21. Liz

    Cliffy can’t bring himself to agree with you because his workouts, diet, and genetics look favorably on him. I can find plenty of guys who “eat cleaner” and work out as hard and don’t look like Maxim-reading fratboys. A lot depends on genetics, age, etc.

    Yup, if you’re not born with a certain proportion of fast-twitch muscle fibers, you’ll never develop big popping muscles.

  22. Daniel Kirsner

    Bullinachinashop–fat powerlifters are almost exclusively found in the unrestricted (superheavyweight) weight classes. In the lower weight classes powerlifters tend to be very lean–because they have to be. A good parallel can be found with boxing and the heavyweight vs. other divisions. While resistance training, whether for bodybuilding, powerlifting, or shits ‘n’ giggles helps a bit with staying lean, diet is of course vastly more important.

  23. Claude Benshaul

    So basically losing fat while gaining muscle doesn’t work, except when it does, but if it does work then you are lying and if you are still telling the truth then it’s not the right way and may possibly kill you in the long term.

    Doesn’t it sound pretty much like what we are hearing from the nutritionist or diabetes doctors community regarding low carbing and glucose/insulin control?

    Pretty much, yes.

  24. Stipetic

    That was part of his (ahem) logic: gaining muscle means calorie surplus, losing weight means calorie deficit, you can’t do both at the same time. I tried to explain that perhaps my muscles were taking up more protein calories as my fat cells were releasing more fat calories, but he refused to consider the idea.

    I believe both of you are correct on this issue, but arguing from different vantage points. At any given moment, these two processes can’t go on together. Either the flux of constituents is going into cells or coming out at any point in time. However, after a meal both the direction of movement of fat and protein is into cells (think insulin). Once insulin falls back to normal levels post-prandially, then the fat starts leaking out of fat cells to get burned off, while the protein stays inside the muscle tissue. So, for the few hours that insulin is high due to feeding, the flux is into muscle and fat tissue. The majority of the day, the flux is out of fat cells, which supports that both processes can happen separately. I see no reason why at the end of the day both fat efflux and protein influx could have occurred.

    Pretty much what I tried to tell Cliffy. I may not be able to lose fat and gain muscle at the same moment, but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t do both within the same month. He still denied it was possible.

  25. Jake

    When I switched to a Paleo diet while doing high intensity weight training, I simultaneously lost 30 lbs of fat and gained 12 lbs of muscle.

  26. Buy wartrol

    Building muscle requires eating more calories than you burn while losing fat requires eating fewer calories than you burn.

    So you’re denying the existence of the many controlled clinical studies in which people lost fat while putting on muscle?

  27. Nabla

    Bullinachinashop: Konstantin Konstantinovs is an absolute beast, and lean as hell. Jamie Lewis is another lean top-level powerlifter, and I’m quite sure there are several others.

    Powerlifting in itself doesn’t make anyone fat, it’s the diets they are eating. Many believe that being a fat blob makes you a bit stronger – which may very well be the case in squat and bench (due to decreased range of motion and things like that) but generally not in the deadlift – and use that as an excuse.

    If you like powerlifting, you certainly shouldn’t give it up just because someone else recommends an another type of training. If you are worried about fat gain, keep your diet in check and supplement with some fat-loss-oriented assistance work if necessary (uphill sprints would be my first choice, but find what works for you). Congrats on your squat, keep up the good work!

    The muscle gain vs. energy balance discussion seems to have grown into a stalemate due to different backgrounds. Losing weight while gaining muscle certainly is possible, but the increases in muscle mass tend to be small. When truly maximizing muscle gain, a certain amount of increase in fat mass is generally unavoidable. However, for the more healt-and-not-being-a-fat-fuck-oriented recreational trainer, fat loss with maybe some minor-ish gains is probably the optimal solution.

    The same goes for the debate about the necessity of carbs for training. For someone serious about bodybuilding, higher carbohydrate intakes are often advisable. (I don’t know about any top-level bodybuilder who got there eating strictly low-carb. If someone can prove me wrong, go ahead). For someone looking to lose fat or just to stay lean, a lower-carb approach will work fine.

    Finally, the bigger (as in more muscular) and more advanced an individual becomes with respect to strength training, the slower and more difficult muscle gains become, whether losing weight or not. I think most readers here fall in the less-advanced category (yours truly included), who can still make gains rather easily. So, what is quite easy for you, may be much more difficult for some debatically challenged individual mentioned in the post.

    Just like with losing fat. The more you lose, the more the rate of loss tends to slow down.

  28. Claude Benshaul

    So basically losing fat while gaining muscle doesn’t work, except when it does, but if it does work then you are lying and if you are still telling the truth then it’s not the right way and may possibly kill you in the long term.

    Doesn’t it sound pretty much like what we are hearing from the nutritionist or diabetes doctors community regarding low carbing and glucose/insulin control?

    Pretty much, yes.

  29. Stipetic

    That was part of his (ahem) logic: gaining muscle means calorie surplus, losing weight means calorie deficit, you can’t do both at the same time. I tried to explain that perhaps my muscles were taking up more protein calories as my fat cells were releasing more fat calories, but he refused to consider the idea.

    I believe both of you are correct on this issue, but arguing from different vantage points. At any given moment, these two processes can’t go on together. Either the flux of constituents is going into cells or coming out at any point in time. However, after a meal both the direction of movement of fat and protein is into cells (think insulin). Once insulin falls back to normal levels post-prandially, then the fat starts leaking out of fat cells to get burned off, while the protein stays inside the muscle tissue. So, for the few hours that insulin is high due to feeding, the flux is into muscle and fat tissue. The majority of the day, the flux is out of fat cells, which supports that both processes can happen separately. I see no reason why at the end of the day both fat efflux and protein influx could have occurred.

    Pretty much what I tried to tell Cliffy. I may not be able to lose fat and gain muscle at the same moment, but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t do both within the same month. He still denied it was possible.

  30. Andy

    To be fair, there are differences in those brand new to lifting versus those who have been lifting for a while, mainly as far as neuromuscular adaptations go. Most notably is inhibition of the golgi tendon organ. Regardless, the human body is constantly involved in anabolic and catabolic reactions, all day every day.

    I wasn’t new to lifting, but when I adopted Slow Burn, I was lifting much heavier weights for single sets. My muscles were strained in new ways.

  31. Jake

    When I switched to a Paleo diet while doing high intensity weight training, I simultaneously lost 30 lbs of fat and gained 12 lbs of muscle.

  32. Firebird

    There are plenty of examples of lean power lifters. In fact, most of the competitive bodybuilders back in the early 1900s through the mid-50s (when steroids creeped in to the industry) were also competitive powerlifters…Steve Reeves, John Grimek, and this guy who looks fantastic, Tommy Kono:

    http://ryanmizuno.com/blog/?p=65

  33. eddie watts

    it is silly but based upon truth of sorts, as always context is everything.
    a 250 pound bodybuilder with around 8% body fat may well struggle to lose more bodyfat without losing some muscle mass
    but another 250 pound guy who is say 20-40% bodyfat will find it considerably easier to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time.
    but not many really knowledgable lifters are going to say stupid crap like he is.

    i think this is one of those situations where the idiots are the ones you usually encounter in any given field more so than the reasoned individuals.

    Sure, if you’re already quite lean and quite muscled, it will be difficult to get both leaner and more muscular at the same time. But Cliffy was insisting I couldn’t be losing fat from my not-so-lean body while gaining muscle.

  34. Devon

    This myth is going to die hard. I’m a bodybuilder and from personal experience i can tell you that i have put muscle on while dieting. I also know several other people who have noticed this as well. I would wager that people think this because after a certain point of starving yourself to get in competition shape you will begin to lose muscle.

    It just amazes me that people like Cliffy try to tell me that what I experienced personally is impossible.

  35. Tom Welsh

    Almost everyone likes to feel they understand the world better than other people. The Web has made that easier for them, as they can engage in the kind of empty “yes-it-does/no-it-doesn’t” argument you describe, without ever having to adduce evidence or provide convincing logic.

    I sometimes participate in discussions on Slashdot, a forum read mostly by a self-selected bunch of programmers and other geeks. The average standard of debate is quite high, but when it comes to subjects like diet, exercise, and weight loss most of them react just like “Cliffy”. I gave up the fifth or sixth time I was confronted by a blank wall of denial – “Laws of Thermodynamics, calories in minus calories out, END OF STORY”. (People like that really love to claim there is nothing to say after they have delivered their half-baked opinions).

    Yup, it’s like talking to a wall sometimes.

  36. Richard

    Cliffies of the E-world annoy me.

    They just can’t accept that everything they think they know about food is wrong, even when one day their eating catches them and they get fat or worse.

    Cliffy may never get fat, which will only convince him all the more that he knows what makes others fat.

  37. NM

    To believe one can’t burn fat while building muscle, you’d have to believe something that makes no evolutionary sense.

    Look at it this way:

    Grok put on some fat over the winter. Good thing. Hunting was tough. So he lay about more, conserving his heat and energy. He may well lose some (metabolically expensive) and put on some fat to burn during this period.

    Then spring comes. Gazelles are leaping about. Grok needs to sprint to catch them. He needs to drag them back to his shelter. All requiring stronger muscles.

    Fortunately, evolution isn’t an IDIOT, so he gets them. His exertions are largely fuelled by his body-fat and ketones, which makes him lighted, so he can catch more animals, which brings more protein, which strengthens more muscle, which means, in turn, he can catch more animals still.

    In a time of plenty like this, there’s no reason to store lots of body fat, but plenty of reason to optimise musculature.

    If you thus believe burning fat whilst building muscle is impossible, you’re forced to believe that we evolved some bizarre and counter-productive endocrine system that was cussedly opposed to seasonal adaptive survival!

    Good points.

  38. Paul B.

    Interesing post–a few thoughts:

    It is certainly possible to gain muscle and simultaneously lose fat under some circumstances–1) when one first starts training, 2) when one resumes after a layoff, 3) if one is taking steriods/GH/testosterone, or 4) if one makes dramatic changes to one’s training routine. Regarding the last–the body adapts to any stimulus–if there is a dramatic change to one’s routine e.g. increased intensity or volume, it may be enough of a shock to stimulate further growth.

    I competed in powerlifting in the 80s before all of the supportive gear got way out of hand, and before the judging standards went out the window (esp. with the smaller/newer PL organizations). Back then one had to rely more on muscle than supportive gear and technique. Some of the top lifters back then (Jim Cash, Roger Estep, Jay Rosciglione) had physiques as good as any bodybuilder I’ve seen.

    One last thought–I have noticed that if I go very low in carbs my muscles tend to “flatten out” and get stringy–I suppose because more carbs = more glycogen = more fullness in the muscle tissue.

    Cliffy started by insisting it’s physiologically impossible to gain muscle and lose fat because gaining muscle requires a calorie surplus and losing fat requires a calorie deficit. His “untrained” explanation doesn’t change anything in that supposed equation.

  39. Paul B.

    Always enjoy your blog, Tom. However, posts like this are even more enjoyable to me. I started exercising last summer, and through about eight or nine months of self education I began weight lifting. I read forums on a certain body building website fairly often, and almost every poster there is anti-low carb. Just yesterday I found an interview of Dr. Ellis on that site, was going to mention the interview and his blog here, but saw that he’s at the top of your blog roll!

    If any of the other readers here have good web-sites/sources for low-carb weightlifting (I’m not looking to be a pro BBer or Strongman competitor), please provide that info.

    One of the BIGGEST victories for me on a low carb diet is that before I went low carb and (especially) no wheat… I never had the drive to get my butt up and do ANY exercise. Once I got my diet in check with high-fat, no wheat, low carb, I actually felt good enough to actively desire to go to the gym. The Fat-Head movie was the catalyst that started it for me, and I know I’ve said thanks at least once before… but thanks again!

    I’m happy to hear that. Same goes for me. I no longer have to whip myself into exercising because I feel energetic and want to use my body.

  40. Andy

    To be fair, there are differences in those brand new to lifting versus those who have been lifting for a while, mainly as far as neuromuscular adaptations go. Most notably is inhibition of the golgi tendon organ. Regardless, the human body is constantly involved in anabolic and catabolic reactions, all day every day.

    I wasn’t new to lifting, but when I adopted Slow Burn, I was lifting much heavier weights for single sets. My muscles were strained in new ways.

  41. Jason B.

    Regarding Bob Johnston’s experience with artificial sweeteners, the research seems to back him up:
    http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-06/uoth-rsp062711.php
    http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2008-02/apa-asl020508.php

    Now, of course, to be properly scientific, we have to remember that correlation doesn’t mean causation… somebody might say, “Duh, of course there’s a link between people gaining weight and drinking diet soda–because only people who are struggling with weight gain would drink diet soda!”

    That’s right. Let’s not jump to conclusions just yet.

  42. Bullinachinashop

    Daniel @ Nabla: I suppose you’re right, I’m just going by the YouTube videos where I see obese-looking guys squat huuuge loads.

    As for the supplements, I think you’re right. I’ve been thinking about replacing the assistance exercises with circuits; also, an overpass near my house was rebuilt with a sidewalk and a steep stairway on the side. I think I’ll be crossing that highway a lot in the near future 🙂

  43. Firebird

    There are plenty of examples of lean power lifters. In fact, most of the competitive bodybuilders back in the early 1900s through the mid-50s (when steroids creeped in to the industry) were also competitive powerlifters…Steve Reeves, John Grimek, and this guy who looks fantastic, Tommy Kono:

    http://ryanmizuno.com/blog/?p=65

  44. eddie watts

    it is silly but based upon truth of sorts, as always context is everything.
    a 250 pound bodybuilder with around 8% body fat may well struggle to lose more bodyfat without losing some muscle mass
    but another 250 pound guy who is say 20-40% bodyfat will find it considerably easier to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time.
    but not many really knowledgable lifters are going to say stupid crap like he is.

    i think this is one of those situations where the idiots are the ones you usually encounter in any given field more so than the reasoned individuals.

    Sure, if you’re already quite lean and quite muscled, it will be difficult to get both leaner and more muscular at the same time. But Cliffy was insisting I couldn’t be losing fat from my not-so-lean body while gaining muscle.

  45. Devon

    This myth is going to die hard. I’m a bodybuilder and from personal experience i can tell you that i have put muscle on while dieting. I also know several other people who have noticed this as well. I would wager that people think this because after a certain point of starving yourself to get in competition shape you will begin to lose muscle.

    It just amazes me that people like Cliffy try to tell me that what I experienced personally is impossible.

  46. Tom Welsh

    Almost everyone likes to feel they understand the world better than other people. The Web has made that easier for them, as they can engage in the kind of empty “yes-it-does/no-it-doesn’t” argument you describe, without ever having to adduce evidence or provide convincing logic.

    I sometimes participate in discussions on Slashdot, a forum read mostly by a self-selected bunch of programmers and other geeks. The average standard of debate is quite high, but when it comes to subjects like diet, exercise, and weight loss most of them react just like “Cliffy”. I gave up the fifth or sixth time I was confronted by a blank wall of denial – “Laws of Thermodynamics, calories in minus calories out, END OF STORY”. (People like that really love to claim there is nothing to say after they have delivered their half-baked opinions).

    Yup, it’s like talking to a wall sometimes.

  47. Richard

    Cliffies of the E-world annoy me.

    They just can’t accept that everything they think they know about food is wrong, even when one day their eating catches them and they get fat or worse.

    Cliffy may never get fat, which will only convince him all the more that he knows what makes others fat.

  48. NM

    To believe one can’t burn fat while building muscle, you’d have to believe something that makes no evolutionary sense.

    Look at it this way:

    Grok put on some fat over the winter. Good thing. Hunting was tough. So he lay about more, conserving his heat and energy. He may well lose some (metabolically expensive) and put on some fat to burn during this period.

    Then spring comes. Gazelles are leaping about. Grok needs to sprint to catch them. He needs to drag them back to his shelter. All requiring stronger muscles.

    Fortunately, evolution isn’t an IDIOT, so he gets them. His exertions are largely fuelled by his body-fat and ketones, which makes him lighted, so he can catch more animals, which brings more protein, which strengthens more muscle, which means, in turn, he can catch more animals still.

    In a time of plenty like this, there’s no reason to store lots of body fat, but plenty of reason to optimise musculature.

    If you thus believe burning fat whilst building muscle is impossible, you’re forced to believe that we evolved some bizarre and counter-productive endocrine system that was cussedly opposed to seasonal adaptive survival!

    Good points.

  49. Paul B.

    Interesing post–a few thoughts:

    It is certainly possible to gain muscle and simultaneously lose fat under some circumstances–1) when one first starts training, 2) when one resumes after a layoff, 3) if one is taking steriods/GH/testosterone, or 4) if one makes dramatic changes to one’s training routine. Regarding the last–the body adapts to any stimulus–if there is a dramatic change to one’s routine e.g. increased intensity or volume, it may be enough of a shock to stimulate further growth.

    I competed in powerlifting in the 80s before all of the supportive gear got way out of hand, and before the judging standards went out the window (esp. with the smaller/newer PL organizations). Back then one had to rely more on muscle than supportive gear and technique. Some of the top lifters back then (Jim Cash, Roger Estep, Jay Rosciglione) had physiques as good as any bodybuilder I’ve seen.

    One last thought–I have noticed that if I go very low in carbs my muscles tend to “flatten out” and get stringy–I suppose because more carbs = more glycogen = more fullness in the muscle tissue.

    Cliffy started by insisting it’s physiologically impossible to gain muscle and lose fat because gaining muscle requires a calorie surplus and losing fat requires a calorie deficit. His “untrained” explanation doesn’t change anything in that supposed equation.

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