T Nation

Caloric Deficit = Gained Fat, Lost Muscle


#1

I've been trying to cut recently so I worked out my diet to have a caloric deficit of about 400 calories per day. I limit my carbs to only about 40% of my calories. I have one meal per week were I allow myself to cheat (e.g., have pizza). Over the last four weeks, I've lost almost 2 pounds of muscle and gained 1.5 pounds of fat. How can this be?

When I don't count calories or worry about macronutrient ratios, I get leaner faster. I try to eat clen except for the occasional pizza or Taco Bell bean burrito.

Is this just G-flux at its best? Anyone had the same problem (i.e., gaining fat and lossing muscle while on a caloric deficit)?


#2

are you eating enough protein?

are you lifting heavy?

try no carbs except with breakfast and around workout time for 4 weeks, from sources such as oats/fruit. fill up on vegetables. 5 smaller meals a day. If you want to lose fat as fast as possible, do not cheat, you haven't earned it.


#3

No.

G-flux has nothing to do with eating less and exercising less (if at all).


#4

I used to have the mentality that cheat meals worked, but frankly, they were causing my immense trouble. I had to cut them out, and I'd recommend the same for you.

Also, what are you doing for exercise?


#5

You EAT clen? no wonder you're losing the weight. Sorry, couldn't resist.


#6

I think this happened to me in the last 2 weeks. My waist measurements have all increased while my bodyweight actually decreased - leading me to believe that I may have lost some muscle instead of fat. I am doing a lot of cardio - up to 2 hours per day and I think that is the root of my problem.

I think if I tighten up my diet (I cheat often and too much) and let the diet do more of the fat loss, I could save more energy and strength for my weight training sessions - striving to get stronger every workout. This might help me to keep what little lean muscle mass I have left.

As an example of my recent cheat - I ate about 3800 calories at Burger King for one of my meals.
Angry whopper, BK fish, Whopper Jr, medium: fries, onion rings, cheesy tots, Hersey's pie and apple pie, with diet Coke.


#7

Hey McG78,

I noticed the same thing when I cut calories, I feel bloated and actually start to gain fat around my waist. When I cut cals my pants feel tighter and my arms are the first body part to look smaller.

But, when I don't bother cutting back on calories or eat insane amounts of food, as long as the protein and fats are moderately high and carbs lowish during the day or load up just in the morning, I lean up noticeably in a week or two.


#8

To answer some of the questions above (and trying to avoid typos):

Exercise:
I lift weights three times a week for about 55 minutes each time. I focus on "compound" and traditional exercises: squats, deadlifts, weighted pull-ups, weighted dips, standing overhead presses, etc.
I do Yoga for about 1:30 once a week.
I play pick-up, full-court basketball once a week for about 2 hours.
I do 25 minutes of HIIT once per week.
I stretch for about 20 minutes each day and have one day a week were I have a 50 minute stretching regime.

Diet:
Besides my cheat meal once a week and the occassional oatmeal with my breakfast, I don't eat any processed carbs (e.g., bread, pasta, etc.).
I eat a lot of fruit (typical day includes three or four bananas, three or four apples, an orange, and a large serving of watermelon) mostly before 1:00 in the afternoon.
I'm not afraid of red meat, but I stick mostly with chicken and fish.
I do eat cheese.
I eat about 6 meals a day. Decreasing in calories throughout.

ucallthatbass,
That is exactly what I'm talking about. When I eat what I want when I want (I don't like processed carbs per se), I lean down considerably faster. For instance, a typical dinner is two chicken breasts and four cups of broccoli, and after week or two of this (and similarly sized meals) I will actually be leaner.


#9

In my case I think it's a combination of poor insulin sensitivity, crap genetics, tons of stress and cortisol, and the fact the my body is in a constant state of doing the exact opposite of what I am trying to do.

edit:

I think my body responds better watching macros over cutting calories because it goes straight into starvation mode and stores everything as fat. When I was younger and dumber, I dropped 80 pounds in the summer between my junior and senior year in high school and my metabolism has been shit ever since. I lost a ton of muscle and basically starved myself for 3 months while jogging/biking 5-10 miles a day.

Ever since then it's been very hard to lose fat without losing excessive muscle or gaining weight without gaining more fat than I would like.


#10

you can address insulin sensitivity with proper nutrition/macro timing.


#11

How are you measuring this? DEXA, 7 site Calipers? How do you know this is accurate?

Maybe your eating less calories then you think when your not counting.

I've personally never heard of this. Maybe you can post what your doing training wise. What's your diet like? Lower Cals, Low Carbs, Low Fat, Carb Cycling, Get Shredded??

LR


#12

I do by mostly limiting my carb intake the the early morning and peri-workout (where I sometimes over do it and turn it into a pizza cheat meal).


#13

roger that


#14

To measure bodyfat, I'm using calipers and a handheld electrode device. They are surprising consistent while I don't know if they are accurate. I don't think they are accurate enough to measure bodyfat directly (e.g., I'm not running around saying I have x bodyfat percentage), but I do think they are accurate to measure change.

I posted my training and diet stuff above, if you want me to repost I can. Bascially, I'm high protein (1 to 1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight), moderate to high fat, and low carbs. I know that I'm eating less because I basically take my normal meal and shave off a little of everything (e.g., instead of two chicken breats, I eat one and a half). Thus, I'm eating the same type of stuff at the same times but just in lesser amounts, if that makes sense.

In short, I think my situation is something like this. I'm burning x amount of calories per day. Normally, I eat at regimented times but as much as I want (when I feel full). When I restrict calories, I eat at the same times and workout the same, but I restrict how much I'm eating. My body almost immediately starts slowing down my metabolism when I decrease calories as well as burning muscle to make up the difference instead of fat. Because I workout first thing in the morning, my body burns more muscle then I have in stored glycogen, etc. When I eat later in the day, it goes to fat instead of rebuilding muscle. On the other hand, when I eat a ton, I always have enough "stored energy" that my muscle doesn't get broken down as much, my metabolism stays high because of the increase muscle mass, and my body is more effecient at rebuilding muscle throughout the day.

Note: Besides my cheat meal, I eat extremely clean: whole fruit, vegetables, lean proteins. The only calories I get through my beverages are from fruit juices made with the whole fruit in my juicer. I don't eat candy.


#15

It's very likely that this could be the problem and that you haven't actually gained any fat or lost any muscle.


#16

Fair enough, I know it's not giving you an exact BF%, but it should work as you say, tracking changed from one day to the next, but even that can be very inaccurate. Is someone else using the calipers on you? Or are you using them on yourself?

When you say low carbs what do you mean? Under 20g a day? Under 50g a day? Under 100g a day? Your diet posted above seems all over the place. There doesn't seem to be an exact method to how your eating and what your eating day to day i.e. 3-4 bananas, 3-4 apples. Do you know the macro's, glucose, fructose content of these? Maybe this will help;
www.thepaleodiet.com/nutritional_tools/fruits_table.html

Same with your training, are those the ONLY exercises your doing? How's the training week set up?

It makes sense, but are you also weighing and tracking the macros and calories of the things you eat? or are you winging it?

This sentence tells me your not really tracking things.

Are you measuring your body temperature when you say your metabolism is slowing down? How are you keeping track of your metabolism and how fast/slow it's operating?

What are you doing PWO to restore glycogen? Are you using Glutamine? Surge Recovery?

How do you know this for sure? As in how your body is partitioning nutrients? Maybe try eating low fat and low carbs in the evening.

You'd be better off cutting the fruit juices in my opinion. Your not getting any of the fibre, just eat the fruit and drink water/green tea/zero cal drinks.

LR


#17

You're getting a lot of activity in, but you're not losing weight. It's your diet.

I was doing exactly what you were. I was in denial, of sorts, about my diet. It's all clean, so I can just guess, right?

Well, I broke down and started actually counting calories and planning my macros out. I've used fitday.com for over a month now, and since late June, I've lost 16 pounds.

There's no such thing as a workout program that can out train a bad diet. It's time to start getting serious about what you eat.


#18

I didn't want to bore anyone with the details but since people are asking.

  1. Currently I'm right at about 185 pounds and 11% bodyfat. I realize I'm not huge. But I was never able to crack the 225 pound barrier and because of a genetic heart condition that has flared up recently, my cardiologist strongly suggests that I stay below 190 pounds. All in all, my goal is now to maintain my muscle mass but lean out.

  2. I have my wife use the calipers on me. I like to measure Monday morning first thing when I wake up. That way I'm doing it at a consistent time, consistent fasted state, and relatively consistent humidity and temperature.

  3. I track all of my food intake using myfitnesspal.com. My goal is to consume right at 2,500 calories per day if I'm not trying to gain/loss weight. My goal is 75 grams of fat, 200 grams of carbs, and 255 grams of protein. I'm usually pretty spot on. When I'm creating a caloric deficit, I cut my carbs to 100 grams of carbs. As for the ratios of apples, bananas, etc., I just work into my daily carb allowance how much of each I want to eat if I'm tracking my food. If I'm not tracking my food, I just eat as much as I want. My juice has you put the whole apple, core, skin and all, directly into the juicer and out comes the juice. I think this means all the fiber, nutrients, etc. are preserved just as in the whole fruit. As a general statement, I wing it when I"m not concerned about a slight weight gain. If I notice I've put on a pound or two, I just knock off a little here and a little there. Now though, I'm trying to lean down considerably so I've been tracking my intake.

  4. I lift on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. I do full-body type workouts. I start with a pulling exercise followed by a pushing exercise followed by a front leg exercise followed by a back of the leg exercise. I rest for 60 to 90 seconds and repeat. I shoot for reps not sets. For instance, I set my rep goal at 25 weighted pull-ups. I select a weight to add that I think I can do 25 times. I start and try to do it as fast/controlled as possible. When I slow down, the set is complete. So in the first set, I might knock out 7 weighted pull-ups. When I have hit 25 pull-ups, be it in three sets or five sets, I'm done.

Monday is basketball and stretching.

Wednesday is yoga.

Friday is HIIT and stretching.

Sunday is stretching.

  1. I was hypothesising about what I think is happening regarding why I'm not losing weight (e.g., my metabolism slows down).

  2. Pre-workout, During, and Post-workout: (just a caveat, because of allergies I cannot use most Biotest products: I'm deathly allergic to peanuts). Pre-workout/During the Workout: 16 oz G2 gatorade, 1 scoop Whey protein (about 82% protein), 1g L-Leucine, and 5g Creatine. Post-Workout: 16 oz X-Factor Gatorade, 2 scoops Whey protein, 2g L-Leucine, 2g Glutamine.

My problem with my situation is this. If I do nothing regarding diet except cut a little here and there when I notice I've gained a pound over the last week or so, I stay right at 11% bodyfat. When I continuing doing everything the same except reduce my food each meal to match my caloric/macronutrient goals, my pants get a little tighter and my bodyfat measurements show an increase in fat and a decrease of muscle. Overall, I usually lose weight (i.e., I lose more muscle than I gain in fat). Thus, the only thing changing is that I'm eating less of the same things. Nothing else is changing.

Thus, my ultimate question is along the lines of if you guys think that by restricting my calories I'm actually entering starvation mode. In other words, if my typical uncalculated diet is actually hitting my requirements spot on and reducing it is not the best way to cut. Instead, I should marginally up my workouts.


#19

Alwyn Cosgrove's T-Nation interview posted, like, right now, mentioned that he gained a lot of weight and fat while on a huge caloric deficit undergoing chemo. Probably more extreme than your situation.

Dude,11% is really good from a general health perspective, and probably fine for almost anything except a bodybuilding competition.


#20

Thanks.

I guess not being able to gain weight has made me strive for the single digits.