T Nation

Physiology Lesson

Wassup, T-Men. I have been debating–in my own mind–the possibility of gaining lean muscle mass and losing fat at the same time. This is a goal that highly desired by trainees and is often posted bright and beautifully on fitness magazines.
This subject puzzles me though. I have a little background in Anatomy and Physiology as a college student but questions still arise. One must be in a caloric deficit to lose fat, so to speak. One must be in a positive caloric balance to add muscle mass. So one question that arises is what are the physiological processes that occur when one is in a caloric balance? I’ve thought about different scenarios…for example, a beginning trainee will add muscle mass pretty much regardless of diet because of the shock of the new stimulus. Obviously this new lean tissue will increase metabolic rate and burn more calories, and therefore fat stores, at rest.
Does this mean that someone with a high enough percentage of body fat can use that stored fat as an energy source and therefore utilize nutrients from food as muscle building agents? I guess my concern arises because as someone with a relatively low bodyfat percentage (~5-6%) for quite some time, I’ve been skating such a thin line on calories, counting them all trying to minimize body fat gain while attempting to achieve a positive balance. The anality of this practice is beyond the scope of this post but I’m sure I’ll draw some well-deserved criticism.
So, if anyone has any insight on the subject, feel free to drop a post. If you really don’t give a damn or feel that it’s just too much for this board, just drop a post anyway to a fellow T-Man. Regardless, thanks, guys, for providing such an awesome forum for a yound bodybuilder! Keep up the kick-ass work.

If you’re constantly counting calories and “skating a thin line” to stay around 5-6%, you’re probably obsessed with leanness and may have to deal with that first before you can put any growth plans in place. I once had a girlfriend who weighed 96lbs at 5’4". She counted every calorie, ate about 10g fat per day, did 1 hour of cardio a day plus weight training 6 days a week. Her body shutdown all menstrual cycles and she was a bitch all the time. I tried to get her to add some fat to her diet with olive oil and she ended up giving it to me cause she felt any fat she ingested would make her fat. She couldn’t see her obsession, but everyone around her could. You might think about asking some of your closest friends or relatives how they see you. Ask them to be honest, you may be surprised at what you find out. Then again, I could be full of shit, but it’s worth considering.

You know, I’m really glad someone brought up this topic (body dysmorphia or whatever the scientific term is). I’m currently going through this right now. I’m in Week 16 of my diet phase, and I have more or less achieved maximal leanness (5.1% w. calipers), and I am getting ready for mass but I keep thinking, “If I could just lose one more mm. off my ab skinfold.” The main reason I love being lean is it gets me a lot of attention at the gym I train at. I don’t think there is a single person that is even under 10% well maybe one or two anyway), and I’m always giving me positive comments (most of them anyway). The others I casually notice watching me while I’m doing a set. Then if I do ever blow it and eat a bad meal (known to happen on my carb-up days) I feel like the worst person in the world. Always been pretty self conscious about how I look-I’m worse than most women. And the sad thing is I can gain mass really easy when I go at it. Last mass phase I gained 23 lbs. in 10 weeks eating good calories and following a 5*5 approach (Bill Starr’s routine). Obviously some of that gain was fat, but I had really packed on some strength and muscle too.

Phil, buddy, thanks for the reply, seriously. I appreciate and respect all comments from my fellow T-Men. Yeah, I’m definitely obsessed with leanness, as I often find myself pinching the 4mm skinfold on my lower abdominal–then I slap myself in the face mentally and remind myself that I need to get big, baby. This may sound sarcastic and conceited but it truly isn’t meant to be. I’ve come a long way, big dawg. Really, I have. To tell you the truth, I’ve had some major psychological difficulties in my life such as an immediate family member being an alcoholic during a critical time in my life when many other burdens were on me as well as those imposed on me by such a situation. Anyhow, I got a little screwed up in the head, to say the least, and developed an eating disorder. My first year away at school saw me eating maybe a bowl of cereal, a glass of juice and a salad per day. Not to mention weight training 6-7 days/week and running a couple miles.

Three years later I’m hard core T-Man with the psychological effects still evident but definitely overcoming them. I have slowly but surely been adding calories (somedays close to 4000) and have made it certain to have 25% of my calories come from fat–a far cry from the less than 1g approach I once had. Am I packing on the muscle at an alarming rate? Nah. Am I finding it difficult to eat the quantities that I know I should? Yeah. Do I love to read T-Mag and visit with all my fellow T-Men? Hell Yeah.
Moral of the story is, I know what you’re saying, buddy, and I wish it was as easy as flipping a switch. It takes time and I’ve come a long way. Thanks again for your thoughts and keep training balls-to-the wall. Much love to all my T-Men!

Wow! This really got into an interesting subject. I too have had problems with body dysmorphia, coming from a family of rather fat, unhealthy people (my brother who is only 17 has bitch tits from fat!). I started working out seriously about 3-4 years ago, and went from 20+% BF down to about 5, and still didn’t like the way I looked (and yes, I’m considering giving a call to the good Dr. Nadler). I’m glad to hear that others have the same distorted view of themselves (I guess there’s some power in knowing that your not the only one that feels that way). BTW, there is a book about this very subject, although I really didn’t like it (it made me feel like a bigger freak that I still liked going to the gym). It’s called the “Adonis Complex”, but I can’t remember the authors. BTW, I’m up to about 8% recently, and hating every minute of it (except for the 6 lbs of muscle that has come along with it)… I’ll be starting the t-dawg diet right after I finish with Ian’s program in Get Buffed.

Now, back to the original question. I think if you can stay in the 5-6% range, which I did for some time, there’s very little you can do to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time. The key I feel is in either (1) cycling your diet and therefore your goals (like the Delta 1250 diet), such that you only have to worry about being “fat” for short periods of time. Or (2) try to time your eating with your bodies needs. In other words, immediately after your workout, your body is screaming for calories - give it to it. But otherwise, watch them more carefully. When your doing cardio or in an otherwise more aerobic type workout, create a temporary calorie/carb deficit by only eating protien and fat before. The idea here is that you create these periods of very temporary calorie excesses and deficits, but during the day. I don’t know if there’s any evidence to support this or if I’m totally pulling stuff out of my ass, but it would seem to make sense.

Good luck.

Oops, I had a critical typo in my last post. I meant to say people are giving me positive comments, not I’m always giving me positive comments. Man, that sounds bad.

Teddy, thanks for dropping a line, bro. It really is a phenomenon, isn’t it? Congrats on achieving such awesome leanness! I too get comments about my low levels of bodyfat and vascularity. I’m very thankful for my accomplishments and my bodybuilding achievements. But as a 20 year-old, weighing only 160 at 6’gives a somewhat stringy look and kind of detracts from the low bodyfat levels. It’s difficult when I tell peers and adults that I’m a bodybuilder–something I’m very proud of–and get snide remarks or odd looks in return.

Anyway, I was just wondering what your stats were and when you go thru mass phases how high do you allow your bodyfat to go up. That sounds kinda gay, buddy, my bad. I didn’t mean it like that. I’m going to do some more research on the physiology question I posed and I’ll see what I come up with. Later, dawg.

Steve-O, thanks for the post, my man. Very insightful. It is somewhat comforting to hear that there are other goofballs out there like myself–don’t take it the wrong way, guys. But it’s unfortunate that it’s a disorder of sorts. I know, it’s so tough trying to put on weight. It’s tough psychologically to add the calories here and there, man. But, like I said, I’m slowing overcoming it, realizing that there’s only one way to achieve my bodbuilding goals. It just pisses me off when I get mad at myself because I might have added a half a millimeter to my lower ab skinfold–a whopping 4! That’s just all wrong, man. Yeah, it’s great to be lean as hell all the time, and I’m thankful to the Man Upstairs, but at my height and weight (6’, 160) I’m not sure how impressive it really is.

Anyway, Stever, thanks for the post. Glad to hear about your success. By the way, have you done the T-Dawg before? Actually, in a way I'm kinda hoping to put on some fat cuz I wanna try one of those keto-diets like T-Dawg.

Teddy, I was just wondering, when you do 5x5, how many sets and exercises do you do per session, and how do you split? I've recently switched to something similar: 5x4-6, pairing antagonist muscles together (chest/biceps; back/tris) and doing a Poliquin-style A1 and A2 thing, with 2 mins between sets, doing 2 exercises per bodypart. Thanks, guys.

Well first of all, I don’t care if you’re 6’ or 4’, a 4 mm. skinfold is damn good. Okay, I’ll try to remember all the questions. With the 55 I did, I did almost an exact one from Bill Starr’s book The Strongest Shall Survive, which in my op. is one of the best books of all time on strength training. Basically I did 3 days/week (MWF), utilizing a heavy, medium, light approach, squatting at every session. Each day has approx. 5-6 exercises, and on heavy day the 55 exercises pyramid up, starting w. a light weight and working up to one all out set of 5, w. a backoff set of 10. Light day has the same principles, except you don’t go up to an all-out max, and on med. day you work up to a max. set of 2-3. You don’t do this on every exercise, just on squats, which is what the program is centered around. On the smaller bodyparts you do more reps (10-20). If you like to train heavy w. basic compound movements there is no better program. Okay, bodyfatwise if I don’t slack off on training I try not to go over 12%, although on that Starr program where I gained over 20 lbs. things were going so well I put the “fat blinders” on and went up to just over 14. Funny thing was it didn’t bother me that much since lifts were up every workout and LBM was at an all-time high. Where I run into trouble is when I get sick or injured (thankfully not very often) and have to miss a workout or if I slip and eat a bad meal. I don’t drink but I understand what a recovering alcoholic must go through-if I take one bite of something I shouldn’t be eating, all hell breaks loose and I start eating everything in sight, literally. Then the residual guilt makes me feel so bad that I stop going to the gym due to that damn perfectionist attitude of mine. It about got the best of me today, as I have been doing a cyclic ketogenic diet and last night I was about to go to bed and all of a sudden cravings hit me hard. Before I knew it, I had devoured a MetRx and 2 151 bars, 4 large bowls of Corn Flakes, a Butterfinger bar, 6 graham crackers, 2 choc. cookies, and a rather large serving of pasta, within about a 1/2 hr. time span, mind you. Pretty sorry, I know, and what’s even worse is that I was only 12 hrs. away from my depletion workout/carbup. Oh well, hit the gym today and have gotten back on track.

Teddy, my boy, whatta great post! That was good. Thanks for the update on the Starr program. I thought it was more along the lines of the Maximal Weights program that Poliquin outlines. I had no idea it was designed around the squat. I knew he had a good book out–something I’ve been looking to pick up, but I’ve got plenty of reading to do for classes. I’m currently doing Ian’s Limping workouts for legs, so the Starr program probably wouldn’t fit my bill at the moment. Thanks for the pat on the back. I appreciate that. You never did mention what your weight and age were. Also, do you do your own bodyfat measurements or do you get it done professionally? I hope I didn’t mislead you when I talked about alcholism…the alcoholic that I was referring to was not me, but my father. The excess responsibilities that I referred to, in addition to being a high school student, were being a father figure for my younger brother (7 years old at the time). We were like glue, man. FYI, I’m currently a junior studying Movement and Sports Science. I’m in my first semester, actually second, in this field. I studied my first two years in Elementary Ed. I know this one’s pretty long-winded, but just one more thing about you blowing it. I haven’t really gone overboard, or even just a little off my diet for that matter, for a while. But when I first started getting serious, my first experience was with Good Billy Boy’s Bod-F-Life. Man, those “free” days killed me! I don’t think I ate one thing all day that had a gram of complete protein in it! Okay, I guess the ice cream counts…you name it I ate it. I spent all day in the kitchen, grubbing on everything, pop tarts, oreos, more oreos, cookies, frosting, sundaes, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches…anything and everything! However, it was during the summer and I was working a landscaping job six days a week, not to mention the hypocaloric diet that I was on during the week, so two days after the “feast” I was back down to my original weight, if not lower. It was one crazy-ass roller coaster.

Currently I am 5’7, and weight depends on carb-depleted state or after the carbup. Before my last carb-up I was 150 @ 5.1 %. I do my own ab measurement, and everything else is done by someone else. The ab, suprailiac and subscapular are really the only ones I pay attention to as no matter how sloppy I get, my pec and thigh measurements change very little. Actually the Poliquin Max. Weights program is loosely based on Starr’s 5*5, he even mentions Starr (and Reg Park) as the ones who really popularized this program. Starr prescribes a lot of leg and lower back work in his routine. I wasn’t referring to you with my alcoholic ref., I just meant that I can understand what one must go through.

Teddy, thanks for the input, bud. Sounds like you’ve got things going pretty well. How long are you staying ketogenic? 5 percent’s pretty damn good, ya know. What’s next…maintenance, mass? Sorry I keep buggin’ ya, but seems like ya know your stuff pretty well (damn good actually, based on other posts) and I just like to get as much input as I can. How long have you been into bodybuilding? I’ve been lifting for a little over four years, but really just got into bodybuilding in the last year or so.
I don’t want to bother you too much, but I read in a previous post between you and another guy and it sounded like you used Protein Factory for some supps. I’ve been doing some research there and I was just wondering what you get from them, if anything (do customize?). Also, what would be your recommendation for post-workout whey protein? (I currently use a GROW with two scoops of whey concentrate/isolate mix, which is kind of cheap and I noticed I bloat a bit). Thanks, Teddy. Any knowledge ya drop on me is greatly appreciated, my man. Got rowdy, bro.

Timbo: I haven’t tried the t-dawg diet yet myself, but I like what I’m hearing. I did some photo’s 1.5 yrs ago (just for myself, which by the way was a huge boost for my self-esteem), where I did sort of a ketosis diet. I think I was too calorie restricted, with not enough dietary fat, as I dropped a ton of muscle with it (and the last week I felt like total shit). I’m hoping with the extra dietary fat and higher calories (for me, about 600/day compared to what I was doing for the photos) I can keep the LBM on there. I’ll let you know how it goes. Steve

Hey guys…1st post here…u guys are hitting home hard…damn…i’m 18 …when i was 14 or 15 i was probably about 35% bodyfat at 5’7 220 lbs…now i’m 5’9 175-180 around 8-10% (haven’t checked it in a half a year almost positive i’m under ten) i am never satisfied with how i look. i have abs damn strong ones too and when i’m dehydrated u can see they are big but the loose skin from my fat days remains…i want surgery bad…i don’t know yet tho…i also got a bit of the chest thing goin on…although i’m well muscled so it doesn’t look too too bad…what i’m getting at is that i could probably be a solid 190-200 pounds …i just never let myself eat enough…i’m just now being able to boost my metabolism up to 2300-2500 cals a day…this is because i’ve decided to try the anabolic diet…although i’m takin shakes after workin out like t dawg…just wanted to let everyone know that i feel ya and its so damn frustrating to bust your balls to get a goal…(ripped) that u may never get because of 1 early mistake(overeating as a kid)

Steve-O, good luck on the T-Dawg…definitely let me know how it works out for ya. I have not been very successful on any mass-building phases yet…but I’m bound and determined to get huge. I’m patient with it and in this sport through the thick and thin. Anyway, I’d like to try a ketogenic diet (like T-Dawg)–don’t ask why, I’m just a masochist! How long have you been in your mass phase? How much weight have you put on (LBM to fat)? Thanks for the response, Steve. Keep kickin’ ass and training hard.

Firstly to Teddykgb : If you are truly 5% bodyfat you should have striations in most of your muscles, a christmas tree in your lowerback and absolutely no visible signs of bodyfat anywhere I mean nowhere. 150lbs is like a stick, You should change your name to brad pitt or something ( put on some muscle! then get leaner).

Secondly, You do not have to eat more calories to gain muscle, Muscle can and will be built as long as thier is adequate food. Look at prisioners!

Okay, to Husker first. I am truly 5% bodyfat. Ab skinfold is 7 and waist is 28.5 in. I never claimed to be a mass monster either. I have been dieting for 16 weeks to achieve it. I had hernia surgery over the summer and let myself get what for me is terribly out of shape. I’m not planning on going any lower, as if it is even possible w/o drugs anyway. I do resemble Brad Pitt’s physique right now only I wasn’t born with it. Secondly are you from NE? I’m from GI but just moved to ONeill. Timbo, don’t worry about bothering me, I’m glad you’re finding my advice helpful. I’ve been in the iron game off and on for five years, but only seriously for the last two. This is my last week of dieting (famous last words), then I intend to go on a mass phase, not letting bodyfat go over the 10% barrier. Then I’m gonna alternate between 10% and 7% phases for a while. Actually I have never used anything from Protein Factory, that was JohnU I believe. They seem to be legit though. For my whey pro I’m using EAS Simply Protein right now as I got it on sale.

Mike…kind of helps to know there are other T-Men out there like ourselves, for me anyway. A big pat on the back to ya for how long you’ve come and how much progress you’ve made…man, 5’7, 180, 8%, that’s damn good, bro. I’ve heard other peeps talk about the excess skin thing, I feeling for ya. It’s tough, man, for me to add calories (I’m trying to get HUGE), but every time I think that extra calorie is going to be body fat. It’s just a real psychological pain in the ass! But I’m in this bad-boy for the long-haul and I’m bound and determined to reach my goals, no matter what it takes.

Teddy...thanks again for the reply. Fight it out that last way, dawg. You got it in ya, ya freak (I mean that in the best way). Hey, you mentioned something about a supp called vinocipeine (or something like that) in an earlier post. Was that for increased energy levels? What was in it again? The best pre-workout stimulant I've used is Dymetadrine Xtreme by AST but I don't like using EC products on a regular basis. Just looking for something else I guess. If you have any input, I'd appreciate it. Also, for glutamine, have you tried Dr. Serrano's recommendation for dosage?

Husker...you've got a point there, bud. Those bad boys seem to pack on the muscle at an astounding rate. Must be something going on in the kitchen...or in the showers! Just kiddin', some of those fellas are the last I'd ever wanna mess with.

Timbo …thanks for the kind words…yeah the skin is a bitch…i’ve been looking into surgery…4500-6300 bucks doesn’t fit into a students budget well tho…i’m trying this anaobolic diet now…it seems like i’m putting weight on during matinence tho?..???..well we’ll see by the end of the week…i dunno if i’m gonna be able to bring myself to do the carb up…i’ve been under 30 grams of carbs the past 4 days…i don’t even feel anything near ketosis…but like i said we’ll see…hey btw i like this forum …i think i’m here to stay

Well I just started using Vinpocetine and only take it w. the Power Drive/EC stack pre-workouts, although next week when diet is done I’m gonna be tapering off EC so I will definitely need a higher amt. of Vinpo. It is used not so much for a stimulatory effect, but for increased focus similar to gingko. I believe it’s also used for depression and Alzheimer’s too for the increased cognitive function. I can definitely say that it gave my pre-workout stack a boost. I believe the glutamine regimen I use is from Serrano. Poliquin wrote about it but I’m sure that’s where he said he got it from. 26-51 g. depending on carb intake if I recall. I haven’t gone up to the high end but I’ve used up to 32 g. post-workout. Back to the whole psychology thing w. mass/fat, have you ever gone on a serious bulking phase before? One thing that I can just about guarantee you if you haven’t is that even though you’ll gain a little fat, the added mass/strength will more than make up for it. Actually I don’t mind gaining fat (some anyway) too much, but when I diet I have to get as low as I possibly can and I lose it mentally if I have a little “slip.” One trick that will minimize your fat gain is to get the majority of your cals in the post workout meal and the meal after that. Your body will more readily accept these extra nutrients. Depending on how you process insulin, you might stick to the low-glycemic stuff the rest of your meals-this is what I generally have to do. Also you can base your post-workout carbs on the number of work reps you do in your workout, also recommended by Poliquin/Serrano. Get it done, buddy! By summer you and I are gonna have at least 10 lbs. of lean muscle gain!