T Nation

Question about Fat Loss

First and foremost sorry if this is being posted in the wrong section, I wasn’t able to post anywhere else.

I have been training for 3 months and what every expert says is “Build muscle and that will aid with fat loss. For every pound of muscle you gain your body needs to burn and extra 50 calories to maintain it”.

That sounds good in theory, however something is wrong with that math. Three months ago when I started training I was at 180 pounds with about 24% body fat. Three months later I am at 170 pounds with 12% body fat.

That suggests I lost about 21 pounds of fat and gained about 10 pounds of muscle. That would mean that my body burns about 500 more calories a day then it did 3 months ago. Since one pound of fat equals 3500 calories that would mean that if I never change my diet and maintain my muscle, I would burn one pound of fat a week (and yes I do realize that not all of that 500 calories being burned a day equates to burning straight fat cells).

However everyone knows that as you lose more fat, it only gets harder to get down to the next percentage point, not easier.

My main point is that as you lose weight and gain muscle, it becomes harder to lose those last few pounds and that is the exact opposite idea of the gain more muscle theory. What am I missing?

I think it’s actually a very complicated system and the “more muscle burns more calories”, while it may be true, is only but a minor part in the whole scheme of things.

There are a bunch of tools that are known to work to improve fat loss… calorie restriction, to a degree; cardio, to a degree; insulin spikes, to a degree; and ways to combine all of them that are codified in systems like Intermediate Fasting, or IIFYM, or Protein Pusling or whatever. But all it really amounts to is magic in the traditional sense of the word – we know these things are able to produce results, but we’re not really sure why, however within the context of a particular methodology, there are theories and effective strategies.

I think taking just a small bit of it, like “more muscle burns more fat” (which has been demonstrated as true) and applying it as a universal truth “put on more muscle and you can burn more fat” is misusing things a bit. It may be true if all things are equal, but we’re talking about systems here and all things are no longer equal.

Not that that helps answer your question at all, but that’s my take on it.

[quote]clads10 wrote:
For every pound of muscle you gain your body needs to burn and extra 50 calories to maintain it".

That sounds good in theory, however something is wrong with that math.[/quote]
Something’s wrong with the math because you either misremembered what you read or what you read was incorrect. 10 pounds of muscle burns an extra 50 calories a day. Not one pound, 10.

The body always prefers homeostasis. If you try to burn fat, it’ll try to burn muscle first because it’s easier and “safer” from a survival perspective. As bodyfat gets less and less, the body wants to panic for survival and often tries to slow metabolism to compensate. A well-designed training and nutrition plan can outsmart this step. If your daily calories are too low, protein/aminos (in muscle form) are among the first to get burned. Basically, when it comes to bodybuilding, the body is a jerk.

Of course we know that having more muscle on your body is a good thing. It improves appearance, performance in the gym, and does increase the resting metabolic rate, but the key to fat loss is not “eat as few calories as possible.”

During a fat loss plan, you generally do need to adjust calories from week to week, if not sooner - sometimes lowering them, sometimes increasing them - depending on the rate of progress. Macro breakdown and training can both also influence the results, so it’s difficult if not impossible to look at any added muscle out of context.

These articles talk a bit more about it, and other related issues, and might give you some better insight:

On a general note, Tony Robbins has a good quote about the non-need to understand certain complexities. To paraphrase, “I don’t know how electricity works, how it gets from the power plant to a lamp in my living room, but I’m always willing to trust that when I flip the light switch, the light will go on.”

Make sure you don’t get hung up on trying to figure out the intricacies of the human metabolism. It sounds like you had some great results from your fat loss plan (can you toss up pics? That’s gotta be a great transformation). I’d track back and double-check what you did (in training and nutrition) and, if you choose to go further, simply build upon those steps to continue seeing progress.

I think everyone has some opinion on the best way to lose fat.

I’ll share w/ you what I did.

I basically would eat 500-800 cals below a projected maintenance level. Lean meat, rice, oats, whole grain bread with no enriched flour, fruits and veggies, etc. NO SUGAR.

Then once or twice a week, I’d eat a big meal of whatever I wanted - somewhere in the 2500-3000 calorie range. Truthfully tho, I would NEVER eat anything w/ sugar w/ the big meals. Keeping away from sugar is one of the best things you can do (other than what you get from your fruits).

I went from 254 to 223 in 8 weeks and kept my strength and muscle mass and I’m 38 years old.

And conversely to what osu did, I lost a bunch of weight eating mostly sugar and processed carbs on my refeeds.

Different paths.

What did you do for those three months? Losing 21lbs of fat and gaining 10lbs of muscle is an absolutely incredible result for 3 months. Either you’re overestimating your results or you should tell us how you did it because we should be doing it, too.

Either figure out what your real progress is or keep doing what you are doing because it is working fantastically.

Bodyfat percentages are rarely accurate unless you go to a lab and have a lengthy process done to determine it.

Best bet is looking in the mirror.

As for why body fat gets harder to lose the less of it you have? Generally, less fat means less excess weight for your body to carry around. That means your “maintenance” calories (the calories needed to move you around through your typical daily activity) will commensurately lower as your overall weight drops (thanks to shedding that fat).

That’s why a fatty can often shed 10 lbs of weight quickly by simply cleaning up his/her diet, while a normal person has to really batten down the hatches if they want to shed the same 10 lbs.