I’m all for eating a bunch of nutritious foods, but if you are one of that person who thinks that’s all it takes to lose weight or build muscle, you’re so mistaken!
Sure, those fundamentals include providing your body with enough vitamins and minerals through nutritious foods, but they include a lot more if our goal is to build muscle, get lean, and stay healthy.
So, losing fat over time requires feeding your body less energy (via food/ drink) than it burns every single day. We measure both the energy burned and eaten in kilocalories(calories). When you do this, you are keeping your body in a “calorie deficit,” because it’s short on energy (you’re putting greater energy demands on it than you’re giving it fuel for). Yes, I will repeat it all the time till everyone understand that!
So, sody has two options, then, to stay alive: get the energy from somewhere or physically shut down. And fortunately, it has a ready store of energy made just for these occasion: body fat stores. It begins breaking these stores down into cellular fuel to make up for the deficit, and voila, total fat mass decreases gram by gram, day after day, so long as a calorie deficit is maintained.
Now, here’s what most “clean eaters” don’t understand: “clean” calories count just as much as “dirty” calories when it comes to gaining or losing fat.
When we’re talking weight goals, the calories from beans are no different than the calories from a candy bar. Sure, the latter is more calorie dense than the former and doesn’t fit well into a proper meal plan, but people that think that eating a bunch of beans is, in and of itself, conducive to weight loss whereas a candy bar isn’t don’t understand the simple mechanism explained above.
“Clean eating” guarantees nothing in the way of weight loss. Feed your body too much of the absolute “cleanest” foods every day and you simply won’t lose weight. Period. Energy balance is always the main key!
And what about when you’re focusing on building muscle? Many people are surprised to learn that total calorie intake affects your body’s ability to build muscle just as much as its ability to reduce body fat percentage.
This biological factor known as “energy balance” is the key. Think of energy balance like your body’s energy checking account. A negative balance is a situation where your body is burning more energy than you’re feeding it (it’s in the red as far as energy goes). A positive balance, on the other hand, is a situation where your body is burning less energy than you’re feeding it (it’s in the black).
Now, as you already know, when a negative energy balance is sustained over time, total fat mass decreases. But this comes at a price: it also impairs the body’s ability to synthesize muscle proteins.
What is means is when you’re dieting to lose fat, your body simply can’t build muscle efficiently. This is why it’s commonly accepted that you can’t build muscle and lose fat, which is generally true but not always the case. I can almost guarantee that you can add muscle and lose fat at the same time. The people who can’t, or who can only gain an amount of muscle so small that it’s negligible, are experienced weightlifters who have several years of proper training under their belts. Unfortunately, if you’ve already achieved a large portion of your genetic potential in terms of muscle growth, you’re not going to be able to “recomp” effectively.
Muscle growth is slower while in a calorie deficit than a surplus. It’s hard to say how much slower. I haven’t come across any research worth citing, but I’ve worked with a lot of people and feel it’s safe to say that potential muscle gain in newbies is halved by a calorie deficit.
What this means is that when you want to maximize muscle growth, you must ensure you’re not in a calorie deficit. Instead, you must ensure that your body is in a slight calorie surplus, or a positive energy balance.