How to Actually Change your Physique….

Build muscle and lose fat! Tighten up and slim down! Lose the love handles and build the biceps! These are all common ways in which we hear people discuss changing their body composition. Let’s discuss what to focus on in order to change your physique without falling for marketing gimmicks!

First, it is important to understand your goal. Are you trying to gain muscle? Or drop body fat? While it is possible to build muscle and lose fat at the same time, this can only occur under very specific conditions. No special supplement, detox diet plan or magic workout will allow this to continue for long. Putting on muscle in the long run requires a caloric surplus whereas losing fat means being in a caloric deficit.

So, let’s talk about muscle. First, it is important to understand what happens to our bodies on a daily basis. Muscle protein synthesis refers to being able to create new proteins from smaller compounds like amino acids. The opposite of this is protein degradation. Both of these processes occur on a daily basis and tend to balance each other out unless someone is exercising. When resistance or bodyweight training is added into the equation, more protein synthesis takes place due to progressive overload from training. This allows for muscle growth, when paired with proper nutrition.

What is proper nutrition? Eating at caloric maintenance or surplus for your body and eating enough protein! Protein is critical because it provides the amino acids to facilitate muscle protein synthesis, as discussed above. The quality of protein matters too, as certain plant proteins tend to lack amino acids or are not tolerated well when digested.

What about losing weight?

If weight loss is your goal, a slight—yes only a slight—caloric deficit is needed. However, when it comes to the notion of body recomp—weight loss is not necessarily the big goal here. We want to see fat loss, and overall weight may stay constant or decrease only slightly because some muscle is being built through resistance training in your program. This is why it is helpful to not only take “progress photos”, but to measure body fat percentage instead of solely relying on your bathroom scale.

Dieting doesn’t work?

Eating too low (not enough calories) for your body can lead to higher circulating cortisol levels and an impaired ability to burn fat. This is why the saying “eat less and exercise more” is terrible advice. Luckily, protein can help. In studies done on fat loss, higher protein diets consisting of 2-3g/kg of bodyweight are most effective when there is a slight calorie restriction. Many people do not come close to this amount, meaning that they generally lose some muscle mass along with fat when they lose weight. Eating a diet rich in micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) is also very important, as nutrient deficiencies can lead to hormonal disregulation and impaired fat loss.

From an exercise perspective, resistance training is the easiest and most effective way to stimulate muscle protein synthesis. Compound weightlifting (deadlifts, squats, bench press, etc.) is shown in studies to be the most effective, however higher-repetition bodyweight exercises are also an option provided enough volume is done. Exercising at least three times per week is optimal as well, as your body tends to “heal” after 48 hours and stops with increased muscle protein synthesis.

Finally, sleeping enough hours each night (and especially on the same night you exercise) is critical. Under-sleeping decreases your body’s ability to burn fat and build muscle due to reductions in testosterone, growth hormone, IGF-1, and increasing cortisol.

If you are newer to exercise, particularly resistance training, you can achieve this kind of body re-composition by following the advice below, without any bogus supplements or special diets:

  1. Exercise at least three times a week.
  2. Focus on resistance-based training.
  3. Eat ample protein along with a slight caloric deficit for the week – NOT every day!
  4. Focus on nourishing, whole foods rich in vitamins and minerals to keep your body running properly.
  5. Prioritize sleep & recovery.

And reach out if you need help! Many people struggle with consistency, implementation, and understanding their own needs. I can help you work through all this and more. Send me a message on my website or email Cheers!