I was recently asked to be part of a roundtable of fitness experts featuring Alan Aragon, Dr Layne Norton, Dr. Jose Antonio, Ben Esgro, Jermey Loenneke, Dr. Gabe Wilson, Dr. Jacob Wilson, and others.

The question posed was the following:

“What advice would you give to a fitness enthusiast that wants to
 A. Build muscle
 B. Lose fat

 Below is my response….

For the average lifter, those goals are not that far apart. If you are on the extreme ends and want to really gain a lot more mass or drop a ton of fat to step on stage, you will need a much more specialized plan; but increasing your Metabolic Flexibility is the big key.

Metabolic What?

Metabolic flexibility is the ability to use the right fuel at the right time. You want to use fat during low intensity work, but yet switch to using carbs for high intensity work such as weight training and sprints.

Here are 3 things you can do to increase your metabolic flexibility and gain lean muscles while losing some body fat.

1) More Protein

I am sure you are bored out of your skull now about me yammering on about protein needs. The short action item: Get more!

How much more?

In studies where they were hypocaloric (calories were below maintenance levels, so a fat loss diet), clock in around a MINIMUM of 0.75 grams per lb of body weight.

A 200 lb person would want to get 150 grams of protein per day on the low end.

Some may go as high as 1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight per day; so our 200 lb friend would be at 300 grams per day. Most of the time this is not needed though. You want to do the minimal Effective Amount (mEA).

Work by Devkota S et al. 2011 showed that replacing carbs with protein was beneficial in shifting molecular activity in muscle vs. fat; which should improve body composition (more muscle, less fat).

2) Variety

Most people (myself included) tend to eat the same things day in and day out.

When I get stressed and my schedule goes nuts (which happens a lot lately), I will fall back to the same routine, without much variety.

Variety is the spice of life and allows you to feed your body a huge array of powerful micronutrients which are critical for health and performance. It also helps prevent OVER exposure to any one particular item or toxin too! A double whammy.

Why Is Variety Important?

  • More micro-nutrients.
  • Less exposure to bad stuff.
  • Fills you up (automatically eat fewer calories).

3) Add In a Fast (ala Intermittent Fasting)

Lots of BS to be sorted here regarding fasting. The definition I am using of fasting is zero calorie containing items during a set period of time. Non caloric items only!

None of this lemon juice, hot pepper and maple syrup crap style fasting. The same guy who promotes that horrible idea also says that since we inhale nitrogen in the air, we can pull nitrogen in by breathing and we don’t need nitrogen containing macronutrients like protein. I almost spit my tea out when I read it! Stanely Burroughs (the author of this Master Cleanse) can shove his ebook where the sun doesn’t shine.

Now you got my so fired up I lost my place! Oh ya, fasting and metabolic flexibility.

Bare with me here as the physiology gets a bit messy. Mention the words “intermittent fasting” and people then assume they need to do all of their cardio fasted to burn more fat.

It is true that fasted cardio will result in a burning more fat DURING the exercise session and this has been confirmed by measuring by the Respiratory Exchange Ratio (RER) during a fasted vs. a fed state (after eating).

It is also true that during a fasting condition, insulin levels are low, pushing the body towards more direct fat utilization (burning).

Sounds great so far, but hold the Master Cleanse ebook, my fasted cardio bunny friend.

If we look past the ACUTE effects over 24 hours, it appears the fed state (after eating) increases the EPOC (aka after burn) effect; resulting in burning of more fat calories TOTAL. This was shown in a great study by Paoli A et al. out of Italy recently.

Summary: How To Build Muscle and Lose Fat

Work on these 3 items to increase your Metabolic Flexibility to burn more fat and add some lean muscle.

Rock on!
Mike T Nelson