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Bulletin #65 – Unlocking the Mystery of Fat Loss and Muscle Gain, Part II

Last bulletin we began our review of the fundamental principles behind successful bodybuilding and fitness. The basic ingredi-ents for success are motivation, dedication, consistency, and hard work. After that, you just need a little know-how, which is where we fit in. The foundation for building a fantastic physique is intense and intelligent training combined with proper nutrition. At Parrillo we believe your nutrition pro-gram should be based on a healthy diet from whole foods. Supplements can be effective in increasing specific nutrient levels, but cannot take the place of a proper diet of wholesome foods. We discussed that you need a few pieces of information at the onset to help design the most effective body-building or fitness program for you. First you need some specific goals. This means pounds of fat to lose, pounds of muscle to gain, and the time frame to accomplish these changes. Second you need to know your body weight and body composition. This allows you to establish specific goals and design a realistic plan .

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Third you need some idea of your daily calorie consumption, since many important dietary calculations depend on this. If you don’t know this now, don’t worry. You’ll figure it out quickly as we go along. You will need a food scale and a nutrition composition guide, which are supplied in the Parrillo Nutrition Manual. And it really helps to have a way to monitor body composition, such as the BodyStat Kit. While it is possible to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time, this becomes more difficult as you become more advanced. If you have a fair amount of fat on your body (say greater than 15% for men or 25% for women) your initial priority should be to lose fat. If you train hard, you may be able to gain some muscle at the same time . On the other hard, if you’re already pretty lean your goal will be to gain muscle while minimizing fat accumulation. Advanced bodybuilders and fitness athletes usually find it becomes necessary to cycle weight gain and weight loss to make any significant changes in lean body mass.

This is because even under ideal circumstances around 75-80 % of the weight you gain will be muscle, and the rest is fat. So after awhile you will need to take off the fat. We have found a very effective approach which works well for many people is to alternately gain a pound a week for several weeks then lose a pound a week for several weeks. You can alter the proportion of time spent gaining versus losing depending on what your short term goal is. This strategy was discussed in some detail last month. If you’re around 10-15 % body fat a very good plan would be to gain a pound a week for four weeks then lose a pound a week for four weeks. If you follow our nutrition and training program faithfully probably about 75% of the weight you gain will be muscle and 75% of the weight you lose will be fat. This yields a net result of two pounds of muscle gained and two pounds of fat lost in two months. This may not sound like much at first, but if you’ve been at this game for long you will soon come to appreciate that most bodybuilders would be very happy with that rate of progress. Look around the gym where you train. Most likely many of the people have made no discernible progress in the last year.

We find that on our program even “average” people can easily attain results like this, and genetically gifted athletes do much better. Furthermore, this approach keeps your metabolism from getting stuck in a rut and your progress stalling . So now let’s talk about some spe-cifics of how to do this. We’ll deal the weight gain phase first. To gain a pound a week you will need to increase calories from 300-500 per day above your maintenance energy requirement (MER), the amount you would normally eat to maintain constant body weight. First, limit fat to 5-10% of total daily calories. A few months ago I explained some studies on energy metabolism which demonstrated that dietary fat is more prone to be stored as body fat than are protein and carbohydrate (1-7). This is especially true during overfeeding (calorie surplus). Next, consume about 1 to 11/2 grams or more of complete, lean, high quality protein per pound of body weight each day. This should come from sources such as skinless chicken or turkey breast, egg whites, or fish.

You can also use a high quality protein powder such as our Hi-Protein Powder or new Optimized Whey Protein as needed. Then supply the rest of your calories from complex carbohydrates. You should include at least one starchy carbohydrate (such as rice, potatoes, corn, beans, etc.) and one or more fibrous veg-etables (salad, broccoli, green beans, and so on) at each meal. It is important to structure each meal properly. Your daily requirement for protein and carbohydrate should be roughly evenly divided among five or six meals, and more if necessary. You should eat every two to three hours. This seems to improve insulin profiles and nutrient absorption and assimi-lation of amino acids into protein tissue. This way of eating also helps to reduce fat accumulation during weight gain. Be sure to have a protein source, a starchy carb, and a fibrous carb at each meal. Don’t eat all protein at one meal and all carbs at the next. That is not the most effective way to channel ingested nutrients for storage in muscle .

Regarding supplementation, this varies somewhat from person to person. Every-body should be using the Essential Vita-min Formula and the Mineral-Electrolyte Formula . Our nutrition program does not include dairy products or fruit. Although these are perfectly healthy, good, nutritious foods for an average person, they interfere with getting the best results in for those interested in getting as lean as possible be-cause they supply a relatively high propor-tion of their calories as simple sugar, which we need to stay away from to minimize fat accumulation (8). Since we don’t recom-mend fruit or dairy for bodybuilders, this means you will need some supplementation to ensure you get enough vitamins and min-erals. Also, most people will likely benefit from our Evening Primrose Oil Formula, which supplies essential fatty acids. These are the basics, to ensure your metabolic machinery has all of the raw materials it need to function at peak efficiency. For muscle building another core supplement which essentially everyone would benefit from is creatine. This not only makes your muscles bigger and harder, it also increases strength and endurance allowing for more intense workouts. Beyond that, the most effective supplement choices vary among individuals.

If you find it difficult to eat all of the pro-tein called for, the best supplement for you will be one of our protein powders. Both the Hi-Protein Powder and the Optimized Whey Protein provide absolutely fantastic quality protein sources. If you’re a person who tends to gain a lot of fat easily, espe-cially when trying to pack on muscle, then you probably would do best using CapTri. The correct way to use CapTri is to substi-tute it for an equivalent amount of calories from complex carbohydrate. Although total caloric intake will not change, CapTri is more thermogenic than carbohydrate leav-ing less energy for retention as body fat (9-13). (Refer to some of our recent articles in the Performance Press or in the Sports Nutrition Guide which can both be ac-cessed through the internet at If on the other hand you find it very difficult to gain weight and have trouble eating enough food to achieve weight gain then Pro-Carb may work very well for you. CapTri is also a great supplement for adding “good calories” to your diet. “Hard gainers” typically seem to have a metabolic setup that does well on higher carbohydrate levels and higher insulin levels.

A person who gains easily and tends to put on fat generally does better with relatively less carbs and more protein whereas a naturally skinny person usually gains easier with relatively more carbs. If you’re involved in a lot of endurance exercise you may want to try Liver-Amino Formula which sup-plies a high concentration of heme iron as well as Muscle Amino, CapTri and either of the protein powders. So the optimal supplement program for you depends on your body type and genetic background as well as your nutritional needs. If you have further questions about this consult the Par-rillo Nutrition Manual or the Parrillo Sports Nutrition Guide or give us a call. Training is obviously key to gaining muscle mass. If you’re not pushing yourself to the limit in the gym your gains will not be maximized. When it comes to bodybuild-ing, the results versus effort curve drops off really fast. By this I mean if you give 100% effort, you’ll get 100% results. If you give 80% effort, you’ll get about 50% of the results. And if you give 50% effort you’ll probably get very little results. It requires a pretty severe stimulus to drive the body to produce more muscle tissue than it already has .

During the muscle gaining phase you need to be lifting the heaviest weights pos-sible for low to medium reps. Most of your work should be around 6-8 reps, with some in the 3 rep range or even less. You should strive to increase strength, the amount of weight you can lift for a given number of reps, rather than the number of reps you can perform with a certain load. In other words increase the weight, not the number of reps. After four weeks on your gaining cycle you should be lifting heavier weights in all the basic lifts. During this time you should emphasize the basic compound movements, such as squats, deadlift, bench press, and shoulder press . Use the principle of periodization to try to get a new personal best in each of these lifts by the end of the cycle. Usually people do best here training five days a week or so. Experiment with different splits and routines to add variety, but always include the core mass building exercises. Generally you will be training with heavier weights, for fewer reps, and more rest time between sets. I would still advise doing aerobics 30 minutes a day.

This will minimize fat accumulation as you gain muscle. If you’re naturally lean and find it difficult to gain, you may cut this down to three days a week. Turning our attention to fat loss, basically we eat the same foods but in somewhat dif-ferent proportions. Our first consideration is caloric intake. As mentioned last month, a pound of fat contains 3,500 calories, so to lose a pound a week means a daily energy deficit of 500 calories. Usually most people do best by a combination of reduced calo-rie intake and increased aerobic exercise. You might try reducing energy intake to 250 calories below your MER and then performing an extra 250 calories worth (say 20-30 minutes) of aerobic exercise. After determining your calorie intake, then consume one-and-a-half grams of protein per pound of body weight each day. Some people do even better with two grams or more per pound each day . Does the human body require that much protein? No, protein requirements have really very little to do with this recommendation. What we are doing here is changing the ratio of protein to carbohydrate in the diet. This has several important effects. One is that it reduces insulin levels (14,15).

Insulin is a potent inhibitor of fat burning, so when dieting to lose fat we want to minimize insulin levels. Second this changes the energetic efficiency of the diet. Protein has a higher thermogenic effect than carbohydrate (about 25% as compared to 8%). In the older literature this was referred to as the “specific dy-namic action” of protein. This describes the proportion of calories that are lost as body heat during metabolism. The more calories that are lost to the environment as heat, the fewer there are remaining which could be stored as fat. Furthermore, the more food calories you lose as body heat the fewer there are left to fuel your body during exercise, which means your body will be forced to rely more heavily on its fat stores as an energy source. Third, a higher level of protein intake will help prevent muscle loss during energy restriction (16). During fat loss we have found our athletes get better results if they continue to limit fat intake to 5-10%.

I think the reason for this is as follows: A given person who performs a certain amount of exercise per day will burn some certain number of grams of fat as fuel during exercise and during the other activities of living. That is, your body will burn a certain amount of fat grams per day, depending on your lifestyle and exercise habits. If fewer of those fat grams are sup-plied by the diet, then more will be derived from adipose stores. For example, let’s say you burn 100 grams of fat per day during your aerobic exercise (that would be a lot of exercise, but is reasonable for illustration purposes). If you then eat 100 grams of fat per day, then you wouldn’t lose much body fat. However if you burn 100 grams of fat per day and eat only 20 grams of fat, that means you would lose 80 grams of stored body fat. Admittedly this is a somewhat simplistic way of looking at things, but it seems to be pretty close to the way things work. Unfortunately, increasing dietary fat intake does not stimulate fat oxidation (1-7), so a diet higher in fat just means you burn less body fat. Finally, the remainder of your calories are provided by complex carbohydrates, from a combination of starches and fiber as discussed above. In summary this phase involves a slight reduction in caloric intake and a change in the ratio of protein to car-bohydrate, while still maintaining a low fat intake.

You should still divide your protein, carbs, and calories roughly equally between five or six meals spaced every three hours or so. For those of you considering com-petition, there are several more advanced techniques to fine tune things and push it to more of an extreme. These are discussed in detail in the Nutrition Manual and are really beyond the scope of this article. Basically in the Nutrition Manual I walk you through a three-phase competition diet where we reduce carbs, especially in the evenings, while increasing aerobic exercise. Also I describe a plan for glycogen depletion and carb loading which you may want to experiment with. Regarding supplementation, you should continue with the Essential Vitamin and Mineral-Electrolyte Formulas and the Evening Primrose Oil. If you use creatine I would continue that as well. The possibility of cycling creatine to enhance results is cur-rently under investigation. The Advanced Lipotropic Formula supplies vitamins and cofactors such as carnitine used by the liver during fat metabolism. (Some people have the misconception that this is some magic potion that burns fat it is not.

It simply provides the nutrients that your body requires to metabolize fat so that fat burning can proceed at peak efficiency dur-ing your exercise. But it’s the exercise, not the supplement, that burns the fat.) Some people get good results by substituting CapTri for starchy carbohydrates during this phase, as this reduces insulin levels as well as increasing the thermogenic effect of the diet. Another useful supplement during the cutting phase is the Muscle Amino Formula, our branched chain amino acids . These seem to help reduce muscle protein breakdown during strenuous diet-ing. I want to reiterate something I said at the beginning, and that is the diet is key. I am discussing useful supplementation strategies here because these are some of the most frequent questions I get, but the foundation is still the diet. Many people get unbelievable results and make remarkable physique transformations simply by com-ing onto our diet and exercise program and the letter, every day. Regarding exercise, here you still need to train intensely, but we will increase the rep range to 8-12 and emphasize strict form and maximal contraction of the target muscles. For fat loss we will increase the rep range and the total volume of exercise, while somewhat reducing the rest period. You still want to train to failure, but now emphasize control and feeling the muscle more than sheer weight.

This is not a li-cense to ease up on your training if that’s your impression you’re thinking about it the wrong way. The intensity is still high. Your effort is still 100% of what you can do. It’s just the style is a bit different. In fact, most bodybuilders will say this style of training is more difficult and more pain-ful. Emphasize slow eccentric contractions (resist the weight as you lower it). You will be lifting somewhat lighter weights, but overall will be lifting more total weight per workout because you’ll be doing more volume. Plus you have less rest. This type of training is by no means easy, and most people are glad when it’s time to go back to the heavier weights with less reps. For cardiovascular training, increase this to 40-60 minutes per day, or more if needed. One good way to approach this is to reduce your caloric intake by a maximum of 250 calories per day below your MER, and no more. (A maximal reduction of 10% of calories is another reasonable guideline.) Then do however much aerobic exercise you need to lose weight at your goal rate. If 40 minutes a day is enough, fine. If it takes two hours a day, then do two hours. The amount of aerobics needed to get in shape varies among individuals, depending largely on genetics and how much fat they need to lose. We feel however that everyone will ultimately get better long-term results if they include aerobic exercise as part of their fitness program. Not only does this help control body fat, but intense aerobic exercise also helps build capillary density in muscle tissue, allowing for greater nutrient delivery and muscular development.


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2018-03-13T11:10:32+00:00 June 10th, 2009|Technical Supplement Bulletins|

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