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When Do You Decide To Bulk Up Or Cut?

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I'm going to throw my two cents in, from what I've read. But first, how does what a lifter wears affect whether they can gain muscle and lose fat at the same time ("2. those on gear")--unless you meant those taking steroids.

I personally don't think that blind calorie cycling is the answer to losing weight and gaining muscle at the same time. The macronutrient mix of both the surplus and deficit days plays a huge part in whether someone is successful or not. In essence, we need to manipulate the hormones to do what we want using natural dietary means (read: not using steroids).

  • Protein needs to remain constant, and high (1x total BW, or 1.5x lean BW)
  • Deficit days need lower carbohydrates
  • Surplus days need higher carbohydrates

These compose the general mixture for how to make that work. Put deficit days on rest days and surplus days on training days. Now, the amount of surplus and deficit do make a difference. If you have a lot of fat to lose (more than 20%), you shouldn't be consuming as many carbs as someone who doesn't have a lot of fat to lose.

Any discussion that doesn't include at least the macronutrient composition leaves out some assumptions the other party may have about what you are talking about. There's a lot more to why something may or may not work.

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Also check out this and the studies linked to it (same author as StarofFlorida's article): http://articles.elitefts.com/articles/nutrition/logic-does-not-apply-iii-a-calorie-is-a-calorie/

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My contention is that only four categories of people can build muscle and lose fat at the same time:

1. Newbies (the amount of muscle added and the length of time you can add muscle for is dependent on how fat you are to begin with);

2. Those on gear;

3. The de-trained (ie. those who were muscled, stopped training and return to ~ their previous level also known as 'muscle memory); and

4. The very very few genetic elite.

Also I can't see how you can say that cycling calories alters that. If you are cycling calories you are effectively swapping between being in deficit and being in surplus. Personally I don't believe that the body shifts from caloric deficit to caloric surplus that efficiently* but by believing that you can (short term) calorie cycle and add muscle means you need to have caloric surplus to build otherwise you'd just remain in caloric deficit and replace fat with muscle.

I would also query how much protein your body can utilise before you just have really expensive urine.

*I have read the studies (and there are stacks of them many are referenced here**) showing that exercise in new to intermediate exercisers alone does not put you into a caloric deficit as your NEAT will shift to accommodate the extra caloric expenditure. I think the same will happen with short term calorie cycling. I can't remember the article but the author compared losing fat to a freight train, ie., takes a fair bit to get started but once it does it is difficult to stop.

**Ironically the author then tries to sell you a calorie cycling product.

Calorie cycling should affect this by preventing the hormones you linked in Lyle McDonald's article from having undesirable effect; that is, preventing metabolic slowdown and allowing weight loss to continue. As long as hormones remain balanced, there is no reason that you body WON'T burn the extra fat stored -- that's what it's there for! Ferrous is right, though, macros are important in this process. If your protein is low, you risk wasting muscle. If your fat is too low, you risk lowering T levels and various hormones. If carbs are too low on workout days, you might not re-trigger anabolism following the previous couple of days' lipolytic state (though this also gets into the type of training you're doing).

One huge problem with looking at these studies related to "weight loss" is that we aren't trying to achieve weight loss, which is a vague, annoying term bandied about by magazine fitness articles. We are trying to achieve *muscle growth* and *fat loss*. The studies you linked to had their subjects "exercise" -- what the hell does that mean? And the gist of that article seems to be that you can't out-exercise a bad diet, which I agree with 100%. But that has nothing to do with building muscle via heavy progressive overload, while using some stored body fat to fuel some of that growth.

Were the people in those studies doing heavy triples in compound movements? 20+ total reps at 70% of their 1rm with increasing weights for each exercise? What was the stimulus in their workouts to drive new muscular growth? Was their protein 1g-1.5g/lb of BW per day? If they were just "exercising" I would not expect them to build muscle, just as most people you see in the gym don't build much muscle, in spite of all their exercising.

Regarding who can build muscle and burn fat at the same time, I think the difference we have is one of degree and not of kind. I agree with you that "beginners" can lose fat and build muscle at the same time. My contention is that people are beginners far, far longer than they think they are -- but also that the body doesn't magically slam on the brakes when you cross the "beginner" line. I have offered the general (very rough) rule of thumb of a 2-2.5x BW DL as a way of capturing a state of either training or leanness wherein losing fat and building muscle should be reasonably straightforward. After that , I still believe it is possible, though slower and more difficult. But after that, gaining muscle in general is slower and more difficult, so who cares?

I am confused, though, because I've heard the "beginners can do it, but no one else can" before. First, what defines a beginner? And second, WHY are only beginners able to do it? I can't imagine a fairly strong individual with 20-25% BF trying to lose some of that excess while gaining muscle and the fat cells saying "nope. hold on everyone. This guy is *advanced*. Just stay put until he cuts! We aren't allowed to come out and play because this lifter is not a beginner!" It just seems silly and I don't think there is any evidence (or even logical indication) that this would be the case.

Now, that's not to say that beginners (who build muscle 2,3, or 4x faster than their better-trained counterparts) don't see faster or more measurable gains in muscle while they lose fat. They do. If you took an advanced guy without much growth potential left and a newbie lifter with identical BFs and gave them appropriate diets and workouts for their respective lean mass amounts, I'm confident that the beginner would gain much more muscle than the advanced guy, simply by virtue of the fact that he's able to gain more muscle in general! But that has nothing to do with a cal deficit. Once you start getting up to 50 or 60% of your genetic potential, weight gain in muscle slows to something like 1lb a month. Compared to a newbies 2-2.5lbs a month, that might not give the impression of growth during fat loss. In fact, a study based on statistics might show the newbies with a 4-6lb weight gain but the advanced lifters with a "statistically insignificant" weight change or even a 1lb weight loss. Well, sure, if you can only gain 1lb a month in muscle but you lose 1 or 2 lbs of fat, you will not "gain weight". That's not surprising, that's expected. I'm not sure that any such study has ever been done though, to be honest. But then again, I've yet to see a well-done study on weight training anyway. Weights too light, protein to low, exercises too silly, etc.

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Guest ExperimentB76z

If you accept the proposition that a beginner can build muscle and lose fat, which everyone does, I think it's probably logical to see that tapering off in the same way that beginners strength gains come easily and latterly become harder. Possibly even following a similar curve of adaptation, steep at first and more gradual later on.

I think that age definitely plays a part, however. It may be easier to build muscle and and burn fat when you are younger and harder when you are over 30.

If the theory behind sarcoplasmic and myofibrillar hypertrophy is correct, this may also play a part. It could be that someone building strength on a high intenisty low rep strength program, who switches to a higher volume and high intensity program, might see quicker gains in size.

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All very very interesting!

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What's the rationale for eating less on rest days? If you're supposed to be recovering then shouldn't you also be putting enough food in so that you can recover? I naturally eat more after lower body days, so it seems odd to think if I were trying to lose fat I'd pick that day to eat less.

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What's the rationale for eating less on rest days? If you're supposed to be recovering then shouldn't you also be putting enough food in so that you can recover? I naturally eat more after lower body days, so it seems odd to think if I were trying to lose fat I'd pick that day to eat less.

The idea is that you overeat within your recovery window -- when your body will properly use the excess calories.

@ Experiment "If you accept the proposition that a beginner can build muscle and lose fat, which everyone does, I think it's probably logical to see that tapering off in the same way that beginners strength gains come easily and latterly become harder. Possibly even following a similar curve of adaptation, steep at first and more gradual later on."

Exactly! This makes much more sense than simply saying "beginners can, advanced trainees can't". Advanced progress in terms of muscle growth would be slower, but it will be slower whether you're eating at, below, or above maintenance. And of course, as you get leaner, fat gets harder to take off, again with that logarithmic model: faster at first, slower later on. But saying that at some arbitrary point it simply becomes impossible to lose fat and gain muscle simultaneously does not seem reasonable or even plausible to me. More likely, the swings either way are slower and less measurable.

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I'm going to throw my two cents in, from what I've read. But first, how does what a lifter wears affect whether they can gain muscle and lose fat at the same time ("2. those on gear")--unless you meant those taking steroids.

I believe "gear" is a slang term referring to illicit drugs generally (commonly heroin) but in this case I'd assume it's a reference to anabolic steroids.

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@spector #49: At the time I was winding up SL 3x5 and then tried SL 1x5 for a few months. I saw no progress while eating at maintenance, and then upped the calories significantly. However, my strength inceases on SL 1x5 turned out to be modest indeed (about 10-15lbs on squat worksets). In retrospect, several mistakes were made, but I think the worst was making a goal of progressing as far as possible on linear progression. This led me increase my calories and reduce my volume, leading to increased body fat and decreased work capacity and conditioning. Definitely not a good move for a guy whose goals have always been based on "general health and fitness".

@Berin- That EliteFTS article and the whole "a calorie is a calorie" debate reminds me of debates about scientific models in general. Basically, every scientific model or theory contains errors and inaccuracies --- but that's intentional, it's a simplified model and the simplification is what makes it useful. The more details you take into account, the less wieldly the model becomes. However, when you want very precise or extreme results, more refined models become necessary. Here's a great article by Isaac Asimov on the subject: http://chem.tufts.ed...vityofWrong.htm

Back to nutrition: A lot of trainers (like Justin Lascek and the rest of the Fit authors) organize dietary principles into a hierarchy of sorts: Caloric intake is the highest priority, then macros, then timing, then supplementation (or something like that). The idea is that you have to get the more basic aspects of your diet right and reach a certain level of fitness before it's worth bothering with finer and finer levels of detail and control.

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also this is a very interesting discussion...carry on!

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Back to nutrition: A lot of trainers (like Justin Lascek and the rest of the Fit authors) organize dietary principles into a hierarchy of sorts: Caloric intake is the highest priority, then macros, then timing, then supplementation (or something like that). The idea is that you have to get the more basic aspects of your diet right and reach a certain level of fitness before it's worth bothering with finer and finer levels of detail and control.

I can buy that. If your total caloric intake is way too high, it doesn't matter what the macronutrients are. That and "what you don't track, you don't improve".

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@steelcutoats: Yes, that is remarkably low volume. I can't even imagine just doing 5 reps of anything (or even just 3 sets of 5). That's way off in terms of effective volume. I'd be very surprised if you got results on that even with a huge calorie and protein surplus as this simply is not enough volume (or heavy enough weight) to have any significant effect. Even Mike Mentzer (who didn't even do the high-intesntiy training protocol he espoused) would've said that's not enough. To your point, this is especially true if you want to increase general health and fitness, where you should be looking at slightly higher-volume, lots of supersets, short rest periods, etc.

Regarding nutrition, I think protein is more important than calories, within reason. But then again, I take the view that the whole point of eating (as a lifter) is to consume protein -- anything else is just along for the ride. If calories mattered more than macros, you'd see a lot more strong vegetarians who could simply out-eat their low protein diets.

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@steelcutoats: Yes, that is remarkably low volume. I can't even imagine just doing 5 reps of anything (or even just 3 sets of 5). That's way off in terms of effective volume. I'd be very surprised if you got results on that even with a huge calorie and protein surplus as this simply is not enough volume (or heavy enough weight) to have any significant effect.

I gave it a try because it was on the SL "Ladder of Strength" at the time. For the reasons we've discussed, I don't recommend it, although it seems to have worked for some people at SL, not all . (FWIW, I always followed what Panglossian did and he ditched it after about a month... I shoulda learned from him.)

In my case, I tried to out-eat bad programming. I did realize what was going on, so I didn't get SUPERFAT but a different approach might have had more returns in strength for the same or less fat gained.

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I am confused, though, because I've heard the "beginners can do it, but no one else can" before. First, what defines a beginner? And second, WHY are only beginners able to do it? I can't imagine a fairly strong individual with 20-25% BF trying to lose some of that excess while gaining muscle and the fat cells saying "nope. hold on everyone. This guy is *advanced*.

If you accept the proposition that a beginner can build muscle and lose fat, which everyone does, I think it's probably logical to see that tapering off in the same way that beginners strength gains come easily and latterly become harder. Possibly even following a similar curve of adaptation, steep at first and more gradual later on.

I think that age definitely plays a part, however. It may be easier to build muscle and and burn fat when you are younger and harder when you are over 30.

If the theory behind sarcoplasmic and myofibrillar hypertrophy is correct, this may also play a part. It could be that someone building strength on a high intenisty low rep strength program, who switches to a higher volume and high intensity program, might see quicker gains in size.

The idea is that you overeat within your recovery window -- when your body will properly use the excess calories.

@ Experiment "If you accept the proposition that a beginner can build muscle and lose fat, which everyone does, I think it's probably logical to see that tapering off in the same way that beginners strength gains come easily and latterly become harder. Possibly even following a similar curve of adaptation, steep at first and more gradual later on."

Exactly! This makes much more sense than simply saying "beginners can, advanced trainees can't". Advanced progress in terms of muscle growth would be slower, but it will be slower whether you're eating at, below, or above maintenance. And of course, as you get leaner, fat gets harder to take off, again with that logarithmic model: faster at first, slower later on. But saying that at some arbitrary point it simply becomes impossible to lose fat and gain muscle simultaneously does not seem reasonable or even plausible to me. More likely, the swings either way are slower and less measurable.

Beginners, like the de-trained, are below what their 'normal' amount of muscle so they will much more easily attain/return to that set point.

A fat beginner will be more insulin resistant and therefore the body gets more resistant to adding to already full fat cells (explained more clearly by McDonald here).

If you are a lean beginner you are not going to add much muscle, which is why all those kids over bb.com who are 6ft 160lbs and busting their arses in the gym for six months but adding no muscle start writing posts like: "Help me, I'm an ectomorph".

The reason you don't see a lot of strong vegetarians is because (a) the subset of strength athletes and vegetarians is very small; and (B) because many of them can't manage the difficult mix of proteins to get enough essential proteins. There are enough strong vegetarians to show while much more difficult to get the essential proteins it is not impossible.

But really this is no different to saying you are cycling calories to induce muscle growth (the vegetarians are still getting protein) - if you don't need a caloric surplus to induce muscle growth, why not just be in deficit all the time as you will gain muscle and keep abs?

Again, while I respect you have a view, we do seem to be in disagreement at the core question of "can you build muscle in a caloric deficit (outside of the limited exceptions)" and it doesn't appear we are shifting the other person's view. The best we can hope for is that we have provided a good interwebz arguing match for the punters. :D

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If you are a lean beginner you are not going to add much muscle, which is why all those kids over bb.com who are 6ft 160lbs and busting their arses in the gym for six months but adding no muscle start writing posts like: "Help me, I'm an ectomorph".

You mean because they're not eating enough right? Just want to clarify.

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Yep... which is who squats and milk were designed for.

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Beginners, like the de-trained, are below what their 'normal' amount of muscle so they will much more easily attain/return to that set point.

A fat beginner will be more insulin resistant and therefore the body gets more resistant to adding to already full fat cells (explained more clearly by McDonald here).

If you are a lean beginner you are not going to add much muscle, which is why all those kids over bb.com who are 6ft 160lbs and busting their arses in the gym for six months but adding no muscle start writing posts like: "Help me, I'm an ectomorph".

The reason you don't see a lot of strong vegetarians is because (a) the subset of strength athletes and vegetarians is very small; and ( B) because many of them can't manage the difficult mix of proteins to get enough essential proteins. There are enough strong vegetarians to show while much more difficult to get the essential proteins it is not impossible.

But really this is no different to saying you are cycling calories to induce muscle growth (the vegetarians are still getting protein) - if you don't need a caloric surplus to induce muscle growth, why not just be in deficit all the time as you will gain muscle and keep abs?

Again, while I respect you have a view, we do seem to be in disagreement at the core question of "can you build muscle in a caloric deficit (outside of the limited exceptions)" and it doesn't appear we are shifting the other person's view. The best we can hope for is that we have provided a good interwebz arguing match for the punters. :D

I still think you are incorrectly interpreting Lyle McDonald's statements -- which, again, are targeted to bodybuilders trying to get contest lean. I agree 100% that taking a pretty-damn-lean (say, 10-11%) 200lb guy with a 450-500lb+ DL to a 550lb DL while losing fat is a difficult task that will take some time and effort. Taking a bodybuilder 8 weeks out from competition and getting him lean while preserving muscle and bringing up weak spots is no easy task either, yet that is where much of McDonald's research is aimed. But most people are not at that level and what he is saying is therefore not relevant to most people.

Your average joe 5x5'er, rocking 15-25% BF and a 1x-2x BW DL is more than capable of continuing with their muscle building while simultaneously losing fat because they have fat to use.

Regarding the small guys on BB forums: I'm not suggesting your body can make something from nothing. This entire conversation is contingent upon the body having enough stored body fat to make up the calorie difference in diet. If they are already lean/thin/small, then they have no stored surplus and will struggle to build muscle until they eat their faces off. While it is a separate issue, keep in mind that most of those guys are also following shitty routines because they read some pro was doing them in prep for Mr. Olympia or some nonsense. Geared, pro lifters peaking after a lifetime of lifting are not the source of what to do for beginners. Again -- different issue. But the diet problem remains. If they're eating "maintenance" for their low BW, and have no stored fat, of course they will hardly gain muscle (or anything) and I'm not suggesting they will. I'm talking about average guys here, who started a general strength training program (e.g. 5x5), have a fair amount of body fat still (say, 15% or higher) and want to continue making progress while cutting up a bit. I think that is entirely possible and reasonable. I will go further and say that it remains possible for quite some time, but I acknowledge that it becomes difficult and slower. On the other hand, though, ALL progress becomes more difficult and slower as you progress, so this shouldn't surprise anyone. If the argument is that "newbies can gain 5lbs of msucle in 2 months while losing 2 lbs of fat whereas advanced lifters can only gain 1.5lbs of muscle while losing 1lb of fat", then I agree 100%. But that has nothing to do with deficits of calories or hormonal influences; that has to do with the limitations of muscle growth at various stages of training in natural lifters.

As for vegetarians, I agree that it is possible provided combining is done properly, but you basically made my point for me: calories alone cannot overcome inadequate protein consumption. A logical conclusion to this, in my opinion, is that protein is therefore more important. Again, this is within reason; if you have 8% BF and you're consuming just 800 calories a day, you're just going to burn muscle and waste away. But assuming any reasonable amount of calories (say, 1800-2000 and up), protein is more important than cals, I think. I'd take a 60% protein diet at 2000 cals over a 30% protein diet at 3000 cals any day of the week, in terms of muscle growth, recovery, etc. The inability for vegetarian lifters to compete successfully and regularly with their meat-eating counterparts is evidence of this. I don't think for a second that vegetarians competing in powerlifting and bodybuilding are in any way ignorant of protein combining, so I don't think that's really relevant either.

I want to re-re-re-empashize that I am NOT saying that you can make something from nothing or you body will readily build muscle while you're eating a deficit and have no appreciable fat stores. Not at all. I'm saying that IF you have fat to use, it CAN make up the difference in your deficit in some conditions. But I don't think it's as difficult as you (or Lyle McDonald) make it out to be, having done it myself numerous times -- including just recently.

The interesting thing about this discussion is that I don't disagree with what you're saying entirely, merely the application of it. Yes, it is difficult to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time -- but not impossible. And yes, it's possible/easy for beginners -- but people are "beginners" far longer than they think they are. And while I respect Lyle McDonald very much, I think his statements are being taken out of context and not applicable to the "average joe" asking questions about if they should continue their beginner/intermediate progression while cutting back on cals a bit.

Perhaps the ironic thing is that in every article you are linking to, Lyle is talking about EXACTLY HOW calorie partitioning can occur, even in advanced trainees. Will it be exactly 1:1? Maybe not, but who cares? If you're already at 10% BF and have a 600lb DL, it's going to take you a year to build that next pound of muscle anyway, so who gives a shit if you only lose .75lbs of fat or something? At that point, you're huge and you're ripped already so it's all a matter of tweaking anyway.

Lyle McDonald wrote:

"But more specific approaches can be effective in achieving this goal. The Ultimate Diet 2.0 has often generated muscle gains while people dieted to single digit body fat levels (I’d note that the gain in muscle never reaches equality with the fat loss) but it also alternates specific dieting and gaining phases during the week.

Many of the intermittent fasting (IF’ing) approaches do this more acutely and I’d suggest anybody interested go to Martin Berkhan’s Lean Gains site for more information about IF. There are others, things like every other day refeeds (EOD refeeds) which are discussed in some detail in my The Bodyrecomposition Support Forums. But all of those approaches are alternating dieting phases (lowered calories, a net ‘catabolic’ state) with gaining phases (increased calories, a net ‘anabolic’ state).

But none of those approaches generate a muscle gain to equal the fat loss, at best they generate a small muscle gain in the face of a much larger fat loss (e.g. someone might lose a lot of fat while gaining a pound or two of muscle or what have you). [emphasis, mine --Keenan]

So I think you're reading into the first part of what he's saying too much and also getting hung up on the 1:1 trade-off (most of what he's discussing is framed in that context). For advanced trainees, muscle growth is such a slow process anyway that you're not TRYING to lose 10lbs of fat and gain 10lbs of muscle in X weeks. At that level of training, you have to think in months and years, not days and weeks.

Glad the rest of you are enjoying this discussion :P

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It's actually easier to gain lean muscle when you're already pretty lean (10-15% body fat, at the lower end it's easiest). This is because your insulin sensitivity changes as you lose body fat. The more insulin sensitive you are the easier it is to gain muscle and not gain fat at the same time.

You can do both gaining muscle and losing fat at the same time too - just try to under eat on rest days and over eat on workout days.Try and work out in the morning so the bulk of your eating goes in the post workout window (or do Intermittent Fasting and achieve the same thing).

Once you're past the beginner stage you should only look to gain about half a pound of muscle per week if you want to do it and remain lean.

Cliffs (on my arguments):

This is the quote (bolded for particular line) that I objected to.

1. I tune out when they (McDonald, Berkhan, Keifer) they are trying to sell me a product that I don't think meshes with the science they are quoting. I do believe they are all good "men of science" but I think they are pushing the envelope on what the science is showing and what is a saleable product.

2. I don't believe it is possible to lose fat without losing LBM. Genetics (mainly), size of your calorie deficit and training regime will decided the ratio of fat:LBM.

3. I don't believe that you can lose (or not gain) fat while in a caloric surplus and I don't believe you can add muscle while in a caloric deficit, outside of the four categories I've annunciated.

4. I don't believe that the "newbie gains" last particularly long but are dependent on genetics, how fat/lean the person is and their hormonal state. I don't think they last any near a 2xbw deadlift (for normal humans ie. ~12 months) but given the variables I would be hesitant to put a number on it.

5. Calorie cycling is nothing more than caloric suplus followed by calorie deficit over a short cycle. Personally I don't believe that the body is that efficient in switching from caloric deficit to surplus due to the fact that BMR is not a single number but a range (which changes under different conditions) and that NEAT up-regulates and down-regulates.

These assumptions are made on my reading of the science. The "Norwegian athlete study" is the only mystery to me on this but as I don't know anyone who has access to the entire study but I will note the subject were athletes (ie. small numbers, PEDs, elite genetics, de-training???).

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1. I don't think Berkhan is selling anything on his general website. Lyle sells his books -- what else? They aren't selling some magic pill, just information about how to execute the principles of calorie cycling to get *advanced lifters even more advanced*. Again: nothing from Lyle is geared towards your average guy wanting to cut up a bit while continuing his progress in weight training. It's geared towards advanced lifters looking to lose what little fat they have left while building what little muscle they are still able to build.

2. So you're going even further and saying that you can't even MAINTAIN the lean mass you've already built while losing fat? Surely you jest! Every Powerlifter that has EVER made weight for a competition would disagree with you strongly here. Yes, they are WARY of losing strength gains and take care not to, but most of the time they coincide peak muscularity with maximum fat loss (notwithstanding swings in water weight as well). And these are not the average lifters we're talking about, but competitive athletes who presumably are mildly lean to begin with and advanced in their lifting abilities. If they can do it, the average person on this forum most certainly can.

3. What about stored body fat? WHY would the body be unable to utilize stored body fat to make up the difference? You linked to Lyle's research which showed that metabolic slowdowns last time I asked you this, but Lyle himself acknowledges that it takes *several days* for this to occur. The body can't predict the future; if you miss one meal your metabolism doesn't screech to a halt in anticipation of future missed meals. It takes days (several days) of very low calorie intake for the body to finally say "ok, no food, time to slow down". Before that point, it will be ripping any excess it needs from stored dietary fat. With protein very high, it has no stimulus to catabolize muscle either, so any extra cals will come from fat. I don't understand your argument because you seem to give the body no credit for actually using the fat stores that kept us alive as humans for tens of thousands of years.

What the hell is the point of storing fat if the body 1) can't get to fat during a short term deficit because it's not that efficient and 2) can't get to fat when metabolism slows down after several days. If what you are saying is true, then the body would never burn fat, ever, and we know that is not the case.

4. I still question why a beginner would somehow be able to recomp while an intermediate lifter would not. What, exactly, is it that prevents the metabolism of a advanced trainee from using fat as part of the fuel for new muscle gains whereas it works just fine for a newbie? Perhaps an even better illustration of this would occur in why you believe recomping is possible for geared lifters but not natural. Is the influence of exogenous T the only thing that allows them to gain muscle and lose fat simultaneously? If so, WHY? By what mechanism would T allow this to occur whereas slightly lower levels of T do not allow it? You are making statements about what is not possible (flying in the face of those that have done it) but there's no discussion of the underlying mechanisms. Please, be specific about why someone juicing or someone new to lifting with copious body fat would be able to recomp while a natural intermediate/advanced trainee still with some body fat would not be able to do so. I think in trying to answer that question, you'll see the flaw in what you are saying.

5. Wait -- so the body is inefficient at switching from calorie deficit to calorie surplus, yet it precisely and efficiently adapts BMR to match calorie demands in 24-48 hours?! The calorie deficit or surplus is the stimulus for changes in BMR to begin with, so until your body has acknowledged a prolong deficit or surplus, your BMR isn't going anywhere fast. I also think you're confusing NEAT with BMR/RMR here, as NEAT is typically considered "stuff that burns calories that isn't really exercising". Involuntary NEAT would be things like fidgeting and various muscular tensions throughout the day. But BMR is where your body's temperature and such are regulated and the TEF is taking into account. Lyle's article on NEAT is here.

That being said, you can decrease BMR a few ways: eat less for a run of 72 hours or so, eat less protein, and move less. But BMR will not budge during just one day of low(er) calories. BMR changes are the *result* of the hormonal downregulations we have been discussing (among other things) and can easily be offset by not dropping calories precipitously and by keeping your protein sky-high for a higher TEF. Just how big of a calorie deficit do you think we're talking about here? And for how long? Finally, I'll add that *even if* BMR decreases slightly, EPOC and muscle repair would balance it out. I happen to think the muscle repair alone would call for a higher BMR (I'm always stifling HOT the day after workouts, when my muscles are sore) but at worst, it's a wash.

Regarding the study of the Norwegian Athletes, you'll note the discussion of "increase 1rm strength", and that's what this is all about on the muscular growth side. If you're doing BB style pump workouts, you probably won't have the desired effects because there is no stimulus to hang on to muscle. If you're hitting maxes twice a week at 1,2, or 3 reps, your body will fight to build muscle to respond to that stimulus. Heavy, heavy strength training is an important component of preserving and building muscle during a cut. I see no contradiction in this study. That it followed a cohort of athletes who presumably know what they're doing in regards to training and diet is promising to me, as most such studies hook up a bunch of average lifters to weight machines and then act surprised when they don't build muscle/lose fat on 50g of protein a day and 4x8 reps of leg press and biceps curls. I would trust a study like this much more than study that looked at "weight loss" while giving only passing references to LBM vs total weight lost as it's much more relevant to lifters.

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As for vegetarians, I agree that it is possible provided combining is done properly, but you basically made my point for me: calories alone cannot overcome inadequate protein consumption. A logical conclusion to this, in my opinion, is that protein is therefore more important. Again, this is within reason; if you have 8% BF and you're consuming just 800 calories a day, you're just going to burn muscle and waste away. But assuming any reasonable amount of calories (say, 1800-2000 and up), protein is more important than cals, I think. I'd take a 60% protein diet at 2000 cals over a 30% protein diet at 3000 cals any day of the week, in terms of muscle growth, recovery, etc. The inability for vegetarian lifters to compete successfully and regularly with their meat-eating counterparts is evidence of this.

This has intreiged me. I agree that protein is therefore more important. It's important that you get enough. Beyond this though isn't it just pointless? I mean, you couldn't eat 400 grams of protein for 1600 calories and then expect that to negate the large calorie deficit you'd be in right? (putting aside the fact that you wouldn't be getting EFA and all that.)

You're saying you'd rather choose 300g protein and 2000 calories over 225g protein and 3000 calories.

What's the context here? Is this for a person with adequate fat stores or a lean person? What is this person's maintence level of calories? And is the 225 grams of protein "enough" for this person or do you mean that the 225 is inadequate and he's trying to overcome that with extra calories. I can't see how 225 grams of protein would be insufficient for a normal person but I guess it depends on what xBW level you believe is optimal for protein consumption. Or are you saying that extra protein can overcome a calorie deficit even if the person is lean? Obviously if the person was fat then the fat would overcome the deficit, I get that.

Perhaps I'm just reading too much into it but like I said it intreigued me. The general opinion on the interwebs is that you only need to get ENOUGH protein, then calories is most important. In fact most people say that the calories are drastically more important and even if protein is low you can still build mass as long as you're getting enough calories. It may not be ideal but it will still work, according to them. But if protein is high and calories are lower you won't build any mass, according to them. Personally I have no idea what's what. The prison arguement gets thrown around, where the inmates supposedly eat low protein (like 50g a day) and still get huge, suggesting that protein doesn't matter as much.

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The context in that I would prefer 300g protein/2000 cals to 225g protein/3000 cals is for myself (intermediate/advanced, fairly lean) and in many people I would train or advise who are more or less average. It would certainly work for someone with greater fat stores, but in all but the leanest individuals it would be fine. For the record, that would be a cut diet, not a long-term diet, and only someone with lots of fat would/could adhere to that daily. The leaner you get, the more you have to cycle, even if you average at those values. I was cycling below that (1900 cals) while I cut in January, but I was over 2000 several days a week and under 2000 several days a week as well. My average was 1950 cals and 250g protein.

I think with protein you do only need "enough", but it's tough to say what enough is. Fortunately, protein is so damn useful that if you eat too much, your body will just handle it like any other excess calorie (except with a higher TEF). Excess calories from protein aren't free, but they do give you a "discount". So you're better off eating more protein rather than less, except for some extreme diet (See below). My point in saying that protein is more important (Again, within reason!) is that your body handles protein the best in terms of putting it where it belongs. It is most likely that protein will go towards muscle and least likely to go to fat.

And, right, 400g protein and only 1600 calories would be pretty slim. First, you start to run the risk of rabbit starvation if you eat ONLY protein and you need some fat and various nutrients to process protein. Even a protein sparing modified fast would have, at most, 80% of cals from protein.

Prisons, from what I understand, are required to give a USDA diet, meaning that 30% of cals will be from protein. They are getting more than 50g a day. Prison populations have higher T levels as well (whether raised as a result of being imprisoned or higher T people more likely to be imprisoned is unclear) so they will handle less protein better. Finally, add in those that snack on tuna and possibly even smuggle in juice, and it makes sense.

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Good discussion here, to which I have nothing to add, other than I haven't lost any strength in just over 2 weeks of Keenan-inspired V-diet, but dropped a lot of fat.

The prison arguement gets thrown around, where the inmates supposedly eat low protein (like 50g a day) and still get huge, suggesting that protein doesn't matter as much.

There's plenty of chicken and fat meat cuts and the big boys that train tend to get more than their fair share (prison works on bartering, remember) plus you can get food from the outside via the screws too.

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I haven't read it yet, no. I've read some articles by Pilon and I'm indirectly familiar with his stuff via Martin Berkhan.

I'm not really keen to drop $40 on his book, but one thing to keep in mind with any discussion of proteins (or any macros) is that you have to eat SOMETHING. So even if you can get by with fewer grams of protein, you're still better off eating more as 1) it has a higher TEF than other macros 2) is more satiating 3) is most likely to go to muscle 4) you really have no idea how to judge what your minimum is, so you should aim high.

I've written before that if everyone followed the one simple rule of "eat more protein than carbs every time you put food in your mouth", we'd be much better off in general. There are, of course, exceptions to that rule (PWO meal, etc) but for most people that would keep them full and prevent overeating and excess fat gain in all but the most extreme scenarios (e.g eating an entire stick of butter).

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