A question I get asked a lot from people who need to lose a large amount of body fat but also want to build muscle is whether they should focus first on fat loss or muscle growth. I typically recommend focusing on both. And while my advice stays the same – work on building muscle and losing fat – brand-new research now has me thinking that it may be better to skew slighly more toward fat loss, as that may also help you build more muscle in the long run.
University of Illinois researchers had young adult males consume a high-protein meal, and then they measured the increase in muscle protein synthesis (the anabolic response) following that meal. They broke the subjects into three different groups: (1) healthy-weight individuals (BMI = 18-24); (2) overweight individuals (BMI = 25-29); and (3) obese individuals (BMI > 30). As published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition earlier this month (September 2016), the UI researchers discovered that the healthy-weight men had a much higher boost in muscle protein synthesis than both the overweight and obese guys. In other words, the leaner guys were able to put more protein towards muscle growth.
Jim’s Take-Home Points:
Having more body fat appears to blunt your body’s anabolic response to protein. This may mean the more fat you have, the less muscle you can build, perhaps due to a cytokine (specific protein) in the body called TNF-alpha. This protein is known to be higher in people with higher amounts of body fat, and TNF-alpha also appears to be involved with inflammation in the body.
Based on the research, it seems that a smart strategy for maximizing muscle growth is to minimize body fat. That’s right – staying lean can help you stay more anabolic, which can help you build more muscle and strength.
So if you can’t decide between my Super Shredded 8 (SS8) and Down And Up Mass programs, you may want to start with the fat-loss plan (SS8) to drop some body fat before trying to maximize muscle mass. As with all of my training programs (regardless of the primary goal), SS8’s training volume, set/rep schemes and HIIT cardio is very conducive to hypertrophy (building muscle), so you certainly don’t have to worry about sacrificing any muscle when following it.
This also supports the strategy of using Shred JYM even while focusing on mass gaining. Remember, the ingredients in Shred JYM don’t inhibit muscle growth; they actually promote it, both directly via ingredients like acetyl-L-carnitine and green tea extract, and indirectly by aiding fat loss (which, based off the of the University of Illinois study, may further promote muscle mass gain.)
So again, you don’t have to choose one exclusively over the other in the mass gain vs. fat-loss dilemma, but if you have a substantial amount of fat to shed, you may want to take the “back door” to muscle-gaining by leaning out first.
Anabolic sensitivity of postprandial muscle protein synthesis to the ingestion of a protein-dense food is reduced in overweight and obese young adults. Am J Clin Nutr ajcn130385; First published online September 7, 2016.