When it comes to fitness and bodybuilding what everyone strives to achieve is to build muscle and burn fat at the same time. That way they could reach their ultimate goal, a godlike shredded physique.
This is why when you talk to an average bodybuilder they will tell you they’re either going through a ‘bulking’ or a ‘cutting’ phase. They do the ‘bulking’ phase when they want to put on muscle mass and consequently increase their daily calories. Afterward, they do the ‘cutting’ phase. This is the time when they reduce their caloric intake. The goal is to burn the unnecessary fat covering their new muscle gains so that they can get that shredded look.
However, scientists in the US think that they have finally found the sweet spot for building muscle and burning fat at the same time. One study published in ‘The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition’ found that incredible results can be achieved in the span of just 4 weeks.
The study consisted of 40 male participants who were put through a whole month of intense exercise and training while getting their caloric intake cut by almost 40% of what their average daily intake would be. They were doing resistance training using various free-weight movements and machines and high-intensity interval training 6 days a week combined with a low-calorie diet, according to Science Daily.
Pretty much all of the men picked for the study have never done intense weight training in their lives and they were quite out of shape, however that was the plan all along. The point was to see how quickly they would get into shape by losing fat, while still retaining their muscle mass, as well as improving their strength and overall fitness.
They were divided into two separate groups. Both groups were on a low-calorie diet with the same number of calories, but in one group the subjects were on a higher intake of protein. This group consumed around 2.4 grams of protein per kilo of body weight while the other group consumed half of that (1.2g per kg).
After four weeks, the first major finding was that the group who ate a higher amount of protein gained 2.5 lbs of muscle mass, despite the fact they weren’t getting enough calories from their diet. The group with a lower protein intake did not add muscle at all, but they didn’t lose any either.
Researchers concluded that physical exercise, especially lifting weights, gives the body the necessary signal to stop break down and maintain the muscle tissue even in a situation when you’re significantly starved of calories.
The second major finding and what most intrigued researchers was the fact the high-protein group also lost more fat than the other group. They lost around 10lbs of fat on average while the low-protein group lost around 8%. The researchers were expecting to see muscle tissue retention but were a bit surprised by the amount of fat loss the high-protein group achieved compared to the low-protein one.
Regardless of which group they belonged to, all the men became fitter, stronger and in much better overall shape because of the intense 6-days-a-week training regimen. No study is perfect and there were some caveats to it like the one that it was mainly designed for overweight young men, although the researchers also said that young women would benefit from it too and could use it to build muscle and lose weight fast.
The participants found the workout routine extremely tough and not something that is sustainable in the long term or for people looking for a quick and easy solution. Their diets were strictly controlled, they were under supervision from professional trainers when doing the exercises and virtually every training variable was accounted for, in the entire 4-week duration of the study.
The general conclusion
A high protein intake while being on diet with 40% fewer calories than the generally recommended amount, combined with an intense six-day-a-week training regimen consisting of weight and interval training was effective at maintaining lean muscle mass while burning fat.