Category

Muscle

Are protein bars good for fat loss?

By Diet, Muscle, Nutrition, Press

Protein bars are popular because they’re convenient, and they make it easy to get your protein fix without having to cook or even think about it.

But are they actually good for you? Are they good for fat loss? 

protein bars on the table

What’s inside protein bars?

Protein bars are often marketed as a healthy snack option for people who want to lose weight or maintain their weight because they contain fewer calories than regular candy bars or other sweet treats.

Most protein bars contain 150-400 calories and 10-20 grammes of protein per serving, though some contain closer to 30 grammes of protein per serving.

The protein source of the could be varies. Some of them could come from dairy products like yoghurt, whey, and milk; some of them could be mostly plant-based products like soybeans and nuts.

This convenient feature of high-protein foods has demonstrated why it has become a gym rat favourite, as it helps them save time while ensuring adequate protein intake per day.

A women is showing her fat loss result

Are protein bars good for fat loss?

Eating fewer calories than your body uses and needs in a day is the main key to fat loss.

Protein bars can be beneficial for fat loss when used properly as a meal replacement to reduce your calorie intake. One example of calorie reduction is replacing a 650-calorie burger set meal with a 200-calorie protein bar.

However, replacing only one of your meals throughout the day is generally recommended. Replacing more than one meal may result in an excessively low calorie diet, which may result in a weight loss rebound effect.

According to a study, people who follow a low-calorie diet may experience short-term weight loss benefits, but most of them regained fat mass, particularly in the visceral area. To prevent weight loss rebound and detrimental health effect, think twice before overly restricting your calories.

In addition, some of the protein bars contain a lot of sugar and use unhealthy sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which has been linked to an increased risk of chronic diseases if consumed on a regular basis.

By reading the ingredient list carefully, you would be able to determine how the protein bars could fit into your fat loss diet.

A man is eating protein bars after a workout

Are protein bars the best source of protein?

Protein bars aren’t the only way to increase your protein intake. To meet your protein needs and promote a healthy lifestyle, it is a good idea to include whole foods that are high in protein in your meals and snacks.

Natural food with high protein source

 Source: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/protein/

World Health Organization (WHO) establishes 0.83 g of protein per kg of body weight per day as the Safe Level of Protein (SLP), which is expected to meet the protein needs of 97.5 percent of the world’s healthy adult population.

Protein requirement for each population

However, protein requirements may be higher for pregnant women, body builders, and the elderly. You may consult a physician and a clinical dietitian to learn more about how much protein you need based on your current health.

Check your improvement over time

However, it is still preferable to monitor your body fat and muscle changes on a regular basis to determine whether your current diet and lifestyle are effective enough. You can use the map we created with our incredible partners to find the nearest InBody location and check your body health improvement on a regular basis.

Find your nearest test centre

Sports Nutritionist and Athletes' performance

How does the athlete’s body composition impact their performance?

By BIA, Body Composition, Fitness, Muscle, Nutrition

When most people think of nutritionists, they think of “healthy eating” and weight loss. However, the importance of sports nutrition to maximise the athlete performance is fundamentally linked to diet and body composition too.

See Min, a professional sports nutritionist who works at the National Sports Institute Malaysia, recently joined the Malaysian contingent to the Southeast Asian Games in Hanoi to support the national team, shared her experience with how she accurately tracks athletes’ body composition using bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA).

What is Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA) technology?

Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA) is one of the accurate methods to measure body composition, which divides your weight into different components such as lean body mass and fat mass to assess health and nutrition.

How does the BIA application provide a better strategy to maximise athletes’ performance?

Bioelectrical impedance analysis, as See Min mentioned, is one of the convenient methods for monitoring body composition in the sports nutrition field. It is utilised to monitor segmental lean mass for sports in a mass group, such as team sports, especially when regular assessment is required at different training phases. This is highly useful when sports nutritionists want to monitor changes in athletes’ body composition as the sports seasons change and adjust the dietary plan to assist athletes in achieving body composition goals that allow for maximum performance during competition.

By referring to the result sheet printed out from the BIA devices, sports nutritionists are able to explain body composition changes to athletes and coaches with ease. This allows the athletes to understand how their dietary practice and training programme could affect their body composition and performance in competition.



Watch the video to learn more about how BIA can assist sports nutritionists in helping athletes to achieve optimum body compositions for optimum performance in each phase of their training.

Can You Be Too Old for Weight Training?

By Health, Muscle, Nutrition

“Sarcopenia” is the gradual loss of muscle mass that begins for most women after age 35. Contrary to popular belief, this decline in muscle mass and strength is not a result of the aging process; rather, it’s due to inactivity.

However, current dogma around resistance training among elderly women has been a barrier. Sarcopenia is the loss of muscle mass and strength that occurs as a result of “normal ageing.” It is not entirely due to sickness but is also a normal aspect of the ageing process. This is not to be confused with cachexia, which is the uncontrollable loss of muscle and/or body fat mass. While cachexia is most commonly associated with malnutrition caused by illnesses such as cancer, sarcopenia is defined as a progressive loss of muscle mass caused by changes in nutrition and physical activity. This is significant because sarcopenic people can keep their fat mass, resulting in a “thin fat” body composition. Sarcopenic obesity has more serious health effects, as we will discuss in another chapter.

“Few would argue that some form of resistance training should not be part of a complete exercise program; however, the bulk of literature on the cardio-protective effects of aerobic exercise has continued to make this form of exercise preeminent and the central focus of many physical activity guidelines in Canada, the United States, and many other countries.”

Studies show that resistance training is the best way to prevent and reverse the loss of muscle for older adults. For women, in particular, resistance training is an effective long-term strategy to preserve muscle and positive changes in body composition.

The science is clear: improving your muscle mass is something anyone can (and should) do.

Can women gain the same relative amount of muscle mass as men?

By Fitness, Health, Muscle

If you’re like most women, you’re curious about whether doing the same routine as the men in your CrossFit class will give you the same results. On average, baseline muscle mass in men is 36% greater than in women. In terms of muscle distribution, women tend to have less upper body muscle mass compared to men.

Men have a slight genetic advantage over women because of their higher baseline muscle mass, particularly in the upper body. However, that doesn’t mean that women will gain less muscle mass than men, despite lifting the same amount of weights.

When men and women exercise for the same amount of time, they can accomplish the same amount of gains in muscle mass. While the increase in size was similar between men and women in the study, the relative strength of women actually increased more than men because they were starting with a smaller overall body size.

In addition, it’s worth noting that muscle mass gain may be more affected by individual variations in terms of sensitivity of resistance training responses rather than gender differences.

What This Means For Women:
It’s possible to gain as much muscle mass as men, but it may take more work on your end because of your slightly lower baseline muscle mass. However, if you’re worried about getting too big, it’s also unlikely to happen due to differences in testosterone (we’ll cover that later,) and how you train.

The first step toward achieving enough amount of muscle mass is to do a body composition analysis to determine how much you have. Click here to read more about the various types of BIA devices that analyse body composition.

Why Building Lean Mass Is Important for Everyone (even you)

By Blog, Fitness, Health, Muscle

People have all sorts of reasons for working out and developing Lean Body Mass.  Athletes are interested in muscle building to improve their performance on the field. Bodybuilders want muscle growth for that trophy-winning physique.  For us regular joes and janes who struggle to find enough time to diet and workout, it can be as simple as looking losing weight and looking lean.

Whatever the reasons, recent research has made a very strong case that building Lean Body Mass (LBM) has health benefits far beyond aesthetics and athletic performance.  Sufficient amounts of LBM are actually critical for building a healthy life over the long-term.

This doesn’t mean that you have to work out twice a day lifting heavy weights. Male or female, young or old, everyone can benefit from increased Lean Body Mass.  Here are four important health benefits that you gain from developing your Lean Body Mass.

1. Lean Body Mass Combats Obesity

According to the 2020 survey, an estimated 54.2 percent of Malaysian adults are overweight or obese, a 4 percentage point rise from the 2019 National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS), it’s hard to avoid advertising that guarantee weight loss in X number of weeks, or a new workout technique that promises to shred fat off of your frame, or that new diet that promises to increase your metabolism and burn body fat.

However, most of these shortcut approaches fail to address the basic issue regarding weight gain: it’s about calories in vs. calories out.

“Energy imbalance” in this context refers to consuming more calories than your body needs.  Do this for a long enough period of time, and you’ll gain fat. Gain enough fat over a long period of time, and you can become overweight or obese.

“Energy intake” refers to how many calories you consume through eating and drinking, in other words, your diet.  This is what many people think of when they think about calorie reduction.

However, its “energy expenditure” where you can really make a big effect on balancing your calories in and calories out, and this is why developing your Lean Body Mass is so important.

Lean Body Mass is associated with your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) – the amount of calories you burn at rest.  The greater amount of LBM you have, the greater your BMR will be. This means that people with greater amounts of Lean Body Mass will have a greater energy expenditure while doing nothing, helping to avoid calorie imbalances, and ultimately, obesity.

2. Lean Body Mass Helps You Battle Disease

When you become sick and your body becomes stressed, your body’s immune system gets kicked into high gear.  When that occurs, your body’s nutritional demands change. In order to support the immune system and contribute towards recovery, your body requires protein – and a lot of it.  Diet alone won’t supply the amount of protein required to defend against illness. Where will your body find protein reserves? Your Lean Muscle Mass.

For example, in burn victims, the need for increased protein can increase tremendously: around 4 g of protein per kilogram of body weight, or about four times the normal daily intake of protein. Too much protein for a person to consume through a healthy diet.  This demand for protein exceeds the demands put on the body during fasting (times where you aren’t bringing in calories), which is when muscle breakdown occurs.  The same trend was also found in cancer survivors. In those whose overall body protein decreased due to cancer and cancer therapy, the rate of recurrence of cancer increased.

In both cases, the ability to survive these serious conditions ultimately came down to how much Lean Muscle Mass each patient had to begin with, and how much their bodies lost due to increased demand for protein.

Bottom line: your Lean Muscle Mass can act as protein reserves that your body can draw off of when the immune system is triggered.  If you have built sufficient Lean Muscle Mass through diet and workout, your body will have a much easier time fighting off infection because it will have enough protein in reserve to power the demands caused by the immune system.

If you don’t have sufficient Lean Muscle Mass, your body will have a much more difficult time defeating and recovering from illnesses because it won’t have the type of nutrients it needs to power the immune system.

3. Lean Body Mass Contributes to Strong Bones

One common concern that both men and women have as they age is the onset of osteoporosis or frailty in general.  These conditions can put people at serious risk in the later stages of life because they can lead to falls and broken bones.  Sometimes, these falls are so serious that some people never walk again.

What can preserve bone density and bone mass later in life?  Maintaining sufficient and healthy amounts of Lean Body Mass.

In the Mediterranean Intensive Oxidant Study, researchers found that lower amounts of skeletal muscle mass, a significant and major component of Lean Body Mass, was correlated with weaker and thinner bones in elderly men.  Because Lean Body Mass is made up of multiple components that cannot be readily increased, such as the weight of body water and internal organs, increasing skeletal muscle mass is the primary means of increasing Lean Body Mass. This, in turn, builds up greater bone strength and density.

In order to protect against thin and weak bones, maintaining and developing sufficient skeletal muscle mass is key.

4. Lean Body Mass Can Protect Against (and potentially reverse) Insulin Resistance

Insulin resistance occurs when the body is unable to clear the blood of excess glucose due to the presence of Fatty Free Acids.  The release of Free Fatty Acids into the body is generally associated with high amounts of Fat Mass, which lessens insulin’s ability to clear glucose from the blood.  If this insulin resistance becomes significant over a duration of time, the development of Type 2 diabetes can occur.

Once again, developing sufficient amounts of Lean Body Mass can help prevent the onset of insulin resistance/Type 2 diabetes.  Because insulin resistance/Type 2 diabetes can strike anyone at any age, ensuring that your LBM levels are sufficient while keeping your Fat Mass low (i.e. a healthy body composition) is very important for everyone.

In a large-scale study of over 13,000 people over a 6-year span conducted by the UCLA School of Medicine, the researchers concluded their findings by illustrating an inverse relationship between skeletal muscle mass and insulin resistance.  Not only that, they found that for every 10% increase in skeletal muscle mass, there was an 11% decrease in insulin resistance.  For people without diabetes, the decreases were even more pronounced.

Developing your Lean Body Mass also has the added benefit of increasing your BMR, which will increase your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) all on its own, which, when combined with proper diet and nutrition, causes Fat Mass reduction.  This reduction contributes to less release of Fatty Free Acids into the body in the first place, which will, in turn, make it easier for the body to clear excess glucose and transport it into muscle cells.

Fitness for Long-Term Health

Muscle building isn’t something that only bodybuilders and athletes should worry about; for long-term health, everyone can benefit from building their LBM.

For this reason, it is important to monitor the changes in your Lean Body Mass by having your body composition measured.  Body composition analysis can divide your weight into its various components – Fat Mass, Lean Body Mass, etc. – which will give you a much clearer picture of your overall fitness and health.

Building Lean Body Mass is an investment in your future. The more LBM you build while you are still young and healthy, the more you will have in reserve when you really need. But before you start adding protein shakes and resistance workouts to your daily regimen, you need a plan. The first step to building a healthy level lean body mass is to measure how much you have with a body composition analysis.  You can learn about the different types of BIA devices that analyze body composition and the types of outputs you can expect to receive by clicking here.

Body Fat % Doesn’t Always Give A Complete Picture 

By Blog, Body Composition, Fat mass, Fitness, Muscle
Editor’s Note: This post was updated on August 16, 2020for accuracy and comprehensiveness. It was originally published on September 5, 2015.

If you’re using body composition tools like calipers to measure your body fat percentage to assess your health, then you’re already ahead of most (like those who are still using BMI).

But be aware that body fat percentage doesn’t always paint a complete picture when it comes to body composition. What’s more, decreases in your body fat percentage don’t always mean fat loss.  That’s because body fat percentage is a simple equation of your fat mass divided by your total weight.

Body Fat Percentage = Fat Mass / Total Weight

In some ways, body fat percentage is the most basic of all body composition results, because it only requires your Fat, Fat-Free Mass (or Lean Body Mass), and total weight.

While fat and fat-free mass are enough to give you a body fat percentage value, it isn’t always enough to explain changes in body fat percentages or give enough information to determine whether your body fat levels are healthy. You will get much more context about what your body fat percentage means if you look at it alongside things like Skeletal Muscle Mass. These are the muscles in your body that you can grow and develop through exercise.

Without assessing your amount of Skeletal Muscle Mass, your body composition assessments are going to be incomplete.  You won’t be able to fully understand the changes in your body fat percentage, and you may also be misled by what your body fat percentage means.  Here are a few examples:

1. You’re Working Out, But Body Fat % Doesn’t Change (or increases)

This situation can occur when you are working out to gain muscle in order to improve your physique, but you aren’t seeing the changes in the mirror that you hoped to see as quickly as you’d like. When you check your body fat percentage, you don’t see any change despite a month of hard workouts. What’s going on?

The first thing to check is to see if your weight has changed. It probably has. If your weight has increased but your body fat percentage remains unchanged, this likely means that your SMM is increasing at the same time as your Fat Mass. As you increase musculature, fat gain can occur due to the caloric surpluses required to increase SMM. This is a well-recognized phenomenon and is commonly referred to in gym-speak as “bulking.”

 

Additionally, situations can occur in which after initial drops in body fat percentage, the percentage rises right back where it used to be after a couple months.  Why?

This is because your body has entered what is referred to as an anabolic state – the condition in which your body increases muscle production.  Your body will require more calories than what you’re used to in order to build more muscle than it had before.

Not all of these calories, however, are going toward muscle development.  Being in a calorie surplus can lead to fat gain as well, which can cause an increase in body fat percentage.

2. You’re Losing Weight, But Your Body Fat % Doesn’t Change (or increases)

Similar to #1, this situation also involves little or no change in body fat percentage but instead of occurring due to anabolism, this time, catabolism is the driving force behind the change.

In catabolism, the body is focused on reducing tissue, not building it.  In order to lose weight, especially fat, the body should be in a catabolic state; in order to be in a catabolic state, the body needs to be in a caloric deficit (taking in fewer calories than needed).  In gym speak, this is referred to as “cutting.”

If you observe that you’re losing weight, but you don’t see the results in the mirror that you’d like to see and notice that your body fat percentage is unchanged, this is because your SMM and Fat Mass are actually decreasing together.

 

Why would Skeletal Muscle Mass decrease when you’re trying to target body fat only?  Although there isn’t a singular cause, the majority of the time this is caused by improper training and diet.

Most weight loss is a combination of body fat and skeletal muscle.  That much is unavoidable. For this reason, preserving or even increasing muscle becomes a priority when encouraging the body to enter a catabolic state.  This means ensuring your nutrient intake is balanced while engaging in some kind of resistance or weight training.

Many people neglect these important precautions and cause their body to metabolize muscle as well as fat.  Depending on how much muscle is lost, body fat percentages can drop extremely slowly, stay the same, or in extreme circumstances, increase.

3. Your Body Fat Percentage is Acceptable, But You’re Underweight

At first, this doesn’t seem like it makes sense – how can you be at a healthy body fat percentage, but not be healthy overall?  Simple: you’re underweight.

Underweight individuals may have enviable body fat percentages which can lead some people into believing that they are healthier than they actually are. However, if you are underweight, this means that you don’t have enough muscle mass.  Being underweight doesn’t get as much popular attention as being overweight does, but over time, being underweight can lead to the development of osteoporosis, which is diagnosed when a person has low bone density.

Not having enough muscle mass will also become problematic if you get sick.  When you become sick, the body’s need for amino acids to power its immune and recovery processes increases, and it will look to your muscle mass for those amino acids.  Essentially, your body will start to break down muscle in order to fight and recover from disease, and if you’re underweight with a healthy body fat percentage, you won’t have enough muscle to easily fight off illness.

4. Your Body Fat Percentage is Acceptable, But You Have Muscle Imbalances

Even if you are at a healthy weight and have an acceptable body fat percentage, only having Fat and Fat-Free Mass as results can hide potential issues. Because Fat-Free Mass is a catchall term for everything in your body that isn’t attributed to fat, an absolute value for Fat-Free Mass can’t describe how well developed this mass is in terms of your overall body composition.  In order to see that, you would need to take a closer look at how this mass is distributed segmentally.

Specifically, people can have well developed Lean Body Mass areas in some parts of their bodies but not in others.  Some people prefer developing upper body muscle while neglecting lower body muscle development. Others may have what’s referred to as a bilateral imbalance, which occurs when one side of the body is stronger than the other.  Here’s what that looks like from a body composition analysis viewpoint:

In this example, this person has almost one pound of muscle difference between their right and left arm.  Although this might seem more of an aesthetic problem, significant muscle imbalances such as the one shown above can also contribute towards injury.  Shoulder muscle imbalances in volleyball players, for example, have been shown to increase the onset of shoulder pain and injury.

It’s Just One Number

Although your body fat percentage is a very significant and useful number, relying on any one number, even an important number like body fat percentage, will never provide you with a complete picture about your overall health.  While body fat percentage is a very good way to assess your weight, it only takes Body Fat (and by extension Fat-Free) Mass and Weight into account.

In order to maintain your weight and understand the changes that your body experiences over time, including your change in body fat percentage, you will need more specific values than just Fat and Fat-Free Mass.  If you don’t compare your body fat percentage to Skeletal Muscle Mass, you won’t be able to:

  • Understand increases and decreases in body fat percentage
  • Maintain a healthy body fat percentage in respect to a healthy weight and muscle mass level
  • Determine if your muscles are balanced

Your body is a very complex system of many components all working together. That is why it is very important to get as much information as possible in order to understand your weight and your health properly. Calipers are a good a start, but in order to assess whether you have a healthy body composition try devices like a DSM-BIA device, that will go beyond body fat percentage and give you your muscle mass and body water results.

How to Maintain Muscle Mass While Losing Fat During Lockdown? With General Manager of Peak Fitness Gurney Plaza – Mr. Leonardo Azevedo

By Blog, Fitness, Health, Muscle, Nutrition

You may not be able to crush your body composition’s goals during a public health crisis especially months of gym closure lately in Malaysia, but you can definitely keep from losing your hard gained muscle mass. We are so glad to have Mr. Leonardo Azevedo, General Manager of Peak Fitness Gurney Plaza who has over 22 years of experience in the Sports & Fitness industry, share us about his top 3 tips that can ensure you still maintain muscle mass while aiming for the body fat to fall off (even though your gym is still closed).

“Most of the time when people want to cut away their body fat and cut down to a healthier and more aesthetic physique, they often think the only way is with hours and hours of tireless exercise at the gym. But, if you can’t exercise at the gym due to our current Government restrictions, then all isn’t lost.” – says Mr. Leonardo.

A balanced food & calories intake, proper muscle stimulus and quality sleep can definitely change the way you look despite the challenges we face by being forced to workout at home. Sounds like a perfect recipe for losing your gains, doesn’t it?

Here’s why you shouldn’t worry about losing your gains during the lockdown with these 3 rules to help you out.

#1: Balanced Food and Calories Intake

You don’t need to find a bunch of weird or novel exercises in order to maintain some semblance of fitness. In fact, by controlling your calories intake and balancing the amount of nutrients such as Protein, Carbohydrates and Fats in your daily diet routine, you can definitely maintain your mass while still achieving fat loss. Based on Scientific research, it’s also recommended an average daily intake of 30 (female)/35 (male) calories per Kilogram of Body Weight to maintain the weight in individuals from 20 to 30 years old who exercise moderately (home workout) 3 to 5 times per week.

In order to maintain your Muscle Mass, the most used way to divide this total amount of calories by the nutrients you should intake daily macronutrient of  40:40:20 (Protein:Carbs:Fat). As per science we know that, a gram of carbohydrate and protein contains 4 calories each, and a gram of fat, though, contains 9 calories. Therefore, Mr. Leonardo also give an example of a calculation on daily macronutrients intake with the sample reference as follow :

Female who has total Body Weight 60KG (aged between 20 to 30 years old)

* Calories per day = 60KG x 30 calories = 1800 calories day

* Daily Protein Intake (40%) = 1800 x 0.40 = 720 calories / 4 calories (1 gram of protein) = 180grams of proteins per day.

* Daily Carbohydrate Intake (40%) = 1800 x 0.40 = 720 calories / 4 calories (1 gram of carb) = 180grams of carbohydrates per day.

* Daily Fat Intake (20%) = 1800 x 0.20 = 360 calories / 9 calories (1 gram of fat) = 40 grams of fats per day.

You can figure out the proper food based on its nutrients, speak to your certified personal trainer or look for a professional nutritionist to help you on a more personalized nutrition advice.

#2: Proper Muscle Stimulus 

When it comes to Muscle Mass maintenance, engaging the proper exercise intensity is very important to achieve optimum results. Functional training is, in most cases, the way to exercise from home. I also would recommend the usage of some household items to replace gym equipment. Suspension training, and small equipment such as dumbbells, barbells and kettlebells are very good and easy to handle at home. Besides that, it can produce a very efficient load as muscle stimulus. Always search for assistance from Fitness Professionals in order to create the best and most efficient way to get the best results working out from home. In order to ensure that you can be consistent in your workouts, there are some Professional Online Home Trainings that you can join as well.

#3: Improve Sleep Quality

You might think this counter productive to losing weight, as sleep doesn’t burn many calories. But as you sleep you recover and two important hormones come into play: Leptin and Ghrelin. These two hormones tell your body when it feels satiety and hunger. If you sleep badly, the levels of these hormones will be unbalanced and science has found that you’re more likely to be over eating and getting overweight.  Besides, poor sleep quality and short sleep duration are associated with an increased risk for muscle mass reduction. Thus, according to research, sleeping for 7-9 hours per night is crucial, especially if you are looking to change body composition, increase muscle mass and/or if you want to improve quality of life. Sleep enhances muscle recovery through protein synthesis and human growth hormone release as well. Like Mr. Leonardo said, he recommends at least 8 hours of good sleep every night.

 

Conclusion

Keep life and the gym workout in perspective. Your habitual mindset should keep up a healthy lifestyle, which it shouldn’t be affected by any of these challenges. When this is over—and it will be over at some point— we don’t want you to end up feeling worse, deconditioned, and incredibly detrained. One thing we should be grateful is: Staying fit is one way we may have to protect ourselves against getting sick over the years. A healthy body usually has a healthy immune system. Although it doesn’t give you any guarantees, well it’s certainly a better option than doing nothing. So do your best to be well.

**

Leonardo Azevedo

Mr. Leonardo Azevedo from Brazil with over 22 years of experience in the Sports & Fitness industry. Holding Bachelor’s Degree in Sports & Science, FIFA Certified Conditioning Coach, Specialized in Physiology of Exercise, Certification in Biomechanics of Exercise and Sports Nutrition, Extensive Experience in Fitness Business Management.Currently working as General Manager at Peak Fitness Gurney Plaza, Brazilian Eagles Football Academy Head Coach & Owner, Mitts Boxing Fitness MD, SEA Sales Representative at Rezzil Sports.

Cardio V.S Weights

Cardio vs Weights vs Concurrent: What’s better for body composition?

By Body Composition, Fitness, Muscle, Nutrition

Highlights

  • Aerobic Exercise- the ultimate exercise for increasing heart health, vascular health, and metabolic rate.
  • Resistance Training- the best training for gaining muscle strength and function. 
  • Concurrent Training- get the best of both aerobic and resistance training. 

When you think of exercise, what immediately comes to mind?

Going out for a jog? Loading up weights at the squat rack? Or maybe both?

All of those classify as exercise, but they serve different purposes. If you want to increase your squat 1-repetition maximum by 50 pounds, a daily cycling class won’t get you there.

It’s clear that your body adapts differently to different types of exercise, but how does that happen and what does it mean for your health?

This article will break down the benefits of different fitness regimens: aerobic, resistance, and concurrent training. In the process of reading this article, you will soon discover that your fitness goals can be achieved with some basic exercise physiology background!

What is Aerobic Training?

Aerobic exercise stimulates the heart and breathing rate to provide your muscles with oxygenated blood. The energy that powers such exercise is produced in muscle cells primarily via an oxidative pathway, meaning oxygen is required.

That explains all the heavy breathing when you go out for a run, doesn’t it?

That oxygen is delivered via blood being pumped from your heart, through your arteries, and returning to the heart through your veins.

So, it’s apparent that aerobic exercise primarily works two systems: energy production in your muscle cells and blood delivery in your cardiovascular system.

So how does this help you?

Does Aerobic Training Strengthen The Heart?

Aerobic exercise trains the heart to be stronger and more efficient at circulating blood. With aerobic exercise, the chamber of the heart (left ventricle) that pumps blood to the rest of the body literally gets larger and squeezes out more blood per pump, which means its stroke volume is increased. This results in an improved capacity for cardiac output, which is the quantity of blood pumped by the heart per minute.

If you’ve heard of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (enlarged heart), it may seem counterintuitive that a large left ventricle muscle is a beneficial adaptation to aerobic exercise. But, important characteristics differentiate an enlarged left ventricle due to healthy aerobic exercise training and one resulting from disease.

strong, efficient heart is exactly what you want in order to live a long and healthy life.

If your heart is bigger and stronger, pumping more blood per beat, it doesn’t have to beat as rapidly. That’s why you often hear of elite endurance athletes with resting heart rates in the 30’s and 40’s. This is more important than it may seem: lower resting heart rate is associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

All these cardiac adaptations are aided by an increase in blood volume that occurs with aerobic exercise training. Without getting too technical, the expanded blood volume improves the heart’s contractility and filling capacity, allowing it to pump more blood per beat.

Although the heart is a different type of muscle than what’s in your arms or legs, it’s still subject to a related function. It contracts in order to move blood throughout the body. In addition to making it stronger and more efficient, you can also lighten the heart’s load by decreasing the resistance it faces.

How does aerobic training reduce arterial stiffness?

Each time the heart beats, arteries in the body provide resistance to the blood flowing.

The resistance provided by arteries is variable, though. Aerobic exercise training reduces the heart’s workload by reducing arterial stiffness.

When you perform aerobic exercise, your heart rate increases, pushing more blood through your arteries than at rest. The inner wall of your arteries feel the increased blood flow, and through a series of mechanisms, causes your arteries to widen.

As you train and your arteries experience this regularly, they become more effective at expanding. If you don’t regularly do aerobic exercise, your arteries never experience this stretch and they literally stiffen up (it is harder for your heart to pump blood through a stiff tube). Additionally, arterial stiffness is associated with coronary artery plaque development, the stuff that causes heart attacks.

Aerobic exercise also impacts your vascular system by promoting capillary growth. Capillaries are the microscopic vessels where oxygen diffuses from red blood cells to muscle (and other) cells.

Aerobic exercise requires increased oxygen delivery to the muscle to produce energy, so your body grows more capillaries to be able to better handle the energy demand.

How does aerobic exercise affect your metabolism?

Along with cardiovascular adaptation, aerobic exercise substantially impacts your muscles’ energy production system. Once blood delivers oxygen to the muscle cells, they still have to use it to produce energy that powers all the exercise you’re doing.

Aerobic exercise also relies to a great extent on breaking down fat molecules for energy, which can only happen within mitochondria.

Consequently, aerobic exercise training drastically improves your muscle cells’ ability to burn fat by generating more mitochondria and improving their functionality.

High-intensity aerobic exercise also increases your excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), resulting in increased calorie burn after training sessions in addition to what you burned while exercising.  However, to maintain EPOC as you gain fitness, make sure to gradually progress your training intensity.

How Does Aerobic Training Impact Body Composition?

People who struggle with being overweight or obese have likely been told that aerobic exercise is a cornerstone of any weight loss routine.

The key to aerobic exercise is that it keeps the heart rate elevated for a continuous amount of time. While this will help to burn calories, it has specific impacts on body composition that people should keep in mind.

study published by the American Physiological Society took a look at the effects of regular exercise in adults. This study lasted eight months and placed adults on either aerobic training programs, resistance training programs, or a combined program. The researchers found that those in the aerobic training program lost more weight overall, including more fat mass than those in the resistance training program. On the other hand, those in the resistance training program gained more fat-free mass, including lean muscle.

To recap, aerobic training causes the cardiorespiratory system to adapt. It maintains heart function and health and keeps your energy metabolism system running.

Aerobic exercise is a jackpot for fitness and a key element of maintaining your health. But it may not get you big muscles or make your body much stronger…what will?

What Is Resistance Training?

 

Resistance exercise is training that progressively overloads your muscles. Some examples of resistance training would be traditional weightlifting, bodyweight exercises like pushups and pullups, and resistance band exercises. These types of exercises are meant to make your muscles bigger, stronger, more powerful, and more functional.

Specific adaptations to resistance training begin within the muscle cells. However, you’ll still get systemic benefits ranging from muscle growth to cardiovascular benefit.

To gain a deeper understanding of the whole-body performance and health effects of resistance training, read into how resistance exercise affects muscle at the microscopic level.

How does muscle adaptation work?

The point of resistance training is to make muscles function more effectively. This all starts with the contractile proteins that act to control muscle shortening and lengthening.

When you do resistance exercise, some of those proteins get yanked apart. That, along with the stress your muscle experienced, is the stimulus for your muscle to rebuild – this time bigger, stronger, or more powerful than before.

After resistance exercise, your muscle synthesizes proteins (this is aided by nutritional stimuli i.e. protein consumption). Special cells known as satellite cells also spring into action to help build up the broken down muscle. They normally lie quietly adjacent to muscle cells, but resistance exercise tells them to get to work.

Satellite cells combine with the muscle cells that were strained and damaged during your resistance training session. In doing so, they lend their molecular machinery to support protein synthesis that leads to muscle hypertrophy.

Resistance training with loads over 60% of your 1-repetition maximum results in hypertrophy of primarily type II fibers (‘fast-twitch’). These fibers are capable of rapid contraction with high force but tire more easily.

These micro-level adaptations matter to athletes and the general population alike. When you make measurable gains in muscle mass, strength, or power, you can thank the protein synthesis and fiber-specific adaptations that occurred within your muscle cells.

How does muscle hypertrophy occur? 

All those microscopic adaptations add up to cause changes that are easier to grasp. Resistance training at the proper intensity leads to measurable muscle hypertrophy. Strength improves in part due to changes to the neuromuscular system. Control over your muscles is typically a balance between competing neural signals. Some of those signals tell the muscle to contract, while others prevent contraction.

Regular resistance training can reduce neural inhibition that normally limits the strength and/or endurance of the muscle.

Muscle accounts for roughly 20% of resting energy expenditure, so it impacts on calorie burn and body composition is meaningful. Not only that, but you can’t increase the mass of most of the other organs that account for resting energy expenditure, like the liver, heart, brain, and kidney. Muscle is different because it hypertrophies, growing larger, and expending more calories.

By packing on muscle, not only do you increase strength, power, and function, but you also raise your basal metabolic rate. And by doing so, you’ll see an increase in your metabolism and an improvement in your health.

Does Weight Lifting Count as Cardio? 

If you’ve ever lifted weights or done resistance exercise, you’ve probably felt your heart pounding with the exertion.

Does that mean you’re getting cardiovascular and metabolic adaptations like you would with aerobic training?

Maybe not.

Resistance exercise does raise your energy expenditure. But it does so differently, and to a lesser extent, than aerobic exercise.

Resistance exercise trains your energy production systems but has less impact on the aerobic energy systems.

Is Resistance Training For Everyone?

Even if you’re not an athlete. Resistance training is important for functional fitness.

Functional strength training is defined as: “Training that attempts to mimic the specific physiological demands of real-life activities.” Unlike more traditional strength training (which focuses on specific muscle groups during each exercise), functional training focuses on whole muscle groups to train the body for daily demands.

A common misconception is that you may be too old for resistance training. But clinical data from a multitude of sources clearly shows the benefits of improving one’s functional fitness level, particularly for older adults.

Functional training such as resistance exercises and bodyweight movements can help you become stronger, more flexible, agiler and better equipped to handle day-to-day feats of strength and athleticism that are often overlooked. Plus, it can help you become less injury-prone.

study recruited seniors who were struggling with their physical abilities and placed them in a resistance-training exercise program. At the end, the researchers observed an increase in their fat-free mass, their muscle mass, their gait speed, and their overall physical capacity. This shows that resistance training not only improved body composition in the elderly but also helped to increase mobility to improve their ability to complete day to day activities.

How Does Resistance Training Impact Body Composition?

study found that regardless of the frequency of the resistance training program, participants increased overall muscle strength. The participants increased lean body composition.

Resistance training is a great way to increase lean muscle mass, and it improves the physical capacity of the elderly, leading to significant improvements in their quality of life. This evidence supports the positive capabilities resistance training has in both building lean body mass as well as maintaining lean mass in aging populations who are at risk of muscle loss.

These adaptations to resistance exercise impact your health and physical performance. Your muscles carry you through the day and increase performance if you’re an athlete.

Breaking down and building up muscle through resistance training is essential to maintaining function as you age. Loss of muscle mass even threatens some people’s capacity to live independently.

In terms of body composition, muscle mass is not only an important component to maintain, but it also contributes to your resting metabolism, helping you maintain a healthy energy balance.

Resistance training benefits the cardiovascular system, but its role is mainly for muscle gain and function.

But, how can you reap the benefits of both aerobic and resistance training? Do you just combine the two however you want?

What is Concurrent Training?

Concurrent training is the combination of both aerobic and resistance exercises within the same training session. Aerobic and resistance exercise impacts your body differently, so it follows that they each cause adaptations via different mechanisms.

How should I order my aerobic and resistance workouts?

In practice, aerobic/interval and resistance training don’t seem to interfere with each others’ adaptations all that much. But, understanding a few specifics about concurrent training will allow you to make good decisions about your exercise program.

The type of aerobic training determines how it interacts with resistance exercise adaptations. While strength and hypertrophy gains could be diminished by adding run training to a resistance program, cycling does not have the same effect.

Why? Researchers aren’t exactly sure. But it may have to do with two factors:

  • Cycling ergonomics are more similar to traditional lower-body resistance exercises
  • Eccentric muscle contractions in running result in muscle damage, while the concentric contractions in cycling do not (to the same extent).

The modality of aerobic exercise (running versus cycling) is important to understanding the effect of concurrent training, but so are frequency and duration. In some cases the more aerobic training you add to your program, the more you may impact muscular adaptation. So pair your training programs correctly; a running program in conjunction with an upper-body lifting exercise may benefit overall, but a running/leg press workout every day could interfere with one another.

And if you’re doing both aerobic and resistance exercise in the same session at the gym, or even on the same day, you’ll want to consider the order in which you do the exercises. It’s basically a matter of prioritization.

If your priority is on building aerobic fitness and performing well in a running race, do your aerobic exercise first in a session, followed by resistance exercise.

On the other hand, if your priority is building strength and muscle, you’ll want to do resistance exercise followed by aerobic.

However, the order probably doesn’t matter if you’re untrained.

The takeaway: if you’re untrained and haven’t set distinct fitness goals yet, don’t worry yet about the order of aerobic or resistance training. Do both and start exercising your way to health!

How do you develop a Concurrent Training program that’s right for you? 

If you’re just going to the gym to stay healthy, the benefit of gaining both aerobic and muscular fitness is well worth it.

To get the most benefit from your hard work at the gym, make sure to use these tips:

  • If your priority is muscle strength and growth, choose aerobic exercise like cycling rather than running to complement your lifting routine.
  • Consume enough protein and carbohydrates to stimulate muscle growth and recovery after workouts
  • If you alternate aerobic and resistance sessions, maximize recovery time between sessions (separate them by at least 6 hours)

Chances are that concurrent training is right for you, so go get started!

A Well-Rounded Exercise Program

As people continue to struggle with obesity and functional fitness as they age, exercise is more important than ever. It is vital to combine diet and exercise to not only lose weight but have a favorable impact on body composition and your lifespan.

Furthermore, it is important to have a well-rounded exercise routine that touches on all types of fitness. Aerobic exercise is effective at maintaining an elevated heart rate and losing fat-free mass. On the other hand, resistance training helps to build lean muscle mass. You can combine the two, with concurrent training, or jump into an explosive HIIT workout when you don’t have much time or need a motivation boost.

With this insight, you will be better equipped to understand why exercise is important for your health (a great motivator), how different types of exercise interact, and which ones are best suited for your needs.

What to Eat In Order to Gain Muscle

By Muscle, Nutrition

So you started working out and lowered your overall body fat.

First off, congratulations should be in order!

Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight  despite life’s occasional curveballs is something that you should be proud of. The positive changes in your body composition is proof that your efforts have finally paid off!

So where do you go from here?

Your next goal may be one of the following:

I want a huge, action star physique.

I want to achieve a leaner, more athletic look.

I want to increase my functional strength and achieve new PR’s in my lifts

Whether your goal is gaining strength or sculpting your body to your desired physique, the approach boils down to same thing — gaining muscle.

Eating for Well-Defined Muscles

As previously discussed in an article published about how much muscle you can gain in a month, the three main pillars of muscle growth are: nutrition, exercise, and hormones.

In this article, we’ll put the spotlight on nutrition and address your most frequently asked questions about what to eat in order to build muscle.

Let’s get started!

People use lean body mass and muscle mass interchangeably. Are they similar or different from each other?

Yes, lean body mass and muscle mass are two different things.

Essentially, all muscle is “lean” meaning it is primarily composed of proteins, which are lean. However, things start to get more confusing when some folks use lean body mass and skeletal muscle mass interchangeably.

Lean body mass (LBM), also known as lean mass, refers to your total weight minus all the weight comprised of fat mass. This includes your organs, your skin, your bones, your body water, and your muscles.

On the other hand, skeletal muscle mass (SMM) is a part of your LBM, but it is the part that is referring to the specific muscles used that are controlled voluntarily to produce movement and maintain posture. When you’re thinking about gaining muscle, you are actually referring more specifically to your SMM. This is what we want to track and here’s why:

Apart from changes in your SMM, a gain in your LBM numbers can also be a result of water gain. Water gain can occur from bloating or eating salty foods but also from swelling from injury or disease. That’s why you cannot attribute a increase to LBM numbers completely to muscle gains.

You can learn more about the distinction between the two in Lean Body Mass and Muscle Mass: What’s the Difference?

Now that we cleared that up, let’s dig into the facts and findings about muscle gains through diet and nutrition.

Is the hype about protein justified when it comes to bigger muscle gains?

Yes, to an extent. It’s an established fact that eating high quality protein within close temporal proximity (immediately before and within 24 hours after) of resistance exercise is recommended to increase muscle gains.

The strain of repetition when you perform resistance exercise tears the muscle fibers, and the protein intake (although macronutrients like carbs and fat play a role, too) provides the resources to rebuild the newly torn muscles into something bigger and stronger.

It’s also worth noting that amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and as you most likely already know, your muscle is made up of these macronutrients. As we’ve emphasized in Why Everyone Needs Protein — Think of your muscles as the house itself while the amino acids that make up protein are the bricks.

The good news is that your body can manufacture a huge chunk of these amino acids. The not-so-good news is that some of them, also known as essential amino acids (EAA), can’t be made by the body. You have to get your EAAs from food sources.

In short, you need to follow a high protein meal plan that contains mixed amounts of these EAAs to help ensure increase muscle protein synthesis (MPS)

How do I know if I have enough protein intake to promote MPS?

As of June 2017, the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) recommends an overall daily protein intake in the range of 1.4–2.0 g protein/kg body weight/day (g/kg/d) for building and maintaining muscle mass. Remember, your specific dietary needs depend on the amount of muscle mass you have as well as the type and intensity of your physical activity

With these figures in mind, let’s say you weigh 125 pounds (57 kilos), and you’re working to increase your LBM.  You would need 57 x 1.4- 2.0, or 79.8 – 114 grams of protein a day.

This may sound like a lot but it’s not. A cup (140 grams) of chicken contains 43 grams of protein.   Meanwhile, a can of tuna can contain as much as 49 grams.  Eating a cup of chicken and a can of tuna, you’d almost entirely meet your protein needs.  If you add in a glass of 2% milk (another 9-10 grams of protein), you’ve already hit your goal.

Below is a rough dietary guideline based on activity level:

  • 0.8-1.2 g/kg for regular activity
  • 1.2-1.5 g/kg for endurance athletes
  • 1.5-1.8 g/kg for strength/power athletes

If counting grams of protein for the day is not your thing, researchers have recommend an intake of about 20-40 grams of whey protein following a heavy bout of whole body resistance exercise to promote greater muscle recovery. The results stressed that the traditional 20 grams of whey supplement after working out did not promote as much MPS as the 40 grams of protein.

Can I build more muscle from eating too much protein?

Not really.

Researchers found that eating five times the recommended daily allowance of protein has no effect on body composition in resistance-trained individuals who otherwise maintain the same training regimen. That means that doubling or tripling your protein intake doesn’t translate to greater muscle gain after exercise.

It’s also worth noting that this is one of the first interventional study to demonstrate that eating a high protein meals does not result in an increase in fat mass.

Will too much protein hurt my kidneys?

While protein restriction may be appropriate for treatment of existing kidney disease,  some research has shown high protein intake in healthy individuals to not be harmful to kidney function.  Unlike extra stores of fat that the body is so keen about in holding on, the amino acids in protein are more likely to be excreted via the urine when not in use.

With that in mind, there are certainly risks associated with consuming too much protein so it’s wise to keep your intake in check.

So what our conclusion here? Eating more protein makes you feel fuller longer, can help curb overeating, and is essential for recovery and growth but don’t forget equally important nutrients like carbohydrates and fats for proteins when hitting your daily caloric goals (we’ll address this issue later).

Meat is often considered an excellent source of protein. So should I eat more meat to gain muscle? What if I’m on a plant-based diet?

Good question!

Sure, meat provides complete sources of proteins that are rich in essential amino acids so it truly is an excellent source of protein.

In a small study comparing  the effects of resistance training-induced changes in body composition and skeletal muscle among two groups — older men with an omnivorous (meat-containing) diet and those with lacto-ovo vegetarian (meat-free) diet, the researchers found that the omnivorous diet resulted to greater gains in fat-free mass and skeletal muscle mass when combined with resistance training than the vegetarian-diet group.

Another study of 74 men and women who had type 2 diabetes — one half on a vegetarian diet and the other half on a conventional diabetic diet — were assessed at three and six months to measure how much weight they had lost. The study concluded that the vegetarian diet was almost twice as effective at reducing weight compared with the conventional diet.

But here’s the caveat — The greater weight loss seen in people on the vegetarian diet was also accompanied by greater muscle loss, particularly when maintaining their normal exercise routine. This might be an unwanted outcome and a disadvantage when compared with the omnivorous diet.

Finally, another research study examining the relationship between the type of protein intake and the level of muscle mass in healthy omnivorous and vegetarian Caucasian women found:

“A vegetarian diet is associated with a lower muscle mass index than is an omnivorous diet at the same protein intake. A good indicator of muscle mass index in women seems to be animal protein intake.”

Take note, however, that these findings do not automatically mean that animal protein is necessary to develop muscle mass.

As we mentioned in this in-depth article on whether or not you need to eat meat to gain muscle, the findings indicate that vegetarians might have a harder time getting adequate protein intake. As a result, they may not be receiving the same quality of amino acid variety to support muscle maintenance/growth as meat-eaters. This issue can be addressed by adding more variety in your diet or through supplementation.

So what about my intake of carbs and fat?

If you want to build muscle, increasing your dietary protein intake makes sense. However, this doesn’t mean that you should disregard carbs and fats.

For one, carbohydrates help replace glycogen and aids in enhancing the role of insulin when it comes to transporting nutrients into the cells, including your muscles. Combining protein and carbs also has the added advantage of limiting post- exercise breakdown and promoting growth.

In a nutshell, a diet balanced in protein, carbs, fats, and fiber is the most effective way to build muscle.

How about the ketogenic diet? Can it help me gain more muscle mass?

Most likely.  The main premise of a ketogenic diet is to opt for high fat, moderate protein, and a very low carb diet.

In an 11-week study of men who performed resistance training three times a week, the researchers found that lean body mass increased significantly in subjects who consumed a very low carb, ketogenic diet (VLCKD). Significant fat loss was also observed amongst the VLCKD subjects.

Does “when I eat” if I want to build muscle?

For decades, the idea of nutrient timing (eating certain macronutrients at specific times like before, during, or after exercise) and meal scheduling has sparked a lot of interest, excitement, and confusion.

A good example of nutrient timing is the idea of the anabolic window, also known as a period of time after exercise, where our body is supposedly primed for nutrients to help recovery and growth.

However, a review of related literature revealed that while protein intake after workout helps muscle growth, it may persist long after training.

If you’re going to ask the ISSN,  meeting the total daily intake of protein, preferably with evenly spaced protein feedings (approximately every 3 h during the day), should be given more emphasis for exercising individuals.

They also state that ingesting a 20–40 g protein dose (0.25–0.40 g/kg body mass/dose) of a high-quality source every 3 to 4 hours appears to favorably affect MPS rates over other dietary patterns, which allows for improved body composition and performance outcomes.

In short, it’s more important to focus on the total amount of protein and carbohydrate you eat over the course of the day than worry about nutrient timing strategies.

The Takeaway

In summary, here’s what you need to remember when it comes to eating in order to gain muscle:

  • Muscle gains are hard to come by if you don’t complement your exercise training with the right nutrition. Besides acting as fuel for physical activity, eating right helps in muscle recovery and development of new muscle tissue.
  • Pay special attention to your protein intake in order to build muscle. Helpful figures to remember are 1.4–2.0 g protein/kg body weight/day (g/kg/d) depending on your body composition, activity type, and activity intensity.
  • There’s been a lot of talk about a specific amino acids and anabolic (muscle-building) superpowers. However, it’s still important to consume different sources of protein when you can and not just focus on a single protein source. Plus, remember that your body needs carbs and fat too.
  • Do not worry about when is the best time to eat your steak. Eating a portion of lean protein with some fiber-rich carbs and fat every meal is a good way to help your body repair and rebuild muscle after resistance exercise. As much as possible, increase make sure to complement your exercise with the appropriate nutrients to promote muscle recovery and growth.
  • If you’re on a plant-based diet, make sure you’re incorporating a wide variety of protein-rich plants to ensure that you’re getting the full range of amino acids. You may have to consider plant-based protein powder supplementation.

Remember, people have different goals when it comes to working out and gaining muscle  — from aesthetics to improved sports performance to feeling better about yourself. That means there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach.

Whatever your goal, it all begins with one small step at a time. What changes are you going to make today?

***

Kyjean Tomboc is a nurse turned freelance healthcare copywriter and UX researcher.  After experimenting with going paleo and vegetarian, she realized that it all boils down to eating real food.

Source: https://inbodyusa.com/blogs/inbodyblog/what-to-eat-in-order-to-gain-muscle/

How Much Muscle Can You Gain in a Month?

By Fitness, Muscle
Editor’s Note: This post was updated on April 26, 2018 for accuracy and comprehensiveness. It was originally published on September 19, 2017.
by InBody USA

If you’ve ever tried to lose weight before, you may have heard that a 3,500 calorie deficit results in about one pound of fat loss. In other words, if your daily caloric requirement is 2,500 calories and you spend seven days eating just 2,000 calories, you’re likely to lose around one pound of fat.

But, there’s no rule of thumb explaining how to put on (or lose) a pound of muscle mass.

Why not?

Because it’s not a simple equation. Unlike losing fat, putting on muscle isn’t as easy  as causing a calorie surplus. You need to know how muscle building works so you can set realistic goals, especially if you’re participating in a fitness challenge. This article will lay out factors that go into your “gains” and will answer the question: “How much muscle can you realistically gain in one month?”

The Three Pillars of Muscle Growth

Building muscle comes down to three inputs: nutrition, exercise, and hormones. Understanding these factors is the first step toward understanding how much you can build in one month.

1. NUTRITION

The term nutrition is defined as “the process of providing or obtaining the food necessary for health and growth.” At a fundamental level, muscle growth starts with the nutrients you put into your body.

People trying to gain muscle generally eat a high protein diet. After all, the amino acids that make up protein are the building blocks of muscle. Your body can manufacture many of those amino acids, but nine are known as essential amino acids (EAA) because they can’t be made in the body. Instead, you have to consume EAAs from food sources like meat, beans, nuts, and soy. A diet containing mixed amino acids can help maximize muscle protein synthesis.

The amino acid, leucine is responsible for many of the anabolic (muscle-building) processes. This is known as the “leucine trigger concept,” since sufficient quantities of leucine trigger muscle protein synthesis.

Protein is not the only macronutrient responsible for muscle growth. In fact, there appears to be a limit to the amount of protein one can consume to maximize muscle gain. Additionally, it takes energy to build muscle, and this means you need a positive caloric balance in order to achieve hypertrophy.

If you want to build muscle, increase your dietary protein intake– but don’t exclude your carbs and your fats. Carbs and fats aren’t all bad for you! All three are important, thus a diet balanced in carbs, protein, and fats is effective for gaining muscle.

But remember, it’s not just the calories. Physical activity is also key to promoting muscle development.

2. RESISTANCE EXERCISE

Workouts that include resistance exercise stress the muscles, which results in muscle gain.

Your body adapts to resistance exercise by growing or changing to make them more capable of handling the workout.

The stress of resistance exercise causes the muscle fibers to tear at the cellular level. Then, special muscle cells called satellite cells jump into action to repair, rebuild, and grow the muscle.

The right types of exercises, like high-intensity workouts or compound exercises, can promote increased muscle growth.  A healthy balance between workouts and rest is necessary to support healthy hormone levels and maximize muscle gain.

3. HORMONES

Three primary hormones that stimulate muscle hypertrophy are insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), growth hormone (GH), and testosterone.

After weight training, increases in these hormones correspond with muscle protein synthesis, one of the key processes in muscle hypertrophy.

Essentially, these hormones signal to the muscle that it’s time to repair and build up after a session in the gym. GH is released in the greatest quantities during sleep, so remember that getting a good sleep helps you attain your body composition goals.

When nutrition, workouts, and hormonal effects combine, the muscle-building magic really happens. Figuring out the right balance is essential for reaching your goals.

How to Manage Your Muscle Gains

Your body’s individual response to nutrition, resistance exercise and hormones can vary. But other factors can impact how much muscle gain in a month.

Supplementing Muscle Growth

Muscles need the right fuel to grow. Protein supplements are long known to boost help muscle hypertrophy, and fueling your body with EAAs is important for providing the nutrients your body can’t synthesize.

After weight training, consuming protein stimulates muscle protein synthesis by supplying providing amino acid building blocks. Traditionally, 20 grams of protein has been considered enough. Researchers recently found that experienced lifters doing whole-body workouts may need about 40 grams. But consuming more than approximately 1.6 grams per kg of body weight per day has no additional benefit for building muscle. Excess protein is burned for energy like carbohydrates and fats, excreted in urine, or even stored as fat.

Timing could also be important: research shows intaking protein before bed during a resistance training program is especially helpful for building muscle mass.

Note: While supplements may be beneficial for promoting muscle recovery and growth, they are only effective when combined with a balanced diet and exercise plan. More on supplements and their effects can be found here.

So what should you expect?

Just like muscle can’t turn into fat, fat can’t turn into muscle.

It is unlikely that your body will be able to utilize all of the additional calories for muscle growth. Some of the caloric surplus needed to gain muscle is going to be stored as fat, and that’s OK.

Only the most stringent of diet and exercise protocols have been shown to result in simultaneous muscle gain and fat loss. Researchers have called this protocol “grueling and unsustainable”, so it’s probably not an ideal strategy.

If you want to gain muscle, you need to accept that you’ll probably have some slight fat mass gain. It’s just being realistic.

What if you’ve hit a plateau?

Gaining muscle mass is all about forcing the muscle to adapt to novel stress. It’s no surprise that gains come more readily to novices than experienced weightlifters. For novice lifters, the right weight training program should be enough novel stimulus in the gym. Recent research suggests hypertrophy can be measured in as little as one month. But, there seems to be an upper limit to muscle gain. Experienced lifters should be closer to that ceiling than novices, making their incremental gains smaller.

How can the experienced weight lifter overcome this challenge? By introducing different and new nutritional or resistance stimuli.

The principle is simple: change up your routine. Since trained muscles adapt to consistent stimuli, adding variation will challenge the muscles in a different way and promote further growth.

The muscles you train also dictate your potential to gain. Your arms have a much lower total potential to gain muscle than your hips and legs because they’re smaller muscle groups.

Don’t skip your upper body lifts just yet, though. Research shows that arm muscles may be quicker to hypertrophy than legs. The ceiling is lower, but the rate of gain relative to what’s already there is quicker.

What if you’re not as young as you used to be?

Older adults may have a harder time building muscle because the body’s response to weight training has diminished. The muscle building machinery is still there, but it may require more input to achieve desired results.

To overcome this hurdle, use ‘novel stimulus’ thinking from the previous section. Try consuming some extra protein or adding a few new exercises to your routine. The goal is to convince your body to adapt to what you’re throwing at it.

Building muscle may be harder than it was in your youth, but it can still be done.

So what’s a realistic expectation for muscle growth for men vs.women?

It’s time to estimate how much you can reasonably gain in one month. It can be very frustrating seeing a man have an easier time putting on muscle. Due to the different physiological makeup of men and women, we will discuss hypertrophy separately.

 THE FACTS FOR MEN

Remember that study we referenced earlier? The goal was simple: lose fat while packing on muscle. It worked – participants gained about 2.6 lbs (1.2 kg) of lean body mass and lost fat mass – but it was totally unsustainable. The cornerstone of this program was daily heavy circuit training, HIIT and sprint-interval workouts, and plyometric workouts, all while restricting calorie intake to just 60% of daily requirements and taking in high doses of protein supplements.

A word of caution: don’t try this program at home.

What you can take away is that those men, who had never lifted weights before, gained over 1 kg of lean body mass in just one month.

Another group of researchers decided to try a more sustainable program on a smaller scale, and guess what? The men gained 4 kg of skeletal muscle in 16 weeks. That means the rate of muscle gain was almost identical to the grueling, unsustainable program – about 1 kg per month.

This program, consisting of just five exercises (squat, knee extension, knee flexion, bench press, and lat pull-down), was certainly more realistic.

Based on the research, it’s reasonable to expect untrained men to be able to gain about 1 kg, or 2.2 lbs, of muscle per month at the beginning of an exercise program.

But what about experienced weightlifters? Because experienced lifters will likely have a slower rate of progression, the amount of gain will be generally lesser and depend on the level of training experience of the individual.

THE FACTS FOR WOMEN

Women tend to be less muscular than men, and most people believe it’s harder to build muscle as a female. There’s some truth to that statement. Muscle hypertrophies in proportion to the baseline quantity of muscle mass, so women gain less muscle mass than men because their baseline muscle mass tends to be lower.

How much muscle gain is typical for young women? One study says about 0.5 – 0.7 kg in the first month for novice weightlifters. This study involved just two lifts – the squat and the deadlift. You might be left wondering what happens when women undergo a whole-body weightlifting program.

Women’s arms gain muscle at about 3 times the rate as legs (an increase of 9.7% in arms vs. 3.3% in legs). According to the study, women can expect to increase their muscle mass by 1.5 kg during the 20 weeks of training, averaging out to 0.3 kg per month.

Since body composition wasn’t measured at any point during the 20 weeks of training, there’s no way of knowing whether the participants increased muscle mass faster in the first month or two.

So is that the end of the discussion? Not exactly. Remember, each individual is different and not everyone will be able to sustain a consistent diet and exercise routine to promote muscle development for extended periods of time. This is why research on this topic is more scarce than you might think. Many researchers measure muscle hypertrophy by looking at changes in the circumference around limbs or by imaging cross-sections of the body. This allows them to understand muscle growth in different body segments (arms, trunk, legs).

However, newer technology, such as Direct Segmental Multi-frequency Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (DSM-BIA), provides a quicker, less invasive way of measuring muscle mass in addition to other components of the body.

Conclusions

Altering your body composition is no easy feat. It takes patience, effort, and commitment, but it’s definitely within your reach.

Your body primarily needs three basic stimuli to build muscle: nutrition, resistance exercise, and hormones. You can and should manipulate nutritional and exercise stimuli to keep your body responding.

If your current daily protein intake is 0.8 g / kg of body weight, try bumping that up to 1.5 g / kg if your doctor says it’s okay. If you currently lift twice per week, try gradually increasing to three or four sessions per week. And if you don’t do resistance exercise at all, it’s time to start!

Some people will gain substantially moreand some will gain less muscle over the course of a month. But in general, the average is about 1 kg for males and 0.5 kg for females.

To have the best chance of building muscle, stick to a training, nutrition, and recovery plan. Make sure you get your body composition measured to set a baseline and track your progress to figure out whether your fitness regimen is working for you. If you don’t meet the average values mentioned above in the first month, use the next month as an opportunity to change your routine.

Armed with the tips and realistic expectations from this article, you’ll be on your way to a better body composition in no time.

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Max Gaitán, MEd is an exercise physiologist and a USA Triathlon Certified Coach. When he’s not coaching, studying, or writing, Max spends most of his time outdoors training for triathlons.

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