February 08, 2017 / The Josh Sway Bodybuilding Guide: Part 2, The Process
Learn why it is optimal to gain muscle and then burn fat (or vice versa) and not trying to do both at the same time.
In Part 2 of the Josh Sway Bodybuilding Guide I will discuss critical concept (1) from the introduction in more detail. If you recall, concept (1) introduced bodybuilding as a two-step process. The first step is gaining muscle mass and the second step is losing unwanted fat. Many products, workout plans, and websites like to advertise ways to “gain muscle and lose fat” at the same time. While this is sometimes possible either for total beginners (though with beginners this phenomenon only lasts a short while) and/or for some of those who use extremely powerful pharmaceutical products (such as anabolic steroids), the reality is that while everyone wants to “gain muscle and lose fat” at the same time, the tried and true method of getting a good body involves doing one and then the other.
The reason that I (along with most experts) recommend focusing on building muscle and then losing fat and not trying to do both simultaneously is that they actively interfere with each other. What it takes to gain muscle efficiently will not lead to fat loss, and what will lead to fat loss is highly unlikely to (read: won’t) lead to muscle gains.
Note that the diagrams below are very simplified versions of the actual metabolic processes that go through our body. We are still learning about the body and how it works so while in the case of muscle gain and fat loss the biology explains the practical advice quite reasonably, often times the path from the science and biology to practical application is not clear.
Consider the simplified mechanism by which we gain muscle mass:
- Intense exercise damages the muscle fibers.
- Our body identifies the damage and recruits so called ‘satellite cells’ to aid in the repairing process.
- Some satellite cells bond to the damaged fiber to add muscle strands, thereby increase muscle size.
- These “additions” to the muscle are made of contractile protein which in turn is made up of proteins.
In order to gain muscle mass, the body needs nutrients, especially protein, to help repair and rebuild the ‘damaged’ muscle, and in turn, builds it up to withstand the previous stress better.
However, when it comes to burning fat, generally, the body likes to burn fat as a last resort, usually after other nutrients (particularly carbohydrates, but also often times proteins) are exhausted. This makes logical sense because fat stores are supposed to be ‘emergency’ energy reserves.
The conflict is immediately evident. Fat is a very inefficient way for the body to access energy; hence, in order to access fat stores for energy, other nutrients (and even some muscle) must be exhausted. Increasing your body’s net muscle mass is kind of hard when the body is likely to be burning all the nutrients necessary to build muscle for energy at the same time!
Pretty much every serious body builder or even hobbyist uses the two step process I detailed to achieve their gains. That includes those professional bodybuilders who use heavy amounts of steroids and other supplements. They use the two step system because it works and most likely, even if some of the “weird tricks” or strategies to supposedly gain muscle and lose fat at the same time worked, the two step process would STILL be more efficient. In part 3, lifting heavy weights will be discussed, and why it is such an effective tool for building muscle.