The reason that I’m doing a mini series on Muscle Building and Fat Loss, Designing A Training Program, and Muscle Building Strategy – all at the same time is because if you read them all. you’ll realize that they all fit together to make one master system. This system includes building the program, building the diet, and building the muscle, while losing the fat.
In the first two parts of this series we’ve learned that as the body begins losing fat and dealing with lowered calories, it’s going to be pretty tough to gain any muscle mass. If you read the Fat Loss Facts post on refeeds, you may see how we can begin to get over this hurdle.
Another name for this type of, in this particular context where muscle-building is also the goal, is cyclical dieting. You alternate a low-calorie and carbohydrate intake with a higher calorie and high carbohydrate intake. This means you can go back and forth between periods of anabolism, or tissue building, and catabolism, tissue breakdown. If losing fat is the goal, the unfortunate reality is some catabolism will take place, this system will both minimize this negative, and offer some anabolic muscle growth periods as well.
This is similar in approach to using periodic refeeds, or cheat days, on a diet. It allows you to refill muscle glycogen and generate an anabolic response, and it also serves to reverse some of the hormonal adaptations that occur during dieting. When combined with the Lean Bulk approach, a sound Training Program, all of these hormones can work together to build a muscular lean body.
Combining the Lean Bulk approach during the muscle mass building phase, and using periodic refeeds during the dieting phase, will continuously build muscle year round, all the while either maintaining a decent body fat percentage, or in fact lowering it. I feel this approach is superior to any other form of cyclical dieting.
Most muscle growth and fat loss plans are either/or approaches. You are either solely focused on muscle-building, or only concerned with fat loss. Even other approaches to cyclical dieting are largely just variation s of fat loss plans with different refeed windows. Some refeeds would be one meal, or a 24 hour free for all. One meal isn’t likely long enough to allow your brain to begin upregulating the suppressed hormonal adaptations that occur during a restrictive diet, and a 24 hour refeed likely will just allow for fat gain.
The Lean Bulk approach I’m a proponent of is focused on eating slightly above maintenance during the building phase, and slightly under maintenance during the fat loss phase, with two-week maintenance periods before each phase begins to allow the hormones to normalize.
The reason I came up with this approach is that none of what I have learned about refeeding made a lot of sense. Leptin levels will certainly begin to rise during a refeed, but do they stay elevated once the diet begins again, especially the typically restrictive fat loss plans?
There is a lag time of several days between the drop in leptin and the drop in metabolic rate. Therefor it is highly unlikely that a short refeeding window will reverse this. Most likely, I’d expect it to take a similar amount of time for the reversal to occur. There are no studies dealing with this particular portion of caloric restriction. It really is only useful for those seeking low body fat levels, and science in general isn’t concerned with that.
None of this is to say that short carb-loads – refeeds aren’t of benefit. They refill glycogen, turn off catabolism and will induce an anabolic response. They also let you eat some of the food you’re really craving, which is beneficial psychologically. The actual effect on metabolism is likely to be very minor though. Instead, a longer refeed is necessary. The drawback, of course, is that longer refeeds have a tendency to put too much body fat back on which goes against the entire goal of dieting.
This once again points to the Lean Bulk approach as one that will be very effective, in that there are no periods of severe caloric restriction, just like there are no periods of massive fat gain. The majority of the muscle gaining happens between 10 to 15 percent for men, and 19 to 27 percent for women, and that serves to always keep you close to being in ideal shape, while still allowing enough body fat accumulation to make for a great mass gaining environment. When the upper number is reached, it is time to eat slightly under maintenance to get back to the low number.
If very low body fat levels are desired, then the Fat Loss Facts system is an approach that will serve you well. If staying in great shape year round, and constantly building muscle is your goal, then I encourage you to try the Lean Bulk approach, combined with the training program recommendations as well. I think you’ll be surprised how well it all goes together.