Exercise For Fat Loss Vs. Muscle Growth - Surprise! It's The Same!

by Rob Bent of Nutrition Perfected - Date: 2010-10-11 - Word Count: 1122 Share This!

There is a commonly held misconception about resistance training (weight lifting, anaerobic, etc.) that is both so deeply ingrained in exercise mythology and so counterproductive to the user that it begs to be addressed. The idea that strength training methodology should change depending on whether your goal at the time is fat loss or muscle growth is simply false. I have to assume that this concept is a vestige of the "toning" age, which also happened to be the era of sideways ponytails, leg warmers, and ubiquitous perms. Clearly, none of these trends had any basis in rational thought and were therefore eventually swept under the embarrassing but forgiving rug of history. It's time to move on.

The reason why this myth is so pervasive within exercise circles boils down, I think, to the fact that many trainers have a poorly developed understanding of the physiological effects of different types of exercise as well as nutrition. As a result, their expectations are unrealistic and their exercise plans inefficient. I always stress the importance of education when it comes to nutrition and exercise. To become self-sufficient in this field and capable of managing your own body effectively, you need to understand when, why, and how you should use certain nutrition and exercise techniques. Without fundamental knowledge of the effects of your actions upon your body, trying to achieve your goal of fat loss or muscle growth is much like trying to bat at a piñata, blindfolded. You may eventually hit it, but you will waste a huge amount of time and effort swinging wildly and there's a good chance that you'll do some unintended damage along the way.

So, let's begin to clear up this myth by defining what our goal is for our resistance exercise plan. It is singular and simple: muscle growth and maintenance. Don't worry if your first reaction to that statement is, "But Rob, I don't want bigger muscles!" As you will soon understand, the growth rate of your muscles is primarily dependent upon nutrition, not exercise.

Now that we understand our resistance training objective, it becomes clear that changing our exercise methods depending upon our fat loss or muscle growth goals makes no sense. The key here is to allow yourself to separate the uses of nutrition and exercise as they relate to body composition management. Loss of fat is generally best achieved by inducing a caloric deficit, meaning you are taking in fewer calories than you are putting out. Conversely, muscle growth is most efficient during a caloric surplus. Exercise is an inefficient method for inducing either a caloric deficit or surplus. Maintaining the balance of your caloric input/output is best left to the tools of nutrition. However, with either goal in mind you will always be fighting to grow or maintain muscle mass, which is best achieved through intense resistance training. Let exercise and nutrition each do what they do best and fight the urge to overlap their uses.

Fat loss always comes with some decrease in muscle tissue. Our body is simply not going to lose 100% pure fat mass because our internal energy consumption pathways are not engineered as isolated systems, but are integrated to allow us maximum fuel flexibility. On the other hand, an increase in muscle mass is almost always accompanied by some accumulation of fatty tissue. Again, our body almost never takes an energy surplus and generates only one type of tissue. Body fat is like an insurance policy that aids our survival in times of famine. When you convince your body through intense exercise to increase its stores of highly metabolic, energy-hungry muscle tissue, it will also take a bit of your caloric input and invest that in a slightly larger insurance policy. While it is sometimes possible to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time, for the vast majority of people in most cases it is more efficient to focus on one goal at a time.

Keeping in mind that the body rarely grows or consumes one sort of tissue in isolation, the duality of goals becomes apparent for any nutrition and exercise plan, whether aimed at fat loss or muscle growth. When executing a plan aimed primarily at maximizing body fat reduction, it is imperative for long-term success to also remember to minimize muscle tissue loss. As well, when attempting to increase muscle mass, it is important to minimize the gain in body fat. In both cases, however, fat loss is best achieved through nutrition and muscle gain through resistance training.

The old adage that, when it comes to anaerobic exercise, higher repetitions should be used for fat loss and lower repetitions for muscle growth is incorrect. In reality, the best repetition range to use is the one that produces the best results for you. If you consistently get stronger using higher rep ranges, the primarily use those. If you instead find better progress resulting from lower rep ranges, then stick to those for the majority of your sessions. The time to change your exercise methodology is when it stops working or becomes inefficient. If you are able to add weight or reps each week during a caloric surplus or even just maintain your strength during a period of caloric deficit, then you currently have a useful plan. Trust in the validity of your results because they narrate the real story of your success or failure.

Once you have designed an effective exercise plan for muscle growth, losing fat or gaining muscle is simply a matter of energy and protein input vs. output. If you use effective resistance training and supply your body with lots of good calories and protein, you will grow muscle. If you also take care to control some of the finer points of your nutrition plan, you will also be able to minimize fat gain. If you use the same exercise techniques and provide a caloric deficit while maintaining a good level of protein consumption, you will lose fat while minimizing muscle loss. Either way, the exercise strategy is the same because the goal of maximizing muscle mass never changes.

Using high reps for fat loss and low reps for "bulking up" is an outdated concept. The best resistance training method for you is the one that produces the greatest level of muscle growth. Only change your exercise plan when it stops working. Let nutrition handle your fat loss efforts. Your caloric balance is best controlled by monitoring what goes into your mouth and not what you do in the gym. Resistance exercise builds and maintains muscle mass. Nutrition decides whether you are actively growing muscle tissue or are instead trying to maintain it while losing fat. Always remember to use exercise and nutrition each in their most efficient role.

Related Tags: fat loss, protein, resistance training, new york, brooklyn, muscle growth, exercise plan, repetitions, nutrition perfected

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