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May 4th, 2010

A Sports Nutritionist’s View: Losing Bodyfat While Gaining Lean Body Mass

Since my first article in NUTRIMAG, I’ve received several e-mails and phone calls asking advice on how to better achieve optimal health and performance.  The most common question my readers have is, “If it is possible, what is the most effective way to lose bodyfat and gain lean body mass at the same time?”  It is time to clearly answer this question once and for all.  Sports nutrition science can get very technical.  The following is the basic physiological strategy to accomplish this along with the latest research to ensure it’s effectiveness.

The first step in losing bodyfat while growing lean body mass is to eat less than what you burn.  If it was as simple as that, everyone would be shredded.  In order to figure this out you need to keep track of what you eat in a typical training day and compare it to how many calories it takes to get through that day.  There are several software programs that are inexpensive to do your nutrient and calorie counting for you so, put that calculator and food labels away.  Determining total calories expended per day is a little harder.  Most nutrition texts will use your weight multiplied by some number to determine this.  This is way off base for athletes.  Two people with the same weight could have totally different body composition and training regimes.  Be sure to use a formula that first takes into account your basil metabolic rate (BMR) based on lean body mass (LBM) not total body weight.  If you really want to be accurate, it should include specific amounts of calories burned for not only your training session but, how much sleep you get, and the other activities you do throughout the day.  What about age, gender and race.  These physical attributes all have an effect on metabolism or the rate you burn calories through the day.  There are formulas today that will even account for the “thermic effect of food” or the amount of calories it takes to digest and use your food for energy.  So you can’t find the original scientific research.

Here is a simple formula you can use if you don’t see yourself coming to my office in the near future:

BMR in calories = 10*(LBM in lbs.) + 500

Now compare the amount of calories you burn with how much you eat.  For proper fat loss you should be eating 10-25% less than what you burn.  This should be spread evenly throughout your day.  Too much at one time will cause an overflow, increasing fat stores and too little per meal or too long a time span between meals will put you into starvation mode, decreasing muscle.  So how much is enough?  Divide your new daily calories (what you burn minus 20%) by six.  The answer is your calories per meal.  Eat them with the same amount of time between meals and your off to a good start.

Eating less than what you burn will cause your body to look inside itself  to make up the difference.  It’s either burn something or cease to exist, so when there is not enough food, your body consumes itself.  The trick is to make it more likely to burn fat than anything else.  Therefor, you should teach your body to use fat for fuel. Cardiovascular exercise trains your body to be a “better fat burner” and at low to moderate levels, primarily uses fat for fuel.  If you are at a 20-25% calorie deficit, you will most likely burn bodyfat. That’s progress.

Now for the other half of the equation.  If you increase lean body mass while trying to lose bodyfat, you will actually increase the factory space that burns the fat thereby, making it easier to burn even more fat per minute of exercise.  How can this happen at a calorie deficit.  It can because, nutrient intake is what drives the ability to create more LBM.  If you use resistance training and exhaust specific muscle groups, they will try to become more efficient in accomplishing the next workout by increasing muscle size or density or both.  All they need is the right amount of nutrients to accomplish this.  This means balancing each meal with the right amount of protein, carbs, fats, vitamins and minerals.  That is the most difficult part of this whole equation.  There are so many food choices that don’t have the nutrient density for proper lean growth.

Here are some basics.  Your minimum protein requirements are to eat one gram per pound of LBM per day.  Some of my clients successfully eat up to double that.  This should come from a variety of sources to include ionized whey around your workouts.  Carbs are most necessary around you workouts and vitamins and minerals should accompany most whole food meals.  This means that if you have a sweet tooth, the best time to satisfy yourself is with a small (that’s S-M-A-L-L) piece or portion early in the day within a half hour after you workout.  A multi vitamin/mineral formula is the only way to increase nutrients without increasing calories so take them.  They are just as important as that creatine supplement you take so religiously.

It seems like a great deal of effort but, if you want to successfully lose fat and gain muscle you have to eat less the proper nutrients to make it happen.  The trick is to put it all together.  If you are training hard but, not eating right, your probably burning dietary fat and not bodyfat.  If your eating right but not training properly, you’ve probably stopped storing any additional fat but, your not burning what you already have.  It takes proper eating with supplementation and proper exercise all working together to get you there.  These three components form a “TRI System” that is the only strategy for simultaneous fat loss and lean body mass gain.

Jeff Kotterman is the recommended Sports Nutritionist for several fitness based businesses, nationwide.  He  is an experienced instructor whose research has benefited the health of thousands of clients.   If you have questions or would like a program developed specifically for you call (858) 694-0317 or email to:  jeff@TriSystem.com or at www.TriSystem.com

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