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MOTIVATED@LAST Posts: 15,443
1/29/13 6:53 A

It's difficult to gain muscle while running a calorie deficit to lose weight, as the body tends to burn protein for energy rather than creating new tissue.

The body tends to switch several times a day between catabolic (cutting) and anabolic (building) states as it digests meals, meets energy needs, etc. So even if you are running an overall calorie balance, there will be times in the day when you are running a deficit, which is why you really need a small surplus to have sufficient free protein to add muscle tissue.

Most bodybuilders ultimately deal with this by alternating periods of building, with periods of cutting (typically in cycles of several weeks)

Much of the gains in strength comes from improved muscle quality, rather than increased muscle mass. You should be able to maintain most muscle mass, and gain strength, even while running a small calorie deficit to lose weight.


BOB240 SparkPoints: (6,131)
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1/29/13 4:45 A

Yes... things get so much harder at your stage. In my experience the follwoing is true

I think that losing about 20 pounds of fat takes the same level of commitment in terms of diet and exercise as does putting on about 1 pound of muscle. That is to say that losing fat is hard mentally and physically but you are challenged at a much higher level if you want even a tiny bit of muscle.

When I say challenge I mean that you do have to accept at some point that you will need to put on a few pounds and then shed the fat.. If you spent time losing weight this is a very very hard thing to do.

Training changes. To lose fat you just need cardio and strength training. As long as you are increasing the weights every week and decrease the time to run a distance then you lose.

At your level you need to think about specific exercises and use well formed routines fro both cardio and strength. These routine have to be fit for your goals. One pull up is a substantial goal.

This is good for you. You like challenges :)

In your position, if you've got time then you might do a


challenge -do a google. It's free.. don't buy the supplements just eat well. The routine there is actually pretty good.BUT very time consuming. I think you're looking at ten hours a week for that routine.

And of course you might try my SLVi3 routine (see my group "staying power"). It is designed to enhance athletic ability over a medium long term. It is a watered down bodyforlife in truth. The advantage of SLVi3 is that it only takes three hours a week. (but they are hard hours).

I run through the routine once I saw core strength changes of about 10% over 12 weeks.with only three pounds extra put on. Which i am trying to shed.

Whatever way you chose - be prepared for a higher level of mental challenege.

Losing weigh if you are over weight is easy compared to the your path :)

Edited by: BOB240 at: 1/29/2013 (04:46)
REYNINGSUNSHINE SparkPoints: (20,387)
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1/29/13 3:08 A

Thank you for the help!

I'm mostly frustrated because whenever I lose weight, my body attacks a lot more muscle than they would for others, and I don't want to be in that cycle of bulking/cutting I see some of my peers in.

I don't want to bulk- like that isn't my goal. I'd say my goal is toning, but that assumes I have muscle to see under the fat, and well... right now I really don't. I want mostly to gain STRENGTH.... and I don't want to accept that I can't gain strength WHILE cutting the fat at the same time. Basically, I want there to be a way that I can lose the excess fat without losing any weight (which means, what I lose in fat I gain in muscle).

I'm not looking for anything quick, btw. One goal is to be able to do one pull up by the end of the year... so I've got 11 months to gain the arm strength to do that (I can get about a quarter of the way there and hang for a few seconds). I would be fine if I "lost" just a tenth of a lb of fat/gained a tenth of a lb of muscle in a week....

Does anybody know why eating at maintenance and then strength training doesn't just work? Like why you HAVE to gain weight?

To me, it's not about body fat % exactly, it's more about size... I know muscle weighs less than fat, but if I'm not losing the fat, too, it'll just be more added bulk, and even if it looks "lean" I don't WANT mega bulk. And yes, I am well aware that women don't bulk the same as men do due to different hormone concentrations, but my goal isn't mega-strength, it's just a healthy amount of muscle on a small frame...

So... question-
Would it be best to get my fat mass to where I want it to be at my goal weight? For example, if I want to be 19% body fat at a weight of 53 kg, should I lose weight until my fat mass is 10 kg (independent of my full weight)? So if I could stay at say 22% body fat while I lose the weight, that'd be like 46 kg? Because that seems kind of scary-low, and there has to be a way to lose more fat than muscle, right? Perhaps I could just go down to 110 lbs and work up to 117 via muscle...

(The problem is that if I were to cut and get rid of the fat later, just due to how my body is, I would lose much more of the muscle gains than what is 'normal' so I would be in that cycle way too much-- and then if I were to eat to try to facilitate bigger gains, I'd gain more fat than I have now, so I could go from 17% to 19% body fat perhaps- I'm trying, and maybe this is just impossible- to decrease body fat % without getting bigger than my current inches-size, and then KEEP my muscle gain so I'm not going back and forth)

KRISTEN_SAYS SparkPoints: (81,445)
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1/28/13 6:18 P

I'm kind of in the same boat. I've been eating at the higher end of maintenance, around 1,800 calories, and lifting heavy weights in 5-10 reps depending on the exercise. I'm ordering The New Rules of Lifting for Women and a set of resistance bands in about five minutes. I'm afraid to eat more because I don't want to gain weight (even though I KNOW that I have to eat at a calorie surplus). I read somewhere that I should eat 300 calories more than maintenance for 6 weeks then eat 300 calories below maintenance for the next 6 weeks, but that hardly seems like enough time for muscle gain.

MPLANE37 SparkPoints: (78,827)
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1/28/13 5:12 P

I second the advice of JENMC. Good advice.

Just want to add the fact that, if you don't eat enough surplus calories, you will gain slower than you would if you ate enough (because you will take longer to recover). Don't be afraid to experiment. You can burn off the excess fat easily later. Burning fat off is easy if you have a lot of muscle; very hard if you are down to minimum muscle.

Edited by: MPLANE37 at: 1/28/2013 (17:18)
JENMC14 Posts: 2,786
1/28/13 3:02 P

You can't gain muscle without gaining weight. Even on a "lean gain" you'll gain aft. And, if you're adding muscle, you're adding scale weight, but it will help to lower your bf% in the future. Recalculate your maintenance. Do minimal cardio. Eat at maintenance and lift HEAVY. 8-12 reps for fatigue in 2-3 set is what's generally reccommended for hypertrophy. The Female Bodybuilding forum at has an excellent post on figuring out how much you should be eating for your specific goal. To really build muscle is hard for a woman, generally speaking. If that's what you really want, you will see an increase in scale weight and bf. Start by eating at maintenance, see where that goes. Then, up it by 100 calories, then 200 and see where you are. Aim for a gain of about .5 a week at first. To really do anything, you'll need to bulk for at least 6 months.

REYNINGSUNSHINE SparkPoints: (20,387)
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Posts: 523
1/28/13 1:46 P

I'm trying to transition from focusing on losing weight to actually focusing on gaining muscle and strength, primarily on my upper body because my lower body gain muscle and strength a lot quicker and easier than the upper body. My body is one of those that loves to catabolize muscle, especially in my arms, to be kind of just "bare minimum," so when I lose weight, if I have any "excess" arm strength (even if I am "using" the excess in the gym), more of that muscle mass will come off that what I've witnessed happen to people around me.

Not saying this is impossible- I just know I have to work harder.

Since decided this would be my new goal, I've started eating more- it isn't perfect yet, but I bumped up calories 300/day . I've only added in light strength training for core and lower body a couple times a week and then pull-up practices a couple times a week (different days), and I've done less intense cardio... but I'm still seeing fairly large weight loss, which is scaring me... I weighed in last Monday at 121.6 lbs (after my period ended, and before I started the next round of hormones which cause me to bloat typically), and then this Monday I was down (again) to 120.6 lbs.

Any help on how to just gain muscle without gaining weight?

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