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Fitness & Health

03rd Oct 2016

Scientists think this could be the ‘holy grail’ of building muscle and burning fat

It took them just four weeks too!

Ben Kenyon

It’s considered the ‘holy grail’ of fitness – building muscle while burning fat at the same time.

That’s why if you talk to any bodybuilders they’ll either be in a ‘bulking’ phase or a ‘cutting’ phase

Basically if you want to put muscle mass on you normally start upping your calories, while if you’re burning fat to get shredded then your meals will have to get smaller and smaller.

But scientists in the US reckon they have stumbled upon the sweet spot for building muscle and burning fat simultaneously.

The study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that it could be done in just four weeks too.

Researchers at McMaster University put 40 men through a month of hard exercise and training, while cutting their calories by 40% of what they would normally require.

It involved resistance training with weights, high intensity interval training six days a week combined with the low-calorie diet, according to Science Daily.

handsome man workout in gym

“It was a gruelling affair,” says Stuart Phillips, a professor in the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster and senior investigator on the study.

“These guys were in rough shape, but that was part of the plan. We wanted to see how quickly we could get them into shape: lose some fat, but still retain their muscle and improve their strength and fitness.”

The men were divided into two groups – both on the low calorie diet, but one with higher levels of protein that the other.

The higher intake group were on 2.4g of protein per kg of bodyweight everyday while the lower group were on half that.

One major finding after four weeks was that the higher protein group added 2.5lbs of muscle, despite consuming not nearly enough energy from their diet.

The lower protein group did not add any muscle, although they did not lose any muscle either.

“Exercise, particularly lifting weights, provides a signal for muscle to be retained even when you’re in a big calorie deficit,” says Phillips.

young male bodybuilder doing heavy weight exercise

But what researchers were intrigued by was that the high protein group also lost more body fat.

The group lost about 10.5lbs of fat on average while the low protein group lost more than 20% less.

“We expected the muscle retention” said Phillips, “but were a little surprised by the amount of additional fat loss in the higher protein consuming group.”

What was clear was that all the men on the study became stronger, fitter and in much better shape because of the demanding six-days-a-week exercise programme.

There are some caveats to the research and Phillips explained “We designed this program for overweight young men, although I’m sure it would work for young women too, to get fitter, stronger, and to lose weight fast.

“It’s a tough programme and not something that’s sustainable or for those looking for quick and easy fix.

“We controlled their diets, we supervised the exercise, and we really kept these guys under our ‘scientific’ thumb for the four weeks the participants were in the study.”

So the bottom line was a high intake of protein while eating a low-calorie diet 40% lower than the recommended amount, combined with some hardcore six-day-a-week weights and interval training was effective at maintaining lean body mass and burning fat.

Lifting weights