So I’ve realised that like me, a lot of people have the attention span of a goldfish.
And, again like me, most people can’t be arsed to read a whole 1500+ word article even if it is something they’re really interested in.
So to save you trawling through the countless blogs that pop up when you search a question on google, I’ve decided to answer a load of the most common fat loss and muscle building questions in just a sentence or two.
Here they are:
- 1 Nutrition
- 1.1 Calories – everyone rants on about them, but what actually are they?
- 1.2 So is a Calorie a Calorie?
- 1.3 Is that a yes then?
- 1.4 Are they important?
- 1.5 Where do they come from?
- 1.6 Ah, macros; you talk about them a lot. What are they?
- 1.7 How do I work out how many Calories and macros I need to lose fat or build muscle?
- 1.8 Do I need to eat 6+ meals to lose fat?
- 1.9 But my friend Guy told me to eat little and often to stoke my metabolic fire…?
- 1.10 Oh ok. What about intermittent fasting then?
- 1.11 So meal frequency isn’t that important?
- 1.12 What about meal timing? Do I need to drink a protein shake in the post workout anabolic window?
- 1.13 The time I eat carbs matters though right? I’ll get fat if I eat them past 8pm, Guy said so.
- 1.14 So carbs don’t make you fat then?
- 1.15 But insulin…
- 1.16 Is it fat that makes you fat then?
- 1.17 So not gluten either?
- 1.18 Is gluten bad for you though?
- 1.19 Won’t a burger and all those carbs make me fat though?
- 1.20 Are you referring to the whole “flexible dieting” thing?
- 1.21 Hmmmm, I dunno. I don’t see how eating poptarts, protein shakes, and peanut butter all day, like all the flexible dieters do, can be healthy.
- 1.22 Will I need to do a detox if I eat junk though?
- 1.23 Isn’t sugar toxic though?
- 1.24 Sugar’s addictive though, right?
- 1.25 What about diet drinks? Are they bad for you?
- 1.26 Can you build muscle and lose fat at the same time?
- 1.27 What about if I take supplements though? Will they help?
- 1.28 Can I eat more than 30g of protein in one sitting?
- 1.29 Is starvation mode a thing?
- 2 Training
- 3 Hey Tommy, I like how you write words; where can I read more?
- 4 Get your questions answered
Calories – everyone rants on about them, but what actually are they?
A Calorie is simply a unit of measure, much like kilograms, miles, and litres. Calories are the unit of measure we use to express the energy content of food.
So is a Calorie a Calorie?
Errrr, is a meter a meter?
Is that a yes then?
Well yeah, sort of. Just read this and you’ll get what I mean.
Are they important?
That depends on how you interpret “important”.
But for health, fat/weight loss, muscle gain, and performance, yes:
- Eat more than you expend and you’ll gain fat (and muscle if you lift weights).
- Eat less than you expend and you’ll lose fat (and maybe muscle and strength).
Where do they come from?
The obvious answer: food and drink.
The more specific answer: macros (macronutrients) in the food/drink.
Ah, macros; you talk about them a lot. What are they?
Macro means large.
So MACRO-nutrients are large nutrients.
There are 4 macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates, fats, and alcohol.
- Protein = 4 Calories per gram
- Carbs = 4 Calories per gram
- Fat = 9 Calories per gram
- Alcohol = 7 Calories per gram
So a slice of bread with 15g carbs, 1g fat and 3g protein would have 81 Calories.
How do I work out how many Calories and macros I need to lose fat or build muscle?
Here, click this.
Do I need to eat 6+ meals to lose fat?
No. You need to be in a Calorie deficit. The number of meals you have primarily comes down to your own preference.
But my friend Guy told me to eat little and often to stoke my metabolic fire…?
Well Guy lied to you, or he’s just ill informed. Read this.
Oh ok. What about intermittent fasting then?
Again, personal preference is key here. If fasting will help you stick to your diet then great. Intermittent fasting isn’t some sort of miracle diet though; it might just help you eat fewer Calories overall.
So meal frequency isn’t that important?
Exactly. In the right context it can be sort of important though, so check out the body composition pyramid of importance below, and have a watch of this for more on meal frequency.
What about meal timing? Do I need to drink a protein shake in the post workout anabolic window?
No, you don’t HAVE to and it won’t make or break your results. It may be beneficial if you haven’t eaten protein for 4+ or so hours before your training session though.
Also, spacing a total of 3-6 meals out evenly over the course of the day may maximise your results from a timing/frequency perspective. To understand why, read this.
The time I eat carbs matters though right? I’ll get fat if I eat them past 8pm, Guy said so.
Screw Guy; he’s completely wrong.
The only way eating carbs past 8pm will make you fat is if it leads to you consuming a surplus of Calories.
So carbs don’t make you fat then?
No, not in and of themselves.
Dude, forget the whole “carbs = insulin = you becoming a fat-ass” thing. It ignores the bigger picture: your total Calorie intake.
Is it fat that makes you fat then?
Errrrr. Have you been listening to anything i’ve been telling you?
So not gluten either?
Nope. As I’ve said like, a bazillion times, too many Calories make you fat and no matter who tells you otherwise, it will always be that way.
Is gluten bad for you though?
If you fall into the 5(ish) % of people suffering from some form of gluten sensitivity/intolerance or you have full blown coeliac disease then:
- yes, gluten is bad for you
- my thoughts and prayers go out to you
If you’re not in that minority then no, gluten is absolutely fine and you should go eat a burger.
Won’t a burger and all those carbs make me fat though?
Common man, we’ve already been through this: a surplus of Calories will make you fat, not a single food in isolation.
In fact, being flexible with your diet and incorporating some “junk” into your diet may actually improve your dieting results.
Are you referring to the whole “flexible dieting” thing?
Yup, sure am. You should give this article I wrote about flexible dieting a read – It breaks down the approach I personally take to my diet and one that I’ve successfully taught many clients.
Hmmmm, I dunno. I don’t see how eating poptarts, protein shakes, and peanut butter all day, like all the flexible dieters do, can be healthy.
Dude, flexible dieting isn’t about eating all the “junk” you can get away with and it’s still damn important to get in the good stuff. You know, fruits, veg, nuts, seeds, wholegrains, and lean meats. Those things should make up the vast majority of your diet if you give a damn about your health. But hey, even my grandma could have told you that.
Besides, to me flexible dieting is more of a mindset thing and understanding that you don’t have to be so rigid with how you approach your nutrition (eg: the food choices you make, the diet you follow).
Again, you should read this to understand what flexible dieting really is and how to get abs without eating nothing but chicken, rice, and broccoli all day <== FYI: from my own experience, that sucks ass!
Will I need to do a detox if I eat junk though?
Errr, no. Your kidneys and liver do a pretty neat job of detoxing your body and no manner of cleanse diets, kale juices, or detox shakes are going to replace them.
So save your money by steering clear of detox diets; they’re a marketing scam and merely lead to you feeling better and losing weight because they make you consume more fruit/veg and fewer Calories respectively. You could do that without putting yourself through the misery of a “detox diet” and get much, much better results too.
Isn’t sugar toxic though?
If you eat 25 pint tubs of Ben and Jerrys, 20 big 215g packs of Haribo, or 60 cans of Coke, in one single sitting, then yes. If not then no.
Sugar’s addictive though, right?
Ever seen “sugar addicts” munching on cubes of sugar?
Na, didn’t think so.
So no, it’s not (read this if you’re not convinced).
What about diet drinks? Are they bad for you?
Whilst a diet coke clearly isn’t going to be the next health food shoved in our face with claims that it will cure cancer, singe body fat, and solve all your health-related woes (ahemmmm, coconut oil), it’s not some dietary devil either.
And unless you drink massive amounts of the stuff, you’ll be just fine. So feel free to enjoy a can or two of the stuff if you’d like.
Can you build muscle and lose fat at the same time?
These guys can:
- Noobs who haven’t lifted before
- Overweight people
- People on “juice”
- People who start lifting again after losing a load of muscle
Otherwise, no; you can’t in any meaningful amount.
What about if I take supplements though? Will they help?
No legal supplement will dramatically transform your body and at best, they will give you a very slight boost in your results. From a body composition perspective, these are your best bet if you’ve got the money to splash:
- Creatine monohydrate: improves energy stores for high-intensity exercise, and as a result, you might lift more weight for more reps leading to greater gains over time. The time you take it isn’t particularly important and it’s more about consistently taking 5g per day to build up your bodies stores. Having it pre-workout is just practical.
- Beta alanine: helps jack up levels of carnosine which acts as an acid buffer. Ultimately this may delay when you start to feel the burn during a 60+ second set and consequently improve your performance and gains. Like creatine, the timing doesn’t matter and it’s down to consistently taking 3-4g per day to build up stores. Keep in mind that it may make your skin tingle (this isn’t necessarily harmful, but some people don’t like it).
- Citrulline malate: may help delay that burning sensation you feel when lifting too, and as a result, you may be able to do more reps during long-ish sets of 60 seconds or so. Over time, these reps will add up and make you bigger and stronger. With citrulline malate, the timing DOES matter. Research suggests 8g 1 hour pre-workout will do the trick.
- Caffeine: we all know that caffeine gives you a bit of a kick up the arse. This buzz you get from the stuff may improve your performance. Research suggests that 3-6mg per kg bodyweight taken 1 hour pre workout may improve performance. Some people respond very differently to caffeine than others though, so you should consider how you personally react to the stuff. Plus, you probably shouldn’t take a load of caffeine if you’re training in the evening as it could screw with your sleep.
(FYI: you should focus primarily on your diet as you won’t get anywhere if your Calorie and macro intake aren’t in line with your goals. Supplements are just the cherry on top).
Can I eat more than 30g of protein in one sitting?
Yup, read this.
Is starvation mode a thing?
Nope. Your metabolic rate may drop a little when you diet for a long time, but your body won’t start storing everything as fat if your Calorie intake is really low (eg: sub 1000 Calories); it’s just not possible.
What’s the best training programme for building muscle?
Like nutrition, it’s not black and white like that, and there is no single best programme for making gains.
Rather, it comes down to how you programme training variables like Volume, Intensity, and Frequency.
Oh, ok. So what is volume, intensity, and frequency then?
I’ve written about them in detail here, but in short:
Training volume = the total amount of work done (weight x reps x sets). You HAVE to do more volume over time to make gains.
Training intensity = the weight on the bar. So 100kg is a greater intensity than 90kg.
Training frequency = the number of times you lift.
Cool. So how do I know if I’m doing the right amount of volume?
This comes down to a game of trial and error, but as a starting point for beginner/intermediate lifters, aim to do 40-70 reps for a given muscle group each time you train it.
For a session where you’re training chest, that might look something like this:
- Bench press 3×8
- Incline dumbbell bench press 3×12
What about intensity? How heavy should I be lifting?
Again, there is no black and white answer here, but for building size and strength, you should be lifting at 60% of your one rep max and above for the most part.
- If you’re more concerned about strength gains, dedicate more of your lifting to low-moderate rep ranges (60-70% of your sets).
- Whereas if you care more about packing some tin on your frame, lift more in the moderate rep ranges (60-70% of your sets).
3-6 sessions per week is about right for the vast majority of lifters, with beginners starting at the lower end (3-4 sessions/week) and more advanced lifters using the mid to higher end (4-6 sessions/week).
In terms of the frequency you train a given muscle group (eg: chest), you’ll make better gains by hitting each muscle group 2+ times per week as opposed to the classic body part split that has you dedicating just one session to a muscle per week.
So I generally advise clients train each muscle group 2-3 times per week*.
Science. Read this.
*in combination with the volume guideline above, this means you should shoot for roughly 80-210 reps per muscle group per week as a starting point.
Will cardio make you lose muscle?
Whilst lots of cardio sure can put a stall in your quest for gains, that doesn’t mean your biceps will fall off the second you brush past the treadmill.
Ultimately it comes down to the context, mode of cardio, and duration though. So just give this a read to save me from babbling on too long here.
Hey Tommy, I like how you write words; where can I read more?
That’s very sweet of you to say.
Here, read my blog
The End (for now)
There are still a lot more Qs to get through but unfortunately, they’ll have to wait until my next insomnia fuelled writing sesh.
Get your questions answered
Whilst this isn’t meant to be a definitive set of answers to all your fat loss and muscle building questions, I will keep coming back and updating it. If there is a particular question you want answered, send it over to me via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
PS: I got the idea for this page from Adam Ali of Physiqonomics.com (read his stuff; it’s awesome)