How Extra Fat Can Rob You Of Your Muscle Gains
I don’t mean to be triggering, but...quarantine 15 anyone?
There’s nothing wrong with having a little extra fat on your body. If you’re healthy on the inside and comfortable in your skin, you do you, boo!
HOWEVER, If you’re a lifter who enjoys keeping their gains around, you should be careful of how much extra fat you gain if you’re bulking or just maintaining.
Yeah, I didn’t think this mattered either. I mean, as long as you lose the fat eventually, why does it matter?
It wasn’t until I was in DC during a nutrition conference in 2018, watching this guy present research that having too much body fat not only impairs your body’s ability to make muscle, but can even cause you to lose it that I thought:
“EVERYBODY needs to be aware of this.”
So why does this happen and what can be done to stop it? This is what the science is saying.
Why Fat Causes Muscle Loss
Muscle loss occurs naturally and can start as soon as the age of 30.
Unfortunately, this is natural and is going to happen to everyone.
An important thing to note, though, is if you have extra fat on your body, this process is sped up significantly. As excess body fat levels get higher, you begin to store fat in and around your muscle. This fat then begins to cause chronic inflammation. With this inflammation comes the release of chemicals called cytokines.
When your muscle is constantly exposed to these cytokines released by all of that extra body fat, it begins to literally kill your muscle cells.
This process is called lipotoxicity, which is a term that describes the process when inflammatory fat begins to kill healthy cells which, in this case, is your muscle. This muscle damage begins degrading the quality of your muscle meaning that, not only do you start losing muscle, but the muscle you do manage to keep is not as strong.
So, What Can We Do?
Here are my recommendations for how you can prevent excess, harmful fat from breaking down your muscle gains:
Eat a diet rich with anti-inflammatory foods
Foods like fruits, vegetables and healthy fats like those found in avocados and walnuts all contain antioxidants that fight inflammation in the body.
Eating these foods regularly and in diverse varieties will give you a spectrum of antioxidants that can help you battle the inflammatory damage that extra fat stored in your organs and muscle is causing. This reduction in inflammation will also make it easier for you to build muscle.
Do weight training
If you’ve been a cardio bunny in the past, it’s time to venture over to the free weights.
Listen to me. Look into my eyes. It’s time.
Studies show that lifting weights for at least 45 minutes a day, 3 times a week was effective at building a good amount of muscle mass or maintaining any muscle you may already have. This will not only help keep your muscle mass, but can prevent harmful fat from building up within them.
If you do not have gym access, equipment such as elastic bands or a pull-up bar can help. Exercises like pushups, planks and high intensity interval training can also be an effective substitute.
Make sure you’re getting enough protein
One of the issues of having too much body fat is impaired ability to make new muscle, especially in older individuals.
So, if your goal is to gain or maintain muscle, getting in enough protein is vital to turning that muscle building back on.
So, it’s recommended that you include protein in all of your main meals and snacks as well as having at least 20 grams of protein immediately after weight training (within 30 minutes) either in the form of a high-quality protein shake, a protein-rich meal or snack.
The bottom line? Even if you aren’t pushing 30, a diet of poor quality is more likely to cause buildup os excess fat within the muscle cells and this can be a nightmare for those of you looking to build muscle. This is exactly why I do not endorse dirty bulking. Follow the guidelines above while also adhering to your appropriate calorie and macro goals and you won’t have to worry.