How does fat loss work? Yes we have to move more, eat less and try to get the ideal ratios of macronutrients in us to convince the body that it’s safe for it to dip into its precious fat stores. However there is more to this fat burning and muscle building business than many might think, and if you’ve ever tried to succeed at it you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about!
How do we build muscle?
Stress. I don’t mean the kind that you get from your boss, or from those pesky PPI calls, I’m talking about physiological stress on muscle. When we lift weights we are placing a stressor on the muscle with the direct intention of causing mild damage to the muscle fibres. The process involves muscle damage, supercompensation, repair and growth.
What is Supercompensation?
Supercompensation is when the body ‘overreacts’ to the stress caused by a training stimulus such as lifting weights. When we train, our brain doesn’t know how long this external stress (weight resistance) is going to last, so when you finish in the gym and the external stress subsides your body decides to upregulate things. Upregulation includes its glycogen stores (stored glucose), the efficiency of certain energy pathways, the production of red blood cells (especially when training in oxygen deprived environments such as at altitude)…and also, MUSCLE.
Muscle protein synthesis
This is the process of growing muscle. We don’t grow new muscle fibres per se, but instead our bodies increase the size of your individual muscle fibres. This is pre-planning so that the muscle can cope with another external stressor such as the last one…and naturally it will, cos we’re on the GAINS TRAIN! (Sorry, couldn’t help myself).
So will exercise turn fat into muscle?
Well, no, no it won’t. However, exercise will and fat definitely fuels exercise if you diet right, so indirectly yes fat can encourage muscle growth, but fat as its own entity cannot convert directly into muscle. Fat has a key limiting factor in the form of NITROGEN – fat simply doesn’t have nitrogen in its chemical structure – and Nitrogen is integral to the formation of amino acids, which are the key component in protein synthesis and muscle growth.
So where does that leave us?
Well, you quite simply have to sort out the composition of your meals, ensure that your macronutrients follow an approximate 40:30:30 ratio for carbohydrate, protein and fat respectively, and that the sources of these macronutrients are of good quality i.e. unrefined, limited processing and generally grown or reared. Put simply, aim to consume whole foods i.e. foods that are as close to their original form as possible.
If you can get this right then your body will feel comfortable to liberate its adiposity (fat stores) so that it can be used for energy. If you can use fat for energy then you will obviously lose fat, but also increase your muscle to fat ratio which can only be a good thing in terms of looking and feeling good!