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The importance of muscle tension when dieting

stroutman81stroutman81 Posts: 2,482Member Member Posts: 2,482Member Member
Random thought for you about training during a fat loss phase.

Your primary use of exercise during these phases is to preserve muscle. I think most people apply exercise incorrectly during a fat loss phase.

They either think they're going to go sprouting tons of muscle while in a negative energy balance (you're not).

Following this logic, they throw tons of volume at their bodies. Never mind the fact that when calories are down, recovery ability is down. A deficit, in and of itself, is a stress on the body. And they tend to be a little more emotionally stressed, as is, simply because they're fretting over their weight, diet, etc. But then you go and nuke your body with all this volume and wonder why you're not getting the response you're after.

Or they believe the primary function of exercise during a fat loss phase is to burn calories (it's not in most situations). It's this latter idea that I want to talk about most. When I start hinting that the primary role of exercise during a deficit is NOT to burn calories... people tend to look at me with confusion. Especially this day and age where everything is about calories in vs. calories out.

Here's the thing...

Nutrition and cardio are for fat loss.

Training is for muscle preservation while being in a deficit.

That's the primary way I see things.

I mean... there are no absolutes... but I find that laying it out there like this causes people to really check their own absolutes.

You have to be cognizant of the following:

While dieting, your body's trying to adjust to the stress of being in a deficit. One of the ways it accomplishes this is by trying to decrease muscle to adjust metabolic rate down towards your new caloric intake. Your body's in a constant state of striving for homeostasis.

Remember, muscle is expensive to keep around, calorically speaking. In the light of a calorie deficit, extra muscle doesn't look very appealing to keep around from your body's "perspective." As long as it has sufficient muscle to run, jump, and chuck a spear at a saber tooth tiger... that's all it really "cares" about.

I don't know about you, but I'm not interested in being a lighter, softer version of myself. You have to give your body a reason to keep the muscle you have while being in a deficit. It's for this reason that during times of negative energy balance, my primary consideration on the exercise front is keeping adequate tension on the muscles. This will send the signal to hold onto it and thus provide the results you're after from a body comp perspective.

Tension = weight on the bar.

This is counterintuitive since most people use exercise as a calorie sink when dieting. In an attempt to destroy their fat... they go, go, go. High volume, lots of reps, low weight, lots of cardio. And therefore low tension.

Not the greatest recipe for muscle maintenance.

I will say this...

All of this is very context dependent. If you've never trained before... then any movement is likely going to be sufficient in sending a muscle maintenance response. But if your muscles are accustomed to loading, the last thing you want to do is to lessen or remove that loading once you invoke a deficit.

Also, the more fat you have, the more "protected" you are from a muscle loss perspective.

Something to chew on.
edited January 9

Replies

  • jjpptt2jjpptt2 Posts: 4,415Member Member Posts: 4,415Member Member
    Good post, thanks for the reminders.
  • stroutman81stroutman81 Posts: 2,482Member Member Posts: 2,482Member Member
    Thanks man! Love your profile picture.
  • babysaffybabysaffy Posts: 173Member Member Posts: 173Member Member
    Thanks, I needed to read that right now as I've been slacking on my lifting for the past few months focusing too much on getting the scales down but not liking getting soft..
  • stroutman81stroutman81 Posts: 2,482Member Member Posts: 2,482Member Member
    You're welcome @babysaffy! Thanks for reading.
  • jjpptt2jjpptt2 Posts: 4,415Member Member Posts: 4,415Member Member
    Steve, if you'd consider a follow-up or Part 2...

    When training for muscle preservation during relatively long periods of sustained calorie deficit, how much does progressive overload matter? Can one more or less "wing it" with a use-it-or-lose it attitude, or...

    Progressive overload seems to be the holy grail to most training-related posts on MFP, but is it still the single most critical aspect of training even if muscle preservation is the goal (rather than muscle and/or strength gain)?

    Thanks.
  • yedidiah5325yedidiah5325 Posts: 1Member, Premium Member Posts: 1Member, Premium Member
    So, for those of us who have no muscle really to start with--should I be doing weight training once or twice a week along with the cardio and calorie cutting I'm doing for weight loss, or is there not much point until I am closer to goal weight?
  • NorthCascadesNorthCascades Posts: 8,396Member Member Posts: 8,396Member Member
    The primary function of exercise is fun. Cardio isn't for fat loss, it's for transportation.
  • TavistockToadTavistockToad Posts: 35,844Member Member Posts: 35,844Member Member
    So, for those of us who have no muscle really to start with--should I be doing weight training once or twice a week along with the cardio and calorie cutting I'm doing for weight loss, or is there not much point until I am closer to goal weight?

    Start strength training now
  • DancingMoosieDancingMoosie Posts: 4,244Member Member Posts: 4,244Member Member
    Strength train now, at least twice per week. Full body compound movements are best.
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