What does it take to transform your body – maybe win our $20,000 Body Transformation Contest? Here’s some advice by resident expert Carter Schoffer.
Many people have asked us what it really takes to transform a body. And even more have asked us what it would take to do it so well that they could win something like our $20,000 Body Transformation Contest. Well, our contestants are working the answer right now. And while they are, here’s some advice by resident expert Carter Schoffer. Take notes — and if you didn’t make it into the Lean Eating program this time around, this will help you be prepared for the next one!
Nutrition, training and muscle gain: Transformation is about gaining and losing
With all this talk about fat loss, and all the gaunt poster boys and girls of the pop media, I’m starting to worry that lean mass has become passé. Or even worse, that we’ve become deluded into thinking that 150 lb on a 6 foot man is muscular if he has abs — air brushed or otherwise. Or that Jessica Alba, as beautiful as she is, is “fit” or “toned.”
The 150-pounder and Miss Alba, as beautiful as she is (did I write that already?), are not muscular, toned, jacked, the epitomes of fit physiques, etc. and certainly wouldn’t be winners of the PN Body Transformation Challenge. Well, not unless they started the challenge obese.
Remember, body transformations aren’t just about weight loss. Rather, they’re about building muscle, losing fat, and getting healthier.
No, you don’t need to look like a bodybuilder. But you should also know that lean mass is always prized — for both the aesthetic benefits as well as the health benefits.
Here are a collection of tips that should prove useful for this endeavour.
Tip 1 – Practice the basic principles of the Precision Nutrition System before individualizing.
Heck, if you’re not already implementing PN, don’t read any further. The stuff below is the fine tuning. Trust me; you need to crawl before you walk before you run.
To be honest, the majority of you, if following PN, don’t need to read any further.
Tip 2 – Don’t buy into the bulking vs. cutting schemes.
Although we need to supply enough energy for growth or conversely, create “pockets” of energy deficit for fat loss, the extreme mindsets of bulking or cutting almost certainly don’t apply to you (NOTE: This tip assumes you’re not trying to become a pro bodybuilder. If so, you may need different advice.)
Cutting phases followed by bulking phases are nothing more than titles for yo-yo dieting. You don’t need to starve yourself to lose fat and you don’t need to overeat to build muscle. Keep your metabolism healthy, your muscles happy and your fat cells emaciated by gradually manipulating your diet and exercise for body comp benefit.
When talking muscle gain, if you’ve not been gaining, this means eating 250 extra kcal / day until you start gaining. Here’s what this might look like for a muscle gaining male:
Original diet = 2000kcal
Muscle gain week 1 – 2500kcal
Muscle gain week 2 – 2500kcal
Muscle gain week 3 – 2750kcal
And so on until you start gaining muscle. At that point, keep the intake the same unless you stagnate again. And remember, these kcal increases should come from clean food selections and should still follow the PN principles.
On the fat loss side of the equation you’ll do the same thing, you’ll be eating 250 fewer kcal / day until you start losing.
Tip 3 – Take advantage of energy requirement fluctuations.
Guess what? Your body needs more energy when it’s faced with demanding exercise than when it’s at rest.
Relating to the last tip, this translates to feeding the body when it needs extra energy (muscle repair) and not overfeeding when it doesn’t need the kcals (at rest or after an energy expenditure bout). Just blew your mind didn’t I?
You would think people would catch on to this simple concept. Thankfully, many do. But just as many end up underfeeding when they need fuel for recovery and growth and/or overfeed when they’re inactive. The result – muscle loss and fat gain.
So make sure that you eat more on weight training, muscle damaging days. Then eat less on the other days. For a weight training male, this might mean:
Muscle gain diet – training day – 3000kcal
Muscle gain diet – non-training day – 2500kcal
Tip 4 – Continuing on this theme, don’t be carb phobic.
Seriously people, this has gone too far. You don’t do well on carbs, you say? So instead, you take half a container of glutamine and/or specialty supplement post-workout? Then you fall back on the argument that we didn’t evolve to require or handle carbohydrates well?
Are you kidding me? When in evolutionary time did we need to increase our genetic fitness by knocking back a bolus of glutamine?
Now do some people tolerate carbs better than others? Most certainly.
Are we, with our evolved brains, able to manipulate our physiology by means not available during our evolutionary growth? Clearly.
And as an offshoot, can approaches such as glutamine, or some other compound, in place of carbs be effective? A third affirmative, of course.
Two things though:
- Don’t pee on my leg and then tell me it’s raining. If you’re going to argue against carb intake on evolutionary grounds, don’t turn around in your next utterance and prescribe a man-made or refined supplement.
- Don’t extrapolate results seen with a handful of people or over the course of a week or two of progress to the entire population. And that applies on an individual level. Just like training, just about everything works – for a little while. It’s in the months and years of refining progress that individual approaches are validated.
So people, seriously, these no-carbs-ever approaches only apply to a subset of a subset of a subset. If you’re looking to build lean mass, it’s not applicable to you. Follow PN and the tips above.
A simple strategy is to reserve carbohydrate intake for when your body needs the extra fuel (post-workout for the most part) and watch your muscles grow. If you can handle more carbs, by all means, include them more frequently. But the strategy above acts as a good baseline.
Tip 5 – Don’t buy into supplement company rhetoric.
Unless you’re willing to break the law by taking steroids, a specialty pill or powder won’t provide you with the vehicle for muscle gain and fat loss.
A small number of supplements may upgrade the interior of the vehicle – that is they’ll make the ride a bit more enjoyable – but what good is leather if you don’t have the car, or seats for that matter, to put it on?
The vehicle for lean mass gain is the combo of proper whole food nutrition along with resistance training. Couple it with food-derived supplements to make your grocery shopping and eating easier (fish oil, greens and protein powder) and that’s all you’ll really need to get from A to B.
Like I said, certain supplements that have a proven track record (creatine for instance) may improve the ride, but they’re useless unless you have the eating and exercising down pat.
Tip 6 – Eat and exercise more.
As JB wrote about in his G-flux article and follow-ups and I touched upon above, the more you exercise, the more food your body needs. And why does it need this food or energy? To repair. And, if the stimulus was appropriate, to build lean mass.
The more opportunity you give the body to build lean mass, if coupled with an intake to meet increased energy requirements, the more muscle you’ll have and leaner you’ll get.
So make sure to train hard, train often, and eat accordingly.
If you increase your exercise but don’t increase your intake, your metabolism will go into starvation mode – using muscle for fuel and hoarding the kcals you do consume for fat storage.
Alternatively, if increase kcals beyond your needs, your metabolism may ramp up a bit but most of the extra energy will be bundled up and stored for later in the form of body fat. Both scenarios resulting in the same – an unfavorable body composition.
So stay a step ahead of your body by negating its self-preservation techniques. Train often, eat intelligently, lose fat, and build lean. That’s how you win a body transformation contest. Heck, that’s how you get into the best shape of your life – no contest required.
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