We get it. Work’s hard. It’s cold out. You seem to be leaving in the dark and getting home in the same. The daily gym session becomes the weekly gym session. The daily meal prep gets too hard for Mondays. Then Tuesdays. Slowly, so slowly you hardly even notice, over time, your pants get that little bit tighter. You’ve gone up a notch on your favourite belt. You realise you have gained a little more of a spare tyre than you are comfortable with seeing in the mirror, and you take action!
You jump online. You punch ‘drastic weight loss tips’ into Google while sipping on a meal replacement shake, and so begins the 60 day, ‘Bone Broth Challenge’. After two months of cutting out all vital macronutrients and living largely on liquids, you are down five plus kilograms!
You are stoked! Your boss is complimenting you, you feel terrible, but hell, you look great and your pants fit so who cares! But then the 60th day arrives and the challenge comes to an end. You return to regular, unrestricted food choices and no more soups! No more dieting! Everything tastes amazing!
You indulge after 2 months of crash dieting. Going out to dinner with friends and loved ones. One cheat meal becomes a cheat week. Before a fortnight has passed, you find yourself up five kilos or more and wondering, how am I meant to keep weight off for the rest of my days if two weeks off a diet I gain it all back?!
Long story short, crash diets don’t work!
So, put down the bowl of broth and meal replacement shakes and let’s look at a way you can eat more food than you ever thought possible, and still stay leaner than your Yo-Yo dieting neighbour, year round!
Let's talk muscle...
Muscle mass is not just an aesthetic bonus for men trying to fill out their frame, or women trying to get that toned look ready for beach season. It is also a very metabolically expensive member of your overall body composition and more importantly, acts as a tool that allows you to conduct calorically expensive exercise.
Burning more calories from carrying increased muscle mass as well as from the resistance training required to build that muscle will see you reaching less and less often for the Kale Cookbook and more often for the dumbbells!
In a nutshell... More Muscle = More Food.
Building muscle is starting to look like a good idea now right?
Muscle will burn more calories at rest than body fat does, and will also give your body the tools to complete the arduous exercise necessary for body composition improvement, which will burn more calories directly as well.
Let's look at this from a Long-term result point of view...
More Muscle = Less Fat!
So now we realise it is a good idea for us to build muscle, but are the mechanisms that make building muscle burn more calories.
The specific reasons that muscle will keep us leaner all year round than yo-yo dieting is that muscle tissue is very metabolically active and therefore increases our Resting Metabolic Rate ( RMR).
Your RMR is the measurement of how many calories your body will burn to maintain life function if you stayed still in bed for an entire 24 hours.
Essentially, the more lean body mass you have (all weight not including fat), the more efficient you will metabolise the calories you consume from food. This is because muscle is more metabolically active than body fat, which requires only 4-8 calories per kg per day to maintain, where as muscle tissue requires upwards of 14-20 calories per kilogram(1).
Doesn’t sound impressive yet?
Well, lets put this into a practical example:
What differs calorically between two males, with the same body size and body weight, but different body compositions?
First, we have a young male at 80kg with 40kg of muscle tissue and secondary, we have another young male who is also 80kg but with only 25kg of muscle tissue.
How do they differ on a daily basis?
- 40kg muscle tissue x 20 cals per kg of muscle= 800 additional calories burned per day by muscle tissue.
- 25kg of muscle tissue x 20 cals per kg of muscle= 500 additional calories burned per day by muscle tissue.
That means the more muscular individual, with all other factors being equal, will burn approximately 300 calories EXTRA per day than the less muscular individual.
That’s 300 extra calories he can eat EVERY DAY OF THE WEEK just to maintain his current weight with ZERO fat gain.
Now apply this scenario to a week or even a year!
That muscle tissue becomes an invaluable tool to keep you leaner all year round. No diet. More food. Every day of the week.
Now while this is a grossly over simplified equation that does not take into account a host of other factors that can affect weight loss, it paints a pretty clear picture that (even with exercise excluded) the more muscle you carry, the more calories you will burn, and the leaner you will be all year long!
So if you want to be able to eat several hundred extra calories every day and still keep the spare tyre at bay, before you embark on your next crash diet, just stay calm and reach for a kettle bell instead!
Want to burn more fat or be leaner? Focus on building good quality muscle and let your body do the rest for you!
Heymsfield, Stephen B., Dympna Gallagher , Zimian Wang Volume 904 Issue “Body Composition Modeling: Application to Exploration of the Resting Energy Expenditure Fat-free Mass Relationship” In Vivo Body Composition Studies pgs. 290-297 Wiley Interscience, 2009 The New York Academy of Sciences