Can you build muscle while losing fat at the same time? This is the question many the world over have been trying to figure out for a very long time. It seems for every person who claims you can burn fat while gaining muscle, you have hundreds who say it’s impossible.
It seems like it should be impossible. After all, you need to burn calories to lose fat, but you need a surplus of calories to build muscle; these goals are on the exact opposite ends of the spectrum. This is why “bulking season” and “cutting season” are things in the bodybuilding world.
Even the guys who take steroids must choose between building muscle or losing fat. If we had the ability to do both at the same time, we’d be living in a world full of supermen. But here’s where things take a turn for the awesome. Science is now starting to figure out natural ways to make this work.
But before we get to that, let’s clear something up first: You cannot turn fat into muscle.
This is one of the oldest and dumbest fitness myths out there. The only reason people still believe it, is because when you’re already fat and you start to train consistently, your muscles start to show in the places you have lost fat. This gives you the illusion that your fat is being turned into muscle. Wrong! Your fat cells are just shrinking and your muscles are growing. But wait, doesn’t that mean you’re losing fat and growing muscle at the same time?
And…here we go. This is where it all gets a bit muddled. It makes sense that you’d lose fat and the muscle that was already underneath would start to show. But it also makes sense that if you’re doing heavy weight training you’re going to gain muscle — and because you’re overweight and working out for the first time, you’d simultaneously lose fat.
Makes your head hurt, doesn’t it? Well, don’t worry, we’re about to hit you with some easy science. To simplify things, think of building muscle and burning fat like this: you need energy in the form of calories to build muscle. You need to burn energy/calories to lose fat. But if you’re overweight, your body will convert the stored fat into energy to feed the muscle. Therefore, you’d burn fat to build muscle.
This is where the keto diet comes into play. When the body is in a state of ketosis, fat can be utilized for muscle hypertrophy. This doesn’t occur, though, if the body has plenty of carbohydrates to be used as energy instead of the stored fat. But you might be wondering, what is the keto diet exactly?
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The keto diet is when you take in little to no carbs. This causes the body to produce ketones in the liver, which are used as energy. Ketosis is the natural process the body initiates to help us survive when food intake is low. When we are in this state, we produce ketones. Ketones are produced when fats are broken down in the liver.
The end goal of the keto diet is to force your body into this metabolic state. Rather than doing this through starvation, though, we do it through starvation of carbs. Supposedly, when you overload your body with fats and take away carbohydrates, it’ll begin to burn ketones as the primary energy source. This is said to lead to weight loss, physical and mental performance benefits, and an improvement in overall health.
The problem with diets such as this is the fact everyone is different, though. We all have different genetics; which means while the keto diet might work for one person, it could completely fail for another. So, rather than blindly jumping on a fad diet, just test the waters first. And make sure you’re seeing a doctor regularly when making radical lifestyle, body, and nutritional changes.
We haven’t reached the point where incredibly jacked guys are going to stay lean and gain a lot of muscle at the same time. But we are seeing that overweight guys can, under the right circumstances, convert their fat into muscle-building energy.
As stated before, don’t jump right into any diet or training program without thorough research first. Your body is a machine, and you need to treat it right. But if you’re packing on a few extra pounds and looking for a lifestyle change, the keto diet might just be the key to unlock your true potential.