Monday, March 29, 2010


The decisive factor in determining whether the body will gain or lose weight is the so-called calorie balance. If we eat more calories than the amount we burn, then the body will put on weight, while if we eat less it will lose weight. Theoretically it’s not that simple, since there are other factors as well (such as where the calories come from, hormones etc), but in general this rule applies to most people.

The issue is what exactly the weight we are gaining or losing is. As we have already discussed, the goal should be to put on muscle and lose bodyfat. However, in most cases we can’t do both at the same time. So, that leaves us with two main goals:
- eating more calories than the amount we burn, and try to increase muscle and keep bodyfat at the same level
- eating less calories than the amount we burn, and try to decrease bodyfat and keep muscle at the same level

Bodybuilders have proved the value of this system for decades, dedicating 8-9 months per year to muscle gain and 3-4 months to cutting. They also vary their training accordingly.

I can hear some of you saying: “should I count calories then?”

The answer is no. Assuming that you have been stuck in the same bodyweight for some time, then the calories your diet is providing are your base calories. If you decrease your portions (and the best way to do it is by decreasing your carbs), you enter weight loss mode. If you increase them (preferably increasing protein), you enter weight gain mode.

Alternatively, you can achieve the same goal by changing your activity level. If you want to lose weight without altering your nutrition, simply start exercising (or increase it). If you want to put on weight, then decrease all activities (not suggested).

The best of course is a combination of both. If you put training into play, you will be able to make smaller changes to your diet, which in many cases is a plus. In addition, you reap all the health benefits of exercise.

Apart from this simplified model (which works), there are many other issues regarding the effect of food on muscle gain and – mostly – fat loss. This will be the subject of a future post.

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