Burn Fat, Not Muscle – A New U.S. Army Study Study Reveals the Secret
If you’ve been training for a while, or you’re just starting to lose weight, burning the far while keeping your muscle might seem like a moving target; almost impossible to hit. Simply put though, that is the key to success in weight loss. Not losing muscle is vitally important if you want to see your toes when you look down.
Why? Simple, really! Your muscle is responsible for keeping much of your metabolic fires burning, and these are what ultimately strip the fat from your body. That also points to why it’s essential to look deeper when you set out to lose weight. It’s not really weight that you want to lose, it’s really fat. Sure, you’ll typically lose weight, because most people are carrying around so much extra fat that it ends up that losing fat equals losing weight.
So, just what is the secret to burning fat and not muscle?
None other than the U.S. Army addressed just that question in a study earlier this year. Obviously, physical fitness is paramount to an organization such as the Army, and many of their recruits come to boot camp more than a bit overweight. They want to strip the fat off these new soldiers, without having them lose the very muscle that helps make them deadly, fighting machines (or supply clerks).
Thankfully, your tax dollars have been hard at work, helping to find an answer to the question that confounds U.S. Army trainers and average Joe/sephenes alike. If you’re trying to burn fat, how can you do that while sparing the muscle that will not only make it easier to burn that fat, but keep it off?
Here’s what the Army researchers discovered and how they did it:
First of all, they examined well trained athletes, so you may think that the results don’t apply to you, because, well, maybe you’re not so well trained. You’d be wrong on this score, though. Although the Army used 26 well trained athletes for their tests, the results still apply to you, and besides, you’re going to be well trained someday soon, right?
One of the key aspects to the study was that the test subjects were kept at the study location for 11 days, and all aspects of their diet and exercise were strictly monitored and controlled. That’s important, because many studies of this nature rely on the subjects self reporting food intake and exercise.
Now, although most people strive to be accurate in research situations, the fact is that self reporting introduces unwanted errors into the results. Unfortunately, these self reporting studies are found even at the highest levels of academia. In addition, many of the oft quoted by supplement manufacturers studies are done exactly this way.
The Army 26 were divided into 3 groups. Why they didn’t use a number of subjects evenly divisible by three, I have no idea. Maybe they couldn’t find one more guy. In any case, the three groups each ate different diets.
Group 1 – Energy balanced diet (no calorie deficit) with moderate protein – 0.9 g of protein per kilo of body weight per day
Group 2 – Energy deficient diet (a daily calorie deficit) with moderate protein – 0.9 g of protein per kilo of body weight per day
Group 3 - Energy deficient diet (a daily calorie deficit) with high protein – 1.8 g of protein per kilo of body weight per day
The study lasted only 11 days. They had all subjects eat an energy neutral diet for days 1 – 4, no matter the group they were in. Then for the last week, they had the subjects burn off an extra 1,000 calories per day through a controlled exercise program. Group 1, the energy balanced group, ate an extra 1,000 calories daily to make up for the calories they were burning off. The other groups didn’t.
What did they find?
The findings are important and demonstrate exactly why just going on a restricted calorie diet to lose weight normally results in short term weight loss, followed by a rebound weight gain.
The Army researchers noted that subjects who either ate an energy neutral diet with moderate protein, or an energy energy deficient diet with high protein maintained normal glucose production. The other group, actually experienced a decline in internal glucose production.
Why is that bad, you ask? Because failure to maintain normal glucose production leads to muscle protein breakdown. That’s right, your body actually breaks down your hard earned muscle to feed itself during a calorie deficit like your experience during a restricted calorie diet. That means one thing; making sure you get enough high quality protein when you’re dieting for weight loss is absolutely essential to keep your muscle tissue intact.
Ironically, dieting to lose weight could detract from the very thing that keeps the weight off, your muscle mass. The study results point to the need for plenty of high quality protein during restricted calorie diets to make sure that you keep that muscle you either worked so hard for.
Maybe you haven’t done a lick of work to build muscle yet, but are still going on a diet to lose weight. It doesn’t matter, and actually it may even be more important. You still have muscle hiding in there somewhere, and the less you have, the less you can afford to lose, right?
So, if you’re going on a diet, or are already on one, make sure your diet contains enough high quality protein so you burn fat, not muscle.
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