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Eating at maintanence and building muscle

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  • Eating at maintanence and building muscle

    Hi there - I've seen it being recommended many times for people to eat at maintanence with the expected outcome being a reduction in waist circunference and building muscle.

    The thing is that as far as I knew, it used to be an accepted truth that you need to be at a calorie surplus to build muscle. Is this not true at all? I tried to look for the reasoning behind the recommendation to eat at maintanence, but I couldn't find.

    If someone could explain it to me or point me to an article, I'd love to read it. I'm not looking for a scientific paper, just trying to understand what caused this shift in belief.


  • #2
    My understanding is it is possible, and there are situations that increase the likelihood:

    1) The right genetics
    2) Being under trained in whatever training stimulus you are about to apply.
    3) Being severely overweight.

    TBAB touches the edges of it:


    • #3
      This is something I'm curious about and I used to share Victor's opinion about it.

      I now realize I was wrong, you can gain LBM at maintenance or on a deficit. I learned this just from anedcotal evidence, including training logs.

      I'm not sure but I believe this misconception is due to thinking of caloric surplus as the building blocks or raw ingredients from which muscle is synthesized.

      This is not correct. The real anabolic value of the surplus is anabolic signaling, which I guess is a hormonal process that directs your body to synthesize tissue. The anabolic signaling effect of a caloric surplus diminishes as the surplus gets larger than a certain amount and as your bodyfat % gets past a certain point.

      The reason that some of used to believe that a surplus was necessary is because a Starting Strength style progression (i.e. 5 pound increase on squats per workout) actually does end up requiring a surplus for people that are not very overweight. This AFAIK is because of the anabolic signaling a large surplus entails. Very overweight people already have a ton of unused LBM so they can get by more on CNS improvement.

      But a slower rate of progress should be sustainable without surplus. How slow depends on your general anabolic conditions (including for example age and leanness).

      Sorry if this sounds like a bunch of bro-science, which it may well be. I've just been reading up on this topic a little online.


      • #4
        Everything here will be speculation, but I am going to go with it...

        From my time as a runner I read a book called Brain Training by Matt Fitzgerald that was based on the scientific research of Tim Noakes. The idea behind the book is that your brain acts as a central governor. When you are in a race and you are forced to slow down, the reason usually isn't that your heart cannot pump blood any faster. Rather its your brain doesn't want you heart to pump blood faster. Basically you brain is tasked with keeping you alive and if it sees you are getting anywhere close to dangerous levels--you are in danger of having a heart attack or your electrolytes are unbalanced, it will take action to prevent you for reaching failure. In running, the easiest way for the brain to slow you down is to simply deactivate some muscle fibers in your leg.

        My instinct is that you can lose weight and put on my muscle if your brain is willing to allow it. The reason is because even if you are in a calorie deficit so you are not getting enough calories to build muscle through your diet, you are sitting on a large energy reserve (your fat). Lets say somebody who weighs 200 pounds and has 20% body fat (40 pounds). At 3500 calories per pound of fat, 40 pounds of fat is 140,000 calories of energy reserve. Now some of that would be off limits because you need it for essential functions, but your brain may let you tap into some of it (especially the higher your body fat percentage is) to build muscles. So mathematically you couldn't build muscle in a calorie deficit--the math just doesn't work--but you are not starting from scratch, you are starting with an energy reserve. I am imagine if you are down to 6% body fat, your brain won't allow you to use any of your fat for energy to build muscle, but it might let you do that at 20% body fat. I also think your brain is going to prioritize muscle building more if you are new to strength training.
        Last edited by philibusters; 05-02-2020, 11:53 PM.


        • #5
          Austin linked this survey on FB:

          I haven't finished it yet but it confirms that hypertrophy can be accomplished 'endogenously' - meaning using internal energy reserves (fat) rather than a caloric surplus.

          However it seems to say this is only really documented in obese untrained people and athletes returning from off-season.

          What I would personally like to know is how LBM/fat partitioning varies with the size of a caloric surplus. For example is it simply linear, the more extra calories the large a % of them will be fat? Or are there thresholds, and say 0-250 calories will be partitioned in the same way, then the next 250-500 a bit worse, then the next 500+ a lot worse.


          • #6
            The study says:

            "Similar gains in lean body mass (LBM) have been observed amongst resistance training naive overweight males in response to regular training (6 days per week, including two resistance training sessions weekly) and a higher protein diet (2.4 g·kg−1·day−1), despite a substantial energy deficit (~60% of estimated energy requirements) (34). Thus, skeletal muscle hypertrophy is possible in an energy deficit, but we propose this response may be more likely among resistance training naive, overweight, or obese individuals. The influence of training status on resistance training response to adjustments in energy balance warrants further investigation."

            If the participants were obese males their daily maintenance level especially with exercise (strength training) is likely go to be over 3000 calories a day. We just say 3000 on average a day for purposes of an illustration with the acknowledgement that is probably conservative. If they were at operating at an estimated 60% deficit calorie deficit of the maintenance level, that means they were on a 1200 calorie diet (1800 calorie deficit) and they still managed to put on a little muscle. You probably do need to be a retrainee, novice strength trainer, or morbidly obese to build muscle and lose weight on that set up. However, if you ran a much smaller deficit (say 500 calories a day), you may be able to lose weight and gain muscle if you were only chubby (say 20-25% body fat) or an early intermediate lifter rather than a novice.


            • #7
              hey dude! I see that you are searching for info about gaining muscles First, I can say that muscle growth is happening if you work hard and sleep good. You will need to But some supplements may help you to reach you goal faster. Protein, amino acids and so on. Personally I would recommend you to use testogen. It helps you to increase your testosterone and gain muscles. Good thing is that testogen contains only natural products. So I'd recommend you to read testogen review
              Last edited by SeaG1ant; 05-09-2020, 04:39 PM.