Shedding Fat & Building Muscle

Everyone's looking for the magical formula to lose weight, shed fat, and build muscle. And every year, there's a new diet book, diet product, diet pill, exercise gadget, and/or exercise philosophy promising quick and easy results. 

Read on to learn:
  • Why diets don’t work.
  • The truth about energy balance.
  • How to shed fat.
  • How to build muscle.
Diets Don’t Work
There are more diet books, diet foods, diet supplements, and diet products than ever before, and people are more worried about their weight and size than ever before. In fact, it’s estimated that almost half of all women and about 25% of all men are on a diet at any given time! Yet, despite all this dieting, the rates of obesity are higher then ever. In fact, obesity has increased a shocking 50% over the past decade!!! And, eating disorders are just as prevalent as ever. There seems to be a direct association between “dieting” and gaining MORE weight and developing more disordered eating patterns. Click here to learn more about the effects of restrictive eating and why diets don’t work.

In order for your weight to stay the same, the energy (or calories) you consume should equal the energy (or calories) you expend. In most cases, it’s really a simple matter of energy balance: “Calories In” must equal “Calories Out.” “Calories In” includes what we eat and drink. “Calories Out” includes our resting metabolic rate, the thermic effect of food, and physical activity. Click here to learn more about calories and your personal calorie requirements. 

Shedding Fat
The only way to lose weight is to create a calorie deficit. One pound of fat equals 3500 calories. So, in theory, to lose ½ pound to 1 pound a week, you have to create a deficit of 250 to 500 calories per day (either by eating fewer calories or burning more in physical activity). Of course, genetic differences determine how easy it is for you personally to lose weight. In one study, researchers overfed a group of people 1000 extra calories every day for 8 weeks and found that there was a huge difference in the amount of weight gained (ranging from 3 to 16 pounds)! The researchers concluded that the people who gained less weight were able to “waste” the extra calories by fidgeting more and giving off more body heat. The people who gained more weight lacked this capability and simply stored the extra calories. 

To maximize fat loss, minimize the drop in your metabolism, energy, mood, and grades, and increase the chances that you won't gain it back, it’s best to lose weight slowly! Decrease your intake slightly by 250-500 calories per day and increase your exercise level. Aim for about 0.5-2 lb. weight loss per week. If you are very overweight, 2 lb. per week is acceptable. But, if you only have a few pounds to drop, the rate should not exceed 0.5-1 lb. per week. Click here for a listing of eating strategies for permanent fat loss and sample meal plans for healthy weight loss.

What about Fat Burner Supplements?
Click on the link above to learn…
  • Whether the active ingredients in fat burner products are effective and safe.
  • Are the new “ephedra-free” products really better and safer alternatives?
  • What are the keys to losing body fat and keeping it off for good?
  • Is there a genetic limit to how lean and shredded you can get?
Building Muscle
The only way to gain weight is to create a calorie excess. So, in theory, to gain ½ pound to a pound a week, that means creating an excess of 250-500 calories per day. Whether or not those extra calories go towards building muscle or body fat depends on whether or not you exercise. Of course, as with weight loss, genetic differences make it easier for some people to gain weight and harder for others. If your metabolism speeds way up every time you eat more, you may have to consume many more calories before you’ll achieve results. For more tips on weight gain, go to “Eating Strategies to Gain Weight” and “Frequently Asked Questions about Bulking Up.”

What about Muscle Builder supplements?
Click on the link above to learn…
  • How much protein and amino acids you really need to build muscle.
  • If creatine is the magic bullet it is claimed to be.
  • Whether or not andro and other pro-hormone supplements offer safe and effective alternatives to anabolic steroids.
  • What are the keys to achieving optimal muscle strength and mass?
  • Is there a genetic limit to how much muscle you can gain?

Sheri Barke, MPH, RD
COC, Student Health & Wellness Center
Rev. 2005