What controls your muscle and your bodyfat levels?

20080109_kri_s44_036.jpgI was just chatting with a client the other day about weight loss and the challenges he is facing with it.

It seemed that most of his issues with weight loss had to do with things like the social atmosphere at work, going out for lunch with his co-workers, eating dinner with his family and other people who are not interested in trying to lose weight, passing by his favorite coffee shop in the morning and stopping in for a coffee and a muffin. Social events on the weekend and going out for dinner and a few drinks.

Sounds pretty standard to me. These seem like the same issues most people would have with weight loss. They sure are the same hurdles I’ve had to overcome to ever cut down my body fat so I can certainly relate.

But when we started to talk about muscle building the story seemed to change direction.

When it came to muscle building he was doing everything he could to try and build up muscle. He was hitting the gym faithfully 3-4 times per week, lifting heavy weights, doing the ‘big lifts’, taking a post workout shake, eating plenty of protein, even timing his protein, shakes and creatine doses etc…

But none of this fancy stuff seemed to matter and did very little for helping him build muscle faster.

And then I realized there is a huge misconception with fat loss vs muscle building.

Fat loss (or fat gain) is largely controlled and influenced by your environment.

Building Muscle (or not) is largely controlled by your genetics.

Following a well designed weight training program is about all you can do for building muscle. The gains come slow, and are determined by your genetics and your age. There really is nothing else that can influence muscle gaining (besides steroids).

Arnold and the boys knew that the workout was king for muscle building
Arnold and the boys knew that the workout was king for muscle building

On the other hand fat gain or fat loss is hugely impacted by your surroundings, who you eat with on a day to day basis, the eating and food culture in your country, your city, your place of work, and especially your family and house.

I think many of us recognize how much our environment can influence our ability to gain or lose fat, and assume it also has the same ability to influence our ability to gain muscle. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.

If you’ve ever tried to lose a significant amount of fat you’ll know exactly what I am talking about. The workout or your genetics plays an insignificant role in weight loss compared to your ability to avoid going to that coffee shop for the muffin, or out with your buddies for wings and beer, or have a second helping of food at dinner, or go out for lunch with your co workers etc.

To sum it up, successful weight loss seems to be a matter of controlling and overcoming the influences of your environment.

Building muscle successfully without gaining fat is a matter of accepting the limited control you have over this process and accepting that hard work in the gym is all you need to do, and have the patience to let the gains come over time.


P.S. I have found Eat Stop Eat to be the easiest way to lose body fat and get control over the food environment that I live in.