The Contrast

The Contrast
Lift Big, Sing Big, Look Great Doing It.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Lose Fat While Building Muscle??

The fitness industry often runs on very old science, or pseudo science, or frankly, just sound bites. I fuckin hate sound bites. That's why politics usually drives me so bat shit, I can't stand complex issues dwindled down to little fun sized vocal appetizers. Like the travesty of our economic health could be chewed on like a mini snickers....anywho.

"You can't outrun your fork!"

Except for the individuals who've worked so damn hard on increasing their muscle mass and removing their body fat that they lose a pound if they don't get in upwards of 300 grams of carbs a day.

"Muscle weighs more than fat!"

My issue with this one is that people like to throw it out as soon as someone says that the scale went in the other direction. People be like "Don't worry, muscle weighs more than fat." The fuck if that person gained a pound of muscle overnight after doing 45 min on the elliptical. They probably had a giant influx of sodium and retained a shit ton of water or they ate a whole cake, or they aren't being consistent with their weigh ins, or a million other reasons that have almost nothing to do with muscle.

"You can't burn fat while building muscle."


All of these little blurbs piss me off, but I will limit my anger to this last one and address this subject head on. I actually used to believe this shit. I thought I was going to be stuck in a fat or fit cycle for the rest of my damn life. Having to get chunky if I wanted to increase my weight lifting numbers, and then losing half of it because I wanted to have a 6 pack again. But, I soon wised up.

The idea that you can't burn fat while building muscle is just absurd. Here is a quote that I'll share from my personal training text book:

"From the start, it must be understood that anabolism (for us, I'll say this means muscle growth) and catabolism (usually talked about in terms of muscle breakdown) occur simultaneously all the time. However, they differ in magnitude depending on the level of activity or rest and when the last meal was eaten."

Anabolism and Catabolism are the two general biochemical processes that make up the body's metabolism. If you're looking to build muscle, we want to make in our a body a very anabolic environment, and we do this by regular training stimuli and the necessary recovery via sleep and nutrition. To Lose weight, you want to be catabolic by decreasing your calories and expending more energy.

Now, one would argue that you can't do both. Can't I? Why can't I get in a sufficient amount of protein to insure protein synthesis, run a program that will build muscle and strength and put myself into a minor deficit with my carb and fat intake, increasing the deficit with slow steady state cardio? No, this is very much a reality, especially for people just starting their strength training journeys.

When starting a strength and muscle building program, you can expect to make immense physical progress that will last well over a year if you are consistent with your diet and training. People in the fitness industry call these "Newb Gainz." As in, "I'm new to fitness and committing to it and I'm gaining all kinds of muscle and strength."

What you are seeing in Ol' Yeargain, and have been seeing this past year is text book newb gainz. I've been working out for a year now, but I'm only just now starting to do strength based lifting, rather than just cutting the shit out of my calories, doing shit tons of drop sets and eating very wacked out ratios of macro-nutrients.

The results have been nothing short of Boss Level awesomeness.

I've had people say that they want my results, and some people that say they just want to get in better shape. Most people will not go as hard as Ol' Yeargain and commit as much to it in order to obtain my level of results, but the method is still the same. It's a Shoot for the Moon and land amongst the stars type of philosophy. You don't have to be 100% on point to still gain quite a bit of muscle and build a great looking body. 80% consistency will still yeild great results, not optimal results, but still great results.

So, let me outline the way you can begin your Newbie Gains and be straight up beast mode, too.


You need to know your maintenance calories. Try out the IIFYM calorie calculator, but to get the best results, you should know your body fat percentage. You can find out your body fat percentage by either using a Body Fat monitor, A body fat caliper, or get a DEXA scan.

Or you could just eyeball it with this chart:

It's good enough for the kind of jazz we play.

Once you've gotten your maintenance, put yourself into a 200-300 calorie deficit. (Or 10-15%) This will yield results without ruining you in your lifting program.

Protein is Imperative.

Your protein intake should roughly be 1 gram of protein per 1 pound of lean muscle mass. Take current weight, find out what your body fat percentage is and remove that total from your overall number. If you weight 200lbs and are 20% body fat, remove 40lbs from 200 and you have 160. You should be consuming at least 160 grams of protein a day whilst on your strength and muscle building program.

However, since you're in a calorie deficit, I strongly recommend just consuming 1 gram of protein per 1lb of body weight for satiation and thermic effect caused by protein. So, 200 grams for 200lbs.....unless you're over 220lbs and under 6 feet tall. In that case, you really shouldn't exceed 200 grams of protein. Maybe only 180 if you're below 5'8".

Your other macros: Fats and Carbs

Your carbs and fats are your variables. For Fat, I would stick between 50-85grams. 50 grams of fat is really low for most men, and it can yield some pretty serious health risks and greatly affect ones libido and hormones. However, If you find that you much prefer to have more carbs than fats, it's okay to put your carbs at a higher level and adjust your fats lower to accommodate it as such, just as long as you're still in an overall calorie deficit. I've talked about this A LOT. Literally, I feel like I have to reiterate this point over and over and over. And you know what, I will have to do so forever. It took me a long time to understand this and it's not a concrete thin; it's half personal preference and half individual genetic make up and how people respond to certain dietary stimuli. The real fucked up thing is that somethings will yield incredible results for months, but then you'll stall. That's when you play with your numbers, more than likely reduce fats, and keep carbs at the same, maybe elevate, and see what happens. Dietary chess. Enjoy the game.

Other Things:

Meal timing and frequency is irrelevant towards your goals. Trust me. Fuck Breakfast.

The source of your carbs, fats and proteins is also irrelevant. (Fuck Clean Foods) Although, you should get two servings of veggies and fruits a day to get your micro nutrients in. You should stay healthy and grow up, because I don't care if you think they are yucky, that shit is good for you.

My post workout nutrition. Follow me on Instagram (@TheOperaBro) to see this kind of food porn all the time.


After starting off my training around April of 2013, I did a great deal of what my industry calls Bro Splits. That means the classic chest day, arm day, shoulder day, back day and maybe a leg day...which almost never happened. This served it's purpose. It got me in the gym, let me sweat some more and allowed for my ridiculous calorie deficit to take hold. I probably did gain some muscle, but not anything too serious. I was ridiculously weak. Then, as my education increased I realized that I didn't need to do 15 sets on just biceps, and I began to do a more refined bro split...Chest and Back, Arms and Shoulders, and legs hit twice a week. Then soon I began the push pull legs split, 6 times a week training. However, I was still not actively progressing my lifts. I was just throwing shit against a wall and seeing what stuck. The ONLY thing I ever worked at getting stronger during this time was my deadlift. And, I did. I got that sucker up from 315 to 415lbs.

However, as recent as January, I began investing in and researching the benefits of strength programs and why they are not only incredibly beneficial, but THE most beneficial to building a strong, muscular, well balanced healthy body. People like Martin Berkhan, Matthew Ogus, Layne Norton, and Eric Helms, all of which are natural "body builders" and sport incredible bodies. Their principles of training are rooted in strengthening power lifter style movements.

Ol' Yeargain at that strength training game.

Strength Based Program:

To Really, and I mean REALLY optimize your gains, you need to use a program or try out multiple programs that are tried and true and will promise results.

The Following Programs I approve of:

Martin Berkhan of Lean Gains, one strong and lean dude, and kind of a nutritional and meal timing revolutionary is a big believer in just focusing on Bench Press, Squat, Deadlift, and Chirrups. He even talks extensively about all of these and his training philosophy in this article. It's a damn good read and will make you rethink most of what you think to be true about weightlifting.

*Side Note: If you're interested in an incredible means to dominate body recomposition, I definitely reccomend looking into Berkhan's Leangains method. It's a combination of intermittent fasting, carb and fat cycling, and is a very effective weight loss/muscle building system. The information is free, too. Just thought I'd share.*

Or, you could be like Ol' Yeargain and say "Fuck all that noise, I don't like following other people's programs" and either create your own (something that's not as easy as it sounds) or just stick to getting really freaking great at the basics.

  • Bench Press
  • Squat
  • Deadlift
  • Weighted Pull Ups (Chin Ups)
  • Weighted Dips
  • Overhead Press
  • Bent Over Rows

If you work towards getting yourself the strongest you possibly can on all of these lifts, I fuckin GUARENTEEEEEE that you're going to have one amazing looking body. If you can do strict chinups with a 45lb dumbbell hanging from your waist, you can bet that you've developed some incredible Biceps and Lats. 

The minute I stopped fucking around with a bunch of crap and focused on making a handful of lifts grow is the moment I actually began to look good. I can literally track it to a science.

Just...a little gay.

The difference between the two photos is this.

One is a ridiculous awkward selfie, the other is a little gay...but I jest.

Body weight: 204lbs - 192lbs
Incline bench: 160 x 5 - 180 x 5
Squat: 185 x 5 - 205 x 5
Weighted chins: Body weight + 35 x 5 - + 65 x 3
Weighted Dips:  Body weight + 45 x 5 - + 50 x 7

*Side Note: Unfortunately I screwed up my lower back pretty aggressively early into the process sometime in February, so I'm just now getting back to doing deadlifts. I pulled 340 for 3 today and it felt pretty damn good. Form is improving. I'll be pulling 400lbs for reps soon. I can taste it.*

So, One could argue that I lost muscle with a 12 pound body weight difference. However, I'm quite sure that's not true at all, if I had lost serious amounts of muscle, my lifts would have decreased, but My lifts have all increased by 20lbs (I'm making the weighted chins as such since there is a 12lb difference in the body weight factor.) February 24th was my first full body day, and since then I've increased all of these main lifts and pushing past these numbers in smaller rep ranges (a part of periodization, I pushed 200lbs on incline this morning.) 3 months (ish), 12lbs in body fat (and probably water weight) down and 20lbs on some fun lifts. Fuck Yeah.

Doing a bunch of different lifts and machines is fun, and if you've got time to kill or just like having hobbies, by all means try them all, I know I do. But, know this: Nothing is going to build your legs like squats. Nothing will build up your shoulders like Overhead Press. And if you're getting to the point where you're doing your body weight for reps in all of the suggested lifts, you're gonna look good...assuming that you're lean, which you should be if you're diet is on point.

*Double side note: I'll talk more about what it's much better to stay relatively lean year round and not getting super chunky during the winter bulk just to put 30lbs on your bench that you will have to take off once you want to show your body off to the world again. Your goal should always be to stay as strong and as lean as you comfortably and healthily can while not giving up your career and social and family life.

Alright, that's it. I could sit here and chat about this shit all day. I actually really enjoy it, so I'm not being facetious in the least. If YOU have questions, hit up my Email, Facebook Page, Twitter, Instagram or just leave a comment below.

Until then,
Lift Big, Sing Big, and Look Great Doing it.

The Opera Bro.


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