Clean Eating is NOT the Key to Weight Loss or Muscle Growth
Clean eating is the ever growing popular term you will hear from almost everyone who actively goes to the gym on a regular basis. Clean eating defines the practice of following a "healthy" diet.
If you "eat clean" you will lose weight. Same goes for bulking; if you want to gain muscle, workout and eat from quality sources of food.
Well well, here I am. Right on time to blow your bubble.
Clean eating is key in order to achieve optimal health but this is not the number one driving force behind weight loss and weight gain.
Calories are king
When we talk about weight loss or weight gain, science has proven that calories is what we should look at.
The concept is pretty simple:
In order to gain weight, you need a caloric surplus. That means consuming more calories than you burn throughout the day.
In order to lose weight. you need a caloric deficit. That means consuming less calories than you burn throughout the day.
Pretty simple right?
Keep in mind that everybody is different.
Maybe your goal is to gain muscle mass. Maybe your goal is to lose fat. The amount of calories you have to consume, depending on your goal, is different for each individual.
A woman weighing 140 pounds will definitely not burn the same amount of calories of a 220 pound bodybuilder.
We'll dive into details in a little bit.
Why is clean eating SO popular?
The reason why "clean eating" has become super popular is because of endless amount of processed foods found all over the place that lead to numerous diseases. They tend to have a higher calorie content and lack nutritional value of any kind.
And this doesn't include all the additives and preservatives found in them.
You want to feed your metabolism high quality food in order for your body to rebuild itself in a strong, healthy way. At the same time, you can be the cleanest eater on the planet and still be skinny or overweight.
Why? Because “dirty” calories count just as much as “clean” calories when it comes to gaining muscle or losing fat.
You need balance.
There's a very important concept unknown to most people called "energy balance".
It comes back to the same concept of calories burned I mentioned earlier.
What happens inside your metabolism once you create that calorie surplus or deficit has to do with this concept.
You have 2 types of energy balance: positive and negative.
A negative energy balance is when the calories you consume, the calories in, are less than the calories you burn, the calories out.
When a negative energy balance is sustained over time, your total fat mass will decrease. Because of your negative balance or caloric deficit, your body will be forced to breakdown adipose tissue - a fancy word used in the scientific world to describe fat - as source of energy, because your energy expenditure is greater than your energy intake.
If you remain in too big of a negative energy balance for a sustained period of time, this is where your body will begin to shut down non vital functions, like protein synthesis, amongst other things, in order to "survive."
Your metabolism slows down, you start to produce less hormones, your bone density is reduced, you can't concentrate and you ultimately see a downfall in your physical performance.
Ever wondered why you stopped losing weight on your "ultra low calorie diet"?
This might be why.
Now, in order for you to maximize muscle growth, you must ensure you have a positive energy balance.
You have a positive energy balance when the amount of calories in is more than the amount of calories out.
Feed your body a slight overload in calories. This will allow you to properly build muscle and ultimately gain weight. Create too big of a positive energy balance without any physical activity and this is where you can potentially put your body at risk.
If you're physically active, you probably will have greater muscle mass, but you've probably also added unwanted fat along the way. If you're physically inactive, the repercussions are worse.
At first you start to see rolls of fat accumulate over your abdominals when you look down at your stomach sitting down on a chair, but that's only on the surface.
You become sluggish, extra pressure on your joints and ligaments because of excessive weight. Push it to the extreme and you could potentially become insensitive to insulin and increase your risk of developping diseases such as type-2 diabetes.
Can you see why calories matter?
For losing fat, you must feed your body less food than required to remain in a catabolic state; the state of breaking down fat.
Anywhere between a 10-25% in calorie reduction of your Total Daily Energy Expenditure will help you do that while maintaining the vast majority of your muscle mass.
If you want your muscles to grow, you must feed it more than it's currently burning through exercise and digestion to remain anabolic; the state of building muscle.
A surplus around 10-15% of your TDEE has shown to be optimal for lean muscle growth.
Adequate protein will help provide your body the required building blocks for proper muscle growth or minimize muscle loss while decreasing your total fat mass.
Carbs are not the devil! They will help provide the energy required by your muscles to push through your workouts. If you're looking to lose fat, your carb intake should be on the lower side. If your goal is to grow, this should be the complete opposite.
The healthy fats you consume will help with proper hormone production, insulin sensitivity, and much more.
There are ways to control your body composition with the type foods you eat while cutting or bulking and this is when "clean eating" will be the deciding factor.
Find Your Balance.
Don't know where to start?
Track your calories or macronutrients on a daily or weekly basis.
Luckily, apps like MyFitnessPal will do the calculations for you. Your only requirement is to enter the food you consume and the exercise you perform. The application itself will let you know by the amount calories you consumed if you have a positive or negative energy balance.
If you find yourself on the wrong side of the ball, you can now adjust accordingly and make progress in the right direction.
This is very important when trying to achieve long term results. Eye balling your food all the time simply doesn't cut it.
At the same time, tackers aren't meant to be used over a long period of time. Nobody wants to keep tracking their intake forever. Its a dreadful task and it literally becomes annoying.
It simply serves as a great starting tool to see the amount of calories entering your body on a daily basis.
Once you have a routine down and remain in a positive or negative balance, you can start to get more loose with your diet and see how your body responds to different types of food.