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Thread: Why does muscle gain require extra calories?

  1. #1
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    Default Why does muscle gain require extra calories?

    I've heard that if you want to gain muscle, you need to consume more calories (not just extra protein) than you burn. Why does this requisite exist? In other words, what does this extra energy do for muscle gain? Can anyone help me with the physiology behind this?

    The only answer I can come up with is that a lot of energy is required to transport large quantities of protein and other necessary nutrients to the site of repair, and this energy wouldn't be available in a calorie-deficient diet. But first of all, am I right in assuming that such a large amount of energy is really required for this purpose, and if so, couldn't the body simply burn existing fat stores to fuel the task?

    It's been boggling my mind for ages.

  2. #2

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    Quote Originally Posted by pacificmonk View Post
    I've heard that if you want to gain muscle, you need to consume more calories (not just extra protein) than you burn. Why does this requisite exist? In other words, what does this extra energy do for muscle gain? Can anyone help me with the physiology behind this?

    The only answer I can come up with is that a lot of energy is required to transport large quantities of protein and other necessary nutrients to the site of repair, and this energy wouldn't be available in a calorie-deficient diet. But first of all, am I right in assuming that such a large amount of energy is really required for this purpose, and if so, couldn't the body simply burn existing fat stores to fuel the task?

    It's been boggling my mind for ages.
    You can't just generate mass out of thin air. If your body doesn't even have enough energy to run properly, it will be breaking down any "excess" protein (not sure what excess even means in this context) to maintain function. There will be none less for muscle mass.

    Why do you need an excess in building materials to build a house? Why do you need to be gaining more than you are losing to create *anything*?

    If you are an overfat beginner said material may come from your fat stores opposed to your diet but ultimately energy balance must be maintained.

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    As you get leaner, your fat becomes less easily available to use as energy - that's why the last ten is hard to lose, and why people have stubborn fat areas - the gut for most guys, the hips for most women. There are fewer hormone receptors in those remaining fat-filled cells so the fat is slower to be teased into circulation. At some point, the body is extremely reluctant to let those last few lb of fat go - which is why calories in / calories out is not the whole picture of weight management (even if it explains most of what happens). So if you're skinny, you've got to get the added calories from your diet. The body begins to prioritize keeping the last bits of fat over cellular repair, etc., and slows down your BMR accordingly.

    The other major reason is that the body is also quite happy to cannibalize muscle tissue (along with fat) to make up a caloric deficit, in fact in the wrong hormonal environment (stress, lack of sleep, lack of exercise) the body prefers to burn muscle over fat. Being in caloric surplus helps to minimize this catabolism.
    Obviously the stuff I'm describing varies quite a bit from person to person but that's basically the deal.

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    Your body needs energy to function. Trying to increase your muscular mass goes beyond function, you are actually demanding that your body becomes more "energy-needy" as more mass = more energy.

    Our biology wants to be efficient, it likes us to be as skinny and non-energy-needy as possible as that is what millions of years of evolution has primed us for. To be efficient and to survive on as little as possible. So you will only grow when there is a massive abundance of nutrition. Remember that energy is the most significant part of nutrition, if you are low in calorie consumption than your body needs for its functions it will use other convertable things like protein to turn into energy. This is not optimal, but as energy is so important to your basic function it will do so. Without sufficient energy your will wither away and die.

    Training very hard without sufficient calorie intake pushes you in this direction, you need energy to fuel the activity. Without it, not only will you fail to add mass, you will LOSE mass, and potentially get ill due to lack of recovery.

    An analogy:

    Think of a plant. A plant creates its own energy via photosynthesis, for this process to occur it needs sunlight. If you remove the light, you prevent the energy being created. You can apply as much water and plant feed (what is in fact a mineral supplement and not energy - compare to protein and vits/minerals) as you like but without the energy from photosythesis the plant will wither and die.

    Humans have the ability to turn stuff like protein or our own tissues into energy to survive, so we wont die very quickly when on a massively calorie restricted diet when these other things are available. But maintaining good health in this scenario is somewhat unlikely. To gain muscle is this scenario is silly.

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    Dont forget that it is not only recovery from workouts that requires extra nutrtition/energy but also performing those workouts that is energy demanding.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dastardly View Post
    Training very hard without sufficient calorie intake...
    Remember, we ahve words that mean specific things, and it's improtant to use them. Crossfit is "hard". Running quarter mile intervals is "hard". Doing a single set 5RM is "hard", but they all have very differents effect on the body, and your body responds very differently to them in the case of negative energy balance.

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    Thanks for the great replies, guys. I get it now!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dastardly View Post
    . So you will only grow when there is a massive abundance of nutrition.
    Not true

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    There are the hormonal effects or overfeeding too, high insulin, reduced SHBG, increased IGF-1 and testosterone, reduced cortisol and some other stuff I don't really remember.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Carlos Daniel View Post
    There are the hormonal effects or overfeeding too, high insulin, reduced SHBG, increased IGF-1 and testosterone, reduced cortisol and some other stuff I don't really remember.
    Plus, when you eat a shit-ton, you get hella fat, which is what we are all about around here. Ask anyone!

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