I just read an interesting study done on elite athletes with the goal of determining how nutritional intervention would impact body comp. I’ll post the link below to the study, but essentially they took 39 elite athletes and split them into two groups. They all continued their sport specific training, and included 4 additional strength training sessions per week.
One group was told to eat freely (which averaged out to 3,000 calories per day) and the other group was on a controlled nutrition protocol (which averaged out to 3,500 calories per day). The study lasted 8-12 weeks.
They tested body weight, body comp, 1 RM, 40m sprint, and a counter movement jump.
Interesting Body Composition Results
Here is the interesting part! Both groups gained the same amount of lean body mass but the 3,500 calorie group increased their fat mass by 15% compared to only 5% for the 3,000 calorie group!!
Why this is important? It shows that when bulking… more is not better! Adding more calories over a certain point does not equal more muscle. It’s important to be conservative when you’re trying to gain muscle and keep track of how quickly you’re gaining.
If it feels like weight gain is happening rapidly, it’s likely more body fat than you want.
This study shows that ramping up calories as high as possible is not beneficial for muscle gain. And this was in elite athletes! Imagine the difference for us normal folk 🙂
What I also thought was interesting was that both groups were in a surplus at 3,000+ calories. How do I know? Because both groups gained muscle!
To lose body fat, a deficit is required (always true). To build muscle, a surplus is required (mostly true).
So if elite athletes are in a surplus at 3,000 cals, what does that say for me? Or for you?
Well, really it doesn’t say much because self-experimentation is key. But it does help to keep things in perspective.
The bottom line, if someone tells you that ramping up calories as high as possible is beneficial for muscle gain, or that you are working on building muscle and losing fat at the same time and you’ve been lifting for more than a year, you can safely tell them that they’re full of shit 😉
Here is the study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23679146