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Losing Fat and Gaining Muscle 101

Resistance Training and Protein ConsumptionThe Essential Elements for Losing Fat and Gaining Muscle

Nearly every athlete and fitness enthusiast strives to lose body fat while gaining more muscle at the same time. If you were to ask the leading experts in exercise science what the secret is, they would undoubtedly say that every person is different. Still, general recommendations to gain muscle and lose body fat are: 

  • Consume a minimum of 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight. 
  • Participate in fat-loss workouts like resistance training for specific muscle groups. 
  • Stay in a caloric deficit to lose body fat.

Ultimately, the point of this article is to demonstrate that increasing your sets, along with your whey protein intake, can lead to increases in lean muscle and reduced body fat. There are entire books written on these subjects, of course, but here is an easy way to apply these principles to your life today. 

Protein 

An abundance of research proves a faster way to fat loss is through high-protein consumption. The more protein in your diet, the more lean muscle mass you gain and maintain. Based on current research, the best diet for fat loss typically involves a high-calorie, high-protein diet.  

A 2018 study examined the impact of low- and high-protein diets on physique athletes dieting for a competition. The low-protein group consumed roughly 0.4 grams of protein per pound of body weight, while the high-protein group consumed 1.1 grams per pound of body weight. Both groups were in a caloric deficit, though the high-protein group consumed more calories than the low-protein group. 

After eight weeks, only the high-protein group gained more than three pounds of lean mass and lost more than 2 lbs. of body fat.1 To optimize protein synthesis throughout the day, you should consume 20-40 grams of protein spaced evenly throughout the day.2   

Another essential factor when considering protein intake is optimizing post-workout nutrition by consuming a high-quality whey protein like Pristine Protein® Whey Protein Isolate. Drinking 20 grams of whey protein isolate results in near-maximal muscle protein synthesis taken post-exercise, but 40 grams of protein post-workout further increases protein synthesis by an additional 10–20%.3  

While the guidelines for protein intake vary, greater consumption typically leads to greater muscle gains. That’s why most bodybuilding programs feature high-protein diets.  

Resistance Training for Weight Loss: Reps, Weight, and Sets

Repetitions

Muscles grow in response to tension. Increasing tension on the muscle is accomplished through more repetitions, sets, or weight. The current research suggests that training close to the point of muscular failure is optimal for muscle growth.4 This defies what generations of lifters believed. 

While powerlifters and famous bodybuilders would train until complete failure, new research suggests this method leads to inferior gains in lean mass compared to those that stop short of failure.5  

The rationale is that training to failure each set overwhelms the nervous system, leading to prolonged recovery time. To put it simply, resistance training to build muscle shouldn’t be focused on reps to failure. Instead, exercise until you feel you have 1-2 reps left in the tank. 

Weight

The old myth “GO HEAVY OR GO HOME” has been thoroughly debunked. Current research suggests that both light and heavy weight can increase lean muscle mass. If you want to build strength, you must train with heavy weight, but putting on muscle mass is another story — as a 2016 study aptly demonstrated. 

Nineteen resistance-trained men were randomly assigned to either a “strength” group, lifting heavy weight and doing 2-4 reps per set, or a “hypertrophy” group, lifting moderate weight while performing 12-14 reps per set. 

At the end of the study, both groups gained a similar amount of lean mass, but the heavy weight group gained more strength6.  

Thus, it’s clear: Increases in muscle mass can be accomplished by using both heavy and light amounts of weight.  

Sets

While it’s generally recommended that lifters perform a minimum of 10 sets per body part, this set count is highly controversial. Much of the meta-analyses (collection of studies) have been performed on “newbies,” i.e. those just starting to train. What about those gym rats like the Bang Energy® consumers who have been using Bang® Master Blaster® and pumping iron for years?  

Resistance training to build muscle isn’t always effective with the 10-set rule — especially for those who love to train.  

Extreme Sets Study  

Cody Haun, Ph.D., conducted a six-week study on training volume that used well-trained men who had already been performing resistance exercises for an average of five years.  

On average, each subject could barbell back squat 1.75 times their body weight. They trained at 60% of their one-rep max (1-RM) and did ten reps per set, which is typical for most bodybuilding programs. Subjects were instructed to continue lifting until they had about 3-4 reps left in them.  

The researchers divided the men into three groups: 

*This group started with 25 grams in week one. By week six, each subject was able to consume 150 grams of whey protein daily. For example, the GWP received four scoops of whey protein post-training, four scoops of whey protein between meals on non-training days, and two scoops of whey protein before bed each day (six total scoops each day of whey protein). The GWP was consuming 100 grams of whey protein post-exercise by week 6! 

  1. A whey protein group received 25 grams of whey protein post-exercise
  2. A maltodextrin (carbohydrate) group received 30 grams of maltodextrins post-exercise
  3. A graded whey protein group (GWP) in which subjects increased the protein by 25 grams each week*  

The researchers measured body composition throughout the entire protocol. The study also used a registered dietician to ensure the subjects consumed enough calories throughout the six weeks. Although each subject consumed identical amounts of protein, the GWP supplemented protein with whey protein from supplements, while other groups relied solely on food.  

All subjects in the study consumed more than 0.9 grams of protein per pound of body weight, or close to a gram of protein per pound of body weight. To optimize increases in lean mass, each subject was in a slight caloric surplus (~500 calories) above their daily estimated energy expenditure.

The Results

According to DEXA measurements8, all groups in the six-week study gained lean mass; however, the group that consumed the GWP, or increased their whey protein intake each week, gained the most lean mass and lost body fat.  

All subjects still gained lean mass in the absence of training to failure, but certain subjects’ peak gains occurred at 20 sets per week. This study suggests that well-trained athletes may need more than ten sets per body part to gain lean mass. Keep in mind this was a very small study, but it appears lean mass peaks: 

  1. By week three. 
  2. With 20 sets of resistance training over approximately six weeks. 

As you can see from the chart below, the orange line represents the lean mass corrected for fluid. The blue line represents extracellular water.   

Data graph showing whey protein muscle growth stories and studies
Haun CT, Vann CG, Mobley CB, et al. Effects of Graded Whey Supplementation During Extreme-Volume Resistance Training. Front Nutr. 2018;5:84 

Another interesting finding is that a greater amount of whey protein may facilitate gains in lean mass. The graded whey protein group also lost more body fat, but this may be due to a lower caloric intake and larger doses of whey protein. It’s well known that whey protein boosts hunger-suppressing hormones and reduces food intake. 

Key Points: 
  • Increasing whey protein in conjunction with increasing sets per week is a viable strategy for gaining lean mass.  
  • All subjects in the study gained lean mass, but the GWP group gained the most lean mass and lost the most fat. 
  • Peak increases in lean mass appeared to occur at 20 sets per body part. 
  • Strive to consume close to 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. 

The Pristine Protein® Experiment 

For anyone wanting to experiment with resistance training for weight loss, start with ten sets per week and gradually increase the number of sets until that number doubles per week. Once you start exercising each body part 20 times, increase the dosage of Pristine Protein®. When performing 20 sets per week, you should be consuming 60 grams of whey protein isolate post-exercise. 

On training days, subjects still consumed 60 grams of whey protein isolate, before replacing meal protein with whey protein. Any famous bodybuilder will tell you how bland and tedious this can be. Fortunately, Pristine Protein® Whey Protein Isolate is one of the most effective supplements for muscle growth and fat loss — but it’s also delicious. When you add this supplement into a diet program, it’s like adding a treat that can be used in place of a meal. 

It should also be mentioned that everyone responds differently to training. Just because some see progress in lean mass as the exercise sets ramp up, others may not. The only way to know if it will work for you is to give it a shot and see what happens.  

Who knows? You may find a new way to build muscle and lose fat! 

References 

  1. Campbell, Bill & Aguilar, Danielle & Conlin, Laurin & Vargas, Andres & Schoenfeld, Brad & Corson, Amey & Gai, Chris & Best, Shiva & Galvan, Elfego & Couvillion, Kaylee. (2018). Effects of High vs. Low Protein Intake on Body Composition and Maximal Strength in Aspiring Female Physique Athletes Engaging in an 8-Week Resistance Training Program. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. 28. 1-21.  
  2. Schoenfeld, B.J., Aragon, A.A. How much protein can the body use in a single meal for muscle-building? Implications for daily protein distribution. J Int Soc Sports Nutr15, 10 (2018). 
  3. Trommelen J, Betz M, Loon L: The Muscle Protein Synthetic Response to Meal Ingestion Following Resistance-Type Exercise. Sports Medicine 2019, 49:185–197. 
  4. Schoenfeld, Brad & Grgic, Jozo. (2019). Does Training to Failure Maximize Muscle Hypertrophy?. Strength and conditioning journal. 
  5. Carroll, K.M.; Bazyler, C.D.; Bernards, J.R.; Taber, C.B.; Stuart, C.A.; DeWeese, B.H.; Sato, K.; Stone, M.H. Skeletal Muscle Fiber Adaptations Following Resistance Training Using Repetition Maximums or Relative Intensity. Sports2019, 7, 169. 
  6. Schoenfeld BJ, Contreras B, Vigotsky AD, Peterson M. Differential Effects of Heavy Versus Moderate Loads on Measures of Strength and Hypertrophy in Resistance-Trained Men. J Sports Sci Med. 2016;15(4):715-722. Published 2016 Dec 1. 
  7. Schoenfeld, Brad J et al. “Dose-response relationship between weekly resistance training volume and increases in muscle mass: A systematic review and meta-analysis.” Journal of sports sciences vol. 35,11 (2017): 1073-1082. 
  8. Haun CT, Vann CG, Mobley CB, et al. Effects of Graded Whey Supplementation During Extreme-Volume Resistance Training. Front Nutr. 2018;5:84. Published 2018 Sep 11.  

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