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To build muscle, do strength training. You’ll need to concentrate on two things:
- Increase strength of the muscle
- Impose local metabolic fatigue in the muscle
This means progresively (and smartly) overload your muscles with more weight, and fatigue the same muscles, or “go for the burn.”
Over the years, with all the knowledge I’ve gained — from reading journals, from smart people like Brad Pilon, and from practical experience — I’ve learned that muscle growth has more to do with gene expression triggered by resistant training than by how much protein or how many calories you eat.
Traditionally, those striving to gain muscle will also increase caloric intake (as observed by bodybuilders in their “off season”), which increases their overall weight, much of it in fat. Then months later they “diet down” to shed the fat, only to reveal between 2 to 7 pounds of new muscle (assuming no pharmaceutical anabolics had been used).
The question is: is it possible to gain muscle without added calories and with them added body fat?
It seems very possible.
Since protein turnover (breakdown and build-up of proteins, including muscle protein) is an on-going activity based on multiple factors, muscle mass then is dependent on the balance of this turnover process: A higher rate of breakdown means less muscle; a higher rate of build-up means more muscle. So the balance of catabolism and anabolism (breakdown and build-up, respectively)) is rate-limited and depends on environmental and biological factors, such as strength training, environmental demands, and internal biological needs (disease states, etc.).
In otherwords, the signaling this protein-turnover balance may come from more demanding factors , than from the calories or protein you eat. So long as you meet the minimum caloric requirement for basal and daily activities, your gene expression will determine whether you’re protein turnover balance will average out to be anabolic or catabolic.
Case in point, after catastrophic injury, parapelegics tend to resume eating the same calories as before. Yet, while their non-functional legs are observed to atrophy, their upper bodies often develop more muscle mass because of the increased demand on this region. In this scenario, we have in the same body two opposing gene expressions, one for more muscle, one for less.
If, in fact, muscle growth is based on gene expressions, then perhaps muscle growth can occur even in a state of calorie deprivation. This means you may still be able to grow muscles while losing fat, given that the stimuli are present.