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  1. #1
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    How many Calories are used during recovery to build 100 grams of muscle?

    (Edited substantially for clarity.)

    I have read that building muscles is an "energy-intensive" (uses Calories) process. (We are talking about the process by which the body physically builds up muscles during the recovery period after a workout.) Can we put this into numbers?

    Say someone puts on about 1/4 of a lb of muscle in a week, let's talk about 100 grams of extra muscle mass.

    If we ignore the Calories this person used during their workouts, how many Calories does their body "use up" in the course of the muscle rebuilding process itself, i.e. in the process of generating that extra 100g of muscle?

    I'm not asking about total daily Calories the person uses, but just specifically how energetically expensive (how many Calories) the muscle rebuilding process itself is, expressed as Calories, during recovery.

    For example, a 25 year old natty male beginner makes beginner gains and puts on the 100g of muscle in 7 days: how many Calories did the body use up as part of building 100 grams of new muscle mass?

    (If he hadn't lifted, those Calories wouldn't have been used up, because there is no muscle building during the recovery process since there is no increased muscle mass.)

    If your answer is "0 Calories" or something minimal such as "70 Calories" then the original claim that muscle building during recovery process is energetically expensive (uses many Calories) would be false.

    I assume it's true. So what's the correct number?
    Last edited by peterm28; 11-14-2019 at 04:02 AM.
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    What did I just read?
    - Your mindset influences your outcome. It's time to take out phrases like "I can't" or "I don't have time" and replace them with phrases like "I will make the time" and "I will keep working at it until I find a way that works." Success starts with the right mindset and believing in yourself and your dreams.
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    Originally Posted by health4life24 View Post
    What did I just read?
    Sorry, thought it was clear. Just edited it to clarify my question.
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    There is no answer. Everyone and every muscle is different.
    160 lbs and jacked is about as impressive as D cups on a 300lb woman
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    Originally Posted by PurmaBulker1984 View Post
    There is no answer. Everyone and every muscle is different.
    Do you think the claim that it's enegetically intensive (uses many Calories) is true?
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    This is a good question that to my knowledge nobody has a good answer for.

    In this paper (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2376744/) Kevin Hall, who has done as much work on the modelling of body mass loss as anyone I can think of, proposed ~7.6 MJ/kg of LBM loss (which is 1816 kcal, so 181.6 kcal/100g). There are several assumptions that go into this number, a primary one being that the osmotically inactive component of water within cells fully corresponds to the protein hydration component of cells and is ~1.6g water per gram of protein. Also, the LBM loss would mostly exclude glycogen/carbs as change in that component is typically constant/irrelevant after the first few days of a diet.

    However, energy associated with LBM loss is not necessarily the same as energy associated with LBM gain, and more particularly skeletal muscle gain. I generally assume acquisition of LBM will be a less efficient process than mobilization of LBM for the purpose of generating energy, but I cannot prove that. Also those older studies used dieting without high protein or strength training so it is likely a lot of LBM loss was skeletal muscle but it's possible other aspects of LBM were lost as well which would cause the above number to be off. Additionally, he shows in that paper that the predicted weight loss per energy deficit doesn't change very much even if the protein hydration coefficient is significantly different (his example is if you start with 20kg fat and change the coefficient from 1.6 to 3.8 and you lose 15kg total bodweight, the predicted energy density of lost weight changes from 24.7 MJ/kg to 23.1 MJ/kg, which is only a 6.5% change), which gives even less confidence to this prediction.

    So I don't have a good answer. If I had to take a wild guess for ballpark estimate purposes, I'd go with 200 kcal/100g of skeletal muscle based on the above. If anyone has a different estimate with a separate line of reasoning, please post it as I'm quite curious.
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    Originally Posted by peterm28 View Post
    Do you think the claim that it's enegetically intensive (uses many Calories) is true?
    I think the question why do our bodies choose to add muscle, past what is needed for everyday life, is a better question. Scientist can't agree on which pathways actually work or are most important. People can spend years in the gym trying to stimulate muscle growth and get nowhere, while others can look at a weight and gain lbs of LBM. Once they figure that out, getting enough calories is the easy part. At least from a practitioner of weight lifting, maybe not from a scientist trying to quantify it.
    160 lbs and jacked is about as impressive as D cups on a 300lb woman
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    Originally Posted by Heisman2 View Post
    This is a good question that to my knowledge nobody has a good answer for.

    In this paper (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2376744/) Kevin Hall, who has done as much work on the modelling of body mass loss as anyone I can think of, proposed ~7.6 MJ/kg of LBM loss (which is 1816 kcal, so 181.6 kcal/100g). There are several assumptions that go into this number, a primary one being that the osmotically inactive component of water within cells fully corresponds to the protein hydration component of cells and is ~1.6g water per gram of protein. Also, the LBM loss would mostly exclude glycogen/carbs as change in that component is typically constant/irrelevant after the first few days of a diet.

    However, energy associated with LBM loss is not necessarily the same as energy associated with LBM gain, and more particularly skeletal muscle gain. I generally assume acquisition of LBM will be a less efficient process than mobilization of LBM for the purpose of generating energy, but I cannot prove that. Also those older studies used dieting without high protein or strength training so it is likely a lot of LBM loss was skeletal muscle but it's possible other aspects of LBM were lost as well which would cause the above number to be off. Additionally, he shows in that paper that the predicted weight loss per energy deficit doesn't change very much even if the protein hydration coefficient is significantly different (his example is if you start with 20kg fat and change the coefficient from 1.6 to 3.8 and you lose 15kg total bodweight, the predicted energy density of lost weight changes from 24.7 MJ/kg to 23.1 MJ/kg, which is only a 6.5% change), which gives even less confidence to this prediction.

    So I don't have a good answer. If I had to take a wild guess for ballpark estimate purposes, I'd go with 200 kcal/100g of skeletal muscle based on the above. If anyone has a different estimate with a separate line of reasoning, please post it as I'm quite curious.

    Thanks for all this but I am really confused why you would look at muscle loss? Are you treating it similar to fat, where roughly if you eat an extra 3500 Calories that gets stored as 1 lb of fat, but if you burn off 1 lb of fat, that gets you 3500 Calories? So you kind of consider muscle as just a storage location for Calories for our purposes? (And kind of assume that losing muscle and gaining muscle win/cost roughly the same amount of Calories?)

    If this were true I don't think people would consider building muscle to be really calorie-intensive. I would have thought the calorie cost of building muscle is much higher. (In part that's why I would think serious pro bodybuilders eat like 3500 Calories while on a bulk - to feed the energetically intense muscle building process.)


    To sanity-check your numbers, what if we considered general advice on these foruns: don't these foruns tell beginners they could put on half a pound to one pound of muscle per week, and should "lean bulk" with a surplus of 200-300 Calories per day to do so?

    If that surplus is what gets used, then 7 * 200 cal = 1400 Cal at the low end and 7 * 300 cal = 2100 Cal at the high end. If that is used for 0.5 lbs of muscle (226.796 grams) then it corresponds to 590 Cal/100 grams of muscle built to 954 Cal per muscle built.

    I think 0.5 lbs in a week is the amount of muscle people can build while only on a 200-300 Calorie surplus, don't you think?


    In that case my calculation is higher than yours.


    However, it is possible that when the forum advices people to lean bulk using 200-300 Calorie surplus, in fact more than 300 Calories are used by the muscle building process (maybe it uses 400, 500, or even 600 Calories per day more than maintenance: in which case the extra Calories come from body fat. (So while eating +300 Calories every day, a beginner still gets fat loss from week to week while they lift, since even more than 300 Cal/day are used by the muscle building process.)

    Could this happen?
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    Every time I try to respond to the above it says "We're sorry, it looks like this page is taking a rest day". I'll respond to you via PM. It's a shame as this is a good topic of discussion and clear up a lot of misconceptions.

    Edit: it won't let me send the PM either, lol. Let me try to break it up into different posts...

    Originally Posted by peterm28 View Post
    Thanks ... Calories?)
    There are no good studies to look at this so I'm using what data is out there. There have been a lot of studies on weight loss interventions over the year and weight loss in general. There are also studies on weight gain. In that paper the author takes things from the viewpoint of weightloss as that is what concerns most people. In the studies done to that point on a large scale, pretty much none included people eating high protein diet or doing resistance training. Thus, whether you look at weight gain or weight loss probably does not matter a huge amount. So yes, I'm assuming the cost of losing and gaining muscle is similar, though I did mention it wouldn't surprise me if there were some differences in the cost between the two. I don't know how big those differences would be.

    Also, keep in mind that while burning off 1 lb of fat will give you ~3500 kcal, eating an extra 3500 kcal will usually not equal to 1 lb fat gain due to increases in BMR/TEF/NEAT.

    If ... process.)
    That's the thing; it's not very calorie intensive to build muscle. It just takes time. If it was really calorie intensive then it would be very difficult to build muscle while in a caloric deficit but there are tons of studies on beginners showing it is easily possible to build muscle while in a deficit.
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    To ... so?
    General advise on the forums is no more than 2 pounds per month (unless starting underweight) if you want to try to maximize lean body mass gain while minimizing bodyfat. Generally we don't advise to pick a set # of kcal and to stay there, rather pick an estimate (perhaps 300 kcal/d), track your rate of weight gain and measurements over time, and adjust as needed. Remember, if you add 300 kcal/d from maintenance, your TEF will go up ~30 kcal, your BMR may increase slightly, and your NEAT will probably go up some, so you won't really be at a 300 kcal/d surplus; the actual surplus will be less.

    If ... yours.
    Again, due to BMR/TEF/NEAT, the true surplus will be less. But the general thought you have is correct; you really only need a very small surplus per day to maximize muscle gain (at least from the energetic component... it's possible being in a bigger surplus could allow you to train harder or perhaps may have a different anabolic component but thus far studies looking at larger surpluses do not show faster rates of muscle gain, just faster rates of fat gain (to my knowledge)).
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    However, ... happen?
    Unlikely overall from the data out there as it just doesn't seem to take that many calories to build muscle. Also as a general rule while body recomposition (gaining muscle and losing fat at the same time) is possible and even expected in beginners (especially beginners with obesity) who are doing things correctly, it's not very likely to lose fat significantly while in a surplus.
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    it depends also on what metabolic processes we consider to be muscle building

    i would imagine this would be extremely difficult to measure with any sort of accuracy at all
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    Thanks for your responses. (While I get that you wanted to include quotes and it wouldn't let you post until you truncated them, I find this two word quoting style very difficult to follow - in this case maybe you could summarize the part you're responding to, rather than include the "two..word" quote.)

    Originally Posted by Heisman2 View Post
    If it was really calorie intensive then it would be very difficult to build muscle while in a caloric deficit but there are tons of studies on beginners showing it is easily possible to build muscle while in a deficit.
    But...it *is* very difficult to build muscle on a caloric deficit, if already low BF%.

    For beginners, it's easy instead of difficult to do so precisely because they're not at a low BF% so they just use fat for the difference. They have access to 300,000 Calories whenever they need them. They're just carrying them around as a spare tire.

    So they can eat at a 300 Calorie deficit and still build muscle. Their body just takes the difference from the change jar: the 300,000 Calories they're carrying around.

    Isn't this what happens?

    Someone at 5% BF has no money in the change jar (stored fat) and for this reason can't build muscle while on a Calorie deficit.

    Isn't this the best way to think about it?
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    Registered User Heisman2's Avatar
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    The two word quotes included the first word and last word of what you said and I responded to that with my next block of text.

    Agreed it is difficult to build muscle on a deficit when at a low BF%; that's in part due to the body not being able to draw a lot of calories from fat to general LBM acquisition. So yes, you are thinking about it correctly. That does not mean it's very calorically intensive though; that just means it takes calories. So being in a small surplus to provide the extra calories is fine.
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    Originally Posted by Heisman2 View Post
    Agreed it is difficult to build muscle on a deficit when at a low BF%; that's in part due to the body not being able to draw a lot of calories from fat.
    Agreed. Actually this whole thread is about putting a number on "a lot". Anyway if someone knows what that number is they might tell us, otherwise we're just guessing now.
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    This is the problem with bodybuilding and the fitness industry today is that we try to put specific numbers and quantities on things you just can't. There is no way to predict how much muscle someone will build or lose. People build / lose muscle at different rates.

    It's just like with defining what is "too much" or what some people refer to as overtraining. There is no way to determine what is too much. It isn't a one size fits all answer. It's gonna be different for each individual. Same thing applies here.

    I don't like to spend time worrying about something I can't control. In other words I'm not going to obsess about how much muscle I may gain or may lose. I'm gonna do my thing and let my body do it's thing. If that makes sense.
    - Your mindset influences your outcome. It's time to take out phrases like "I can't" or "I don't have time" and replace them with phrases like "I will make the time" and "I will keep working at it until I find a way that works." Success starts with the right mindset and believing in yourself and your dreams.
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