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I heard of an old buddy that claimed he could aggressively lower bodyfat if needed (say he was feeling a teeny-bit chubby and wanted to get as "firm and lean" as quickly as possible, say for beach day) within 3-5 days. He says this can be done without muscle loss if you eat a protein surplus and eat above TDEE, but then do cardio excessively.

He claims that the body will get "fooled" because it would have had a small period in which it was overly nourished (a surplus to feed muscles), but then you can aggressively do cardio to deplete fat stores while the body is still using the surplus of nutrients -- and then give it a 6-12 hours split and repeat, or flip it backs (i.e., skip cardio and eat excessively -- next day, skip eating and cardio more).

He says this works and he maintains muscle and can slim down 1-2 pounds on short notice and hide any belly bloat/lack of firmness from a possible big day or two of heavy eating.

Bloating//belly can be reduced in 1-2 days with cardio and eating at or above TDEE with the beneficial addition of cardio and heavy abdominal work to tighten/firm the stomach and burn maybe 2 calories in the target region (yes, spot reduction is mostly not working, but long-term use still burns fat locally).

Basically, does this make sense? Does any evidence show this can generally work (outlined above)?

I ask because I might be going to the beach in a few weeks, but I've been slacking off exercising and eating a little too much junk -- and I got a teeny-bad case of belly bloat and want to look solid/firm.

  • Literally everything you have said here is not true. – Gunge Mar 21 '17 at 7:58
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    Other folks have done a good job of answering this question, but I'd suggest that you tell your friend to read a few books on human physiology and metabolism. As JJosaur stated, he is not correct. There is no replacement for slacking on your diet and the gym if you want a tight body for the beach, there are no shortcuts in health & fitness. – Sean Perkins Mar 21 '17 at 18:27
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To answer your question directly the answer is NO.

Now let me detail why and how you can lose fat and maintain muscle in 4 points:

I Rate of body fat loss

1 gram of fat is approximately 9 calories. To consume one kilogram (2.2 pounds) of fat you need to create a deficit of 9000 calories. Meaning that if you plan on losing one kilogram of fat in a week you'll have to eat a total of 9000 calories less than what you spend which is roughly 1300 calories a day. If you add cardio/weight training (which is tremendously more effective) to the point where your calorie expenditure is 3000 calories a day, you'll need to eat 1700 calories a day for a week... THEORETICALLY.

This is not taking into account the variations in metabolic rate that occur in a deficit for example (eating less makes your body consume less in summary). Not even taking into account the loss of muscle to get energy.

II So how did my friend lose so much ?

Water my friend.

Water mass is very variable and can change really fast overnight. I myself can lose 1 kilogram in one day without being on a deficit. It happens if I go out a little, drink some alcohol (even two beers are enough). I am therefore a bit dehydrated and lose water really fast. I've lost up to two kilograms in one night (even with less than 10% body fat).

Your friend is probably losing glycogen and water fast. That's it.

III What can I do to trigger faster results ?

Doing what your friend does is not necessary. There are a few ways to lose mass fast which I wouldn't recommend:

  • Keto diet.

By eating mostly fats and protein you deplete your glycogen levels. To be stored inside the muscle, it needs water. On that kind of diet you lose glycogen and water very fast. However as soon as you start eating carbs again your glycogen levels rise up as well as muscle water retention. Your weight will get back to normal really fast.

  • What your friend does, which is basically losing a lot of water but then getting it back when diet is back to normal. This isn't sustainable and your weight will go back to normal fast.

IV Then what can I do to trigger sustainable results ?

a. Slow and steady fat loss.

As boring as that sounds, it seems to be the best way to keep a good amount of muscle mass and lose fat. Weigh yourself daily upon waking up. Aim for 0.5-1% bodyweight loss a week (if you're not obese - in that case it will be higher). If your weight loss is higher, eat more. Otherwise you're losing more muscle than you think. If you don't lose weight, check your weightlifting program, macros/calories, sleeping habits and stress levels.

b. Protein intake

According to this study, having a higher protein intake for the same total calorie intake will make you keep more Fat free mass. Try consuming 2g protein/kg of bodyweight.

c. Exercise

Exercising properly will make you retain more muscle mass too according to this paper. So pick a good weightlifting program that you enjoy and stick at it. One small very personal advice on this: the simpler it is, the more efficient it will be. Try to find one with very few full body movement (Starting strenght... ).

d. Lower sodium intake.

Water retention will add mass around the waist. At very low body fat percentages, I personally noticed that after a high-sodium eating meal, I woke up with less definition in my abs. Considering of course that caloric intake wasn't higher. Therefore try getting less sodium. Progressively from what you get now. Caution: According to this paper, adverse effects can happen on very low sodium levels

e. Sweat it out

Lose water. And drink a lot to replace what you lost in order to avoid water retention.

f. Sleep

You can find online quite a bit of research on sleep deprivation and testosterone levels. This hormone is highly correlated to muscle repair and fat mass. This article talks about the effect of sleep reduction on testosterone. Sleep well to get the most out of your training and diet.

To sum it up:

  • There is no way to lose weight fast (except for obese people) without having adverse effects on health or muscle mass.
  • Get in a slight calorie deficit to lose around 0.5-1% bodyweight a week. Weigh yourself daily. If progress stops, check calorie intake, training, sleep.
  • Drink water and reduce (safely) your sodium consumption
  • Sleep well
  • Lift weights
  • Repeat until goal is achieved

One quick thing on abdominal tightness:

I never do abs and am lucky enough to have a low bodyfat percentage. Abs are very small muscles. Training them will not make you consume a lot of calories. Train bigger muscles and do some abs/vacuums when you get to less than 10% bodyfat.

Good luck with your goals ! I hope this helped !

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  • First off, you're answer covers it, just want to add something to the point "e: Sweat it out". During weight loss, about 84% of the weight you lose, you lose through your breath (as carbon dioxide), only about 16% is being "sweat out". – MJB Mar 21 '17 at 15:28
  • @MJB I didn't know. Thanks for pointing it out ! – Idri K Mar 22 '17 at 1:34
  • No problem, this video explains it quite entertainingly youtube.com/watch?v=vuIlsN32WaE – MJB Mar 22 '17 at 7:13
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I loathe picking apart posts, it makes me feel like a snarky nerd who insists on being "technically correct". However, your question has a not of incorrect information in it.

...claimed he could aggressively lower bodyfat if needed (say he was feeling a teeny-bit chubby and wanted to get as "firm and lean" as quickly as possible, say for beach day) within 3-5 days.

The only way you can change how you look in 3 days is through dehydration which is not sensible or healthy.

...He says this can be done without muscle loss if you eat a protein surplus and eat above TDEE, but then do cardio excessively.

Muscle is lost when it is not used. Muscle mass can be reduced over time through lots of steady-state cardio but that requires months/years of effort. Muscle reduction due to 'cardio' is vastly overestimated by most.

...He claims that the body will get "fooled" because it would have had a small period in which it was overly nourished (a surplus to feed muscles), but then you can aggressively do cardio to deplete fat stores while the body is still using the surplus of nutrients -- and then give it a 6-12 hours split and repeat, or flip it backs (i.e., skip cardio and eat excessively -- next day, skip eating and cardio more).

The amount of 'fat you will burn' during a single day is minimal. Even over a few weeks it will be minimal while eating at a caloric-sustain (which this sounds like). Your body does not adapt that fast.

"Eat Excessively" is wonderfully inaccurate, "excessive" could be anywhere between 3000 and 10,000 calories.

...He says this works and he maintains muscle and can slim down 1-2 pounds on short notice and hide any belly bloat/lack of firmness from a possible big day or two of heavy eating.

Bro-science aside, if his method works for him then no-one will be able to tell him differently. I suspect his weight loss is to do with the dehydration from performing cardio. 1-2lbs is basically nothing, your body will vary more in water weight over a day.

...heavy abdominal work to tighten/firm the stomach and burn maybe 2 calories in the target region (yes, spot reduction is mostly not working, but long-term use still burns fat locally).

Now, say after me:

SPOT

REDUCTION

IS

A

MYTH

Your body does not pull from fat stores near the muscle to only give that muscle energy. Harvard did a study on tennis players, if your friend was correct their dominant arm would have less fat than their non-dominant arm. They found that both their arms have the same amount of fat.

Basically, does this make sense? Does any evidence show this can generally work (outlined above)?

No. If you find any evidence to the contrary I would suggest that that is not good evidence and is false.

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Here's how you can drop as much fat-weight as possible without destroying your lean body mass:

  1. You basically fast, except you only get in around 1.2-1.4 gm of protein per kilogram of your "ideal body weight" (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1278601). This is called protein sparing modified fasting and it represents the fastest science-backed method that allows you to reach high fat burn rates without causing major destruction of your muscle mass (apart from what you'll lose from being inactive).

  2. You avoid any cardio exercise (strength training could help you out even under "fasting" conditions, but that's a story for another day), because every hour of exercise in a glycogen deprived state can destroy upwards of 100 grams of your lean body mass (at least according to this nitrogen balance study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7380688).

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