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Old 02-10-2014, 04:46 PM   #1
Tyler P. Jones
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Need advice on dropping excess muscle mass

TLDR Version: How does one drop 10-15lbs of muscle mass on purpose - long aerobic work or carb fasted anaerobic work? Weigh in if experienced.


Hey everyone,

I've got a goal that I can't seem to find solid information on, so I thought I'd put this out to the community and see if anyone has any idea how to accomplish it.

I've been reading these boards quite a bit and they are full of solid info, so thanks for building such a great resource. Perhaps you can weigh in and point me in the right direction...

The goal: drop 10-15 lbs of muscle without crashing the system. Goal weight: 175lbs.

Background Info

I want to drop 10-15 lbs of muscle mass in order to be more efficient with O2, less heavy for climbing, and because I just think it's hindering my progression in general. I am 26, 5'10", and a dense 190 lbs. I built a lot of muscle playing football and doing bodybuilding style training to bulk up in the offseason. I haven't had my body fat tested for awhile, but my nutrition and workouts are dialed in and I've been checked many times before with the same looking physique/nutrition/style of training and I was ~10%.

*To be clear - Please don't try to tell me that I shouldn't pursue this route and try to slim down, I know this is what I want to do and I am looking for direction on how to accomplish this.

The point is I'd like to keep the same body composition but just have less weight to schlep around. I have recently gotten into rock climbing and would like to haul less weight up the mountain.

Additionally, I plan to enter a certain special forces selection and training pipeline this year which is notorious for it's incredibly demanding activities both on land and, especially, in the water. Being big, lean, and dense doesn't bode well for long efforts in the pool as I've found. A couple buddies that recently made it through the pipeline said that the big guys ALWAYS had a hard time and usually quit or were dropped for training. It all boiled down to the fact that for two guys of the same height, the buff dude is going to have to work a lot harder to keep his body from breaking down throughout the grind of training, not to mention the extra wear and tear that he'll receive on his joints vs. the lighter, smaller guy. And as we already covered, they have an extremely hard time in the water. Not to say it hasn't been done (obviously), but I'm looking to stack the cards in my favor physically before going in.

After scouring the internet for any solid training/diet guidelines on how to accomplish this, I can't seem to find anything conclusive. Not surprisingly, there aren't a lot of people that want to get rid of their muscle after they've built it.

At any rate, I'd like to get to 175lbs as fast as possible without losing all of the fitness I've built, so just sitting around and not eating isn't really an option I want to consider unless I really have to (since that would kill metabolism, work capacity, endurance, etc). I'm looking for a way to get the body to adapt to some combination of exercise and nutrition that causes it to burn off excess muscle mass until I have reached the target weight.

Strategies

So far I've been able to deduce that there are two possible approaches one could take to accomplish this.

Option 1:
- Long (minimum 45min) steady state aerobic sessions @ 4-6x/week
- Keep balanced diet (same healthy zone-ish macro levels) but restrict calories, particularly protein. Sources vary on amount but in general 1.2g/kg of protein is about the lowest athletes go, so for me that'd equate to ~100g of protein per day.

Option 2:
- Do anaerobic, high intensity training (crossfit, interval runs, mma, etc) 4-6x per week
- Completely restrict CARBS. The reason: the body wants glucose/glycogen at high intensities and will catabolize muscle tissue if no other accessible sources of glucose are available. Not sure if one would also restrict protein or calories in general with this approach.


Can anyone here weigh in on either of these approaches? Is anyone an ex wrestler or fighter that had to do something like this to drop a weight class? What about bodybuilders turned triathletes?

Thanks very much everyone,

Ty
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Old 02-10-2014, 06:26 PM   #2
Lance Neumeyer
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Re: Need advice on dropping excess muscle mass

I think it would be extremely hard (if not impossible) to keep the same body composition, but lose 10-15 lbs of muscle.

You also ask about fighters/wrestlers dropping a weight class. You need to keep in mind when they cut it's for a short period of time, and much of it is going to be water weight. From what you describe, you want to stay at that lower weight for an extended period of time. It's going to be two very different approaches. I'm sure more will chime in.

Just curious, what bodyfat % do you think you're at right now?
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Old 02-10-2014, 06:55 PM   #3
Tyler P. Jones
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Re: Need advice on dropping excess muscle mass

Thanks for the input.

True, a lot of wrestlers/fighters drop mainly water/fat weight for their competitions at their current weight, but to actually permanently drop a weight class, many will permanently alter their "walking around weight" by effectively manipulating their levels of muscle mass. Essentially that's what I'd like to do. Many have gone before and done it (basically anyone with a strength/power sports background that picks up triathlon/distance running) but no one approaches it purposefully or with science (at least that I can find). It's all anecdotal evidence that basically says "I did distance running and leaned out," with all kinds of time frames and methods thrown around and no discernible pattern that I can deduce from the noise.

What I'm looking for is to put together the actual formula for doing this quickly and safely so you can begin making performance gains again at your new weight as soon as possible. I'm just spit balling but I'm inclined to think that people with backgrounds in weight-based sports like wrestling/mma would know which path to take.

And I'm still about 10%.

Last edited by Tyler P. Jones; 02-10-2014 at 06:59 PM..
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Old 02-10-2014, 07:42 PM   #4
Thomas Cofer
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Re: Need advice on dropping excess muscle mass

Muscle will atrophy on its own when not being used. I would possibly cut down total caloric intake and continue training the way you normally do but cut back on the heavier side of lifting. As you know lower intensity exercising uses the substrate fat for fuel and HIIT type training targets carbs. Coming from an exercise science background and learning about bio-energetics and how the three main pathways work I would NEVER restrict carbohydrate intake....It could work for you in the short term (thirty days or so) after that your system will begin to outsmart you by storing things in the excess. A healthy metabolism thrives off carbohydrates and remember that while low intensity targets fat as fuel HIIT will use those carbs and your total energy (calories) expenditure will be greater. Best bang for your buck would be stick to high intensity stuff in my opinion.
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Old 02-10-2014, 10:00 PM   #5
Dakota Base
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Re: Need advice on dropping excess muscle mass

I spent 15yrs in a singlet before I started fighting barefoot, been over 20yrs as a combative competitor at this point. In a matter of speaking, I can say with confidence that I have an outstanding ability to manipulate my bodyweight and composition. I used the same techniques last year to burn down from a walking 195lb/fighting 185lb to get down to a walking 175lb/fighting 160lb that I used over 10yrs ago to get down from 189lb class to 160lb, then 152lb class. Takes about 2 months for me to cut down ~10lbs of mass, which is 8-9lbs of muscle.

Cutting muscle is more about diet than any workouts. Limit protein intake, your 1.2g/kg is likely too much, as it has been proven that 0.60g/lb (or 1.32g/kg) is as effective at GAINING muscle mass as 2g/kg or 1g/lb. In general, I'd cut out meat except for one meal per week. If I cut meat out entirely, I'd start getting drained and lethargic.

It takes a long damn time, and you'll feel hungry the entire time, and likely crave meat, then entire time.

I also generally throw randomized fasting days into the mix. They're terrible for you, but it does throw your system for a loop. If consistency is key for gaining mass, then inconsistency would logically help destroy it, right? Sure seems like it helps to me, at least. Same deal with hydration. Swing yourself from properly hydrated to slightly under-hydrated. It wrecks your system, but sure seems to help self-metabolize muscle.

Plyometrics, resistance training, Crossfit, etc will help sustain your muscle mass, so don't do that. You need to create calorie deficit by controlling your diet, and focusing in on long, moderated workouts. The only "intense" workouts I do are sprint intervals one day per week to keep my metabolism high. Boxing can be alright, and low speed sparring like BJJ rolling would be fine, but don't work over your muscles. I played hell getting my mass down during wrestling seasons/pre-seasons if I was sparring hard.

If I even LOOK at a weight during a cutting phase, I'll gain back 3lbs. If I even LOOK at meat during cutting phase, I'll gain back a pound.

Plan about a 2wk recovery phase before any competition after your cutting phase. You won't be able to go back to your normal routines, but you can build some strength back, and get some protein back in your diet.

All that said, I'm not sure it's a really long term solution unless you make a pretty serious lifestyle/diet change. It seems like once my body got used to having a certain lean mass, it would always trend back to that number. Of course, my protein rich diet and weight lifting habits tend to help me gain mass, but it's super hard for me to "stay light". I CAN get down to 155 (which is about 168walking for me) to fight, but it'd be a full time, year round job to keep my lean mass in check so I could get down.

That's a lot of random bullet points, hopefully it helps you a little on your quest.
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Old 02-11-2014, 12:57 AM   #6
Alex Burden
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Re: Need advice on dropping excess muscle mass

Quite simple you need to activate the muscles differently and the only way to do that is to start running.

Body building uses the slow muscle fibers that result in bulk and now you need to use the fast muscle fibers to reduce them.

If you look at someone that runs 100m or 200m they are quite big because then need the explosiveness off the mark, but if you look at those that run 400m or 800m, 1500m and so on, you can see the smaller the body type and muscle mass.

So if you start running you should loose the size but it will take some time.
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Old 02-11-2014, 01:39 AM   #7
Jason Kelley
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Re: Need advice on dropping excess muscle mass

Diet will be the key for losing mass.

Although not sure losing weight (assuming you are lean already) will make too much difference to your pool time just because you are now 'lighter'.

I would say, train for what you need to do and be done with it. If you need to be able to swim a mile in a certain time. Train for that. If you want to try to "lose some mass" go for it but think law of diminishing return.

Last edited by Jason Kelley; 02-11-2014 at 01:44 AM..
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Old 02-11-2014, 06:49 AM   #8
Darryl Shaw
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Re: Need advice on dropping excess muscle mass

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tyler P. Jones View Post
TLDR Version: How does one drop 10-15lbs of muscle mass on purpose - long aerobic work or carb fasted anaerobic work? Weigh in if experienced.

Strategies

So far I've been able to deduce that there are two possible approaches one could take to accomplish this.

Option 1:
- Long (minimum 45min) steady state aerobic sessions @ 4-6x/week
- Keep balanced diet (same healthy zone-ish macro levels) but restrict calories, particularly protein. Sources vary on amount but in general 1.2g/kg of protein is about the lowest athletes go, so for me that'd equate to ~100g of protein per day.

Option 2:
- Do anaerobic, high intensity training (crossfit, interval runs, mma, etc) 4-6x per week
- Completely restrict CARBS. The reason: the body wants glucose/glycogen at high intensities and will catabolize muscle tissue if no other accessible sources of glucose are available. Not sure if one would also restrict protein or calories in general with this approach.
Option 1 is the way to go. Form follows function; train for endurance while reducing the amount of time you spend in the gym and you will naturally lose some muscle as your body adapts. Focus more on BW calisthenics ie. push-ups, pull-ups, dips etc as this will help you drop muscle a little faster in addition to preparing you for the rigours of selection. As for diet; standard advice for athletes wishing to lose weight is keep your carbohydrate intake fairly high to fuel training (6-10g/kg/d), maintain a protein intake ~1.2g/kgFFM/d, and create a calorie deficit by reducing your fat intake to ~20-25% of total calories. In practical terms this means eating plenty of rice, pasta, bread etc, moderate amounts of lean protein (trim any visible fat) and plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, with as little added fat and as few high fat foods as possible. I'd also recommend cutting out any supplements you're using as you won't be able to use them when you start selection.

Finally, I sugggest you read the Special Operations Forces Nutrition Guide and the Naval Special Warfare Physical Training Guide along with the rest of the material on the Official Naval Special Warfare Website. Also, make sure you read this thread from their nutrition forum - link.

*All links wfs*
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Old 02-11-2014, 10:07 AM   #9
Josh Groves
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Re: Need advice on dropping excess muscle mass

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jason Kelley View Post
I would say, train for what you need to do and be done with it. If you need to be able to swim a mile in a certain time. Train for that. If you want to try to "lose some mass" go for it but think law of diminishing return.
This.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tyler P. Jones View Post
I want to drop 10-15 lbs of muscle mass in order to be more efficient with O2, less heavy for climbing, and because I just think it's hindering my progression in general. I am 26, 5'10", and a dense 190 lbs. I built a lot of muscle playing football and doing bodybuilding style training to bulk up in the offseason. I haven't had my body fat tested for awhile, but my nutrition and workouts are dialed in and I've been checked many times before with the same looking physique/nutrition/style of training and I was ~10%.

The point is I'd like to keep the same body composition but just have less weight to schlep around. I have recently gotten into rock climbing and would like to haul less weight up the mountain.
The body will adapt to what it is regularly exposed to.

Of your two options, option 1 is the better choice for the adaptation that you're looking for. That said, here's a path I think would work well:

CrossFit/Strength Train 2 times a week - this will help you maintain what strength you do have, without building more.

Go outside and play 2-3 times a week - if you have an outdoor place that you like to boulder, park a decent distance away, and run/hike to the spot with any gear that you use. Invest in a quality sandbag and lug it around for some trail runs and stop and do some movements periodically, find tree branches and do pull ups, etc. This gets you used to being outside, lugging stuff around and it's also fun. Bonus points for doing it in shoddy weather. Trail running and playing around outdoors also helps keep you mobile in more than one plane of movement, which is a big problem for a lot of people who only strength train. Climbing as a solo activity can also fall under this section.

Intervals 2-3 times a week - work on some intervals at the track or in the pool. This is probably the best way to improve your O2 efficiency. CrossFit metcons gets you used to embracing the suck, but they just don't simulate the intensity and pacing that is needed for nailing split times consistently, which then results in easier efforts at lesser intensity for longer distances.

Long distance 1 time a week - 45 minutes or more, take it easy on this at first if you've not been doing steady-state cardio regularly. For running, you will need to adapt so you don't get blisters and stuff, same for the bike; not relevant for the pool, but just remember that you'll need to make sure you've got enough fueling and electrolytes in the pool. I find that I tend to get migraines from the pool if I don't specifically take in electrolytes (doesn't happen with bike/run for me). Start at 20 minutes if needed. Once you feel pretty comfortable doing these easy, start doing time trials. You should be able to make pretty good progress on this if you're diligent with the intervals.

For diet, I really doubt you need to change much, unless you just want to cut the weight incredibly fast. If you've got a few months and switch your training schedule to something much like the above, your body will adapt to the demands and you'll shave a few pounds while becoming more adapted to the type of scenario you want to prepare for.
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Old 02-11-2014, 10:02 PM   #10
Dakota Base
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Re: Need advice on dropping excess muscle mass

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tyler P. Jones View Post
...True, a lot of wrestlers/fighters drop mainly water/fat weight for their competitions at their current weight, but to actually permanently drop a weight class, many will permanently alter their "walking around weight" by effectively manipulating their levels of muscle mass.

...basically anyone with a strength/power sports background that picks up triathlon/distance running) but no one approaches it purposefully or with science (at least that I can find).

...people with backgrounds in weight-based sports like wrestling/mma would know which path to take.
Reread this post after typing my last one, and oddly enough, your words here basically describe the last 20yrs of my life, to a tee...

I grew up a wrestler and powerlifter, converted to MMA, spent the last 10yrs as a professional bull rider, and now I'm finding my way into Ironman Triathlon and marathoning.

It's hard to put concrete programming onto cutting lean mass because 1) it's a dangerous practice if pursued blindly, 2) not all athlete's bodies respond the same nor do they have the same goals, and 3) a lot of guys THINK they know how to do it, but haven't ever actually done it themselves.

There are common "formulas" flying around out there for losing weight (calorie deficit of 3500-4000cal per week = lose 1lb per week) or gaining muscle mass (calorie excess and 1g/lb bodyweight of protein per day), but it's pretty dangerous to make rules about cutting muscle. I suppose if I look at my program, I lose about 1/2 to 1lb per week of muscle mass, and was only taking in basically one serving of protein per week. No strength training (you'll be strong based on your current strength and mass), just touch up some heavy weight once you get down to weight.

My system is very effective and efficient for me, I worked it out by trying a few different methods in the late 1990's and have been up and down for different reasons many times since then. My body fat % is NEVER over 10% over this time period, generally haning 7-8%. So I'm not just gaining and losing fat. Through High School and collegiate wrestling, I slid up and down between 152lbs up to 250lb class (had to weigh minimum of 190lbs to wrestle 250lbs). Freshman year was 160 then 152lb, Junior year I was powerlifting a lot so I went at 215 and 250, senior year I cut mass back down to 160 and 171 (played football at 190lbs that fall). I fought BJJ in 2009 at 185 and 170, dropped to fight 155lbs for 2010 and part of 2011, then I went back up to fighting 185 in 2012 to have an advantage in Absolute Divisions (no weight restrictions). I generally walk around about 12ish pounds heavier than fighting weight.

I had a training partner that was cutting weight beside me in 2004 or 2005 that went with the "lift weights to break down your muscles and maintain, but starve yourself of protein" method. It didn't work. I lost the weight, and he didn't make weight that winter. Plus, his strength numbers plummeted, and he seemed to be more prone to injuries during that time.

The method above in the thread that's littered with the Navy Seal propaganda is misguided. The diet recommendations there are based around guys "trying to lose weight", not trying to lose muscle mass.
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