This is happens when dieting, cardio, and lifting go head-to-head for figure recomposition
In my previous post, I reviewed a study that examined a few different tactics aimed at losing weight. To recap, female participants spent 12 transformation-sensation weeks grinding away at one of four avenues toward body recomposition. In the end, all 3 of the experimental groups lost the same weight!
If all of them lost the same amount of weight, did the groups differ on how much was lean body mass (LBM) vs fat mass (FM)? What happened with their strength, VO2max, or their blood work? What does it all mean?!
Let’s find out!
For a fuller explanation, see my previous post. To briefly recap the methods, the researchers conducted a 12 week study with all females. There were 4 groups, one of which was the control group that did nothing for the 12 weeks. The other 3 experimental groups took different avenues toward weight loss. The first used diet-only, the second used diet and cardio, and the third used diet, cardio, and weight lifting.
Below are the descriptive stats of each group. As always, they’re group averages and rounded to the nearest whole number for the ease of viewing.
All of the participants were sedentary, overweight, and had physicals to ensure that they were healthy and able to complete the study. They had the usual pre/post measurements taken: scale weight, body fat level, 1RM strength test, VO2max, resting metabolic rate (RMR), and blood work.
As readers will recall from the previous post, the diet-only group lost an average of 14 lbs and the other 2 groups lost 15 lbs, on average. The control group lost nothing. What about the breakdown of the weight they lost? How much was FM vs LBM? Well, the overall LBM of all the experimental groups stayed the same. That means that all of the weight lost during the 12 weeks was FM.
How about the rest of the results?
When it came to strength, only the weight lifting group made gainz. That’s very understandable. The strength stats for that group are listed below, for the folks that like to pick things up and put them down. The lifters made more gainz in the first 6 weeks than in the second 6 weeks. This is effectively a replication of the strength gainz curve that participants experienced in the Staron et al. study that I discussed in a previous post.
The cardio group and the weight lifting group improved their VO2max, understandably.
All 3 of the experimental groups improved their results on a whole range of blood tests, also understandably.
Implications / Thoughts
In the last post, I explained my thoughts on the RMRs and the consistent weight loss among all 3 groups. With regards to what I discussed today, I have some thoughts on the LBM and strength results of the study.
The researchers only took an overall measurement of LBM. They used a BodPod to measure the FM and LBM of the participants. That provides only an overall measure of these numbers. An MRI or DEXA scan is required to know how the LBM breaks down by muscle groups/limbs. The overall LBM of these participants may have remained the same, but how their LBM broke down could have been very different between the groups and individually. The pre/post individual LBM numbers could have changed for individuals while the average of them all never changed. That said, the researchers admitted that they do not know why the diet-only group maintained their LBM as they lost weight.
However the LBM broke down, this result shows empirically that newbies do not need to worry about losing their LBM while they diet down. If a newbie loses fat and just looks skinny, well this study indicates that they just did not have much LBM to begin with. I know that’s hard to hear… I’ve experienced this myself. But it’s the #truth.
And when it came to strength, the weight lifting group showed that newbies can gain strength while training in a caloric deficit to lean out. Gaining strength, preserving LBM, and losing fat are not mutually exclusive in the newbie.
I want to conclude with a thought that includes the previous and the current posts. The real message that cuts across all boundaries here is that hard consistent work, either via diet and/or exercise, is what really works for losing weight/fat – especially for the newbie. I said it before and I will say it again. The best program is the one that you can stick to consistently for long enough to achieve your goals. And I say that as a lover of the weight lifting!
If you have any questions about this study or anything I said, please feel free to leave a comment. I will get back to you and others may have insight to offer, too. If you have any questions or topic suggestions that you would like answered as a post, then please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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