The fear of losing muscle is a common phenomenon among bodybuilders, fitness models and recreational lifters. Everybody is afraid that a few hours without protein or some form of amino acids in your system can cause initiation of catabolic processes a.k.a. muscle loss. This can result in incredible anxiety causing muscle worshippers to panic and experience extreme amount of first world stress. Consequently, many lifters start walking around with funny plastic protein bottles in hand and/or pre-cooked meals carefully stored in plastic food containers. For the most part, all of those people are bio-robots brainwashed by the mainstream muscle media.
Since the beginning of the muscle industry, the goal has been to make people believe that those at the top truly have the secret to success, which in this case is in the form of hypertrophy a.k.a. muscle growth. They always want you to think that they have something you truly need, a product without which you cannot be a complete individual. This false belief is reinforced by the creation of false authority through the usage of muscle monsters advertising shiny bottles. The people with big muscles are presented as the only source of true information, even though ghostwriters in collaboration with the marketing team write most of the articles. This is exactly how the myth that you will lose muscle unless you supply your body with very large amounts of protein and calories was created.
It started a long time ago and virtually every bodybuilding “guru” from Bob Hoffman to Vince Gironda backed this illusion. It was useful for two things: selling products, obviously, and justifying the failure of the pitched bodybuilding routines. “If my routine doesn’t work for you, it is probably because you haven’t been taking enough protein powder and liver tablets at the right time.” This scheme is being used to this very day and will continue for many more decades.
The true story is a little different. The body may be many things, but self-destructive by nature is not one of them. If the goal of your body was to “screw you”, it will not be acting as a self-repairing unit when you are hurt. Many people have been able to overcome horrific illness exactly because of this natural built-in survival mechanism. The human body is programmed to work in a certain way, and the programming language is called: IWLL (I Want to Live Longer). Therefore, assuming that a short calorie deprivation will make the organism eat valuable tissue is illogical. However, it makes sense from a business perspective. If people are convinced they truly need something, placebo is working in favor of the producers of that “something”.
Once a habit has been established, it is hard to break as seen by the billions of people refusing to stop watching TV. That is exactly the main goal of every producer – to manipulate you into making his product a major part of your lifestyle. This is not always bad, since we need things to operate in this physical realm. The problem occurs when your whole life is poisoned and hurt tremendously from addiction caused by one of your material possessions. The bigger the market share of a product in your life, the more it owns you. Of course, everybody is under a curse as long as he/she is alive. I guess the right thing to do is at least try to choose our poisons wisely.
The only way to lose muscle on a diet is to reduce your calorie intake tremendously while not consuming high amounts of protein. By tremendously I mean a total amount of calories between 300-700 a day. Obviously, doing that for long periods will result in all kinds of lean mass evaporation. You will look like a starved person and your head will be preoccupied with suicide plans. However, if your diet is more intelligent and you are consuming 1500-2200 calories a day, losing muscle is not as easy as the mainstream muscle media want you to believe. You can preserve muscle mass with similar caloric intake, especially if you are an older and shorter person with slower metabolism and office-car-home type of lifestyle. But even if that’s not the case, consuming 100 grams of protein a day will do wonders for preserving muscle mass during a diet.
Besides being brainwashed, there is another reason why people are afraid to diet – the ego. When you are on a diet, you are essentially getting smaller. You clothes feel loose and your measurements drop. This is extremely hard to deal with, if you are one of those recreational bodybuilders breaking the natural limits with monstrous 17 inches arms at 20% BF measured after an arm day consisting of 10 exercises. Since barbell strength is also largely dependent on bodyweight, the GOMAD camp consisting of fat powerlifters whose squat numbers increase in union with the number on the scale is also affected. Those people add 50 lbs. to their squats by doing “special programming” while gaining 45 lbs. themselves. Those are also the guys who believe they can break the powerlifting records naturally. They would hold on to their 40-inch guts for a 4-plate low bar parallel squat. How do I know that? I use to be one of those people.
For recreational lifters, which most of us are, there is no reason to sacrifice everyday performance for arbitrary exercises numbers. In that regard, money works the same way. It is never enough. Even if today you are making 5 times more than you did last year, it is still not enough. I know how it works. It is a never-ending game of numbers. Everybody plays it, including me, but when we focus on it too much in exchange for life quality and value, it does not end well. Just like money, you cannot take your squat numbers with you when you are dead. What is the point of being 50 lbs. overweight to squat 50-70 lbs. more? Is the approval of known and unknown online/offline peddlers of gossip so important to you?
The last thing your body wants to use as energy source is muscle mass. It is a very inefficient to rely on protein for bio fuel. Of course, when we are talking about starvation, the organism has no choice but to burn whatever has left to burn. This concept does not require exceptional thinking to understand. The process of weight loss is similar to a garage sale.
If you lost your job, invested savings in some kind of disaster or decided to become a minimalist, you may find yourself in a situation where you have to sell some of your possessions. What are you going to sell first? The fridge or one of your nine cell phones? Obviously, the valuable stuff will be left for last. The in-built brain of our organisms shares similar priority selection process.
A few hours without protein in your blood stream will not cause muscle loss, even if that was your goal. To start losing muscle you will have to be living on a water diet/fast for at least a few days and even then unless you are lean most of the lost weight would be fat and glycogen. I do not recommend similar drastic strategies, however. It is an unneeded shock for the body. It’s better to do things right most of the time, instead of relying on starvation to fix the mess that took months or maybe even years to create.
I do not believe in evolution as a creation theory. To me this is just a made up concept for people who seem to have their right brain hemisphere (creativity and spirituality) shut down hard. However, the fact that we did not come from monkeys, does not mean that evolution does not exist as a phenomenon. It does and even a job interview could be considered an example of natural selection.
What I do believe in, however, is adaptation within preset genetic limits. The body adapts and even the process of getting fat is adaptation. In the old days, our bodies were adapted to much higher physical activity levels. Simple tasks like drinking a cup of water required much more effort than today. Moreover, food was not widely available in the stores and having a fridge was an equivalent of driving a spaceship to work today. Storing food was almost impossible and the majority of people were living a day-to-day style (like today except for different reasons). What was the adaptation of the body to this regime? Obviously, people were not reaching old age because there were no things such as cities, ambulances and pension plans. However, if the body did not have the genetic make-up to adapt to the stress of having unscheduled meals, even more people would have died in the process. Not only did that not happen, but in the old days when men were naturally much bigger than the modern low testosterone generation of Justin Bieberz. The conclusion is that the body has the genetic potential to adapt to food regimens, which are considered inefficient and dangerous compared to the artificially imposed standards of the muscle industry.
To make the matter worse for the creators of those scare tactics, you are not going to gain more muscle if you eat by the clock either. Welcome to the wonderful world of natural bodybuilding!