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I get plenty of questions in various comments throughout the website, but I also get comments and questions via the Project Swole Contact Form.
Generally I address those questions through e-mail, but often I do not have the time to reply to each and every question personally.
From now on I want to take a more proactive approach to answering Your Health Questions by posting them separately in the blog. This way we can be sure that everyone benefits from the Q & A.
“I have what some might think a very unusual issue with my weight. I’m a 34 man , I’m 6’3, and I weigh almost 220 lbs. and I have always been very muscular. I have not lifted a weight in almost 13 years, and my body looks like I’m a football player. I’ve done some research on how to lose muscle, and what I’m finding is that I should cut down on protein and load up on carbohydrates. I’m either playing basketball or doing yoga almost 5-6 days a week, so I am very active. I’ve even toyed with the idea of becoming a vegetarian and cutting meat proteins completely out of my diet just to rid of some of the muscle I have. Is this problem common, and what should I do. I can’t imagine not eating a steak or chicken any longer, but if that’s what I have to do then so be it. What would you advise.”
At 6’3″ weighing 220 lbs does not sound overly muscular to me. I’m not quite sure why you would want to do this, but I’ll tell you what I think. Of course I don’t know what your bodyfat is, how much muscle mass you have, or how much you want to lose. I will assume you are about 12% bodyfat and you want to lose 10 lbs of muscle. This can probably be accomplished in 3 months.
Too Much Muscle
As usual, your diet is responsible for 80% of the changes to your body composition. Cutting down on protein could be part of the answer, but “loading up on carbs” is definitely NOT. Please do not do this to yourself unless you plan to eat 90% of your carbs as fruit, vegetables, and whole grains.
Chowing down on cereal, bread, and pasta will not be good for your body in the long run. I would much rather see you increase healthy fats, keep carbs normal, and decrease protein.
Cutting down on overall calories is definitely going to part of the focus of your new diet. At 220 lbs, your daily maintenance calorie intake is about 2860 calories a day. You should bring this down to about 2500 to start with.
I estimate that your protien intake should not go above 125 g a day. That’s about 500 calories a day from protein, or 20% of your diet. These protein sources should come from lean meats, eggs, nuts, beans & rice, and whole grain products.
I estimate that your carbohydrate intake can be average, probably about 250 g a day. That’s about 1000 calories a day from carbs, or about 40% of your diet. The important thing is to avoid sugars, and any other carbs that are not either whole grain, fruit, vegetable, or any other fiber. I just get concerned when you say “load up on the carbs”; I would want you to do it right.
Do not eat carbs before your workouts! We want to force your body to breakdown muscle tissue and protein for energy, which will happen after glucose (carbs) is depleted, but before fat. A great carb meal for breakfast is oatmeal with honey, a piece of fruit, and a glass of 1% milk, or maybe 2% for you.
The rest of your diet should come from fats, but not just any fats: healthy fats. You will want to eat about 110 grams of fat each day, which is about 1000 calories, or 40% of your diet. I want you to use either a fish oil or flax oil supplement in order to boost your Omega-3s in order to keep your body healthy while you are in a hypocaloric state attempting to burn muscle mass for energy. You should be getting between 30-40 grams of fat a day just from the oil supplements.
Meat, as long as it is on the lean side, can include such foods as ground beef and pork, but I would prefer that most of your fats are not saturated or trans-fats. Instead you should stick with eggs, oils, and lean meats. I think you will find that a staple of your diet will be salad with an olive/flax oil and vinegar dressing. Or just use whatever low carb/low sugar dressing you want, but add 1-2 tbsp of flax to it.
For fish oil, I recommend a product that I am just about to try called recoup|90.
For flax oil, you can probably find a good product at your local grocery store, especially if they have an organic foods section.
Stick to your regimen of basketball and yoga. Any exercise you do should be highly cardiovascular. If you wanted to start weight lifting again you should stick to 50+ rep sets. Jump rope. Jog. Ride a bike. Just don’t do sprints as this will cause hypertrophy.
Important: one very important aspect you should keep in mind, is to decrease total calories if you are not losing the weight you want to lose. If you are not burning up muscle, decrease your calories by 100 for each week until the muscle starts melting off to the tune of 1-2 lbs per week.
Chances are by doing this you might end up getting really lean, but we are focusing on breaking down type 2 muscle tissue rather than preserving it. If you decide you are getting too lean, please try to decrease your protein intake by 5% along with the calories.
That’s about as detailed as I can get with you, short of working with you as a personal trainer and nutritionist.
As usual if you take my advice I am not responsible for anything that happens to you. I am not a physician, nor am I even a certified PT or nutritionist any longer. Do not use my advice in place of the advice of a medical professional, e.g. consult your doctor first.