May 262010
 

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the saying, “You increase your metabolism by 50 calories for every pound of muscle you add to your body.”

50 calories per pound????   Really????

Let’s take a look at this.  I’m about 180 pounds.  When I first started weight lifting, I weighed about 135 pounds.  I’ve added a little bit of body fat since then, so let’s be conservative and say I’ve gained 30 pounds of muscle since I started weight training.

If I’ve gained 30 pounds of muscle, that means that my metabolism should have increased by 50 x 30 = 1,500 calories.

I’ve had my resting metabolic rate (RMR) officially tested.  The last time it was measured, it was 1,671 calories per day.

Now, if my RMR increased by 1,500 calories since I first started weight training, then that would mean my RMR started out at only 171 calories per day.

That is completely impossible.  Nobody has a resting metabolic rate that low, unless you’re dead.

Building muscle does not increase your metabolism by 50 calories per day.  The real number is only 6 calories per pound on average.

So my 30 pounds of extra muscle has increased my metabolism by about 180 calories…not 1,500.

Adding muscle doesn’t boost your metabolism all that much.  Yes, it does a little bit, but you’ll get more bang for your buck by simply being more active throughout the day.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying building muscle and strength training is not important.  It’s extremely important.  It improves strength, it improves appearance, it improves function in activities of daily living, and it increases bone density.  You also get a nice elevation of your metabolism of about 50-100 calories for 24 hours after your workout.  My point is that building muscle is over-rated for permanently increasing your metabolism and energy expenditure.

The “50 calories per pound” number appears to be a case of communal reinforcement.  This is the process by which a claim becomes a strong belief through repeated assertion by members of a community.  Someone, somewhere, at one time proclaimed this 50 calorie per pound number.  Other people heard it, believed it, and started telling their friends.  It has now been repeated so often by so many people everywhere that people have accepted the number without question.  Then you get doctors and other respected health professionals quoting the number, and it becomes permanently entrenched in our beliefs.

The fact is, muscle does not boost your metabolism all that much.  Building muscle is important….just don’t expect it to make you a calorie burning machine.

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  77 Responses to “The 50 Calorie Per Pound of Muscle Myth”

  1. Are you aware of how many calories were required to create your 30 pounds of muscle? This might change the picture quite a bit.

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    • Hi, Markus,

      I mentioned in the post how resistance training will cause an elevation of RMR of around 50-100 calories over the 24 hours following exercise; this is due to the elevation of protein synthesis (i.e., muscle building) over that time period

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      • Thanks for your reply, James.

        What do you think about the calculation here:
        http://www.awakeninghealth.com/index.asp?id=58

        The estimation is about 47,000 calories per pound muscle.

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        • Hi, Markus,

          These calculations are way, way off. Consider that the body is always synthesizing protein and in a state of protein turnover. Whole body protein synthesis in weight stable individuals has been shown to be around 2.66 grams per kilogram per day. In a 75 kg man, that’s 200 grams of protein synthesized per day. If what this author said was true, a 75 kg man’s energy expenditure would be 44,000 calories per day. This is obviously not true.

          Whole body protein turnover only accounts for 10-20% of resting energy expenditure. Also, the biochemical cost of protein synthesis is not nearly close to the number calculated in the website to which you linked. The actual biochemical cost is estimated to be 3.6 kilojoules per gram of protein, which is less than a calorie per gram.

          In fact, there was a recent paper just published in the British Journal of Nutrition on this topic.

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  2. Not to mention that most people who believe such things are in the process of dieting. Thus they’re shortchanged on incoming energy. Even if the metabolic cost of muscle were 50 cals per pound… you’re not going to be adding appreciable amounts of it while you’re dieting.

    Some?

    Sure.

    Loads?

    Doubtful unless you’re using drugs.

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    • Steve,

      Excellent point. It’s pretty tough to build any significant amount of muscle when dieting.

      James

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      • Also, what about the amount of weight you’re lifting. If there’s a difference between Low Weight/High Reps and Heavy Weight/Low Reps, then doesn’t this have to be taken into consideration. What I am referring to is the theory that your body will continue to burn fat long after your workout if you train heavy. Doesn’t this mean that your RMR will be much higher, therefore requiring more calories than if you trained lighter?

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      • Apologies to skip back to the beginning of the comments section.

        Steve,Excellent point. It’s pretty tough to build any significant amount of muscle when dieting.James

        Have you read the research from Martin Berkhan at http://www.leangains.com ?

        He references his work well and discusses articles regarding intermittent fasting. The structure of his “bulk while cutting” contributes to eating more than total energy expenditure on training days and consuming less on rest days. His theory states your body receives adequate nutrition when required but can use stored energy (fat) during rest.

        His results (reviews/phots from body builders) show good results. Many building muscle whilst decreasing their body fat.

        What do you think to this? Obviously a well conducted study with a controlled resistance training programme and diet would provide more concrete evidence.

        Maybe the traditional way of bulking and cutting presents greater results than the leangains.com methods. But for those who don’t want to gain body fat as well as muscle, maybe it’s an alternative.

        Personally I haven’t tried leangains. I play team sports and have no interest in resistance training. I would like clarification if you can provide any James?

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      • I have to say this likely isn’t true, not only did I recently read a new article from some university (i’ll link it later if I can find it) that reduced or low carbohydrate diets do not prevent muscle mass gains.

        I personally have broken every rule of weightlifting thus far in the total of 2.5 months I’ve been lifting (though being new, I understand this may be unfair since my body will react to any training stimuli) however I lift both heavy and high weights. when targeting lats I do about 100 pounds (I myself an 139) at 12 reps for the first set, I also do multiple (but never consecutive) sets. my results of high weight, medium/high reps, at a fast pacing with multiple sets has been a 5 inch increase in my chest, mostly from back growth. a 2 inch increase on my arms, a 1.5 inch increase to my thighs, my calves have not gained mass however they have grown stronger (in this case my definition of strength=work, the ability to exert force upon X(weight) load by time, with timing being a quantifiable factor)

        I started at 155, then I stopped drinking soda, then dropped to 143 within three days, my only dietary change, I started drinking lots of water. I have hovered around the low 140′s today I am 139, I am noticing both fat loss (while actually ramping up macronutrient intake) and muscle/strength gains.

        nearly 3 months ago I went into the gym only being able to use 10′s and 20′s at the max, now I can do 50′s to 70′s, even up to 120 for my lats (which I just tried today, damn that 20 pounds sure made a difference)

        I suppose weightlifting should come with a *personal experience may vary, warning..Everyone’s will be different..and I do believe that genetics can play some role in unlocking the physiological abilities of ones body.

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        • I personally have broken every rule of weightlifting thus far in the total of 2.5 months I’ve been lifting

          This is a big reason why you are getting the results you are getting. Simultaneously gaining significant muscle while dieting is a different experience in more experienced lifters. I’m not saying it’s impossible; Martin Berkhan and his clients come to mind. But it is a much bigger challenge, and gains will not come as fast.

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  3. Like to add a note about people who are obese and trying to lose weight actually using gain of muscle weight as a reason the scale does not change for them. So question/calculation for you…

    At what point of muscle development COULD you attribute gain to muscle development?

    Is there a weight ratio (fat to muscle; total body weight to muscle) you must have to get a measurable difference?

    Not to mention the idea that simple weight training will contribute to significant increases in calorie expenditure… sitting on a bench doing curls with 10 pounds in each hand type stuff for a ten minute period versus a brisk 3.0 to 4.0 mile per hour walk for 10 minutes – who will win?

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    • Hey, Kristina, nice to see you commenting here. Interestingly I just came across a study that I will probably write about in a future issue of Weightology Weekly. This study showed how being in a energy deficit impaired protein synthesis (even when protein intake was high), which shows why it’s so hard to build muscle if you’re losing weight.

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      • Thankyou for clearing that up. I started a muscle building program CLX and started dieting (1600c/day) at the same time. During the three month program I got a lot stronger. I also lost about 20pounds. I assumed I gained muscle because I was so much stronger, and throught the fat, I was able to feel muscle I had not felt before. But from what you say that is unlikely I gained much muscle since I was clearly in a calorie deficit. So would you say that my strength gains were largely due to improvements in neuromuscular efficiency?

        Also have a question. If a woman does strength training 3x a week for 45 min per training period, without a calorie deficit, what is a reasonable number for the number of pounds of muscle mass she might gain? I realize it can vary from woman to woman or the specific training program, but is there any studies or documentation on this? And does it make a difference her age?

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        • Hi, ladybug,

          You definitely gained some muscle if you had never weight trained before. Beginning weight trainers can add some muscle, even when dieting, simply because their bodies have not experienced weight training. However, some of your strength gains were also probably due to neural adaptations.

          You are right that the amount of muscle a woman can add will vary from one woman to the next. However, women can add appreciable amounts of muscle when they don’t have training experience. One study showed a 12% increase in muscle cross sectional area after 9 weeks of training, although the researchers didn’t measure gains in terms of pounds of muscle. Another study found a 7% increase in lean mass in 12 weeks in women; this translated to about 7 pounds.

          James

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          • Thankyou very much for the information. YAY for muscle!

            I have a suggested for a future article. I’m curious about calories burned during exercise and how they are impacted by body composition. Most HRM and other devices calculate calories ask you to imput, age, height, weight, and sex, and then use those with heart rate to calculate calories. If calorie counters were to be able to incorporate bodyfat levels, how would the results come out. Say two woman of same age, height, and weight but with different bodyfat levels did the same work volume…..how would calories compare? If if a woman of a lower weight did the same volume, how would her calories compare?

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          • Hi, ladybug,

            Thanks for the suggestion! A quick answer would be that body composition would not make a major impact on energy expenditure, as the total amount of mass that an individual needs to move is the same in either case. However, I will definitely keep your topic in mind in the future, as I have developed some energy expenditure calculators in the past.

            James

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      • Could you link me to that paper? I’d really like to have a look.
        How significant are the effects?

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  4. It’s not just the added mass – it’s the totality of trained muscle that causes the boosted metabolic rate. So yes – if you increase your lean mass by 10 pounds you will indeed increase your metabolic rate by ~300-400 cals a day. To suggest a 6 calorie increase per pound of added mass is to suggest that a 270 pound body builder who sports 100 pounds more lean mass than I do only requires an additional 600 cals a day. IOW, I need 2200 cals a day and the 270 pound body builder only needs 2800. They’d vanish and that little food.

    Again, it is the total trained muscle not just the added muscle mass that causes the increased metabolic rate. Dr. Wayne Westcott wrote a very good paper on this that I do not have access to at this time. But you can email him for the info. If interested, I’ll forward your info to him Jim.

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    • So yes – if you increase your lean mass by 10 pounds you will indeed increase your metabolic rate by ~300-400 cals a day.

      The scientific data does not support this assertion.

      In a classic paper by Segal et al, the metabolic rates of obese men were compared to muscular men of a similar BMI. The muscular men were athletes; they were a mixture of wrestlers, powerlifters, football players, and judo athletes. The muscular men had resting metabolic rates approximately 250 calories more per day than the obese men. These muscular men also had nearly 39 more pounds of lean mass. This works out to be 6.4 calories per pound, which matches up with papers that look at energy expenditure of various organs and body components.

      Now, this study was a cross-sectional study. However, even when one looks at prospective, controlled studies, the numbers don’t come even close to 50 calories per pound. Some studies indicate around 20 calories per pound, but those studies are problematic as they measured resting energy expenditure within 24-48 hours after the last weight training session; this means any residual effects of the last session on metabolic rate would make their way into the numbers (as protein synthesis from the last training session can still remain elevated at 48 hours).

      To suggest a 6 calorie increase per pound of added mass is to suggest that a 270 pound body builder who sports 100 pounds more lean mass than I do only requires an additional 600 cals a day.

      Please refer to the study by Segal et al above. Their numbers are quite close to the 6 calorie per pound figure when they compared highly muscular athletes to obese people.

      IOW, I need 2200 cals a day and the 270 pound body builder only needs 2800. They’d vanish and that little food.

      You are confusing resting metabolic rate with total daily energy expenditure. The RMR of a 270 lb bodybuilder may be 2800 calories per day, but his total daily energy expenditure is going to be dramatically higher than this.

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      • First, I am not saying it’s 50 per pound. That’s ridiculous. It may very well be ~6 per pound of added muscle. But that’s beside the point. When you add 10 pounds of muscle your metabolic rate increases more than 60 calories Jim. Again, trained muscle is more metabolically active than untrained muscle.

        The Segal study is essentially useless for determining how much greater metabolic rate becomes after adding lean mass via resistance training. Fat tissue is metabolically active too as you know. Obese people will have higher metabolic rates due to their adiposity. And not all athletes weight train.

        Serious body builders would chuckle at the Segal study or any study that suggested that they eat so few calories. And I didn’t say anything about RMR. But unless you have data to the contrary, I highly doubt a 270 pound body builder has a RMR of 2800 cals.

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        • First, I am not saying it’s 50 per pound. That’s ridiculous.

          But you are still claiming a high number. Earlier you said, “So yes – if you increase your lean mass by 10 pounds you will indeed increase your metabolic rate by ~300-400 cals a day.” That’s still 30-40 calories per pound…..much higher than can be supported by any scientific evidence.

          When you add 10 pounds of muscle your metabolic rate increases more than 60 calories

          Yet you haven’t provided any scientific evidence to support that. I’ve provided you with actual hard research.

          Again, trained muscle is more metabolically active than untrained muscle.

          You need to define “trained.” There are many different types of training, from resistance training to endurance training, each with different effects on tissue. And the scientific data is not very clear on this issue, given that most research in this area has used 2-compartment models of body composition, which are fraught with large error rates.

          And not all athletes weight train.

          But many of the athletes in the Segal paper DID weight train. Some were powerlifters, and others were football players. Regardless, even if some didn’t, they were all highly trained athletes, and hence their muscle tissue is “trained.” To argue that their tissue is somehow not trained is absurd.

          And if you are going to assert that weight training increases the metabolic rate of muscle tissue, but other types of training don’t, then you need to provide scientific evidence for that assertion, along with the mechanism behind how that would happen.

          Serious body builders would chuckle at the Segal study or any study that suggested that they eat so few calories.

          But the Segal study does nothing of the sort. Again, you are confusing resting metabolic rate with the amount of calories someone eats. They are not the same thing. RMR only tells you the amount of energy expended by your body when at complete rest, after an overnight fast. It is not indicative of how many calories you need to eat to maintain your weight or your muscle mass, as it does not include the energy expenditure from activity or the thermic effect of feeding. Even the most sedentary, inactive people will have total daily energy expenditures at least 15-25% higher than their RMR. For bodybuilders or active athletes, this number can be 50-100% higher (or more) than RMR. This means that the amount of calories required just to maintain body mass would also be 50-100% higher than RMR.

          But unless you have data to the contrary, I highly doubt a 270 pound body builder has a RMR of 2800 cals.

          One world class bodybuilder was found to have an RMR of 2,098 calories per day.

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  5. And remember, when using energy expenditure calculations for calories burned, you have to subtract the amount of calories you would have burned anyway in that same time frame you were active. When you do, it doesn’t add up to very much for most people who exercise regularly.

    If you want to lose fat, tell your fat cells to open up and release its contents by eating low carb.

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    • And remember, when using energy expenditure calculations for calories burned, you have to subtract the amount of calories you would have burned anyway in that same time frame you were active. When you do, it doesn’t add up to very much for most people who exercise regularly.

      I’m not sure how this relates to the discussion on muscle and metabolic rate.

      If you want to lose fat, tell your fat cells to open up and release its contents by eating low carb

      I would contend that your viewpoint of fat loss at the cellular level is overly simplistic and fails to take into consideration a variety of factors that affect fat regulation. My clients have successfully lost large amounts of fat, without having to go low-carb. The fact is there is a variety of approaches that work well for fat loss; low carb is only one of those options.

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      • You said: “Adding muscle doesn’t boost your metabolism all that much. Yes, it does a little bit, but you’ll get more bang for your buck by simply being more active throughout the day.”

        You will absolutely NOT get more bang for your buck by being more active throughout the day (and people have jobs you know) than by weight training 2-3 times a week and packing on some decent lean mass. Jim, c’mon man. And what about that fat construction worker or mail carrier? and even if you did manage an additional hour of activity a day more than what you were doing before, you have to subtract the amount of calories you would have burned anyway doing something else from that number.

        Not only that, many people who become more active also become more sedentary at the same time. This is seen especially in children.

        My view on fat loss is hardly simplistic nor is it my viewpoint – it is basic biochemistry.

        For the subjects you claim lost large amounts of fat without having to go low carb, what was the macronutrient amounts (in grams) of their diets? I’ll bet their carbs were under 200 grams per day.

        And did these obese subjects go from eating several hundred grams of carbs per day (they couldn’t have become obese in the first place unless they were) to eating a lot less on the diets you gave them? I’ll bet this is the case because there would be no other way for them to lose fat.

        Have anyone ever seen an obese person who doesn’t eat refined foods or grains? And fat loss isn’t the most important issue – it’s how we become obese that is or should be the focus.

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        • You will absolutely NOT get more bang for your buck by being more active throughout the day (and people have jobs you know)

          You can expend way more energy through accumulating even small bouts of activity throughout the day versus adding muscle.

          For example, if you just walk at 1 mile per hour (which is practically a tip-toe), you double your energy expenditure over sitting. If you walk at 3 miles per hour, you quadruple your energy expenditure over sitting. If someone walks for only 10 minutes at 3 miles per hour, he/she will expend about 50 calories, which is 37 calories more than what would’ve been expended just sitting. If you use the 6 calories per pound of muscle figure, you would have to build 6 pounds of muscle just to equal 10 minutes of walking at 3 miles per hour. Even if you use the higher figure of 20 calories per pound, you would still have to build nearly 2 pounds of muscle just to equal 10 minutes of walking at 3 mph. The amount of time needed to build that muscle is more than the time needed to take that short walk.

          The fact is, the numbers don’t support what you are claiming.

          Not only that, many people who become more active also become more sedentary at the same time. This is seen especially in children.

          That statement makes no sense. Either 24-hour net activity energy expenditure increases, decreases, or stays the same.

          My view on fat loss is hardly simplistic nor is it my viewpoint – it is basic biochemistry.

          When you focus solely on insulin and carbohydrate, yes, your viewpoint is overly simplistic, as fat metabolism is quite complicated and is affected by a myriad of factors that all interplay with each other. It ignores things such as net 24-hour fat oxidation versus fat synthesis, the balance between the two, and how there are hundreds of variables playing a role in this balance. The biochemistry is anything but “basic.”

          For the subjects you claim lost large amounts of fat without having to go low carb, what was the macronutrient amounts (in grams) of their diets? I’ll bet their carbs were under 200 grams per day.

          Carb intake made up 40-50% of calories. Men were typically on an 1800 calorie per day diet, so their carb intake was typically 180 – 225 grams per day. But you can’t start saying, “Hey, it’s the carbs”, because fat intake in absolute gram amounts was also dramatically reduced, along with overall caloric intake.

          And did these obese subjects go from eating several hundred grams of carbs per day (they couldn’t have become obese in the first place unless they were) to eating a lot less on the diets you gave them?

          But they also went from eating several hundred grams of fat, and also thousands of calories, down to eating much smaller amounts. So you can’t claim it’s the carbs when EVERYTHING was reduced.

          I’ll bet this is the case because there would be no other way for them to lose fat.

          This statement is unsupportable by the scientific evidence. There are numerous studies and cases of people losing fat on high carbohydrate intakes. One study showed a 3.5% reduction in body fat on a carbohydrate intake of 63% of calories and 350 grams of carbs per day. Even that bodybuilder I mentioned got down to a single digit body fat percentage on nearly 700 grams of carbohydrate per day. That’s also not to mention the research that shows that a positive carbohydrate balance actually predicts lower amounts of weight gain, which conflicts with your claim.

          The bottom line is that your statement that people can’t lose fat while eating high amounts of carbohydrate is simply not true, and there is plenty of studies to show that.

          it’s how we become obese that is or should be the focus.

          And even that is a multifactorial problem, and is not as simple as just zoning in on carbohydrate.

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          • “That statement makes no sense. Either 24-hour net activity energy expenditure increases, decreases, or stays the same.”

            Allow me to rephrase: When people become more active to lose weight, they often reduce the amount of other activity. If my kids run themselves ragged at a party, they come home and nap or sit and read. If they don’t party hearty, they usually want to ride a bike or expend energy.

            “When you focus solely on insulin and carbohydrate, yes, your viewpoint is overly simplistic, as fat metabolism is quite complicated and is affected by a myriad of factors that all interplay with each other. It ignores things such as net 24-hour fat oxidation versus fat synthesis, the balance between the two, and how there are hundreds of variables playing a role in this balance. The biochemistry is anything but “basic.”

            You missed the point. I’ll rephrase: Occam’s Razor. “One should not increase, beyond what is necessary, the number of entities required to explain anything.” The point is that should be the focus because it boils down to insulin levels and if people focus on keeping insulin low they will lose fat. If insulin is kept high, they won’t.

            “Carb intake made up 40-50% of calories. Men were typically on an 1800 calorie per day diet, so their carb intake was typically 180 – 225 grams per day. But you can’t start saying, “Hey, it’s the carbs”, because fat intake in absolute gram amounts was also dramatically reduced, along with overall caloric intake.”

            You can’t say it’s the reduction in calories or fat either. But the fact is the total carbs they were eating was reduced. You should have measured insulin levels. Had you you’d have seen a huge decrease.

            Was the body builder you mentioned on steorids or GH? To lose fat on 700 grams of carbs per day would require enormous amounts of exercise.

            I’ll check that other paper and get back you.

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          • The studies that Westcott cites don’t support his claims.

            First, the study by Campbell et al. did not show an increase in muscle mass. The increase in FFM was due to an increase in body water. So Westcott can’t claim the increase in RMR was due to an increase in muscle because there was no increase in muscle!

            Second, RMR was measured 45 hours after the last resistance training session. However, protein synthesis is still elevated at 72 hours after a training session in subjects with little training experience. Because of the increased energy requirements of elevated protein synthesis, any elevation in RMR detected so soon after a resistance training session is not due to an increase in muscle; rather, it is a residual effect of the resistance training session itself.

            The study by Pratley et al. is similar. They measured RMR 22-24 hours after the last training session. Thus, any elevation in energy expenditure is confounded by the training session itself. Second, the increase in RMR in the Pratley study didn’t even correlate with the increase in FFM. So even if you assume FFM and muscle are the same (which they aren’t), this study doesn’t support Westcott’s claims.

            That’s not to mention the fact that Westcott equates FFM and muscle, when they are not the same thing. I discuss this in my recent article on body composition testing.

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          • I’ll respond in more detail later. But you are suggesting that a 270 pound body builder and I require only a 600 calorie a day difference and that is nonsense.

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          • Fred, I’ve already explained this to you. I don’t know how many more times I need to repeat myself. It is apparent to me that you seem unable to grasp the difference between resting metabolic rate and total daily energy expenditure. I will explain this again. Resting metabolic rate is not indicative of how many calories someone needs to maintain weight. Total daily energy expenditure is what is indicative of someone’s calorie needs to maintain weight. And total daily energy expenditure can be significantly higher than RMR.

            I already referenced a study that showed a world class bodybuilder to have an RMR of 2,093 calories per day. However, this bodybuilder’s total daily energy expenditure was over 5,000 calories per day, meaning that’s how much he needed to eat just to maintain weight.

            To describe it even further, total daily energy expenditure = resting metabolic rate + activity energy expenditure + thermic effect of feeding. For weight to remain steady, total energy intake needs to match total energy expenditure.

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          • “I already referenced a study that showed a world class bodybuilder to have an RMR of 2,093 calories per day. However, this bodybuilder’s total daily energy expenditure was over 5,000 calories per day, meaning that’s how much he needed to eat just to maintain weight.”

            The abstract does not state this body builders size.

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          • “First, the study by Campbell et al. did not show an increase in muscle mass. The increase in FFM was due to an increase in body water. So Westcott can’t claim the increase in RMR was due to an increase in muscle because there was no increase in muscle!”

            Your grasping at straws there Jim. You just blogged on how unreliable attempts to measure body composition are didn’t you? Where does water reside in your body? Mainly in muscle tissue. If water increased more than likely this was due to an increase in muscle. Not only to suggest that the subjects gained no muscle mass given the protocol and the subjects involved flies in the face reality. Here’s the full text for people to see. http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/reprint/60/2/167.

            “Second, RMR was measured 45 hours after the last resistance training session. However, protein synthesis is still elevated at 72 hours after a training session in subjects with little training experience. Because of the increased energy requirements of elevated protein synthesis, any elevation in RMR detected so soon after a resistance training session is not due to an increase in muscle; rather, it is a residual effect of the resistance training session itself.”

            Um, that’s the point Jim. ADDED muscle may well be using ~6 or so calories per pound but trained muscle uses significantly more. You are confusing the added muscle mass with the totality of the trained muscle which was my original point.

            Your point on FFM and muscle tissue is moot. Strength training if done correctly increases muscle mass in virtually all human beings. This increase raises metabolic rate as does the process of repair and growth. To suggest that the PROCESS of adding 10 pounds of muscle only raises a person’s metabolic rate by 60 calories is imprecise.

            Dr. Westcott is correct.

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          • You just blogged on how unreliable attempts to measure body composition are didn’t you?

            I discussed how unreliable 2-compartment models are for measuring body composition in individuals. However, most are reasonably reliable when looking at group data, and that was even discussed in the article.

            Second, if you read Campbell’s paper, he used a 3-compartment model, which, while not as good as a 4-compartment model, is dramatically better than a 2-compartment model, because it can differentiate changes in body water from changes in protein tissue.

            Here’s the full text for people to see. http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/reprint/60/2/167.

            Yes, everyone should read this full text because apparently you haven’t.

            First, I will direct your attention to the last paragraph on page 170. It reads:

            “The observed increase in FFM was associated with a significant increase in TBW, whereas the protein plus mineral mass did not change.”

            So please explain, Fred, how you can have an increase in muscle without any increase in protein mass.

            I now direct you to the continuation of that paragraph on page 171. It reads:

            “There were no significant changes in body cell mass (estimated from measures of whole body K), sum of seven skinfold thicknesses, chest circumference, or mid-thigh circumference as a result of resistance training.”

            Not only is there no change in protein mass, but there is also no change in body cell mass or circumference measurements. Please explain, Fred, how you can have an increase in muscle mass with no change in these variables.

            Now here’s the real kicker. From page 171, second column, end of first paragraph:

            “The change in RMR (kJ/h) with resistance training was not significantly correlated with changes in body composition (FFM, protein plus mineral mass, TBW, or BCM).”

            So even if you assume the change in FFM is a change in muscle (which it clearly wasn’t), there was no relationship between the change in FFM and the change in RMR. This completely contradicts your assertion (and Westcott’s assertion) that the added muscle was responsible for the increase in RMR.

            The bottom line is that both you and Westcott are misrepresenting the actual results of this study.

            ADDED muscle may well be using ~6 or so calories per pound but trained muscle uses significantly more. You are confusing the added muscle mass with the totality of the trained muscle which was my original point.

            Fred, now you make no sense. Added muscle IS trained muscle. If I add muscle through resistance training, then that added muscle is trained muscle by definition.

            To suggest that the PROCESS of adding 10 pounds of muscle only raises a person’s metabolic rate by 60 calories is imprecise.

            Now you’re shifting the goalposts Fred. Originally you weren’t talking about protein synthesis or the “process” of adding muscle. If you want to talk about the process, then we might as well include the energy expenditure of a resistance training session itself as well. Sheesh.

            In fact, I stated quite clearly in another comment that a resistance training session can elevate RMR by 50-100 calories TOTAL over 24-48 hours. But that’s a residual effect of the training session itself, not an effect of added muscle tissue at rest.

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          • Occam’s Razor. “One should not increase, beyond what is necessary, the number of entities required to explain anything.”

            In science, Occam’s Razor is only used as a heuristic to guide scientists in the development of theoretical models. It is not an arbiter between published models. In fact, there isn’t even any empirical evidence supporting Occam’s Razor; there is no evidence that simple accounts are more likely than complex accounts to be true. Occam’s Razor has actually been used to deny the existence of meteorites and continental drift, despite the fact that these are now known scientific facts.

            Not only that, your argument regarding Occam’s Razor doesn’t even apply to this situation, because explaining weight loss in regards to a reduction in calories is no more complicated than explaining it in terms of a reduction of carbohydrate. In fact, the reduction in calories is the simpler explanation, because the reduction in carbohydrate requires a complicated explanation of how people can lose weight on high carbohydrate intakes or how insulin response does not predict weight loss.

            You should have measured insulin levels. Had you you’d have seen a huge decrease.

            Because of a reduction in insulin sensitivity, caused both by a reduction in energy intake and an increase in energy expenditure….not because of some magical effect of carbohydrate. It is well established that increases in insulin sensitivity causes decreases in fasting insulin levels.

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          • “Because of a reduction in insulin sensitivity, caused both by a reduction in energy intake and an increase in energy expenditure….not because of some magical effect of carbohydrate. It is well established that increases in insulin sensitivity causes decreases in fasting insulin levels.”

            Magical? Hardly. Decreasing carbohydrate intake increases insulin sensitivity as well. And once again, by lowering total energy intake you have also lowered total carbs and this insulin production from baseline.

            In fact, a paper such as this one:

            http://archinte.ama-assn.org/cgi/reprint/164/2/210

            if it were a serious scientific paper, it would compare their own results to Feinman and Volek’s studies.

            According to Dr. Feinman, “In nutrition, or even in biochemistry, there are no Michelson-Morley experiments (the one that showed there was no ether leading to the idea that the speed of light was constant).
            This is not physics.”

            As you must agree, the results in this paper have to be repeated. I’m going to ask the authors how this study lines up with low carb studies. They probably won’t answer me. A very telling and paragraph from thios paper is this:

            “Recently, low-carbohydrate diets have become popular
            for individuals attempting to lose weight.The proponents of these diets claim that because dietary carbohydrates stimulate insulin production, de novo lipogenesis results in positive fat balance. As described herein, however, little evidence exists to support this idea.”

            It’s not a CLAIM. (How biased is that.) It’s a fact. Biochemistry texts the world over state that:

            1. Carbohydates stimulate insulin production and
            2. De novo lipogenesis.

            De novo means that it must result in positive fat balance.

              (Quote)

          • And once again, by lowering total energy intake you have also lowered total carbs and this insulin production from baseline.

            But as I told you before, there are studies showing people losing weight on high carbohydrate intakes. And you can’t even claim that they simply reduced carbs from baseline, because here’s a study where people increased carbohydrate intake from baseline and lost weight. Why? Because they decreased their energy intake.

            It’s not rocket science. You consume less calories than you expend, and your weight decreases. The amount of carbohydrate doesn’t matter. You could actually increase your carb intake from baseline and still lose weight as long as you are in a caloric deficit.

            if it were a serious scientific paper, it would compare their own results to Feinman and Volek’s studies.

            Seriously? That’s your criticism of the paper? That it’s not serious because they didn’t compare their results to Feinman or Volek? Give me a break. The purpose of the paper wasn’t to compare the diet to a low carb intervention. It was simply to look at the effects of ad libitum, complex carb feeding. There’s no reason for them to cite Volek or Feinman or even compare the results.

            As you must agree, the results in this paper have to be repeated.

            They already have been. There are a number of studies showing weight reduction with ad libitum, high-carbohydrate intakes:

            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11093293?dopt=Abstract
            http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/abstract/75/1/11?ijkey=1b0773c8830cba2d2268e20d3f2a7e86d84a9b6e&keytype2=tf_ipsecsha
            http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/abstract/71/6/1439?ijkey=4e44c2723ba5381779d5c5540e8885d62dcbd124&keytype2=tf_ipsecsha
            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10375057?dopt=Abstract
            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8990415?dopt=Abstract
            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8822759?dopt=Abstract
            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8963361?dopt=Abstract
            http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/274/18/1450?ijkey=a68fc779bdf1653815532574c14a3c6cca55fe55&keytype2=tf_ipsecsha
            http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/abstract/59/5/980?ijkey=650716de3bbbc91672f9119088870a508d27f3b5&keytype2=tf_ipsecsha
            http://archinte.ama-assn.org/cgi/external_ref?access_num=8281220&link_type=MED

            De novo means that it must result in positive fat balance

            You are incorrect here. De novo lipogenesis only refers to the conversion of carbohydrate to fat. However, if lipolysis equals or exceeds the rate of lipogenesis, then you will not be in a positive fat balance.

              (Quote)

  6. The fat construction worker just goes to show that you shouldn’t try to overcome excess calorie intake with increased activity levels. It doesn’t mean that higher activity levels are totally useless if calories are in check.

      (Quote)

  7. Awesome! I love myth busting of broscience. Keep up the great work!
    Thanks for the calorie increase post training too info. I had a hard time tracking that one down awhile back.
    rock on
    Mike T Nelson PhD(c)

      (Quote)

  8. Fred Hahn’s knowledge is limited to “Good Calories, Bad Calories” and probably a few of the low carb diet books out there. Every time he opens his mouth to debate people who actually know what the hell they are talking about, he makes a fool of himself. Krieger consistently has posted high-quality scientific literature to back up his claims, actually has a good amount of knowledge of biochemistry/physiology (at the graduate university level while Fred Hahn seemingly knows as much as I did when I was 15 years old after I read The Atkin’s Diet : Insulin/Carbohydrates= teh bad). Seriously, Fred has to start expanding his knowledge and debating skills.

      (Quote)

  9. I really appreciate the detail that Krieger puts into this blog. Gotta love the evidence. I especially appreciate how you point out Westcott’s errors. But Krieger, regarding Hahn, you’re debating with a person who still believes that the sun revolves around the earth and there is no way on earth (pun intended) that you can change this person’s mind, regardless of how high you stack the evidence refuting his archaic beliefs.

    May I give a piece of advice to you, Mr. Krieger? Just drop it with Hahn. He’s really not worth the time or effort.

    AH

      (Quote)

    • Hi, Alex,

      I’m not interested in changing Fred’s mind as I know it’s impossible. However, I do not want misinformation presented on my site to go unchallenged, whether that misinformation comes from Fred or someone else. It’s important for the readers to see all of the facts and evidence.

        (Quote)

  10. Don’t know if you do requests, but I’d be interested on your take wrt how fast muscle can be gained. I’ve read books and articles with the same 50 calorie per day per pound of muscle, and they make it sound like you’re going to grow 5-10 pounds of lean muscle mass per month. It’s my understanding that the actual rate of lean muscle mass is much slower, but then my understanding is pretty limited.

      (Quote)

  11. I’ve really been enjoying this debate. Great stuff. :-)

      (Quote)

  12. Hi, Jamal,

    I don’t know of any studies that have specifically overfed protein and fat, while combining with low carbohydrate. There are some fat overfeeding studies, where they took people’s usual diets and fed additional fat (but no additional carbs), but the diets weren’t low carb.

      (Quote)

  13. Hi, Jamal,

    It isn’t true that you have to go low carb to keep your protein intake high enough to maintain muscle. There are plenty of bodybuilders who use more moderate carbohydrate intakes during contest preparation. There are even examples of ones using high carbohydrate intakes, but those ones typically also have high exercise volumes.

    Even for an overweight or obese person, there is plenty of room for a moderate carbohydrate intake and high protein intake. For example, imagine a 220 pound person consuming 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. That’s 200 grams of protein, which is 800 calories from protein. If this individual was on a 2000 kcal/d diet, that still leaves 1200 kcal for a combination of carbohydrate and fat. For example, this individual could then consume 200 grams of carbohydrate (a moderate intake) and 44 grams from fat.

      (Quote)

  14. Hi James,

    Thanks for the article. The “50 calories per pound of muscle” was a claim that I never found any solid research behind so the links that you provided helped tremendously. However, do you know if there are any research on whether there’s any differences between the resting metabolic rate of type I, type IIa, and type IIb skeletal muscle fibers?

    Also, if it’s worth anything, I feel that your debate with Fred wasn’t a total waste because I learned a lot from it.

      (Quote)

    • Shoua,

      Thanks for the comment. I am not familiar with any work at the RMR of individual fiber types. Theoretically, slow twitch fibers would have higher RMR’s than fast-twitch due to their higher mitochondrial and oxidative enzyme content.

        (Quote)

  15. Jamal,

    I would agree that low protein is a bad idea. Not only will it contribute to muscle catabolism, but you will lose the satiating effect of protein.

    Regarding carbohydrate, it’s going to depend upon an individual’s activity levels and needs. Imagine a 200 pound athlete who trains on a regular basis and is trying to get leaner. He expends 4000 calories per day but is only consuming 3000. If he consumes 200 grams of protein (which is sufficient to maintain his muscle), that still leaves 2200 calories from carbohydrate and fat. This athlete could still consume 400 grams of carbohydrate per day, and 67 grams of fat, and still be able to preserve muscle tissue.

    For your average Joe, though, I would agree that more moderate carbohydrate intakes are better as they give you the room to consume sufficient protein to perserve muscle tissue.

    I’m not sure I would completely agree with Jamie Hale’s statement regarding fat. To my knowledge there’s no scientific evidence to support that. The issues with not consuming enough fat more relates to the health problems associated with it (not getting fat soluble vitamin absorption, not getting enough essential fatty acids, etc.).

      (Quote)

  16. Jamal,

    Some studies on ketogenic diets show better fat-free mass preservation, while others show greater fat-free mass loss. The problem with all of these studies is that they look at fat-free mass and not muscle. If you’ve been reading my articles on body fat testing, you now know that simple changes in body water and fat-free mass hydration can alter body composition estimates. Because ketogenic diets can affect fat-free mass hydration and total body water content, there can be systematic error when comparing body composition estimates between outcomes of ketogenic diets versus non-ketogenic diets. The only way around this problem is to use 4-compartment models, but no one has done that yet.

    However, there is data looking at the effects of infusion of ketones on protein metabolism. During starvation, ketones do help spare muscle protein. However, this is during starvation. This study showed that, under conditions of dietary ketosis (low carb/high protein diet), ketones do not provide any advantage in sparing muscle protein.

      (Quote)

    • Keep it coming James!

      I love that you provide links to original research to back up what your write. Too often, the information I read seems to be rehashed lore that has gotten so far from the original source of scientific research.

      I have another suggestion for a different topic. I’m interested to know if there are studies comparing the effectiveness of various training techniques on maintaining and/or increasing bone density for women who are perimenopausal and beyond. For example, do low rep, high weight workouts do as well as a low weigh, higher rep workout? ie: Which is more effective, resistance training for the goal of strength, or an endurance type resistance program? And how to these compare plyometrics for bone density.

        (Quote)

      • Thanks for the suggestion, Ladybug. Bone density is always a concern for peri/post-menopausal women. I’m sure there’s some studies out there. I’ll put it on my future topic list

          (Quote)

  17. You RMR was officially calculated at 1671 calories
    But any RMR calculator I know off, from those more complex (where I guessed your stats a little) to those more approximate, says your RMR is way higher (from 1900 to 2100 calorie)

    Does that mean that every person who is trying to lose weight is working with overestimated numbers. On many forums I see people always claiming to petite young girls (5.2 feet and 110 pounds) how they should eat at least 2000 calories and to not fall victim of the mentality that they should eat little calories.

    It seems to me that the hysteria toward undereating has created an opposed excess, where now people think that a 5 feet tall young lady is going to need 2500 calorie a day and everyone claim to have ultra-high caloric needs.

    What do you think?

      (Quote)

    • Danny,

      My measured RMR using a metabolic cart was 1,671 calories.

      The Mifflin equation, which is one of the best equations for estimating RMR, gives me an estimate of 1,847 calories per day. Now, just because Mifflin overestimates for me, does not mean it overestimates it for everyone. On average, Mifflin does pretty well with its estimates. Some people will be underestimated and some people will be overestimated, but most people will fall in the middle and the estimates will be close to their true RMR’s.

      Hopefully this clarifies things.

        (Quote)

  18. Hello There. I found your weblog using msn. This is an extremely neatly written article. I’ll make sure to bookmark it and return to learn more of your helpful information. Thank you for the post. I will definitely return.

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  19. You built 30lbs of muscle? Are you sure you know what 30lbs of muscle looks like??

    Does anyone else in here find this questionable??

    Hell…. Forget the calorie expenditure arguments….

      (Quote)

    • You built 30lbs of muscle?

      Yes, over a period of many years. Also went from doing dips with my body weight + 25 pounds to dips with my body weight + 135 pounds.

      Are you sure you know what 30lbs of muscle looks like??

      Yes

      Does anyone else in here find this questionable??

      Only you apparently.

      Also, even if it was only half that amount, the caloric expenditure numbers still don’t hold up.

        (Quote)

  20. Only me… Evidently.

    Listen chief, post a pic.

    Then I’ll listen more carefully….

      (Quote)

  21. OOOOKKKK…I am a biochemist, and I have read the arguments here. I would like to say that both of you, James and Fred, are like two tennis players on the same side of the net hitting the ball back and forth to each other, but thinking you are on opposing sides when you really aren’t. It may seem strange to you for me to say this but…you are BOTH right.

    The problem here is that we well intending scientists who “do the research and write the papers” on the human body, etc. etc. come off, albeit quite unintentionally but sadly so, as portraying the human body as if there were only one pathway to a thing, when it’s quite the opposite. You see, just b/c researchers figure out a new “thing that works,” or a new “thing that’s true,” it by no means should be construed as to imply that the OTHER previous research is now null and void. The only time previous research need be proclaimed null, is if an article was designed to prove the flaws in the original, and actually does so. That rarely happens. Most research is independent, or a mere continuation and addition of the previous papers.

    The human body is a vast molecular machine of “checks and balances,” and it is so marvelous at “adaptation” and maintaining homeostasis that we cannot in our meager human understanding simplify it to a closed system machine. Although many have tried to make the analogy, the human body just CANNOT be paralleled to a sealed vacuum or a mechanical combustion chamber, or a perfectly balanced potential energy/kinetic energy pendulum or any other closed system that science uses to “explain the world.”

    The body is a biological system that is ALIVE, and unless we can state that we fully understand the “entirety of the universe,” we just cannot fully think we understand what it truly means to be “alive.” Somehow this living bio molecular entity called the human body can communicate with it’s surrounding environment and make internal changes all b/c it ISN’T a closed system of mechanics. It loses energy as heat to the surrounding environment, gets Vitamin D from the sun, absorbs fuels and other molecular signals of modality through multiple intake “valves,” called the nose, mouth, eyes, ears, and peripheral nerves etc. It can also simultaneously communicate with itself, maintain itself, rebuild it’s own internal systems, repair itself, and protect itself, and it can do all of this with very little input from it’s owner. All it seems to require from us is that we feed it, move it, rest it, and keep it social.

    Here is my point: That to think we can simplify the body into “calories in” vs “calories out” for weight maintenance is, as I think you both realize, quite laughable. The afternoon talk shows that state, “If you ate just one 50 calorie item less per day, then over the course of a year you’d be 5 pounds thinner at the end of the year,” are teaching the public that the body is a closed system combustion chamber. For goodness sake, the body isn’t that finely tuned. It can’t be, or it wouldn’t be able to survive as a LIVING SYSTEM. The truth is the body has a RANGE of calories it will maintain on quite happily. For instance, I am within what medical science calls “normal weight range,” and my body maintains it’s weight on a range anywhere from 1500 calories to 2300 calories. My body can’t seem to lose OR gain weight, no matter how extreme I adjust my calories, and that’s just my body. It “adjusts” itself to what I give it. If I eat 1500 calories consistently, “somehow” it learns to make better use of every calorie I eat, if I’m giving it 2300 calories a day, it just revs up, runs faster, and burns it off. IT ADAPTS!!!

    Both of you are correct in what you are saying, and the body does what both of you are saying. Both of you. One most assuredly will lose weight on reduced calories and reduced carbohydrates, b/c the body has no other choice but to switch over from glycolysis (the carbohydrate/protein burning pathway) and turn over to beta oxydation (the fat burning pathway.) This occurs with or without exercise. However, exercise also helps weight loss, b/c exercise causes the ATP-Cyclic Amp pathway to cause a feedback loop to the insulin/glucagon enzyme pathway which causes feedback to the growth hormone endocrine pathway, and etc. etc. And THIS happens regardless of caloric intake. Then…not to mention, there’s weight training which affects muscle growth and weight loss, b/c weight bearing causes little tears in the muscle which causes the stress response which causes the same growth hormone pathway to excite, which causes beta oxydation to kick in, and muscle to be laid down. And YET another thing that works is we can also stop eating hours before bedtime, which causes the body to enter a true fasting state while sleeping which also causes growth hormone production during sleep, and the list can go on and on and on as to what works to build muscle, lose fat, and maintain weight. The list would go on and on down to include good and bad eicosanoids, too much citric acid, arachidonic adic, glycemic food effects, essential mono and poly glyceride ratios, protein to carb ratio effects, anabolic stacks, aerobic “switch over” effects, stress effects, cortisol, genetics and goodness we’d never stop arguing.

    Bottom line is this: the body is too vast and complex a system of interconnected pathways to start putting up “one way” road signs to “this way for weight loss,” and “this way for muscle gain.” I know we’d all like it to be that easy, but it just isn’t. Even the whole BMR thing isn’t truly accurate. Even if you get it tested first thing in the morning…all it means is that is your BMR for THAT DAY, that moment. But if you were to take that test the next day it would not be the same number unless all conditions were the same. Your body’s BMR is a gradient, a range, and the body is not a closed combustion chamber. It speeds up, slows down, builds muscle, and tears muscle down all via a multitude of pathways that are affected by numerous things. Here’s what we CAN state for certain. IF you want to maintain muscle whether your dieting, body building, or just trying to live your life: you must eat enough protein to remain nitrogen positive, AND you must move the muscle you don’t want to lose. <3

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