Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Cholesterol and Muscle Building

Put this one down as another study that has produced results that may have surprised the general public, but not so much your average bodybuilder.

High Cholesterol Is Good for Building Muscle.

Not so long ago I got an email from a guy who was frustrated with his inability to gain muscle weight. The results he reported were truly horrible. He was seemingly doing everything right, eating to a caloric surplus, working out with a good routine and schedule, etc. And he was gaining weight, its just that 80% of the weight gain came in the form of increased body fat.

I was unable to pinpoint a reason for his lack of success until he proudly told me that he was one heck of a disciplined dieter - that less than 5% of his diet was fat and he consumed virtually no saturated fat. His reason for the low-fat diet was to discourage fat gain and protect his heart health.

There is abundant evidence that low-fat doesn't translate into weight loss or decreased fat gain. In fact, as the guy above demonstrated, it does the exact opposite. The reason is that a lack of dietary fat will hurt your muscle building hormone production.

The effects of such a diet to your general health are questionable, the effects on your ability to build muscle shouldn't be in question. You simply won't maximize your ability to build muscle with a diet that is so low in fat. Fat, and the resulting cholesterol, is clearly an important part of the muscle building equation.

Isn't high cholesterol a killer, doesn't it cause heart attacks? This is a big issue and I won't pretend to be qualified enough to dissect it. The correlation between cholesterol and heart disease, however, isn't as cut and dried as most people think. Some will even say that its a complete fabrication being kept alive only by the pharmaceutical companies greed to market their statins despite mounting evidence to the contrary.

What is clear is that, as the above article concludes, there is still a lot we don't know about cholesterol. After all, maintaining muscle mass is a positive step to avoiding heart disease.

My hypothesis is, as always, that as studies finish up and science progresses, the actual "most healthy diet" recommended for all by the mainstream will become closer and closer to what the experienced natural bodybuilder of today eats. My hypothesis continues to be proven correct.

Suggested Reading for those looking for more information on the dissenting opinion of cholesterol's role in heart disease: Anthony Colpo has some very well-researched stuff on the topic - A few must-read articles are here. Definitely check out the one on low-fat diets and his results from trying to maintain health and a presentable physique on them. He also has a book The Great Cholesterol Con. I haven't read that but Colpo used to have a very extensive website on the subject of which I was a big fan (he has taken it down in hopes of spurring book sales).

Also, Fat Head, The Movie (a response to the inaccuracies of the popular Super Size Me movie) is good stuff - Interesting trailers are here, some interesting cholesterol facts are here. And some reccomended reading is here.

And from the site: Food to Gain Weight: Fat (EFAs)

JP Clifford

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22 Comments:

Blogger Mark McManus said...

Nice article JP. I totally agree and blog on the same issue. Fats are so important for building muscle. Keep up the good work.
Mark McManus
http://www.MuscleHack.com

3:52 PM  
Anonymous Focal Blog said...

High levels of testosterone could be anathor factor. The body will secrete estorgen in order to compesate for the high levels of testosterone that the body has detected.Then the estrogen turns into fat.

4:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Would you care to post your comments on the benefits of Cardio?
I have been reading lately that cardio exercises are a myth.
Do you agree?

8:16 AM  
Blogger Nick said...

You have to love the textbook definition of muscle building, "bigorexia,"; then again we're driving toward an edge of ignorance even bigorexia/body building pro's can't resist. That should be the focus of bodybuilding, falling for the ever present con of neglecting self drive for a quick gamble with failure in trusting a lie.

5:54 PM  
Anonymous GetBiggerStronger.com said...

Great article, and I totally agree about fat importance. This is why I love to eat Chipotle chicken burritos , especially during bulking! :)

1:36 AM  
Anonymous athleticmusclebuilding.com said...

In the immortal words of legendary powerlifting coach Louie Simmons "Cholesterol makes testosterone."

This, apparently, sums-up his philosophy on nutrition.

While there is certainly something more to muscle building nutrition than that, it may not be as ridiculous as it once sounded.

Train Hard,

Tony Schwartz
http://www.AthleticMuscleBuilding.com

7:29 AM  
Anonymous Athletic Muscle Building Blog said...

Great post JP. Thanks for this info.
Most people don't realize that steroid hormones are derived from cholesterol, so if you don't have enough cholesterol in your diet then your body can't produce optimal amounts of testosterone!

Tony Schwartz
Professional Strength Coach
http://www.AthleticMuscleBuilding.com

11:38 AM  
Anonymous Ammy said...

Yes u r right. Once i went to a doctor for always iam lazy and iam not feeling well.. he checked me and said that i should have some percentage of fat and it is less in ur body .. so he said to eat some fat food...

4:20 AM  
Anonymous Josh said...

Great article buddy, it is so interesting how people don't understand the importance of consuming large amounts of healthy fat in regards to intense training.

Cheers!

Joshua

6:59 PM  
Anonymous Aymen said...

nice post thanks

i definitely agree with you. i don't know why many people still think that eating fat will make you fat.

5:52 AM  
Anonymous Nick Andrade said...

It's a double edged sword for sure. People are conditioned to believe that they should be eating a "low fat" diet, yet most everybody who adopts this style of eating lacks the discipline required to make it work, especially in a muscle building context.

Bottom line - if you really want to build muscle mass, then you've gotta eat dietary fat on a regular basis and you've got to eat a bit of saturated fat as well. Just take a look back a few decades and see what the "old school" bodybuilders of the past ate - a lot of high fat dairy, red meat and eggs.

11:58 AM  
Blogger Sanity said...

"The correlation between cholesterol and heart disease, however, isn't as cut and dried as most people think."

Uhm, 5 minutes looking at Google scholar will show that, in fact, it is very well supported by multiple, well cited, studies all covering thousands of participants.

Go to google scholar and just look for "cholesterol heart disease", you'll see what I'm talking about. I'm curious as to makes the claim that the link between high cholesterol and heartdisease doesn't exist.

Of course, you should always remember that a high cholesterol rating doesn't mean you WILL develop problem, just that there's an increased risk.

5:58 PM  
Anonymous Cognitive Supplement said...

What people always fail to remember is that there are two different types of cholesterol in your body--LDL (Bad) and HDL (Good) cholesterol. Having a high HDL cholesterol is a great thing for everyone. In fact, many recent studies have proven dietary cholesterol (consumed cholesterol) plays less of a role in raising LDL cholesterol than once thought. Take eggs, for instance. Eggs are known to have a surprisingly high cholesterol content. However, people who eat 2 dozen eggs a week pass cholesterol exams with flying colors because the cholesterol in them supports high HDL in your body.

10:55 PM  
Anonymous best oblique expert said...

Great article you have here. True enough, studies by researchers at Texas A&M University has found that the most phenomenal improvements in muscle strength were accomplished by respondents who had high cholesterol level and not those who have low ones. One factor may be cholesterol's major role in the inflammation process of the muscles. Although inflammation in some areas such as the heart is not good, it is beneficial for building muscles. Also, scientists claim that cholesterol plays an important role in tissue repair which is crucial for building muscle mass. This only proves that there are a lot we don't know about cholesterol. It should just be remembered that too much of everything is not good and take this into consideration in the food that we eat.

8:27 AM  
Anonymous Kieran said...

A Calorie surplus with a Diet with less then 5% of it made up with fat probably would have made sense to gain muscle and maintain body fat but the truth is really that Fat in the Diet is essential for hormone production. I take 12 fish/flaxseed softgels every night before bed and the boost in strength and overall vitality since I've started taking them has been incredible!

1:48 PM  
Anonymous Matty said...

So many people think that just protein is the main component to building muscle. However, people don't realize that fatty foods and carbs are still good for you if you don't eat in excess. And they are also needed to stabolize your body and help build muscle.

12:50 PM  
Blogger musclebyjohn said...

There seems to be Two Distinct versions of "Body Building".
When I go to the gym I see guys who are, 5 foot nine inches tall, Ripped to the enth degree, peaked and split, weighing an incredible, 178 lbs? (sarcasm...)
Then I look at myself, five foot nine inches tall, can't fit through the shower room door, and weighing 253lbs?
With all this hoopla about dieting, have we lost our way??

7:44 PM  
Blogger musclebyjohn said...

Rather than Hound and Preach what healthy eating demands, I let my students redefine their appetites.
When the human body begins to discover that it needs more and better nutrition.
1. it will crave it.
2. find the things it once enjoyed, yukky.
Nothing drives a person who is seeking health and asthetics like results.

7:50 PM  
Blogger jaanki said...

Muscle building is the part of body building which depends on the type food intake, the regularity of fitness exercise, life style and so many other factors. In taking of food
consisting of good cholesterol will help a lot to build muscles in a healthy way in which there is less accumulation of fat content which gives good shape to the body with healthy life.

7:05 AM  
Anonymous Shin Ohtake said...

I used to think that cholestrol is not good for the health but this post has made me know good aspects of high cholestrol. Thanks for such a good the post. Keep it up.

10:07 PM  
Blogger Janey said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

4:03 PM  
Anonymous Buff Guy James said...

Thanks. I stumbled upon this because I eat a lot of eggs, and I was worried about the cholesterol for a brief moment. Is it true that eggs are a substantial source of cholesterol? I tend to eat them after my morning workout for breakfast.

Thanks in advance!

11:13 AM  

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