Lose Muscle! Gain Fat! Dieting for MTFs
When Raverdyke was transitioning, she took great pleasure in my observations that she was looking weaker and fatter. Probably few people would be happy to hear this normally, but Raverdyke just happened to start out as a 210 lb. male bodybuilder with a metric assload of muscle. At her height of just over 5’6″, she cut an imposing figure even as a guy. She had problems finding jeans to fit her thighs (a testament to the power of squatting), and we used to joke about her back being used as a landing strip. Clearly, she was going to have a bit of a difficult time stuffing a 48″ chest and 17″ biceps into the average woman’s clothing styles, or passing as any other woman than Kim Chizevsky.
Normally writing a diet and training plan for people is easy. They all want to gain muscle and lose fat in some combination. There is some standard, straightforward nutrition and workout information to achieve this end. But we had never, in our collective fitness experience, encountered anyone deliberately dieting to lose muscle and gain fat. Which isn’t to say it didn’t happen. Often it did, unintentionally. We had to look at the cases in which dieting resulted in a loss of muscle and eventual gain of fat, and pool our combined knowledge of nutrition, drugs, and training to produce a plan of action.
First off, we decided that gaining fat was pretty easy, so we wouldn’t worry much about it. She had some fat but it was in the wrong places, mostly displaying the archetypical android (male, as opposed to gynoid or female) fat deposition pattern: belly and lower back. We figured we’d leave the fat deposition shift to the effects of estrogens, which would help deposit fat on hips, thighs, and breasts. Any gain that was needed would be achieved with a strict regimen of Doritos and Ho-Hos after the muscle mass loss was complete.
The bigger concern was getting rid of so much muscle. Poor Raverdyke, resolute as she was about transitioning, was nevertheless a bit bummed to see so much hard work going down the loo. She had put in a lot of effort in the gym and spent some time wailing about the loss of her beloved hamstrings. Again, the effects of estrogens would come in handy here. There was some small loss of muscle which could be attributed to the effects of hormones alone. However, despite anti-androgen medication, there seemed to be enough circulating androgens to retain most of the lean tissue. Something more would have to happen.
- Protein intake got cut way down. Protein intake while dieting is important in retaining lean body mass (LBM), aka muscle. When it diminishes, there is an increased likelihood of muscle catabolism (breaking-down).
- Carb intake went up and fat intake went down. At this point we had the classic late 80s/early 90s diet. Which, as people learned through experience, ate through LBM like wildfire, especially when combined with…
- Endurance cardio. Lots. Low-intensity endurance cardio is all about catabolism. Ever notice that marathon runners look like dried out string beans, while sprinters look like lean, healthy race horses? Not accidental. Part of it is a result of self-selection of body types, but a lot of it has to do with training. And low-intensity endurance cardio is the express bus to Catabolism City. Boring as hell, unfortunately, but Raverdyke gamely hopped on the stationary bike with a good book for 30-60 minutes, 4 times a week.
- We experimented with weight training, but eventually just discontinued it. She felt that it was making her retain too much muscle. I was torn on the issue because I knew that weight training helped a lot with weight loss, but I also knew that she had enough circulating androgens that hypertrophy remained a possibility, even with a workout protocol that was designed to avoid mass gain. I suggested training legs alone, because she wanted to retain much of the muscle on her legs, but that also fell by the wayside as pure size loss became the primary objective.
The process of leaning out is still ongoing for Raverdyke, since she had so much size to lose, but she’s down about 45 lbs. from where she started. When she began transitioning, she had to wear XL men’s shirts. Occasionally she could find something in a women’s size 22 or so, but there were many tearful moments in mall changerooms (both of us developed intense sympathy for big women, who must go nuts trying to find something sexy in anything over a size 12). Clothing shopping can still be difficult, and she stays away from stores that cater to stick insects, but currently she can fit into a size 14-16 with relative ease. She still has a muscular physique, but now looks like an athletic female, not a freaky male bodybuilder. And when she sees cellulite on her bootay, she doesn’t mind one bit.
MTF Super Muscle Munchin’ Diet
- Your daily caloric intake should be about 10 multiplied by your bodyweight in pounds. So if you’re 200 lbs., take in 2000 calories a day. One day a week, eat at maintenance levels, around 15 times your bodyweight in calories. This will help to keep weight loss process constant.
- Keep protein and fat intake relatively low, around 15-20% of total calories each, carbohydrate intake relatively high. Might be a time to consider a temporary vegan stint if you can hack it.
- Your training program should focus primarily on moderate intensity endurance type cardio. This augments your total caloric deficit, and creates an overall catabolic environment which is conducive to muscle loss. Begin with 3 sessions of 20-30 minutes a week, and work up to 5-6 days a week of 30-60 minutes of your chosen activity. Be aware that this kind of training carries a risk of chronic joint aggravation, so ease into it slowly, especially if it’s an activity like running. Good activities include walking (especially inclined walking, on hilly terrain or an inclined treadmill) and cycling. Buy a secondhand stationary bike and park it in front of your telly.
By the way, I should mention that this is intended to be a temporary eating and training plan, to be used during transition. I don’t recommend this level of cardio or this type of diet for the long term. If you intend to continue doing athletic activity, the protein and fat levels suggested are too low. They should be raised to around 30% of total calories after the desired mass loss is achieved.
Combine this diet and training with estrogen supplementation if possible, preferably injectable. Anti-androgens will also help. If you are able to do so, consider an orchidectomy, which will remove the primary source of endogeneous androgens from your body, and make it a whole lot easier for the estrogens to do their work. Any means of reducing androgens and increasing estrogens will speed the process of muscle catabolism, in varying degrees, but this diet and training should work on its own too. Once the muscle’s gone, it won’t come back if you’re impeding androgens. When the muscle’s gone, start eating normally again, perhaps even above maintenance calories (16-20 x bodyweight) if you wish to gain bodyfat (make sure to combine this with estrogen supplementation so that the bodyfat deposition exhibits the gynoid pattern as much as possible).