Most of us are familiar with the basics related to weight loss and gain.
Someone interested in losing weight should consume fewer calories than they burn (e.g., burn 3,000 calories daily, consume only 2,500). Conversely, a person who wants to gain weight should eat more than they burn (e.g., burn 3,000 calories but consume 3,200).
The above is a simple equation, but what if we could increase both values and achieve our fitness goals while eating more food? This is where g-flux comes in. Let’s discuss.
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What Is G-Flux?
G-flux, also known as energy flux, refers to the balance between the energy we consume and expend.
We consume energy through foods and drinks. We then expend it through (1):
- Basal metabolic rate (BMR) - your body expends energy to carry out its many internal processes that keep you alive
- Thermic effect of food (TEF) - each time you eat food, you burn calories to break it down and absorb its nutrients
- Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) - you burn calories to brush your teeth, walk up a flight of stairs, get dressed in the morning, stand in line, and every other way you can think of
- Exercise activity thermogenesis (EAT) - you burn calories each time you have a workout, be it a lifting session at the gym, a jog in the park, or a bodyweight routine at home
Most people see energy balance as this stagnant thing that never changes. In truth, your metabolism is highly adaptive and often changes in response to external stimuli, such as caloric restriction (1). Luckily, we can leverage our metabolism’s adaptive qualities to optimize our health, energy levels, and body composition.
A high g-flux simply means burning and consuming more calories each day. In other words, you’re turning over more energy. In contrast, a lower g-flux means burning and consuming fewer calories.
Why You Should Care About G-Flux
G-flux might not seem important. After all, what matters most is maintaining a calorie deficit or surplus based on your goal, right? If you want to gain weight, simply eat a bit more than you currently burn, and that’s it. Conversely, those looking to lose weight should eat fewer calories than they expend (2).
While the above seems logical and it is fundamentally accurate, you should care about your g-flux because it being higher would lead to better body composition, improved training performance, superior recovery, and better health outcomes.
For example, let’s take a person who burns and consumes 1,800 calories daily. Their body composition and weight aren’t likely to change. Let’s take the same person but boost their expenditure and intake to 2,800 calories. Now, we are more likely to see improvements in body composition, energy levels, and well-being.
A simple explanation for why that’s the case is that you have more available energy. Having more energy means your basic needs (BMR) get covered with a smaller percentage of your overall calorie intake. More calories are available for digesting food, training at the gym, moving around during the day, and recovering.
Move more ⇒ Eat more ⇒ Have more energy ⇒ Move even more ⇒ Build muscle, lose fat, improve your health, feel good
In contrast, what would we have with a lower g-flux? More of the energy you ingest goes to cover your essential needs (basal metabolic rate), and less is available for everything else. As a result, you don’t move as much, your training performance suffers, and you struggle to make any progress. I’m always surprised when people ask if they can get fit or fix their skinny fat physique by solely relying on nutrition. You can lose fat and get slimmer but don’t expect to feel great or have an admirable physique.
Move less ⇒ Eat less ⇒ Have less energy ⇒ Move even less ⇒ Gain fat, lose muscle, feel worse, allow your health to deteriorate
In other words, to achieve your goal body composition, feel great, and maintain good health, it would benefit you to move as much as you can (without overtraining) and match the expenditure by eating more food. We’ll go over specifics on how to do these the right way below.
G-Flux In Action: Eric Lee Salazar’s Case Study
A few years ago, James Krieger did an experiment with one of his bodybuilding clients who needed to prepare for a competition. I won’t go over all the details from the case study because James did a fantastic job outlining it for us. I highly recommend you read it.
The experiment was straightforward. Eric had to diet for 15 weeks and lose about 0.5 percent body weight weekly. He began dieting on 2,300 calories per day and walked 9,500 steps daily.
Four weeks into the diet, Eric had lost roughly 6.5 lbs, and it was time to reduce his calorie intake further. But, instead of doing that, he began to wear a 12-lb weight vest to increase his calorie expenditure and maintain the deficit. The vest stayed on for the majority of each day.
Eight weeks into the diet, Eric swapped the 12-lb weight vest for a 20-lb one. The objective was the same: carry an external load for the majority of each day to boost calorie-burning and not have to reduce calorie intake for further fat loss.
At week twelve, Eric added a 4-lb ankle weight on top of the 20-lb vest to maintain high body weight and expend more energy throughout the day. He kept taking 9,500 daily steps.
After 15 weeks of dieting (and keeping his calories at the initial 2,300), Eric had lost 19 lbs, which came out to 0.7 percent of his body weight per week, or slightly higher than the initial target but still within the recommended range (3). But, regardless of that, Eric got ripped and won his contest without experiencing the common adverse effects of contest preparation:
- Brain fog
- Extreme hunger
The case study perfectly shows what a high g-flux can net a person. Instead of lowering his caloric intake to match his adapting metabolism, Eric boosted his activity level to maintain a deficit without dropping his calories to below 2,300 for most of the prep.
Is a Higher G-Flux Beneficial For Skinny Fat Individuals?
The skinny fat physique is characterized by low muscular development and a high body fat percentage. Such individuals are often at a healthy weight (according to BMI scales) but at risk of health issues (4).
One significant problem with having less muscle is the lower metabolic rate. First, muscle is metabolically costly, and your body expends calories to keep it around. Second, more muscle means you can do more challenging workouts that require more energy. Third, larger muscles need more energy to recover after workouts. Less muscle means a lower basal metabolic rate, exercise activity thermogenesis, and non-exercise activity thermogenesis.
A problem with fixing the skinny fat physique is that folks have to eat far fewer calories than they would like, especially if they decide to do a fat loss phase. Aside from increasing the risk of nutrient deficiencies, a low food intake leads to hunger and fatigue, resulting in loss of motivation and poor training performance.
Making an effort to increase your G-flux is not only beneficial but advisable. Doing so would allow you to eat more food, keep deficiencies at bay, train harder, recover better, and feel good throughout the day. These benefits apply to everyone, whether you want to diet and lose fat, do a bulk to gain muscle, or chase both goals simultaneously with a body recomposition.
How to Increase Your G-Flux
There are two primary ways to boost your G-flux:
- Build muscle
- Get active
1. Build Muscle
Building muscle is beneficial for G-flux in several ways:
- Muscle is metabolically costly tissue, and your body expends energy daily to keep it around. The expenditure isn’t huge (only 13 calories per lb of muscle, according to research), but there is a difference if you build 10, 20, or 30 lbs over baseline (5). For reference, adding 20 lbs to your frame (which can happen within 12 to 18 months for beginners) would allow you to burn an extra 260 calories without doing anything.
- More muscle means improved athleticism and physical capacity. As a result, you can do more demanding workouts, cause a more potent growth stimulus, and burn more calories. For instance, you might only be able to burn 200-250 calories per workout initially. But, as you build up your fitness, you could start burning 300, 400, or even 500 calories per session.
- Larger muscles require more time and energy to recover after workouts. If a beginner needs a day to recover after training legs, an elite powerlifter might need up to 5 or 6 days and much more energy.
2. Get Active
Boosting your activity level is the second way to increase your G-flux and reap all associated benefits. The lifestyle change works great on its own, but I recommend combining it with the goal of increasing your muscle mass over time.
First, it’s essential to understand that physical activity doesn’t necessarily matter that much on a day-to-day basis. Instead, you should look at your weekly activity to gauge if you’re moving enough. Boosting your G-flux doesn’t mean you can never have days where you stay at home or that you absolutely must walk 10,000 steps, even if it’s pouring rain outside.
Second, you must approach the process with a mindset shift. Instead of boosting your activity level in one way (e.g., doing 2-hour treadmill sessions daily), think of many small ways to incorporate movement into your day:
- Take the stairs instead of an elevator
- Play with your kids
- Carry the groceries to your car instead of using the shopping cart
- Take a few extra minutes to warm up before training
- Park your car farther from destinations or leave it at home and walk or bike instead
There are many creative ways to get more active, and you must look at your daily life to find opportunities.
Third, and this is something I alluded to a couple of paragraphs above, don’t rely on a single activity to boost your G-flux. For instance, running might seem like the way to start moving more but relying on one thing can be harmful. You could develop overuse injuries by stressing your body in one particular way or getting too tired to maintain the same activity level.
Potential Dangers to Consider When Increasing Your G-Flux
The first potential danger of boosting your G-flux is ending up overtraining. Moving more is beneficial, but don’t push yourself to your limits in the gym and in your life.
Overtraining is more likely to occur from high-intensity activities (e.g., sprinting, lifting weights, etc.) and from doing too much of a single form of cardio (e.g., running).
The second potential danger of boosting your G-flux is that you become obsessed with movement and spend every free minute of your day in motion. Some physical activity is beneficial but don’t lose perspective and do give yourself enough time to recover.
3. Junk Food
The third potential danger of boosting your G-flux is increasing your junk food intake. Many people rationalize that moving more allows them to eat more processed junk, which isn’t the ideal way to go about it.
For a higher G-flux to be genuinely beneficial, you should base your nutrition around whole and nutritious foods. Doing so is necessary for supplying your body with the 30 or so essential nutrients it needs to function correctly.
Before you go...
Download my free guide on fixing the skinny fat look in the next 6 months. Implement step one today!
Everyone interested in improving their body composition, maximizing their fitness progress, and maintaining good health should pay attention to their G-flux.
A high G-flux will always be better than a low one because movement means health, and you get to enjoy more food without gaining unwanted weight.
1. Trexler ET, Smith-Ryan AE, Norton LE. Metabolic adaptation to weight loss: implications for the athlete. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2014 Feb 27;11(1):7. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-11-7. PMID: 24571926; PMCID: PMC3943438.
2. Strasser B, Spreitzer A, Haber P. Fat loss depends on energy deficit only, independently of the method for weight loss. Ann Nutr Metab. 2007;51(5):428-32. doi: 10.1159/000111162. Epub 2007 Nov 20. PMID: 18025815.
3. Garthe I, Raastad T, Refsnes PE, Koivisto A, Sundgot-Borgen J. Effect of two different weight-loss rates on body composition and strength and power-related performance in elite athletes. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2011 Apr;21(2):97-104. doi: 10.1123/ijsnem.21.2.97. PMID: 21558571.
4. Romero-Corral A, Somers VK, Sierra-Johnson J, Korenfeld Y, Boarin S, Korinek J, Jensen MD, Parati G, Lopez-Jimenez F. Normal weight obesity: a risk factor for cardiometabolic dysregulation and cardiovascular mortality. Eur Heart J. 2010 Mar;31(6):737-46. doi: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehp487. Epub 2009 Nov 20. PMID: 19933515; PMCID: PMC2838679.
5. Wang Z, Ying Z, Bosy-Westphal A, Zhang J, Schautz B, Later W, Heymsfield SB, Müller MJ. Specific metabolic rates of major organs and tissues across adulthood: evaluation by mechanistic model of resting energy expenditure. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Dec;92(6):1369-77. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2010.29885. Epub 2010 Oct 20. PMID: 20962155; PMCID: PMC2980962.