Food plays a crucial role in the composition of your body. And it isn’t simply about energy in, energy out. It’s about chemicals. The food you eat truly becomes active inside your body when it becomes chemical messengers. The human body orchestrates these chemicals with elaborate sensors that are nothing short of ingenious. Trouble is, your metabolic sensors are not designed to keep you lean and muscular; otherwise, any diet or nutrition plan would work.
Instead it’s programmed to insure that;
You stay alive, which means your brain has fuel
The system is actually designed to compensate when nutrition is scarce, which is why you should avoid extreme diets. The goal of the physique athlete is to use training and nutrition to slowly and consistently redirect your body’s most important metabolic choice. That is, where to store the food you eat; muscle or fat.
More Muscle, Less Fat; Don’t Fight The System
I emphasized that our system (biochemistry) is designed to compensate when nutrition is scarce, because by definition all diets try to fool the system with some form of scarcity. Most of the time the scarcity is energy or calories in general, but sometimes it could be dramatically reducing proteins, carbohydrates, or fats. The system fights scarcity by storing fat, and with numerous ways to make glucose, the preferred energy source for the brain. While it should seem obvious that the brain is critical for survival, most people don’t know that the body can make glucose from the fat and protein in our diet, and off our body. In my opinion, this brilliant biochemical trick is the linchpin to any nutrition plan designed to enhance body composition. The key is learning how to leverage our biochemistry and avoid fighting our built in survival mechanisms.
Nutrition and Training Matched; Metabolic Leverage In Your Control
Besides training, the main players in your personal biochemistry set are; proteins, carbohydrates, and fats (a.k.a. macronutrients). Without getting too technical, here’s a highlight reel outlining the metabolic implications and leverage that different macronutrients plus training offer the physique athlete.
- •Protein stimulates muscle protein synthesis, which turns on your muscle building machinery and increases energy expenditure naturally.
- •Reducing carbs in your diet ramps up a process called gluconeogenesis, which is how your body makes ‘new’glucose from ‘non-carbohydrate’sources.
- •Ramping up gluconeogenesis causes fat and protein to be broken down to make glucose.
- •Added protein to your diet helps protect muscle when gluconeogenesis is ramped up (we want fat, not muscle to be burned here).
- •Physique athlete training is designed to burn and store carbohydrate, which further stimulates gluconeogenesis.
- •Proper physique training redirects the vast majority of the glucose provided by the food you eat to be transported into your skeletal muscle cells (Baron et al., 1988).
- •Generally speaking, as you increase your training volume, the exercised muscles will incur a greater depletion of stored carbohydrate (glycogen), thereby prompting an elevation in overall fat-burning metabolism.
- •If you consume too much carbohydrate; i.e., exceeding your storage capacity in tissues other than fat cells, you will eventually incur a net fat gain.
- •Eating carbohydrate stimulates the oxidation of glucose and its storage as glycogen (Acheson et al., 1982).
- •Eating carbohydrate will instruct your metabolism to burn less fat temporarily, since it has carbohydrates to burn, but it will also cause it to store and oxidize that carbohydrate.
- •Concerning carbohydrate calories, arguably the most important factor determining your ability to lose body fat is the quantity of carbohydrate you eat.
- •Dietary carbohydrate powerfully ‘leverages’, or stimulates, its own oxidation, fat does so to a much lesser degree.
- •Contrary to popular belief, eating more fat does not substantially increase fat burning metabolism, causing more of it to be stored (Flatt et al., 1985; Forslund et al., 1999).
The list above is not exhaustive, but rather intended to give you better insight into why the physique nutrition plan in the next section is the most sensible choice.