Vail Daily column: Managing your body weight
Make It Count
I’m a bit pudgy these days. Not grotesquely so, but I’m certainly not at a fighting weight. After several months of lifting heavy and hard, the required intake of food has increased the girth around all of my body parts; it’s time to cut back.
I’ve always said, “If you want to lift four plates on the bar, you’ve got to eat four plates at dinner.” There is a time and season for everything in fitness after all. You can’t be all things all of the time. It’s time to discuss a few thoughts about managing body composition.
STRENGTH TRAINING INCREASES FAT
It’s quite all right to acquire some body fat while training to get stronger. It’s almost impossible to gain muscle size and strength without gaining at least some amount of body fat. The only exception is if you’re a complete novice trainee.
Lifting heavy weights creates a cascade of hormonal responses that requires a positive caloric balance to properly adapt. Lifting heavy weights is anabolic. Anabolism is the process of using physiological and nutritional resources to increase muscle size. A hyper caloric diet is anabolic in and of itself.
For example, regardless of whether you train or not, you will always gain both muscle and fat tissue on a caloric surplus. However, the ratio changes dramatically in the presence of strength training. If you train properly, for every 5 pounds of muscle gained, you will likely gain 2 pounds of fat. Without training, for every 5 pounds of fat gained, you will gain a pound or 2 of muscle up to a point. These figures are used for examples only — individual differences vary greatly.
DIETS LEAD TO MUSCLE LOSS
On the other hand, losing body fat creates a catabolic environment. Catabolism is a result of long duration physical activity and/or by self-limiting nutritional resources that forces your body to draw from its own physical reserves for energy. When you attempt to lose body fat, you will lose muscle tissue as well. While there will always be genetic exceptions to the rule, it’s extremely difficult to expect a different outcome. The amount of muscle loss during a diet phase will vary depending on the training program, macro nutrient make-up of the diet you’re following, and any supporting supplements being used.
Here are some general guidelines to follow. Before you attempt to add muscle tissue to your frame, get as lean as possible before hand. If you are currently overfat, don’t attempt to gain muscle weight just yet. Generally, I’m not a fan of cleanses, crash diets or other unsustainable nonsense. For the sake of getting as lean as quickly possible to support your goals, these programs can work wonders.
I’m currently following a program called the Velocity Diet; 28 days of awful attention to detail in the kitchen. In a nutshell, it’s a liquid diet with one solid meal per week followed for four weeks with a two-week transition period. I’ve used this approach before. Each time I’ve lost 15 pounds of tissue weight, and 5 pounds of water. The 5 pounds of water always comes back without the fat.
I don’t have an explanation, but after a hard diet phase, your body is always more susceptible to packing on muscle. Gaining 1 pound per week is a general guideline to aim for. Any more than this will increase the chances of gaining excess body fat. I recommend training with sets of five to seven repetitions, using large muscle groups two or three days per week. Think back squats, overhead presses, deadlifts, rows, chin-ups and heavy curls. Severely restrict cardio and other frantic activities that burn unnecessary energy.
Sleep at least 8 hours per night and eat “four plates.” Eat 1 gram per pound of bodyweight per day of protein and at least 2-3 grams per pound of bodyweight of slow burning carbohydrates such as yams, brown rice, and oatmeal. Don’t skimp on good fats such as nuts, seeds, avocados, butter, and olive oil.
These above guidelines are broad generalizations that typically work well for leaning and gaining. Another consideration is to perform these actions in cycles of 6 to 8 weeks. Diet hard for too long and metabolic changes can occur that will hinder progress. Gaining weight for too long can cause adaptations that increase the ratio of fat accumulation. Once you have achieved the desired level of leanness or heftiness, maintain your status by adjusting your activity and diet accordingly.
While I realize I’m giving advice to a local population who probably doesn’t care about gaining muscle given the activities we enjoy, there are at least a few of you who want to hear this advice. Have a great week!
Ryan Richards has a B.S. from Ohio University and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He is the personal trainer at the Sonnenalp Golf Club and the owner of R2HP, an athlete consulting and personal training company. Richards’ passion comes from overcoming childhood obesity and a T1-L3 spinal fusion. Contact him at http://www.r2hp.com or 970-401-0720.