The holidays are in full swing and I have a two week Christmas vacation coming up, which means I will be consuming a ton of calories. Christmas and the New Year only come once a year so I am going to enjoy myself and all the food it has to offer. When it comes to Christmas, I enjoy a massive brunch; eggs, pancakes, bacon, lox and of course bagels; lots and lots of bagels. Yes, I will be consuming a huge amount of calories, but it is imperative that we realize that calorie consumption doesn't determine how much weight we gain, calorie net balance does. Your calorie net balance refers to the number of calories you consume versus how many you burn. In order for someone to lose weight you have to be in a calorie deficit ( you expend more than you take in ) and if someone wants to gain weight then they need to be in a calorie surplus (consume more calories than you expend).
Do you remember when the world found out that Michael Phelps consumed 11 thousand calories a day?
Well, you aren't an olympian nor do you exercise as much as him so you don't need as many calories, but if you do exercise vigorously then you will need more calories, specifically carbohydrates and protein. Now, this calorie burn isn't just limited to exercise, every person has a resting metabolic rate. In the case of Michael Phelps, he was was most likely burning 10 to 12 thousand calories a day, but once again, you aren't him nor should you treat yourself like him. On average, males burn around 1700 calories per day and women burn around 1500 calories per day, however these are just general guidelines, and it is important to find out your own ( click here to find out yours).
Remember, we all have same amount of muscles on our body, but the size of the muscle is what makes the difference because a larger muscle requires more calories. Based off this, we can assume that a person with a higher muscle mass will have a higher resting metabolic rate due to the greater need of energy to operate those muscles. Therefore, if your goal is to lose weight then your main goal should be to increase muscle mass. The best way to do this is through resistance training and adequate protein intake.
Generally speaking, obtaining a higher muscle mass can be broken down into two categories, muscle protein synthesis (MPS) and muscle protein breakdown. (MPB). The muscles in our body are composed of amino acids, those amino acids are in the protein you consume. Throughout life our muscle proteins break down, with age this process speeds up. Luckily, we can slow this process down with adequate strength training and protein consumption. When it comes to increasing muscle mass through exercise, there are three stages that occur in the muscle: stimulation, recovery and adaptation. Put simply, stimulation refers to the breakdown of your muscle proteins during exercise. To trigger this stimulation, beginners need to train at or above your 60% one rep max. So if you squat 100 pounds then you would have to perform two to three sets of 15 to 20 repetitions with 60 pounds. By training at or above your 60% one rep max you can increase muscle protein synthesis by 2 and 3 folds versus training at 30% of your one rep max(1). So yes, in order to build muscle you have to lift heavier weights. However, if you don't have access to heavy weights then you will have to train your 30% one rep max to failure. In fact, this training to failure yields the same muscle protein synthesis as the 60 % one rep max(1).
Once the exercise (stimulus) ends, then the recovery and adaptation period begin. To speed up these processes, make sure you consume adequate protein (20g to 40g) every three to four hours on your training days and get plenty of sleep. If the body goes through the correct recovery process then it will adapt and become stronger so that this muscle protein breakdown doesn't happen again. This adaptation can take anywhere from two to four weeks depending on the individual. Once the adaptation occurs then you must increase the stimulus so that you get the same muscle protein breakdown as before. The best way to do this is through progressive overload i.e increasing the weight, sets and reps. If you stay consistent with progressive overload then you will experience muscle hypertrophy. Hypertrophy refers to the increase of the muscle's cross sectional area. This increase in muscle mass (i.e a larger cross sectional area) will raise your resting metabolic causing your body to burn more calories putting you in a calorie deficit forcing your body to release fat from storage. Think of it like this, when you run out of money you go to the bank and withdraw the amount needed. Your body will do the same thing if protein intake is adequate. However, if protein intake isn't adequate then your body will get that energy from the other muscles in the body. Remember, the body craves efficiency, and it hates going to its savings (storage) to take out energy, just like you hate going to your savings to take out money.
When you start training more you need to consume more protein, as strength training increases so does protein intake and if your strength training decreases then so does protein intake. Most people don't realize it, but when you exercise you increase muscle protein breakdown because are you are literally tearing your muscles apart. In order to repair these micro tears and increase muscle protein synthesis you need to consume adequate amounts of protein. Most experts recommend .8 to 1.0 grams of protein per pound, some suggest 1.5 to 2 grams per pound, but this number will be determined by your workout. Some days will be 1.5 grams per pound while others might only be .8 grams per pound, everything is relative to what you put your body through. On your hard workout days, muscle protein synthesis can be elevated up to three days, so on those three days you would want to take advantage of this and consume more protein. Remember, your diet is specific to you and is determined by your weight, your goals and exercise program. If you are serious about making changes to your body than you must have a general idea of how often you will strength train and how much protein you need to support that strength training.
When I first started training clients I didn't think protein consumption was as important as some people made it. But since doing the research and testing it myself I have seen the benefits of it, especially if your goal is to increase muscle mass. A couple weeks ago I was listening to the sigma nutrition podcast. The episode featured Mike Israetel and in the episode he talked about planning out your macros by figuring out your fat and protein intake first followed by your carbs. He suggested that your exercise level will indicate your carbohydrate level. Put simply, on the days you do higher intensity work then you consume more carbs and on the lower days you consume less carbs and more fat. Again, your calorie net balance will determine if you lose, gain, or maintain weight and how much you consume of each macronutrient (protein, fat, carbs) will either aid or hinder your results. Everyone is unique in their own way and will respond differently to each type of diet, some do well with higher protein, some don't. Ultimately, it is your job to find out. Try each diet below for a month and see how you react to each one.
Different Diet Types: Head HERE for a meal plan
- -High Protein, Moderate/High Carb, Low/Moderate Fat : Muscle Mass
- -Moderate Protein, Low Carb. High Fat : Fat Loss/ Ketosis Based
- High Protein, Low Carb, Moder. Fat: Fat Loss