In an ideal world, all the calories you eat on a daily basis would go to purely building muscle. Unfortunately for most people the calories you do eat each day lead to some muscle gain, and some fat gain too.
On the flip side when it comes to dieting, you’d preserve all of your lean muscle mass and lose only fat. Again, this isn’t an ideal world, and you’re bound to lose a bit of muscle when you diet, though there are certain things you can do (such as eating a high protein diet) that can mitigate the muscle loses while dieting.
The calories you do eat, or more specifically, the carbohydrates, you’re consuming aren’t going all towards building muscle, some are being used to increase your fat stores as well.
We’ve got some tips and tricks on how to manipulate your body’s partitioning of carbohydrates and other important macronutrients so that next time bulking season hits, you can maximize muscle growth while minimizing fat gains.
Carbohydrate Partitioning 101
Carbohydrate partitioning is the physiological process by which the body decides what to do with the energy you obtain from the carbs you eat. Basically, where does your body “put” the carbs you’re eating following meal time.
When you eat (fats, proteins, carbs), the calories from those foods are either immediately used for energy or stored for later use. Ideally, you’d prefer those nutrients be used to fuel performance and / or muscle growth rather than build up fat reserves. Genetics play a large role in how your body partitions nutrients, as well the interactions between the brain, CNS, liver, gut, and muscles. These interactions are governed by the various hormones in your body and the associated signals they send to each part of the body. The most important of all these hormones is insulin.
Going back to our ideal world, we’d prefer to have high insulin sensitivity in skeletal muscle and low (or poor) insulin sensitivity in fat cells, which would drive more calories into muscle and less towards fat. This is especially important when trying to bulk or gain muscle. Conversely when dieting, we’d want to be a little insulin resistant.
Several factors go into controlling insulin sensitivity, and a large part of that is genetics, for better or worse. While there’s nothing you can really do about your genetics, there are a few other tricks you can utilize to enhance your body’s insulin sensitivity, setting the stage for maximum muscle gain and fat loss.
Ways to Enhance Carbohydrate Partitioning
Intense exercise is by far one of the best ways you can enhance insulin sensitivity. Muscular contractions improve insulin sensitivity, as does being glycogen depleted, which occurs as a result of exhaustive exercise. For this reason, timing the bulk of your carbohydrate intake around your training window (pre, intra, and post workout) can do wonders for your natural carb partitioning abilities. Muscular contraction itself improves insulin sensitivity, facilitating glucose uptake into the cell.
Just be sure the rest of the day to limit your starchy / sugary carb intake and focus more of fats, proteins, and fibrous veggies so you still hit your macros.
Optimize your Fat Intake
Inflammation negatively impacts insulin sensitivity, and is a key indicator of obesity and type 2 diabetes. The average person’s diet overly emphasizes omega-6 fatty acids and lacks omega-3 fatty acids (found primarily in fish). Such a gross imbalance of these essential fatty acids leads to a chronic inflammatory state, which torpedoes your insulin sensitivity and leading to a host of other health issues, mentioned previously. In fact, it’s believed that the average person has an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 20:1, when ideally it should be 1:1.
To start restoring some balance to your life invest in a high quality fish oil supplement and start eating cold water fish like Wild Alaskan Salmon, Albacore Tuna or Mackerel more frequently.
Being stressed all the time elevates cortisol levels and wreaks havoc on your autonomic nervous systems (ANS). Without getting into the nitty gritty, when your ANS is out of whack, there is an imbalance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems which leads to fatigue, high blood pressure, disrupted sleep, increased protein breakdown, and insulin resistance. None of these are good for optimizing insulin sensitivity in skeletal muscle.
By chilling out and de-stressing, you promote optimal function of the ANS and promote a healthier insulin response across your body.
Supplement Ingredients to Enhance Carbohydrate Partitioning
After you’ve put the other tips from this list into action, you can invest in a nutrient-partitioning supplement that enhances your body’s nutrient intake and protein turnover, such as Steel Core™.
Ingredients such as Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) helps shift glucose into muscles and away from fat cells, increasing energy and reducing stored fat. ALA, when consumed with Carbohydrates, will partition those carbohydrates to muscle tissue and away from fat tissue. The distribution of nutrients towards muscle and away from fat either maintains or increases lean muscle and decreases body fat.