As a personal trainer and coach, I hear a multitude of questions. Two that I had recently been asked, I believe are very important and helpful to know. These two questions are fairly different, however the answer for both situations go hand in hand. The first question asks, “how can somebody with a high metabolism gain muscle?” The other question being, “what are the benefits of counting macronutrients versus calories alone for weight loss.” Before going into these questions however, I must stress that I am not a nutritionist and the information that I give is based solely off experience, and knowledge gained from nutrition books and attending the University of Central Florida for Sports and Exercise science.
To answer the first question, you first need to know what it means to have a fast metabolism. People will often blame missing their weight gain/weight loss goals on their metabolism. Your metabolism is what keeps your body going. It is what takes the food being eaten and turning it into fuel for the body. The rate at which this process occurs will determine the rate of metabolism. To determine this, one must first find what their Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is. This is the rate at which the body metabolizes food when the body is at rest. This will vary based on genetics, current health status, and daily living. Without getting too much into detail, these three factors play a big role because it is how your body determines the optimal rate of metabolism.
Once the BMR has been determined using any one of the millions of calculators on the web, the next step will be use that to find the optimal amount of calories. When it comes to somebody wanting to gain weight or to put on muscle, the short answer is just to simply eat more. At the end of the day, you want to finish in a caloric surplus. So let’s say that somebody’s maintenance calories are 2,000. If they worked out and burned 500 calories, they would finish the day with 1,500. This can be good if the goal is weight loss, however this can be bad when it comes to gaining weight. For this person, if they routinely burn this many calories during a workout, then they might want to bump up to 2500 for maintaining weight or 3,000 if they have goals of gaining weight. Adding the extra 1,000 calories will allow them to finish off the day in a caloric surplus which is needed for packing on the extra muscle. Workout types can also play a role in this, but that will be a topic for another day.
The next question asks about counting macronutrients versus just counting calories when trying to lose weight. The reason for combining these two questions is because the methods for weight gain and weight lose will be similar. The goal is to find the target number for calories in order to get one step closer to their goals. So what are macronutrients and why are they important. Macronutrients or “macros” are the three main nutrients needed in a diet, they provide fuel and many other benefits for the body. These macros are Carbohydrates, Fats, and Protein. Carbohydrate are burned the quickest, provides fiber, and aids in protein synthesis (the digestion, transporting, and utilization of protein). The fats offer the most calories per gram (9 calories per gram of fat) however they do take longer to digest than carbohydrates. Protein, like carbohydrates, offer 4 calories per gram. Protein takes the longest of the three to digest and is the least efficient energy source. The main goal for protein is to repair muscle and aid in a multitude of bodily functions.
The reason why that I am personally a fan of counting macros compared to just calories is because it adds an extra dimension to your nutritional and performance goals. Can you skip he macronutrient counting and hassle and just focus on calories alone while still reaching your goals? Of course. With this though, your likely hood of reaching your goals and getting the most out of your diet does decrease. Everybody will have different needs when it comes to macros due to health, workouts, BMR, genetics, etc.
Whether your goal is to gain, lose, or maintain weight, it is a good idea to find your ideal caloric needs. To lose weight, a caloric deficit will be needed at the end of the end. For gaining, a caloric surplus, and then maintenance calories for maintaining weight. There are a million diets out there with a million different theories on how to lose weight. In my opinion and the opinion of many other nutrition professionals, those fad diets aren’t going to give long lasting results. Keep it simple and stick to your macronutrient and caloric goals, stay positive, and be consistent. You will reach your goals.