| Body Recomposition: Playing the Metabolic Market

Author / Ben Skutnik

3 - 5 minutes read

Once you’ve got your metabolic bank statement balanced, deemed eucaloric, you may feel like taking a chance and playing the metabolic market by changing your body composition. This usually looks like one of two things: adding muscle mass or losing fat mass. Depending on how long you’ve been playing the market already, the rates of return may vary but the strategies to get returns doesn’t. To add mass you’ve got to have a positive calorie balance or be hypercaloric. If you’re looking to lose mass you need a negative calorie balance or be hypocaloric. What mass is added or lost depends on various factors. The following article will inform you on the factors that will influence your recomposition.

Hypercaloric Diets: In the Metabolic Black

In the financial world, being in the black is a great thing. It means you’re turning profit and are free of debt. In metabolic banking, being in the black by consuming more calories than you’re burning is only truly beneficial in times of growth as a child. Once you’re an adult, however, being in the metabolic black will lead to an increase in fat tissue. Our body is hardwired for that as a survival mechanism from centuries past when fasting was just a trendy diet choice and there is no avoiding it. We can, however, mitigate some of the fat gain with smart training choices.

If your goal, whether for aesthetics or performance, is to gain muscle you will need to be in the metabolic black. But you also need to choose an appropriate training regimen and a nutritional strategy that promotes recovery of the tissues and replenishment of the muscle glycogen stores. In terms of training, something like Jacked Street is perfect for this goal. With a high training density, the combination of volume and load, there is plenty of stimulus for muscle growth. Nutritionally, you’ll want to get an adequate amount of amino acids from high quality protein sources to provide the building blocks for the muscle and high quality carbohydrates to provide the energy to both training at high intensities and fuel recovery from training.

Unfortunately, just like the financial market, you can’t always cash in at the metabolic bank. Conditions need to be ideal to enter this area of the market. If you’ve been living in the black for too long prior to deciding to try and build muscle, your body will do what it does best: create fat mass. It’s hard enough work to gain muscle, to lose fat at the same time is virtually impossible. So before living in the black, it would benefit you to live in the red for a while.

Hypocaloric Diets: In the Metabolic Red

Financially, living in debt can be pretty stressful and is something we’d like to avoid. Metabolically, it’s no different. Your body doesn’t want to live in a caloric deficit and will do some things to prevent that. First, it will send messages of hunger. Since we live in an ultra convenient world with food available at any time of the day, this is easily overcome. If we choose to override this, our body will do a combination of two things: scavenge and suppress. 

First, it will call upon its own tissue to provide calories. The two tissues that will get scavenged will be either fat or muscle. If adequate protein is coming in through your diet your body will be able to limit the amount of muscle tissue lost during the deficit and most of your energy will be pulled from fat. Without adequate protein, you will risk losing muscle mass in addition to fat mass. The latter is obviously not optimal, especially if you are someone who hopes to maintain performance.

In addition to scavenging energy for itself, your body will also suppress the drive to be active. Most notably, if done correctly, you’ll see a slight decrease in output in training and performance. Less noticeable though, your daily non-exercise activity will decrease as well. Have you ever noticed how your dog’s weight doesn’t seem to fluctuate much regardless of how much it eats? That’s because animals who don’t have the convenience of readily available food all the time will match their output to the input. But since we’re the controllers of our destiny, we need to be conscious about our activity and adjust it as needed.

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Adjusting the Interest Rates

So far we’ve covered the input side of the CICO equation. But like interest rates in the financial world, we can multiply our returns through physical activity. Whether you’re in the red or the black, you’ll want to make sure the metabolic fire is regularly stoked. Though the flame is going to burn brightest under the barbell, making sure the coals stay warm throughout the day is going to be the real key.

Low-intensity physical activity is the final component to playing the metabolic market. This could be going on a 45-minute family walk wearing a ruck, working in the garden, or doing a movement promotion program like Iron Flex. Whether you are adding mass or leaning out, you’re imposing extra stress and inflammation on your body. It doesn’t want to change but you’re forcing it to so we need to ensure that we are doing our part to reduce these effects. By increasing our low-intensity activity, we are doing two things beneficial to either type of diet. We’re burning fat because this is almost entirely aerobic in nature, helping us further lean our or limit the gain of fat tissue. Secondly, we’re promoting the anti-inflammatory effects of muscle contraction that will help tissue recovery and repair.

Devil in the Details

This all sounds simple enough right? So does the stock market, so why aren’t we all millionaires? Why does the US have a 50% obesity rate? Because like everything that sounds simple, the concepts surrounding recomposition are pretty straightforward but the execution of the plan can be incredibly difficult. To really win at the market, you’ve got to be paying attention to it regularly but you don’t have time for that. You’ve got a job, a family, and whatever else going on in your life. So you hire a stock broker who’s entire role is to watch the market and make the plays for you. When playing the metabolic market, a nutrition coach fills that same role. They can read the trends at more than face value. They can see what steps are needed for you to really capitalize on the current state of the market and dynamically adjust the strategy. You have no problem trusting someone else with your money, why wouldn’t you trust someone else with your nutrition?

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Ben Skutnik

Ben grew up a football player who found his way into a swimming pool. Swimming for four years, culminating in All-American status, at a Division III level, Ben grew to appreciate the effects that various training styles had on performance and decided to pursue the field of Exercise Physiology. After receiving his M.S. from Kansas State University in 2013, Ben moved on to Indiana University - Bloomington to pursue a PhD in Human Performance. While in Bloomington, he spent some time on deck coaching swimming at the club level, successfully coaching several swimmers to the National and Olympic Trials meets. He also served as the primary strength and condition coach for some of the post-graduate Olympians that swam at Indiana University.

Currently, Ben is finishing his PhD while serving a clinical faculty member at the University of Louisville, molding the minds that will be the future of strength and conditioning coaches. He also helps support the Olympic Sports side of the Strength and Conditioning Department there as a sports scientist.


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