By Rob Sulaver, C.S.C.S. Men’s Fitness
What the big guys need to know about working with fat genetics.
Endomorph /en´do-morf/ n. – A dude who looks at a donut and gains weight. See also: big man on campus.
Whether or not we like to admit it, genetics plays an important role in our ability to lose weight. And endomorphs have it rough. Marked by round physiques, high body fat, and a sluggish metabolism, the slightest divergence from a clean diet packs on pounds for these fellas. This makes getting lean a constant, discouraging struggle. Plus, our modern culture makes weight-gain so easy for all of us, with simple sugars and fried foods on every corner, it’s like the world wants us to be overweight. If you’re an endomorph, you need to face facts: you are insulin dominant, your sympathetic nervous system is sluggish, and your carb tolerance is worse than Pavarotti’s.
You simply do not have the same genes as the skinny dude who has trouble gaining weight. But the silver lining of endomorphia is that your body can pack on lean muscle easier than “hard-gainers”. Embrace your genetics by lifting heavy weights and keeping your rest periods to a minimum in the weight room. Then follow a few simple nutrition and supplementation rules to keep your body from storing excess fat and you’ll soon look more like the Jonah Hill from 21 Jump Street instead of the Jonah Hill from Moneyball.
Golden Rule 1: Protein is your friend
It takes a lot more effort for your body to digest protein than fats or carbs—some evidence suggest that as much as 30% more. This means you can eat 100 calories of protein and your body will only have access to 70. Protein is also essential for building lean muscle which is metabolically active and makes your weight-loss goals more manageable. Use this to your advantage by including lean protein EVERY time you eat. That means eggs for breakfast, turkey for lunch, a post workout protein shake and beef for dinner.
Golden Rule 2: Fat is also your friend
I know this may seem counterintuitive, but eating fat will help make you skinny. Up to 40% of your calories should come from fat. Like all food groups, the type of fat is also important. 1/3 of your fat should come from monounsaturated fats (olive oil, nuts and nut butter, avocado), 1/3 of your fat should come from polyunsaturated fats (some nuts, fish, fish oil, flax seeds), and 1/3 of your fat you come from saturated fats (animal fats—egg, meats, butter—and coconut oil). Don’t get too caught up in the percentages. Instead, focus on including more mono- and polyunsaturated fats, which tend to be lacking in our diets. That means adding olive oils, avocados, and fish oil to a diet high in protein and vegetables.
Golden Rule 3: Carbs are your enemy
You should only eat starchy and/or sugary carbs immediately after your workouts. Other than that, avoid starchy/sugary carbs all-together (still eat mounds and mounds of vegetables). Carbs are hard on your body because of your relationship with insulin. Insulin is a hormone that tells your body to absorb glucose (sugar) from the blood and use it as energy. Fat and protein both have very little effect on insulin. Carbohydrates, however, have a profound impact on insulin. The problem is, through a combination of genetics and environmental conditioning, your body isn’t efficient at using insulin to lower blood sugars. Make it easy on your body by not giving yourself sugary or starchy carbohydrates that send your blood sugars and insulin levels bonkers. The only exception to this is post-workout. Because of a physiological cascade of hormones released during exercise, your body is actually in a good place to process carbohydrates after your workout. In fact, an insulin spike post workout helps switch you into recovery mode. This means you can have carbs post workout, but the rest of the day, no dice.
Golden Rule 4: Take a fish oil and fiber supplement
The benefits of fish oil and fiber are numerous and well documented. Fiber adds necessary roughage to your system which helps with hunger levels, digestion, and bowel regulation. Fish oil has a positive effect on most every disease known to man, including the big ones that you may be a more prone to like coronary heart disease, hypertension, chronic fatigue syndrome, and diabetes. Fish oil is also great for cell membrane health, it’s anti-inflammatory, it helps with DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), and it will make you happier by increasing your serotonin levels and reducing stress and adrenal activation, etc, etc, etc. Basically, it’s awesome for you. Most importantly, both fish oil and fiber will make you more insulin responsive, which will make you leaner.
How much to take? With fiber, you must gradually increase your intake to prevent gastrointenstinal discomfort. I like the 5x5x5 rule. Start with 5g of fiber in the morning. After 5 days, add 5g more until you reach 30g. Once your body is cool with 30g, then you can get into the fiber cycling (which is also important, as your body gets used to the types of fiber as well). As for fish oil, take 1g per % of body fat. If you’re at 25% body fat, that means 25g per day. Yes, that’s a boat-load of fish oil, but it will make a world of difference. As you get leaner, gradually reduce your fish oil intake. For higher dosage fish oil, liquid is both easier to take and more affordable.
Golden Rule 5: Pay attention to nutrition timing
You need to eat every 3-4 hours. This will continuously give your metabolism a kick-start, plus you’ll never get the point where your body is famished. This allows your brain, not you belly, to make sound nutrition decisions.
Golden Rule 6: Eat more vegetables
Yes, vegetables have vitamins and minerals. They’re also packed with phytonutrients which are powerful anti-oxidants and have a strong, beneficial influence upon our hormones. They seem to suppress cancer development, protect our cell’s DNA, and stimulate enzymes that help our body fight disease. Vegetables are also important for balancing out our bodies pH. Veggies provide an alkaline load to the blood which helps neutralize the strong acid created from the breakdown of proteins. Too much acid and not enough base means less bone mass and smaller muscles, no bueno. Bottom line: a strong, lean body needs lots and lots of vegetables.
Golden Rules Reviewed
Since your relationship to insulin is already troubled, avoid starchy and sugary carbs (except post workout), keep your fats healthy and balanced, and eat lots of lean meats and phytonutritent-packed vegetables. Add a fish oil supplement such as this Opti-EFA and a fiber supplement such as Primal Fiber to your routine. And before you know it, the lean, muscly physique underneath your body fat will start to be revealed, you’ll have to get your pants taken in and Grandma “won’t even recognize you”. They say that genetics loads the pistol, but our environment fires the gun. We can’t control our genes, but we can certainly control how they are expressed.