I had always thought that I was born with a shitty metabolism and would simply have to deal with it the best I could. I figured instead of wasting time complaining about it, I would play the hand I was dealt and do the best I could. As I have aged and work from home over the last sixteen years, my metabolism had slowed even more. There were times during prep phases that I would be starving on calories that you would expect a figure competitor to be eating. Then, one day I got to thinking…
It was when I was burnt out on bodybuilding in the fall of 2017 that I had enough. I folded my hand, put my training gear away, and walked away from training and dieting for what I said was an undetermined amount of time. I figured it might be a few weeks, maybe a few months, or even a year; I wasn't sure. What I was sure of, though, was that I was fried and needed a break after thirty-two years of training.
Surprisingly, I thought little about bodybuilding at the beginning of this hiatus. I didn’t care that I was getting fatter and smaller, and was just generally happy to have stepped back and taken the break. However, as the weeks went by, I started to slowly think more about how I felt out-of-sorts and that I "might" want to come back to the gym sooner than anticipated. Of course, as it usually works, the more fat you accumulate, and the less you look like you usually look, the more motivating it can be to get back in the gym. It took me fourteen weeks, and I finally felt like I was ready to transition back to the gym. I was fat, so I needed to formulate a plan.
The plan was simple: get as lean as possible in the following twelve weeks while trying to get back as much muscle as possible. Shedding the body fat was the top priority, though. After twelve weeks, I had only dropped three pounds of scale weight but had completely recomped my physique and was happy with how I looked and felt. I felt like I had fallen in love with training and the bodybuilding lifestyle once again.
At this point, I wanted to maintain my low level of body fat and transition into building more muscle. Because of the mental break that I took for fourteen weeks, I was back to being very regimented and disciplined, and I decided that I was going to see how much muscle I could put on while keeping my body fat very close to what it was at that time. It was at this time that I stumbled upon the beginning of building my metabolism to the point that it is now better at fifty-years-old than it has ever been in my thirty-five years of bodybuilding.
I am going to lay out some key points that will allow you to accomplish with your physique what I did with mine–more specifically from a metabolic standpoint. If you think your metabolism is shitty, trust me, it almost certainly is not worse than mine was. If I can do it, you can do it, but understand that it takes a very regimented, structured, and disciplined protocol, and it takes time. If you can’t stay strict with your diet for months on end, it will NOT work.
Decrease Body Fat
The most critical point and the first thing that you need to do is get very lean–almost contest ready. I'm talking about eight percent, and most competitors in excellent condition are roughly six percent. You should look as if you are five or six weeks out from a show. Doing this will not only decrease body fat levels to the point where you have some room to add calories and keep body fat low, but it will allow you to visually see changes much better if you do start to add body fat. Plus, and equally as crucial as having low body fat to begin this process, you will be incredibly insulin sensitive, and this is a HUGE component of building your metabolism.
The second point is that you need to very methodically and incrementally increase calories every couple of weeks, when possible. The increments should be very controlled and meticulous to the point of treating this process similar to contest prep. There is no room for, "I'm going out with my boys to have a few beers" or "I'm going on a vacation, and I'm going to let loose for five or six days." It simply will not work, and it will completely destroy your chances of building your metabolism as optimally and quickly as possible.
Now, you might think that this sounds much like "reverse dieting," and you would be correct. However, there is more to it than just reverse dieting. It has to be much more structured and disciplined, and body fat has to stay low. Most people who reverse diet are nowhere near as strict as you will need to be to build the best metabolism that you possibly can.
The third point that is important to the success of this metabolic-building phase is skiploading, scheduled cheat meals, refeeds, etc. The main reason is with insulin sensitivity very high, these loads or scheduled refeeds will not just help to build the metabolism even more, but will also help to support added growth of muscle tissue. The constant imbalance of moderate-caloric intake to high-caloric intake keeps the metabolism off balance, not allowing it to settle in and find balance.
If you can accurately and honestly read your body's feedback, this process is quite simple, and you will become aware very quickly if you start to add body fat. If you are adding scale weight and your strength isn't progressing, you likely are becoming more insulin resistant vs. insulin sensitive. It is important to note that you will not be just one or the other. There is a constant balance or ratio of sensitivity to resistance, so keep this in mind. Most people believe you are only one or the other, and this is not true.
There will, of course, become a point where your calories will become maxed out, and your metabolism will no longer be able to keep up. At this point, your body will want to store body fat. When this happens, back off slightly with caloric intake and continue to make, what should be, some of the best gains of your life while holding body fat stable.
Understand that if you overshoot and gain too much body fat, your insulin sensitivity will decrease, and you will have set yourself up to gain even more body fat. It is crucial that you are honest with yourself and can assess your condition throughout this process.
Where do you start your calories? How long do you skipload? How many cheat meals should you have? How should you train? Should you do cardio? How many calories do you add every couple of weeks, and when do you add them? There is a myriad of variables that I cannot possibly cover in one article. Every situation is different, and every plan of attack will need to be individualized to that specific person. In fact, I was able to build my metabolism with ZERO cardio for almost two years.
If you are not able to honestly assess your condition, and you are unsure of how to set up and carry out a plan like this over a long period of time, you should consider hiring someone who knows how to do this and save you the headache and the chance of not being successful. I happen to know of someone. Just Sayin’.