Those who have achieved a great physique know how difficult it can be to obtain it. While those who have tried and failed to do so can also add a hefty dose of frustration to the mix. Yes, building a proportionately lean physique is undoubtedly one of the more challenging tasks a lifter will ever face. The dedicated builder’s biggest barrier comes from within: the very physique they are seeking to transform.

Muscular Man Measuring BicepsFACT: FATS ARE NECESSARY
Muscle is metabolically costly and a certain amount of stored fat is necessary for health and well-being. The body will fight  to lessen the muscle-building burden. Bodybuilding is a strain on precious energy resources. All this while still maintaining enough fat for survival purposes. This makes building a shredded and muscular physique a task of “Sisyphean” proportions. Even for the most dedicated of lifters.

Putting everything together to develop a great physique could be viewed as a scientific endeavor.  Then, add to complexity of combining bodybuilding elements into an integrated whole. There’s a level of ambiguity surrounding which nutrients to eat and when. This alone is a challenge to beat all challenges. As many elite competitors have  proven, building a massive and conditioned physique can be done. One of the biggest lessons from them could be: don’t over-complicate the shredding and building process.

Unfortunately many aspiring physique contenders equate muscle-building with the removal of critical elements. For example, training is often reduced. This is done in an attempt to optimize recovery. All it really does is cause muscle shrinkage due to insufficient volume and intensity. On the nutritional front carbs are often severely sliced. Then calories are slashed with a view to revealing vascularity throughout the abs. The metabolic shutdown and intense hunger pangs that inevitably ensue may only force the athlete to eat more. This will cause them to retain stubborn fat.

One further crucial muscle-building element is fat – a common dietary casualty. Fat has a villainous reputation as an artery-clogging, obesity-encouraging nutrient. Fat is unfortunately curtailed during the cutting phase. Big mistake. Fat contains 9 calories per gram compared to 4 for both carbs and protein.

Aside from the recommendation that fat comprise 20-25 percent of one’s daily calories, the health benefits of fat extend well beyond general health maintenance. By consuming more fat, a bodybuilder can expect to enjoy greater body fat reduction. Additional benefits of fats are: reduce workout-induced inflammation, dieting-induced depression, more energy, and fats help build more muscle. Now let’s discuss several of these benefits in more detail and take a look at which fats are best.

Consuming more beneficial fats can enhance the shredding process in several ways. Fats are calorie dense; this does not mean they will congregate around the waistline. In a process of subtraction by addition, more of the right kinds of calories help burn fat stores. However, caloric restriction is likely to lower the metabolic rate. Restricting fats can also promote periodic gorging and increase fat storage. Low fat diets have been shown to prevent fat burning. The body becomes conditioned to burn carbohydrates for fuel, leaving fat stores full. Insufficient dietary fat limits the production of adipokines (hormones contained in fat cells). A key adipokine is adiponectin. It boosts metabolic rate, suppresses appetite and enhances the breakdown of fats for energy. More dietary fat (within reason) leads to more adiponectin. Which leads to more efficient fat burning.

Dietary induced depression is commonly associated with low fat eating.2 Fat deficient people starve their brains of the raw materials needed to form neurotransmitters. These are critical to stabilizing mood and preventing food cravings. Left unabated, such depression can result in severe binging and resultant fat accumulation. This can be addressed by consuming high amounts of beneficial fats and  proteins. This, in turn, reduces appetite and increase neurotransmitter production. Fats also promote a feeling fullness. This happens by enabling the release of the appetite and satiety-regulating hormones CCK and PYY.

While including fat can be effective, the caloric content of fat still must be considered when assessing total macronutrient intake. Once protein needs are met (1-1.5grams per pound of body weight per day), carbs and fats are to be adjusted accordingly. Yet, keeping carbs high (40+ percent of daily calories) while including more fats can result in fewer cuts and more chunks. The key then is to lower carbs while steadily increasing fats. Though you may not wish to go full ketogenic, cutting carbs to around 20 percent of daily calories (emphasizing low-glycemic complex and fibrous types) while boosting fats to 30-40 percent can pay big dividends in lowering insulin which, in turn, may allow more stored body fat to be used as energy. Indeed, displacing carbs by increasing fats has become an increasingly popular way to shift stubborn body fat.

Gifting around 9 calories per gram and without the insulinogenic effects of carbohydrates, fats, particularly MCTs (Medium Chain Triglycerides), are increasingly used by many as a valuable source of energy for intensive training. Rapidly absorbed by the body and more quickly metabolized (burned) as fuel, MCTs undergo an accelerated metabolic conversion process and therefore are less likely to be stored as fat. In fact, it is the ability of MCT calories to be more efficiently converted into fuel for immediate use by organs and muscles that makes them uniquely beneficial

Fat’s positive effect on lean muscle development has been scientifically proven.9 A study published in the October 2010 issue of the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition reported that a 1.1 lb gain in muscle mass and a 1.1 lb reduction in fat mass was made possible over six weeks of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation (a type of Essential Fatty Acid – EFA).5 There are several ways fats may encourage results such as these. Firstly, fats are essential for the absorption and storage of key vitamins, thus aiding muscle repair and the proper growth and development of all bodily tissues.

In addition, EFAs keep foreign molecules, viruses, yeasts, fungi, and bacteria outside cellular walls, and proteins, genetic material, enzymes and organelles (small organs), inside cells; indeed, as structural components of membranes, fats are essential for the many functions that occur within each cell, including oxygen regulation, energy production, nerve transmission, muscle contraction, metabolism (thyroid), blood sugar regulation (pancreas) and growth hormone release (pituitary).6

Finally, testosterone – that much-coveted steroid-hormone integral to size-building – is thought to be heavily influenced by the intake of saturated fat.3, 8 Though not to be consumed in place of healthier fat alternatives such as the omega-3’s and 6’s, saturated fat levels are typically high in people with high testosterone4, and may therefore be included in smaller amounts to enhance muscle gains.

Before making your current diet a gigantic fat fest, first realize that not all fats are created equal. While the fats outlined above are all good choices they must also be correctly apportioned throughout the day. While the right ratio of beneficial fats can assist muscle building and fat loss, poor fat choices (like the forbidden trans-fats and too many saturated fats) and excessive total daily fats (especially when on a high carb diet) can backfire in a big way.

The following guidelines may make higher fat dieting the best approach for you.
Have EFAs comprised of 80 – 90% of your daily fat intake. Try LABRADA NUTRITION EFA LEAN Gold. It has been formulated to provide upport to help reduce stubborn body fat, help support increased muscle tone, promote higher energy levels, and supports more vibrant health.
Have no more than 7 (for non bodybuilders) and10 percent of saturated fats comprise your daily diet (around 20g per 2000 daily calories consumed for hard• training athletes).1
Take one tablespoon of MCT oil with food one hour before training.
Take an optimal blend of omega 3 and 6 oils in supplemental form (pick one that also includes Tonalin, the most potent form of Conjugated Linoleic Acid – CLA. CLA rapidly strips bodyfat while preventing fat storage.7
Eliminate trans-fats (hydrogenated fats used in most processed/snack foods; cookies, crackers, baked goods etc).

DavidRobsonAbout the author
David Robson is a prolific health and fitness author with a particular interest in how training, nutrition and mindset can assist bodybuilding progress, David Robson, a personal trainer and health educator, also walks the walk as a seasoned bodybuilding competitor. David, a Tae Kwon Do black belt, and second place-finisher at the 1997 World Natural Bodybuilding Championships, has competed internationally in both Tae Kwon Do and bodybuilding.

In addition, David, who holds separate degrees in psychology, journalism, teaching, and sports performance, is Founder and Director of Advanced Personal Training New Zealand (ATPNZ), a company set up to educate people on how to become fitter, healthier, and better-performing in their day-to-day life, and as athletes.

Charity work forms a large part of David’s life. As Founder and President of the New Zealand Wheelchair Bodybuilding Federation (NZWBBF) and Founder and Director of Fit Futures Charitable Trust, David provides sporting and fitness training opportunities for people with physical disabilities.

David also provides online coaching for fitness and bodybuilding results.

Contacted David at:

Education (partial history)
-University of Waikato: Bachelor of Sport and Leisure Studies (BSpLS). 2002
-University of Waikato: Graduate Diploma in Social Science – Psychology (GradDipSocSc). 2003
-Golden Key International Honour Society (inducted member). 2001
-Wintec: National Diploma in Journalism. 2004
-Wintec: Graduate Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (with Merit). 2011
-Network: Fitness Leader certification. 1996

1. American Heart Association. Know Your Fats. [Online] holesterol/Know-Your-Fats_UCM_305628_Article.jsp#.V1IM-hJJm1s – retrieved on 6.6.16
2. Deans, E. Dieting Can Make You Lose Your Mind. [Online] – retrieved on 6.6.16
3. Dorgan, J., F et al. Effects of dietary fat and fiber on plasma and urine androgens and estrogens in men: a controlled feeding study. Am J Clin Nutr. 1996 Dec;64(6):850-5.
4. Howie B., B., J. et al. Dietary and hormonal interrelationships among vegetarian Seventh-Day Adventists and nonvegetarian men. The American journal of clinical nutrition 1985;42:127-34.
5. Noreen, E., E et al. Effects of supplemental fish oil on resting metabolic rate, body composition, and salivary cortisol in healthy adults. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2010 Oct
6. Robson, R. Using Fats To Aid Recovery & Build Muscle! [Online] – retrieved on 6.6.16