I am joined by MetPro creator and body transformation expert Angelo Poli. We're going to be discussing building muscle and how it's different from fat loss. Angelo, thank you for joining me.
I love being here with you guys. Good to see you, Crystal.
Good to see you as well. I think back to one of the very first conversations we had, and you said I had to pick what my most important goal was. Did I want to focus on fat loss or did I want to focus on building muscle? I said both, but you made me pick. Why can't we do both at the same time?
That question is an enormous can of worms that we're going to wade into. There is a lot to unpack when it comes to the strategy of deciding on a goal. It's not as simple as, “I want this.” That's where it all starts, of course. What is your overarching goal? A lot of people would say both, but where we're going to put our efforts boils down to a host of different metrics that are going to indicate where we'll produce our greatest results for the average person who is deconditioned. They haven't been exercising, haven't done any resistance training, haven't done much cardio, haven't been dieting. Whatever the case is, they're just starting. You can do both.
All of it's new to your body. A little bit of conditioning and strength training is going to work wonders. A little bit of aerobic activity is going to work wonders. Of course, when you mix in clean eating, you're going to be able to do all of those things at once. What happens is outside of beginners, as somebody progresses from that beginner state into a fitness lifestyle, wellness lifestyle, they're going to reach a point where the body is now like, “Okay, I'm decent. I can handle this.” What are you going to force it to do next? If you just do a little bit of everything, we're going to build muscle and we're going to try and burn fat, you're going to end up not being specific enough to move the dial in any one direction. That's where we have to pick our priorities.
In your case, that's why I made you choose because you did not come to me as a fitness beginner. You were already exercising. You are already eating overall clean. You are in the lifestyle. What we needed to do was get a really hyper-specific and priority hierarchy of, “We're going to do this first. We're going to do that second. We're going to do this third.” That's what enabled us to move the dial.
For the readers, I chose fat loss at the time. I've always thought that when you're building that lean muscle, you are burning fat, so it's a little bit confusing. That begs the question, what is the most efficient way to burn fat?
It’s not confusing. It's just wrong. Let me try and break this down. Before we get a bunch of hate mail saying, “What are you talking about?” muscle, let me break this down. The understanding that we have of the role muscle plays has been beaten beyond recognition by marketing media and how it's presented in mainstream media. It's where we have strayed so far from the actual biology of it. Here's the point. It is a truism to say muscle mass speeds your metabolism. That's not an inaccurate statement. What it turns out to be in a lot of cases is an irrelevant statement, and I'll explain that.
Muscle mass is more metabolically active than fat mass. Therefore, all things being equal, more muscle mass, less fat mass equals your body has a higher load or demand of energy it requires to maintain itself. That's a truism. The problem is that it is not the determining factor. That is a sidebar. It's a contributing factor, but it's not the largest factor. We can prove this to ourselves, just with our own life experience. We all can think of someone with that blazing fast metabolism. I'm going to describe that person to you, even though I've never met them. I'm going to describe the person you're thinking of right now.
They're likely skinny, maybe lanky, and they can eat and eat. We think it goes into their left leg. How do they pack it all down? Where does it go? This isn't someone that has a ton of mass on them. Now we can do the reverse. I'm going to describe to you someone that has struggled with a slow metabolism. They've struggled their whole life. This is not someone who lacks muscular mass on them. They probably have thicker quads, glutes, hamstrings, a stockier build, and plenty of muscle underneath the body fat. It is not an accurate correlation to say if you have more muscle, therefore automatically, you have a faster metabolism.
Don't take that to say, “Angelo said we don't need muscle,” because that is not the point. The point is to understand where muscle comes in. A more accurate explanation of how muscle plays into a faster metabolism is in the pursuit of muscle and the metabolic adaption that takes place when that pursuit of muscle meets the whole package. Clean eating, strategic nutrition, consistency in training, and added muscle mass because of active pursuit, expending calories, and the pursuit of that muscle.
When you layer on top of the truism, all those factors together can add up to a scenario where someone building muscle creates a very fast metabolic rate that they didn't have before, but not just the raw statement of the ownage of muscle equals a fast metabolism. If we put people into categories, there'd be a stronger argument to say the opposite is true.
Having said all of that, what is the most efficient way? If your goal is to focus on fat loss, what's the most efficient way to do that?
The most efficient way is always going to be a balanced combination. What we want to do is we want to have the right partitioning of the right amount of hypertrophic training, training that has the goal of developing muscle and calorie expenditure. That can be all types of different conditioning. That could include some resistance training, but not the type of training that is specifically triggering muscular growth. Plyometrics, resistance, light loads, faster pace, all of that can fall under conditioning. Pure aerobics can fall under conditioning. Even one step before that, what we would be looking at is metabolic leverage.
Somebody comes to me and says, “I want to lose fat, and I want to tone up and build muscle. Which do we do first?” What we're going to do is find out where their metabolism is at and if we have enough leverage to start with a cutting cycle. We start this person on what we call a baseline meal plan. This is where we know approximately how many calories they're eating, the macronutrient ratios, and roughly where those calories are coming from so we have a standard baseline to work from. Then we see how this person responds to it. Either they start losing weight, gaining weight, or staying the same weight. It's not rocket science. It's pretty easy to look at it. Here’s their trajectory.
If we determine that they are starting to lose weight, then we can start and go all-in on what we would call a burning or a cutting cycle. If they're not, then we have to decrease their intake in one way, shape, or form through nutrition, etc. in order to trigger that fat loss. If we decrease and just barely start to trigger that fat loss, very low intake, then there's just not enough room to start with a cutting cycle that will be effective. You can, but what'll end up happening is if the person wants to lose 25 pounds, they're going to end up losing three and a half pounds and plateau.
Now enter muscle-building activity, muscle mass hypertrophic activity, the role of those activities in a metabolic periodization. If somebody comes to me with a broken metabolism, even eating low calories, lower carbs, whatever the case may be. They're not losing weight. My job is to get their body used to more calories so that way we have metabolic leverage.
Now, the conversation has flipped because one of the absolute best ways of doing that is by building muscle. There should still be a balance. The reason is because when you add muscle, it gives your body a third bucket to catch that increased food intake. Your metabolism is running slower. Your metabolism is going to principally respond to your intake level. Whether you have a lot of muscle, a little muscle, or anywhere in between, roughly, your metabolic rate is going to match your average intake.
If you eat a lot, whether you have muscle or not, your metabolic rate is going to be fast. If you eat very little, your metabolic rate is going to be slower. That's because the survival mechanic within our bodies supersedes all the other factors. Your body will find an answer to keep you alive and adapts to whatever your intake is.
One of the best ways of acclimating your body to higher intake is to do type two muscle fiber training, add lean mass to your frame, and give your body that third bucket. What am I talking about the third bucket? When you have excess calories, you can either burn them, use them for your physical activity and exercise, or you can store them as body fat. Those are the normal two options for energy and our fuel intake. When you add in hypertrophic, hypertrophy means muscle growth, weight training that is aimed at muscle growth or hypertrophy.
Now you have a third bucket. You can either burn it as energy. You could store it as body fat if you take in too much, too fast, but some of it will get siphoned off and used to add lean muscle to your frame. That becomes a beautiful thing because now, metabolically speaking, it scales. It's exponential. You're actually eating more, which is pushing your metabolism up. That's the principal mechanic that pushes your metabolism up.
It becomes a cycle. First, you pull all the levers and you're eating better. Now you start adding in the hypertrophy program, so that's going to help you gain muscle, which then gives you more opportunity to eat more, which then raises your metabolism.
That’s exactly it. This is where all the sports gurus and the physiologists explain, “Muscle mass is your body's primary resource to keep your metabolism healthy.” They're not wrong. It's simply that we have to understand the foundation of where that is relevant, now this is irrelevant. Someone who is building muscle mass, getting their body to accept more caloric, macronutrient intake, and burning the calories that are burned up in the pursuit of that muscle mass.
As the trifecta, usually, we can get somebody used to eating quite a bit more calories, not overnight, but over a matter of a few weeks, when we have a good amount of resistance training in the mix. By the way, we would still keep traditional conditioning or aerobics in the mix designed to just burn calories while we're fueling the body with more and more.
Now let's fast forward. Call it 3, 4, 5 weeks. That's not enough time to build a lot of muscle, but it is enough time to condition the body to more calories and carbohydrates. We fast forward a few weeks. We've been doing some muscle-building activities. We've got our calories up and carbohydrates up. We have leverage again. Remember that person who came to me and said, “My goal is to burn fat.” However, when I tested their metabolism, what I realized was that we just don't have enough leverage. The amount we'd have to take out of their diet would not be sustainable.
We have leverage again. Now the specificity dictates that when we switched to cutting calories to activities that they do, there's no right or wrong here. It depends on the person, their body type, the look, the aesthetic, and the performance they’re after. There's no right or wrong, but a viable and common path that we might take would now be to switch a person from doing 80% resistance training to doing 25% resistance training.
The rest could be forms of hybrid training, forms of activity that are more focused on calorie expenditure, maybe double dip. Even some pure aerobics and endurance training in the mix, in step with a decrease in their caloric intake to their macronutrients. Now they're back into an effective cutting cycle.
This is why people beat their heads against the wall. They're like, “I'm doing everything right. I read in the magazine that I should lift weights and I should eat only chicken and broccoli. I'm doing all of that, and I'm still not seeing results.” It's not that your body isn't behaving properly. It's that your body's used to what you're doing, so something has to change.
That's why you have to build those levers back up.
It occurs to me that there are people reading that maybe don't have a full idea of what MetPro is. I want to take a moment and explain that. If you have a MetPro concierge coach, they are all highly-trained specialists who are going to work closely with you to achieve those specific goals just like we were talking about, whether that's fat loss or athletic performance. We work with all types of people, whether it's executives, professional athletes, somebody in the entertainment industry, anyone who is ready to transform.
The MetPro method platform lets our coaches gather a whole picture of your metabolic rate. We're able to see where those levers are in response to how you're eating. We can craft and update your meal plan with precision and never guesswork. If you're busy, you travel, and you simply struggle to find time to reach your wellness goals, our experts will support you with a fully personalized strategy, one that is based on years of research and body transformation experience. Our clients receive one-to-one coaching and it includes baseline testing and a tailored meal-by-meal game plan, a detailed analysis of how your metabolism is responding, a comprehensive explanation of each program adjustment, and what you can expect next.
It also includes a comprehensive exercise plan that's going to take into consideration those goals we talked about and your body type. If you're looking for the latest calorie counter or a one size fits all online coaching, MetPro concierge coaching is not for you, but if you're tired of gimmicks and you're willing to shop and prepare for your meal plans, our one-on-one experts are ready to help you master your metabolism and transform.
Angelo, when I think through all those things we just talked about, if these are the optimal approaches, what if you're the type of person who hates cardio, or what if you're the type of person that hates strength training? Can you still see results?
Yes, absolutely. That's because, at the end of the day, the largest lever is going to be your nutrition. We're still going to be anchoring to that. Remember, if you eat a lot, your metabolism has to acclimate to run faster. If you eat a little, your metabolism has to, in time, acclimate to burning less. Weight loss and weight gain are simply what takes place during the time interval it takes your body to acclimate. Your body will acclimate because if it doesn't, we die.
Your body’s good at acclimating and making those adjustments. If somebody prefers one style of training, they have some leverage. If I am doing a cutting cycle, I'm going to simply make sure that I'm double-dipping while I'm doing my resistance training. I'm doing it in such a way that I'm also expending calories. That could be less rest in between reps, lighter weights, higher repetitions, and plyometrics mixed in. There could be a host of ways to basically incorporate fusion or hybrid training into your routine and still burn a lot of calories.
Can you be sure that you're doing that correctly if maybe your heart rate is above a certain level? Is that how you can gauge, “I'm double-dipping. I'm doing both.” Is that a good way to do it or is there a better way?
I'm not going to give you a specific because it's different for every person based on conditioning level and age. What our coaches will do is they'll always encourage you to look at effort tests. While you're exercising, as far as effort, if you could hold a conversation like we are right now, you're not burning a lot of calories. It's just not happening. If you're labored and you couldn't hold a conversation, but you could maybe get a few words out here or there, that's the sweet spot.
If you can't speak at all, you're in an all-out sprint, you're only going to last for 30 seconds. Don't go there. Go for that middle ground. Caloric expenditure is not tied to perspiration. A lot of people think, “I was sweating.” You can sit in a sauna, not move a muscle, and sweat. It's tied to respiration, oxygen. The more oxygen you're consuming, that's the measure of your expenditure.
I have to go back to a little bit of bad news for the person who wants to build muscle but only wants to do cardio. Your body can't do that. In order to create muscular hypertrophy, you have to overload a muscle and ask it to do something that it is not strong enough to currently handle. That will acclimate it. When it's repeatedly asked to handle greater loads than it is accustomed to, then your muscles will hypertrophy. Think of it like when you get like a scar, you cut yourself and it scabs over. That's basically a crude analogy for what happens inside your muscles.
When you're exercising, when you are lifting heavy loads, resistance, you're getting little microtrauma, little tears in muscle fibers and tissue that then essentially scab over bigger and stronger when you're resting and recovery. Your nutrition gives you all of the nutrients, fuels, and pieces your body needs to heal and make sure that the healing process takes place. Of course, protein is a big part of that.
We don't need to get into those details but suffice to say, without that initial overload, that resistance training, muscular growth isn't going to happen. We've been approaching this conversation mostly from the vantage point of someone who is maybe not a beginner but someone who's really just getting started. They're trying to figure out, “How do I burn fat?” A lot of people that I talk with are experienced and are experts. High-level athletes, even professional bodybuilders we've worked with for years. They're very much concerned with adding muscle mass.
To those people, the same conundrum, the same strategy, and hierarchy selection process really need to take place. If your stated goal is muscular growth, and then you look at routine, and over the course of the week, 50% of your efforts and activities have gone into jogging, that's great. You're going to become a better jogger, but that's not going to directly line up with your stated goals.
I can't tell you how many times I've talked to guys and gals alike. They're like, “I'm trying to build strength in this area or build muscle in this area and I just keep hitting a plateau.” Is your training specificity there? If I were to look at your training program, could I guess you were trying to increase your squat? Could I guess you were trying to increase your bench press or deadlift or get more developed shoulder muscles?
We've got to take one more tangent. Spot reduction and isolation. We got to blow through a couple of myths here. There are people in the industry that will say, “Let's take spot reduction first. If I work the muscles, if I work my biceps, that is going to burn the body fat on my arms.” It does not work that way. Likewise, you cannot do 1,000 crunches and burn the belly fat on your abs. It's two completely separate processes in the body. That's what's so important to understand because the ads we're going to read, the media we hear about aren't going to get down to the nitty-gritty and present it this way.
It is this simple, your muscles are big or they're small. You have a lot of muscle mass or you have a little muscle mass, or somewhere in between. You have body fat stores. You have a lot of body fat stores, or very little body fat stores, or somewhere in between. They're independent of one another. You can be exceptionally muscular and overweight and have a lot of body fat at the same time.
You can be exceptionally muscular and have very little body fat stores and be very lean, and vice versa. There is no such thing as spot reduction. That's going to be a total energy out, energy in equation over the course of days and weeks where either your body is in a state where your metabolism is running faster and outpacing your intake or not.
No matter what, you got to get rid of the fat stores if you want to see the muscle that you do have. Is that what you're saying?
That’s it. There are then isolation works. There's a large movement of individuals that feel, “No, you only work at the body holistically,” and there's nothing wrong with that. If you had to just pick one approach, there's a good argument that you want to work the body holistically. However, it is not a cardinal sin if you decide, “I don't want all of my muscles to be bigger. I just want some of my muscles to be bigger.” That is acceptable. There's an entire sport built around aiming and targeting that. Bodybuilding, physique training, or any of those, are all around saying, “I want this muscle and a little bit different proportion to that muscle.” There's nothing wrong with that.
I have a lot of guys where we're working on creating taper from shoulders to waist, and we're working a lot of back muscles. I have a lot of gals where we're working rear delts, hamstrings, and glutes, but we're not trying to overdevelop quads or biceps. That is okay. Some people, they're just like, “Really? I hadn't thought of that.” We can just focus on sculpting our physiques the way that we like. That doesn't mean we ignore. It's important to understand the why behind resistance training. Everyone should be doing resistance training because you'll feel better. You'll be stronger. You'll have a better quality of life.
Across the board, do resistance training even if your goal is not to grow muscle hypertrophy. Do enough to where you have a fitness level, a wellness level that suits you. Beyond that, it is okay if we really hone in on certain muscle groups that we want to see developed. You can emphasize those a little bit. I have several females that I'm working with right now who have a full-body conditioning day and then a day where we're focusing on conditioning very specific muscle groups. The rest of the week, they're doing either circuit training, hybrid training, aerobic training, HIIT training, or endurance training with the primary goal of burning calories. There is nothing wrong with that. We can get great results with that.
The key is understanding when we plateau, we have levers to pull. We can make an adjustment. Now we're going to focus on a little bit more muscle. You can go back and forth between the two. You can switch between a burning phase and a performance building phase. You can bring your metabolic rate up and then as you're cutting, and you know your metabolic rate is coming down, you can do a burning phase where your exercise is all about maximizing that time you're going to get until your body acclimates to burn as much body fat as you can. Then you can repeat the process. That's where the art and strategy come in.
These are all principles that are out there. I didn't invent any of this. This is physique training. This is Fitness 101. It is where most people struggle in application because there are so many good things we could be doing, but most people don't know how to perfectly line up the strategy they should be taking now based on how their body is immediately responding. That's where we struggle. With so many options out there, so many approaches, all of them being good, which one's right for me?
That's that specificity you speak to. All the good things are lifting weights, eating well, and making sure that you don't have too much fat in your diet. If you're not doing those things in the right order, then you're not necessarily going to see the results you want. That's what I'm hearing you say.
People have asked me for years, “Angelo, I know who you are. I know who you work with. I know what you do. I just want to know, what's the secret? Is it this food? Is it that workout?” Then they're all shocked when I tell them the answer. “No, it's time management.” That's the secret to transforming your physique. It is time management. We can get even more granular. When it comes to exercise, you have only 24 hours in a day. Beyond that, your body has a finite ability to recover from the demands, the exercise, you ask it to do. For you, Crystal, you have done cardio and you have done resistance training. You do Peloton. You do it all, but do we do it all at the same time?
We do not. We're very specific to your point about what we do, when, and how much. It has been hard for me to adjust to that because it's counter to what I've been taught my whole life, but it works.
That's the trick. It is knowing when to go all-in in one direction and then when to completely shift gears, and maybe to put a cap on this topic for our readers who are saying, “How do I apply this at home? Give me the basics. What are the takeaways?” Your body type plays into this. You're an ectomorphic body type, without any other factors, without knowing your goals and where your metabolism is. If you're an ectomorph, that's the more petite frame, usually longer arms or legs, don't carry a lot of body fat in your arms or legs, midsection, smaller musculature.
Your natural predisposition is to burn energy a little faster, but it's a little harder to hold muscle. If that's your body type already right out of the gate, when you're doing your calculations of how much time I'm going to spend doing resistance training, weight training, or whatever the case is, and how much doing aerobics. You want to take a quarter turn to the left towards resistance training because your body doesn't naturally hold a lot of muscle mass.
If you're an endomorph, that's the more naturally stocky frame. That body type tends to hold muscle really well. If left unchecked, it'll hold body fat well too. You know that whatever your calculations and whatever adjustments we make, you're going to want to have a quarter turn towards more conditioning aerobics, endurance, things like that included because you can hold muscle pretty well. You need to burn more calories. If you're a mesomorph, you're in the middle and you can switch back and forth and you basically go based on how your body is currently responding.
When you sit down and say, “I'm going to come up with a workout routine for my next week or my next month,” what you want to do is you want to count up how many hours you have to invest in exercise. Draw a pie graph and say, “Based on how much time I have, how much of it is going to be aiming towards building muscle? How much of it is going to be with the specific goal of burning calories or improving aerobic conditioning?” See if that pie graph matches your goals. If it doesn't, simply reallocate.
That's very applicable to most people. That's something they can take and make actionable right off the bat.
If all else fails, call us and we'll give you a hand. That's what we’re here for.
Angelo, thank you so much for your time. Do you want to give people your email address to reach out to you if they have any questions?
You can go to MetPro.co and find out all kinds of information on the strategies we implement, even if it's just exploratory because you're trying to learn for yourself. That is just fine. If you want to see a little bit more about what we do at MetPro, go to MetPro.co.
Thank you, readers. That is all for our show. You can find all of the MetPro Method episodes anywhere you get podcasts or MetPro.co/podcast. Be sure to follow the show and rate and review. That lets other people know what they can expect from us. If you have any topics, ideas, or questions for the show, please reach out to us on any MetPro social channel. As Angelo said, you can learn more about MetPro at MetPro.co. I will be back next time. Until then, remember, consistency is key.