by Geoff Roberts
Metabolism is given much influence in the world of bodybuilding and strength. The metabolism is addressed in a way that implies that it alone is responsible for the ease or difficulty of gaining lean body mass and / or fat mass. It's not so much that this term is wrong, it's just that it's too simplistic and confusing. The fluctuations of body fat and fat-free body mass depend on several factors, which go far beyond the pure energy balance.
For example, if a person has an extremely fast metabolism, it will certainly be less likely to be skinny, but despite their low body weight, they will often not be lean. Similarly, a person with a slower metabolism will most likely be heavy, but not necessarily have an unusually high body fat percentage. This suggests that differences in metabolism alone may not be the only factor that determines how efficiently a person builds muscle or stores body fat.
It is obvious that a combination of factors is more responsible for the tendency to gain fat and muscle than for metabolism. What these factors really are is up for debate, but they probably include things like insulin sensitivity, food allergies, gut bacteria, natural growth hormone, estrogen, testosterone, myostatin levels, etc. It's unfair to blame a person's ability to change their body composition ability on his or her own or their metabolism. The evidence that metabolism alone is not as important as many believe can be seen from average everyday people to superelite professional athletes.
There are many people out there who are by nature very likely to be fat. These individuals usually appear bloated and doughy with a round face, whether they are light or heavy. Nevertheless, it is not uncommon for a person to be underweight and have weight gain issues while at the same time having significant love and cheeky cheeks. Does this person have a fast metabolism because she can not gain weight or a slow metabolism because she has love handles and a puffy face? It is unlikely that the metabolic rate alone will alter the face shape of a person and / or the density of their flesh.
High-profile bodybuilders provided an exaggerated example of this selective metabolic paradox. The bodybuilders who claim to have the strongest metabolism also seem to gain more muscle than most other bodybuilders. Dexter Jackson complained about his fast metabolism, which meant that he needed far more food than he preferred throughout his career. In the meantime, Dexter managed to add more than 100 pounds of solid muscle to his body. Applying over 100 pounds of muscle to a 5-inch frame is a growth stage that is amazing even for a professional bodybuilding.
Dave Palumbo is a similar example to Dexter, but even more extreme. Never in his life had Dave a double-digit percentage of body fat, regardless of how much food he consumed or how lazy he was intentionally. Dave was another guy who constantly commented on the absurd amount of food he'd consumed during his competitive career, calling his metabolism both an advantage and a disadvantage. Despite this inferno metabolism, Dave won about 150 pounds of pure muscle in a relatively short time. It's hard to believe that Dave's metabolism was simply "fast" if he could build up 150 pounds of solid muscle in about a decade.
Then you have the governing and defending GOAT of the metabolism, Juan Morel. This is a guy who has had a long-term off-season diet, consisting exclusively of baked goods and pizza, to collect as many calories as possible at any cost. It was also known that during a diet he poured oil over his twelve carbohydrate-rich meals a day. It seems impossible for Juan to gain a significant amount of body fat. However, this foreign metabolism has no measurable effect on Juan's ability to increase body weight in the form of muscle tissue. For the first 8 years of his career, Juan won 10 pounds of muscle a year, and sometimes more, twice as much.
Simply calling this type of metabolism "fast" seems nonsensical. Perfect would be a better description. Fast metabolism means it is difficult to add body mass, but these metabolic wonders have managed to gain a large amount of weight at a relatively fast pace. Some of the specific physiology of these men makes it extremely unlikely or even impossible to store fat while at the same time building up large amounts of muscle. Bodybuilders who are able to more easily gain fat that is thought to have a "slow" metabolism are for some reason unable to build muscle like these rare metabolism freaks. They could be as much as 60 pounds over the competition weight, but this does not normally result in a big increase in muscle mass at the show. In general, these types have a larger, heavier starting point, allowing for slower growth over the years.
The term metabolism actually describes a plethora of different factors that together provide a unique combination of leanings for the recovery of muscle and adipose tissue. Appetite also plays an important role in this discussion. Appetite alone is often the barrier between you and your target weight, but is largely underestimated despite the heavy impact of weight. You could also have a "perfect" appetite, but that's a topic for another day.