by TC T-Nation
Here's what you need to know...
• If you partition nutrients exceptionally well, almost everything you eat seemingly turns to muscle. If you don't partition nutrients well, you probably gain 2 to 3 pounds of fat for every pound of muscle you gain.
• Likewise, when gifted nutrient partitioners diet, almost every calorie burned comes from fat and not muscle. If you don't partition nutrients well, you probably lose a pound of muscle for every 2 to 3 pounds of fat you lose.
• Most people can acquire the ability to partition nutrients well by employing a few simple strategies.
Do you know anybody who's built? I mean really built? One of those rare dudes who's an amalgam of chiseled granite, flesh, and Marvel comic books?
Often times, those guys only know half of what you know, but still, day after cursed day, despite what rotten form they use or what misguided training program they follow or how many times they eat food you wouldn't touch with a 10-foot glucose stick, they get bigger and bigger and more comic-bookie with ridiculously rounded muscle bellies and insanely low bodyfat levels.
Almost every calorie these gifted guys eat goes to muscle. If, for some wild-ass reason, they feel the need to diet, every calorie burned comes from fat and not muscle.
You? Ha! When you overfeed, you gain 2 to 3 pounds of fat for every pound of muscle. Conversely, when you diet, you lose a pound of muscle for every 2 to 3 pounds of fat you drop.
The difference between you and them is of course largely genetics. Testosterone levels and Testosterone sensitivity play a big role, as do cortisol levels. The comic-bookie guys also have thyroids and nervous systems that operate with the efficiency of a German automobile engineer whose papa never gave him any approval.
Another hugely significant advantage possessed by these buffitudinous guys has to do with how well they partition nutrients, which, luckily, is a super power you can acquire, too, without choosing new parents or getting bitten by a radioactive glazed doughnut.
Nutrient Partitioning and the Big Piece of Chicken
Nutrient partitioning is the process by which the body decides what to do with the energy you get from your diet. When you eat something, the nutrients are either burned or they're stored for future use. Ideally, you'd like all those storage nutrients to be partitioned to muscle as opposed to body fat.
That's why the old chestnut, "a calorie is a calorie," isn't really true, at least in the way that calorie is treated by the body.
If nutrients are partitioned to muscle, you can potentially fuel new muscle growth and build up muscle glycogen stores so that even more growth, along with increased work capacity and increased recovery rates, are possible.
Efficient nutrient partitioning has lots of fathers, among them a weird, unexplained coordination between the gut, liver, brain, central nervous system, and muscles, most likely coordinated by hormones and certain secondary chemical messengers.
However, the main determinant of nutrient partitioning, the papa who gets the biggest piece of chicken when he comes home from work, is insulin. Now if you're diabetic or obese, your ability to partition nutrients is pretty much dysfunctional. And if you're just a bit insulin resistant, your nutrient partitioning is sluggish and inefficient, like a punch-drunk fighter.
Oh, insulin will still try to get into the muscle cells of insulin resistant people by making contact with a receptor on the cell, but it's amorous intents are ignored. Normally, insulin would activate this particular protein called GLUT4, which allows glucose to enter the cell, but in insulin resistant people, GLUT4 doesn't take the call, so glucose (along with any branched-chain amino acids insulin might be carrying) doesn't get into the cell.
Insulin then shrugs its shoulders, has the unwanted glucose converted into fatty acids which are trundled off to fat storage centers like your belly or your ass where lazy chemical workmen stack them on the existing pile of fat like so many gelatinous bricks. Soon, they build the fat equivalent of The Great Wall of China.
But if you're insulin sensitive, carbs and branched chain amino acids are delivered Fed-Ex style to the muscle cell, where a beautiful GLUT4 lady of the house signs for them and ushers them inside where they're greedily taken up by the machinery of the cell and forged into brand-spanking new muscle (provided you actually work out correctly). It's glorious.
The Buffitudinous Guys Vs. the Angry Skinny-Fat Guys (Guess Who Wins?)
So far I've painted a picture of haves and have nots, a totally black and white world where on one hand we have genetically perfect guys with idealized nutrient partitioning abilities and on the other, a horde of miserable but angry skinny-fat guys who war against the genetically perfect guys.
The truth is, everybody's nutrient partitioning abilities lie somewhere along a huge sliding scale. Even the hypothetically perfect nutrient-partitioning guys can suffer a setback if they eat too many carbs. If that happens, they'll experience some of what insulin resistant guys experience every day in that all the extra glucose will be converted to fatty acids and stored as triglycerides in fatty tissue.
But as I mentioned, regardless of which part of the sliding scale you cling to, you can do things to improve your nutrient partitioning capabilities.
Become a Gifted Nutrient Partitioner
The traditional remedy to poor nutrient partitioning abilities is to pay attention to the type of carbohydrate you're ingesting and when you're ingesting it. You've heard it many times: eat fast-absorbing carbs during the peri-workout phase. Eat small amounts of complex carbs the rest of the time.
Likewise, you've always been told to limit your overall carbohydrate intake, because even in buffitudinous guys with exquisite insulin sensitivity, excess carb intake can decrease insulin sensitivity and make their body behave, metabolically, more like a fat bastard's.
That stuff is all true, but taking cyanidin 3-glucoside, a nutrient-partitioning supplement, sort of turns those rules on their carb-crunchy heads. The supplement, a compound found in various berries, profoundly increases the insulin sensitivity of muscle cells while decreasing the insulin sensitivity of fat cells. That means the glucose uptake in muscle cells increases, and glucose, nutrients, and BCAA's are partitioned into these same muscle cells while fat storage in general is hindered and fatty acid oxidation is increased.
With C3-G, you're actually better off eating more carbs, a lot more carbs, particularly during the peri-workout period, but also during other times of the day. The C3-G makes your body react more like those really built guys. The calories you eat get partitioned preferentially into muscle and thus your weight gain comes from muscle and not fat.
If you diet while on C3-G, or even if you don't, fat is burned preferentially while muscle is retained. By virtue of a chemical tweak, courtesy of C3-G, your body suddenly starts to react like that of a genetically-gifted nutrient partitioner.
(And pardon me if I don't cite a bunch of studies. You can do that by yourself if you like. Just type, "cyanidin 3-glucoside" into Google Scholar. Oh, and pack a lunch, or better yet, a backpack of provisions and a Porta Potty. See you in a couple of days.)
The Fatty Acid Fix
Another way to improve how you partition nutrients is to mind your fatty acid ratios. As you've probably read, the typical Western diet is heavy on omega-6 fatty acids and light on omega-3 fatty acids. It's been reported that Americans have an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 20 to 1, when it should be closer to 4 to 1.
This huge honkin' imbalance leads to a chronic inflammatory state, and chronic inflammation is a common denominator for poor insulin sensitivity, not to mention diabetes and obesity in general. As such, you gotta' eat more fish, or at least eat more fish oil to balance out the ratio.
Two Roads Diverged in Some Swallowed Food
So the way I see it, you've got two roads to take if you want to improve the way you partition nutrients:
1. You can be careful about carb intake, restricting the bulk of it to the peri-workout period (eating roughly 70% of your carbs before, during, and immediately after your workout) and eating most of the rest or your carbs in a post-workout meal. That will help take advantage of whatever nutrient partitioning powers you might have, however meager.
You can also limit your total carb intake, but this is largely a two-steps forward, one-step back approach as you're eating fewer carbs to sensitize your nutrient partitioning system, but at the same time providing fewer carbs to the muscle cells so that there's nothing for that enhanced nutrient partitioning ability to take advantage of!
2. Or, you can use C3-G to fix or augment your nutrient partitioning powers so that you can actually eat more carbohydrates – peri-workout and otherwise – and ensure that the bulk of it is going to muscle instead of fat storage. Similarly, you can supplement your intake of omega-3 fatty acids to stomp chronic fat cell inflammation, which will also improve insulin sensitivity.
Choice number 2 will give much more impressive results than just following choice number 1, but what matters is that you at least follow one of them... that is, if you want to get buffitudinous.