Physiologically, in order to gain muscle mass, you must consume more energy than you burn while focusing on high-intensity resistance training. Of course, your caloric needs depend on your individual physical activity level and personal goals. Bodybuilders and strength athletes for example, require significantly more calories than a non-athlete, but both can utilize fat for muscle building.
Calorie intake comes from any of the three macronutrient groups: carbohydrates, fats, and protein. Each of these macronutrients has specific and very important roles in the body’s functions and metabolism. To build muscle mass, we not only need adequate amounts of protein, we also need sufficient carbohydrates and fats. The amount of each of these three nutrients can be estimated through calculations based on weight, sex, physical activity, and personal goals. Also, depending on the training schedule, the amount of each nutrient may vary.
But there are many ways a person can use the three macronutrients to help build muscle. Today, we’re going to look at how increasing muscle mass is possible even with increased fat intake.
Fat is an essential nutrient in the human diet. It provides energy (needed for endurance), and it is responsible for transporting fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Fat is an energy dense macronutrient that provides 9 kcal/gram of energy. Diets too low in fat (<15%) have not shown any sports performance-related benefits and should be avoided for the average healthy person. Similarly, high-fat diets (>35%) should be avoided because they increase the risk for cardiovascular disease.
The acceptable macronutrient distribution range incorporated in the 2010 dietary guidelines recommends that 20-35% of daily calories come from fat. It is very important to mention that there are different types of fats, all with their own purpose, but that we should generally focus on consuming larger amounts of the healthier fats available, especially when trying to increase our calorie intake and build muscle. You’ve probably heard of these so-called “healthy fats” and maybe even noticed them on food labels. They are:
Also essential polyunsaturated fats. They are found in sunflower, corn, and safflower oils, cereals, whole wheat breads, and some meats. They play important roles in growth and development. Linoleic acid (LA) accounts for 85-90% of the Omega-6 fatty acids available in the diet.
The ratio recommended for these essential fatty acids is omega-3>omega-6 because of the pro-inflammatory properties of some omega-6 fatty acids.