Have you ever noticed that naturally skinny people tend to pack on muscle when they overfeed, while naturally curvy people tend to pack on fat? And those naturally skinny people tend to lose fat quickly when they diet, while naturally curvy people tend to struggle to not lose as much muscle as fat? What’s going on here? Why are some people naturally better at staying lean and getting ripped, while others have to fight their love handles their whole lives? It’s simple really, and quite unfair: the culprit is something called your ‘P-Ratio’, and it’s what determines what kind of body you’re going to tend toward naturally. Love it or hate it, your P-Ratio determines nearly everything.

So what is the ‘P-Ratio’? Essentially, it’s the ratio of how much protein is either gained or lost during a diet or binging period. Do the calories you eat go into your muscles, or turn into fat? Does the weight you lose when you diet come from your fat stores, or from your muscles? People with a low P-Ratio have metabolisms and bodies that get energy from fat when they diet, and put calories into their muscles when they overeat, while people with a high P-Ratio tend to do the opposite, burning protein when they diet, and seeing everything they eat go straight to their thighs and love handles.

The logical question is thus: what determines your P-Ratio? If you happen to be somebody with a high P-Ratio, and everything you eat seems to go right to your thighs and hips, how can you change yours so that instead goes to your muscles? Unfortunately, the truth of the matter is that 80% of your P-Ratio is determined by genetics. You inherit your P-Ratio from your parents, and for the most part it’s fixed. Which is why some kids are naturally skinny despite all the ice cream they eat, while others balloon, despite doing as much exercise as the first lot. This is because P-Ratio’s are determined in large part by hormone levels. High testosterone levels mean more muscle, less fat, while high cortisol levels mean more fat, less muscle. But hormones levels are genetically pre-determined, so unless you start doing illegal drugs, that’s out of your control. The same goes for insulin sensitivity, a massively complex system that is largely beyond our control too.

But that’s only 80%. We can control the other 15-20% by how we eat or train. Exercise is perhaps the most important way to help you determine how your system reacts to food, and what it does when it diets or binges. Thus the key to successfully maintaining an optimal body type and high energy levels isn’t trying to emulate other people who might have different P-Ratio’s (like the bodybuilder who eats junk food), but rather to understand how to work with your own P-Ratio. Remember, if you have a high P-Ratio, you’ll lose fat AND muscle when you diet, which means you need to really workout as you diet so that you don’t lose too much lean muscle mass. Conversely, once you reach your optimal body weight/composition, you need to remain vigilant: your P-Ratio is still in effect, and if you stop working out/eating right, you’ll just pack on the fat again.

So there you have it. Some people are born lucky and naturally lean. Some people are born with high P-Ratios, and have to struggle to maintain their optimal body compositions. When they eat, calories go to fat, not muscle. Understanding this process will help you tailor your approach to health and fitness, and realize that there are no ‘quick fixes’. You need to be dedicated to long term goals, to changing habits, or else you’ll be yet another example of somebody who yo-yo’s up and down all the time, never managing to control their weight because they keep relaxing once they achieve their short term goals.