4 02 2013
Blog : Updates, diet choice, Focus and meal frequency revisited
Well it took me long enough for sure, but the meal frequency/IF for fat loss article is up on the main site and in the nutrition section under the title “Meal spread, meal frequency and Intermittent fasting for efficient fat loss”, a wider scope than initially intended. After initial delays I still spent some time removing or sanding off the edges off controversial statements that were not backed or not relevant, because I feel the matter is controversial enough, and bound to attract a ton of unwarranted (warranted too of course) criticism, and I didn’t want to detract from the facts and data at hand. Because of this I’ve also pretty much said what I wanted to get out there in terms of both factual data and personal opinion, barring new research of developments that need to be discussed, and consider the matter more or less closed. I’ll happily read and take into account all comments, mails and questions, but given the vitriol with which some of the more narrow-minded IF fanatics attack people (I recently saw video-post by Vince Del Monte on which a horde of these people started calling him every name under the sun for even daring to claim an increased meal frequency – and despite in this case being correct, there is no reason, ever, to attack people which such viciousness and lack of data for something that in the end is about efficiency, not the core of the matter) I won’t be engaging in gang board beat-downs and other such things. There are plenty of open for a for people to state their case, and they are welcome to do the same in comments and emails, and if the need for reply arises, M.A.S.S. is my own forum to reply to what needs to be replied to, with facts.
So this week kept me pretty busy as I’m coming down from my fatburners, a week-long state that usually leaves me tired, lazy and irritated. Last weekend was my oldest son’s 6th birthday, the annual New year’s dinner at work and some other stuff. Combine all that and I really haven’t felt overly productive of late. While the article was largely finished earlier in the week, this is the first time I have wanted to sit down and write something for the blog. But two days of planned sleeping in seem to have me feeling better (thank God for a quiet weekend), so I’m getting that done right now. Coming week will be slow as I start plotting out the next 4.5 months in which I should hopefully gain another 8 lbs of muscle mass before I start my diet for October, and attempting very hard to stay in the 10-12% body-fat range. To that end I’m including a small piece in this blog about not overcomplicating meal choices patterns and that, yes, there is a need for different dietary approaches, but not because I’m one of those believers in “we are all unique” (I’m not, our DNA and biochemistry are not wildly different from each other) but because we may all be doing things differently to begin with, so that you can’t offer a solution for a problem that may not be the same.
What I do have planned for this week is updates on the High Protein diet article. I wanted to include a section on the effect of protein on glycemic control, and GetXXL suggested I should add one on the effects of hypertension as well. Not convinced that is AS relevant to diet per se, but being complete can’t hurt. I’m also adding my first two attempts at protein pizzas in the recipes section. Yes, you heard me right. A major success I think, because if you can even turn your pizza dough into a protein fest, you aren’t too far off from being able to eat nearly everything without hurting your diet. Other than that, the blog also has musings I had about focus in the gym this week, and a small round-up of another Brad Schoenfeld review, this time with the aid of Alan Aragon (so second piece of his I read after my critique of his critique in the article I just posted) and have to say, despite not agreeing with everything these guys say, they are two very thorough and dedicated researchers, and if nothing else, Schoenfeld’s reviews are at least extremely complete.
Not everybody needs a different diet. But everyone needs different changes.
If there is one excuse you hear out there to minimize the importance of scientific data, it’s the claim that “everybody is unique” and that research doesn’t apply to just everyone. That is of course true to a very small extent, but mostly just a bunch of BS. Our DNA and biochemistry are not wildly different. And research is usually conducted on groups of people to find a mean trend that accounts for inter-person and inter-researcher variability, and other statistical anomalies. But that doesn’t mean you can apply a blanket solution for everyone. I can say with a high degree of certainty that for healthy individuals looking to improve the way they look, whether its gaining muscle, weight maintenance or losing a large amount of fat, that eating a higher protein diet is good. I can even go so far as to say that for those eating a high protein diet, while more may not be wildly beneficial, it’s still not bad. But I can’t make a statement like “lower your carbs” or “increase your fats” for everyone. We all know by now that simply cutting fats from the diet to reduce calories has an opposite effect because of its inverse effect on satiety. But that has lead many to unnecessarily demonize carbs and eat a high fat diet, mostly losing track of how much they eat because they continuously underestimate the caloric density of their food. For me personally, it’s a good thing to cut some fat, like getting half of my daily milk intake from skim milk, and ending my day with skim yoghurt etc. I eat so much protein dense food, satiety is simply not an issue for me. Likewise I’m not a carb freak either. I don’t worry about a little carbs, even eating a cookie with my coffee when I’m visiting someone, as long as I eat predominantly clean carbs that don’t cause a massive flux in my blood sugar levels. Again, the fact that I consume a high protein diet helps with that. The fact that this applies for me, doesn’t mean that its necessarily true for the next person, who may benefit from a little extra healthy fat intake and taking his carbs down a notch.
I guess what had me thinking about this the most is the random use of IIFYM (If it fits your macros), which basically says what I often try to teach people I train : don’t overstress what you eat, as long as at the end of the day you are getting in what you need. But sadly a few people with really no experience in this sport seems to have heard about IIFYM and made it their own little excuse to eat literally whatever they want. That’s really how the obesity epidemic got started. I mean don’t blame it on excess carbs, we as a Western world were eating 65-70% carbs for hundreds of years. Don’t blame it on fat. Blame it on the simple fact your fat intake is completely imbalanced, you eat too much refined carbohydrates, and your diet is so unvaried you are getting in a bunch of additives in quantitities that were never assessed for safety, because when they conceived Twinkies, they didn’t think your fat ass was going to consume two packs a day of it.
When will people ever learn that the middle road is usually where you want to be ? Getting fit does not imply eating chicken and broccoli every god damn day. That’s fine the last weeks of a diet, because you need to cook food ahead of time to take with you, and account for calories and macros in every meal, so that it’s just EASIER to eat the same thing every day. It is however not a must the rest of the year. No more is that an excuse to just eat whatever you want though, out of sheer laziness and not wanting to do groceries or prepare meals. I’ve trained dedicated athletes most my life. And those guys need to be taught to loosen up a little, that they get more done not running such a tight ship, that life can be more enjoyable and you can get better results doing it. What I tell those guys was never intended for average Joe to rationalize his own poor lifestyle. This game takes dedication and hard work. Not just in the gym, but in the kitchen. And getting to bed on time. Every Sunday I spend 3 hours in the kitchen, and every other day of the week easily another hour. Hardcore athletes will shrug at that, saying “pff, that’s nothing”, because they spend more time doing that stuff when they don’t have to. Everyone else will be whimpering “but what I’m eating now fits my macros …”. Well here’s a hint, until you start looking like those dedicated athletes, don’t get too comfortable in that lifestyle. That’s the same excuse I made for years, except I realized it was an excuse, because I spent a large portion of time teaching people the right way. And now that I’m headed for competition, It’s all hands on deck, and just doing what needs to be done, whether I like it or not. And believe me, I’m not one to overcomplicate. I eat a very varied and extremely tasty diet. The recipes section just proves that. There’s so much to eat that complies with where I need to be. Except its not JUST about macros, it’s about what kind of macros. What kind of protein I eat when, what kind of carbs, what kind of fats I need more of. And THEN and ONLY then, if it fits, eat it. And for me, right now, that was cutting a bit of fat from the diet. So I did. Does that mean fat is bad for you ? No. What it means is that you probably shouldn’t listen to people who say more fat is good for you. Unless you are making rock hard dietary efforts and are eating bland chicken and broccoli meals every day, odds are good you have PLENTY of fat in your diet, and aside from a few extra oils and some fish oil caps, you don’t need any more. Assess your diet honestly, the same way you assess you effort in the gym. And next you are thinking of that poor schlub doing his exercises wrong, think about all the stuff you are doing wrong in the kitchen, and how it’s hurting you. You don’t hold back in the gym. So don’t hold back anywhere else either. The effort is always returned in the results. So if you have a goal, don’t be afraid to do what you have to do to achieve it.
As a bonus tip, keep a meal log. Just for a week. I mean I’m not as big on logs as some people are, it’s a gigantic waste of time for the few times in life they pay off, but just doing it once in a while to establish a baseline is a very valuable tool. There’s a lot of information at your fingertips, which makes it easy to add up what you get in a week, not just protein, fat and carb, but saturated fat vs unsaturated fat, omega-3 vs omega-6, and so on. I’m not real anal about numbers like that, that’s not living, but how can you pretend to fix something using any new information you get, if you don’t know what you are supposed to be fixing ? Think on that one for a moment. You know I’m right.
Something that is probably impeding the gains of 80% of people in the gym : lack of focus
I had a funny idea this week. I wanted to take pictures of everyone at the gym occupying a station, weights or machine at the gym, just playing with their smart-phone, then make it into a collage and turn that collage into a meme captioning “I just can’t figure out why I’m not making any progress”. That got me thinking about all the people who aren’t just doing that, but spending countless minutes just chatting and cooling off, listening to their ipods and what not, or texting their friends they will be a little later, in the middle of their workout. An equally disturbing trend is the number of young people walking around like tweaked-out ravers with pupils dilated because they are under the assumption that training is impossible without being under the influence of the beta-agonists in their pre-workout supplement. And that had me wondering. Does anyone even still enjoy working out ? I mean if you need to tune out or drink some magic powder to get through your workout, wouldn’t you perhaps be happier doing something else ? Most of these people walk around like bad-asses, like them being in the gym means something, but half of them need assistance just to survive their workouts. What’s up with that ?
When you see people jogging to lose a few pounds, going at a fast stroll, earphones plugged in, that’s fine. You know you are enduring and you know why. But have you ever watched a marathon runner train ? No earphones there. Those guys are in tune with their body. They are focused, and they are acutely aware of when to slow down and when to pick up the pace, so they don’t just stay the course, but they finish the course in a record time. So why, if you take yourself that seriously, don’t you apply the same thing in the gym ? When I work out, I’m focused, on every rep. The right form, the maximal contraction, the slower negative, pushing it to failure. I even trained with earplugs for a while to drown out ambient noise. I’m aware of my bodies natural cadence. Not just rep speed and pace, but also resting times. That just doesn’t happen when your resting times are “however long it takes me to finish this text” and your rep speed is dictated by the beat of your favorite tune.
Maybe people watch too many Nike commercials and think they need to “Just Do It”, instead of listening to their mother who said “anything worth doing is worth doing right”. Or maybe I’m just getting old and this is what training has evolved into. But me ? I’m always happy when I can drop the beta agonists after a diet. The crash that follows the next week is bad enough. I’m sure not going to put my body under more strain to help me do something I’m supposed to be passionate about. Being in the gym working out doesn’t make you special. Those people around you won’t even know who you are in a year. And they sure don’t care. Making what you do count, that’s going to pay off though. And making it count is about focus. If you can’t focus, on your own, on your own body, for an hour every day, how will you ever keep your focus on anything else that matters ? Take control. Don’t just do it. Do it right.
Nutrient timing revisited
GetXXL got me a copy of the review article “Nutrient Timing revisited : Is there a post-exercise anabolic window? : post-exercise nutrient timing” by Brad Schoenfeld and Alan Aragon. This is only the second piece I’ve read by Aragon, but already the third review I’ve read by Schoenfeld. I admire Schoenfelds work. Not because its THAT great, but because the man is extremely thorough in his reviews. He’s detailed in sketching both sides of the picture, which makes it easy on the reader to make up their own mind. That’s a rare thing for someone working in this industry these days. I found myself agreeing with most of the stuff in this review article, which basically talked about much of the research I had already covered in the article on pre- and postworkout nutrition. In it, they clearly nuance that the importance of post-workout nutrition is overstated when you are training in a fed state. As detailed in the pre-and post-workout nutrition article, research does indeed demonstrate there is very little if any difference between pre- or post-workout feeding, and that one could easily argue the pre-workout is more important than the post-workout because a glycogen replete state lowers AMPK (maximizing mTORC1 activation) and that the maximal glycogen depletion from that state during workout is what drives metabolic factors to growth after training (the fact that AMPK peaks despite maximal glycogen stores). But sadly the wording of the title and several passages make it seem like the authors are ready to dismiss the entire anabolic window, when none of the research demonstrates that. It only shows that post-workout meals are less relevant when training in an adequately fed state, ie having taken a pre-workout meal. And while not conclusive, the majority of that evidence sketches the need to A) have that meal sufficiently close to the exercise session and B) that an available supply of amino acids during the training (or immediately after) results in higher degrees of Muscle protein synthesis.
That’s a small unfortunate blemish on an otherwise great review (and like most of Schoenfelds stuff fairly complete, so if you can get your hands on it, I highly suggest you read it). In any case, I already get the idea that the title and abstract of the article will lead to a ton of confused people who will be training in unfed states and neglecting proper nutrition in this window under the influence of people like Martin Berkhan and his IF acolytes.
And in other news …
This will probably be a slow week on M.A.S.S. I want to put some time into making a few updates to articles. Got a great critical mail from a reader, citing three points he wanted me to look at. He was harshest for me on the last point, but also the most correct on that point. I would advocate others follow his lead ( but without necessarily being harsh J) because it was really useful stuff and exactly the sort of stuff I need out of my reader base. YOU guys make up the quality of this site. The more intelligent people read and comment, the better a job I can do.
Hopefully I get my mojo back this week and get an outline done for the next article, although I do need to focus on fine-tuning my own diet and workout for the next months as well. A new month means new ideas for recipes as well, and will contact XXL about that soon. If you guys have any flavors you want me to take a whack at first, let me know.