Thursday, June 15, 2017

Calories In, Calories Out; Maintenance or plateau?


A little infographic I whipped up, talking about Calories In / Calories Out, "maintenance" calories and weight loss plateaus.
It is a lot more complicated than people seem to think, too complicated to cover all the basis in a simple infographic but I tried my best.
Conventional thinking seems to be that if your weight is neither increasing nor decreasing, then whatever you happen to be doing now is "your maintenance" level of calorie intake. Whether that is working to / restricting to a particular calorie limit, or otherwise. If you're not losing & not gaining weight you're "at maintenance".
This can be problematic in cases where you have active people who are working to calorie limits and not seeing progress. Whether that is "weight loss progress" per se or whether they are already at around an appropriate goal weight but perhaps not at goal condition. The conventional (lack of) wisdom dictates that if you're not seeing fat loss progress, you're "at maintenance" and need to cut lower to get back into deficit.
Not necessarily so, and in my opinion, observations & experience not even the most likely explanation.
In actual fact, "maintenance" is not some pin point specific amount above which you'd gain weight and below which you'd lose fat. In actual fact there may be quite a wide margin between where (at the higher end of the spectrum) your intake is not high enough to gain weight, but is too high to draw from fat stores, and (at the lower end of the spectrum) your intake is insufficient to facilitate improvements in condition via prioritisation of lean mass, and your productivity & performance at training as well as your Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis is sacrificed in preference to drawing from fat stores.
Somewhere in between is an optimal range of calories where you can expect improvements in performance, energy & resources to be used to support increases in lean mass (at best) at the expense of fat stores or at least while not adding to them.
TL;DR it's like I've been saying for YEARS now and a few other people are starting to catch up to; you require an adequate but not excessive amount relative to your requirements as primarily determined by your amount of & level of proficiency at training, amongst other things. When you cease to see progress you must assess the situation accordingly rather than just assume that you need to eat less. And you do have options other than "bulk w/ fat gain via calorie surplus" & "cut w/ lean mass loss via increased calorie deficit".

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

What can we learn from fad dieting cults?

If there's one thing I'll say about the fad diet cultists on the internet, it's that they're annoying and stupid.

No I'm just kidding. I mean... some of them apparently do very well with whatever approach they're taking, but even the others will show up on pages run by people who've had more success than them, who's clients are seeing better results than them, or who are just plain happier doing something else...and they'll insist "no, you need to do your research and get up to date. This thing that I like is the only thing anyone should be doing and the only thing that anyone should be advocating, promoting or instructing".

Now... what we KNOW is that any approach will work if it involves a change in eating habits (and perhaps activity levels) which results in total energy intake going from excessive to not excessive. For SUSTAINABLE results, that change in habits needs to also be sustainable, and it is important that the new energy intake is "adequate". Going from excessive to insufficient won't be sustainable and is counter productive.

No matter WHAT the approach, that's what it comes back to.

However, diet cultists will insist "no, it is NOT about calories it is these specific food choices and you couldn't be successful any other way". Or the more moderate variety might say "well sure, it does come down to non excessive calorie intake but with any other set of choices or schedule you'd inevitably end up over eating" because fructose or insulin or whatever else. Which... as 9 times out of 10 they'll be arguing with someone who's actually doing several of the things they're saying can't be done, with a greater level of sustained success... it's really demonstrably ridiculous.

"Just try it though" they'll still insist. Even though you say you're happy and enjoying what you're doing now AND seeing great results... "just try the thing I like instead" as if you owe it to them to validate their opinion or something.

People are FANATICAL about these approaches and while my personal observation is that most of them don't seem to have a much better level of success than your average crash dieter of the conventional variety... there are some notable exceptions.

So... is it possible, could it be conceivable that there IS something more to it than just "more appropriate energy intake"? And if so what can we take from that and how can we apply it to what we do, promoting and practising non restrictive approaches? 

Here are the things:
  1. although the reasons are false, people have reason to believe "this really is the best way and the only way I'm likely to succeed". And you might even add "the only way anyone else deserves to succeed" as well according to some of them. 
  2. people become heavily invested in and identify with the approach. They join "the tribe". 
  3. at least in some cases, the people seem to believe that eating a certain way makes them better than everyone else. 
So in short, it has less to do with the specifics of the diet or the accuracy of the beliefs people have about the diet, and it is more to do with how they FEEL about & identify with the diet and the collective of other people following it, and how that may be conducive to consistent and enthusiastic adherence. Or perhaps in some case "strict and disciplined adherence by force of will". Screw that though in my opinion.

While we practice evidence based, individualised approaches to sports and general nutrition, the main thing we can take from the above is the importance of being heavily invested in the approach and the process, and beginning to identify with it. Not in the sense of being a conformist with a "tribe" mentality, but in the sense of people who are successful with a training goal or some other passion in life. It is just a part of who and what they are, to show up and train, to practice their instrument or their forms, to spend time in the workshop or the art studio. At a certain point training becomes a part of your identity and your nutritional habits while not being obsessive, restrictive or anxiety inducing are habits you have structured and developed in much the same way that you have structured and developed your training strategies. 

So, you're heavily invested in, you identify with, and you have solid reasons to believe "this is what will work best for me in meeting my needs to pursue my goals". And why? Because you set it up with that purpose in mind.

To most consistently meet your requirements, it needs to be on the schedule that best suits you, with more of the foods that most appeal to you. Which is not to say that this can't evolve or needs to be rigid and unchanging, but why would you even consider trying something other than "what best suits my schedule to meet my needs with more of the foods that most appeal to me"? 

Crucially though is point #3.

Rather than doing something with the deluded notion that it makes us better than everyone else, our motivation should simply be to enjoy working to a strategy with a goal of being the best version of ourselves, according to whatever we've decided for ourselves that this would mean. 

Self development is the goal. Not to fit in and conform, not the approval or appeasement of others at the expense of your own ideas and individuality. Self development and self determination.

That's what I think, anyway.

Thursday, May 11, 2017