Sunday, September 6, 2015

Secret Weapons For Optimal Energy Intake

Not your standard healthy foodspo type pic, is it?

Here’s the thing.

Eating quote/unquote “healthy” foods is awesome. More vegies in particular, more fruit too... all manner of nutrient dense foods. It means you’re sure to be getting an abundance of vitamins and minerals that your body will thrive upon, and you’re probably pretty unlikely to go into excess energy intake.

Getting lots of micronutrients and not being in excess energy intake is exactly what you want. HOWEVER, particularly for active people participating in sports and/or training... an otherwise healthy diet that falls short of an adequate level of energy provision will (at best) fail to ensure great performance and results from training, and (at worst, and quite likely) actually be detrimental to health and wellbeing.

We’re encouraged to see calories / energy intake as something to be minimised. This is highly problematic. Obviously we do not want to be in the habit of exceeding our requirements, but we must at the very least meet an adequate energy provision, and as athletes we should try to push closer to an optimal level of total energy intake to facilitate best performance, recovery and results from training.

Now some people do manage to achieve a suitable energy intake while still “eating clean”. More power to them, but to me this seems like a difficult and unnecessary task.

It is entirely fine to include some foods in your plan solely for energy provision, even if they fall short of the mark on other nutritional resources. You’ll be getting those elsewhere anyway from all the healthy fruit and vegetables and whole grains you’re eating.

For me personally, a couple of thin rice cakes with raspberry jam is the perfect post-training recovery snack. Immediately after training, your energy levels are depleted, but you probably don't really want a substantial meal that requires much to digest. I find a couple of these hits the spot nicely, and I'm ready for my shake a little while later.

Shakes are another, not so secret, secret weapon.

Now, there's nothing magical about a protein shake that will ensure great results merely by adding it to some random eating habits that add up to some random amount of energy and macronutrient provision. However, when you're working to appropriate sports nutrition or Flexible Dieting guidelines, a shake can be an easy way to boost your total energy and your protein intake closer to optimal levels.

Personally my requirements are quite high, so I like to add a banana and a scoop of dessicated coconut to my shake as well as the Whey Protein Concentrate.

This is mostly all about "hitting my macros". There's a new page I've just set up with my recommendations of certain delicious foods you might want to include for their micronutrient content, with properties that are particularly beneficial for good health and for recovery from training.

That's some more great free information you can sign up for that at the top right of the this page, or click here.

The name of the game here is "stack the deck in your favour" with a plan that not only meets all of your requirements, but does so in a way that is enjoyable and not a chore. This means it is conducive to long term adherence and long term results.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The foods you love or the body you want?

Limit fruit? NEVER.
What do just about all diets have in common?

Almost every variation on "dieting" comes down to giving things up, as if it is a trade off or something. You need to give up certain things that you enjoy, in order to get something else that you want.

In this case you give up foods you enjoy in order to get to the body weight &/or condition that you want.


OK. Giving up certain foods might mean you're less likely to go into excess total energy intake on a daily basis. Which is definitely something we want to avoid. However simply "not going into excess" does not necessarily infer that your energy & macronutrient intake is now appropriate and conducive to your goal condition.

My observation of most active people training seriously for great performance and condition is that GOING INTO EXCESS is THE LEAST OF YOUR CONCERNS. Obviously it's not what we want to do every day but it's not the most likely thing to happen anyway especially when you start banning enjoyable and convenient food choices.

Rather, again in my observation, active people are more likely to fall short of an appropriate amount of energy intake which allows their body to see a benefit and produce results from training.

The consequences here are varied. Maybe you simply don't see results due to being under fueled. Maybe you slash even further to try to force those results via greater calorie deficit (bad idea). Most likely at some point your body insists that you make up the difference and inevitably you end up over eating, and being back in excess. PARADOXICALLY by attempting to over restrict to an unsustainable level of calorie restriction you are far more likely to end up going into excess via over eating or binge eating.

So, what is the answer? We want to avoid being in excess, we want to avoid being too far into deficit.

Rather than leave it to chance, we determine and then plan to meet the appropriate, adequate or optimal level of fueling.

Not in excess, and not insufficient.

NOW. Is entirely ruling out everything or anything that you enjoy required, in order to meet this appropriate level of total intake? NOPE.

In actual fact if you want to nail an optimal level of fueling consistently for best results, how else are you likely to do it other than by including more of the things you enjoy? More healthy choices too, certainly. But ruling out things that are not inherently UNhealthy for no good reason is the opposite of helpful in consistently hitting appropriate or optimal targets.

I would go so far as to say that if you are highly active or training at beyond an beginner's level, rather than needing to abstain from pleasure inducing foods, including one or two of your favourite indulgent choices is probably going to be required.

IT IS ABOUT PROVIDING THE ENERGY AND OTHER RESOURCES THAT YOUR BODY REQUIRES. How does going without certain things ensure that you get everything you need?

IT DOESN'T EVEN MAKE SENSE. It makes the opposite of sense.

Now, some pushers of fad diets will claim that you need to quit certain ingredients, macronutrient sources or subsets (fructose, or gluten for example) because of a specific effect that they have on the human body that will prevent you from succeeding in your goals. Do not be sucked in by this. They are liars who do not understand, or who deliberately misinterpret and misrepresent the science of the matter.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Everything The Opposite Of Everything Else.


My tagline should probably be "everything the opposite of everyone else" but if I had to narrow it down to one main point of difference I would say this:

My strategy is based on putting in everything you need to perform and to produce your goal physical condition through training. In comparison, most everyone else is just recklessly slashing energy intake to the least you can expect to get by on.

Actually, scratch that. LESS than the least you could reasonably expect to get by on.

Now, your body is built for survival. So when people say "carbs aren't essential" for example they're technically correct that for example in a famine where there are no fruits or vegetable crops available if you can find some other form of sustenance your body will adapt and survive for example via ketosis if you can get enough fat into your diet via eating whales or something like that.

But here's the thing. We're talking about the ability to adapt to adverse conditions to avoid mass extinction. Why would we... but what possible fanciful stretch of the imagination would we assume that simulating those adverse conditions is the key to good health, performance at training and a leaner, more athletic physique?

Because it's hard and if you can subject yourself to it you'll have proved your worth and the universe will realign with you in goal shape because good people get what they deserve?

Come on.

You can survive on a low carb & low total energy intake. However there is absolutely no logic to the idea that depriving your body by giving it less than it requires is going to result in a healthy body in goal condition.

How could it?

If you want to perform and you want to build a more lean, more athletic body condition you need to provide as much of everything as your body can find a use for. No more, certainly, but as much as you can put to good use.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

How bad do you really want it?

Hear me out on this one.

You see, read and hear this a lot, right? "The problem is, you just don't want it bad enough".

For whatever it's worth, I don't deal with people who don't want it bad enough. You have to want it bad enough to do what it takes to get it. That's true for anything in life and training related goals are no exception.

People who don't want it bad enough, though? That's not the problem. The problem is that people who don't actually want it, for some reason feel like they're obliged to do it anyway. If you don't actually want it, focus on some stuff that you DO want and go about getting that, instead.

That's what I think.

Not wanting it bad enough isn't the problem.

The problem is when people do want it bad enough, and unfortunately we're lead to believe that the way to get it is through more and more extreme means. Not getting anywhere despite busting your arse and foregoing all other forms of pleasure in life, especially those that come from enjoying a nice meal on your own or with friends? You mustn't want it bad enough and you need to prove that you do, by going even further, sacrificing even more.

That's bullshit.

You need to want it bad enough to treat training like something that's important to you. To schedule it, show up, and give it your best doing something productive in the gym. Or... some other form of training if you prefer.

There's no two ways about this. If you want to achieve a change in your physical condition via training, you need to do it regularly and you need to do it properly. You also need to ensure you're  meeting your requirements for total energy and macronutrients, but not exceeding them.

The further you want to go, the more consistently you need to hit closer to an optimal energy and macronutrient intake. For most people it is sufficient to merely provide amounts that are "adequate", most of the time.

You need to want it badly enough to schedule training and have a plan to hit adequate to optimal nutritional intake, at least until you can get it close enough by intuition.

But here's the thing.

That's not what people are taught. It's not what people are constantly told.

Results from training can't occur via drastically restricting far below your energy requirements, the way we are constantly told we should do it via ultra lower than low calorie or lower than low carb diets.

The problem isn't that people don't want it bad enough. The problem is that people actually do want it so badly, that they will go so far beyond what is actually required, beyond what is in any way helpful or conducive to results, and all the way through to what is actually detrimental, destructive and disorder. And the real problem is, however far they go, they're just doing what they're constantly told they should be doing... and how ever much they suffer and sacrifice in the pursuit of results that just don't come, they're still told "you mustn't want it bad enough".

These are the sorts of things I hear from my clients, about their pre-Dave experiences.

This is the reality.

You do need to want it bad enough to do what it takes.
What it takes is having the intention to train regularly with a good program, and to make sure you're fueled appropriately to perform, recover, and adapt to training. This means being closer to the maximum amount of energy, protein and other resources that your body can put to good use... not further and further into deficit of what it requires. You don't want to be in excess of an amount you can put to use, obviously... but you absolutely do have a minimum adequate amount that you require if you expect to see any benefit from training.

Schedule it, and then do it.

Make training and appropriate fueling a part of your default daily habits. If you do have to miss a day due to unavoidable or unforeseen circumstances, consider it a rest day and be all the more enthusiastic to get straight back into it again the next day, or as soon as possible after that.

Success cannot happen via going further and further into destructive habits. However, success becomes inevitable when you establish constructive and sustainable habits that are conducive to that outcome.

Train to get strong, fit and functional.
Fuel to perform, to recover, and to adapt to training.

Success will be inevitable.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Fastest Results In Body Transformations

You wanna talk about FAST RESULTS?

I will tell you something about what sort of fast results are possible.

I've produced some major results very fast in certain circumstances. For example a client comes to me already active, fit, actually training and participating in sport at an intermediate or higher level, but has been under fueled (or actively restricting intake) previously.

Getting up closer to an adequate level of fueling will often produce IMMEDIATE results as stress hormone levels reduce, the body has energy available to put into the muscles where we want it, and is able to release some of the energy it has felt the need to conserve in fat stores.

Really what we're talking about is catching up to the sort of condition you should already be in anyway based on level of fitness and athleticism. My all time favourite quote from a client in these circumstances was "what sorcery is this?!" Two days in, if I remember correctly.

FAST RESULTS can also happen for example with an obese person cutting to very low calories or very low carbs on conventional forms of diets and especially when the word "challenge" is involved in the marketing. In this circumstance however, what we're losing is fluid retention, not adipose tissue. Once the water weight has been lost, progress soon stalls. Also, what we're really training the body to do is slow down and conserve energy, so the end result is regaining whatever weight you do manage to starve of, and then some.

Now on a lot of these "starve and burn challenges" you're likely to be shown some seemingly successful transformations with people who do drop a significant amount of weight from a regular sort of "overweight" condition to a less, or not overweight condition. Again though... it's a temporary result brought about by unsustainable measures. And of course... you're only shown the (temporarily) successful people. Most people don't respond to calorie restriction other than with loss of water weight as previously explained.

Not to mention... a lot of the time on some of the particularly unscrupulous pages you're actually shown photos stolen from people's tumblr blogs or where ever else... people who've never used whatever program or product is being sold and who certainly didn't do it in 12 weeks. I've seen this with my own clients and a few other people I know, several times now.

SO... fast and GREAT results can happen IF they're long over due, as in you're already extra fit, extra active, but haven't been adequately fueled to really allow your body to create its best condition.

Or fast temporary results can happen by dropping a lot of water weight, with the ultimate result being weight regain.

So if you're in the first category I can help you out and you'll be amazed. Everyone else, I will tell you something... I get so much satisfaction when I have a client who has been a non responder on other, restrictive programs, who's gotten tired of these bullshit false promises about over night transformations and so on... who finally, for the first time ever starts to see progress towards where they want to be, by DITCHING those restrictive, low calorie approaches and training to add lean mass at the expense of adipose instead.

Slowly at first, then faster. Sometimes it takes me a little while to find the right total energy and macro targets. But we get there.

Any fkn imbecile can just instruct people to slash to 1200 calories or less and then tell them "you didn't want it bad enough" when it doesn't work. It doesn't take a competent or knowledgeable trainer or coach... in fact it takes the opposite. Unfortunately that's the majority of the industry and what most of these programs are about.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Think Positive. Take Action. Be Accountable. BLARGH.

But first, I will take a selfie.
"Health and wellness" type pages on facebook seem all be either one or the other type of polar opposites.

At one end you have the all doom and gloom, guilt and shame pages about how "everything out there is killing you, but join our food cult and you'll be alright" variety... and... they're dressed up with a facade of positivity, but make no mistake... it is still based on scaremongering + the suggestion that anyone not in the gang/tribe/cult/whatever is some kind of dumb, lazy, undisciplined slob who actually doesn't deserve health or happiness.

Join us and live by our made up rules to prove that you do though, right?
Everyone knows how much I'm against that sort of nonsense, especially as all of the fearmongering is completely unfounded and only leads to all of the usual problems associated with restrictive dieting. You know what I'm talking about here.

At the other end of the scale you have the more "New Age" style positivity type pages which tend to be just a bunch of feel good crap with no substance behind it, as well.  Just peddling a bunch of easy answers, really. Decide that you're happy and the universe will deliver everything your heart desires because of your positive energy, or something.

As a side note I'm actually heavily influenced by so called "New Age" philosophies such as Taoism, Zen & Bushido especially from my days practicing martial arts. However, well... it gets complicated. On the one hand "with our thoughts we create the world", but on the other hand particularly in Taoism the universe is seen as cold and uncaring and what you "deserve" is irrelevant. That's my limited understanding on the subject, anyway.

You might pick up on that influence in some of my writing. In particular, many times I've talked about how "you don't get into shape by proving you're a good person, you get into shape by training and by providing sufficient energy and resources to perform, recover and adapt favourably to training". A puritanical approach to eating is entirely irrelevant in this, and if anything is actually less conducive to meeting those increased requirements of energy and other resources.

But anyway, I have digressed as usual.

Those two extremes are kind of like fire and ice, with the puritanical disciplinarians at one end and the hippy feel good stuff at the other end. I see my role as somewhere in the middle of those two extremes (like lukewarm water), providing sense and strategy for the minority of people out there who are too intelligent to be manipulated by those sort of shonky tactics.

Here's the thing. You DO need positivity and an approach that is about feeling good about who you are and where you are going. HOWEVER...

Just thinking positively isn't enough. You need to take action.

Just taking action is not enough. You need to know that you have the correct (or I should say, "a suitable") course of action.

This has come up in conversation with a few of my clients recently. Clients who ARE getting somewhere NOW and who were not prior to working with me. It has come up a couple of times, how so many coaches out there seem to have nothing but "think positively, take action and be accountable" to offer.

It is nice advice in theory but entirely useless if they are not also providing you with that strategy, that suitable course of action that ENSURES success as long as you keep working at it.

It's a bit like someone asking how to get to your place for your BBQ or whatever. You don't just tell them “oh, you should drive in your car”. They need directions. They need a strategy. They're coming from a unique starting point to a specific destination. Each person's journey will be a little different although the goal is the same.

If you're shopping for a coach, that's the question you should be asking. HOW is this going to ensure success in my goals? If the only answer is “because you'll be taking action and being accountable” there is a huge part of the plan (aka, the actual plan) missing and I would suggest that that's actually the main component you were paying for in the first place.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Observations on involuntary binge eating.

I'll start by saying that this is a complex and multifaceted issue, and circumstances from one individual to another will vary. Therefore this might not be applicable to everyone with a binge eating problem, but hopefully it might be to some.

I've long felt that over restriction of energy intake is the cause of all manner of other problems. Restricting or banning food choices actually makes you crave them and more likely to over indulge in them than if you'd adopted a flexible approach with a little room in the plan for a delicious treat in moderation.

I had a link to a study on that point but I'll have to try dig it up later and paste it in.

Now along with restriction of food choices also comes restriction of energy intake, either inadvertently due to avoidance of calorie dense foods, or deliberately via attempted adherence to a low calorie target. Often this will be the generic 1200 calorie diet, or restricting to BMR or even "netting your BMR".

So for the people who are quite active and enthusiastic about training, who are attempting to adhere to a low calorie diet as described above, but invariably end up going way, way off the rails eating what we might describe as.... well, let's just say significantly more than you intended...

My observation quite often is that this is a recurring or cyclical thing, and even though you end up quite upset (to say the least) and blame this "binge" eating for a lack of progress in your training or weight loss goals, your condition stays about the same and you don't re-gain weight or see any other regression in condition.

So for those people, here's my observation and my theory about what is going on. As I mentioned earlier, I believe most problems stem from trying to restrict to an unrealistic and inadequate total energy intake. To illustrate what an appropriate intake might look like just in terms of total calories, I came up with an imaginary / hypothetical case study of a 22 year old female client of about average height, about average weight, and above average participation in exercise and training.

Running the maths on this client at "extra active" level, the numbers were pretty high so I decided on "moderate activity" instead. I am working on the theory here that people in this situation even though they are indeed "extra active" are somehow convinced that it doesn't really count for some reason and they don't require as much fuel as another athlete at that level. So... ok then I will humour you and go with just "moderate activity".

If you are active and participating in sports or training most days, that's certainly "moderate activity" at the very least, right? Anyway for this hypothetical female client at moderate activity I crunch the numbers and decide that 2000 calories per day is the appropriate target to see better results, lean out a little and quite likely lose 5kg in the process.

Now... imagine that like many people, rather than the appropriate 2000 calories per day, this client is restricting to a target of 1400 calories per day. Now, that's 600 calories per day below the amount she actually REQUIRES. Not below maintenance, below REQUIREMENTS. At some point the body is going to say "enough is enough"... or rather, it is going to say "not enough is NOT enough" and demand the rest, all in one go.

Here's a little chart I made showing the amount you'd need to eat on a Sunday to get back up to 2000 per day on average, after restricting to 1400 calories per day for the week previous.

Now realistically, it won't necessarily happen on the seventh day rounding out a week of failed dieting. It might be the fourth, or the tenth, or whatever day. At some point though the human body will DEMAND the massive amount of missing energy (not to mention other nutritional resources) that it requires but has not received. And even though the conscious part of the brain that you hear as a little voice in your head might still be saying "no", that's not really the part that is running the show.

To my way of thinking this is self evident. People are upset and dismayed that they have ended up over eating to the tune of hundreds, or even thousands of calories in an afternoon or evening. Have they really though? If this happens regularly without resulting in significant weight gain, it is self evident that in actual fact, on average, they have only consumed the amount required to maintain their current weight. In other words, they've made up for what they needed but did not receive in the days prior.

In these situations it is the attempt of restricting below the amount that you require for good results that is to blame for a lack of progress, not the days when you inevitably, involuntarily "over eat" to make up the difference.

Since 2000 calories per day is the actual requirement in this case, in my opinion something like the following would be a much better strategy to ensure results from training and enjoyment of life as well.


As you can see, this is a decent and suitable amount each day and good stack extra on Saturday night to grab a pizza to share with your friend while watching a DVD or something nice like that.

The bottom line is: you cannot expect results from training by restricting your energy intake. You can’t expect to hold out and stick to that level of restriction in the first place, as your subconscious will take over and you will end up making up the difference involuntarily. But even if you COULD hold out, it wouldn’t be conducive to results from training anyway.

You MUST give your body what it REQUIRES not only to FUEL activity but to RECOVER and ADAPT positively to training.

Always remember: You are trying to BUILD something here.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Health At Various Sizes.

Tell 'em, Caitlyn!
Oh lawd.

I got tagged on another "fitness" type page where there's all sorts of controversy going on over fat shamming and bullying. I got tagged as a better example of a trainer with a positive message, which was nice!

Here's the thing.

Body weight and even body composition isn't much of an indicator of health. Now OBVIOUSLY there's a limit where we know that excessive energy intake contributes to various problems such as diabetes, heart disease, and so on. And that coincides with weight gain for the same reason.

In some circles it is considered politically incorrect or unkind to acknowledge this, but the truth is the truth whether we like it or not.

But here's the thing.

We're talking about extremes here.

We're not talking about just "anyone who's not in ripped athletic shape" here. People can be "over weight" and still perfectly healthy. I'll be happy to have this confirmed by an MD/GP but I believe the same can be said for "obese". If I remember correctly the weight at which we expect to see a reduction in life expectancy is quite significantly above the cut off between overweight and obese.

Of course "reduction in life expectancy" and "general good health" are different topics and you could reasonably argue that the point at which health is compromised occurs well before the point that life expectancy is effected, and that this is still cause for concern.

But I digress.

The thing is that an overweight person is not necessarily unhealthy, and a "normal weight" person is not necessarily healthy. And most certainly the idea that anyone other than someone in athletic shape with an especially lean or "ideal" body composition is unhealthy is just ridiculous. Especially when so many unhealthy approaches are suggested as being necessary to achieve such a condition.

What I have come to understand over the past few years writing blogs and participating in discussions is that these are complex matters that need to to be handled with compassion and eloquence.

It might be true that a person's weight is excessive to a point that their health is compromised. Commenting on it in a judgmental manner that implies that they owe it to you to care more about their health is far from helpful or constructive. In most cases it comes across more as a form of concern trolling, where the real message is simply "I don't like fat people", but disingenuously mitigated with the "but it's not healthy" message.

It's complicated. Another individual's health is none of your business. However we do live in a society and what we all do as individuals does effect our society.

So if you have a concern that as a society, we're tending to be less active, less healthy, more likely to over indulge in excessive amounts of unhealthy foods, and so on... if you're concerned about where this is heading... fair enough. But singling out individuals for ridicule is not the answer. Shaming people for taking up too much space and telling them what they should care more about (aka their health, having a body type that you find less objectionable, whatever) is just offensive.

If you want to fix the problem, fix the fitness and weight loss industries that contribute to the problem via ineffectual, unhealthy approaches and guilt and shame based marketing.

Indignantly making people feel like they're not good enough and you're offended by their existence is hardly the way someone with positive intentions and concern for others would conduct themselves.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Your arguments against moderation and flexibility in dieting are invalid and illogical.

I've gotten into the habit of posting a selfie with most
of the entires here. Today's is animated.
I don't know if it always comes across this way but what I actually believe is that is ok that people promote a variety of different messages that are most helpful to different people, and to offer different approaches to various goals that people might have.

So long as it is some variation on a healthy, positive approach that has a basis in reality and will deliver what it promises, I'm all for it even if it is different to what I do and what I promote.

I just do what I do, and hopefully get the message out to the people who'll think "well that's just what I need, why didn't I know about this already?". But some people might need something else and hopefully they'll also find someone promoting the approach and the message that is right for them.

For example; many people might simply want to be healthier, happier, more active, have a better relationship with food and to not be terribly concerned with body image. I follow a few pages that promote this, and I am about 99% on board with this message, with the caveat that if people DO have a body condition goal there's absolutely nothing wrong with that, and the best way to achieve it is via persistence with a healthy approach.

Different people, different goals, different approaches to achieve those goals. Life is not a one size fits all prospect. What's important is that people are healthy and happy, and there's no way any approach that actually delivers health and happiness can be "wrong". However, what's right for one person could be dead wrong for someone else, and trying to force them into it is far from conducive to the desired outcome of health and happiness, regardless of how well it might have worked for others.

There is a good quote you may have heard that goes like this:
“The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence.”
Similarly when it comes to nutrition, the majority of qualified people understand that the best approaches will take moderation, flexibility and individual requirements and preferences into account, while the ignorant will insist that there is only one way of doing things, and will take exception to professionals who suggest that other approaches are also allowable and might be preferable for other people.

The level of open hostility that various qualified advocates of moderation and flexibility in dieting are subjected to is quite odd. Ironically my observation is that much of the hostility comes from people who have had a very limited amount, or very temporary success with a particular diet, and are arguing with people who have actually been quite successful and who have similarly helped others to be successful as well.

The reality is that if you are working to appropriate total energy and macronutrient targets... or, even if you're not working to targets but your intake is still appropriate... everything you put in IS doing you good, and all criticisms are invalid.

Most people do not have an advanced level athletic body condition goal like a body builder or fitness model might. Most are just happy to be healthier and more active, making progress on their own terms at their own pace, and there is absolutely zero need to over complicate this with any sort of puritanic ideals about what foods are ok to eat.

Even for those with more advanced goals, these are still best attained via whatever method of achieving optimal nutrition is most suitable to consistent adherence. Again, this will vary from one individual to the next in terms of strategy and food choices.

If someone is happy, healthy, and satisfied with the rate and level of progress they are seeing at training, any complaints about or insistence that their approach to nutrition is "wrong" are both invalid and illogical.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

I don't do meal plans. I do Custom Flexible Dieting Guidelines.

Pretty average photo from training
yesterday. I thought my shoulders were
looking good though.
I just don't, and I won't no matter how much someone asks or how much they offer to pay me. I just don't feel comfortable telling other people what to eat. The idea stresses me the hell out, to be honest.

If you really do want a meal plan via me, I will crunch the numbers as I always do via my Flexible Fueling system and then forward those guidelines to a real dietitian to talk to you about your food choices. I haven't had one for a while, but I do still from time to time get told "no I want you to do it"... well, that aint gonna happen.

Now if you were considering looking for a meal plan online, or if you were looking to hire a trainer who'll tell you what you are allowed to eat and what you are not allowed to eat, here's what I think you should keep in mind.

What makes for a good meal plan?

Purely from a nutritional point of view, a meal plan is good if it provides everything that you need and no excess. So enough total energy, enough protein, fiber and a good spread of micronutrients suitable to maintain good health, an appropriate weight range, and good performance and results at training.

That's what you need in a meal plan purely on nutritional grounds.

A lot of the time you might see meal plans on offer from trainers or even less qualified "wellness guru" types, and they're kind of a one size fits all proposition with a bunch of healthy foods listed, and the inference is that since they're all healthy foods it's a good plan and you'll be getting everything you need. This is often far from the case as just throwing together a list of "healthy foods" in no way ensures meeting an adequate energy intake for performance at sport or adequate protein for adaptation to training.

Often this is the case with "clean eating" type plans for sale or available for free online. There is simply no consideration given to energy and protein requirements, and they may fall dangerously short of a suitable amount for an active person. Anyone can throw together a list of healthy foods... and most of the time that's all you're getting. A list of healthy foods and perhaps another list of other foods that are banned for no legitimate reason is a long way from being a decent sports nutrition plan that will ensure results. It is probably the opposite.

Now assuming you do have a plan to meet your individual requirements in terms of total energy, protein, and plenty of vitamins and minerals via healthy & nutritious choices, that's great. However, there is more to a good meal plan than simply being nutritionally appropriate.

A good meal plan is one that not only delivers everything that you require, but even more importantly is one that you can stick to long term. A plan that has designated meal times or meal frequency that does not suit you as an individual, you won't stick to for long. A plan that includes mostly foods that you find unappealing, you won't stick to for long.

If you're anything like me and a lot of other people, if you don't like the foods you probably won't even attempt the plan. Because you know it is unworkable. Assuming you do try, you're likely to put off eating for as long as possible and then end up having something else instead and probably way too much of it. Or you might force yourself to try the scheduled meal and lose your appetite half way though as you're not enjoying it. This would mean either you go underfueled defeating the purpose of having a plan in the first place, or again you end up ravenous at some point later on and over eat something that isn't on the plan.

None of this is conducive to good results or to a good relationship with food.

This is a very simple point that seems to baffle a lot of people who for some reason believe they are in a position to give advice to others.

A plan that is "good" in terms of providing everything that you need is worthless if it is not conducive to enthusiastic adherence. If it is unworkable due to meal schedules or food choices... it might be a good plan for someone else, but it's not a good plan for you. The plan needs to fit the person. It is not a failing on your part if you can't force yourself to work with an unworkable situation.

Now if this plan does indeed provide all of the nutritional resources that you require, the assumption is that we actually know what those requirements are. What amounts of various resources such as total energy, protein, fiber and so on. If the person providing the plan can't tell you what those are, then it's just a stab in the dark and they are full of shit. We don't know your requirements, we don't really how much this plan provides... but it's all good food so obviously it does provide exactly the amount you require and no more or less. 

That's unreasonably optimistic, in my opinion.

Certainly though, a competent professional (such as myself) can determine those requirements with reasonable accuracy. So, rather than a plan that is basically an "eat it, it's good for you" proposition that may or may not deliver everything that you need, we can plan to meet all of those nutritional requirements with a variety of our preferred choices of foods that will be suitable to long term adherence. More to the point, we can also create a new plan whenever we feel like it, based on whatever foods we feel like eating that day.

Obviously you can't just abuse the concept and still expect to end up meeting all of your targets, but with a little planning and preparedness you most certainly can produce great and sustainable results with whatever choices of foods best suit you.

This is what Flexible Dieting and IIFYM is all about. In my Flexible Fueling system, I give you the targets and simple guidelines to assist you to build your own plan that you'll be enthusiastic and optimistic about sticking to.

And it's pretty easy.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Six Degrees Of Separation In Pseudoscience

Birds of a feather flock together.
You know, like the 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon game.

I'm still kind of trying to pull this idea together in my brain so bare with me. I was thinking for example, a lot of people have sworn off grains and are hell bent on convincing everyone else to do the same, and the usual instruction is to "read Wheat Belly & Grain Brain and you'll see".

Grain Brain being a book written by David Perlmutter who I suppose people have accepted as a credible source of information.

Now I would put it to you that the anti-grain thing is almost mainstream now, and many quite reasonable and intelligent people are avoiding grains "for their health". The majority of those people probably aren't on board with more extreme "health" campaigns for example the anti-vaccination movement. Most people rightly are quite horrified and outraged by the nonsense that comes out of the anti-vax movement, intent on driving us back to the dark ages with a mistrust of the scientific community and the medical and pharmaceutical industries in particular, and allowing terrible diseases to make a come back, costing the lives of children and others who are vulnerable to infection.

Speaking of the anti-vax movement. One of the most financially successful anti-vaccination advocates is a bloke you may have heard of called Joseph Mercola.

Wikipedia has rather a detailed entry about Mercola covering many of the controversies he has been embroiled in, including the warnings he has received  from the US Food And Drug Administration related to his activities.

See also this quote from Business Week magazine:
Mercola gives the lie to the notion that holistic practitioners tend to be so absorbed in treating patients that they aren't effective businesspeople. While Mercola on his site seeks to identify with this image by distinguishing himself from "all the greed-motivated hype out there in health-care land", he is a master promoter, using every trick of traditional and Internet direct marketing to grow his business... He is selling health-care products and services, and is calling upon an unfortunate tradition made famous by the old-time snake oil salesmen of the 1800s
The anti-vax movement is still rather an extreme, fringe group and I think it is fair to say that most reasonable people see them as lacking credibility, to say the least. Therefore it is probably safe to say that many people who might see Perlmutter as a credible source of information and give credence to his views on the health effects of eating grains and cereals, would not see Mercola or any other promoter of anti-vaccine propaganda in a similarly favourable light.

But here's the thing.

If someone you accept as a credible source endorses, or is endorsed by someone you rightly recognise as a dangerous or disingenuous charlatan, how should that affect your perception of the supposedly "credible" source?

Now it would be fallacious logic to suggest that something "can't be true" on the basis that the author has been involved with someone else who we consider a charlatan. However... hopefully when presented with an idea such as "no one should eat grains" we assess the evidence and make a judgment on whether we feel the hypothesis has merit. How credible we consider the source of that information does come into this. How much faith can we have that we are being given the whole story, all of the evidence, and not just that which supports the authors assertions?

Here's what I've noticed. When it comes to pseudoscience, birds of a feather flock together and all of these people tend to be in cahoots with one other, lending the facade of credibility to one an other and so on. They tend to have a few fingers in a few different pies as well, so to speak, so there might be enough overlap in their areas of advocacy that the "clean eating" bloke can be interviewed by the "anti-vax" guy seemingly without specifically supporting the anti-vax cause.
Pointing out Mercola's anti-vax activities is
one of many good ways to find yourself
#blockedbypete on facebook.

I would suggest that getting on board with an anti-vax propagandist and presenting them as a credible authority on health matters is benefiting the anti-vax cause whether you discuss anti-vax matters or not. I would suggest that doing so while trying to hush up the anti-vax connection is even more disingenuous and deceitful.

So while it is interesting to note that peddlers of pseudoscience do seem to be happy to pair up and cross promote with other peddlers of pseudoscience, even when their primary areas of interest are seemingly unrelated and may not be something that one of them particularly wants to be associated with. What is perhaps even more noteworthy is how often a peddler of pseudoscience will cross promote with another who's pet theory is actually in conflict with their own.

For example the "paleo diet" advocate will cross promote with the "low carb high fat" proponent, who will cross promote with the "alkaline foods change your Ph balance" health guru, who will also be in cahoots with the "these foods unclog your hormones" guy, and so on with the "sugar is toxic and addictive" people and the "anti-GMO" people as well.

Believe it or not, they even offered me a slice of the pie to promote an online weight loss summit with featuring the who's who of made up pseudoscience a few months back. I told them they could jam it.

Now while all of those approaches to diet may appear quite similar as in the choices of foods that are advocated and the choices of foods that are to be avoided at all costs, the pseudoscientific explanations of why we must all adopt that particular diet are at odds with one another. But interestingly, while they would insist upon the validity of their explanation in debate with an actual dietitian or a flexible dieting advocate, they seem to their differences aside when working together and focus on the common goal.

What is that common goal? Well... if you ask them you might get a different answer, but the common goal is in undermining established scientific method and fostering a mistrust in qualified professionals and regulatory bodies. The idea that qualified, experienced professionals in health, medicine and dietetics aren't "up to date with the latest research", or that "science sometimes gets it wrong, so we can just choose what we want to be right and insist that anyone who disagrees is on the take, getting paid to be a damn dirty liar". Aka "the shill gambit". 

The problem with all this is that... well... it actually kills people.

Infants contracting diseases that 10 years ago we considered eradicated, people with conditions that could have been treated only turning to conventional medicine when it is too late, after having been convinced to go the "just eat clean and think positive thoughts, you don't need that nasty chemo" route, just as a couple of examples.

What else is interesting is that many of the anti-scientific consensus type people don't actually realise that they are anti science. They see the mainstream as people who just blindly accept what the establishment tell them without question. This is far from what I am advocating here. People should be skeptical and choose carefully whom they should take advice from. Why should I believe this person is likely to be in a better position to know the details of this complex subject than that person? Does what he or she is telling me seem plausible, does it match up with what I can see happening with my own eyes, and even then... has this theory been tested and do the results of those tests stand up to scrutiny?

We're all to some extent afflicted with a confirmation bias, which makes it easier to see the flaws in an argument that we already disagree with, and harder to see the flaws in an argument supporting a position that we believe to be correct. However if we are really reasonable, enlightened adults with an interest in learning the truth, we should be encouraged to over come our biases and not be so emotionally invested in our opinions and beliefs that we would not consider changing them in the face of new and credible evidence.

What pseudoscientists and snake oil pushers of any subset all tend to have in common is... well, the opposite of what I suggested above. Rather than encouraging people to be aware of their own biases and to think critically and objectively, the overwhelming message and example set is to simply choose an opinion that best suits you, insist that it is correct, and dismiss any evidence or research that suggests otherwise as being inherently flawed or falsified out of hand. Similarly, insist upon the validity of any research that can be cherry picked to support your position, regardless of glaringly obvious flaws in the methodology or inconsistency between the data collected and the conclusion being presented.

I have digressed a little as usual.

Ideally, people are free to do what works best for them. When it comes to diet that could be any of a dozen approaches with countless permutations of possible food choices. If you have stumbled on to one that works for you, that you enjoy and that you feel is producing the changes in health and condition that you were aiming for... that should be enough. It should not be necessary to insist that this is the "only" way to achieve or to deserve similar results in improved health and condition, or to argue that certain foods are the issue rather than overall appropriate or not appropriate eating habits... especially when you're insisting this to people who've had a similar, or perhaps even greater level of success with some other approach that happens to suit them better.

When it comes to diet, consider the root source of the information when someone is trying to convince you "it can only be done this way" or "it can't be done that way", especially if they are going against the consensus of the vast majority of qualified and experienced professionals in the field. While it's not impossible that they could be right where everyone else is wrong, you should require some solid, convincing evidence before you accept it as fact. It might be quicker and easier though to find out what other "alternative" theories they are on board with first.

If it is anti-vax, anti-fluoride, anti-conventional medicine and so on... if you wouldn't take their word for it on those matters why should you when it comes to diet and nutrition?

Side note: we had a productive discussion recently on how research is supposed to be conducted and how qualifications such as degrees are attained which might be helpful or interesting.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Calories In Calories Out Is Bullshit?

Shame about cutting off the top of my head,
but at least my arms look nice.
Another one of these articles with the above title came up in my newsfeed just now, and I typed a response but then I thought "oh, what's the use I don't have the energy for this anymore" because GOD people are just so frustrating, aren't they?

Anyway as it turned out, this particular article did a good job of explaining why the way people usually treat calorie counting doesn't work out, although I disagreed with the conclusion.

I've seen other articles with the same title from trainers with no success in staying in shape themselves, writing about how calories aren't the issue and the answer is to eat paleo style and avoid these here other, bad foods like cereal for example that "causes you to get fat" because of some fanciful reason that absolutely does not include how it effects your total energy intake for the day. And of course this particular trainer is out of shape because those bad foods are really hard to avoid and it is all the supermarket's fault for putting them on special because it's some great big conspiracy or something.

And meanwhile you know plenty of people who still start the day with a bowl of cereal but are successful in staying in shape and seeing nice results from their training program. I assure you, you do know at least one person doing that.


Whether you are eating paleo style, whether you are doing intuitive eating, clean eating, whatever else. If you were previously overweight or obese, changed your eating habits and are now no longer (or just less) over weight or obese, you are consuming less energy (aka calories) over all.

Whether you know how many calories you ate before and how many you eat now, or not. You were consuming enough to support your previous weight, and now you're consuming a less excessive amount more suitable to support your current weight.

So, it is not essential to count calories. You can achieve a less excessive intake with a different selection of foods, smaller portion sizes, any number of ways really. The danger in my observation in trying to insist upon certain foods being "to blame" and certain foods being "good" is that some people might find it very difficult to strictly adhere to that list of "good" foods. Hell, as I mentioned, even many of the people who insist that this is how it is still struggle to adhere to it.

The danger then is that if people do not see progress, they blame it on isolated instances of "eating the wrong foods" rather than on not having established eating habits that are conducive to appropriate energy intake generally speaking, on average, most of the time.

To go from obese to not obese that is really about all it takes other than a suitable level of activity. Eating habits that are conducive to appropriate energy intake, generally speaking, on average, most of the time.

Now the issue this article quite correctly raised is that when people focus on calories, they just think "less, and less, and less". They start off with that stupid "3500 calories per week deficit" thing, and when that stops working they try to cut back further and create a bigger deficit, or they try to add an extra hour of exercise to burn more off. Or both things. And then more of both things.

It is a destructive approach that doesn't work and can't end well.

The "one line" answers that people like to use just don't apply to everyone. "Be more active" for example. For all we know someone might be quite active indeed even though to our eyes they do not have the appearance we associate with an active lifestyle, in which case we might want to work on not that whole thing about making assumptions based only on appearance. "Be more active" is not only a little insulting to those people, but it's not the right advice anyway.

What it actually comes down to is a suitable amount of activity and the appropriate amount of energy intake. Not "move more, eat less"... but "consume an appropriate amount to fuel your active lifestyle".

Making "effective training" a part of that active lifestyle will obviously make for more consistent results and more efficient progress. However, while we certainly won't see a change in weight, body condition or health while still in excessive total intake, there are minimum requirements that we must meet in order to facilitate a beneficial adaptation to training.

If generally speaking your total energy and macronutrient intake falls within a range that is adequate but not excessive, you will see progress towards your goal weight and condition. If you can get this right by intuition or by adhering to a selection of foods that are conducive to such an energy balance, good. If not though, you can always crunch the numbers and then plan to meet them with whatever choice of foods best suits you.

This is the reality of the situation, whether it fits into people's personal philosophy or not.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Context Is Always King

Another one that should have been posted here and then linked to from facebook, rather than the other way around.

Context is always king.Self appointed "wellness experts" and apparently practically everyone else on facebook seem to...
Posted by Dave Hargreaves Personal Training on Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Like it or not this is the truth about weight loss.

Sometimes I post things on facebook that really should have gone onto the blog for prosperity. Like this one.

Posted by Dave Hargreaves Personal Training on Saturday, 28 March 2015

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Decide to make this week a good week, every week.


Losing weight is NOT as hard as people make out.
Hell I keep doing it by accident when my goal is to get bigger, if anything.


To lose weight you need to make food choices that result in total energy intake that is more appropriate to your goal weight. Being active will help, TRAINING effectively even more so. But total energy intake being more appropriate is 90% of the battle.

Where this gets confusing is the one person might cut out "Food A" and lose weight, and therefore they proclaim "Food A was the problem all along. You just need to cut that out". And you're like "BUT I LOVE FOOD A. I could never cut that out for good".

The good news is that they're wrong. For them, cutting out Food A resulted in total energy intake that was less inappropriate, they ate other stuff they were more enthusiastic about instead, and boom goes the dynamite.

For YOU, you can do it how best suits you. Same food choices in more appropriate portion sizes? You'll lose weight. Just cut back on the indulgent treats you've been in the habit of tucking into in the evenings? If you're over doing that regularly, then NOT over doing that regularly will enough to lose some weight.

What people forget, or neglect to mention is that if you do have some weight to lose, you don't have to do everything perfect all of the time in order to get started. Simply getting your activity level more appropriate, and your total energy intake less inappropriate, most of the time will take you a long way.

If you establish those habits you really will go a long way. The more consistent you are, and especially if you have a good and effective training program to follow, the more progress you'll see. But simply being "more appropriate / less inappropriate" is enough to begin with.

I always emphasise the point. It is what you do habitually that determines your body weight and condition. One day where you eat something "bad" or over indulge a little will make very little difference if any at all in isolation, so long as your regular habits are not inappropriate.

So. It all sounds pretty easy, right?

There's a catch though. There's always a catch, you know that by now.

The catch is that the only thing that's easier than establishing these new habits is to slip back into your old habits. That's the easiest thing on Earth, and we're all likely to do it if we don't have a system, or a plan in place to ensure we don't become complacent.

We don't need to be perfectionists with unrealistic expectations. From time to time we WILL become complacent and slip back towards our old habits that aren't conducive to our goal condition. What we want to do is notice when that's starting to happen, and to make a little adjustment and steer back in the right direction again.

Fortunately this is not so difficult either.

Take this one week at a time. We'll say "on the weekend" but these days everyone's schedule can vary so on whatever day counts as your weekend you need to decide how that week is going to play out. Now ideally you would have established a regular training schedule. How is that looking this week? Are you going to make all of them or is there a legit reason why that's not looking so good this week? If not, decide upon what days you can definitely train and decide that not only is it definitely going to happen but you're extra enthusiastic about that as well.

You can get down in the dumps about not being able to set up a perfect week, or you can get extra enthusiastic about doing the very best you can when you are able to. If you do that and if you believe in the power of positive thinking, you might even find that an opportunity presents itself and you get to pick up the session you thought you were going to miss, as well.

Eating works the same way. Decide that you're going to practice the good and appropriate eating habits that work best for you in ensuring you get all that you need but don't end up over eating later on.

Decide that long term success is the only outcome that you will accept, and understand that a flexible, moderate approach based on doing the best you can, as often as you can will get you there.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Demonisation Of Processed Foods Has Gone Way Too Far

For a while now I've had an issue with the amount of nonsense that gets put around about quote/unquote "processed food" and how you can't be healthy, can't lose weight, can't be in shape & and are a poor excuse for a human being if you ever eat any of it.

I mean... really.

There are lots of foods on the shelves of the supermarket that don't make for a great choice in meeting your nutritional requirements without exceeding your energy requirements. This much is true, however for the most part these particular "unhealthy" products aren't really marketed as things you should rely on for every meal. They're more like snack products and so on, for the most part.

To say "we should eat less processed foods" isn't bad advice, as in implies eating more fresh fruit and vegetables instead, for example. But interpreting that advice as "any food out of packet is inherently bad at any amount or frequency" is not correct and I've been saying for a while it is actually harmful. For example when you have the case of someone who is trying to get into shape through restrictive dieting and excessive exercise without results, the idea that a specific, particular choice of meal or snack is responsible for the lack of results especially coupled with the inference that they "weren't disciplined enough to earn it" or whatever is particular harmful and conducive to the development of eating disorder.

What we've seen in the past week though is a step beyond even this, with the suggestion that commercial baby formula is unsafe and unhealthy, merely on the basis that it "comes from a tin" and has ingredient names that people don't recognise. Worse still when the "healthy alternative" people are being encouraged to use instead actually has the potential to kill a child due to the inappropriate level of certain nutrients that it might contain.

Why all the hate for "big food?" I'll paste in my comments in reply to the message above on the Blocked By Pete page on facebook.

It comes across to me like these people literally think of "big food" as a bunch of diabolical Monty Burns type characters sitting around scheming about "how can we trick people into ingesting more toxic chemicals and tell 'em it's healthy? ESPECIALLY BABIES?"

I mean... I'm not the most trusting person but even I don't see any reason to assume anything remotely like that is plausible. Truth be told, although I might come across otherwise sometimes, I don't even think that's what's going on with most of the "alternative nutrition" crowd... they're not deliberately evil, they're just deluded narcissists who can't accept that their gut feeling might not be as accurate as legit scientific investigation, and just keep digging in deeper the more flawed their position is shown to be. Except for a couple I won't name right now who i believe are genuinely just very bad people.

The idea that baby formula isn't / wouldn't be healthy and safe on the basis that it is produced by "big food" though? You'd need to actually provide some evidence, not just act like it is self evident.

Baby formula is an answer to a problem of the instance where a new mother is not able to produce enough breast milk for some reason, or hell it is 2015... the biological mother might not even be in the picture, it could be a single dad or even a two dad family. So in these instances we have a need for a product that replicates the nutritional content of breast milk as closely as possible to ensure the infant can get what it needs to thrive. And "big food" goes "yeah there's some money in that, we can do that" and there you have it.

This whole "we need a healthier more natural alternative to formula' is problematic on two fronts as #1 it just puts more pressure on to new parents who are probably stressed out and in many cases made to feel guilty already due to not having success in breast feeding, and #2 so far (and believe me I have been asking) no one has been able to tell me exactly why people need to be looking for an alternative to formula as if it in some way questionable.

It's a very good, very dangerous example of why this whole demonisation of processed foods thing has gotten way, way, WAY out of hand.

Come see what people are saying about this entry on facebook.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Why would you require a unique, custom training program but accept a generic diet plan?

One of the weirdest things to me is that people have been convinced that they require a unique approach to training, but will accept a generic eating plan. People in the business believe this as well, which I guess is where the public get the idea from. Everyone who walks in the door wanting to not be overweight anymore, to trim up around the waist, or whatever... gotta build something brand new just for them, from the ground up. Can't give 'em the same set of excerises as anyone else, because they're individuals with unique needs.

Diet though? Just print off another copy of the same generic "these foods good, those foods bad" meal plan. Right?

The opposite approach would really be a lot more helpful to most people. 

Start with a training strategy that we know is effective, and fine tune it as much or as little as is necessary to suit each individual. Depending on their goal, their confidence and ability level, and other factors as well, they might need to start with a different selection of exercises than another person, with a view to progressing to the more advanced options. A competent trainer can do this while still working to a pre-existing strategy that he or she knows will produce the desired physical results in due course.

As to diet though, this is where people really are unique individuals with very unique, individual requirements. Now, all people are similar enough in that they require a certain amount of total energy which we can calculate accurately, and they'll require a certain amount of protein, fiber and other nutritional resources within that appropriate total energy range. The amounts will vary from person to person, but where the real individual uniqueness comes into play is with which choices of foods will best suit each person to meeting these requirements.

There is no point in dictating "these are the best choices that you'll find easiest to adhere to" to someone who just isn't feeling at all enthusiastic about that list of foods. It is even worse still to be a disciplinarian with a "who says you have to enjoy it?" approach that makes it about willpower and strength of character.

The bottom line as I say over and over again practically every day in every conversation on the subject is that people can and should be empowered to meet their energy, macro and micro nutritional requirements from whatever choices of foods best suits their tastes. A certain selection doesn't imply that they want it more, deserve it more, are better people or any other such nonsense. Results from training are facilitated by a suitable provision of energy and other nutritional resources, regardless of where they come from.

Therefore in my opinion, if you are shopping around for a Personal Trainer or for Online Fitness Coaching, what you should be looking for is someone who has an approach to training that they believe in, which has produced results for the people they've coached previously. Ideally you should also be able to learn enough about what that approach entails that you can make an informed decision before you sign up as to whether that approach is suitable for you as an individual.

If you really want to achieve a result through training, what you need a combination of "what it actually takes" plus "what is most suitable for you as an individual". Which isn't to say that you can choose literally anything you fancy doing and expect it to to be effective in producing a specific result. There may be any number of effective approaches to choose from, but that is not to say that every approach, program or product has the same potential for efficacy. Many of them have none whatsoever, others might be better suited to a different goal or a different set of personal circumstances. What we need is something that is actually suitable to both our goal, and our circumstances.

That's an important point that bares repeating and rephrasing. There might be any number of possible approaches from which to choose the most suitable, but the problem most people have is that they believe as long as they make the effort to do "something" then they should be rewarded with the result that they want. Unfortunately, that isn't the way things work.

If you follow an effective strategy, fine tuned a little as best suits your needs, you'll see results provided your nutrition is also appropriate. Regardless of how many other people have already used the same strategy. If you really insist on brand new, custom program built from the ground up, just for you, excluding anything that's been used with anyone else... you're not going to end up with a lot of good stuff in that program.

So the weird part is that we've some how been conditioned to believe that we can earn an athletic physique by eating the same foods we might be told an athletic person would eat, but that actually training with a serious program is optional.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Bench Press with Controlled Explosive Velocity

I filmed some of yesterday's training session to demonstrate a little of the "Controlled Explosive Velocity" I've been talking about recently.

This applies in particular to the Barbell Bench Press, but it's much the same if you're using dumbbells or even machine press. Tempo is important, and you really want to make both the eccentric and the concentric movements count if you want to make this exercise as effective as possible.

Now, I managed to screw up somehow and the first caption in the video should say "Warm Up Set: 60kg".

You really want to make that warm up set count. Don't just take a light weight and blast out a bunch of reps at light speed with no control or resistance.

Perform the warm up set the way you would like to perform your work sets. Obviously, as you go heavier and as you become fatigued... the bar won't go back up in the air so quickly, and it might come down a little faster too... still, your intention should be to control the rate of decent by maintaining muscle activation, and then explode back up again with the most powerful muscle contraction you are able to produce.

Therefore what I suggest is to think of "explosive velocity", and for that matter think of a "controlled explosion" if you could imagine such a thing. For the PUSH we should be aiming to move that weight up in the air with as much (controlled) explosive velocity as possible. Now for working sets the weight should be sufficient that it doesn't just fly up in the air, but that's what we should have in mind to force the most powerful muscle contraction we can produce. We don't want to lock out at the top of the movement... stop perhaps a half inch short, then very, VERY slowly lower the weight back towards your chest. Slowly as if you're a little scared of letting it get too close, and them BOOM explode up again.

Do not neglect the negative portion by just letting the bar crash back towards you with no resistance. You should be applying an amount of resistance that is only just short of what would be required to hold that thing up in the air.

 Try this first for a warm up set of up to 16 reps. Then 4 work sets of 10 - 12 reps. You'll find it particularly demanding and notice a real difference in the hard, powerful muscle contraction you produce in those pectoralis muscles you are targeting.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Discipline vs enthusiasm, part 8 million.

I have a bunch of ideas on this topic.

I'm half way through a feature post on my official site talking about the "Fair World Theory" and how that relates to people's ideas about fitness, dieting, and health. This is a little story I thought of that's related but won't fit into that entry which is already too long and not even finished.

I've covered this a few times in the past as well. According to the captions on "fitspiration" type images you might see on facebook or tumblr, or certain people's blogs or instagrams or where ever else, it's all about discipline, or commitment, or will power, and so on.

Basically, the suggestion would be that if you're a great person with all of these positive character traits that make you an achiever in life, that's why you have a nice athletic physique, too. People who haven't been so successful? They must be undisciplined, weak willed, lacking in commitment.

Well, I think that is such a load of narcissistic, self aggrandising nonsense.

I will tell you a story.

Back in my days as an aspiring / serious musician, I would often do about 6 hours a day of solid technique work on the guitar. Not including / not talking about jamming along with cds, practicing the songs, rehearsing with the band, etc... just flat out technique work with an unplugged electric guitar and a metronome. I'm trying to remember right now how I managed this around a full time job...

Now THAT takes discipline.

Or does it? Really?

Something that's not actually unpleasant to do, that you take satisfaction in, and you have reason to believe is taking you towards a goal that means a lot to you. Sure, you have to make the effort and many people wouldn't have it in them. Still though, that effort comes out of enthusiasm more so than anything else. Doing it even though you didn't really want to, that would take discipline.

I was trying just now to think of an example of why you might put in all of that effort if you were not enthusiastic about it and didn't care about progressing towards a meaningful goal. I couldn't though. Really, you just wouldn't do it if you weren't enthusiastic about it.

This is analogous to training.

Training is similar. In fact now that I think of it, I'm sure I can remember an interview or two with European bands who used the phrase "band training" rather than "rehearsal". I always liked that translation.

Unlike personal practice on your instrument + band practice though, training for a sport or body condition goal might take perhaps an hour of your day most days, unless you're really looking to excel at an advanced, competitive level.

That might take some discipline while you're new to training, still trying to establish good habits, and schedule them into your routine... and especially if you're still not overly optimistic about your chances of seeing results. I feel like many people especially in the beginning might be quite pessimistic and not terribly enthusiastic, but somewhat reluctantly decide "I suppose I need to show people that I'm trying, at least".

That does take discipline.

People in the business though? People who run fitness blogs and so on? Talking about how you need to be more disciplined and use your will power, just like them? What a crock. Those people are in shape because they are very, very enthusiastic about training. It doesn't take discipline to show up and do something you're really enthusiastic about for as little as an hour a day. That's not a chore, it's a highlight. Marketing and book keeping and things like that are the chores, training is the good stuff.

I suppose there are some exceptions which for example are the "business owner" types who got into the industry at some point when they were told there'd be a lot of money to be made as the obesity epidemic got out of hand. Usually the ones who "don't have time" to actually train themselves, right?

Everyone else though... they don't show up to training every day because of "discipline". Maybe there's a particular routine on the program that's a "you gotta do what you gotta do" type of thing, but generally speaking they love, are enthusiastic about, and look forward to training and that's why they show up and get it done.

Nutrition though. That's the hard part right? 

That's the challenge, where you gotta be disciplined.


Well maybe just a little.

Making effective, strategic training a part of your daily routine is one part of the equation. Getting your nutrition right is the other, and either one on it's own is only so much use. This not to say that you need to be "disciplined" and force yourself to eat foods that you don't like and avoid the ones that you do like at all times.

The bottom line is that people are successful because they have found one of many possible approaches and become enthusiastic enough to get stuck into it. Now as a fitness blogger or instagrammer or whatever else, you can take any approach that is sensible and healthy and try to get other people enthusiastic about it too, and that's awesome. No doubt you will inspire many to make a positive change in their lives.

Promote enthusiasm though, not discipline. And especially, let's not kid ourselves that doing something that we enjoy and eating the foods that we like to eat makes us "disciplined" and that people who aren't enthusiastic about eating the same foods need to "harden up" or whatever.

People will get results from any effective training program so long as their total intake is not inappropriate. It is down to providing both the physical stimulus and the energy and protein resources required to build your healthy goal physique, and people can achieve this with whatever selection of food choices best suits them.

Getting back to this "Fair World Hypothesis", it is fair enough to take pride in whatever success you've had in training or in other aspects of life that have been the result of consistent effort. However, results from training do come from putting in the effort and providing the right amount of energy, not by proving your moral worth by avoiding certain foods in favour of others.

People who have not yet been successful simply have not been given a plan that they can get enthusiastic about that is based on effective training and ensures appropriate energy intake.

In the real world, this is all that it comes down to.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Any Diet: How does it work? What are the rules?

The first question a lot of people want to know about any given diet is "how does it work?" Or perhaps that's the second question. The very first one is likely to be "what foods are you allowed to eat?"

When people are trying to explain how a certain diet works either because they're selling it or because they want you to be their dieting buddy, usually there are only a few variations.

Variation one might be something like: "you cut out these here foods, which are bad. These are the foods that make you fat. When you stop eating those you lose weight".

Consider this though: whatever foods are on that this, I guarantee that you know some people who do eat them but are in quite good shape.

Similarly you have the "only eat these here foods which are good foods that help you burn fat" variations. Again though, you know some people who do eat those foods and aren't losing weight, and you know some people not eating those foods who are in good shape. Don't you?

Still, the people who sell these diets and their victims are always quite convinced, "this is the only way to lose weight. Anyone not doing this will be overweight". I'll say it once again though, you know any number of people who aren't doing that diet, who are eating some or all of those "banned" foods, and they're in perfectly normal or even quite athletic shape all the same.

So that isn't true. What else though? What about the "prove that you really want it and earn weight loss karma" type explanations? That's the only way I can think of to try to decipher the logic behind these explanations.

You know the ones I mean. A whole bunch of rules. What foods you're allowed to eat, what foods you're not allowed to eat. These things only at these times, those things only at those times. Never these things and those things at the same time. Nothing at all before this time or after that time. God knows what else. And if it doesn't work, it's because of that one single solitary time you broke one of the rules, meaning that you don't really deserve it or whatever. Right? You didn't do it hard enough and you should try again. Properly this time.

I've questioned a few people promoting these sort of approaches along the lines of "but why though?" and the response is usually something like "to show they have discipline, to prove they want it bad enough" and so on. What a load of nonsense. It's as if the Tooth Fairy has a cousin or something, who rewards all the good boys and girls if they can stick to all the rules for a month, but only if you're especially good and never break the rules.


Whatever diet it is, if the question is "why would I expect this to work?" the only real answer is "because it is the appropriate amount of total energy, and the appropriate balance of energy from the different macronutrient groups."

Some choices of foods certainly are more conducive to ending up at the appropriate amount and balance of energy sources, which means in theory at least that you can just eat those foods until you're satisfied without bothering with the maths. Which is great if you happen to like those foods, but regardless, if you do lose weight on a particular diet it is because at the end of the day your total energy intake has been less appropriate, not because of any magical properties of the foods you did ate or evil properties of the foods you avoided.

Now depending on how you look at things, that might lack a bit of the "wow I never thought of that" factor that inspires people to give something a try. Hopefully though, the wow factor is there because really... for a lot of people this is like awakening from illusion and walking into reality for the first time. Weight management comes down to maintaining an appropriate activity level and an appropriate energy balance.