Thursday, March 31, 2016

Where The Money Is At: Physical Entertainment For Consumers With A Casual Interest In Getting More Active

You have to understand something.

Most things... things that are for sale, the profitable stuff... they're designed with people in mind who have what you might describe as a passing, or casual interest in that thing.

The people who are really passionate and into something for the long haul, they become deeply invested in it and... I want to say they gravitate towards "quality" but that's not always the case. They gravitate away from the mainstream though, at least.

That's not to appear snobbish either. It is entirely OK that not everyone is into fine art, for example. It's ok if you prefer a rom com or an action & CGI blockbuster over foreign arthouse films.

One thing is for sure though... when the Spice Girls came out circa 1994 singing "I really really really want to zig-a-zig ah" and became the biggest selling female act of the day... it wasn't because that was actually a genius piece of musical and lyrical composition that people with a real passion for music felt a deep emotional connection to.

God... 1994... what a shit year. Maiden didn't even have an album out at all, rendering the entire year a complete waste of time IMO. In hindsight and if it was possible, I'd have just skipped the whole thing until The X-Factor was ready for release.

But anyway I digress. People with a casual interest in commercially produced music as entertainment ate that stuff up and people got rich. All good. Supply and demand, capitalism, all that stuff.

The fitness and fad diet industries work the same way. And like I said... fad diets are often harmful but at least as far as the exercise stuff goes, that's fine. I realise that now, as a more mature aged adult. It's fine if people just have a casual interest and think "hey that might be a bit of fun, let's go give it a try"... it's safe to use Zumba as an example by now without offending anyone, I hope?

What you have to realise though is that if you're really looking for more than just "physical entertainment", when you're really looking for lasting & ongoing results and to achieve something... you have to consider the difference between stuff that is designed to be sale-able to people with a passing / casual interest in exercise, and a serious & strategic approach to training for someone who is passionate and in it for the long haul as a defining aspect of their self-identity.

Now... even if you don't (yet) identify as one of those people who are super-passionate about training, you want to emulate the sort of approach that such a person is likely to have, to the best of your present ability. The passion for it will come in time, as you reap the rewards of productive training in terms of your physical health and condition, and how you feel about yourself and your ability to achieve and succeed when you set your mind to it.

So... a lot of words here but to sum up: the difference between stuff that's designed to be marketable to as many people as possible with a casual or temporary interest, vs stuff that's made for people who are looking for something to really become invested in, identify with and become passionate about. It is well worth understanding the difference, especially if the latter is what you require.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

On a personal note... goal setting post.

I've been in this sort of "at my age who gives a shit I'm just gonna cruise along doing my thing" sort of mode the past few years, as far not being this super driven "gotta be the most ripped, gotta keep up with and outdo all these guys in the gym 10 or 15 years younger than me so everyone knows I'm the best trainer" sort of guy.

And I'm all about that life. For my clients, for anyone following my on social media... it SHOULD be all about "being happy where you're at, and feeling great about where you're headed, at your own pace". It's not about keeping up with or outdoing anyone else and it IS always about being happy where you are not but heading towards where you'll be happier still.

That's what I believe and what I try to facilitate in people who come to me for help and advice.

HOWEVER... I think it's a possible combination of being inspired by all the amazing athletes I've seen who were here for the Arnold Classic, plus the more pleasant, mild Autumn weather... and throw in that my birthday is coming up in a month as well.

It was at about this time LAST year that I decided I'd stop being complacent and dial in some tight Flexible Fueling targets according to my own system, and work on hitting them consistently. What I set out to prove last year was that you get better results by working towards optimal targets rather than just slashing into deficit of where ever you are starting from, and that even while pushing those higher numbers on intake, you'll still see weight loss while improving performance and maintaining (even adding) lean mass.

If you go creep my instagram you'll see that this worked out exactly like I said it would. Pushing around 2900 - 3100 (and at times even more) calories per day I dropped around 1kg over the winter, if I remember correctly. Maybe it was a little more. I'm not saying it's a massive drop in weight or anything like that, but that wasn't the point.

The point was, and still is, as follows:
If you're an athlete, or anyone training for performance and condition, don't be afraid to push towards an optimal aka maximum usable energy intake. You will not get fat. You will actually see a decrease in fat mass as more of those valuable resources are made available to fuel performance at training, recovery from training, and the creation and maintenance of lean mass as an adaptation to training.
So to recap... I started out if I remember correctly at about 2400 - 2600 calories per day, perhaps less as I had gotten quite complacent. Start pushing 2900 and up throughout the Autumn and into the Winter, and see a gradual reduction in bodyweight. THEN though in the late Spring, I cut back to 2600 and immediately dropped another 2kg. This is all documented on instagram and in fact there is one photo captioned "fuck! This cut has gone too far!" or something like that.

What else you can see on instagram is I didn't let up on the massive amounts of fruit that I'm known for, still ate pizza twice a week, and in fact the only way I could force myself to hit those over 3000 targets was by including a couple of mint slice chocolate biscuits on a daily basis. And I got leaner. Because that's how it actually works.

Anyway.

That's what I decided about this time last year, and I made it happen just like I said it would.

Right now though, I'm fired up after hanging out in the gym with so many amazing athletes. So many people who really seem so happy based on setting goals for themselves and working diligently towards them and reaping the rewards. So what I'm going to do this year is one step beyond what I did last year.

This year I'm going to GAIN weight while still getting leaner.
That's the goal anyway. There's a limit to how much lean mass a mature male should be able to add without use of any steroids or anything like that. It's not a huge amount, sadly enough... so what weight increase there will be will hopefully be a little lean mass plus more glycogen in the muscles. I'm looking at maybe 3kg, realistically. But, I'll come out of it next Summer heavier and visibly leaner.

That's the goal. Watch and see.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Context Is King, And The King Of All Context Is...

The thing about social media is that ... well, in real life we all know that one guy or girl who thinks they're an expert on EVERYTHING, right? Done nothing, knows everything. Maybe you work with them or something and you get to hear all about how EVERY thing works all day every day from someone who has the same job as you and doesn't even do it as well as you...

That's EVERYONE on social media. Or... that's how it feels at times anyway, am I right?

Therefore on social media you have 9 thousand million unqualified opinions all telling you a bunch of stuff about health and nutrition and quite specifically what YOU aren't doing right and what you need to be doing. And they don't know a god damn thing about you, and for that matter they don't know a god damn thing about a god damn thing.

Listen. When it comes to nutrition advice, context is king.
Context is king and the king of all context is in how that relates to YOU and your unique individual requirements and circumstances.

Individual requirements. 

These are determined in part by your height, your age, sex but even more so by the type, amount and "level" of activity you're in the habit of engaging in. By level I mean, there's a difference in the energy requirements of an advanced level athlete training for an hour a day compared to a beginner training for the same amount of time with a similar approach.

Random fkn know it alls don't get this stuff. They just think some catch phrase or slogan they heard will work for everyone.

Just Eat Clean.

"Just eat clean" is one such slogan. It's nonsense. What does "eat clean" even mean in the first place? I try to remember to wash my hands before a snack just in case they have other people's germs on them some how but I don't think that's what they're getting at.

Just eat clean, or paleo, or... whatever else. In no way does following this advice suggest you'll meet and not exceed your energy requirements. As an active person, the more restrictions you apply arbitrarily to your meal choices, the more likely you are to fall short of an adequate provision and potentially end up under nourished.

IIFYM: Best Macronutrient Ratio.

In IIFYM groups you'll often see ridiculous arguments going on between people espousing a different macronutrient ratio as what's "best". Again, "best for whom?" is the question. In the first place, what is of chief importance is in establishing a consistent total energy provision that is at least adequate, and preferably more optimal. Again this range will be influenced by the type, level and amount of training being performed and these factors will also influence the optimal ratio of macronutrients, and these would be fine tuned on an individual basis subject to assessing the results. To argue for a particular percentage split outside of the context of an individuals total energy requirements is demonstrate a complete and utter lack of understanding of sports nutrition.

Eat Less, Move More.

"Eat less, move more" is another common slogan. It assumes a lot about whoever this helpful piece of advice is directed at. While it would seem appropriate for someone who actually is largely inactive and has eating habits that are extra indulgent... it is hardly helpful to those who are participating in some form of training or other activity and who are paying some (or perhaps too much) attention to their diet. If a client is training for a half marathon and would like to drop 10kg in the process, is it really likely that she needs to "move more"? If a client is "eating clean" or following some other restrictive approach to dieting, is it really likely that she needs to "eat less"?

Eat More To Lose Weight.

However, that's not to say "eat more to lose weight" is necessarily any better advice, and this is another one that keeps popping up lately.

Context is king. If a person is not very active, not very consistent at making it to training, paying little attention to diet... it's extremely unlikely that eating more is going to result in anything other than further weight gain. However, for clients who are already training consistently and following some low calorie, low carb, or otherwise restrictive eating regime, eating more to reach an adequate total energy and macronutrient provision is likely to be exactly what they need.

It's a helpful message to get people away from that "add an hour of cardio and slash 200 calories per day" mentality when they see a stall in fat loss progress, but again... context is king. 

Calorific Deficit.

I used to really loathe what seemed like being needlessly pendantic and quibbling over terms, but the past half a decade or so has made me realise that language & choice of wording can be highly problematic. The intention can be good, the advice generally speaking can be sound... but if there is room for someone to misinterpret it and have it exacerbate already destructive behaviour then this is a problem that we must avoid.

So to clarify the issue surrounding "calorific deficit". It is correct to say "you cannot lose weight or lose fat while in calorie surplus". You do have to be in deficit to lose fat. However, this is not the same as saying "if you are not losing weight, you are not in calorific deficit and so long as you are in deficit you will see progress". 

As people are more consistently active and especially as their performance at training improves, they will require a higher total energy provision in order to perform, to recover, and to maintain lean mass at the expense of fat stores as an adaptation to training. This amount is still "in deficit" of a surplus amount which by definition is in excess of requirements and would lead to fat gain (or failure to lose fat), but again... it is very important that we do not further propagate that "add an hour of cardio and slash 200 calories" mentality especially with clients who may already be over training, underfueling and displaying signs of disordered & destructive behaviour around food and exercise.

Bottom line.

Type, amount and level of activity are determining factors in each individual's total energy requirement and optimal macronutrient profile. All other advice must be within the context of meeting at least an adequate level of intake, and preferably closer to optimal. Those who train quite consistently at beyond a beginner's level of performance and proficiency will have much higher requirements (even when weight loss is a goal) than an inactive person. 

When giving specific individual advice, these requirements must be assessed and taken into account. When giving general advice, we must specify to what circumstances or client profile they apply to. What is good advice to one may be detrimental, destructive or harmful to another.