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Showing posts with label iifym. Show all posts
Showing posts with label iifym. Show all posts

Best Evidence Based Practice vs Best Emotional Intelligence Based Practice


I deliberately made the title a little bit more intriguing for click bait purposes. The reality of the matter is that the best practice IS an evidence based + emotional intelligence based approach.

To the right you can see a little graphic that I whipped up earlier. The first venn diagram is something you might have seen variations upon before, and I had the second diagram in mind to tie together a few of the topics I've covered on facebook in the past.

I had a post a while back about coaching strategies, and how I really think the importance of having a good coaching strategy can't be overlooked. Of course people need an effective training program, they need an appropriate nutrition strategy, but they need more than just that... and as far as I'm concerned it's not just "accountability" either.

What's also important is that people come into a program with some idea of how the training strategy works, some idea of how the nutrition strategy works, and that they're confident and enthusiastic to give it their best try. The coaching strategy in my opinion should be something that builds and increases those levels of confidence, enthusiasm, optimism and ambition, and in my opinion the outlook should be a positive one based on enjoying the challenge.

What should those strategies be based on, though? Refer to the first chart.

This is something else that appears to be often misunderstood.
  • Best Scientific Evidence will support whether something is necessary, beneficial, worthwhile, or otherwise. Note however that just because it might not be necessary to do something in a specific way, this alone is not always a reason not to do it that way. See the following point.
  • Professional Observation & Experience may influence how the coach feels is the best way to approach those necessary & beneficial aspects. For example; "in my experience with my clients, we seem to maintain better enthusiasm, better adherence, and therefore better results and altogether a more positive experience when we go about it this way". For this reason, anecdotal evidence is still valid in discussing what makes for best evidence based practice. For some reason this remains a point of contention.
  • Client's Needs & Goals obviously another crucial point that people seem to overlook. 

This applies to each individual aspect of the coaching strategy, and the coaching strategy as a whole. Otherwise... well, here's a flow chart that I made which I think is pretty cool, too:

Now... we could be talking about weight loss goals, athletic condition goals, whatever goals. And I do seem to write about weight loss a lot lately for a guy who doesn't really think weight is the thing we should be primarily focused on. Either way though, here's the thing; the purpose of these articles isn't to promote weight loss or to sell weight loss or whatever else.

The purpose is to protect people, right?

To protect people from the belief that there's some certain diet that they need to be on to lose weight, some certain choices of foods that they need to avoid or else they'll get fat, some reason they should have been able to stick to some awful dietary regime despite being hungry and miserable... and in specific reference to what is considered "evidence based" in online fitness & coaching cliques, to protect people from the idea that they can reasonably be expected to heavily and indefinitely restrict caloric intake to extreme levels of deficit, or that this would actually be conducive to best condition.

Particularly in the context described above, the term "evidence based" as been so abused over the past few years that is become virtually meaningless. Everyone thinks they're evidence based, no matter how little evidence there actually is that supports their position, no matter how much evidence refuting their position which they dismiss arbitrarily or simply refuse to acknowledge... some seem to think that simply by considering themselves "evidence based" people that they're automatically right about everything despite their total inability to provide a compelling argument in support of their opinion, or an intelligent thought on anything else, either.

Now, when you're talking about weight loss or you are talking about lean athletic condition... here are some facts I don't think you can dispute;
Individuals have been successful via a variety of approaches, but not by just one particular approach to the exclusion of all others.

Despite this, no approach that exists has a good track record of success, especially "long term" success in weight loss without weight regain.
In fact, according to the International Journal Of Obesity; “it is now well established that the more people engage in dieting, the more they gain weight in the long-term.”

So... everyone on social media is an expert on weight loss, but no one (well, relatively few people) is actually losing weight successfully. Everyone seems to want to 'splain what everyone else should be doing, and what every dietitian, nutritionist, GP & other health professional and their respective organisations should be recommending for weight loss.

Here's the thing; if there's no approach that exists with a proven track record of resulting in long term, sustained weight loss... arguing in favour of ANY approach is not being "evidence based" no matter how many times you use the phrase or how many links you drop.

The only argument on the subject that is evidence based is to point out the futility of attempting to force people en masse on to any dietary regime based on restriction, deprivation &/or the omission of any particular food choices.

Any evidence based approach should have a good outcome, but if you scroll back up a little to my beautiful flow chart, you'll see that somewhere in between "evidence based approach" and "best long term outcome" there's some unknown point at which it all breaks down and doesn't quite work out the way it is supposed to.

So, really the discussion isn't "Evidence Based vs Emotional Intelligence" so much as it should be about applying some emotional intelligence to an evidence based approach. Because as per the flow chart above, when you leave the emotional intelligence part out of your coaching strategy, all you're really heading for is a great big question mark.

Any form of intelligence seems to be in short supply amongst humans these days, but emotional intelligence might be the rarest form of all.
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Dieting And Weight Loss; It's Time To Face The Facts

Real talk though; we need to face the facts about dieting for weight loss.

On any specific approach over the long term, more people are unsuccessful than are successful. On all approaches combined, more people are unsuccessful than are successful. However... while successful outcomes are the minority, they are not exclusive to any specific approach.

What can we observe or logically conclude about what enables a person to be successful with any approach to dieting?

I suggest the following:
  • They enjoy & have an appetite for enough of the included choices of food that they are satiated, or at least that hunger levels are manageable.
  • Total energy intake is far enough below "an excessive" level that would preclude fat loss, but high enough to avoid or mitigate adaptive thermogenesis aka "starvation mode" in the common vernacular.
     
  • Ideally they're including a suitable amount of reasonably healthful and nutritious choices, but some famous "stunt diets" you may have read about prove it could be done on just potatoes, twinkies, macdonalds, ice cream & whey... whatever. None of which I would personally recommend but it demonstrates an important point.
  • The eating habits they adopt fit in with their lifestyle & circumstances, and they're able to stay enthusiastic and not gravitate back towards their old habits.
  • So their are any number of overly simple answers but the reality is that for most people, success is going to be something that you have to decide upon and keep working on, on an ongoing daily, weekly, monthly, seasonal, year in, year out basis. Therefore you want "the path of least resistance" in my opinion.

Now... people often attempt to 'splain to me that their personally prefered diet (usually LCHF) is "more satiating" and therefore preferable over brute force starvation approaches which work in theory but backfire long term due to the effects on metabolism.

You can refer to the above for what is wrong with this logic. It would be satiating IF you happen to enjoy enough of the foods that fit this eating style and happen to consume enough of them to meet that "adequate but not excessive" energy provision that results in weight loss without metabolic adaptation.

However if you DON'T happen to enjoy enough of those foods, then it actually does become a brute force deprivation based approach. I still don't really understand how people can be quite so low in emotional IQ that they can't grasp this concept.

ANYWAY let's wrap this up.

With the right guidance you could achieve that "adequate but not excessive, satisfied but not stuffed, weight loss without metabolic downgrade" eating pattern on ANY selection of foods without feeling afraid or guilty about ANY particular choices or needing to rule anything out (other than on specific medical grounds obviously).

That's what I teach people to do.
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Interrupted / Intermittent Energy Restriction Sports Nutrition Strategy

Brand new for 2018, a new variation on the Flexible Fueling system inspired by the recent MATADOR (Minimising Adaptive Thermogenesis And Deactivating Obesity Rebound) Study showing that greater weight loss results were achieved with a "two weeks on, two weeks off" approach to dieting compared to continuous energy restriction.

I want to try to skim over a couple of things that have been covered previously and get on to what's new. My Flexible Fueling approach (in fact, even before I started calling it Flexible Fueling) has always been about getting people OUT of that restrictive, further and further into deficit approach to IIFYM and getting them confidently enjoying a variety the delicious & nutritious foods that suit & appeal to them, to a total energy provision that is adequate, but not excessive.

Flexible Fueling Towards Intuitive Eating

I covered this in more detail recently, but suffice it to say that for many people it's enough just to get out of dieting, practice regular eating habits to ensure that they meet at least a conservative estimate of their minimum requirements, leaving a reasonable margin for error or variance so that they don't have to feel anxious about a social engagement where they may indulge a little... and to understand that as this is a conservative estimate of minimal requirements, before long they're likely to experience some hunger signals, which they should respond to accordingly with an increase to a more appropriate level of daily energy intake.

Flexible Fueling Towards Metabolic Capacity

My experience as a professional coach is that in the vast majority of cases, people's problems stem from attempting to restrict to an insufficient level of energy intake relative to their requirements. In the case of more experienced, more proficient, serious fitness enthusiasts and competitive athletes this is a serious problem. Particularly with a younger, taller, more active client with a more advanced level of prowess at training it is imperative to increase steadily towards a target representing the highest level of energy intake that can be put to good use and produce a benefit in terms of athletic performance and condition.

This does not mean a "bulk and cut" strategy.

Serious fitness enthusiasts and competitive athletes as described above have a high energy requirement and potentially massive capacity for energy flux AKA the amount of energy that could be expended or otherwise utilised. As you increase towards this amount, a leaner and more athletic condition will be the result.

If you've been following me for a while you'll know all of this already, and you'll know it's what I've been talking about for years and everyone else is slowly starting to catch up to, including a bunch of suck ass motherfuckers who've argued with me in the past. PROLONGED & EXCESSIVE LEVELS OF RESTRICTION CAN ONLY BACKFIRE AND CANNOT RESULT IN MAINTENANCE OF A LEAN ATHLETIC CONDITION. Rather, that sort of nonsense is only conducive to a regression in physical condition and the development of an eating disorder.

So much for the "skim". Let's cut to it.

The Flexible Fueling Punctuated Periodisation Protocol

What we're doing here is inspired by the MATADOR study, but it's a little different and also I don't like to have anything to do with the notion of "restriction", so I had to come up with a cool name of my own for this variation on the strategy.

Refer to the graphic below, and I'll explain how it works.



For the first two weeks, we start at the most conservative estimate of absolute minimum requirement. Often this is still more than the amounts people are attempting to work with when they come to me. I drew this as a curve, as we're likely to find that it does in fact turn out to be overly conservative and that we need to come a little higher, towards a more reasonable, more workable reflection of our minimum requirement.

For the next two weeks, we work to a conservative estimate of Metabolic Capacity.

In theory vs in practice.

In theory, so long as you're in caloric deficit your body will draw upon fat stores to make up the difference, right? And the further into deficit, the more fat loss, right? And if you're not seeing fat loss, you're not in deficit, right?

Bull. Shit.

Real quick... what a lot of these fucking imbeciles out there don't quite have the brain capacity to grasp is that there is a difference between for example a 90kg male aspiring body builder who has just done a "bulk" on say 3500 cals per day, and a female athlete on 1400 calories per day or an overweight mature age female with a decades long history of extreme crash dieting. The male could cut to 2500 calories and see fat loss due to being "in deficit" and may find at some point that he needs to cut further to keep leaning out. That's not how I'd do it because I'm smarter than that, but that's why they think "if you're in deficit you lose fat, when you're not losing fat cut further into deficit". The female athlete can't possibly cut any lower and should never have been instructed to cut that low to begin with, YOU GET ME?

So, in pursuit of your goals you need more than just "restrict, restrict further and keep on restricting indefinitely until you hate your fucken life". You need a system where you work to intelligently calculated targets, and assess your response to those targets until you find what feels right and works right for you, allowing you to enjoy life and enjoy your best and most sustainable results from training.

Assessing the response and revising the strategy.

In theory you should see fat loss and therefore weight loss in that two week period at minimal intake. Interestingly though, some people will not see weight loss at that phase, but will see fat loss during the next two weeks while working to higher intakes. In which case, the question is whether the period of restriction is unproductive or whether it is necessary as the fat loss is a response to coming out of deficit. There's only one way to find out. If the period of restriction proves unproductive then it makes sense to find the lowest productive level of intake and consider that the new minimum.

If there is no fat loss at either level, you may decide to repeat the period and give it a little longer to see if it kicks in. Or you may logically conclude that since you can't go any lower, and since a conservative estimate of the most you could benefit from didn't do the job, you can only conclude that intake is still not high enough and a further increase to a less conservative estimate is required, as indicated on the chart at Week 7 & 8. In fact... if fat loss is apparent I'd still be likely to conclude that our conservative estimate is indeed quite conservative and I'd be optimistic that an increase to a less conservative level will prove productive.

At the very worst if we do overshoot that maximum level of intake and see an increase in weight beyond what would be explained simply by having more food passing through the digestive system, we have two weeks back at minimal intakes just around the corner that will resolve that, and we know to set our higher target more conservatively next time.

More likely though especially in the younger, the taller, and especially the more active people with a higher level of athletic prowess, everything works out better than expected and by the third cycle of the strategy we're confident and enthusiastic to get more adventurous with our higher targets.

Beyond Twelve Weeks

Having worked to different levels we'll have learned what's the least we can expect to last a few days or a week on, what's the most we can currently put to use while producing a leaner condition, and what's the optimal level of fueling relative to our requirements. We can then make an educated decision how best to proceed, either eating intuitively in accordance with our new habits and the healthy appetite we've developed, or by working to an optimal target for an extended period, or by continuing with the Punctuated Periodisation Protocol.
It's about enjoying life, enjoying the intellectual stimulation of working to a strategy, enjoying the physical stimulation of training, and enjoying the best and most sustainable results in athletic performance and condition.

Of course... such a complex and convoluted approach is not for everyone, which is why Flexible Fueling works on a spectrum between the "towards intuitive" to the "towards capacity" approaches, with this being somewhere in between. And it goes without saying that there's only ONE person capable of coaching this approach. Other people calling themselves "IIFYM" or "Flexible Dieting" guys and girls can't even begin to grasp this stuff. They literally just think "keep eating less, you must be lying to me and eating more than you say you are" is what passes for coaching.

Update:

Here's the revised version of the graphic representation of the strategy.

Now, exactly how this plays out is likely to vary from each individual to the next, but road testing this myself and with some clients what I've found is that at a certain point (week 9 on this version of the graphic) you realise that while you could reduce back down to those conservative, minimal intake targets, it's not actually doing you any favours to do so. So rather than cut back to minimal, you merely reduce from "less conservative" back to "conservative".

Also I've added a column for Week 13 & 14, where having established where our true maximal level aka metabolic capacity is, we have a good feel for an optimal level which is just shy of maximum, where we maintain absolute best performance and condition indefinitely.
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The Latest On Weight Loss, According To Science And My Observations

As fate would have it, quite a few interesting articles regarding research related to weight loss have come out in the past few weeks since I posted my "why we  should probably all stop offering weight loss coaching" article of a few weeks ago.

Now, unfortunately the fact remains that long term success with weight loss goals is a statistically unlikely outcome. Therefore I suggest that anyone making any promises about weight loss with the inference of "guaranteed" results is at best overly optimistic or at worst a damn dirty liar. Certainly though there are people out there who've lost weight and kept it off... so if you have a weight loss goal, and let's quantify that and say you have a permanent weight loss goal, what you probably want to be concerned with is figuring out where your best chances of success lie, and with avoiding the mistakes that all the unsuccessful people are making.

First let's talk about exercise. You should be doing some resistance training.

This is probably not news to anyone who has followed my various social mediums for more than a few minutes by now.

Resistance training is one of the best things you can do for your health, whether you have a weight related goal or not. Reiterating about 5000 of my previous entries though, and this is important so make sure you're paying attention this time, the purpose of resistance training is a lot less to do with "burning calories" and a lot more to do with inspiring your body to take up and put more energy and resources to use in supporting lean mass, ideally at the expense of fat mass.

So it's not just that you expend energy while training (although you do, and that's good) but that your body has something productive to do with the balance of energy that remains.

And by the way for what it's worth, it absolutely IS possible to gain lean mass at the expense of fat mass, especially for beginners but also even in more experienced athletes and enthusiasts.

Q: What's a good resistance training program for a client who wants to lose weight?

Exercise selection and variations in programming obviously will vary between individuals, but generally speaking the best resistance training program for a client who wants to lose weight is the same program that you would give her if she didn't want to lose weight... subject to her levels of confidence and proficiency at exercise.

Where most people with a "weight loss" focus will screw this up is by messing with the program, adding stuff in, leaving rest periods out, performing the whole routine as a super set or a circuit, and so on, with the idea that they "need to burn more calories to lose weight". So there's an obvious mistake you should decide right now that you will resist the urge to commit in future.

A couple of related links on this point:

Just a little more on the many benefits of strength / resistance training:

I may have digressed a little so peruse those additional links at your leisure. The first one may be especially pertinent to many of the people reading this entry.

Back to the main point as per the included image above, diet is key but resistance training will facilitate the best and most consistent results.

Paradox: Diet is the key, but "diets" don't work.

Diet is a contentious topic.

On the one side of the fence you have the people who insist upon some variation of the "all they have to do is stop eating crap food, cut out carbs, cut out grains, and eat clean" theme, and on the other side of the fence you have the people who insist "all that matters is that they are in caloric deficit". However, according to the International Journal Of Obesity, “it is now well established that the more people engage in dieting, the more they gain weight in the long-term”. So with one or two very rare, very notable exceptions, both camps are full of idiots.

Now I covered an abundance of evidence in this weight loss bullshit busting master post (not to mention all the other master posts), a while back... so rather than being redundant and repeat myself again and again, let's skip to the new stuff. Suffice it to say though, it's NOT about "clean eating" and it IS about "calories in, calories out", but it is NOT about "less and less and less calories in, more and more and more calories out".

At a certain point with such approaches... whether by deliberate caloric restriction or by omission of energy dense food choices to the effect of caloric restriction... all you are doing is training the body to manage the workload, rather than to actually benefit from training. It may be more accurate to say that you are training the body to require that level of workload (expenditure) at that level of restriction (intake) just to maintain a heavier and fatter condition, and if those levels are unsustainable then weight gain / regain will occur. As would appear to fit with the observation quoted earlier.

Again though, this has been a contentious topic. The majority of the "calories in calories out" crowd until very recently have insisted that there is no way for the body to adapt to prolonged and excessive levels of caloric restriction so as to preclude weight loss. Rather they would insist "if people are in deficit they see fat loss, if they're not seeing fat loss they're lying to you about how much they eat". 

Now since the Biggest Loser Study a year or so back, people in that camp have begrudgingly admitted that the body WILL adapt to prolonged calorie deficit and this WILL preclude further fat loss, but have continued to insist that the answer to this is simply to restrict even further into deficit and/or increase expenditure further with additional exercise & activity. I did mention that I think most of them are complete fucking idiots, didn't I?

Anyway. Increasingly, more and more evidence suggests that while fat loss IS dependant upon being in caloric deficit, we must work to appropriate levels of deficit where an expectation of adherence is not unreasonable, and where we are still providing sufficient energy and resources to benefit from training, and we must not restrict indefinitely but rather adopt a strategy of working at periods closer to metabolic capacity and at periods working from a greater level of deficit.

So, really that's almost exactly what I have been talking about for years... isn't it? 

Here are some links to relevant evidence:
Now... the approaches in each of those studies are different, but collectively in my opinion they more than sufficiently refute the "further into deficit (aka less calories in) always results in greater fat loss" doctrine as pushed by far too many halfwitted CI/CO & IIFYM proponents. 

Practical application of this information:

As coaches, as overweight or obese people, and even as fitness enthusiasts of non excessive weights, we need to be aware of and appreciate the paradoxical nature of things. To wit; an energy deficit is required to facilitate fat loss, but prolonged and excessive levels of energy deficit are associated with a higher body fat percentage in athletes and with greater long term weight gain in the overweight and obese. It is similarly ironic that when changes in body weight are seen as the most (or only) important outcome of an exercise program, we tend to adopt less effective approaches due to being overly concerned with "burning calories" and we are less inclined to pursue and appreciate the many benefits of productive activity.

Regardless of whether we are overweight and obese people or whether we are relatively lean and more active people, we need to move away from a "dieting" mentality where we glorify or consider necessary the arbitrary restriction of food choices, or over restriction of energy intake. We need to cease associating the suppression or ignoring of our bodies' hunger signals with discipline, will power or other strength of character and these virtues with the attainment and maintenance of a lean and healthy physical condition.

Rather, we should take an interest in learning and practicing a productive and beneficial approach to exercise and activity. We should practice regular, consistent, structured and varied eating habits to an appropriate but not excessive total energy intake. As per the links above, there may be some evidence to support the practice of eating more earlier in the day and less later on... but I would suggest whatever meal and snack schedule each individual finds convenient, appealing and sustainable to achieve "appropriate but not excessive total energy intake" by default without being too concerned about occasional divergences.

This could simply be described as practicing self care and healthy habits, and this alone should prove conducive to better physical and emotional health as well as a leaner condition, whether actual weight changes occur or otherwise.

For those who are enthusiastic to work more strategically to maximise their potential to see the most significant and sustainable results, the process should involve periods of working closer to a "maximal" level of intake representing metabolic capacity, and periods of working to a merely "adequate" level of intake which is at a significant deficit, but still suitable to a reasonable expectation of adherence, and to reap the benefits of training without resulting in comprised metabolic rate.

Please come and discuss this entry on my facebook page.
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The belief about food that you need to change in order to see success.

So, here's an idea for a post that I've had for a little while... and I want to start by letting you know that it is partially an observation and commentary on the fitness industry, but it will have a conclusion that will not only be applicable to the general public, but actually could be of potentially life changing significance to serious fitness enthusiasts who struggle with the nutrition side of things.

This was inspired by something that came across my social media feeds last week which I don't seem to be able to find again right now, so perhaps I'll misquote this, but it got me thinking anyway. It was something to the effect of "how to change your client's belief systems about foods" so that they'll have good adherence, or... be successful... or something.

Now, this got me thinking because generally speaking, when you look into these things you tend to find that the "change in belief systems" actually infers adopting a lot of beliefs that don't quite stand up to scrutiny and aren't actually factual. These sorts of things are intriguing to me. It's easy enough to just write everyone off as a scam artist or a Pete Evans style delusional simpleton repeating a bunch of nonsense and trying to brainwash other people into believing it... but in some cases that would be a little unfair, as you have actually quite decent people with the best intentions of contributing positively to the industry by teaching valuable skills to aspiring professional coaches.

With all that said, the question remains: why is it that good and intelligent people would believe so passionately in things that just aren't factual?

Well, that was a long introduction so let's cut from the chase from this point on. Refer to my rather excellent flow chart below, and let's start at the top and then work down just the green boxes on the left hand side.



Pretty simple, right?

You read... oh, let's say you read "Good Calories Bad Calories" or you watch one of those food documentaries on Netflix, and it tells you "this is the problem, and this is the solution". Fortunately for you, your reaction happens to be "hmm... well, that seems to make some kind of sense, and doesn't sound too difficult to me, so I'll give it a go". And what do you know, it actually works and you actually see good results.

Fantastic. So, seeing results you have every reason to believe "obviously this works" and it's not unreasonable to extend that to "obviously this works, and it works for the reasons I have been taught. This is what everyone needs to do".
That'd be an understandable conclusion, but really... all we really know at this point is that it happened to suit you, and it happened to work. We don't necessarily know that it worked because what convinced you to try it in the first place was 100% factual.

Now let's back up though and we'll follow the chart but end up in some of those red boxes.

You hear about something or are instructed to do something by your coach, and you can see these other people very enthusiastic and having a good time with it. Maybe you think "ok that sounds easy enough", or maybe you think "this sounds awful, but fuck, what choice do I have if that's what it takes?". Either way, in this example, you give it your best shot, but for some reason you just can't seem to make it work.

Or... actually you know what? Maybe you don't even give it a shot because it sounds that awful and you're just that lacking in optimism about your chances of pulling it off. Contrary to the way a lot of the fitness industry seems to think, this can be entirely understandable. You're told a diet that is high in animal fats is required, and you want to be a vegan. Or you're told a grain free diet is required, but you love bread and cereal. Or you might even be told a vegan diet is required, but you love steak. Maybe you're just one of these people who only really likes a rather limited variety of foods and isn't very good at trying new ones. I'm in the minority but for whatever it's worth, I for one would not blame you for giving up without even trying under any of those or similar circumstances.

But in any case, in these red squares... either you're not enthusiastic and not able to adhere to it, you attempt to force yourself but it still doesn't work, or you were actually quite enthusiastic and you're pretty sure you're doing everything you've been told, but it's still not working. If you or your coach really believes "it you do this it works, if it's not working you're not doing it right, and it has to be done like this and no other way", then you're screwed. Especially if you're one of those unfortunate people who spent a lot of time mouthing off online about how stupid everyone else must be, and then found your condition going backwards no matter how much harder you tried to stay in ketosis, just saying.

Here's the wild card though. That other box all the way on it's own on the right.

Let's start again from the top. You get told about something and how great it is, it may or may not really make sense, it may or may not be based in reality, but either way you already have some other approach that you like, which is working out very nicely for you.

Now, for some reason... that's a situation that not many people in the online fitness world seem to be able to imagine. Think about it... how could two different people be doing two different things, and both of them successfully? How could someone think that is good, when I think this is good? Are they trying to insult me, or what?

Honestly, it gets so silly. But here's the thing.

As per what's in the green section of the chart, here's what we can assume about every person out there who is having a good time and maintaining improvements in condition.
  1. They have a decent approach to training that they get stuck into enthusiastically.
  2. They have an approach to nutrition that they believe is the best, that happens to suit them, and actually does consistently give them enough of all the energy and nutritional resources that they need to facilitate results, at least to the level at which they've achieved so far.
Also let's specify that we're talking about people who've maintained a degree of success for... oh, let's say five or more years. We're not talking about people who did some "miraculous transformation" for about half a season but then regained 30kg or something like that, and we're not talking about the people who will eventually come clean and confess that they were miserable the whole time either.

We can probably safely say that no one who has been successful long term was doing something that didn't appeal to them, that didn't suit them, that they hated, or that they forced themselves to believe in even though it didn't really seem to make sense. We can definitely say that they don't have the same approach, or even necessarily a similar approach to one another. And while many people will want to believe that there is a specific, scientific reason why their personally preferred approach is "the best" approach for anyone... if you like the approach, if the approach is working out for you satisfactorily, it should be enough just to be confident and to be enthusiastic about having found the approach that is best for you.

In short, the belief that you need to change is that there is ANYONE out there being successful by doing ANYTHING other than what happens to most appeal to them and what happens to best suit them. And if they try to tell you anything else, they're full of shit.

So, the take home point from all of this, for you.

For everyone out there saying, "but you can't do it unless you cut out grains and never eat cereal for breakfast or a sandwich for lunch again", there are people out there who are doing it while eating cereal for breakfast or whatever else. For everyone out there saying "but you can't do it on a vegan diet" there are some incredibly successful vegan athletes out there as well. The same goes for anything to do with the number of meals per day, the timing and frequency of meals across the day, the same again for any other, more elitist ideals about what people "need to" do, or what they should and should not want to do as far as their approach to nutrition goes as well.

Now obviously there are some technically concerns that come into this. Your dietary habits cannot be conducive to excessive energy intake if you expect to develop a leaner condition. At the same time, your dietary habits must provide an adequate total level of energy intake, and an adequate level of protein intake, to facilitate improvements in performance, recovery after training, and to maintain and increase lean mass. Also you need to get enough fibre, vitamins and minerals from some of the healthy stuff.

Aside from that? You require an approach that you're enthusiastic about, and are able to adhere to with a reasonable level of consistency. What better reason to be enthusiastic than because you truly believe it is best approach for you? What better reason to believe that, than because you have actually designed and continued to refine the approach to be what is best for you?
This is how I like to do it, the way that suits me best, and I'm more than happy with the results. How anyone else prefers to go about it is irrelevant. I have my own story. They aint me and this isn't their life.
Now, as coaches I believe it is fine to only offer one approach that you specialise in. I only offer one approach, and if someone tells me they're looking for something different, they're free to and in fact best to go looking for another coach who specialises in that, because I won't accept them as a client. But as coaches whatever we are telling people in support of our preferred approach should be truthful, and where applicable should be able to be supported by credible scientific evidence as well as every day observations. It shouldn't be bullshit that robs the people who aren't suited to that approach of the belief that they too can be successful.

Why not come and discuss this post with us on my facebook page?
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How Caloric Over-Restriction Makes Binge Eating Inevitable.


Just a little something I’ve been working on.

Here’s the thing with caloric deficits and binge eating. 

I put these numbers together as a hypothetical case study on a female of average height and a certain undisclosed age. Suffice it to say, if you’re taller than average these targets would be overly conservative. If you’re younger; also overly conservative. But the factor that really makes the biggest difference and which tends to be entirely neglected by most people writing about CI/CO and IIFYM style approaches is level of proficiency and productivity at training.
So, for a beginner who has a fat loss goal, we would start out in deficit. According to a lot of social media posts and infographics, all that matters is that you are “in deficit”, and so long as you are in deficit you lose body fat, and if you’re not losing body fat you’re not in deficit. 
Well, that's actually garbage.
Somewhat insufficient and unsustainable levels of energy intake can be an appropriate strategic move at times, but only for short periods and with the understanding that is not really enough, and the anticipation that an increase will be required within a predicted duration of time.
So in this example the client is instructed to begin at 1400 calories which should be considered an overly conservative estimate of her requirements. As part of an intelligent strategy, the reason for doing so might be to learn to recognise and respond accordingly to hunger signals... however in this case, it is simple caloric restriction in order to be at a significant level of deficit. While the client is told "you'll see fat loss due to being in deficit", this is only half of the truth, and what also happens is that the body adapts by compromising energy expenditure at training, at rest, and at activity outside of training as well.

At a certain point fat loss will cease to occur, and what the client is likely to be told according to the many infographics doing the rounds of late, is that she is "no longer in deficit" and must either cut caloric intake further or increase energy expenditure via extra training sessions or more deliberate activity outside of training. However, at this point all she is really doing is training the body to manage, and for that matter to require this increased level of work load at this level of energy restriction... and this cannot and will not result in improvements in athletic condition.
Now, the further we instruct the client to restrict intake further below this already insufficient level of energy provision, the greater the magnitude of the inevitable binge eating episode that will follow. 
Reiterating & understanding the situation correctly at this point.
This level of restriction will preclude any improvements in lean athletic condition, as the resources are simply not available to recover from and adapt to training, other than with the adaptations necessary to cope with (rather than benefit from) the workload. Since we have attempted to restrict even below that amount, the inevitable binge episode will be of a magnitude to bring average intake to a level that is merely sufficient to do so and maintain weight.
So, this means the client is no longer in deficit?
Nope.

This is a conversation I have had a few too many times, where I'm attempting to explain this situation and citing examples of clients who've been a lot happier and seen major improvements in performance and condition by increasing towards more optimal levels of energy intake in accordance with my instructions. "But Dave, what you don't understand is that she hasn't mentioned that she is binge eating, so that's why she's not in deficit". Wrong you stupid motherfucker. I am well aware that she is binge eating, as that is the problem she has come to me desperate for help with. 
What you can see in the chart above is some estimates of what might be the maximum amount this client could benefit from or otherwise expend on a daily basis at different levels of proficiency at training. The greater your consistency and proficiency at training, the higher the amount you can put to use and benefit from. The more severe the level of restriction on a daily basis, the more mathematically improbable it is that a single (or even a couple of) binge eating episodes on a weekly basis could "erase the deficit" and result in a caloric surplus so as to preclude fat loss.

Rather, the situation is that even taking binge episodes into account, total intake is still only to a level that allows the body to manage / cope with the workload, but not to a level that facilitates improvements in performance and condition. To benefit from training you require a certain level of energy intake and other nutritional resources, in order to recover from and adapt favourably to the level of stress you are subjecting your body to.

Come and discuss this entry on my facebook page.
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Intuitive Approach vs Metabolic Capacity Approach to Sports Nutrition


Your metabolic capacity is an amount of energy that you would benefit from, put to good use, or otherwise expend in a day if it was made available.

As described in the video and elsewhere on my blog, a lot of the time people are restricting to an insufficient amount, not getting anywhere, and are mislead into believing that that amount is their "maintenance" and that since they're not seeing fat loss on that amount, they have no use for any more.

This is incorrect.

You may be restricting to an insufficient level of fueling and your body may have found a way to adapt and manage it's workload on that amount of energy, but the only reason you aren't burning more is because more has not been made available. What we're talking about here is the difference in approach between being interested in an amount that you can restrict to and get by on vs fueling to the amount that you can benefit from.

On an individual basis, we have a couple of options of approaches that might the most appropriate depending on the circumstances. In reality there is a wide grey area and some over lap between the two, and for most people the best strategy will be somewhere in the middle but perhaps leaning a little towards one or the other. Unfortunately, what most people are doing elsewhere is an anorexic approach based continually reducing levels of energy intake while increasing levels of energy expenditure.

Flexible Fueling Towards Intuitive Eating.

All of a sudden I'm wondering to myself, are we talking about an intuitive approach to sports nutrition, or a sports nutrition approach to intuitive eating?

Either way.

A successful approach to intuitive eating will result in simply having consistently appropriate eating habits that meet your nutritional requirements without exceeding your energy requirements. In other words, eating habits that leave you satisfied, but not stuffed. If you run a little late for a meal or a little short on calories, you get a little reminder in the form of hunger signals, and you respond accordingly.

Without repeating too much of literally every other post I ever published and being redundant, the method is simply to calculate a conservative estimate of a barely adequate energy intake, set whatever meal schedule seems most appealing, and plan accordingly with a selection of foods both of the delicious and the nutritious varieties.

Being of conservative estimate of barely adequate, we anticipate that if training is consistent and as proficiency improves, we anticipate that increases will be required, and assess progress and hunger signals for signs that it is time to do so. If they are not forth coming, perhaps we start dropping a few hints to give the body the idea "there is more here if you can use it, just ask".

Flexible Fueling Towards Metabolic Capacity.

For more advanced and elite athletes and in particular for those where a history of eating disorder or body image issues are less of a concern, this approach would entail calculating a conservative estimate of Metabolic Capacity, deciding upon the appropriate increments and the schedule upon which to increase intake to that amount, and then simply following the strategy diligently.

Once that conservative level has been achieved and maintained for a suitable duration, the situation can be assessed with a view towards increasing further still to a less conservative, or even a more adventurous estimate of the greatest amount that the athlete can utilise and benefit from.

Update: The DHPT Punctuated Periodisation Protocol for optimal fueling. 

Perhaps this is only for the people who are really extra enthusiastic about working to more advanced strategy, but this graphic represents the new "Interrupted Energy Restriction" based strategy, designed to build confidence & condition while working towards those optimal and maximal levels of fueling.

This is for the more ambitious people, and it's just one more reason why I'm the Innovator In Sports Nutrition, just like it says on the t-shirt!

Sports Nutrition For Serious Fitness Enthusiasts

Diet culture really has no place in the world of fitness enthusiasts. Your nutritional habits do have to be appropriate at the very least, or more optimal if you are ambitious &/or competitive.

Unfortunately what most people are instructing or advocating on their social media pages is actually an anorexic approach. All of those infographics we've seen lately, instructing people to get into deficit and continually slash intake further and further any time progress stalls while also increasing energy expenditure... literally those are anorexic and bulimic messages and approaches. We must reject them, and we must practice sensible, sustainable and appropriate sports nutrition strategies to actually meet our energy requirements to produce our best athletic performance and condition and our best quality of life.
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Why I stopped coaching weight loss for a few years there.

This was originally posted under another title on the old blog. A title that is no longer accurate since I'm now offering weight loss strategies again. Read on and it will all make sense, hopefully.

This is more complicated than you probably think.

People tend to want everything broken down into just one slogan or soundbite that either suits their biases or that they find easy to argue against. The reality is, there are a lot of angles to cover here. I'll do my best to cover them all within a reasonable word count, but I make no promises on that last part.

Now that that's out of the way, let's get started.

For reasons that will hopefully become apparent, I'm actually going to start with the conclusion, and the conclusion is actually a paragraph borrowed from something I posted on instagram the other day, as follows:
More than ever, the longer I do this and the more people I work with as a professional coach, the more I truly believe that our focus needs to be on simply enjoying the physical challenge of productive training, and enjoying the intellectual challenge of working to a productive fueling strategy, as well as assessing your physiological and psychological responses to each as you learn to do more of what keeps you strong, healthy & happy, and to reject whatever doesn't.
That sounds great, but what's the problem with wanting to lose weight?

Well I'm glad you asked. First of all though, that headline at the top of the page doesn't translate to "I don't want to coach fat people" or anything silly like that. Also, I always object to anything that gives anyone a message to the tune of "you might as well not bother trying, just accept that where you are is where you're supposed to be", so that's definitely not my point either.

Obviously I've helped people to lose weight successfully in the past. Clients, other people who follow my pages and put the pieces together for themselves. Some with medical conditions such as autoimmune diseases. Some who got on top of a restrict, binge & purge type eating disorder and lost weight. Some who rather generously credit me with facilitating a "life saving" level of weight loss.

A handful of fast facts about diets and weight loss:
  1. All diets work for the same reason; they create a caloric deficit.
    Whether people are aware of the amount of calories or whether due to restriction of food choices, any changes in dietary habits that result in weight loss infer a caloric deficit.
  2. Different named diets, low carb approaches, balanced approaches... when the energy and protein provision is matched, the clinical evidence suggests there is little if any difference in the results of different approaches. So there is not just "one correct" or "one best" set of eating habits we should all adopt.
  3. Regardless, the statistics are that over the long term there is no approach that has a high success rate. People tend to regain the weight.
  4. In fact, according to the International Journal Of Obesity; "it is now well established that the more people engage in dieting, the more they gain weight in the long-term."
So, what is the problem then?

Well that depends.

In theory, you make changes in dietary habits resulting in a caloric deficit. You lose weight, and so long as you do not revert back to habits resulting in a caloric surplus you should not regain the weight. Therefore the simple explanation is that the problem is down to continuance of adherence. Or so it would seem.

As an example, here's how it is supposed to work, and for that matter actually does work.

Imagine I have a new personal training client who is a younger woman and let's say 5, 10 or 15kg overweight due to not being in the habit of being active, and perhaps in the habit of over indulging a little too often. As a competent and responsible trainer, I get her started with a decent, strength based training program, and the appropriate energy targets at a suitable level of deficit and with a reasonable margin for error. If she follows my instructions with some level of consistency she'll certainly lose weight as she develops a more athletic condition.

Assuming she then maintains her interest in training and does not revert to an excessive energy intake, she should not regain any weight. That's how it works in theory anyway. I want to move on but first let's just acknowledge that what I've described is not really a "weight loss approach" the way most people would go about it.

So, whether it is working to a caloric deficit, whether it is sticking to this particular diet and this particular set of foods... if the people continue to do it, it would continue to work, right? You'd like to think so. So why don't people just keep doing it?

Reasons for non-continuance of adherence:

There could be any number of reasons and I'm not forgetting that mere complacency or even delusion are two of them, but it would be a flagrant cop-out to pretend that those are the only reasons and therefore absolve trainers & health coaches from their obligation to provide approaches that are feasible and efficacious over the long haul.

In simpler terms, I'm asking you just humour me and consider entertaining the mere possibility that people sometimes lose motivation because the approach has stopped producing results, or simply because the approach is impractical and any expectation of continued, long term adherence was entirely unreasonable.

Weight loss dieting tends to be of an extreme variety, either with strict low calories, strict food exclusions, or both. Strict adherence would prohibit ever going out to eat socially, visiting your parents for a home cooked meal, having a takeaway night or ordering home delivery. These approaches tend to be temporary by design, and as discussed, the long term consequence is greater weight gain.

With that in mind and getting back to my hypothetical client we described earlier, if we focus on developing an interest in a productive approach to training, we can expect weight loss. However if we focus on weight loss and my instruction is a low carb, low cal, clean eating style of extreme and restrictive diet, as well as high intensity activity "to burn calories"... any expectation of continued long term adherence is overly optimistic at best, any weight loss is temporary at best, and the long term consequence would be weight gain, a worsened relationship with food, and likely a decrease in enthusiasm for exercise as well.

In the case of a second new client of a higher and more excessive weight, it is very likely that their current weight is actually the consequence of previous attempts at weight loss perhaps over a period of years or even decades, and this is the outcome we wanted to avoid with the first hypothetical client. For this reason, it would make no sense at all to give them more of the same now. It would make no sense to take an attitude of "we need to lose weight first" via the same restrictive and unproductive approaches.

There are benefits to any amount of activity over being inactive, and benefits to getting out of restrictive dieting and developing more consistent, structured and appropriate eating habits and a healthier relationship with food. When the type of activity resembles some form of what we might describe as "productive training", in a more overweight or obese client we can expect significant decreases in measurements as the body begins to better ultilise energy and resources in support of lean mass at the expense of fat mass, as well as numerous other health benefits.

Here's the curious thing. While seeing significant results in fat loss you'd expect to see confirmation of this when weighing in on the scales, but the reality seems to be that this is not always the case right away. What a pity it would be to fail to value or appreciate the good results in fat loss, strength and performance at training, improved health markers and the rejection of restrictive dieting, just because the scales do not confirm these results with the corresponding loss of body weight.

There's more though. 

To wrap up and reiterate, by developing an interest in productive training and with suitable sports nutrition guidance there will be certain client profiles where weight loss is very likely, certain client profiles where weight loss could be expected but cannot be guaranteed, and let's not forget there will be some for whom weight loss should not be seen as an acceptable outcome at all.

My observation is that when people are focused on and overly concerned with weight loss per se, even when given a good and productive approach to training and the appropriate instruction, the tendency will be to sacrifice the efficacy of the training strategy by falling back into weight loss type behaviours and mindsets as previously described. For example, making changes or additions to the training program "to burn more calories", and to skip meals or otherwise fall short of the prescribed levels of fueling that are required to facilitate any sort of results.

Ironically, it will be the very things that people feel compelled to do because they "are trying to lose weight" which ultimately prevent them from reaping the many benefits of a sensible and productive approach to training.

While there's absolutely nothing wrong with having body composition and condition related goals, we must pursue them with sensible, effective and productive approaches and attitudes, and resist the social conditioning that sees us more inclined towards the extreme, destructive and ultimately futile methods typically associated with trying to lose weight.

Come and let me know what you thought of this post, on my facebook page.
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Contrary to popular belief, a caloric deficit does not guarantee fat loss.


I know, I know; I'm like a broken record at the moment and I have written more posts on this exact topic over the past few years than I can even keep track of.

Good though, sometimes you need hear things a few times before they really sink in. Especially when it's different to what you're used to hearing.

IIFYM = "if it fits your macros".

An approach to sports nutrition about calculating and then planning to meet your requirements for energy, protein, carbohydrate & dietary fats. Treat fibre as an additional macro too in my opinion.

I reiterate and emphasise this point: it is SUPPOSED TO BE about calculating your ACTUAL requirements. When people just say "if you're in deficit you'll see results in fat loss" or whatever, all that infers is that you're not exceeding your requirements. It doesn't suggest that you're getting what you need. In most cases it's just some arbitrary level of restricting on the basis that it can't possibly be enough, therefore tough it out, be accountable, distract yourself from hunger, etc.

Seeing fat loss DOES mean you are in deficit but not seeing fat loss DOES NOT necessarily mean that you are not in deficit, and the solution to a plateau or stall in progress is not necessarily to slash intake further into deficit.

Here's the thing, just as an example:

At let's say 700 calories per day into deficit, progress stalls.
For one of my clients who comes to me in this circumstance, I'd actually do some maths, predict what level of energy intake I'd expect to produce best results, and work with the client on a strategy to increase towards that amount.
I don't do maths based on "calculating a deficit" but for argument's sake let's say we're going to increase until we're only 150 calories per day in deficit.
Higher TEF, RMR & NEAT no longer compromised, resources actually available to recover & benefit from training. We will see better results.

Others argue "if you're in deficit you see fat loss and if you're not seeing fat loss you're not in deficit" and therefore the approach is just "whatever you're doing now, subtract a few hundred calories and that's your new target". That's garbage. Enforced anorexia is all that it is.

The issue in most cases that I see isn't that "you're no longer in deficit" but rather "you're too far into deficit and have been so for far too long". Over restricting. Excessive levels of restriction, and often excessive & unproductive levels of expenditure.

Now, I had a stupid idiot argue the other day that (paraphrasing) "if you're not seeing fat loss then you ARE at maintenance and NOT in deficit", but if we can facilitate fat loss at a HIGHER intake... then the LOWER amount that had ceased to result in fat loss due to compromised NEAT & RMR is clearly also in deficit.

Now... it's simple and correct enough to just say "you require enough, but not too much" or "you require a deficit, but an appropriate level of deficit and not an excessive level of deficit". You require that resources such as carbohydrate & protein are available to produce improvements in condition as an adaptation and benefit from training.

To me that is simple enough but it seems to be too complex for most of these chumps to grasp with their primitive intellect and myopic application. Being in deficit does NOT guarantee results, and slashing further and further into deficit recklessly and indefinitely is a dead end. LITERALLY.

Want more? See also: Ending The Unhealthy Obsession With Calorie Deficits
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Calories In, Calories Out; Maintenance or plateau?


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

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There are far more intelligent options available to you than "bulk & cut".


This is an updated version of an infographic I made a while back that you might have seen already.

The "fuel gauge" graphic to the left represents what your current level of fueling might be, relative to your energy requirements as defined on the right. What I've added is the highlighted rectangles.

I've been a little irritated a few times recently to see people who should know better advocating for very low calorie "cutting" diets for females with fat loss goals. Even more so when the suggestion is that the only alternative to extreme calorie restriction is to "bulk first", for some reason.

Bulking and cutting might be required when your goal is to be a massive body builder or to compete in sports at a higher weight class. For people with a fat loss goal, you most certainly do not need to "bulk first" and actually increase levels of body fat. As I talked about here and on facebook recently, bulking & cutting is rarely an appropriate strategy for a female client whether a beginner or a more advanced athlete. At least, not in the context that people usually employ it.

The problems with how people usually bulk & cut:

In theory and when done properly, when bulking you accept that you'll gain some fat as you add lean mass and increase strength, but hopefully the amount is minimal, depending on how much mass you intend to add.

So, for most people that's a period of getting further out of shape before they get to get into shape. Especially if you're a woman reading this, how do you REALLY feel about the idea of getting further from goal condition (aka fatter) before we can get into leaner condition? Not so great right? Psychologically it is pretty hard to deal with, especially when you switch gears to cutting mode and all of a sudden become all too aware of how much more fat you have to lose and how much further you are from your goal condition than when you started. It's that "my god, what have I done?" feeling and it blows.

So that's bulking and you do add lean mass but also fat mass. Then comes cutting, when you restrict as far into calorific deficit as is necessary to lose fat mass. Again, you accept that you may lose some lean mass but ideally the idea is that you lose mostly fat mass and minimal lean mass.

In actuality though... when you restrict further and further into calorific deficit, your body finds it preferential to squander lean mass rather than to draw any more from fat stores than it absolutely has to. Performance at training and Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis is also sacrificed, as you just aren't taking in enough energy to function on.

Now... why this is particularly problematic is that I keep seeing people who should know better telling people, and even with audacity to tell ME of all people, that when people are not seeing results in fat loss, regardless of how far in deficit of a sufficient level of energy intake they already are, if they're not seeing fat loss they need to slash intake even further. This is madness.

Further, I'll suggest from my observation that many people's supposed "bulking" period is really just a stint at working to targets that are "barely adequate" as per the chart. So in this situation there's no period where the body actually gets to prioritise putting energy and resources into the muscles and into lean mass where you want them, while drawing more from fat stores. At all points you're only at various levels of "conserve energy and survive as best you can under the stress of this level of activity".

This is why people might do a bulk every winter and a cut every spring, but over the long term they don't really produce any improvements in condition. They just end up back where they started, because they restrict to a degree that does not support an increase in lean mass, assuming they even achieved any increase the previous season anyway which they may well have not.

Basically, you have a period that involves adding fat mass, and a period that involves squandering lean mass. How does that sound like a strategy that is conducive to your condition goal?

You have more options in nutrition strategy than just "bulk or cut".

For some reason, not a lot of people seem to get this, and even more baffling to me, many of them are actually hostile to the concept. However, it's important to understand that just because you are not currently producing any changes in condition, this does not necessarily mean that you are "at maintenance" and that any increase in energy intake would mean "caloric surplus" and be "bulking".

You have better options, but it takes more competence than the average so called "macros coach" appears to possess. Bulk and cut... calculate an amount that's clearly too much and have them get fat working towards that, then calculate an amount that's insufficient at best, and keep slashing further until they develop an eating disorder. Pffft. That's garbage.

Wrapping this up, part 1: Winter Strategy. Performance & Anabolism. 

Assume we're talking about serious people who's level of activity is consistent, but who are not seeing improvements in condition. They may be paying no attention to their eating habits & energy intake, or they may have some sort of idea they're working to. They may have habits and levels of energy intake that are consistent, or they may have eating habits and levels of energy intake that are erratic. In any case what we can logically infer is that they do not have eating habits that result a level of energy intake such as is required to produce those desired changes in condition as an adaptation to training.

In a more advanced and experienced athlete with greater amount of time spent active and a greater level of prowess at training, the prospect of over eating other than while deliberately bulking is somewhat implausible. Even in beginners, my observation is consistently that if people are trying to "diet" or "eat clean" or even if they think they are doing IIFYM in accordance with their own estimations or even working to targets they have paid for... they're restricting to a level of energy provision that is insufficient to facilitate improvements in condition.

Our goal is to indulge our passion for training and to enjoy seeing improvements in condition from season to season and from year to year. I'm labelling this the winter strategy but really it's what you should probably start with immediately regardless of the season if you're currently at that unknown, insufficient or erratic level of intake.

As per the graphic, start at a level of energy intake that you'd consider a conservative estimate of what might be adequate to support goal weight, condition, and level of activity. Even if that goal weight is lower than current weight, and even if that level of intake is greater than current level of intake. From here, increase incrementally towards what your equations would determine is the maximal amount you could put to use in facilitating improvements in performance and increases in lean mass without "bulking" or significant weight gain beyond the weight of more food in your digestive tract.

Understand that although energy intake is significantly increased, we expect to see improvements in condition including fat loss.

Wrapping this up, part 2: Summer Strategy.

As per the chart, I'd suggest the above is a logical strategy for the Autumn (aka Fall) through Winter months. Maintaining that level of fueling means the body has had a chance and had resources available to prioritise increases in lean mass and making more energy available in the muscle cells, at the expense of fat storage. Therefore, by Spring you'll be stronger and leaner than you were in when you started... but you're also in a position to now apply a strategic level of caloric deficit to draw further still from fat stores. Rather than restricting to an insufficient level of intake for extended periods and squandering those lean mass gains the way people often do with a conventional "Spring Cut", we should still ensure we are working to levels of intake that are adequate to maintain performance and lean mass, while drawing further from fat stores to make up the difference.

True words often seem contradictory.

You'll best facilitate fat loss and lean condition by working towards more optimal (aka higher) levels of fueling, especially after having survived an extended period in caloric deficit. However, you'll also best facilitate fat loss by working to strategic levels of deficit, having previously established and maintained a more optimal level of fueling.

You do not facilitate best results in fat loss by restricting to insufficient levels for extended periods, and obviously "bulking" in the conventional sense infers fat gain. Your goal is to enthusiastically enjoy and indulge your passion for training, and to see continuous, on going, perpetual improvements in condition.
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Why you failed to see results with your last IIFYM plan.

Even though I have some new followers I’m going to go ahead and assume everyone knows what “IIFYM” means, feel free to ask if you require clarification.

If you’ve done some form of an IIFYM approach in the past and found you couldn’t stick to it or it didn’t work, I’m going to explain why. First though let’s draw some distinctions, as there might be more than one possible situation.
  • Scenario (A): Had an IIFYM plan but was complacent about actually working to it, it was more like a vague idea of what I thought I *should* be doing.
  • Scenario (B): Had an IIFYM plan but really ate by intuition / appetite / randomly and logged at the end of the day hoping to be on target.
  • Scenario (C): Had an IIFYM plan, diligently attempted to work to it with strict adherence, but it was too hard and I kept giving in to hunger and over eating.
  • Scenario (D): Actually stuck to it, distracted myself from the hunger, only eat clean foods… still didn’t achieve a damn thing in terms of improved results.
There aint (but then again there kind of is) a “one shot” answer that covers all people, all circumstances and scenarios.

Now, Scenario A barely requires explanation. You have to actually DO the thing in order to make it work.

Scenario B… much as per A. Humans are notoriously unreliable at accurately recalling their meals, snacks, portion sizes, and so on. Particularly if you’re prone to grazing rather than scheduled meals and snacks, and PARTICULARLY if you have some guilt/shame type associations with eating. In any case when logging meals retrospectively, you’re subconsciously very likely to fudge the numbers a little to match your targets. So on paper (or more correctly “in the app”) you appear to be bang on target but this may be far from an accurate record & recollection of what is actually happening.

Scenario C & D: your plan was shit.

The plan you have been given, likely paid some chump a few bucks for, it was shit. It was not based on a reasonable or accurate estimation of your energy requirements.

Or to be more fair… it is likely that your plan did not anticipate and account for changes in your energy requirements. This is a disagreement I continue to have with other trainers, coaches & random people who think they understand IIFYM and Sports Nutrition. The commonly held belief is that a client’s energy intake will need to decrease as they see progress in fat loss, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Real quick before we continue and as per the infographic above, lets define “level of activity” as follows:

Not merely the amount of time spent active, but the quality of the activity in terms of a more effective training strategy, intensity of effort, and your prowess at training as well.

Now… on this page you can safely assume that I’m talking about fueling requirements for people who are training with a productive strategy. It is a different matter if we’re talking about merely “being active”. For an inactive person who decides to “get active” by taking a one hour walk to the park and back every evening… that’s a great idea, but an excessive energy intake via inappropriate dietary habits will mitigate the potential benefits. In an active person participating regularly in productive & strategic training, with improving physical prowess and increasing intensity… insufficient energy intake will mitigate the potential benefits and the potential for facilitating those improvements in performance.

Both people in the above examples should practice appropriate eating habits relative to their energy & nutritional requirements, but in each example the focus is slightly different. “Not excessive” vs “not inadequate”.

More often than not, what active people on an IIFYM, or other calorie limited plan, but also while “eating clean” are actually doing is to restrict to an inadequate & insufficient level of energy provision… often due to failing to anticipate an increase in fueling requirement as the quality and level of activity increases and to maintain an increase in lean body mass.

Here’s the danger though, even when heavily restricting energy intake via reducing calorie limits or limiting food choices… when we do not see continuing results in terms of fat loss, we are inclined to, encouraged to, and in some cases instructed to assume that the only explanation must be “still not burning more than you’re consuming” and that the solution is to reduce calorie intake even further. This is likely to have disastrous consequences.

In our earlier examples… the person merely “being more active” with a one hour walk around the park will have a certain fueling requirement or limit which probably won’t change very much. A person participating in more productive training or more intense activity will have a higher fueling requirement. A person progressing from a beginner level of productive training to an intermediate level will have a higher requirement still and can expect pleasing results in terms of body composition and condition provided those requirements are met consistently.

Note also that this increase in fueling requirement may or may not be reflected in the “calories burned” records on your activity tracking devices.
For these reasons, if you start out as a beginner on a level of fueling suitable to a beginner, but you train diligently following your program… after a period of let’s say 12 – 16 weeks you’re likely to find that either (a) progress stalls, (b) you’re extra hungry and unable to continue to adhere to your fueling plan, or (c) both.

Unfortunately most so-called “IIFYM” style coaches will believe that a stall in progress requires a further cut in calorific intake due to now being at a lower body weight. This is incorrect. The client (aka you) will not be able to adhere to the level of energy restriction, and in the unlikely event that they can force themselves to do so, it will only be conducive to a regression of physical condition.

Even at a lower bodyweight, even when continuing fat loss is a required outcome, increases in lean mass and improved prowess and consistency at training will necessitate a higher level of fueling.

A competent coach must anticipate this and have a strategy in mind to keep up with these demands to facilitate on going results.

Most however do not.
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