Thursday, April 25, 2013

The history of fad dieting, carbs, fat loss, and calories in vs out

In the last two days I've seen this study twice about higher carb intake and fat loss.

In this article,  Alan Aragon discusses it and also gives a nice long layout of the fads and trends we have seen in regards to dieting and nutrition in the fitness and strength world over the last few decades.  

If you want a high level overview it sort of goes like this...

  • Bodybuilders in the 70's ate low carb and got lean
  • Bodybuilders in the 80's and 90's ate high carb low fat and got lean
  • Bodybuilders now days, do some of both and get lean
With that out of the way, what I wanted to really address was the study done.  Basically, the study tells us that carbs or no carbs, the total number of calories consumed is what drove weight gain or weight loss.  We've only seen studies to support this notion about eleventy billion times.  

Basically, if you eat too much you get fat.  If you eat less than you need, you get lean.  It REALLY is about calories in vs out.  That's it, and that's all.  The whole "a calorie is not a calorie" crowd constantly gets this wrong.  I agree that calories that come from carbs or protein or fats all do something different in the body, however at the end of the day, week, month whatever a surplus gets you fatter/bigger and a deficit gets you leaner.

Yes, it IS in fact that god damn simple.  

Some of the notions about things like the anabolic diet or metabolic diet that appealed to people were that you could eat ALL of the foods deemed fit for the diet, and still get lean.  

I'm here to tell you that I proved that theory WRONG.  

I ate copious amounts of everything and got something that is worse than fat.  That is, skinny fat.  My arms and legs shrunk and my stomach became plump.  It was a nightmare.  You know what I did to remedy that? I just started eating normal again and eventually a sexier "shape" returned.  

So why do people think all of this is so complicated?  

It's the same reason why dopes believe that assistance work is the key to getting that big bench or squat.  It's because there has to be a way that fits outside the scope of Occam's razor.  

If you don't know, Occam's razor is basically the belief that the most simplistic answer is usually the correct one.  Or more eloquently put, the hypothesis with the fewest assumptions should be selected.

So let's apply....

1.  I need to lose weight - I will eat less
2.  I need to gain weight - I will eat more
3.  I need to get a stronger squat - I will squat more

Look, it works!  

The 90% rule and the quality food list - 

A while back, I made a video and outlined what I called a "quality food list".  A list of foods that fit in the scope of what you deemed "quality" "healthy" whatever.  This is pretty simple.  You can use this list regardless of the type of diet you are on.  

After that, I talked about the 90% rule.  Basically stating, that if you eat from this quality food list ONLY 90% of the time, you'll be able to accomplish whatever it is you want to accomplish.  The only caveat to that is if you want to get leaner you obviously have to (drum roll) EAT LESS.  Obviously.  

This simple idea works with everything that Alan outlined in the article above.  There is no magic about dieting.  There is no special formula or special science needed or studies to be done.  That shit works.  

Eventually you have to come to terms with the fact that you are NOT dieting, but changing your eating HABITS.  Don't take on a "diet" that is temporary.  When Dorian Yates dieted down from the offseaon to Mr. Olympia levels, all he did was cut calories from 5,500 a day down to 3,300 a day over those many months.  He never changed his foods.  He just changed his portions.  

Yes!  It's that fucking simple.  Occam's razor for another win!

Women and dieting - 

Women have far more problems dieting than men usually.  Emotional and compulsive they can be about eating yes, but eating is not the only thing they are like that about.  However I can only tackle one woman topic at a time lest I find myself on an all out tangent.   

Once a woman "cheats" on her diet well, it's Katy bar the door.  Shit is about to get real.  Women fall off the wagon and then proceed to lie in the mud, crying and sobbing about how they fucked up and blew their diet while stuffing half a cheese cake into their beak.  

I've seen it many many times.  The breakdowns are such that you'd think you were involved in a Jerry Springer show about "who is my baby daddy?" and baby daddy turns out to be NONE of the 5 guys on the show.  



Women also LOOVVEEE the scale.  Oh boy howdy do they love the scale.  If the scale ticks downwards there is glee and joy exhibited by them that is unrivaled by any experience seen or heard in the universe.  

Nevermind that the scale is a horrible judge of where you are at from a body composition standpoint.   

"But I weigh less!"  

"You're also weak and tired, and soft looking because you've spent the last many weeks starving yourself."  

"But I weigh less!  I lost weight!"

.....breakdown ensues, followed by many phrases such as "I can't do anything right" and "I'm so stupid."  

The mirror, your clothes, how you look AND feel are the best indicators of whether or not what you are doing is working.  Not the weight scale.  

If you are lifting weights, and doing conditioning, and you have a quality food list that you meet the standards of 90% of the time, good shit will happen to you.  You do not need a fad diet, or the need to eliminate carbs from your diet in order to make this happen.  

I personally think that the reason people think it is so difficult or complicated is because losing weight CAN be hard.  It's not fun to be hungry for weeks on end.  Our body and mind tries everything it can to make us WANT to stuff that Dove bar in the hole in your face.  We want that shit!  

And here is the thing, you can have that moderation.  

Which is REALLY the entire ball game here, isn't it?  Finding moderation, especially with dieting tends to work best.  Eat like someone who is trying to build muscle, and carry an athletic level of bodyfat.  When you're honest about that question things should get very clear for you.  

Like most things in life, you can't get the right answers until you start asking the right questions.  


  1. Haha I love it man, good stuff :)

  2. I laughed my ass off at "Once a woman "cheats" on her diet well, it's Katy bar the door...while stuffing half a cheese cake into their beak.

    And then I quickly shut up and looked around to make sure my wife didn't hear me.

  3. Paul,

    What's your take on meal timing? Alan is in the camp that timing really doesn't matter as long as you meet your macronutrient requirements for the day. Of course, he also suggests not to take that context to the extreme, as in eating all of your calories in one sitting, and to consider your activity levels.

    Then you have CBL which suggests eating light during the day and eating more at night, especially if it's a training day.

    1. I've done both. I will say that lately I've been situating all of my carbs before and after training and this has worked well.

  4. This post made me crave a Dove bar.

  5. Can you provide a link to the info about Dorians Offseason/Contest diet? I'd like to see that. Thanks

  6. Another good post once again. A lot of people fail to acknowledge the key to progress in both dieting (or should i say eating habits) and strength training....that key is: simplicity.

    I've lost over 100lbs, and yo-yoed the last 20lbs on and off for the past two years. I know damn well how easy it is to lose weight--but it is never easy. Just like you said, the body will do everything in its power to get you to wolfdown those little white castle burgers. Ahem, I mean the dove bar. To lose weight/fat--is easy. Its the effort that is a bitch. But I just started changing my eatig habits once again and this time, I am driving it home. here's my thinking---I am always working out, you're nevr gonna catch me giving up my strength training, I am a lifer. I remain pretty active. I beenpretty stable for a while. My thinking is..once I get the body I desire---10% bf oughta do it. Then I can maintain that pretty damn well and if I want to, then I can sharpen it up with just a little more effort. The key is just getting to 10%. There is no sense in walking 1 step ahead and 2 steps back throughout the months. Keep walkng...and walking forward. Once you're there, you will be proud of yourself---thus motivating yourself to constantly eat healthier. If you're a lifer, and not just some punk looking to get into shape for Spring Break---then you'll be set. The 90% rule is a great way to do it. It works wonders.