Monday, January 18, 2016

The complexities of advancement in regards to training and dietary practices

It’s very difficult to have discussion on the net about training or nutrition these days without it turning into a complete shitfest between the groups of people involved in having these discussions. 

The root of most internet arguments or discussions about diet and training come from, what I believe is, the huge disconnect between the qualifications of the lifters/athletes involved in said discussions, and their opinions about what training and/or nutritional strategies "works" and "doesn't work."

I have no idea why this is never taken into account, when it should always be accounted for when discussing ideas. 

The second disconnect, is that these arguments often pit one side of the group, that only relies on science or studies only, and the other side of the group that looks at anecdotal evidence and/or both. 

As I've often had to repeat on many occasions, I love studies.  I read tons of them.  And I appreciate the people who put an enormous amount of time and effort into really trying to find out the reasons why something does, or does not work.  It's incredibly helpful from an "understanding" point of view in regards to application of how and what we should or should not be applying in order to achieve certain results.

To be perfectly honest, I’m not a fan of people who rely ONLY on scientific based models or studies as the basis for “fact”, then refuse to accept that even the guys doing the research understand that there is something called "evidence based practice".  

Evidence based practice is made up of a tier of principles that include several variables that are used to arrive at the most efficient manner as possible in order to sustain progress.  There is no overriding or "most important" principle in regards to priorities of ideologies.  

In NO particular order...

1.  Scientific research
2.  Individual needs, and preferences 
3.  Personal expertise and field observations 

All three of these things play a role in developing a completeness in regards to creating training modalities and paradigms in training and nutrition. Excluding any of these three principles is going to leave the person doing so, with a very incomplete process in regards to developing what is best for them, or their clients.

All three of these things overlap in order to create a trinity, if you will, in order to manipulate one's training needs and priorities so that they are efficient and optimal.  

The other disconnect in training and nutritional methodologies between people arguing on the net often arise because of personal experiences only, or that they read a study and believe that it has application across the board regardless of others needs, experience, or level of development.  

This is often most severely the case discussing dietary strategies or practices.  

The war between IIFYM and "clean eating" is probably the best example of this.  

The IIFYM crowd clings to both studies and anecdotal evidence that says you can lose bodyfat while instituting the IIFYM approach, and has research and anecdotal evidence that proves that it can.

And they are right.  But only to a degree.  

The people who say IIFYM misses the mark and is not the most efficient way to approach lean also have research that backs up their stance, both scientifically and anecdotally. And they are also correct. To a degree.

So how is this possible?  That two camps with opposing opinions can both be correct.  

Because number 2 and number 3 in the evidence based practices says so.  Not only that, but there are studies that "prove" one theory correct (for example eating more frequently does increase increase fat oxidation), and studies that say it makes no difference (eating all of your calories for the day in just two or three meals).  

To add to the confusion, there are people who have implemented all the various strategies with different degrees of success or failure.  So one guy says "my body composition got worse eating only 3 times a day compared to 6 times a day", then gets countered by another guy saying "I noticed no difference" and/or says "my body composition improved on just eating 3 times a day compared to six."

The layers of complexity get even deeper as each individual pushes closer to either his or her genetic ceiling in terms of potential fulfillment, or is trying to obtain a very extreme degree of body composition (like bodybuilding stage condition) or elite level strength ability. 

What I mean by that is, going from 20% bodyfat to 15% bodyfat most likely would not require a very complex change in one's dietary practices.  Simply eliminating excess calories, while adhering to a sound and/or ideal practice of macronutrient intake could easily accomplish this, regardless of food choices/food composition.  So someone could do something as easy as get into a calorie/energy deficit by simply reducing portion sizes of the foods they are currently eating, and actualize fat loss from that alone.  Food composition may never have played a factor here.  

Getting from 15% to 10% might add a bit more complexity to the issue, depending on the individual, however.  And from there, getting from 10% to say, 6% would most likely indeed require infinitely more complex strategies to achieve such a goal.  

During each transition, certain principles may become more or less important in that time.  

Going from 10% bodyfat to bodybuilding stage ready bodyfat percentage (let's say 3-4%) is indeed going to be far more complex and require far more exactness in regards to things like nutrient timing and food composition than it would in going from 20% to 15%.  Especially if the person who was at 20% had previously been eating a lot of overly processed food with low nutritional value.  

And this is how arguments start.  

If someone has never gotten stage ready, then they will have no association with what their body may or may not need in regards to reach such a level of conditioning.  If they lost fat, and took their bodyfat from 20% to even 10% using a particular technique, they may assume that same technique could be applied to go from 10% down to 4%.  And the truth is, it might....or it might not.  The problem is, they don't know yet.  Just because someone else did it, has zero bearing on what they may have to do.  So pointing to half a dozen other guys or gals who swim in a completely different gene pool than they do, gives no substance to their argument.  

My own experimentation with this showed that once I got stuck in regards to fat loss, changing my food composition alone did indeed get me out of a fat loss plateau (my macros never differed while instituting these changes).  However, there may be another guy that says he was able to eat ice cream the whole time while getting leaner and leaner, while simply reducing his calories the whole time.

53 weeks apart - Three different dietary strategies 

What I needed to progress was different than what he needed.  Factually, for me, I needed to make changes to continue making progress that he did not need to make.  At my age, I don't have the metabolism I did at 21 years old.  I can't get away with eating cheat meals on a weekly basis, or have too many high glycemic index carbs throughout the day and continue to lose fat.  This isn't something to be debated.  That's how it works for me.  I know this from personal experience.

Does that mean it has to be this way for every other person?  

Absolutely not.  

As the saying goes, different strokes for different folks.  

Training is no different.  And ends up manifesting similar disagreements. 

"I took my deadlift from 315 to 500 in six months training it three times a week.  So training it that often can be done with great results."

I get this.  I took my deadlift from 405 to 500 using some very basic principles that one could be described as "cookie cutter progressive overload."  Getting from 500 to 600 however, was a different story.  My training had to change in a myriad of ways to accomplish this.  And getting from 600 to 700 meant yet another change in training application that looked nothing like what it took to go from 405 to 500, and 500 to 600.  

I wasn't built for deadlifting.  So I had to experiment and fine tune my training for a long time in order to break through those barriers.  Throughout each phase, I needed something very different in order to make progress again, once a plateau was reached.  And at each plateau, I had to be open to different ideas, cognizant of what my own body was telling me from each training cycle, and then manipulate all of those factors in order to move forward again.  

So as I progressed, complexity often increased dramatically.  

People who want to actualize genetic potential must realize that as they progress, what got them from point A to point B, most likely is not going to be the same thing that gets them from point B to point C, then from point C to point D.  

As one progresses, overemphasizing certain ideas at the expense of others could be the very thing that keeps you from moving forward along that path.  Nutrient timing is often an example of this.  A novice who is basically a recreational lifter probably doesn't need it the same way a very advanced guy who is training six days a week, two hours a day, that is training for a competition does.  Yet on the net, I will often see very inexperienced trainees arguing with very experienced guys that it matters very little.  This is often because the two people arguing might as well be arguing about what is applicable on Earth, and what is applicable on Mars.  The guy on Earth may be arguing completely valid concepts as to what is applicable to him.  But to the guy on Mars, such concepts may or will be completely useless, and/or false all together.  

These things should be taken into consideration during the course of discussion, but I rarely see that happen.

Even more so, they should be taken into consideration during the course of your training life.  What you need the first three years of training is probably not going to be as applicable as what you need when you're in year 15 to continue progressing.  

When I see certain guys who don't progress very much, my usual thought is that they haven't learned how to let go of the principles that got them to that particular point in time, and are willing to embrace the fact that a different sets of principles will need to now be put into place to elicit new progress.  

When I was at the NSCA conference a few months ago a speaker there made two very astute points.

1.  "Training is more art, than science."

2.  "The best coaches in the field are generally about 10 years ahead of the scientific field."

Let this not be lost on you, that this was at an NSCA conference, which prides itself on relying on science as its foundation.  

The reason these two points are so important, is that in regards to point #1....

"It is practically IMPOSSIBLE to precisely predict the individual training effect due to the heredity factor(s)".  

And in regards to point #2....

The best coaches tend to have a unique ability in regards to intuition as to what will serve their athletes to the best of those individual needs.  

And points #1 and #2 tend to cause the most disagreements because without the understanding that the things that make up an optimal training or nutritional paradigm ALL involve the inclusion of the principles of evidence based practice.  

So great coaches tend to implement all of the characteristics of EBP, understand the importance of all three, them "weigh" each accordingly in terms of importance in regards to helping people perform better.

That may mean at times, they ignore science due to the fact that something science cannot support (at this point in time) is indeed helping their athlete perform at a higher level.  Or it may mean, they implement science because THAT is what is the athlete needs to perform at a higher level.  

Due to "individual needs" (once again, another scope of EBP), or preferences, the coach or athlete manipulates their training or diet, based not only on what they need at the time, but also what "resonates" with them as an athlete.  And the mental part of performance cannot be overlooked.  After all, most people aren't going to get much out of a training program they flat out fucking hate.

Change is hard.  Because it means we have to challenge our belief systems.  Lots of people confuse this as an admittance of being "wrong" about said belief systems, when it's simply not the case.  If certain principles or modalities produced the results you were seeking, then they were indeed the right ones AT THAT TIME.  However, moving forward, those principles may need to be discarded, with a new set of principles replacing them, in order to do so.  

It's not an admittance of being wrong, it's an acceptance that change is required to grow.  And in order to “grow”, literally speaking, change in training and nutrition will eventually be required. 

And isn't that often the case in the parallels of both life and lifting?  

"Food" for thought. 

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