Saturday, February 6, 2016

With nutrition and dieting, there's no middle ground.

If you want to stretch your legs out in a discussion wrought with more tension and shit slinging than one of those "who's the baby daddy?" episodes from Jerry Springer, then go find one related to nutrition or dieting somewhere on the net.  Let me tell you something, it's a topic that can cause people to threaten bodily harm and/or sodomizing someone's mother if you don't choose a side.  And by a "side" I mean it can be as simple as "brown vs white".  

I know that sounds like some kind of gang war about to rage in Los Angeles but in this context I'm just referring to rice.  

I've watched this play out over the past twenty plus years and without fail, the problem is almost always extremes.  What starts off as a good idea, ends up morphing into something perverted or bizarre in a way that could be likened to how Chris Hemsworth might end up looking like Eric Stoltz from the movie Mask.  

Same idea

Decades ago, guys used diets fairly high in carbohydrates and very low in fat to get lean and shredded.  It worked.  In fact, in my opinion, the bodybuilders from the 90's sported a level of conditioning and hardness seldom seen now.  Generally, they whittled down their caloric intake over the course of 12 to 16 weeks, and got into low single digit bodyfat, eating carbs the whole time. 

Seemed simple enough.  

Now of course, during this time, fat was seen as bad.  Not just bad.  But "listen fucker, if you eat any fat you're going to have a heart attack at 19 years old." bad.  

Doctors said this.  Scientists said this.  The news was reporting it.  The morgue was filled to the brim with corpses of young men and women in their late teens and early twenties who rebelled against the USDA food pyramid and died from massive myocardial infarction.  Fat was worse than crack or heroin.  Even worse, it was legal!  

The pyramid of death!

Everything was low fat.  Or there was at least a low fat version of everything.  Even half n' half had no fat versions (still does, and it freaks me out).  Somehow, we decided to take a delicious cream - which is mostly fat - and make a non-fat version of it.  

Companies were very proud to announce what products they made were low in fat.  Cereal boxes had "low in fat" stamped right there on the front of the box.  

No shit, Sherlock.  You mean Wheaties isn't made from fucking lard?  I was clueless until you added that bit of information on the front of the box.  

So fat was bad.  All fat was bad.  The USDA said we were getting fatter and fat was to blame.  I mean this makes sense, right?  Of course it does.  The word fatter, fattest, fatty, etc all have the root word "fat".  That's fucking science.  Spelling.  Grammar can't be wrong.  

It was decided.  Fat was to blame.  And fat should be abolished and eliminated from as many foods and diets as possible.  

But then one day......suddenly....fat was good.  And carbs were bad.  

It was that Monday Night Raw where suddenly Hulk Hogan turned heel, and the Undertaker showed up to save the day.

What the fuck was going on?  

"Carbs are bad!"

"They are?"

"Yes!  Carbohydrates fucking kills you.  It makes you fat as shit, and kills you."

"It does?"

"Yes!  Look at all this science!"

"Fuck my life, I've been eating all these carbs!  I'm going to become obese any minute now and kill right over!"

"Here!  Quick!  Eat some fats!"

"But the food pyramid......"

"That was a lie!  It was all about making farmers rich!"

"But farmers struggle a lot of the time, and are mostly good people."

"That's CIA and NSA government bullshit.  Farmers have been making trillions of dollars and drive Bentley's when you're not looking.  They farm all these grains to kill you."

"I believe you."  

So now, carbs were the root cause for obesity.  After all, somehow there was a study that showed you could trace back obesity to the designing of the Egyptian food pyramids and/or that we suddenly got fat because people were told eating wheat bread was "perfectly fine".  

Nevermind that, once again, bodybuilders got into single digit bodyfat using diets that were quite often, 60% carbs, 30% protein, and 10% fat in regards to macros.  

Now, fats were good.  And carbs were the enemy.  

But just like the low fat craze, carbs now had to be eliminated.  That meant the war on sugar, grains, wheat, and candy had arrived.  Terminators had to be unleashed.  Lest we eat some carbs and instantly awake to hardened arteries and Mount Everest high triglycerides.  

Science of course, had plenty of data behind this.  All the way back to the fall of man.  After all, it was a god damn carb source that caused it.  Eve gave Adam some fruit.  A carbohydrate.

Had she given him salmon, full of omega 3's, we're still living in a grand utopia filled with the love and grace of God, and Satan is all like "fuck those Salmon.  Apples are delicious!"  

What made this worse was, people would drop carbs, lose some water and glycogen weight in a few days, and proclaim that indeed, it was all the carbs that was making them fat.  

Now it was ok to eat all the fats.  In fact, fats are what our ancestors ate.  And they were like 372 years old now, and had been living off of bacon grease and Marlboro's all these years.  So fat was amazing.  We needed higher fat diets.  We needed less sugar and carbohydrates.  

All those companies that were so proud to announce that their products were low in fat, now made low carb versions of everything.  And the people who lost weight on low carb diets became carbophobic.  Ketogenic diets became popular again, and people thought (no seriously I've had this talk) that so long as you eliminated carbs, you could eat all the protein and fat you wanted, and you would lose weight.  

No longer did you have to actually worry about calories.  It was really just eliminating a particular food source/macro.  The one Satan used of course, and you could eat and eat and eat and eat and you'd just lose weight and fat and be healthy as fuck.

Then there was the "zone" diet.  Which said "ok, hold the fuck up.  Carbs are ok.  In blocks."

"What's a block?"

"It's a god damn portion size.  But we define it in grams."

"Why couldn't you just say a portion?"

"Because that wouldn't make it Zoney."

"Ok.  How do I do this?"

"Do you do Crossfit?"


"Then fuck off."

Somewhere in there, Paleo sprung up, and told us to REALLY be healthy, it was indeed ok to eat carbs.  So long as they were the carbs our ancestors ate. 

Like sweet potatoes, or paleo pancakes or paleo cookies.  Then, carbs were fine.  Because cavemen made pancakes.  And they were healthy AF too.  

"Cavemen were healthy AF?"

"Yes, of course they were healthy as fuck.  They lived an average lifespan to about their mid 30's."

"That doesn't sound very long."

"You're questioning your elders?"

"No, I mean, I'm already 38.  I just saw my doctor and he said my health was fine."

"Does he do Crossfit?"


"Then fuck off."

Like most nutrition or dietary ideas, Paleo initially had good intentions.  Until the rest of the population got a hold of it.

Then it went from "hey, eat some meats, fruits, nuts, and veggies" to serious retardation about what you could or could not eat.  

"You can't eat peanuts."

"I can't?"

"No.  Peanuts are not a nut.  But a legume."  

"But I mean, it comes from the Earth."

"It doesn't matter.  Cavemen wouldn't have eaten them."


So then of course Paleo morphed into all sorts of variations and people ended up more confused about what was and what was not really Paleo.  Paleo civil wars ensued.  That's right, there were arguments within the single nutritional Paleo community as to who supported slavery and who wanted to abolish it.

Wait, wrong civil war.  Oh yeah, we were on Paleo.  

Either you're with Ironman, or you're with Cap.  Fucking decide.  Peanuts.  Or no peanuts.  Suit up.

The IIFYM crowd did the same thing.  What started off as a great concept, was eventually bastardized by some people who somehow arrived at the conclusion that there was no difference in Oreos and broccoli.  That's not even a joke.  Someone really wrote that in regards to their competition prep.  Food composition mattered basically, not at all.  There was virtually no difference in doughnuts and rice.

Tons of tons of testimonials poured in from guys who stepped onstage at 175 pounds talking about how they ate ice cream all the way up until their show.  And called Olympia competitors who only ate select food sources "brotards" with no understanding of science.  In fact, one well known "guru" said in regards to people who didn't "understand" IIFYM....."you can't fix stupid."

Way to be a leader.  

I mean it even got to a point where IIFYM founder and CEO Alan Aragon had to chime in about it all....

I guess that settles that.

Fasting was a rage was a while too.  If you wanted to get really lean and shredded, just don't eat for as long as possible.  Then eat like, the whole day's worth of food in twenty-two minutes.  Or something like that.  

Seems legit and logical.  Funny enough, I've never seen a single impressive physique that used such a method.  I wonder why?  Oh maybe because, not eating for 16 hours doesn't bode well for either performance or muscle building.  I mean, I know that sounds like alien concept but I swear, I thought food was needed in order to grow.  But the intermittent fasting crowd, led by cult leader and alien faced Martin Berkhan, cherry picked select studies to show that well, meal frequency didn't matter at all.  Total calories in a day, whether through one meal or twenty two meals, had the same effect on body composition (nevermind this study showed the opposite).  But it wasn't enough to fast for say, 10 hours.  No things got fucking bananas and even before IF I believe, there was a warrior diet.  Where you ate one god damn time a day.  Not only that, but food selection was limited.

The idea?  You needed to stress your body as much as possible.  

We need stress. (The good kind, that is.) “Every living organism has something called a ‘stress-response mechanism,’” Hofmekler explains. “It’s a system that must be exercised; if your stress response is inadequate or inhibited, you’ll be prone to health risks.“

Stressing the body, for example, builds muscle: stimulate your muscle fibers, ligaments, and nervous system and your body will respond and grow. Do that a few thousand times, and you’ll look like a Greek God.

“The fact that you are fitness-oriented and training regularly shows that you are tuned to stress,” Hofmekler explains. “But when I introduced this concept of dietary stress, it was heresy.”

The Warrior Diet introduced nutritional stress, not by restricting total calories, but by cycling periods of fasting or under-eating for over 12 hours—or sometimes 16—a day. “With these short-term fasts, you trigger stress response agents,” says Hofmekler. “These are stress protein, heat shock proteins, certain kinds of enzymes, and anti-inflammatory and immune molecules that practically search and destroy every weak element in your body.”

Eating every two hours or eating six meals a days, however, isn’t stressful on your body. Following a regular schedule and avoiding hunger is the opposite.

“If you exercise,” says Hofmekler, “you can see how physical stress benefits the body. For the Warrior Diet, I concluded that humans are programmed especially to thrive under stress, not the other way.”

Reading that whole thing made me think of Dave Tate talking about how calf work was the key to a big bench press.  He started talking about leg drive, and how leg drive was a huge factor in big benching.  Therefore, it all started at the calves.  So the stronger your calves were, the more leg drive you would have, thus you'd bench more.  His point behind it was, if you're smart enough, you can bullshit people into believing just about anything.  No one ever increased their fucking bench press by getting stronger calves.  But this didn't mean you couldn't make people believe that if you were a great con artist, and they were really, really gullible.  


I bet money some POW survivors would disagree.  

But once again I digress because someone is going to talk about how much they love IF or the warrior diet and how they lost a zillion pounds on it by not eating all day.

Read that a few times and let it sink in.

Look, at the end of the day (I sort of hate that phrase now), the reason why all of this goes on, the arguing and disputes, is because dieting and nutrition is both simple, and complex at the same time.

The simple aspects of it - 

1.  If you need to lose fat, you need a calorie deficit.
2.  If you need to gain weight/mass, you need a calorie surplus.

I think we can all pretty much agree there.

However the complexities arise when you start factoring in the laws of individuality, the degree of development in the athlete, what their goals are, and what their preferences are.

But lots of "broscience" has been proven to be true over the years in regards to gaining muscle, losing fat, and/or retaining mass while doing the latter.  

Such as..........

Conclusions: Our results showed that, during a marked energy deficit, consumption of a diet containing 2.4 g protein · kg−1 · d−1 was more effective than consumption of a diet containing 1.2 g protein · kg−1 · d−1 in promoting increases in LBM and losses of fat mass when combined with a high volume of resistance and anaerobic exercise. Changes in serum cortisol were associated with changes in body fat and LBM, but did not explain much variance in either measure.

We knew this decades ago already.

In other words, it wasn't just about calories in vs calories out when it came to building mass/retaining lean mass, and fat loss.  Higher protein diets did a better job of promoting muscle gain or muscle retention while fat was being lost.  And we've seen this anecdotally for decades now.  

Yet arguments still rage.  

Ultimately, the best diet is the one that you can apply on a consistent basis that promotes good health, increases lean mass, promotes fat loss, and doesn't cause you to end up with some kind of eating disorder.  Despite all we know through science and even through anecdotal evidence, people have to find their own way.  I know that sounds like some David Carradine Kung Fu bullshit, but ultimately it's true.   I mean, a diet is only as good as your consistency with it.  If you can't do low carb, then do a higher carb diet.  You can get lean eating higher carbs so long as your calories are in check.  

If you like keto, and feel great on it, do it.  But if your goal is to build muscle that is going to be a difficult diet to do it with.  

If you like zone, make it work.  Work your little blocks.  

If you like Paleo, eat Paleo.  Just don't get extreme and absurd about it.  And stop calling it Paleo if you're making pancakes with it.  Just say you're eating like a normal human being.

Most of the time, especially when it comes to eating/dieting/nutrition - the best answers somehow usually fall somewhere in the area of moderation, unless you're dieting for say a bodybuilding competition.  I mean, that's just been my observation.  Eat some carbs, some good fats, get your protein in.  Reduce calories to lose some fat, eat some extra calories to build some muscle.  Make most of your food choices based around natural foods, but don't become neurotic and believe that cocoa pebbles or a pop-tart now and then is going to kill you or make you fat overnight.  Likewise, don't think they the same god damn things as asparagus or sweet potatoes.

To me, all of the above seems easy and logical.  But I suppose logic and reason isn't fashionable or isn't worn as well these days as it was decades ago when guys just followed some fairly simple guidelines and got jacked or shredded.  Now complexity is sexy AF and the more confusing and extreme a diet or nutrition plan is, the more exposure it gets. 

 Funny enough, I had a conversation a while back with a guy who is one of the smartest dudes I've ever known about nutrition.  Both educationally, and in practical terms.  You know what he told me?

"The food pyramid is just fine.  There's nothing wrong with it.  It's become demonized for absolutely no reason.  If you just adjust your calories with it, it works quite well."

I'm sure that will create a fucking declaration of war in some way, shape, or form.  Funny though, my diet looks a lot like the food pyramid right now, and I'm leaner than ever.  My blood work came back this week the best it's been in years.

Somehow, I'm defying the laws of the Egyptian food pyramid of death.  Wish me luck.

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