Posts in Nutrition
Nutrition Basics: Macros Bruh (Part 2)

By now we should recognize that for some reason or another the topic of “diet” brings with it the emotional rage and fence-sitting comparable to some holy wars. In my first installment we established our first point in reigning in control over our nutrition and its effects by using calories-in as the guide, we can now move on to one of the more complicated concepts. If by any chance you are still stuck on the overall amount being the biggest influence of gain or loss, then come back when you read all 147 published references backing my position.


There is no such thing as a “bad” macro.


The macronutrients: Protein, Fat, and Carbohydrates (CHO) are what classify the next most influential category to which we modify body composition, increase performance, or influence hormonal fluctuations. It is important to note that all of these have at one time or another, been the scapegoat of obesity and deteriorating health. With the access to easy information also comes the risk of bad information, the result of dogmatic belief and evangelical fervor will most likely appear in the comments that follow this article.


Low-fat, low-carb, paleo, vegan and vegetarian practices have all relied on the villainy of one of these fundamental nutritional properties. Yet results have come from each and every camp claiming the “secret” to nutritional wisdom. The exalting of one does not repudiate the other, if in fact a result can be summoned in the exact opposite fashion. From here on out there is no such thing as a “bad”, or “unhealthy” macronutrient, only the most efficient for the task required and its lesser varieties.


Against my better judgment and at the risk of feeding the trolls, I will at least preempt the argument for (fill in the blank) diet; because inevitably someone will comment - even if only to themselves - “what worked for them” or will brag about their “3.5% body fat” without the use of calorie counting. Point isn't to take away form what people have accomplished, but to discover the real reason that they had success.

Photo credit: Dr. Asker Jeukendrup

Photo credit: Dr. Asker Jeukendrup


Case in point: Vegetarianism


Forty years ago vegetarianism hit a high note as a fad, separating it from its rare cultural practice that has been around for a thousand + years. Whether out of an ethical calling or some kook-chiropractor selling yeast (candida albicans) as a disease, it saw some success in the realm of weight-loss. The practice and results increased in popularity on the advice to rid oneself of all meat. Theories claiming we have an inability to digest meat nearly halved the amount of calories ingested with those that took the recommendation from practitioners of  “alternative medicine”.


 It didn’t hurt that the waste product of soy-based paints (soy protein) through the conglomerate Glidden Paints was now a sellable food item (tofu). Soy protein was also the most profitable division of the international company. After being lobbied and subsidized, it grew exponentially, which appealed to its target customer: The Vegetarian, A.K.A. your older sister or brother, who would wear nothing but old Joy Division shirts, and act exasperated in the presence of a T-bone steak.


Fifteen to twenty years ago, the explosion of Veganism, Adkins, South Beach, Mediterranean diets (the list goes on) saw remarkable results, although very few had lasting affects (less than 4% success rate), the best of these actually being Weight Watchers, showing that support from community has a factor in longevity. This success of an in-group was shared with the Vegan approach, as it melted its practice into punk rock, hardcore, political activism, and eventually related itself to the small group of teens and mid-twenty something’s that identify as Straight Edge, a group dedicated to the abstinence of poisons in the form of drugs and alcohol. If you missed that boat you might have surely caught the fad as Hollywood actresses took up the charge based on ethics, an outcry for post-modern attention whoring, and a small waist, as a result of miniscule calories.


At the implementation of a fad diet, availability is limited. In the case of being Vegan, 15 years ago eating out at restaurants and staying true to the restrictions was nearly impossible - perhaps grain or legumes with a side salad, void of most dressings, I remember a vegan friend of mine in the late 90’s, ordering a cheeseburger from Wendy’s removing the burger, the cheese, and the mayonnaise, tossing them from the window of the car as we drove back to our high school from lunch break. I laughed but also understood that the PETA propaganda videos were powerful, and made our generation feel like they were part of their very own revolution; I just couldn’t convince him that his new car with leather seats seemed somewhat hypocritical. Then markets like Wholefoods hit their prime, offering the ethically-conscious consumer any variety of vegan cookies, ice creams, and other baked goods.


Copy and paste this effect and just fill in the blank with the title of the fad diet book.



The problem with making a villain out of anything that we ingest on a normal basis is first and foremost a black and white answer to our grey world, which polarizes a subject not fully understood. This happens most often by those taking a side, usually out of personal bias or influence from an in-group (something about CrossFit and Paleo could go here) . The macronutrients are synergistic, and work very well for an omnivorously evolved system. Humans have survived on some, none, or all macronutrients in varying civilizations throughout our known history, any question to this and we can analyze the Irish Potato Famine of 1845 and compare it to the potato’s near damnation in the mid to late 90s on behalf of the Adkins diet movement - something about the obesity rate at the turn of the millennium makes me think that the Irish might object to Adkin's assertion of the potato being the downfall of the human race.


How could it possibly be that something so bad for our health (the white potato) could have saved the lives of approximately 1-million people if it was so deadly? On this note realize that there is not one food product that is constant throughout our short history, and not one food gives us everything we need, which means it is a combination of foods that our lives and health are dependent, so it becomes our responsibility to understand what the best mixture of them is for our personal context.


One current scapegoat for obesity is sugar, as it likely carries with its abuse some very misunderstood abnormalities in the body, due in part because of how much stress this causes our pancreas and the result of insulin resistance. This does not in turn make sugar and its relatives (fructose, glucose, sucrose) evil, or villainous. Analogous to this is exercise, a little, or even a lot can in fact improve your health when dosed appropriately, but over-done and we soon see the deleterious effects and negative hormonal repercussions, not to mention the acute or even chronic over-use that can affect functional movement.


Ironic as it seems, this state of over-training has been treated with none other than sugar, or other forms of simple CHO. That is because glucose is very efficient at promoting protein synthesis, positive neuro-transmitter enhancement (serotonin, and dopamine), and also hydration.  Sugar then, no matter what the First Lady’s indignation of it is, should not be categorized by emotion or with religious zeal, as it is a tool that can actually be used to improve fitness and consequently health.


Many groups will advise based on what is “natural” to our species, usually making generalizations regarding our evolution. This might purport that we have for millennia survived off of large quantities of fat and very little CHO (referring to one civilization: the Inuit). They are right, that has happened, but to quantify anything as “natural” being homologous with good doesn’t take into consideration just how “unnatural” medicine is, or the use of the internet for that matter, and because of these 2 technological advancements (medicine, communication) we have far exceeded life expectations compared to our “natural” ancestors.


We should at this point agree that a blend of all three macronutrients that maximize micronutrient density, all within the boundaries of a controlled total amount is the best start to any nutritional program no matter the context of the goal.


How to mix and match is particular to the individual as there also is no magical ratio. It is adjusted based off of an almost infinite list of factors, some more important than others. This means personal experimentation and most of all the consistent time dedicated to figuring it out.


-       Carbohydrates: will fuel activity and recovery from it, because it has been proven to be most efficient for doing so, but is not a savior and answer to our lack of vital energy like some ultra-endurance junkies will have you believe.


-       Protein will remain the building block, and provide the necessary amino acids for tissue repair among many other things, but does not need to be over-emphasized like in the past with bodybuilding trends recommending as high as 2g per pound of body weight.


-       Fat is responsible for the functioning of multiple systems, and should not be habitually avoided. Hormonally it signals a host of processes vital for satiety and sex-hormone production. But we don’t need to over-compensate for our past avoidance of it by guzzling bacon fat, as the ketogenic crowd might have you believe,


Find the best approach, as an individual not a group.


It is without a doubt intelligent to seek out the highest quality of food available, this being said, no person that I know or have worked with is devoid of taste buds, and anyone that purports that they in fact ONLY eat high quality food is either lying, a martyr, or consumes beef liver, and other highly nutritious organ meats with every meal. There is also a point where certain goals like lean-mass gain, or elite performance in sports are deterred on high quality food alone, as the gut has to accommodate the added stress of assimilation of micronutrients and fiber, which it cannot do during intense exercise, or when attempting to consume more than needed (which is required to gain mass). Hence the fuel of choice for most athletes during effort, and post is a combination of simple CHO: glucose, fructose, or in some cases non-sugar: simple CHO such as fractionated barely extract, or waxy maze.


An easy way to contend with controlling quality other than some esoteric arbitrary rule such as “organic”, or “local” (which in reality do not improve the nutritional density) is to get some accurate data, like personal blood work. Seeing deficiencies first hand will aim you in the right direction, and give you an exact amount with which to guide your food choice or to supplement with, as opposed to the shotgun approach of massively over dosing multivitamins and minerals. The rule of thumb should be to get micronutrient density as much from food as possible, this makes your choices of macronutrients pretty clear. It also does not mean that low-quality food is off the table, if you can hit well within your targets and have room, the added enjoyment of “empty calories” will help sustain the effort.


With the combination of caloric control, and macronutrient partitioning, we might find enough control to attain our goals, and the body composition that we have dreamed about, but there is one more constituent that has great affect over our success in controlling nutrition. In part 3 we uncover what could possibly lead to most dieting failures: Temperament.



Nutrition Basics: Don't be a Moron. (Part 1)

The most important factor in describing “health”, as it pertains to diet, is the total amount. There is not "one true way" of eating, as we are a species with so many variable adaptations that asserting so would deny our vastly different evolutionary history.


The talk of diet is a somewhat sensitive one; the subject usually hits on the same frequency and sensitivity as politics or religion, as they are inherently linked to rules and roles that helped the species survive a rich 200,000 year history based on community. The deep connection we have to our way of eating inevitably has just as much defensiveness as it does confusion. Despite the heat that surrounds such an opinionated topic, I find that it comes up as often as it becomes known what I do for a profession.


It most likely happens in social gatherings and starts with: “how could you transform a body like this?” which is asked while they twirl themselves around along with a glass of wine. It didn't help that I tend to notice the grazing habits of partygoers that don't even notice their own, so it feels unfair that I bring up the cracker and cheese feast that they have taken part of for the better part of an evening. They follow it up with a quip of what they read or watched on whatever daytime news filler broadcast that not much to say about the importance of green tea, or some other erroneous Amazonian fruit. At this point I want to throw out some made-up opinion on Palestine, or population control and watch the conversation melt out of their mouth.


But I’m aghast with the lack of basic knowledge people have about nutrition, especially when almost everyone has access to the Internet in the palm of their hand, which I suppose is the same reason why the general population has such a distorted view to begin with, as the influx of information will for the most part be through the bias of the author (mine included). This genuine need for information has me hooked, and my conversational partner will soon regret their decision to talk to me as I try and wade my way through their lifetime of misnomers.


If only it was that easy, if only I could just formally correct each and every individual on his or her delusional outlook on nutrition. But for every one person I speak to there is a misinformed, biased article appearing on Huffington Post reaching thousands, or some guru teaching a seminar on the “magic” of chemical-free diets, touting the removal of BPA to reduce body fat, (this is a real claim) ridding your home of harmful cleaning agents so that you can finally fit into that swim suit for summer, or.even asserting that suppository of coffee is all that is missing in order to improve your health!


Too many will take the advice of some celebrity on TMZ, doubling down on the kale shakes and concentrated broccoli extract, because they know how to “detox” their body better than their liver and kidneys can. They some how attribute fat loss with the relationship of loose stool, seeking out large doses of “colon cleanse” on advisement from an expert hipster at Whole Foods - as if an ironic tattoo is qualification of anything other than having poor decision making skills. Very few will come to discover that the majority of fat that leaves your body is through your breath, but it is with that same exact fact that leaves most sighing in exasperation but not feeling any leaner..



If this wasn’t enough, we are then fed the socio-economic superiority about the most important factor in diet being food quality. The localvores abound and inquire about the relationships, and family life of their chicken that they hope to consume, as joked about on Portlandia, but very few could recognize the satire in a world punctuated by outrage. We are told that we should buy organic, yet this increases the odds that we are exposed to e.coli, according to many studies empirically proving the conventional purchase is just as nutritious.


If you ever happen to be in the frequent predicament of defending GMOs, simply plant your palm to your face as you realize that whoever is in fact defending their exclusion has no idea that bananas are in fact man-made, that artificial selection is indeed genetic alteration, and that without GMO interference the banana will surely die from Fusarium. (A close relative to the plague) If this wasn’t enough, consider that not one person likes watermelon and grapes with fucking seeds in them.

Logical mistakes from antiquity, or those based on a naturalistic fallacy have made us a society of idiots.


Proof in point: simply list an unhealthy food, go ahead I’ll wait… Someone inevitably will list Cheetos or a Snickers bar, as our society has fattened itself on the excess of these. But to an individual dying of starvation, both of these items will grant the gift of life, which is certainly more “healthy” than death.


In a not so dramatic correlation, imagine a high level athlete that adheres to a strict dietary choice, perhaps based off of reducing inflammation, which seems to be common. Post training this athlete decides that the selections of food available don’t match his neurosis-driven mania, his caloric deficiency does not allow for proper recover, thus affecting future training. When this happens frequently enough we find the most evangelical of dieters not sustaining levels required for competition, and quickly getting passed. Catabolism then, in context of performance is not healthy, as is caused by a caloric deficit and improper re-feeding.


This does not become an excuse to eat out of a vending machine, although you could and would probably live just fine. This is a plea to do away with nonsense, to stop the intensified descriptions of where and what your food is. It isn’t that these other factors are benign, the hormonal value of nutrient timing, the fiber quality and quantity certainly affect you, but not in considerable relationship until the amount is controlled and adhered to.


Caloric intake and expenditure are not 100% accurate, as we cannot account for individual entropy. But anyone who has tracked his or her intake as accurately as possible, will tell you that the amount of food is the constant that dictates gain or loss. There are anomalies for sure, some bad responses to certain foods, some metabolic disruption that slow the process of losing or gaining weight, but there are zero human beings that can survive the plight of “zero food”.


Thousands a day die of starvation (21,000 a day to be precise), so that “metabolic damage” that you read about on Facebook, does not overwrite the fact that you have no idea how much you consume on a daily basis, and is not the reason you can’t control your body composition. Just extrapolate the ludicrous idea of BPA being the cause of obesity, if it were true then I guess we just solved world hunger, just start shipping those old sun bleached water bottles over to Africa, I’m sure the idea that you could get fat from drinking water would make them ecstatic.

This is what many who give nutritional advice, myself included will tell you: That once an individual starts tracking the total intake their behavior changes radically. Imagine how different the consumption of the office snack room would be if Betsy from Human Resources had to write the amount of brownies she consumed on a chalkboard for others to see. Suddenly the extra effort to purchase organic, paleo, and gluten-free brownies seems ridiculous, as no matter the quality of them, Betsy has a problem with how many brownies enter her stomach.


No one is denying the negative and eventually neurotic effect counting calories can have if taken to the extreme, or the amount of eating disorders it causes without being educated on other important factors. (Which will be covered in part 2 and 3) But taking 6 months to figure out what allows one to gain, lose, and maintain his or her current weight will set someone up for a lifetime of relief, and freedom from the media promoting the next exclusionary diet fad.




Nutrition: A Refined Cultural Experience


Why is it that even today with what seems to be a vested interest in selling nutrition, both as a way to combat disease and also marketed somewhat ironically as achieving god-like leaness do we still buy in to the guru mentality when it comes to what we put inside our body? It seems like there is no end in sight when companies and Internet personalities can rely on unadulterated elitism to back their claim when the abstract of a PubMed study can’t.


Normally if I see an article embellishing all the rejuvenating aspects of coconut oil or a video touting the life-saving benefits of mainlining goji berries, I laugh and move on, figuring that the expense of the consumer and the large margin of profit made by Whole Foods will self-correct the information…eventually. Recently though it seems that companies known for their scientific doctrine of training methodology as well as their “proven” nutritional claims have drawn a clear line in the arbitrary sand when it comes to not only processed food but just how “artisanal” something can be made.


This subject first broached accidentally in a conversation with a friend explaining the “organic arms race” of the white upper class America, something that I had apparently never considered in my white privilege. I’ll sum it up as easily as I can: As the worlds markets grow closer, foods that were only afforded to the rich become cheap enough for even peasants, this of course drives the need for newer, better, more rare food items so that the rich may always buy “above” the poor, in some extreme examples even covering their food literally in gold- because fuck you that’s why. Take for instance bread, once a food of the common person, it was found that refining the grain espoused a rich, white, softly-textured delicacy, this extra time afforded in processing drove the price above all but the elite, leaving the rest with “only” brown bread, hence the term “refined” being used in not just grain but also in describing the bourgeoisie and gentlemen class. Later in the industrial age of processing, the “white stuff” became available to all, and then if perhaps by miracle our advanced knowledge of health uncovered how terrible refined bread was for the human animal (this didn’t actually happen with evidence just a fleet of natural path doctors and chiropractors giving “professional opinions”). Price on “whole grain” jumped as it was now thought of and marketed as a health food. Even today we are sold breads with “ancient grains” and superb artisanal fermentation at higher prices, little added benefit, and a perpetuated delusion that “whole-grain” and handmade are synonymous with health.


We can chase these same narratives with terms like “organic”, “grass-fed”, and “gluten-free” all the way down to the fucking “localvore” movement, but they will all follow the same path, once available at Wal-Mart you can assure yourself that the next greatest version will be publicly mystified and available only to those willing to pay a premium, if you were under the impression that alkaline water was worth it or that cocktails tasted better with artisanal ice, then you- like many, have fallen into this scheme.


As I mentioned earlier, it’s rare I get hung up on a simple “internet article” but when the source has a broad audience and claims rooting in science, then the “thought leaders” of such a group have a responsibility to spread accurate information, especially if they have been “fitnessing since 99’”.


An article titled “Why ‘if it fits your macros’ doesn’t matter” popped up on my feed and I gave it a read, immediately irritated by the irrational fear mongering thrown out in the opening sentence, in which we are shown the ingredients to a POP-tart and propositioned to quit pretending that they are healthy. There are multiple problems with this, the first being: who the fuck said they were healthy? The second is built off the assumptions that we will read the ingredients list and pull a “food babe” ultimately showing disgust because we don’t understand chemistry, which is what I would claim to be the authors disposition. Ultimately I don’t really care what one article says, but as it is a representative of what I would say is a deeper seeded issue, I’m going to keep going.


Elitism in food is silly, it is a rat race of marketing hype and egotism. I would go as far as defending “personal” dietary elitism though, as it fits perfectly with the Biopsychosocial model for health and wellness, but when taught and spread without any data whatsoever we are on dangerous ground of gentrifying athletics or even worse health. This isn’t to say data related to fine tuning nutrition for health and longevity isn’t wanted, just proper interpretation of that data.


A good example of this data happened just the other day. As it seems that the kale shakes were a stones throw away from being the actual discovery of immortality, some asshole had to come along and actually do the math, turns out that the whole green drink craze isn’t as good as you might have thought, not just in terms of micro-nutrient density (which it isn’t as favorable in), but also in raising risk factors for diabetes considerably. So while this is extremely entertaining for me to watch people in horror discover that nutritionally a meal made up of lamb is convincingly better for overall health than some vegan-hemp slop blended into a stool like color, it also pains me because I have to listen to the dumbest of my industry shuffle about as their investment in their acres dedicated to cruciferous greens becomes null and void to the pursuit of atonement.


The point might be that artificially identifying “health” in foods only available to the rich could be easily avoided if we just refuse to watch Dr. Oz, or even better laugh in the face of words like “super-food”, but demonizing a food because of its processing or lack of micronutrients further perpetrates the same exact problem that we see on late afternoon talk shows.


It is not in and of itself difficult to eat well and fuel both performance, longevity, and a robust social life, that is until “experts” start condemning and preaching from the rafters because they don’t like the idea of a certain food, or they want to sell “their” way of eating in order to justify their own neurosis. In any other field this is called bullshit, but in nutrition we call them experts,


Most misconceptions about “flexible dieting” come from seeing high-level athletes use certain foods because of their simplicity or efficacy at certain periods of training or even to just make life a little more enjoyable. This does not affect health negatively because usually high performing athletes also consume far more food in volume, which increase exponentially their exposure to micronutrient density. Therefore the supposed “empty calories” are far from empty because their purpose is for macro-nutrition, not micro-nutrition. Most foods the general public holds in high esteem are low in macro and caloric nutrition, but somewhat dense in micro nutrients and minerals, this tells us nothing of what is “healthy” as it lacks context, only how ridiculously polarized our general knowledge of nutrition can be. It's worth noting at this point that there is a huge difference between foods that do "very little" for you and foods that are actually harmful, if a food is actually found to be harmful or dose dependent-acutely toxic it will most likely be considered for a ban by the FDA, this does not mean that foods approved are regarded as healthy but they certainly shouldn't be feared.


The presumed formula of nutritious foods being equal to performance is actually unproven, in fact large doses of vitamins and minerals intra-effort is flat out wrong, assimilation of nutrition during efforts and for recovery (ie; performance) purposes tends to be increased with specific macronutrient dense foods that are low in fiber and low in fat (of which fat tends to be the most nutrient dense food), a position that is antithetical to the “high quality food is the most important factor for performance” crowd that seems to be getting louder.


Promote the (insert diet here) wherever you see fit, just recognize that in doing so you are a professional ‘crying wolf’, and we all know how that ends.





If there is one rule it’s “Do NO harm”. The problem then is that over a long enough period eventually everyone gets hurt. 90% of what I teach is to avoid chronic injury, those of the over-use variety and with enough mental attention to avoid acute injury as well. But we all get hit with the unfortunate and learning to itemize, compartmentalize and progress where available can usually set one up to overcome previous stalls all the while working around the destruction we’ve caused.

Most of us believe that we get injured because we risk in order to achieve great feats and only the fallout of being left exposed to danger has us hurt as a consequence of our charge. The truth is we get injured because we ignore the subtle signals of a lingering injury and our ego drives the nail into the coffin, by not allowing proper recovery. This inevitably ends in a forced rest period where by all means the body will shut you down because its previous signal fell upon deaf ears. Even under circumstances where severe acute injury occurs, I've seen again and again fatigue or lack of recovery lead to accident in and out of the gym that could have been avoided by recovering mental awareness. Very few of us take the moderate road not just to training but to expectations and goal setting. When we take up the torch of self-improvement we generally forget to think about fuel or the future entirely, we are just awed by the luminescence of immediate results and if a little hard work worked, a lot of hard work must surely be the answer. But “hard-work” is even harder to define than to actually do. It is more often than not  just doing the thing you’re least likely to do, which is “hard” only for the ego. This added with the chiseling effects of hard training gives us a false sense of hope and compounds the stress while we become psychologically addicted to the effort.

Almost every bit of advice I have/will ever give starts with “It depends”, the situational circumstances guide our training so in this summation we talk speculatively and generally. Identify the cause of the injury. This is probably the most complex step because although we strain our back catching a clean incorrectly, for example the issue probably started way before. Being honest about our technical prowess among other faults is hard to see and usually only available in hindsight. So in doing this it’s easy to pinpoint the straw responsible for breaking the camels back, but we have to work back to why we decided to mutilate the poor animal in the first place, pinpointing our original ambition will uncover some truth about out injury. It is not an easy task to take up the goal of improving ones strength or even endurance, to be told how hard you must work to achieve these things, and in the end have the fortitude to pull the plug when one has had enough to spark the correct signal without burning the whole tower down.

It’s at this time that we categorize the injury at least to ourselves so that we can comprehend the recovery schedule: Acute, Chronic and permanent or temporary, the most basic definitions will give structure to a timeline of expectations. Reality sinks in when something disastrous happens to the point where we all begin to think a little pessimistically. If the injury is bad enough a week or two of healthy depression is normal and expected. The worse the injury and the closer related to required abilities and goals the bigger the slump. Advice at this time is usually along the lines of “keep your head up” or some other useless bullshit. Mine is to let yourself get a little resentful. stew in the anger bath for a bit and hold yourself 100% responsible for your actions. We must grieve our lost abilities as we would the loss of a great friend. Once the fire is good and stoked treat the injury as you would any challenge, which is exactly what repairing an injury is, a challenge. Dedicate time and effort based on value of healing, the truly dedicated will rearrange an entire lifestyle to achieve this. The same can be said of elite athletics. An astounding amount of people claim to want to heal an injury (or complain about it enough to give that impression) but upon the most basic inquiry most have given up post surgery or have lost interest as soon as it becomes “hard”. The hard part to realize is that we all give up fairly easy on most fitness endeavors. It’s hard to see an 18 year old kid squat 320kg and proceed to be motivated to build upon your max of 135kg at the ripe age of 35, but training to build any physical pathway is just relentless signaling and healing and in this way repairing is no different. Depending on the degree of injury, repair is first and foremost, bone, connective tissue and muscular tissue all need time to at least “reconnect” 6 weeks is the standard. after that regaining range of motion is paramount. Then and only IF the proper healing is attained can one start to strengthen the site of and around the injury. This starts slowly and with absolutely NO planned rep/set schedule, the workout needs to be stopped upon proper “satisfaction” and then recovered before anymore stress is added. As far as movements that are good for injury, “it depends”, but a good guideline is something that enforces full range of motion (or as much as possible so as to be measurable progress), is compound and involves multiple joints and most likely has a stability factor to it. If the injury is bad enough and full detachment of ligaments or separation of muscle tissue occurs then cables, bands and assorted equipment may be required.

 My first “exercise” after shattering my elbow was to hang the joint out my drivers side car window and let the air resistance assist range of motion, 3X 60 seconds with 5min rest was all I could handle for the first 2 weeks. But I never found a machine that replicated the assistance as well, so I took frequent drives. I let my stubbornness dictate my tolerance for pain, sometimes I over shot what I could recover from, and I prolonged what I could have essentially healed from faster, I took the injury serious enough to rearrange the next year of my goals. I addressed my diet in order to support what needed to occur, having the extra fat on my body drove me mad, but the tolerance to new levels of stress I could enforce on the injury kept my path lit. I was humbled to take up new exercise movements, and to feel ultimate triumph from doing one pushup. I healed in an astoundingly short amount of time, but I will never be 100%. When defining my own injury “permanent” was responsible for defining my goals and a realistic hatred for my mistakes kept me motivated.

People want a definitive answer, which is why the medical field is filled with answers to questions of time that make no sense to an individual that is willing to take care of him/herself, but when addressing the general public advice is given to the lazy the same as it would be to the committed. It’s impossible to denote what the correct thing to do is on such a general subject, but there are universal ideas that are helpful in most situations. Hypertrophy of the smaller supportive musculature is king, especially in injuries revolving around the joints. Eating to restore this type of workload is imperative, but not an excuse to eat like a pig. Smaller/lighter weights can be used for higher reps (once it is time to add resistance). The feeling of pushing the weight is different as in: it is measured, the force output normally associated with strength training turns into a focus of muscular contraction. Filling the muscle belly full of blood has special healing qualities attached to it while preserving the high stress to the connective tissue. Isolation work in these cases may be the only way to achieve the sensation, so a focus on compound movements after is required as to not train imbalances. “Strength training” at this point takes on a new definition, although I still recommend hard training for the rest of the body while isolating the injury. This could even just be power endurance or endurance efforts, realize it might not be the thing you “want” to do or it could just have little to nothing to do with your goals, but the restorative effects of cardiovascular stress cannot be over stated. The healthier and more fit the body is as a whole the faster the recovery time. Moving oxygen through the bloodstream will increase the amount of exposure to nutrients and cell growth. If you are lucky enough to be uninjured at this point in time you can still take inventory and reduce the chances of serious damage in the future. Somethings we will never see coming, but when they hit and the body breaks it is up to you and you alone to restore it as closely as possible to its previous self.




Diet Intuition (part II)

Diet Intuition Part II (Know thyself)

“Know Thyself” is inscribed at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi and has deep roots into Greek philosophy. Mankind has spent centuries pondering this statement. Recently – due to discoveries indicating that a great deal of our action and behavior is controlled unconsciously – we have begun to question whether it is possible to truly know ourselves.

Controlling exposure, in most scenarios controls the outcome.

Controlling exposure, in most scenarios controls the outcome.

The story of Ulysses reiterates how little control we have. His sea voyage from Troy to Ithaca passed close to the isle of Sirens, whose music was known to drive sailors mad whereupon they would steer towards the maidens and shipwreck against the rocks. Ulysses, upon contemplating how his “future self” would react, had his men tie him to the ship’s mast while well out of earshot and to plug their own ears with beeswax so that they could not hear the false orders given in his deranged state. Rendered temporarily insane buy the Sirens’ song, Ulysses struggled but could not break free, issued false orders that his men could not hear, and eventually sailed out of reach. This is known as the “Ulysses contract” (or pact) essentially setting up a successful future by limiting the damage of instant-gratification demanded by your present self.

There exist countless examples of how we overcome the brain’s inability to calculate the effect of immediate gain on future prosperity: automatic withdrawal for a child’s college fund or our own retirement, among others. Most of these agreements are written to shield future self from financial mayhem caused by the living-in-the-moment current self. This is done by limiting present exposure to excess, apparently disposable, income or resources. Diet is very similar to financial behavior, with the exception being that “excess” food is easy to come by, which actually makes it more important to limit our exposure to it if we wish to protect our future self.

Confronted by excess, few have this so-called willpower but it is feasible set up circumstances that produce a favorable outcome. Sometimes dietary “rules” help artificially reduce the chances of going off the reservation. Simple guidelines, i.e. “no processed food” limit selection so deciding what to eat is less complex or dangerous. Constrain this decision within a specific eating window, say every three hours or between 2pm and 8pm, and suddenly the risk of overeating declines. And you haven’t even started counting calories. Apply this simple approach before adding anything more complex. Once you can obey this simple contract, and allowed its magic to work, you may begin looking at other means of improving dietary behavior.

In “Diet Intuition Part One” I discussed how orators use data, spreadsheets and correlative studies to preach about the importance of calories or food quality from their respective podiums. I admit to having been in one or even both of these camps at some point but gave myself headaches when trying to apply these concepts to real world scenarios. Neither can be sustained indefinitely or universally imposed on everyone therefore I use temperament to help guide the application of dietary rules.

I introduced the idea of appealing to an individual’s emotional status in Part One and consider this the most important factor when setting up nutritional guidelines for a client. Knowing oneself helps determine the best means and intensity in the beginning but becomes even more important over time. We change. We evolve. We respond to circumstances. What worked last year is still true as a thesis this year but it may not produce the same results because it is affected by emotional status. When I adjust means and intensity according to my current temperament the benefits to my actions increase. No matter which dietary protocol is followed we can’t go against our own (emotional) grain for too long without damaging our physiology.

Learning what causes the least resistance takes time, possibly weeks or months and it will change over time. A high level of self-awareness can keep you out of the classic weight-loss trap of using what worked when you were younger, or even in the recent past. Metabolic and life circumstances change and so changes the stimulus/signal that is required to cause transformation.

The first step of any dietary intervention is to observe and admit that a problem exists. Whether due to weight gain, lack of performance, etc. you must diagnose and understand the exact nature of the problem. Then calculate how long it took you to get to your current state. If it was a three-month fall off the bus expect at least that to fix it. If a 30-year history of abhorrent behavior made you what you are today, you must accept that 30 days won’t dent the damage you’ve caused and to be discouraged by a lack of immediate progress shows a lack of realism.

Take a long view. Getting “ripped” for summer works well until the summertime achievement gives permission to reward oneself for how “good” he or she has been. “30 day diet challenges” last for exactly 30 days and realistically, most solutions begin producing results after three months. So take a slow, sustainable approach that addresses the influence of time constraints, family obligations, and even peer pressure, which can wreck any attempt at dietary change.

There are only a few reasons to take up special dieting protocol. The first is hitched to vanity. Aesthetic body re-composition is very different from performance-based dietary manipulation but much of what we know derives from confusion about aesthetics and athletics.

Body re-composition is usually a fat-loss, muscle-gain scenario. Bodybuilding as a sport requires enormous dedication to strict eating and training protocols. Much of what we know about supplementation, macronutrient partitioning and even hydration was discovered by bodybuilders trying to get as muscular and as lean as possible. That said bodybuilding is NOT what most dieters are doing nor are they equipped to do it. Their lack of understanding blurs the line between losing fat and gaining mass so their actions are inefficient, and the results dissatisfying because of that confusion. Similarly, when we confuse aesthetic goals with performance objectives it is easy to make drastic dietary mistakes.

No matter how good your abs look that appearance does not imply great sport performance. There are performance benefits to being as lean as possible and very few drawbacks but chasing leanness and performance simultaneously isn’t wise. The single-minded approach to fat-loss works best: plan it during a period when the accompanying loss of power makes sense, i.e. not during the sporting season, because it will happen. At a minimum you will likely lose motivation to train so either add an extra rest day between sessions or (and) increase the amount of sleep you get. If your norm is less than 6-7 hours per night simply adding two more hours per night may be all you need do to lose fat.

Being too lean – few are capable of becoming so – has a negative effect on recovery and can trigger connective tissue and joint problems. This is rare and manifests when males drop into the low single digits (percent-wise) of body fat. If you are actually training and competing in a sport you will know when you’re getting close to having a problem.

Most folks searching the web for fat-loss information aren’t concerned with sport performance so the information is skewed toward an aesthetic outcome, albeit with a bait-and-switch undercurrent of improved athletic capability. There aren’t shortcuts to any ability (worth having) so it should be obvious to any reader that promises of fat-loss, increased lean mass, more testosterone (euphemism for a bigger dick) and greater confidence should be dismissed for the hot air they are.

The more-for-less argument is prevalent when it comes to selling training plans as well. The recent talk of long slow aerobic work “damaging” the metabolism, or steady-state aerobic activity impairing the body’s ability to lose fat is a sales pitch for HIIT (high intensity interval training), which is characterized as the gold standard activity for fat-loss. Especially when viewed through the lens of competitive bodybuilding. To find out whether the blanket declarations are true for you and your objective you must first define the objective, assess your current condition, and learn whether your definitions of aerobic activity, steady state and high intensity are the same used to make those statements.

From an adaptation model the body’s caloric efficiency is phenomenal. In an abundance of food it uses the excess to fuel a host of different mechanisms. Pull that excess away it resorts to an onboard checklist to shut down what’s unimportant. When caloric restriction is prolonged for a period of time very few health risks arise aside from hair-loss and shedding of the toenails.

Stranger still, the body can adapt to increased exertion even without adequate fuel. This mechanism is advantageous for endurance sports, although in most cases an athlete never approaches the extreme deficit to trigger such efficient energy use. This ability to be efficient with calories is opposite to what is required for fat loss.

To illustrate individual efficiencies Dr. Layne Norton used an example of two 185-pound males who maintain their weight on 2000 and 3500 calories per day respectively despite similar levels of activity.

If the objective for each is to get as lean as possible it will be much “easier” for the 3500 calorie man because he can eat more without gaining weight. This seems contradictory until you understand that part of getting as lean as possible is developing a huge tolerance for calories. He can also trigger fat loss with only slight caloric deficit spread over a longer period whereas 2000-calorie man has very little margin to cut before the body refers to its hierarchic checklist and begins down-regulating metabolism.

On the other hand, if someone needed to survive on his own with very little access to food – let’s say to make it through a multi-day push on foot – the man already adapted to 2000 calories per day would have a much better chance (given that specific skills were equal in both men).

In most circles of “Pageantry” post-competition or off-season dietary training is used to slowly teach the body to accept more calories, especially carbohydrates. This adaptation creates a bigger margin – similar to the 3500-calorie man mentioned above – so there is less metabolic down-regulation during the next cut. The process is slow, and must be, i.e. add 5g of carbs and 2g of fat each week and if weight seems to stabilize then add the same the following week. The result might be to gain 1-2 pounds over a four-month cycle, but with an extra 600 calories to play with the added weight could be shed very easily, most likely upon the first deficit drop.

I believe the same strategy could be applied to endurance sports where a low bodyweight is helpful. Year-round racing and training puts the body in poor condition to lose weight and maintain power output. A slow adjustment in intake could theoretically set up conditions to easily drop unwanted weight without sacrificing performance. This would be the ultimate “long-view” and opposite of what happens for most endurance athletes, in the off-season when training volume and intensity are drastically reduced while calories are increased. Again, temperament must fit the cycle: if a “normal” off-season produces a greater desire to perform that may yield greater results than any sort of calorie-related metabolic manipulation.

Sadly, the majority of those using a standard endurance training protocol don’t understand what they are doing to themselves when they couple it to an extreme caloric deficit. This can set the stage for some terrible hormonal disruption as well as the frustration of reduced performance without fat-loss. Such a lack of results makes some people push even harder, which triggers even harsher survival activities in the body. Once the damage is done it is a very long road to reset metabolism. Those who try to cut weight while simultaneously building the volume demanded by their sport multiply the risks.

Losing weight – and fat specifically – contributes to performance in sports where locomotion is central. Clearly, there are exceptions but the point is this: gaining only the lean tissue that adds to locomotion and movement economy is a lifelong pursuit. The long view training approach combined with a slow and steady dietary protocol ensures that fewer mistakes are made. At least this approach makes such errors easier to detect, and smaller, which means less risk of disrupting an efficient athlete.

You must first define the objective, and truly be honest about it. Getting as lean as possible is a perfectly acceptable goal but strength, speed, or even endurance must take a back seat. If becoming as efficient as possible is your priority then a few extra ounces of intra-muscular triglycerides (let’s just call it fat) may not be appealing during beach season but makes the difference between a podium spot in a 50k trail race and a DNF.

Although the title of this article is Diet Intuition, to change the composition of your body requires you to dump intuition and feeling, and to be highly logical. It also means not punishing yourself for dietary mistakes and instead adjusting expectations and the timeline. If you are up against a hard deadline – for a movie role as an example – I suggest not making mistakes. Application of a temperament-adapted protocol reduces the odds of failure but increases the amount of self-awareness required and the education necessary to maintain and improve stalled weight loss. Thus it is not a quick fix, your results are a direct result of the effort and time invested.