Exceed your minimum requirements, do not restrict below them.

Apparently I was feeling quite pleased with myself when I took this selfie.

Apparently I was feeling quite pleased with myself when I took this selfie.

For benefit of the new people or any who might have missed it the 8mililon times I talked about this already.

My philosophy is that the best approach is to be working to a set of targets that represent your MINIMUM energy and macronutrient requirements, with the intention of EXCEEDING those minimum targets.

Now what most people do is an arbitrary low calorie target which is actually far short of their minimum requirement, but they treat it as a maximum limit. What these people are doing, unfortunately, is ensuring a LACK of results by depriving their bodies of the energy and other resources that they REQUIRE not merely to fuel exercise and daily activity, but chiefly to RECOVER and ADAPT to training.

The purpose of training should not be merely to “burn calories”. The purpose is to adapt favourably to training with the creation of a stronger, fitter, more durable version of “you”. Simply put: you can’t build something out of nothing. How can you expect to recover & adapt to training with improved performance and improved condition without providing enough of the necessary resources via delicious food?

You just can’t.

So we should work on the principle of determining and then exceeding our minimum requirements. For most people it is entirely sufficient to simply be “in the ballpark” somewhere between what is “adequate” (aka minimum requirement) and what is “optimal” (aka maximum usable energy intake), and it is not necessary to fine tune a plan down to the last gram, last calorie, or last percentage point.

Working to a plan to meet and exceed your minimum requirements ensures success. It is not about going hungry, having willpower and resisting the temptation of enjoyable and indulgent treats once in a while. It is simply about providing the fuel, the energy and nutritional resources that your body requires, and training it to put as much of those resources as possible into the muscles where you want them to go, while drawing a little more on any fat stores to fuel less intense, non-exercise activity.

SURELY this makes 1000% more sense than assuming that a strong, healthy and athletic body comes via the imagined moral virtue or strength of character it would take to only “eat clean” at all times? Surely it makes 10000% more sense than thinking you can starve your body into strong, healthy and athletic shape via low calorie dieting?

For the vast majority of us, we need to be in the right ball park between adequate and optimal intake as often as possible. A little under or a little over on the odd occasion will not make a lick of difference, but habitually, on average, by default, we should have eating habits that are conducive to a “not inappropriate” total daily intake.

But I need to lose weight, first.

If your goal involves losing a small or even a more significant amount of weight, the first thing you need is an approach that is sustainable. It needs to actually be suitable to supporting your goal condition, and it needs to be something you can do habitually without stress or difficulty. Attempting any restrictive form of diet, whether restriction to a low calorie target or restriction of food choices is unworkable as you simply can’t expect to stick to it for more than… who knows? A few days, or a few weeks at a time?

By the way, while we’re talking about it: Failing to adhere to a restrictive diet is not an indication of poor character, weak mindedness, lack of discipline and so on. It is a physiological impossibility. Your body will DEMAND the energy that it has been deprived of, before too long. When that happens, you end up over eating and / or quitting the diet. But that is an inevitable outcome due to an unworkable approach. It is not a personal failing that other people would have been able to tough out.

No one succeeds on those approaches, ever. No one ever has, and no one ever will.

Even if you could stick to it, it would not be conducive to your goal. Not a lot of people seem to understand this, but while “calories in / calories out” is still the basis of any good strategy for long term success, when your “calories in” are too low and especially when your “calories out” is also too high, your body has no choice but to prioritise the conservation of energy and the preservation of fat stores. Think about that for a minute and consider how horrendously misguided all of these “1200 calories and 3 hours of cardio” type weight loss plans really are.

Here’s how I would probably build your plan if you came to me for help.

This varies depending on the circumstances but generally speaking, something like this.

For a person who’s about your height, your age, your sex and is getting started with a little activity, about how much total energy would they require to maintain a relatively lean, normal weight range?
For overweight people, this might just be “closer to” a normal weight range.
Also note that for athletic people, what is “normal” goes out the window anyway as we’re packing on more muscle and building stronger bones, so we’re more concerned with “strong and healthy condition” than with “normal weight” per se. But still, we need to start somewhere, and closer to this “historically normal” weight range is where we base our initial calculations.

That’s probably our MINIMUM requirement, to get started with.
Based on your height, age, a suitable goal weight range and what’s required to fuel a little activity.

“A little activity” is not what we’re doing though, so as we progress with training, we’ll need to increase further from this initial minimum requirement to a new minimum that is more representative of what you require not just to fuel some activity, but to perform, recover and adapt optimally to training.

So we start out conservatively but still significantly higher than the sorts of numbers people usually associate with “weight loss”, “dieting” or “healthy eating”, and then we strategically increase further towards what should be optimal intake for total energy and macronutrients.

Take all of the emotion out of it and just consider on purely logical grounds. Isn’t this exactly how you’d expect to produce results from training? Rather than by going hungry and abstaining from all of your favourite foods?

Jump to the Online Coaching page for video testimonials about how well this approach works out for my people.

Flexible Fueling Elite Cheat Sheet

As a rule I do not tell people what to eat, or what not to eat. I do not offer meal plans, and I won’t do them no matter how much you ask or how much you offer to pay me. That’s a job for an Actual Dietitian. Besides, the whole point of Flexible Fueling is to establish the habit of achieving appropriate daily intake from the choices of foods that best suit you.

That’s a concept many people over look. Here’s a great meal plan that perfectly matches your individual energy, macro and micronutrient requirements. Consisting entirely of foods you don’t have access to, don’t know how to cook, or just plain don’t like. How likely are you to stick to that for even a day or two? Even with some neanderthal of a trainer on your back busting your balls about discipline and will power and not wanting it badly enough?

“Eat it, it’s good for you” is an unworkable situation. Meeting your requirements how ever is easiest, with the choices of foods you’re most enthusiastic about… that’s a life long solution. For more ambitious, more advanced goals you might need to keep dialing that plan in tighter and tighter to keep seeing progress to the next level. For most people though, the ideal outcome is that you develop the ability to eat mindfully, or intuitively if you prefer, making choices on the fly that result in a total intake that is somewhere in the ball park of what’s “not inappropriate” relative to your needs.

To develop that ability though, takes practice. And to my way of thinking the most logical approach is to start by determining what your requirements are likely to be, and making a plan to meet those targets for the next few days, with foods you actually like at times of the day that best suits you.

As an active person your energy requirements are no small amount, even if you do have a weight loss goal. However without a plan it is easy to overshoot those targets, especially if you have no set schedule and just put off eating until you are ravenous. A plan or a restrictive diet that does not provide appropriate total energy will similarly result in being ravenous and over eating. A plan that is based on foods you don’t like will similarly result in being ravenous and over eating.

You probably know all of this by experience already.

Therefore in Flexible Fueling we are primarily concerned with our minimum requirements. If we have a plan to meet minimum requirements, we become aware of how much food we can fit into that plan, how much food we’re actually eating, and we include some of whatever we like and space it out throughout the day so we’re unlikely to end up reaching for something extra. We’re meeting our requirements, but not exceeding them… so we can expect great results without going hungry.

I hope that it is clear that I’m not talking about “restricting to as little as possible” but rather “ensuring we eat enough” when I talk about minimum requirements here.

For some of us, meeting that minimum requirement is not so easy. Especially for extra active people with improving performance, that minimum requirement can be quite a large amount. So if you are like me and a little short on appetite, here are some great healthy choices you might want to include to help meet your needs.

Remember… this isn’t some stupid “just add these foods to whatever your current eating habits are and you’ll lose weight because they’re magic” article like you’ll see all over the internet. These are some suggestions that you might find helpful in making your plan to meet your requirements. Actually having the plan to meet your requirements is the crucial part.

CoconutDessicated Coconut.

First of all, coconut is delicious and nutritious.

A while back I got into the habit of adding a scoop (15 grams) to my post training bro-tein shake (as well as a banana). There’s an easy extra 90 calories right there, along with a little extra fiber too.

Mixed NutsMixed Nuts.

First of all, nuts are delicious and nutritious.

You prefer a particular individual nut rather than mixed. Almonds are a good choice that will be some help in meeting your protein requirements, as well.

For mixed nuts though, a 30 gram serve is a good way of adding around 200 calories packed with nutritional value and including fiber. Fiber is very important.

Make sure you measure it out to the amount that you actually require to meet your targets though! Not just by the handful.

yesterdayfruitsFruit Salad.

First of all, fruit is delicious and nutritious.

Everyone knows I’m famous for my love of fruit. Now… not much is really mandatory in this system, but I say why the hell would you NOT want to enjoy more than the minimum requirement of delicious fruits?

Now while the other suggestions so far have been about adding some energy content in a small serving size, fruit is about adding a heap of enjoyment for a relatively small amount of energy. And of course, that all important fiber content not to mention all the Vitamin C.

And before anyone asks, NO we are not bloody worried about the sugar content!

fruit salad macros

Have a look at the stats on this example of a fruit salad I just put together. That’s a delicious, nutritious choice for 2nd breakfast or afternoon snack that’s going to add so much joy to your day for not even 200 calories.

Let me make this abundantly clear. People who try to tell you “watch the fruit when you’re trying to lose weight” are morons. Complete imbeciles with no idea what they’re talking about.

You want to make up your plan to meet your requirements with as many delicious and nutrient packed foods as possible. You want to enjoy eating, while still being sure of success in your training and body condition goals.

Fruit is one of the best choices you can include for health and happiness.

This holiday season, let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

That’s the advice I have given my clients about the coming few weeks.

This is about balance. There are going to social engagements and strict adherence to our nutritional targets is probably not on the cards. So what though? We can loosen the reigns and enjoy ourselves like everyone else without everything falling apart.

Just be mindful about how often and how much of those indulgences you are … well… indulging in. There’s a difference between loosening the reigns, and throwing yourself out of the saddle and off the side of a cliff. But unless you really set out to sabotage yourself, you probably won’t.

If you only have one or two engagements, for example work Christmas party and family Christmas dinner… I would barely even give it a second thought. Perhaps leave a little extra room in the plan with a lighter lunch than usual. Easy.

If you have several engagements to attend, let’s say department Christmas party, social club Christmas party, company Christmas party, you’re invited to a client’s Christmas part as well… well, use your intuition. Remember that going without earlier in the day is likely to lead to over eating later on. Find the balance.

Really though, even if you do over indulge a little over the next few weeks, let’s put it into context of being people who train consistently and have appropriate eating habits about 50 weeks of the year… and what do we really have to be worried about? Besides which, in January we are going to dial it in and tighten it up. Not to “make up for” anything, not out of guilt or any of that nonsense. We do it because we CAN and because we are ENTHUSIASTIC.

Pick your moments. A crucial part of a strategy for long term success is knowing when is the appropriate time to step it up, and when is the appropriate time to cut yourself some slack. A healthy approach and a healthy attitude is crucial.

If you’re as enthusiastic as we all are about stepping it up in January and getting the new year off to the right start, pre-register via the Online Coaching page right here.

 

Dieting: From One Extreme To Another

I had a bit of an idea the other day about comparing what is “recommended” vs what is “good enough to get the job done” in terms of approaches and adherence to dieting. What is recommended varies wildly from one source to another.

What probably should be recommended is something a bit better than simply “good enough to get the job done” in terms of weight loss or conditioning goals. There should be some attention on good health, as well. With that said, what is often recommended by certain elements of the health and fitness is so extreme that you end up with the somewhat paradoxical situation of being unhealthy due to an unhealthy level of obsession with avoiding anything that is unhealthy, at all times and at all costs. When you lift the bar on what counts as “healthy” to an unrealistic level, well… it’s really not good, is it?

I had the idea to try to create a graphical representation of this, and here’s what I have come up with.

It isn’t so much a scale from “unhealthiest to healthiest”, so much as a scale of the level of attention to detail that someone might pay to their diet; from reckless indifference to extreme and unhealthy obsessiveness.


Ok, I guess you’re going to have to click it for a readable version.

Now, anywhere within that black range towards the centre of the graphic is about what I would consider “good enough to get the job done” in terms of your body condition and composition goals. The range there is from “absolute bare minimum” to more fine tuned plans for the highly motivated and enthusiastic advanced level athletes who may require them. Anything in the red represents what is inappropriate through to what is actually unhealthy or destructive at the extreme ends of the scale.

Either extreme is unhealthy and not recommended, that’s the real take home point here.

Let’s take a look at all the points on the scale and I’ll give you my impression of each label. Cut me some slack if my interpretation is not precisely and exactly what you associate with each label, you can still get the point I’m trying to make, I am sure.

Actually Unhealthy

The obvious example would be just no attention to diet at all, vastly excessive over all intake, while still being low on important nutritional resources such as fibre, vitamins and minerals. One could arrive at this state of vastly excessive total intake either just through consistent over eating, or perhaps by “forgetting” to eat at some times and massively over eating later.

Just Inappropriate

This label probably applies to the majority of people. Their eating habits are not really so unhealthy as you’d actually expect serious health complications or reduced life expectancy, but they’re certainly not conducive to any weight management, sports performance or body composition goals, either.

Belligerent IIFYM

You know. Think of the most ridiculous negative stereotype of some IIFYM gym bro deliberately making a point of choosing all the most highly processed, least wholesome, nutrient sparse foods, somehow managing to squeeze them into a plan that meets suitable total energy and macronutrient ratios, and in an obnoxious voice proclaims to anyone within ear shot “I don’t give a fuck bro! IIFYM bro! I’m getting shredded bro!”

I don’t think anyone in real life actually does that. It’s certainly not what anyone recommends, as far as I’m aware anyway.

You know what though? As much as I would not, can not, and do not recommend it, this approach actually is “good enough to get the job done” at least a good portion of the way.

Flexible Dieting

Flexible Dieting is something of an upgraded, more “responsible adult” version of what IIFYM was supposed to be. You need to hit your appropriate total energy intake and have a suitable balance of macronutrients, but not while neglecting other important nutritional resources such as … well… you know, vitamins and minerals and fibre.

Now, different people may have a different take on this but for the sake of differentiating from the next point, let’s assume here that we’re not terribly concerned about avoiding processed foods and so on… and it’s more like “appropriate macros + enough fruit and veg”.

That’s actually how I do it, anyway. “Do better if you can but appropriate macros + enough fruit and veg is more than enough to get the job done”.

What Real Dietitians Recommend

I happen to follow, be followed by, collaborate with, and try to learn from some highly qualified “real” dietitians via social media. My observation of their recommendations tends to quite similar to Flexible Dieting, but with less emphasis on the numbers (as in macronutrient percentages and so on, which is more of a “sports nutrition” thing), and more of an emphasis on “a variety of foods, less (but not a total avoidance of) processed foods, more fruit and veg, and to a total intake that is neither excessive nor insufficient”.

Quite sensible and not terribly unrealistic really, isn’t it?

So quite appropriately, those two previous classifications fall nicely into the middle of my graphic, and there’s a reason why those are the recommended approaches of responsible and qualified professionals. It’s what is suitable to promote good health within an appropriate weight range, while enabling performance and results from training (where applicable), while still being non restrictive, flexible, and relatively simple to adhere to so long as you are being mindful and paying a little attention.

Let’s continue though. I am building up to an important point here, believe it or not.

Advanced and Elite Level Athletes

Obviously, when you get to advanced levels of human physical ability, you need a more advanced fueling strategy. Greater total energy intake, perhaps more precise macronutrient percentages, you may find that a particular schedule and particular foods before or after training benefit your performance or recovery. Some athletes increased total energy requirements mean that they can indulge on more of the less nutrient dense foods, others perhaps not so much.

Exactly what is required varies from one athlete to the next. It is not unreasonable to say that what is required is a little (or a lot) more attention to detail than would be necessary for the rest of us.

Contest Prep

Contest prep is an interesting one! I do know there are at least a handful of a really good contest prep coaches who achieve tremendous results through healthy and flexible methods. Obviously though, the high level of attention to detail and adherence is still necessary.

More typically though, contest prep is strict and inflexible, and extremely demanding physically and psychologically. I read an excellent blog entry the other day giving people the heads up of what is really required in contest prep, and that really it is the ultimate in extreme and restrictive dieting, and people need to really be honest with themselves as to whether it would be a rewarding or disastrous experience.

What is important to note with contest preparation is that it is ultra fine tuned dieting for a period leading up to a specific date where the contestant wants to arrive in an unsustainable condition in terms of low body fat and high lean mass. This is not a level of dietary adherence OR physical condition that people are attempting to maintain permanently.

That is so important to realise.

As a side note, people are always suggesting or asking me why I don’t do a contest myself. Let me make this clear first, I have nothing but the utmost admiration and respect for the athletes who put in the work and pull that off. For me though? Screw that! You’d need to want it really badly to put enough pressure upon yourself to adhere to such a strict protocol with so much discipline, and I’m not even entertaining the notion of deluding myself about how well I would hold up under such pressure and how much discipline I would be able to maintain.

Backing up 3 or 4 levels on our scale here, that “Flexible Dieting” level along with some consistent and effective training is really all that is required to get into a shape you’ll be more than happy with. So that is all I ask of myself, and all I ask of my clients as well.

The Next Level

We talked about contest preparation being in many cases an extreme, restrictive and not particularly healthy process. We emphasised that this is a temporary situation, to come in on one particular, specific day in peak shape as far as the judging criteria goes. The well advised contestant will also have an exit strategy in order to recover physically and mentally from such a taxing experience.

What if people really did think such an extreme and restrictive approach was required at all times though, with 100% adherence? And not just to be in contest shape, either; but simply to avoid being obese and unhealthy?

Unfortunately… scandalously, really, that is the message and the recommendation of many aspects of the health and fitness community. Certainly it is good advice to encourage people to include more healthy, nutrient dense and naturally produced foods on a regular basis. When people are told that their health, their results in weight loss or conditioning from training, and even their worth as a human being are all dependant on the strictest of adherence to the highest possible levels of “healthy eating”, there is a big problem. When people are taught that even fruit, for example is “not healthy enough”, there is a huge problem.

Ironically in these situations, the diets actually become so restrictive that there can be issues with deficiencies in certain micronutrients, as the list of “allowable” foods because so short. Deficiency in total energy intake is also a potentially serious problem.

So. There is the “rough and dirty version” of what will get the job done, there is “what responsible professionals might recommend” as the most balanced, flexible and sensible way to get the job done, and then there is the extreme, restrictive, impractical and unhealthy bordering on the obsessive and disordered approaches that certain aspects of the health and fitness community endorse, and use scare mongering, guilt and shame to encourage.

Looking back at my chart, you can see there is a wide area there representing various approaches to diet and nutrition that will “get the job done”. Contrary to what many would try to scare you into believing, there is not just one acceptable or effective set of eating habits that will allow you to achieve good health and goal condition, with any even slight variance spelling doom.

You most certainly can achieve your goals, be healthy and happy with your physical condition through whatever approach best suits you, providing the focus is on appropriate total energy intake, adequate protein, and enough fruit and vegetables.

If you’re interested in my approach to flexible dieting and the tremendous results you can achieve through effective training without restrictive or disordered eating, head through and sign up to the VIP Flexible Fueling Pre-Program. It’s free.

 

Skeptical? You should be.

Be skeptical of any product that claims to be good for solving all manner of problems, rather than a specific one. You know, like you keep seeing on facebook and so on… these miracle pills they’ve made out of some magical fruit only found in some remote and exotic location, with a list of literally every illness and ailment known to mankind which it supposedly cures? It’s a pretty safe bet that a product is an outrageous scam, if it claims to be some kind of “cure all”.

Now, with that out of the way, let’s talk about my Flexible Dieting & Online Coaching Program and I’ll tell you what it has proved useful for, so far.

  • Weight Loss.
  • Body Sculpting.
  • Body Building (male).
  • Improved Performance In Sports.
  • Eating Disorder Prevention & Recovery.

It’s quite a list, so I wouldn’t blame you for being skeptical.

For those who don’t know about it already, the program is set up online and it consists of a number of different training routines, each of which are customisable to suit each client with a variety of options for each exercise. I happen to work out of perhaps the greatest gym in the world, with virtually unlimited options… but that’s a luxury, not a requirement. The program is set up so that we have options in the event that a certain piece of equipment is unavailable, as well as to suit each client’s level of confidence and ability.

So we have a great and effective training program, and when we match the training program with appropriate fueling we have a system that really can’t fail to produce results. Just like with the training program though, the nutrition side of things needs to be tailored to each client. People have different fueling requirements, different activity levels outside of training, certain foods might be unavailable or just unappealing to them. You can’t just deal out the same “eat it, it’s good for you” meal plan to everyone and expect it to be suitable. A lot of people DO do that, but they shouldn’t.

Let’s just talk about the first four points for now. How can one program deliver results for such a variety of goals?

Well the program is unique, and yet not so unique. The way I’ve grouped the different movements is somewhat unique, then you have the choices of rep ranges and rest durations between sets for the different movements and exercises. The fact that the program is so customisable is certainly quite unique. At the same time though, it is just one example of how a competent and knowledgeable trainer might design a program to produce results.

In designing an effective program, there are certain bases you’ve got to cover. Certain movements that you really do need to include, or you’re left with a much less effective, and unbalanced program. Once those bases are covered and all the most important elements of the program are in place, I can add a choice selection of secondary exercises that complement them. That wasn’t enough for me though. What if it is a more advanced client who has already been training for some time? What if it is a brand new client who’s not as confident or physically just not ready for some of the big moves? I wanted to be prepared for all possibilities as best I could.

So, the program works the way a program should, and it delivers the results that it should. When we talk about weight loss, we want to develop and maintain more lean mass (muscle and bone density) at the expense of body fat stores. When we talk about body sculpting with a female client, we want to develop and maintain lean mass at the expense of body fat stores. When we talk about body building with a male client, we want to develop and maintain lean mass at the expense of body fat stores. That’s what any effective program should be designed with a focus on.

Having developed more muscle mass and strong bones while shedding excess adipose (fat) tissue, doesn’t it also stand to reason that performance in other sports would improve? Especially if this is the first time you’ve also been properly fueled for performance and results, as I find is often the case. Note that this is the distinct opposite to being “on a diet”.

Now, we’ve talked about what makes a program effective in terms of covering the bases with the most important stuff that actually promotes the physiological changes that we’re looking for. As I said earlier, my program is just one of virtually unlimited ways that you might choose to put such a program together. However, you’d be surprised by how rare this actually is amongst exercise programs that you’ll see advertised or freely available online. The vast majority seem only to be concerned with “burning calories”, as if simply expending energy in whatever form of otherwise pointless activity was enough to change your body condition. Others consist only of more elegant or dignified seeming exercises, which will prove entirely inconsequential due to the omission of the important stuff as discussed above.

The other thing.

I have had a few clients come to me already in recovery from a diagnosed eating disorder, so obviously it is critical importance that they do not get involved with a trainer or coach who is just going to send them back where they came from. Others have come to me perhaps realising that the restrictive approaches they’ve had recommended to them are leading them down a bad path to a place they do not want to end up, and they need a change in direction.

When people have an ineffectual training program, matched with restrictive and inappropriate dieting instructions, you can easily imagine what a dangerous combination this is. People are serious about results and are prepared to do what it takes to achieve them, even if they have to suffer to do so. Unfortunately, if you look at a lot of fitness related marketing and “motivational” type stuff on the internet, there’s a clear message that if you are not seeing results it is because you don’t want it bad enough and you’re not prepared to suffer enough.

That is a terrible message.

99 times out of 100, the real problem is with the lack of a structured and effective training problem, and even more to do with not having appropriate nutrition advice. Results from training do not come from restriction of food choices or from restriction of intake in general. It is preposterous to believe that if you “just eat healthy foods” you’ll automatically arrive at suitable total intake for great (or any) results from training, and that if you ever eat “unhealthy” foods you’ll automatically arrive at an excessive intake resulting in fat gain.

Results come from appropriate total intake, and this is best made possible by allowing people to include any foods that they enjoy in amounts conducive to meeting their requirements. By setting appropriate targets and removing any restrictions on food choices, we can ensure great results from an effective training system, while un-learning any disordered ideas about food that we’ve picked up in the past.

Why diet and exercise doesn’t work.

If you want results from training, you need to be working to a system that is designed with results in mind.

“Results” can mean a variety of things, but let’s clarify and say “the results that you actually signed up for”. I know there’s a lot of people out there in the business of selling gadgets or systems of producing data that shows some change in numbers representing “results from training”… but I always wonder “who joins a gym or hires a trainer with that result in mind, though?”

I think people are either looking for a specific result in terms of improving sporting performance, or more commonly they’re looking to change their body condition. Maybe a weight loss (or gain) goal, or a body condition goal in terms of building a more lean and athletic (I refuse to say “toned”) figure or physique. I think it is fair to say that’s what most people are looking for, and a lot of this other stuff with technology and gadgetry and so on is a bit of a distraction employed by people who lack the understanding required to deliver the result that clients and gym members are actually looking for. I’ve noticed a few people in the business buying into this idea that a relatively lean, athletic body condition at “historically normal” weight is an unlikely and unreasonable goal… and so it’s handy for them to be able to show or encourage the pursuit of some other goal instead.

I don’t know man. The way I look at things is a little bit different. You can’t really argue that a “historically normal” weight is anything unusual or unlikely. And if you’re participating in physical exercise, it’s not unreasonable to expect to develop an athletic physique in due course. Assuming of course that you’re following a strategy that is suitable to producing that outcome, either by fluke or preferably by design.

So, I’m going to go ahead and assume we’re talking about a goal of going from over weight and out of shape, to a more normal weight and in quite reasonable shape. From there, we’re likely to get ambitious and set a new goal of going from quite reasonable shape to quite tremendous shape.

Let’s start at the beginning though. Why do we get fat?

Well! That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? If we really get down to it, there’s socio-economic reasons, education is a factor, certainly the influence of the media, prevalence of urban myths, disinformation spread by marketers of weight loss products, and psychological reasons behind over eating are a big part of the equation as well. But for the sake of this article let’s just focus on the physiological, for now.

Actually scratch all of that. Let’s start with someone who’s NOT going to get fat, shall we?

Let’s imagine a “normal” adult, currently at about normal weight relevant to their height, about a normal sort of lifestyle and normal level of activity, and eating about a normal amount. It seems like that’s not so normal any more, doesn’t it? But can we agree that there’s no reason to expect this person to gain weight? They’re eating amount that is appropriate for their lifestyle and body type.

Pretty simple, and I know there are some people out there making lots of money from books talking about how certain food choices get stored as fat and others don’t… but forget all of that. You don’t get fat unless you regularly consume an amount that is in excess of what is suitable for your lifestyle at a normal weight range.

Now, imagine the same adult, consuming the same “normal” amount, but with a very inactive lifestyle. That is, a normal amount of intake, with a less than normal amount of activity. Or for that matter, still with a normal level of activity but eating more than a normal, appropriate amount? They’d be likely to get a little fat, wouldn’t you say? Now then… how about both issues combined? A very inactive lifestyle combined with excessive intake?

People are always looking for a more complicated explanation, but this is what it boils down to. Lack of activity, and excessive intake. What to do about it though? The answer isn’t quite as clear cut as you might think.

Diet

A diet is a poor choice of solution. Really, a diet is something you go on to make up for a lack of activity. Being inactive, you don’t require a lot of fuel… therefore, you have to eat less in order not to exceed those requirements.

There are a couple of problems with this, not the least of which is your psychological need to enjoy delicious foods of your choice. As an inactive person, your requirements are so low that there’s just not a lot of room in the plan for any indulgent choices without having to go hungry later in the day. You just can’t stick to it! Physiologically too, your body will adapt to this level of fueling and your progress will stall, requiring an even greater restriction of intake and food choices in order to see further weight loss.

Also, any progress through dieting alone is strictly “weight loss”, and not “getting into shape”. That is to say, you’ll simply be in the same sort of shape at a lower weight. Further more, there’s really no reason to assume that the majority of any weight lost will be from body fat stores. Without strategic training, it is more likely that weight loss will come through reduced bone density and lean muscle mass, which isn’t what we want, at all.

Exercise

Above I used the term “strategic training”. This is different to simply “exercising” the way most people do it.

Just as a diet is something to make up for being under active, “exercise” is something to make up for over eating. Turn on the TV and every third commercial is for some device that “burns more calories” than the previous one! Exercise programs are marketed on how many calories they burn, too. Even most personal trainers are just putting workouts together designed to entertain and exhaust people, rather than strategic training programs to produce that result of being in lean, athletic shape.

At best, it is simply “expending energy, to make up for having consumed too much”… and really if your only purpose in exercising is to expend energy, you might as well have just stayed inactive and eaten less. So here we’re talking about putting a lot of effort into replicating the effect of doing something else that doesn’t work, either.

Diet And Exercise

Unfortunately, this is what most people do. A diet as if to make up for a lack of activity, while exercising as if to make up for over eating… or in many cases as if to make up for having eaten anything at all. This is a destructive approach that at best leads nowhere, and at worst leads to disaster.

Strategic Training With A System Designed To Produce Results

Tomorrow I’ll write a new entry about how my system works, how it has evolved and how I can custom tailor it to suit each individual client. You’ll see that this is quite distinctly different to simple “diet and exercise”.

 

Vegetarian Health And Fitness

I’m long over due for an entry just for the vegetarians. For those who might have missed it, I’m vegetarian myself and I have had a host of vegetarian and vegan clients locally and around the world. For myself, I started out as just a “fussy eater who wouldn’t eat meat” but eventually got my act together and added and incorporated enough new food choices to be able to put a reasonably balanced diet together suitable to maintain good health and pursue my training related goals with a reasonable amount of success.

Being vegetarian or vegan is no disadvantage in the pursuit of weight loss or fitness goals.

What I talk about more often on my blog and facebook is “Flexible Dieting”, which covers what I said above. Rather than having a rigid “eat it and learn to like it, it’s good for you” type of diet that’s been put together by someone else, Flexible Dieting is all about the understanding that you can determine your nutritional requirements and then plan to meet them with your own choice of foods.

Now… this idea is a source of consternation amoungst some people in the health and fitness world. The argument often comes up along the lines of “so what if you’ve met your targets and seen tremendous results from training? You should be eating better and healthier choices of foods!” as if by definition this means we would belligerently abuse the concept by choosing the most dubious options of processed or fast foods. Well, whether or not people should be doing it that way is perhaps another conversation for another day… but the fact remains that people out there have indeed found a way to meet their requirements and produce truly amazing results while regularly consuming what you or I might consider unwise or unhealthy food choices.

If it can be done like that, it can certainly be done on a vegetarian or even a vegan diet.

Flexible dieting recognises that the nutritional content of foods are more important than the source of the food or some arbitrary classification that we ascribe to it. For example, if your total calorific intake is not in excess of an amount that your body can utilise for energy and to grow stronger in response to training, it will indeed all be put to good use regardless of it is broccoli or ice cream. If you are consuming an adequate amount of protein, it will all be put to use to maintain your lean body mass regardless of it being plant, dairy, soy, egg or animal protein. If you are getting sufficient vitamin and mineral intake it will all be put to good use regardless of coming from fresh fruits and vegetables, or processed cereals.

Make no mistake though, this isn’t a license to just eat as much as we want of whatever unhealthy crap we want, and still expect results. We need to meet our requirements and some choices of foods will prove much wiser than others in the pursuit of this goal. Keep in mind too that just because someone does eat a “normal” diet including meat and other animal products is no guarantee that they would be meeting (and not exceeding) their requirements either. If we are wise and if we are serious about results, we’ll have used a scientific method to determine those requirements, and then created a plan to meet them with choices of foods that we’ll enjoy eating. Until you’re at really elite, competition preparation level, your plan doesn’t even need to be all that tight or strict. You can get…. well, you can get at least as far as I’ve gone with a very flexible approach, so long as you get it about right most of the time.

What are the advantages of a vegetarian diet?

I believe in learning your requirements, planning to meet them with your choice of foods, and training strategically to put all of those resources to good use in building your dream body. I don’t believe in lecturing other people on what those choices should be, and in fact I spend a lot of time helping people realise they’ll be a lot happier and see better results when they eat according to their own ideals rather than trying to force themselves to meet someone else’s. If you want to avoid preservatives and additives, be vegetarian, vegan, or whatever else… it’s your choice. My job is to help you achieve your training goals regardless of that choice, not to judge your choices or to try convince you to just copy my diet.

So, advantages of a vegetarian diet? Appropriate fiber intake is crucial for good health and results from training, and you’ll get plenty of this from vegetables and legumes in particular. Micronutrients are also very important, and you’re almost certain to meet your vitamin and mineral requirements effortlessly if you consume a variety of vegetables, as well as fruits. I would suggest avocado and coconut as excellent choices to boost your total calorific intake and to meet your requirements of healthy dietary fats.

What about protein, though?

Latest research suggests that even in athletes, human protein requirements are significantly lower than previously thought. Lacto-ovo vegetarians can easily meet these requirements, and there are numerous other plant based protein sources available. Tofu, tempeh, seitan, quorn… the list goes on.

Ensure success with the right plan to meet your goals with your choice of foods.

Shoot me a message here or on facebook to discuss your options for Online Coaching, or to train with me in person at Doherty’s Gym in Brunswick.

We’re two weeks into my Flexible Dieting Challenge

Officially we’re two weeks in anyway… a couple of people got in early and started a week ahead, a couple of people started a few days late. Officially though, two weeks in and already we are seeing results and in many cases we’re seeing results for the first time with people who’ve been trying a lot of different things for a long time without success.

For those who somehow missed the several dozen other entries on the subject, I’ll give you a (really way too) simple run down of what Flexible Dieting means, and I’ll tell you something else you might find a little surprising and a lot interesting. Flexible Dieting means… well, it’s easier to say what it doesn’t mean is following a strict diet with only certain foods allowed, other foods not allowed, set meal times and frequencies, different rules for different times of the day, and so on. Rather it just means “meet your requirements with your choice of foods”.

A lot of other diets or weight loss programs will emphasise those other considerations either because it’s easier to market the idea of a complicated system that you’ll never get right without their help, or just because they don’t actually have a very good understanding of how things really work. At the end of the day, you could quite conceivably get all of that right, avoiding all of the banned foods and only eating at the right times, but still end up exceeding your energy requirements. Simply put, if you consume too many calories you won’t lose weight… no matter how well you adhere to all of the other rules. Conversely, if your intake is consistently at a suitable calorific deficit to result in weight loss… wouldn’t you still expect to lose weight even if you still included some of the “bad” foods or ate outside of the proscribed schedule? Of course you would.

So at the end of the day, total calories are by far the most important concern. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either lying to try to sell you something, or they’re just not very smart. Now the issue that we still have with the “total calories” model though is that most people just think that means “eat less” in all circumstances. If you’re not losing weight, you need to eat less. And less, and less. Still not losing weight? Still eating too much.

This is not just incorrect, but you can easily imagine just what dangerous and potentially damaging advice that is. Sadly, it is still the default position for most of the “it’s calories” people. No matter how little you’re eating, you could always eat less and that’s what you need to do in order to lose weight. It is a source of great consternation to me that I seem to be one of the only people who understands that this isn’t correct.

So that’s a lot about how I DON’T do it.

In my system, or primary concern is with ensuring that we meet or exceed a minimum total calorie target that I feel is suitable for weight loss, but also appropriate to meet the client’s needs in fuelling their lifestyle and produce results at training. So they’ll get a “no lower than this much, perhaps as high as this much” target calorie range that they need to hit more often than not. Within that range, we also have targets for our protein, fats and carbohydrate intake. The longer I’ve been doing this, the more I’ve made those targets a wider range with a “close enough is good enough” attitude. Fibre is something I’m beginning to place more emphasis on, and I’m starting to believe that ensuring adequate fibre intake is of much greater importance than really tight macro ratios in producing results. Also important is micronutrition, and I encourage my clients to enjoy a wide variety of fruits every day as well as their choice of vegetables to provide all of those important vitamins and minerals for good health. Lately you have a few people out there pushing this idea that fruit might not quite be the great, healthy choice that we’ve always thought it was… but let me officially explain right now that those people are complete imbeciles not capable of a logical, reasoned thought process, and you should summarily disregard anything and everything they have to say on the subject ever.

So there you have a pretty simple set of guidelines. Make sure you get at least this much, try not to go over that much… fit in as much enjoyable, nutritious foods as you can… but as long as you hit your target ranges more often that not… whatever’s clever, you know?

Now what’s interesting about this is that quite often people will get a bit carried away with this “flexibility” idea, and start to really abuse the concept, and treat it like they have free reign to just indulge on whatever they like! As if their body will just utilise whatever fuel they put into it as long as it is not in excess of their requirements, regardless of the source. “Dave says all that matters is that I hit my targets, and I’m still a bit low on calories…ICE CREAM IT IS THEN” for example. That sort of thing.

What do you think happens to my clients who take that sort of attitude to Flexible Dieting?

Well you might be surprised by the answer to that question. Almost every time, those are the people who get the very best results, immediately and on going. They’re meeting their requirements, not stressing out, not associating any negative feelings of guilt or failure with eating for enjoyment. They’re doing it confidently and easily, and will continue to do so for lasting results.

They have a plan that suits their tastes, suits their schedule, and delivers the results like no other. That’s what I do for people.

Flexible Dieting For Weight Loss and Recovery

hhhfruitSimply put, Flexible Dieting means meeting your nutritional requirements with a plan based around all of your favourite foods.

The only reason to “go on a diet” should be to ensure and develop a habit of consuming an appropriate intake to suit your lifestyle, and to train your appetite to match those requirements.

Once your requirements, your appetite and your intuition (re: choices of foods) are in tune, you’ll feel like you are just eating whatever you fancy whenever you’re hungry, and you’ll be seeing better results from training than ever before. Sadly as we all know, this is precisely the opposite strategy that most people have in mind when they think “diet” and adopt restrictive, starvation plans requiring the elimination of any foods that they enjoy eating. The results of these conventional diets are the opposite as well.

For Weight Loss:

Contrary to popular belief, you do not lose more weight by eating as little as possible, and you don’t “earn” weight loss by forcing yourself to eat things you don’t like and depriving yourself of any indulgence. Quite often, my weight loss clients actually eat MORE following my guidelines than they have done previously, and there is no guilt involved when they include some indulgent foods within their plan.

Here’s what we need to consider when building your Flexible Dieting plan for weight loss:

  • Expected maximum calorie target to fuel your lifestyle and maintain your goal body type, long term.
  • An interim maximum calorie target, at a suitable deficit to promote weight (fat) loss, shorter – medium term.
  • Minimum calorie target required to fuel your lifestyle and see results from training. Regularly falling below this target would be detrimental.
  • Suitable fibre intake, and a suitable balance of macronutrients. That’s protein, fats, and carbohydrates.
  • Plenty of fruits and vegetables for an adequate supply of micronutrients. That’s your vitamins and minerals.

Within that target calorie range, we know that absolutely everything we put into the body WILL be utilised as fuel, for recovery and to adapt to training. Obviously some choices of foods will be easier to fit into a plan to meet these targets than others, but there is no need to avoid anything entirely or to start feeling bad whenever you eat something that’s “bad”. If you enjoy it and can fit it into your plan and still hit your targets, it’s all good and will all be put to use. Even ice cream.

For the fussy eaters:

If you’re good at eating your vegetables, get a good variety and this should go a long way towards meeting your fibre and micronutrient requirements. If your choices are more limited; include the ones that you do like regularly, and if there a few that you “aren’t crazy about, but can stand now and then” you should try to include a little of those as often as you can, too.

This is all about making the best choices for the most suitable plan that you can stick to. It is NOT about trying to force feed yourself things that you can’t stand. If your success with this plan inspires you to experiment with and include some new choices of vegetables all the better, but if not, hey it is still an improvement. You don’t have to be perfect.

Fruits are another excellent source of micronutrients (fibre too), as well as being absolutely delicious and enjoyable. I encourage you to indulge on a variety of fruits every day, within the context of a plan that meets but does not exceed your targets. Don’t listen to any idiot who tells you fruit is not a great choice. Tell them to shut their damned dirty lying mouth.

For Recovery:

If you’ve been a victim of crash or yo-yo dieting with conventional, restrictive approaches you already know how damaging they can be to both your body and your mind. The first thing, and perhaps the hardest thing that people need to understand about recovery is that it does not mean “accepting defeat” and giving up on the idea of your goal body type. It means the opposite.

Here’s my best advice on how to use Flexible Dieting to create the mindset for recovery:

  • Focus on exceeding your minimum requirements to ensure you are fuelled up for great results, rather than on restricting intake.
  • Train productively to build your goal body, rather than just exercising “to burn calories”.
  • Understand that so long as you are within your target range for total intake, every calorie you take in will be put to good use in making you stronger, healthier and happier – regardless of the source.
  • Stop thinking that results from training (and for that matter, your worth as a human being) is dependant on having the willpower to abstain from anything enjoyable at meal time. You’re here to enjoy life and indulge your passions. You have to do the work too, but that is something to take pride and satisfaction from.
  • Believe in your own potential for greatness, and be motivated by that belief.

Isn’t this exactly what you need? If so, jump to my new Flexible Dieting sign up page for a whole lot of important free information, and you can hit me up for a free consultation as well.

DaveHPT Custom Flexible Dieting Guidelines: Testimonial

Here’s a nice video testimonial from a great supporter and customer of mine, who was smart enough to follow the Custom Flexible Dieting Guidelines I produced for her a while back.

As you can hear for yourself, the benefits of Flexible Dieting, and in particular MY approach to Flexible Dieting are many and varied. The benefits of being aware of and focussed upon exceeding your minimum requirements, rather than on restricting to some arbitrary “very low calorie” target should almost go without saying. Let’s run through some of them in random order all the same:

  • You’re actually fuelling your body properly, enabling good health and great results from training.
  • You quickly learn to build your own plan, consisting of more of the foods you like to eat, including some purely for enjoyment.
  • As you learn the macronutrional value of different foods and train your appetite to be more in tune with your requirements, you will be far less likely to over or under fuel when eating intuitively.
  • Understanding just how much fuel their bodies will utilise to fuel, recover from and adapt to training, and with no restrictions on what food choices are included in meeting those requirements, my clients soon feel like they are just “eating whatever they want”, and still seeing better results than ever before.

Sign up here for my 12 Week Flexible Dieting Challenge, kicking off officially on the first of December, 2013.