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How Detail Oriented Do You Need to Be?

If the internet has accomplished one thing, it’s making people extremely obsessive compulsive about the most minute details of their training program and diet. Arguments and flame wars erupt over the absolutely least consequential of things. How many minutes should pass between sets, how long after workout before you drink your liquid beef aminos with waxy maize starch, stuff like that.

Of course, I’m as guilty as everyone else, I worry about such things and my books often contribute to the problem by providing fairly detail-oriented approaches to diet and training. However, I’m often writing for a fairly small population of folks (trying to reach the extreme low-end of leanness) for whom such details may matter.

Now, in my experience, a lot of people are attracted to complex approaches whether they need them or not, it’s just part of their psychological profile. At the same time, an equal number are plenty happy with nothing but basic simple guidelines.… Keep Reading

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Is a Calorie a Calorie?

Nutrition and nutritional science is often controversial in the sense that there may be vast disagreements over individual aspects of it.   And perhaps one of the biggest is the question “Is a calorie a calorie?”   While this seems obvious at first glance, the simple question hides a bit more nuanced debate.

Is a Calorie a Calorie?

The basic debate over whether or not a calorie is a calorie comes down to the following question: is all that matters to the body calorie/energy balance (i.e. calories in versus calories out) or do the source of those calories matter.

How you answer that question sort of depends on what you are talking about.  Are we talking about weight loss?  Fat loss?  Health?  Fullness?  Something else?    This matters but few will define their terms ahead of time.  And this just leads to people arguing across one another, making points about different things.

Now in the simplest sense, a purely energetic one, a calorie is a calorie. … Keep Reading

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You Are Not Different

All over the internet, on forums dedicated to everything from weight loss to muscle gain, people will loudly argue that they are different. “My metabolism is different.”, “My nervous system is different”, “My muscles are different”, things of that sort. Everyone is a unique and delicate flower, just like their mom told them.

This usually follows them explaining why the good advice that others have used can’t possibly work for them. They are also usually the ones making no progress who won’t even consider trying something else. THEY. ARE. DIFFERENT.

You Are Not Different

Individuals who have a lot of fat to lose either think that they can magically gain weight eating only a few hundred calories per day, or that they can lose weight just by rearranging their food in some special way. Because their metabolism is different.

Diets play on this of course, hiding the simple fact that they are causing you to eat less in a complicated pseudoscience of macronutrient ratios and such.… Keep Reading

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There Are No Training Secrets

What stimulated this article was an experience I had last week. As described in the About Me page I’m currently living in SLC Utah training full time at the speed skating oval trying to make National or Olympic qualifying trials (making the team, of course, is the ultimate dream).

The Big Kid Wants Training Secrets

Anyhow, last week I made friends with one of the other skaters (most of the skaters at the oval are, shall we say, unfriendly. Coming from me that’s saying a lot. I personally think they carry the same elitist prick gene that road cyclists carry but I digress). He’s young and big, I shall call him The Big Kid (TBK).

So TBK and I are at dinner talking skating. He tells me that he moved down here to try and make the national team. Ok, I’m down. Except that when I see him at the rink, he’s usually spending more time hitting on the chicks instead of training.… Keep Reading

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The Four Determinants of Metabolic Rate

In the article You Are Not Different, I made reference to the concept of energy balance and it’s time to expand on that concept by looking at the determinants of metabolic rate.

Energy Balance

In the most simplistic form, we can define energy balance as

Energy Balance = Energy In – Energy Out

Energy in is food, since this is the only place that human can absorb energy (calories and joules are both measures of energy). That side of the equation is relatively simple, just add up your total caloric intake. Actually it’s not because the different macronutrients are handled a little bit differently from one another so it’s not simply calories, but that’s another topic for another section. Energy out is the topic of the next several chapters but ultimately represents how many calories you expend in a day.

Long-term changes in energy balance are what ultimately determine what happens to the body.… Keep Reading