You know him as Will Smith, but I’ll always remember him as The Fresh Prince. And he wisely once said, “Summer, summer, summer-time. Lets just sit back and unwind.”
I wish that were the case man, but I’ve been busy touring around the Fitness Scene talking about poolside peaking and intermittent feasting. Turns out having a 6-pack to make up for inadequacies in other areas actually works, at least during the summer. Here’s Men’s Fitness giving a little bit of love to intermittent fasting protocols in general, and me and the Intermittent Feast approach in specific.
CLICK HERE to watch the video below
I’m still working on my strategy for the winter. Maybe I’ll work on building some cannonball shoulders.
OCS: THE RISE OF THE OVER-COMPLICATION SYNDROME
But seriously, a lot of questions have been pouring into my extremely neglected inbox. I’m hoping this post answers a lot of them at once. Its clear to me in the Internet Era, some very bad habits are starting to form, especially amongst more intermediate and advanced athletes. People seem to think the more complex their program is — the more details and ornaments they can jam into it — the more effective it is. Or they’ll read 5 different books and 50 different articles, and try to follow them all at the same time. Any of this sound familiar:
“I do daily intermittent fasting, then I do a 24 hour fast twice a week, then once a month I fast for a week, then once a year I fast for a month, and once a decade I shall not eat for the entire year. What do you think about fasting for a decade every century?”
“3 days a week I do strength work in the morning, then I go back in the evening and do some metabolic conditioning or HIIT, then 4 days a week I cross-train at lunch, I also do some strongman in the mid-mornings on my days off, I hit P90x right before I go to bed. Oh yeah, 3 times a week I wake up in the middle of the night to do some isolated ball-ass connector work (or equivalent female pelvic floor work). Why am I not ripped?”
Sounds like I’m being a dick and trying to gain pleasure off of other people’s ADD and Type-A insanity, but I’m not. The thing is, I get it. When you are passionate about something, you want to know you are doing everything possible to excel. But there comes a point of diminishing returns.
Extreme “live in a van down by the gym” competition, or Zombie-style “life extensionism” diets aside, I think we’re all over-complicating a relatively simple process. Or, as Robb Wolf said in our recent podcast conversation, if you want to merge “health, performance, and longevity”, there’s not much too it. The extreme approaches and overly technical stuff falls off like clothes at an Austin Powers’ party.
What you are left with are a few, simple, actionable strategies, from which you can formulate a sustainable lifestyle plan to improve both body composition and overall health.
The thing is beginners and entitled people alike don’t want to put work into the basics (its simple, not easy), or they want to rush a process that unfortunately takes some consistent effort and time. So they look for short cuts and magic pills. And magic pills always look better with convincing “scientific” explanations and complicated mysticism.
Advanced athletes want to think they are so much more sophisticated, cutting edge, hardcore, and cooler than beginners. So they feel the need to integrate the pythagorean theorem into their programs, and just make up a bunch of cool-sounding shit along the way.
As a result, we end up with the ludicrousness that has become fitness, or more accurately, just a pure cluster f*ck.
THE 10-STEP SIMPLE INTERMITTENT FEAST SUMMARY
Its ironic, but the more I’ve exchanged ideas with other successful and experienced coaches, the more interviews and talks I’ve been lucky enough to do about my nutritional philosophy, the more I’ve been able to naturally hack away the unessential, streamline the advice, and narrow it down to a few simple strategies. I could impress the nerds with a more formal dissertation, but it probably wouldn’t actually help most of you reach your goals (unless they are to sound smart in a forum debate).
If true genius seeks simplicity, than Serge Nubret may be the smartest guy to have ever walked Planet Fitness. When talking about his nutrition plan to build one of the greatest physiques of all-time, he basically told it like it was. He lifted weights in the hypertrophy zone and ate meat and rice for lunch and dinner. That’s it. No magic foods, no miracle supplements, no cyclical plans. He said if you wanted something more complicated and scientific, go read magazine ads. Love it.
In his honor, here’s the long and short of my summer World Fitness Tour Extravaganza (meaning a few Skype calls and emails). I will continue to try and refine and simplify, but here’s what I got right now.
1. Eat less refined crap. Eat more natural stuff. Giddy-up.
2. Make animal proteins and non-starchy vegetables the foundation of your diet plan.
3. Eat a decent amount of protein with each meal for essential nutrients and effects on satiety and blood sugar control.
4. For diseased populations, including sedentary-itis, a lower carb approach is probably the best starting point. I like a Pale0-style template of animal proteins, non-starchy vegetables, 1-2 pieces of whole fruit, and some whole food fats (coconut, nuts, avocado) as the primary energy nutrient. But you can’t go too crazy with the fats because despite optimal food choices, you still need to be in a calorie deficit to lose weight.
5. As someone becomes more active, which they should, I recommend re-introducing a select few starch foods. For this I recommend more of a traditional Japanese Village-style template: animal proteins, non-starchy vegetables, 1-2 pieces of whole fruit, and some gluten free, “anti-nutrient” free, “safe starches” as the primary energy nutrient = root vegetables (sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, yams, pumpkin, squash) and white rice. If you’ve never heard the terms in quotes, that means you’re not an ancestral/evolutionary nutrition geek like me and a few other losers. There may still be hope for you. Just remember rice and roots as your main starch foods.
6. For higher-level physique goals, you need to know and consistently hit your numbers yo. A good starting point. 1g pro/lb, 20-25% calories from fat, and the remaining calories from carbohydrates which can be adjusted up or down based on feedback and progress.
7. When you control for the numbers and the food choices, meal frequency and food distribution is irrelevant for the most part when it comes to body composition change. This means you should break up your food intake in any way that best helps YOU most consistently stick to your plan. From one to six, stick with what clicks. Damn, that last rhyme just came to me right now. I am awesome (which actually means I’m a total nerd for thinking that is even remotely cool). I know some cool people if that helps.
8. I believe in the Intermittent Feast structure — skip breakfast, eat a Paleo/caveman style lunch (meat, veggies, and maybe some whole food fats), and a Japanese Village-style dinner (meat, veggies, and a starch source). Depending on when you workout, have some whole fruit pre and/or post-workout for anti-catabolic effects. Can’t get any simpler than that. Do I believe there are some additional physiological, metabolic, and hormonal advantages to this structure? Yes. But to be quite honest, I think where it really shines through is in terms of its practicality and sustainability. Instead of Tupperwares and clock watching, all you have to do is worry about a solid lunch, and you get to eat a big, satiating, satisfying dinner. Ah yes, a reasonable fat loss plan, even for a busy professional.
9. If you have purely cosmetic/physique-based goals (lose fat, build muscle, LOOK awesome), than I believe all you need is 3-4 BASIC strength training sessions a week, with maybe some additional, non-formal, low intensity activity = walking more. I also might do some targeted stretching to offset the seated computer posture, and perhaps prepare for more adventurous bedroom sessions. You can get in awesome shape AND have some kind of a career and social life. Yay!
10. If you have performance goals, that is a completely different story. Each program will need to be tailored to the specific sport. This may entail more cardio/running, cross-training, flipping around, things that look good on a Nike commercial, and whatnot. I’ve trained for both, I just think a lot of people confuse training for performance vs. training for appearance. Its easier to look good than most people think (you just need an efficient approach), and its a lot harder to become an elite performance athlete than most people think. Don’t run or cross-train to get ripped. Improve your diet to get ripped. Train to build muscle or improve performance.
Beyond that, everything is just icing on the cake that may make a 5% difference. For those who want to obsess over it, may I first suggest that you spend more time in the bedroom getting laid and less time on the laptop over-analyzing. And then, just remember:
- Statistical significance is much different than real world significance.
- Yes scientific research has come a long way. But that doesn’t mean more complicated is better. Most of the time it really just means we can better explain the details of why the simple actually works.
- Hard work should be put into actually doing a program, not just designing it.
In my best Van Wilder impression, let me just now say, “You might want to write that down”. For tomorrow, information overload will attack like The Immortals in 300.
THE ROBB WOLF PODCAST APPEARANCE
And now, what I really wanted to write this post for before I got completely sidetracked with my rambling. It was a huge honor to get to be a guest on the Robb Wolf Podcast. Robb is someone I’ve looked up to in our industry for a while, and he has had a huge influence on my educational journey.
He’s a biochemist, and a much smarter dude than I am, so maybe you’ll listen to him when he says its not as complicated as people make it. He’s also a laid back guy that doesn’t take himself too seriously, so it was a fun show. We got to kick back and talk about the dietary topics I mentioned above, particularly the adjustment of carbohydrate intake to metabolic condition, athletic activity, performance/physique goals, and individual progress.
We also talked about angry internet people, strip club sponsorships, the importance of fitness/sports psychology, and boobs — a well-rounded show indeed.
To Listen to the Podcast CLICK HERE