Hey guys, been a while since I’ve done a health post and they always tend to be very long-winded anyway. I’m currently on my lunch break so hopefully that restraint keeps this post more succinct.
I want to address two topics that I’ve had arguments about before with both people more and less experienced than I.
Contradicting information about exercise science:
This is a big topic that I’m going to just generalise as people giving different opinions about how exercise (or nutrition) should be done.
So why does this happen? How do you know what you should be doing if everyone keeps telling you different things?
Firstly, you need to understand that there’s two main reasons this happens. Every human body is slightly different and tempered by genetic predispositions. What works for someone may not necessarily work for you. That being said, there are paradigms that generally work to a good degree (which is usually what advice is). Second, exercise science is a junior field. By that I mean the field of medicine and anatomy, for example, are tried and proven fields with many case studies and lots of research. The studies done in exercise science are not always consistent and worst of all – the sample size is not statistically significant.
Those of you that studied stats at university might remember this term. When analysing a portion of the population using a sample population (i.e. test subjects), that sample population is not considered representative of the actual population if the sample size is not large enough. Without going into the maths, let’s consider that the vast majority of studies use less than 30 test subjects. Now consider that there are 7 billion people in the world. Yep – huge margin of error.
This is why you will hear a lot of conflicting info but don’t get confused – that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen to advice. It just means you need to learn who you are. This is something I promote as a part of becoming the best version of yourself, but it applies to physical health as well. I often encourage friends to experiment during their bulk/cut cycles to figure out what their bodies respond best to.
Finally, I just want to point out that the human body is highly adaptive. You should use knowledge you gain as part of your exercise vocabulary. Maybe 5×5 works best for you but someone keeps telling you to do 4×10. As Elliot Hulse would say, don’t get sucked into the religion of a certain methodology. Try both. In fact, you must, by necessity, do both anyway because if you stick to one methodology your body will adapt and you will plateau.
Ok, this post has already gotten a bit long but here’s the next part.
Another hot topic and popularly considered “impossible” in the sense that you cannot gain muscle and lose fat at the same time. In fact, I myself believed this for quite a while until I managed to lean bulk myself. May provide photos later but I’m at work right now.
Anyway, the common argument against lean bulking is quite scientific (on the surface). To gain muscle you require a caloric surplus to fuel growth. To lose fat you require a deficit to force your body to burn more fat for energy. I’ve gone into the body’s fuel sources before but in short – your body burns all 3 macronutrients at the same time but proportionally, much more carbs are burned and much less fat.
Now, we have to get a little technical, and this is where I’ve had most of my arguments. How do you build muscle whilst losing fat if it appears that they require conflicting caloric levels? Diet and meal timing.
“Meal timing doesn’t make a difference, it’s all about what you eat in 24 hours.”
Only half true. The other half is why lean bulking is possible.
As with all arguments, we will start from the simplest, most logical argument and build up (Occam’s Razor). Consider this scenario. You have fasted for a day. It is now night time and your body is completely depleted of glycogen and protein stores. You go for an intense steady state cardio session. Several hours after that session, right before bed time, you eat your entire day’s calories in one meal, comprised mostly of carbs.
Those of you that have studied nutrition/health science will know what’s going to happen. The rest of you can probably guess. First, you are engaging in catabolic activity with no glycogen or protein stores (all exercise is catabolic – in fact, living is catabolic). What’s going to happen? Well you still have fat so your body will burn that. Obvious right? What you might not know is you also still have protein. Your muscles contain it and your body will break down your muscle to fuel itself to allow you to keep doing your cardio. After exercise, you do not replenish your glycogen and your blood glucose remains low. EPOC continues to burn calories which will be taken from protein and fat (and protein burns in higher proportion to fat). Your body has no amino acids to repair muscle fibre so your neurological response is to let go of that muscle fibre to feed your body. Result? Muscle loss.
Now, you eat your daily 3000 calories in one go. IIFYM right? Wrong. Your blood glucose level spikes like crazy. Your insulin levels must rise rapidly in response (often leading to Type II Diabetes). The insulin shuttles the glucose through your body and replenishes glycogen stores but obviously you’ve eaten more than you can store in your muscle. What happens to unused glycogen? It converts to fat for storage. Fat is a long-term energy source – slow burning and 9 calories per gram (whilst protein and carbs are 4 calories per gram).
So obviously meal timing does play a part.
This post is getting really long now so I’m not going into what you should do – you can just ask me yourself. I’m just here to prove a point. And those of you that have heard otherwise from so and so – well that’s an anecdotal fallacy. Those of you that have heard otherwise from a scientific paper? More credible, but go take a look at the number of test subjects used in that study and refer to my first subheading above.
When in doubt, trust the most foundational, unshakable concepts in science. You can argue all you want about whether a plane or a rock falls faster depending on what angle they drop, but you can’t argue against the fact that gravity is what’s making them fall.