The conventional calorie game assumes all calories are equal. It all comes down to energy. One unit of energy is one unit of energy. Cool story, bro. It’s like money. All money is money. It all spends the same.
When I was little, my grandma often gave me a $2 bill on my birthday along with some other money. The $2 was a special thing. I’ve spent a lot of money since those days. But I still have that stack of $2 bills.
What do you do with money you win at a casino? Spend it quickly, most likely. It’s free money! What do you do with money you make after a full day’s work of cleaning poop from toilets? Save it, most likely. You worked hard for it!
I had this written down before I heard what Peter Attia said on this podcast with Tim Ferriss. (And I paraphrase.) We know that we’re governed by thermodynamics. Calories in v. calories out matters…but that’s just not a very interesting story. It’s like saying, “You know why Bill Gates is rich? He makes more money than he spends.”
And he’s right. It’s not interesting. Probably why I am biased towards wanting to believe the body can’t be so simplistic. But despite my mystic mind, the questions should still be on the table.
When you parallel money with calories, the world of nutrition is quite different. There are different forms of currency. Dollars. Gold. Salt. Euros. Money is money, yes. But does that mean all money is spent the same? Or treated the same? Why do some people invest? Why do some people spend money on lavish goods even on a tight budget?
I’m enjoying: pondering relatively useless yet controversial questions in order to feel important.
Unless you shut yourself in a metabolic vacuum every day, you’re never going to know your metabolic rate. Heisenberg tells us that the more microscopic things get, the more unpredictable things get.
The table in front of you? It appears solid. But at the quantum level? It’s a bunch of moving particles.
Don’t overly predict. Use something good enough, get feedback, then adjust.
The launch pad for metabolic rate is [bodyweight in pounds] multiplied by [?] = your average daily calorie requirement.
- BW (pounds) x 10-12 = WEIGHT LOSS
- BW (pounds) x 13-14 = MAINTAIN WEIGHT
- BW (pounds) x 15-16 = WEIGHT GAIN
Start here. Your body isn’t a stock vehicle. Using anything more specific than these values for starters is probably doing nothing other than inching you further away from a True range. You can go on forever trying to nail down some kind of specific caloric value, and that’s exactly what we’re trying to avoid.
As Nassim Taleb always says: learn how to live comfortably in a world not understood. (And I also stole the “fooled by randomness” bit from him. If you couldn’t tell, I’m a Taleb fan.) Start with something good enough and then get real world feedback that guides further discovery.
It’s purposely (and perfectly?) imperfect.
You should have a reason for doing what you do. A beacon. A direction. A dogma.
Someone wanting to lose fat might have the nutrition dogma: choose food based on calories.
Is this dogma right? Wrong? Good? Bad? Healthy? (Not many things done in the name of looking well built and moving like a mutant would fall in the realm of “health.”) The answer to these questions don’t matter. The important part is having a dogma. Any dogma. Without it, decisions aren’t made.
But something worth trying: change the dogma.
The following dogmas are the norm: lose fat, build muscle. Maybe sub-dogmas bloom from there. Blah, blah, blah. Boring.
Choose foods based on calories? How about choosing foods based on their anti-inflammatory properties? Or, better yet, choosing foods based on color. How’s that for a dogma? Forget calories. Forget whatever else. It’s all color. More color = better. That’s the dogma.
Training? Muscle building. Blah, blah, blah. Maybe go with this dogma: no noise. Only do exercises where your joints don’t creak and crack.
Think about the beacons. Question them. Change them. Change them again. And then again. Evaluate what happens. (Maybe focusing on color does more magic than focusing on calories ever will? )
Frank Costanza: Welcome, newcomers. The tradition of Festivus begins with the airing of grievances. I got a lot of problems with you people! And now you’re gonna hear about it!
Festivus starts with the Airing of Grievances. The Airing of Grievances is the hard part. It’s the part where you get honest with yourself. Admit there were problems. Admit that things that could have gone differently.
Like last year for me. When I told myself in October 2013 that I’d regain the splits by December 2013. And here I am now, December 2014. Still no splits. Half-baked training? Lack of focus? Maybe. Whatever the excuse — the accountability and honesty comes out in the Airing of Grievances.
But this paves the way for the Feats of Strength. So put your mishaps on the table. Write the down. What didn’t go right?
- With strength training: maybe you weren’t as consistent as you could have been.
- With physique work: maybe you had too many cheat weekends.
- With tricking: maybe you didn’t progress as much as you would have wanted to. Maybe you played it too safe.
Get it all out in the air. I got a lot of problems with “x.” Or how “x” went.
Because only then do you move onto the Feats of Strength.
I got a lot of problems with “x.”
Now it’s time to do “y” and fix things.
That was my first asian! Err. Vegetarian, I mean. The first time I agreed to work a vegetarian through my skinny-fat curriculum. And not only that, but he also doesn’t have access to a squat rack.
Some modifications were needed, but he was a long time reader. Long time. Told him up front, “Errr. I don’t really work with vegetarians. It’ll be a learning process for the both of us.” But here we are, 20 weeks later, and he’s crushing it.
If you know how I work, I go fat loss first. That’s not to say we don’t strength train. We do. A lot. But the ethos around the meat and potatoes strength work is shifted to fat loss.
- Start = 180 pounds, 36 inch waist.
- Now = 148 pounds, 30 inch waist.
Maybe I’ll get him in here in a few weeks. We’ll talk more about the specifics. What he eats and such.
Skinny-fat syndrome and how it works with vegetarianism is something a lot of people ask me about. I usually don’t have an answer beyond, “Stop being vegetarian.” But here’s some proof for you vegetarians out there — you can do good things.