Podcast #11 – Meet Your Macros: Fat

We are finishing up our series of casts to cover in a little more detail the three major macro-nutrients that you should be paying attention to. We’ve covered protein and carbs, now it’s time for fat.

For more detailed info on fats, check out Gavin’s Dietary Dossier:

Fats: The Old Villain

And chef Matt’s write up on cooking oils:

On the Subject of Fats



On the Subject of Fats: Cooking Oils

By: Matthew McKenzie

Alright, so here’s the short version, guys (if you can believe it, this wall of text really is a VERY truncated version). There are dozens and dozens of cooking oils out there, and entire wall of them at every grocery store. So which oil is the good-for-you oil? None of them. Not a single one. Now, don’t take me wrong here; I’m not saying “never use oil because it’s bad for you.” What I’m saying is that despite what broscience, pinterest or your yoga teacher have to say on the subject, there is no such thing as an oil that could be unironically classified as a health food.

All cooking oils are simply refined fats. They’ve had all of the fiber and most of the nutrients removed, resulting in a pure oil that’s about as calorically dense as it’s currently possible to make a food. +/- a calorie or two, all common cooking oils have 120 calories per Tbsp. So let’s assume you are very careful and only add 1 Tbsp. of oil to your food when you cook it. What’s happened is that you’ve added 120 calories to your intake, but nothing else. You haven’t added any fiber, minerals or vitamins. Has the addition of those 120 calories put any more bulk in your stomach or somehow increased your satiety (the amount of time you feel full after eating)? Nope. In short, you gain nothing from oil except for extra calories.

“But I heard that [oil X] has [fringe benefit]!”
Yeah. Here’s the thing about that. The US government recognizes 4 classifications of health food claim. A grade A claim is what we’d love all health claims to be, proven science that the vast majority of the scientific community agrees on as fact. After that, though, the graded claims get less proven. Grades B-D range from there being evidence to suggest that the health claim is true, but proper testing is currently incomplete all the way down to “we ran simulation after simulation ten thousand times and selected the one time that our desired result came up to present as evidence that it’s not outside the realm of physical possibility that our health claim is true.” I’m not exaggerating.

The reason I bring this up is because while the health claims themselves are graded based on having met a certain burden of proof, there is currently no mechanism in place to inform the consumer as to what level their health claim is. That means that on product packaging, there’s no difference between a grade A claim and a grade D claim; they’re all presented to you as fact. A really good and relevant example of this is the “good fats” claim that mono-unsaturated fats are heart-healthy and reduce your chance of heart disease. The average consumer reads “a heart-healthy fat” and “can help reduce heart disease” on the packaging and decides that this is a health food. “I’m doing something good for myself. This stuff’s good for my heart, so I can eat two bags of this instead of one.” But the problem is that while there’s evidence to back up the claim made on the packaging, it’s presented in a manner that’s extremely misleading. Mono-unsaturated fats do very little to help reduce heart disease. But saturated fats contribute a lot towards heart disease, so the studies have shown that a diet that makes use of mono-unsaturated fat *IN PLACE OF SATURATED AND TRANS FATS* can help reduce your chances of heart disease. See how that works?

Never believe anything printed on the front of the packaging. Assume everything that’s not in the ingredient list or the nutritional information block is lies, because the overwhelming likelihood is that it is, or that it’s heavily misleading at best.

The reason I mention all of that is because if you’ve heard some health claim about a type of oil, it’s very likely a grade D claim at best. We all assume olive oil is a health food. Why? Because it has a lower percentage of saturated fat than unsaturated. But it’s still 100% fat, 120 calories for no measurable positive benefit. Is it a health*IER* choice of fat than, say, palm oil? Yes it is, assuming you’re trying to avoid saturated fat. Does that make it a health food? No, it does not.

As I close this up, I think coconut oil deserves special mention because it’s so remarkably popular these days. All the hype that surrounds coconut oil these days? It was the same with olive oil 15 years ago. And vegetable shortening before that. If you can believe it, coconut oil has the highest percentage of saturated fat of any oil you’re gonna find on the shelf. A whopping 90% of it is saturated fat. The broscience experts will point out that is has medium-chain triglycerides and lauric acid, which taken together help offset the percentage of saturated fat. And to a point (a much lower point than they likely believe), this is true. But even taking that into consideration and ignoring a reasonable portion of the saturated fat because it evens out with the potential benefits, coconut oil still has a higher percentage of saturated fat than lard. LARD! To say that coconut oil is good for you because it has these beneficial compounds while ignoring the hefty amount of saturated fat it contains is a little bit like saying that the application of fire is good for your skin because it removes harmful bacteria (a good example of a grade D claim, actually).

So many people out there seem to be looking for some magic bullet in the foods they eat, most especially in fats. Honestly, in my estimation we all ought to stop looking for that magical version of a thing that’s somehow healthier than normal and just eat right and in moderation to begin with. Even if coconut oil worked as advertised, it’s still refined fat, which as I mentioned above, always has a calorie content right at 120 calories per Tbsp. and a shitload of saturated fat. It’s fine to cherry pick your oil based on what ratio of fat type you think is best for your particular goal (hint: it’s almost always canola/rapeseed oil), but at the end of the day, it’s still 120 kcal/Tbsp that adds only those calories and adds no fiber, no satiety and no extra mass to your food. Coconut oil is just the latest in the horrible “superfood” craze. It is not a health food. In the grand scheme of things, it rarely matters as much whether you choose olive oil or peanut oil as it does that you add minimal oil to your food.

The point I’m making is not that oil is going to kill us all or that it’s poison and should be avoided at all costs. I work for Whole Foods, I hear that shit day in and day out from some of our less-stable customers. What I’m trying to get across here is that you should never allow yourself to think of oil as a health food in any way. Just like everything else, there are health*IER* choices in oil, depending on your particular goals, but in a perfect world, you’ll ignore all the claims about this oil having omega-3 and that oil being better for your heart and base your choice of oil on flavor and its breakdown of saturated to unsaturated fat based on your particular goals, always keeping in mind the fact that at the end of the day, oil is oil and should never be confused for a healthy food.

-Chart stolen shamelessly from http://www.nutristrategy.com:


Why You REALLY Need To Stop Undereating

By: Chris Huber

The Reason This Needs Discussed

I know most of us want a better body and we want it NOW. This leads to the common practice of trying to speed up the process of weight loss up as much as possible. The problem is that bigger isn’t always better. To drop body fat you need to create a caloric deficit, this can be done in a couple ways. One option is to work out more increasing your total burned calories for the day. The other is limiting your calories so you consume less overall. Both of these options work in your favor for the simple principle of weight loss (Calories In < Calories Out = Lower Body Fat Percentage) and I am a fan of a healthy mix of both, the issue is taking these options to the extreme.

Why You Stall Out

When I refer to a caloric deficit, I am talking about the difference between the calories you consume versus the total amount of calories burnt through the day (TDEE). If you would like to know more about how to find these values and what I consider a smart approach to looking at your diet, you can take a look at my previous post on Flexible Dieting (https://imfitcast.wordpress.com/2015/09/01/flexible-dieting/).

TDEE Chart

Now to the crux of the issue, after maintaining a large caloric deficit over a long period of time (months to years) your body will adjust in ways that are completely counterproductive your goals. Typically no more than a 500 daily deficit is recommended, with a 200-300 deficit for weight loss being preferred, but some take this to much greater extremes. You may not be familiar with the term adaptive thermogenisis (AT), but chances are you know the effects. As you can see in the figure above your BMR is the largest portion of your TDEE. Your metabolism is not a static number, it is better to think of it as a sliding scale. AT is your metabolism shifting in response to how much you eat. If you are at a large caloric deficit, your metabolism with literally slow down in response to being starved.  This process leads to weight loss plateauing because your total energy expenditures have now dropped.

To compound in addition to the issues of AT, your body has even more ways of sabotaging your weight loss if you practice extreme calorie restriction. Low calorie diets cause several hormones within the body to change. Leptin keeps you satiated and tells your body that your energy reserves are ready to be used. This hormone decreases when you diet hard, meaning you will become hungry and feel lethargic. Similarly the hormone ghrelin will increase which triggers your appetite to increase. Another problem hormone is cortisol. Cortisol triggers the breakdown of muscle mass while also increasing water retention. Add these effects together and you will notice weight loss stalling in a hurry.

Fixing The Problem

Recognizing you are taking a non-sustainable approach to fat loss is the biggest step. The longer you continue trying to lose body fat by severely under-eating, the worse the issues above become. You can go from weight loss plateauing to ending up with hormonal issues and no energy. To solution to these issues is fairly straight forward, you need to eat more. The application of this is a bit more complicated though.

I believe the best method to repairing your body is best outlined by Sohee Lee and Layne Norton in their method of reverse dieting. The basics of reverse dieting are slowly increasing your caloric intakes over an extended period of time. If you don’t already know a rough estimate of how many calories you current eat, I would suggest taking a week and eating normally, but tracking everything to find a baseline caloric level. From here you need to determine a calorie goal, which is going to be your maintenance level. You can find this easily using the Scooby calculator explained in the Flexible Dieting article. From here you are going to start at your current level of calories and begin adding 50-100 calories a week until you end up eating at maintenance.

This approach may be considered conservative to some, but I have my reasons. Firstly, you want to minimize the shock on your body. Jumping several hundred calories in one go will almost certainly cause weight gain, and no one wants to deal with that added stress on top of already trying to fix a frustrating situation. Secondly, trying to cram more food down your throat is tough for some people. You may genuinely not be hungry, even if you body is crying for those extra calories. Slowly building up allows your stomach to adjust to the added food.

My biggest piece of advice is to be patient. It took time to get to this point and it will take time to fix it. Try not to focus on the scale and do not expect to reverse the damage done immediately. You may gain a little weight here. You may feel like you will never achieve your goals. Just remember this is a bump in the road. You are becoming healthier and setting yourself up for success in the long run. You WILL get there in time.

Parting Thoughts

My goal here was to highlight a common issue in the fitness world. Too often you see low calorie diets marketed as the quick fix to all your problems. If I can make someone realize they are headed down a bad path, then this post was worth it. Sure, if you can maintain a caloric deficit you will certainly loose weight, even when starving yourself. The problem is the long term repercussions from doing this. Eat right the from the start or work now to fix the issue and you will end up in a much better place.


Trexler ET, Smith-Ryan AE, Norton LE. (2014). Metabolic adaptation to weight loss: implications for the athlete. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition11, 7

Rosenbaum M, Leibel RL. (2010). Adaptive thermogenesis in humans. International Journal of Obesity34, S47-55

Lee, Sohee and Layne Norton. Reverse Dieting. Ebook

Podcast Primer #1: The Good, Bad and Ugly of My Weightloss Journey

I F*cked Up So You Don’t Have To

By Andrew Crickmore

That’s been my mantra for a long time; at the very least since I started posting in Imgurfit.  It’s also the sub-title for our first podcast.  A lot of what I say in this post pertains, in part, to the stories told n there, so please give it a whirl.

At the end of 2011, I went through a bit of a life crisis; I was a fat, miserable and soon-to-be-divorced 25 year old that felt like I had no control over a lot of what was going on in my life.  After a brief grief period of self-loathing, I decided to take a measure of control back.  I pledged to not be fat anymore.

11 months and 109 lbs. later a thin (in hindsight, too thin) me emerged my self-inflicted trial by fire having learned a lot about how incredibly little I understood about weight loss and nutrition and a better appreciation for why people have such a hard time losing weight (and keeping it off).

So, let’s run through the not-chronological order of things I learned from my own stupidity

The Good

As much as I have painted a very awful picture of my weight loss journey, the ultimate good news is I’ve kept the weight off since 2012 and reversed all the nasty, self-inflicted damage I foisted upon myself.  So, there’s that at least.  In addition of course, I did do some good (and critical) things during my fat to fit process that has stuck with me and probably helped lead me to my ultimate success:

  1. Started using MyFitnessPal immediately and tracking calorie intake, along with weighing and measuring food for over a year to reset my base understanding of servings
  2. Went to the gym and tried, in theory, to have a balanced workout plan
  3. Never stopped reading and learning, even when the things I was reading ended up being wrong.

MyFitnessPal was (and still is) an essential tool in my tool box.  Learning how to properly track and measure portions was likely the number one reason I succeeded in my weight loss, even as I started eating some ridiculously low calorie intakes.  I measured and weighed food portion religiously and managed to hit my aggressive calorie targets 90% of the time.  It was so important to my success I still use it; I’m up to a streak of 1350 days straight (and counting).

After I started tracking my calories, I drove over to the community centre gym I knew I had a dormant gym membership at and reactivated it.  At first I just did machine circuits, but that evolved into an upper body/lower body rotational split as I was afraid of not working out all my muscles.  As much as whatever half-assed program I concocted that was, it was born from the first real attempts to learn something substantial about weight lifting and, coincidentally ties well into my third and final takeaway…

Last, but not least, I delved deeply into blogs, articles, books, videos and whatever else I could dig up for answers on pertinent questions about what I should and should not be doing.  Ideally I’d have done this BEFORE doing any substantial weight loss and exercise, but I seriously doubt I’m unique in my endeavour to throw myself into the gauntlet without even a helmet to protect me.

The Bad

It’s hard to imagine a time when I was so utterly clueless about weight loss and fitness that these things happened, but they did.  A lot of what I characterize as “the bad” in this article are the sorts of things that it seems nearly everyone is guilty of:

  1. I was way too aggressive with my weight loss, despite some early and seemingly reasonable goals
  2. I bought into the idea of working myself ‘to death’ was the best way to gain results
  3. the Numbers mattered more than anything else, including, in the end, my health.

Patience.  Patience.  Patience.  It’s all I preach now to people now who ask about weight loss and fitness results.  It’s typically my best quality, but it never was when I started losing weight.  Initially I set what SEEMED like pretty realistic goals; 35 lbs. lost between December 2011 and April 2012 initially.  This was after I’d lost a few pounds just cutting out pop and junk food, so I felt pretty good about how things were going.  Problem was, was that I started to lose weight VERY quickly.  At one point I was losing about 2-3 lbs. every 3-4 days (at least according to the scale).  Seeing that sort of initial loss was addictive.  So, I crushed that first goal by a good 10 lbs., then took it even further.

In my self-inflicted race to the bottom, I started going to the gym longer and longer.  2-3 hours was common, most of it doing half and half cardio and weights, 6 days a week.  I chased calories burned, I chased weight loss, and eventually I even started doing outdoor running in addition to all of that.  Hell, I even worked myself up to a solid 6 mile distance at my peak because the more I could burn, the better. At the same time, I was continuing to maintain a -1000 calorie deficit (or thereabouts, I was solely dependent on MFP’s calorie reduction system and never adjusted it, not even when I felt like hell).

All of this inflicted on myself because I couldn’t wait.  It was a weird experience for someone who typically is patient to a fault.  These points weren’t even the worst things I experienced, however…

The Ugly

What categorizes ‘The Ugly’ for me was the stuff that bordered on sadistic and eating disorder issues.  This is the sort of stuff that probably made me lose the most muscle mass, feel the absolute worst as my weight loss journey stretched into a year, and caused the most issues for me in struggling with my post-dieting existence.

  1. I had absolutely no idea what TDEE and BMR were, and paid for it
  2. When I got down to sub-200 lbs., my calorie deficit was so bad I felt like I had a black hole in my gut, yet I ignored it.
  3. I tried all sorts of stupid things, which included cutting out nearly all my protein intake at one point.
  4. At my lowest, I’d binge on frozen yogurt and low-fat peanut butter and feel miserably guilty about it after

TDEE and BMR used to be foreign concepts to me.  I understood calories in vs. calories out, and I understood calorie deficits, but I never really understood anything about TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) and BMR (Base Metabolic Rate) until I’d already fucked myself over.  All I knew was what MFP told me to eat, and as much as I enjoy using MyFitnessPal, they really need to change their algorithm.  At my lowest I was trying to subsist on only 1470 calories.  Keep in mind my BMR is around 1900 calories, so I was eating a brisk -500 calorie deficit on my bare minimum required calories.

This ridiculous calorie deficit really started to be a problem when I hit the sub-200 calorie mark.  For people who don’t know, if you lose 10 lbs. MFP will ask you if you want to adjust your calorie intake down by 100 calories per day.  That SEEMS reasonable, except it caps at 1200 calories, which is ridiculously low calories for ANYBODY.  As a result, I started to feel physically and mentally shittier.  Physically, I’d be weak, have difficulty sleeping, and even got jitters at some point.  Mentally was worse.  Food dogged me constantly.  I was making bargains with myself over the food I was eating and calculating how much cardio I needed to do to counter it.

I distinctly remember nights where I would stare into a jar of peanut butter and bargain with myself as to whether I would eat any more of it.   These staring contests would last anywhere from 10 minutes to a half hour.  Usually I caved and would start shoveling spoonfuls of peanut butter into my mouth in some involuntary attempt to make up for the massive amount of lost calories I’d subjected myself to.  The most I’d ever eaten during one of these binge stages was an entire kilo of peanut butter, ending the destruction by scraping the bottom with my finger.  It’s amazing that I can still eat peanut butter at all honestly.  Peanut butter was the main trigger food for this, but I did it for other foods too.  Mostly sugary things mocking me from my freezer or workplace break room table.

Other stupid shit I did?  For one, I went vegetarian for a week.  Problem with that was I basically just cut out all my protein intake.  I cannot describe to you what soreness without protein intake is like when you insist on working out anyways.  I did similarly miserable things with carbs and fats, all with equally dismal results.  I beat salads to death, weird curry dishes to death, cheat days to death, spicy foods to death…really, I tried every coping mechanism I could to trick myself into eating less calories or feeling “full” on less calories.  The slop I’d eat just to minimize my calorie intake was as ridiculous as it was intense.

What the Hell Should I Learn From All This?

First and foremost, Despite my fuckups I’ve managed to keep the weight off going on 4 years (as of October 2015).  This in itself is a huge accomplishment.  That doesn’t mean any sane person should try what I did, yet my experience isn’t exactly an outlier.  plenty of people on imgurfit and elsewhere continue to subject themselves to well-meaning but extremely poor choices.

So, if you skipped all the way down to the bottom of this post for some reason, here’s what you should do;

  1. Develop or practice patience.  Slow and steady is better than aggressive and fast when it comes to weight loss
  2. Don’t try stupid shit.  Calculate your calories, eat enough food and at the right macronutrient ratios.
  3. Eat for your level of activity.  If you run and lift and do all sorts of other things, eat lots of food.  You’ll still probably lose weight.
  4. Develop a healthy relationship with food. even when trying to cut calories.  Don’t degrade your mental and physical health to the point where you’re binge-eating regularly to compensate for your poor health.
  5. Keep reading, keep learning, and become nutritionally and physically literate.
  6. Track your god damn calories and macros.

Thanks for Reading, and Keep an eye out for future Podcast Primer Posts pertaining to the things we’ve discussed.


Keto: A Science Based Review

By: Conrad

What is the ketogenic diet? It is an extraordinarily low carb, high fat diet that, in theory, forces the body to burn fat because of the absence of carbs. Another line of reasoning that is often spouted is in a normal diet with plenty of carbs, the fats are stored because the carbs are burned.

I’ll attack the fallacies as they come up instead of letting them pile up until the end.

1) Carbs, fats, and proteins are all burned at the same time by the body for energy. The ratios are always in flux depending on what you eat, and the energy demands that you are placing on your body. So the “forcing your body to burn fats” notion is true. However, the fats being stored because of carbs being present is only about 50% true. The body is an extraordinary mechanism and is capable of awesome things. Like turning any one macro into any other given enough time/steps. (http://biochemical-pathways.com/#/map/1) If someone ate a diet of 100% carbs, they would still store fat because the body can turn carbs into fats/(most) proteins, fats into carbs/(most) proteins and proteins into carbs/fats. The creation and storage of fat rises from excessive intake rather than which macros were ingested (as discussed in my previous post on intermittent fasting http://goo.gl/UeSeOb ).

So far, the keto diet isn’t terribly dishonest. That’s great! Lets keep going, shall we?

So this diet more or less calls for a consumption of only fats and protein. This is a very interesting implication for people in a fitness forum such as this one. The brain runs on carbs (it literally cannot utilize fats for energyhttp://goo.gl/VyE4co), and us being people who train avidly, quite often run low on carbs. So the body has to make up this deficit from somewhere and the body tends to turn to proteins and synthesizes the needed carbs through a process known as gluconeogenesis (http://goo.gl/cI49Pz ). Under normal circumstances, this is usually unnecessary and the metabolism of proteins typically only happens under starvation conditions. So right away, we can see that this diet is far from optimal from anyone who trains as it is almost by definition catabolic (extremely negative nitrogen balance is often caused by keto http://goo.gl/SW7Dhh) , and the body is only capable of recovering from so much training without the body literally digesting itself.

As I just mentioned, metabolizing protein in any significant amount in a healthy diet does not happen very often. This is a very good thing because the byproducts of this process are nasty. The worst of which is ammonia. That’s right. The same thing your mom used to clean the tub with is produced when your body is forced to use proteins for energy. Of course, the ammonia is sucked out of the blood in the kidneys and turned into urea and we pee it out. But for anyone with one kidney, or any kidney problems, i could not in good conscience suggest a ketogenic diet.

Enough about proteins, let us move on to fats now.

As I mentioned earlier, the metabolism of fats, carbs, and proteins is always happening at the same time, the ratio of which is always changing. So if we restrict carbohydrate availability to only what the body can produce and keep the energy demands constant, it is obvious that the metabolism of fats and proteins will have to increase to accommodate.

Once again, the body only uses fats in significant amounts when it is starved, or restricted of carbohydrates. So the same argument applies. It is literally tricking the body into thinking it is dying so that it will burn fats. That doesn’t sound too safe to me.

So what happens in this starvation mode when the body is burning through fats as quickly as it can? Ketone bodies are produced. What is a ketone? Well two of them are acidic and the other one is acetone. Again, another cleaning product that your body is dumping into itself. Probably not the healthiest of things. This acetone can be changed into other, less hazardous materials, through a couple of pathways, but the acetone is still present in the body in larger quantities than necessary for however short a period before they are converted. The buildup of acetone can be so severe in the blood that it becomes a part of the gas exchange in the lungs and a persons breath can literally smell like acetone. All three of them are removed via the urine so once again, for anyone with one kidney, or any kidney problems, i could not in good conscience suggest a ketogenic diet.

On top of all of that, we have a ton of side effects (http://goo.gl/EwmCEV):
-frequent urination (which makes sense given the extra substances I just outlined that have to be urinated out)
-fatigue and dizziness
-low blood sugar
-headaches (again, this one makes sense given the reduced availability of energy to the brain)
and a whole host of other things. Of course, all of these things will happen to everyone at one point or another regardless of their diet, but why would you intentionally put yourself in harms way.

I really have yet to find an upside to keto so I’ll try and make this seem as positive as possible.

Are all of these terrible side effects manageable? Absolutely. If you’re willing to put in the work. We’re talking blood work, daily urine acidity tests, medical supervision, ect. There have been numerous success stories with keto. I know several people who have seen it. But they had to work at their diet and their vitals. It is a lot of extra work when compared to a normal diet, but it can work wonders. Can you get away without doing all of this? Possibly. But it’s dangerous and excessive protein and fat metabolism can actually kill you. I don’t know anyone who has died from eating a balanced diet.

Takeaway points
-two k’s away from being racist
-keto is fake starvation mode
-keto has nasty byproducts
-barring medical conditions, keto provides no benefits I can find over a regular balanced diet
-keto is completely manageable with extreme attention to detail

I am by no means an expert and it is possible that some of this information is incorrect but I doubt that it is. I actually spent a decent amount of time researching for this post and I just realized I completely forgot to source the second half of this god dammit

Flexible Dieting

By: Chris Huber

This is a quick(ish) rundown on the basics of figuring out your caloric intakes. This is what is known as Flexible Dieting.

First step is estimating your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate). There are more scientific ways that do this, but for our purposes the easiest way to do it is use an online calculator. Google BMR calculator and input your height/weight/age/etc and it will spit an average number out at you. This is the number of calories that you burn in a day without doing a bit of exercise.

Next, you need to keep track of your actual exercise throughout the day. You can estimate this with more online tools, phone apps, activity trackers like the FitBit bands, or use a heart rate monitor when you workout.

With these two pieces of info you can figure out your maintenance caloric intake (also called TDEE for Total Daily Energy Expenditure). (BMR + Daily Activity)

So we know our maintenance level. From here it’s based on your goals. Want to drop weight, eat 500 calories less than maintenance every day. Trying to bulk, eat 500 more calories every day. Trying to maintain, well (duh) eat at maintenance then.

Now that I explained the long way, this website (http://scoobysworkshop.com/calorie-calculator/) actually does a great job estimating your starting point, but I wanted you to understand HOW it estimates for you. The box labeled “Daily calories based on goal in step 6” is what you want to use.

As far as what you should be eating, you can eat what you want (Please have some common sense here though. Lean meats, veggies, etc are always preferred) as long as your are at your caloric goals and you want to aim for a breakdown of your calories as 25% Fat/25% Protein/50% Carbs. You can shift these depending on your goals, for example someone looking to build muscle mass might raise their protein to 30% and lower the others to compensate.  In addition to these macros, make sure to get at least 35g of fiber a day as well. A regular colon is a happy colon!

I’m sure this is a tad overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. I HIGHLY suggest downloading and religiously using the phone/web app called MyFitnessPal. You can change the numbers the app gives you as goals in the settings, since it has a tendency to undershoot proper levels. This app has a huge database to quickly track your food intakes. Be honest with yourself when you use it. If you have a cupcake, then write it down and make it fit your goals. It’s ok to have “bad” food now and then. Trying to stay 100% with lean meats, veggies, and grains will drive most people mad. Enjoy your food, but be aware of portions and stay within your goals and you will do great!

One last bit to mention. We did a fair bit of estimating here and your body most likely has its differences. So if you still aren’t dropping weight, then shift your maintenance down a couple hundred calories and see how that goes from there. You will find that sweet spot with time and make progress.

Here’s a little video taking you through the steps of using the Scooby Calculator and inputting the results into My Fitness Pal.

Worrying About the Little Things With the Glycemic Index

By: Gavin Hemmerlein

Prepare yourself. This is going to get “quotey” up in here.

So in my CHO post I mentioned how the Glycemic (GI) is not really that big of a deal. I think it went something like this:

“So I’m expecting most of you have now Googled the GI to find out what to avoid. Here’s the beauty of it all… The GI was done on fasted individuals with solely a carbohydrate meal. Read that again slowly. This is part of the reasons behind one of my dietary recommendations. For a mixed meal (proteins and fats included in the meal), the GI is affected GREATLY. It is to the point that it is nearly pointless to follow. It can also be modified with a high intake of fiber because fiber is nearly impossible to digest (hence why it does a great job of “cleaning you out”). So always have your protein spread out evenly throughout your meals (for even more reasons that I will get into on my Muscle Protein Synthesis post). This will attenuate your GI “spikes” and will also help you feel satiated (protein is far more satiating than CHOs).”

This is an incredibly confusing subject that most people get wrapped around unnecessarily. I do want to say that if you have issues with insulin (diabetics especially), do not follow the advice that I am about to tell you. Your situation is unique. Most likely a lot of the following advice will apply to your diet structure, but that’s not for me to advise; discuss with your general practitioner.

Let’s first realize that the GI was studied for diabetics. This is an effort to prevent them from, oh I don’t know, not entering a coma. Let’s list some myths that are presented by UNM on the subject:

Myth #1 The Glycemic Index is the best way to determine the amount of carbohydrate (sugar) in a particular food.

[The] Glycemic index describes the rate glucose is released in the bloodstream and says nothing about carbohydrate content. The more grams of carbohydrate consumed the higher the glycemic response because there is an increased glycemic load. For instance, you could eat two different foods with a similar GI but the blood glucose response will be greater for the food eaten in higher concentration.

Myth #2 Avoid foods that are white such as pasta and potatoes because they are high GI foods.

The white color of foods doesn’t necessarily mean it has a high GI. As mentioned previously, cooking method, amount of processing as well as meal composition affect GI, not food color. For example, the GI of boiled potatoes is substantially lower (56) than when microwaved potatoes (82). What many don’t realize is that pasta is a low GI food (40-50). Also, we usually eat foods in combination so the fat and protein consumed at mealtime serve to lower the overall GI of some meals.

Myth #3 The Glycemic Index Can Be Used to Assess How Healthy vs. Unhealthy foods.

The GI doesn’t indicate whether a food is healthy or not. One example of this is milk. Whole milk has a GI of 27 while skim milk has a GI of 32. Lower GI doesn’t always mean a healthier product.

Myth #4 All Simple Sugar is High GI

Not all sugar is created equal. Fruit, for instance, contains the simple sugar fructose. This simple sugar has a slower rate of digestion and absorption than glucose, therefore it produces a lower glycemic response. The GI for most raw fruit is between 30-50.

Myth #5 I Can eat as much Low GI food as I want and maintain low insulin levels

Some feel that low GI eating entitles them to consume as much as they want. It is possible to get high insulin responses with low GI eating. Remember, glycemic response is a combination of GI x carbohydrate concentration (glycemic load), so the more grams of carbohydrate consumed will result in higher insulin levels.” [1]

To add more onto this, it is extremely unlikely that eating according to the GI will prevent you from getting diabetes. [2, 3] So you won’t have to go on a commercial with Wilford Brimley because of the GI. That isn’t to say it doesn’t help WHEN you have diabetes, just that you won’t GET diabetes from a certain GI diet.

As for when you’re eating mixed meals? Well let’s let the writers for a Clinical Diabetes article (Amanda R. Kirpitch, MA, RD, CDE, LDN, and Melinda D. Maryniuk, MEd, RD, CDE, LDN) go over that one:

“Protein/fat: Adding protein or fat, which have minimal effects on glycemic excursions, to a high-GI food will decrease the GI of that food. For example, adding cheese to a slice of bread would decrease the GI.

Soluble fiber: In general, the higher the food is in viscous or soluble fiber, the lower its GI will be. By increasing the viscosity of the intestinal contents, the interaction between the starch and the digestive enzymes is slowed, resulting in slower and lower glycemic excursions. Beans are a great example of a food high in soluble fiber.” [4]

This is yet another reason why I recommend mixed meals. This will keep you from sweating the small stuff and carrying a pocket GI Table with you. There’s more important things in life.


  1. Mayo, Jerry J., PhD RD, Kravitz, Len, Ph.D. “Glycemic Index and Weight Loss.” Glycemic Index and Weight Loss. University of New Mexico, n.d. <http://www.unm.edu/~lkravitz/Article%20folder/glycemicUNM.html >
  2. Dietary glycemic index and glycemic load are associated with high-density-lipoprotein cholesterol at baseline but not with increased risk of diabetes in the Whitehall II study. <http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/86/4/988.abstract >. Am J Clin Nutr October 2007 vol. 86 no. 4 988-994
  3. Geng Zhang, An Pan, Geng Zong, et al. Substituting White Rice with Brown Rice for 16 Weeks Does Not Substantially Affect Metabolic Risk Factors in Middle-Aged Chinese Men and Women with Diabetes or a High Risk for Diabetes. Annhild Mosdøl, Daniel R Witte, Gary Frost, et al. <http://jn.nutrition.org/content/141/9/1685.abstract >. First published July 27, 2011, doi: 10.3945/jn.111.142224
  4. Kirpitch, Amanda R., MA, RD, CDE, LDN, and Melinda D. Maryniuk, MEd, RD, CDE, LDN. “Clinical Diabetes.” The 3 R’s of Glycemic Index: Recommendations, Research, and the Real World. Clinical Diabetes, 2014. Web. 19 Sept. 2014. <http://clinical.diabetesjournals.org/content/29/4/155.full >

Picking the Right Plan

By: Gavin Hemmerlein

I’m back from a short (albeit refreshing) hiatus! We’re here to discuss the little nuances that keep getting glossed over. Frequently we see fad diets taking over. I can’t tell you how many times people have announced to the world the greatness of the ketogenic diet or that animals meals will kill you. That there gluten? Might as well put a gun to your head. It is so absurd that it pains me.

We’ve already discussed gluten isn’t as terrible in the carbohydrates piece (yes, I know it isn’t a CHO). Ketogenic diets aren’t really any more beneficial than a normal diet. [1] It is completely unsustainable of a diet, you’re going to gain back about 5-10 pounds when you cycle off of it (glycogen has weight as does the water with it), and it is far too restrictive for no reason. And don’t get me STARTED on the “plants > animals” talk. There is no substantiated proof (Dr. Campbell’s China Study was a train wreck).

And then there is dairy who has also received a terrible reputation. There have been a plethora of studies that confirm that dairy is not only great for inflammation, [2] but it can have positive effects on vascular health, diabetes, and cancer! [3, 4] It would be one thing if it also helped performance, but since that’s not… Oh? It does that as well? [5]

With all of the bad out there, we need to formulate a way to find the good. You’re in luck, because I have some simple ways to make it easy to find a nutrition plan that works for you. You have to look at it through these simple questions:

  1. Is it sustainable?
  2. Does it take into account activity?
  3. Is it well balanced?

Let’s dive into these a little bit, shall we?

1) Is it sustainable? I think this is self-explanatory. Are you making this a lifestyle change that will last the rest of your life? If not, then it is likely going to result in a “yo-yo diet” issue. Little treats are encouraged, but if you can’t stay with your plan for more than a day, then it’s not a very good plan.

2) Does it take into account activity? Look, the Basal Metabolic Rate is a fantastic tool that we all use to estimate. There was a lot of groundwork laid down to develop it. With that being said, it is only a piece of our estimating pie. It’s one tool in the tool box. If your nutrition plan doesn’t take into account your activity, it’s not worth the paper it is written on.

3) Is it well balanced? Avoid the faulty ideologies of alienating a certain food. Only remove foods with allergies. A diversified diet hitting a certain macro-ratio and high fiber (25-40 grams is what I always target) content will beat out any fad diet.

If you have check marked all three of these, likely that nutrition plan is going to help you succeed. At the end of the day, we want to accomplish our goals while still being concerned with our health.

Look, I’m not saying eat something which you have an allergy. That’s just silly. So is completely denouncing a food group or macronutrient solely on whim. Eat a balanced diet.


  1. Carol S Johnston, Sherrie L Tjonn, et al. ” Ketogenic low-carbohydrate diets have no metabolic advantage over nonketogenic low-carbohydrate diets.” Am J Clin Nutr May 2006 vol. 83 no. 5 1055-1061 < http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/83/5/1055.full >
  2. Labonté MÈ, et al. “Impact of dairy products on biomarkers of inflammation: a systematic review of randomized controlled nutritional intervention studies in overweight and obese adults.” Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Apr;97(4):706-17. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.112.052217. Epub 2013 Feb 27. < http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/23446894/ >
  3. Tong X, et al. “Dairy consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus: a meta-analysis of cohort studies.” Eur J Clin Nutr. 2011 Sep;65(9):1027-31. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2011.62. Epub 2011 May 11.  < http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/21559046/ >
  4. Elwood PC, et al. “The survival advantage of milk and dairy consumption: an overview of evidence from cohort studies of vascular diseases, diabetes and cancer.” J Am Coll Nutr. 2008 Dec;27(6):723S-34S. < http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/19155432/ >
  5. Josse AR, et al. “Impact of milk consumption and resistance training on body composition of female athletes.” Med Sport Sci. 2012;59:94-103. doi: 10.1159/000341968. Epub 2012 Oct 15. < http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/23075559/ >

Macronutrient Versus Micronutrient

By: Gavin Hemmerlein

Let’s start out with looking at Macronutrient (Macro) intake and Micronutrient (Micro) intake. Both of these are very important in different ways in our life, but having a grasp of the topic can liberate you.

Macronutrients are split into 5 basic units; Proteins, Carbohydrates, Fats, Water, and finally Alcohols. Each unit has a different amount of kilocalories (4, 4, 9, 0, 7 respectively). The main three to be concerned about are the first three. They will be your performance drivers. This is because water has none, and you should only be consuming alcohol in moderation anyway. Binging is a no-no. STOP DOING IT!

A proper development of a healthy diet MUST TAKE INTO ACCOUNT MACRONUTRIENT INTAKE! I cannot stress this point enough. You WILL NOT get anywhere by neglecting the ratio of the macros. It is asinine to believe so. I am sure this will cause some anger, but if you want to discuss this civilly, I will take you up on that in the comments. The ratio of what to consume will be inevitably tied back to your goals. A marathoner, basketball star, and bodybuilder will all have different percentages of protein for their diet (10-15, 20, and 25% respectively).

The Micro side is where everything gets a little more fuzzy. These are vitamins, minerals, and other items that fit into the subcategories of the Macros. There are recommended daily intake (RDI) values, but these do not take into account activity. For that I default to ISSA’s list of Performance Daily Intakes (PDI), which is a really great resource for somebody who has taken the time to get certified. It’s as simple: as activity goes up, so does your needs!

Micronutrient sections will probably take up the most time on this series. Often I don’t stress enough how much Micronutrient intake can affect performance, but it is there. There are reasons I don’t put as much emphasis as I should, but that’s for another day.

Leucine and Driving Muscle Protein Synthesis

By: Gavin Hemmerlein

Now we get to the fun part. We have covered all of the macronutrients in decent depth, but I want to start talking about the little things to focus on. Leucine is a Branch Chain Amino Acid that has very important effects and an important role in our bodies. It is believe to help with sterol development as well as potentially aiding the regulation of blood sugar and improve the brain functions as well. All of this is great for health purposes, but what I really want to talk to you about is the muscle building properties. This is what really excites a muscle head like myself.

We all know that most bodybuilders are obsessed with protein. Frankly they probably eat too much, but that’s ok as long as they have healthy kidneys to filter that. That subject, however, is for another day. What I want to discuss is how do we know HOW much protein that we truly need?

There is a lot of evidence towards leucine being the driving factor behind muscle protein synthesis (MPS). Before I get ahead of myself, I want to explain MPS a little more. When your body uses proteins to rebuild, the protein is constantly added (synthesis) to the muscles (or for generic protein synthesis it is anywhere in the body) and then discarded (degradation). Think of this like a shelf life for the muscle protein. This constant addition and subtraction is what we like to refer to as protein turnaround. The thing to note is that the body is CONSTANTLY doing both of these processes; they just occur at different rates. When synthesis occurs at a faster rate than degradation, we have an anabolic or mass building situation. When the reverse occurs (degradation is higher than synthesis) we have a catabolic or mass losing situation.

When I speak of MPS saturation I am talking about a top out rate at where the synthesis occurs. It’s at this point that if you were to eat one more amino, it would do absolutely nothing more on instigating more synthesis. It’s topped out.

There have been plenty of studies that confirm that approximately 15g of Essential Amino Acids (EAA) will saturate MPS for subjects that were between 155 and 165 lbs. [1, 2] The results of these studies resulted in a further hypothesis that it was leucine that was the initiator. When more studies were done with leucine, we found that this did occur! [3] The approximate amount of leucine for a 15g EAA intake was about 3.2g dosage. This decision was even more so supported during a 2012 study where the comparisons of whey powder and supplementation of leucine were compared. [4] While the whey sustained the stimulation for a longer timeframe, a suboptimal level of EAA (12g) was supplemented with some leucine (.75g) and it resulted in a saturation of MPS.

The next logical step would be, how long does this effect last? A couple studies have shown (and subsequently confirmed by other studies) that leucine supplementation will last for approximately 2 hours and 3 hours for a whole meal. [5, 6, 7] this is surprising considering that the bloodstream contained the amino acids for 6 hours. It was also seen that MPS appeared more readily saturated with the addition of 20g of carbs. [6] It is also postulated that continual ingestion will not help and could quite possibly lower the response. So before you muscle heads go and start eating turkey legs all day long, let’s also take a look at some studies on refractory responses or a lower in the effectiveness if you will.

Another interesting study I’d like to highlight confirmed the spreading of meals. When consuming 4 small meals a day, a study on 8 elderly women say that an evenly spaced out intake of protein compared to an intake of 80% in one meal resulted in differing results. There are some limits to this, however. Starting off, this is obviously a small sample size and it is elderly women and not athletes. The total intake of protein was only 60g. So the comparison of meals were 15-15-15-15 and 48-4-4-4 grams respectively. Those limitations are there, but I think that they can be applied to other aspects. I’d believe this would support the recommendations. [8]

There is some postulation of the idea that supplementing some free form aminos and CHO (15g EAA or 3.2g leucine and 20g CHO) between full meals might increase MPS responses as well. [9] I’m a little hesitant on this one because I’m not fully convinced of it. I simply wanted to mention it.

OK, time to take a deep breath. What does this all mean? Well it all leads up to a few simple recommendations that I’ve been giving for years:

1 – Eat your protein evenly throughout the day (five meals mean total intake is divided by five. Four meals means divide it by four). I don’t mess too much with the total daily recommendations outside of the normal governing bodies (NASM, ACE, NSCA, ISSA, etc.)

2 – Consume your BCAAs! I don’t care where you get these (plant or animal proteins), but these are needed for stimulation

3 – You can supplement leucine if you feel the need, but this isn’t crucial

4 – Eat mixed meals. This should be obvious from our Carbs convo, but let’s state it again.

5 – Stop eating every 2 hours! It doesn’t do what you want and is not necessary

That’s the most simplified version of what I recommend. It’s pretty simple and effective. Go get it.

– Gavin

If you want to email me, my email is hammerstandfitness@gmail.com – Feel free to email this address at any time!


  1. Paddon-Jones D, Sheffield-Moore M, Zhang XJ, Volpi E, Wolf SE, Aarsland A, Ferrando AA, Wolfe RR. Amino acid ingestion improves muscle protein synthesis in the young and elderly. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2004 Mar;286(3):E321-8.
  2. Tipton KD, Ferrando AA, Phillips SM, Doyle D Jr, Wolfe RR.

Postexercise net protein synthesis in human muscle from orally administered amino acids. Am J Physiol. 1999 Apr;276(4 Pt 1):E628-34.

  1. Norton LE, Layman DK. Leucine regulates translation initiation of protein synthesis in skeletal muscle after exercise. J Nutr. 2006 Feb;136(2):533S-537S.
  2. Churchward-Venne TA1, Burd NA, et al. Supplementation of a suboptimal protein does with leucinssential amino acids: effects on myofibrillar protein synthesis at rest and following resistance exercise in men. J Physiol. 2012 Jun 1;590(Pt 11):2751-65. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2012.228833. Epub 2012 Mar 25.
  3. Anthony JC, Lang CH, Crozier SJ, Anthony TG, MacLean DA, Kimball SR, Jefferson LS. Contribution of insulin to the translational control of protein synthesis in skeletal muscle by leucine. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2002 May;282(5):E1092-101.
  4. Bohe J, Low JF, Wolfe RR, Rennie MJ. Latency and duration of stimulation of human muscle protein synthesis during continuous infusion of amino acids. J Physiol. 2001 Apr 15;532(Pt 2):575-9.
  5. Norton LE, Layman DK, Garlick PJ, Brana D, Anthony TG, Zhao L, Devkota S, Walker DA. Translational controls of skeletal muscle protein synthesis are delayed and prolonged associated with ingestion of a complete meal. 2007 Experimental Biology meeting abstracts [on CD-ROM], Abstract #694.6.
  6. Arnal MA, Mosoni L, Boirie Y, Houlier ML, Morin L, Verdier E, Ritz P, Antoine JM, Prugnaud J, Beaufrere B, Mirand PP. pulse feeding improves protein retention in elderly women. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999 Jun;69(6):1202-8.
  7. Paddon-Jones D, Sheffield-Moore M, Aarsland A, Wolfe RR, Ferrando AA. Exogenous amino acids stimulate human muscle anabolism without interfering with the response to mixed meal ingestion. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2005 Apr;288(4):E761-7.