The concepts of Intermittent Fasting or “delaying breakfast” is always a big topic because the advice contradicts most standard advice. For more information on the Science Lab and how Intermittent Fasting can work for you click here.
I appreciate you taking the time to chat with us. Your articles on T-Nation and Tabatatimes seem have your name everywhere at the moment. Has that been surreal and why do you think your message is getting so much interest?
One reason a message will get so much interest is when it’s needed as well as wanted. And I think I made good choices in picking topics that fulfilled that need; simple diet principles and encouraging women to strength train. Many people are getting plenty fed up with the crazy state of diet and training going on and the confusion about where to get good information, that someone who will give it straight is appreciated. Everything I share is a reflection of the education I have received from the works of those like Alan Aragon, Mark Rippetoe, Lyle McDonald or Dan John, and I am also proud to be published alongside coaches and trainers I admire on T-Nation. I plan to keep on writing, so you can expect to see more from me.
You coach High School athletes and have more of a powerlifting background (rather than say Crossfit). It’s my experience that once performance and work capacity is in line the eating part becomes relatively trivial with a mostly whole foods approach. What are your thoughts on that and specifically how you use various macros as fuel?
Actually I have a background in a bit of both. I did Crossfit for about a year, before switching to more traditional powerlifting/bodybuilding strength training. I also used to be a diet-whore. I was one of those people who would pretend to not be searching for the “magic diet”, when in fact they were. I tried quite a few different ones quite religiously. One common tactic for any diet is just banning certain food groups or certain combinations. Not one diet book I have read (and I have read quite a few, including some crazy ones from the 80’s) ever really laid out the simple basic rules of human physiology and nutritional science and explained the role of macros and micros and how the body uses food. And every single one promised that it had something another didn’t and comes with certain unbreakable rules that will guarantee your success. Rules like “Don’t eat this food and this food together and you ‘ll be fine”. Or, “Just eliminate ……. at this time and you’ll be fine.” I can’t stress enough that until you know the principles, you will never understand the methods. People that argue IF or Paleo or Atkins or South Beach or whatever are just arguing methods. And as you hear repeated often; the method is what is individual. The best method is what works for you. And all that takes is some education and attention to your body. Rules and structure are great, even needed. You can’t just take someone with horrible eating habits and tell them to “diet intuitively”. And that’s where diets and strict methods are useful. But in the end if you don’t understand that basics of calorie intake, macro importance etc, you will fail at any diet no matter how wonderful it sounds. Right now I just lift weights and while my main focus is gaining strength, I don’t believe that means I have free-for-all in a diet. I train hard and eat a lot and keep it simple. I eat the same types of foods very often and don’t find the need to schedule “cheats”. If I want it I eat it and stay within reason. If I feel I want to drop some body fat, I know how to do that sanely. If I eat too little, I know what it will feel like in the gym, so I keep my intake consistent. Now that I have a sound education in the basics of nutrition I can always tweak my diet to reflect my current goals. For instance, right now I am training 6 days a week, squatting heavy every day, so I don’t cycle carbs, I just aim to eat consistent calories every day. Previously when I was training 3-4 times a week, I would cycle carbs and eat higher on training and lower on rest days. I know that if I want to drop fat, I don’t need to remove all carbs from my diet, or restrict fat aggressively, I would just stay high protein and keep a caloric deficit in any way I choose. You can argue a diet protocol to death, and still not stumble on the basics, which are pretty simple. I also now know that there are no real “bad” or “good” foods per se (you should have heard me argue against milk when I was 17). Its about the context and the balance. Some people preach against dairy or meat or nightshades etc. That’s a debate for someone other than me. I spent years obsessing over one food or another or one method vs another, and really it never did me me much good or got me closer to my goals. Eat your protein, eat your fats, and use carbs appropriately. I like Dan Johns suggestion of sticking to a basic 20 foods for about 80% of your diet. Nail good food choices and sounds habits, then tinker with other details when they matter.
Last question and thanks for doing this. You and I share a similar experience, we have both used Leangains to get lean. There has been a lot of criticism of Intermittent Fasting that I believe is misplaced. If you use it as an eating strategy it is a useful tool in my opinion. If you use it as an extreme diet the results would be similar to using any diet protocol poorly. What’s your take?
The criticism is usually from people that don’t bother to examine the evidence and think for themselves. They also tend to be the same people who will argue method over principle and refuse to see that you are pointing to a principle to convey a method. Unfortunately we are at the mercy of an overload of available information, so suddenly anyone can become an expert without any thought to an education on the basics and applying critical thinking and common sense.
Any diet can screw you over if you are just using it as a bandaid for bigger problems. If someone is a chronic binger, maybe they shouldn’t IF. If someone can’t control their sugar cravings, maybe telling them they can fit Snickers into their macros is not what they need to hear. With anything you need to ask: do my actions suit my goals? Are my choices giving me the results I want? How can I protect against my weaknesses and exploit my strengths?
Martin Berkhan has provided us with organized, systematic and compelling evidence that IF is not only fine, but a good idea if it is a method that suits you and your goals. That gives us two bangs for our buck; the anecdotal (experience) evidence, and a sound scientific backing. Where’s the problem? I’m not going to tell someone that they “have” to do this or that for a diet. My job as a coach is to ask “What do you want?” and then lead you there. Our job as coaches is to help someone find the best path to reach their goals. And that can come in so many ways, it blows the mind. If you can’t argue without including context, critical thinking, and respect for the scientific method, then keep your mouth shut.
Joy Victoria is the Strength & Conditioning Coach at St. Johnsbury Academy in St. Johnsbury, VT, a personal trainer and online fitness consultant. Besides training her athletes she is a competitive powerlifter and most recently won her division in the USAPL Massachusetts State Powerlifting Championship of 2012. Joy is a mother of two beautiful children, lived in over 10 countries in Asia and South America as a non-profit social worker, and spent two years as a Correctional Officer and volunteer firefighter. She can be found writing about lifting, dieting and hot topics in fitness on her site (listed above).