Today’s guest article is by Nathan Nadeau, B.Hsc, NSCA-CPT
In recent years, mainstream physical culture has enjoyed a surge of enlightenment. What I mean by that is the readily accessible amount of good information is on the rise.
This is evident simply by a quick observation of what most believe to be true of health and fitness today, than perhaps, 10 or more years ago.
For instance, most people now understand that the right fats and in the right amount are good for you, and can improve blood lipid profile; most people understand that BMI and weight do not necessarily have a direct relationship with body composition, and perhaps more currently, more and more people are developing an understanding of controlled macronutrient moderation, also known as flexible dieting.
This is good. It means the machine is moving in the right direction, but how do we keep it moving that way? And how do you ensure that you’re on board?
Our immune systems protect us against the attack of generally dangerous little bad guys called microorganisms. They do so by recognizing little markers on these micro-baddies called antigens, and then they mount an all-out attack against the cells that have that marker.
The goal is to seek and destroy. Immune systems are a lot more complex than that, but I thought I’d spare the lecture in pathophysiology, because our purposes are performance and enhancement and a good analogy can be traced to how we think.
What if there was a way to build an immune system into the way we think, one that would detect dangerous information and discard it, and one that would be constantly balancing out and sifting through good information?
Well, it would make things a lot easier for all of us. It would make goals that much more realistic, and achievement of those goals inevitable. So where do we start?
We can think of reputable journals, publications, and individuals as ‘healthy immune systems.’ These are regulatory outflows that negate bad information.
The simple way it works is this: The better you are at detecting good information, and the more you saturate yourself with it, the less likely you are to believe bad information.
The less likely you believe bad information, the less time you will waste spinning your wheels. The more traction you get, the further you go.
Our real concern is determining which sources of information to trust as reputable. In a sea of conflicting thought, this may seem overwhelming at the outset, but I have developed three simple rules in my own thought processes, and with my clients, that can propell in the right direction. They are as follows:
1. Is it logically coherent?
- In other words, ask yourself “does it make sense?” Dogmas and overgeneralizations (and especially absolutes) are red flags to logic – so when someone says: “never eat carbs”, or “you should always fast for breakfast”, or “everyone can only absorb 30g of protein/feeding”- it is a pretty good indicator they don’t really know what they’re talking about.
- Sources that are open to criticism, that err on the side of caution, and that make conservative claims that can be individualized are usually a much safer bet. To use the protein example, it is a gross generalization to say everyone can only absorb ~30g of protein/feeding. A logical approach would consider lean body mass, protein type, nitrogen balance etc. Without even getting into study efficacy, you can dismiss the 30g myth.
2. Is it scientifically sound?
- Is it supported by science? Can you find generally unbiased literature on it?
- Using the 30g protein example: What research supports this? Moore et. al said 20 grams may be enough1. So I should believe right? Well apply rule #1 to the research and you quickly find it logically breaks down. Small sample size, and limited exercise intervention. Not to mention someone as reputable as Alan Aragon did an entire piece on this concept.
3. Is it practically applicable?
- Here I need to draw the distinction between good information, and right information. Right information is just information that is accurate. Good information is accurate and applicable to your lifestyle. In this distinction, ALL good information must be right, but not all right information is good.
- Following the protein example again… if you know what is generally a good goal for your daily intake of protein, you should typically consume that in the most convenient way for you, which promotes adherence adherence. It’s highly individual, and that may mean 2 meals, 3 meals, or 5 meals a day.
The scope of this article is not to make macronutrient recommendations, but to encourage you to think critically about what you read, and hear. The ‘immune system’ outlined above can even be applied to this article – that’s how it works, it is self correcting. This kind of self-correcting thinking can be applied to every facet of health, fitness, performance, and psychology.
Winston Churchill said that the empires of the mind are the empires of the future. He understood that war was won in the mind, and that helped win the war on the ground.
In the same way, when we learn how to think properly, when we learn more of the less known, we have done more a service than any pill, powder, program or plan ever could. Think well.
- Moore, D. R., Robinson, M. J., Fry, J. L., Tang, J. E., Glover, E. L., Wilkinson, S. B., & Prior, T. (2009, January). Ingested protein dose response of muscle and albumin protein synthesis after resistance exercise in young men. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 89(1), 161-168. Retrieved May 22, 2013