Rules I Always Break and Why – Episode 1

5 Jul

In general I am a rules person. Believe it or not, I like structure, a schedule and a plan.

Ok maybe I don’t really “like” it but I operate better with those in place.

In strength training, muscle building, fat loss, nutrition and performance training there are a lot of rules. There are even quite a few books with the word rules in the title or subtitle.

Recently, I have been following a great series of articles on T-Nation by Martin Rooney. Martin has been talking a lot about breaking the rules and it got me thinking.  (Note: I Highly encourage you to check them out at http://www.t-nation.com)

What rules do I consistently break with my diet and training or with my client’s diets and training that have caused positive results?

In these posts I am going to list some rules, possible sources / reasoning of/for thee rules, how I came to deem them “breakable,” why breaking them has helped, and a final take away:

Eat 5 -6 Small Meals a Day

Source: I couldn’t find a definitive source of the first recomendation to eat smaller more frequnt meals. However, it has definitely become the go to recomendation of the majority of fitness “experts.”

The major points in defense of eating smaller more frequent meals are the following:

  • Elevated Metabolism – eating food causes a thermogenic effect in the body. By eating more often you continue to fuel the furnace and keep the body using food for metabolic processes. This can boost energy levels as well.
  • You avoid the “store” function of the body. You may have heard the take that when you go a long time without eating your body enters starvation mode and then in turn is more prone to storing the kcal (energy) you eat to use later. By staying in a fed mode you are more likely to use kcal than store them.
  • You have a better chance of “using” the nutrients you eat. By eating smaller quantities you will be able to utilize nutrients, less will go to waste.
  • Curbs hunger.
Sources I have used that led me to believe this rule is breakable:
  • Intermittent fasting protocols – Most notably ‘The Warrior Diet” and LeanGains.com – Both are worth checking out.
  • Meal frequency and energy balance. Br J Nutr. 1997 Apr;77 Suppl 1:S57-70. , Thermogenesis in humans after varying meal time frequency Wolfram G, Kirchgessner M, Miller HL, Hollomey S., Effects of meal frequency on energy utilization in rats. Hill JO, Anderson JC, Lin D, Yakubu F. Department of Pediatrics, Vanderbilt University. These are three of many studies that would offer that meal frequency was not the determining factor in the success of meal plans. Rather, the actual amount of food intake and the proportions of macro nutrients are.
  • Personal experience. As somebody who has struggled with binge eating and an overall negative relationship with food, I have tried many different approaches to meal frequency and timing.
Why is breaking this rule helpful:
  • First, let me say there is nothing wrong with eating smaller more frequent meals. I just don’t think you HAVE to for success.
  • Many people don’t have the schedule to make this possible. Knowing that total consumption and macro nutrient requirements trump the 5-6 meal recommendation. It is more important to eat meals at a frequency that allows you to adhere to the rules that actually make a huge impact: total calories, food quality, and appropriate amounts of fat, protein and carbohydrate to meet goals being the top two.
  • While small meals may help some with binge eating and overeating, they also have a huge tendency to do the following: 1. Tease you and never leave you satisfied. 2. Keep your mind on food and meal timing all day. 3. Continually expose you to food all day. (This is a great article on the mental aspect – http://www.leangains.com/2010/01/marshmallow-test.html)
  • Bigger less frequent meals are more likely to be eaten as meals. By this I mean that small meals are way to easy to consume on the go, or standing in the kitchen. Larger meals help people (me for sure) to treat feedings as meals and actually sit down at a table to eat. I find they are more likely to promote cooking and eating with other people – both of which are huge pluses in my book.
  • Digesting food is tough for your body! By eating less frequently you don’t have to put your body through the demands of food digestion as often.
Final Take Away:
The most important element to your nutrition is caloric intake, food quality and macro nutrient proportions. Choose a meal frequency and timing that aids you in adhering to these.
What’s your take? Leave some comments below!
Until next time remember rules were meant to be broken, there are always exceptions to rules, and staying open minded is crucial in your growth in and out of the gym.
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3 Responses to “Rules I Always Break and Why – Episode 1”

  1. Matt Marcinczyk July 5, 2011 at 9:03 pm #

    Nice post. Does eating frequency matter with nutrient absorption? For example, I’ve heard different things about protein absorption in the body. I’ve heard that you’re body can only absorb 20g of protein at a time. Is that true? Does it apply to other nutrients as well?

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