Are You Drinking Enough Each Day? Probably Not…

We all know how important staying hydrated is. Despite this, I would hazard a guess to say not nearly enough of you drink enough water each day.

Staying hydrated is not just good for overall health reasons, but for athletic performance as well.

How much water you need to drink is obviously going to differ depending on a number of factors. Sex, weight, weather, etc.

You’ve probably heard the general 8 glasses of water per day rule. But, this may be undershooting it for you.

A more accurate calculation is to times your body weight by 0.0.35. This is easy enough to do, grab the calculator on your phone, type your bodyweight x 0.035 and done.

So, if you weight 70kg, this would be about 2.5 litres you need to drink EACH day.

How Much Should You Drink During Your Workouts?

A body water reduction in excess of 2-3% is considered to adversely affect performance. So, if you weigh 70-80kg, this is only a drop of 1.5kg.

How do you know how much to drink during your workout? Here’s 3 easy steps.

  1. Weigh yourself before you start your workout
  2. Weight yourself at the end of the workout
  3. If you weigh less at the end of the workout, you have to drink that equivalent in water weight.

So, if by the end of the workout, you weigh 500g less than when you started, you have 500ml of water you have to make up for, as 1 litre of water is equal to 1kg.  Obviously you should be drinking and staying hydrated during your workout. This is just calculating if you’ve had enough during the workout and if you need to make up for anything at the end.


Protein Quality: Even more important as you get older

Two beautiful things happen to our bodies as we get older

  1. It’s harder to lose the fat


  1. You lose muscle

Yep. Pretty much the exact opposite of what we are going for.

But all’s not lost!

With careful attention to what you eat – along with your exercise – you can help get the best of both worlds.

One of the most important macronutrients in maintaining your hard earned muscle and even stimulating MORE muscle growth is Protein.

Unfortunately though, it’s not as simple as just getting the right amount of protein each day. You also need to keep in mind the QUALITY as well.

When it comes to protein, quality is measured in two ways

  1. How much protein is present per 100g i.e. % of protein content
  2. How quickly the amino acids are absorbed in to your system and stimulate Muscle Protein Synthesis (it’s Leucine content)

Amino acids are the little building blocks that make up all of the proteins that our bodies use. And of the 20 or so amino acids that go to building all of these proteins, there are 8 of these amino acids that our bodies can only get from ingestion. These are called ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS. Essential meaning our bodies can not make them and we must get them from the foods we eat.

As it turns out, the very act of eating protein, actually stimulates your body to MAKE protein. That’s right, eating protein really does actually help you gain muscle. And, more importantly, at least hold on to it keep it while you are losing fat.

The main amino acids that are responsible to stimulating this Muscle Protein Synthesis are the ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS. More specifically, one called Leucine. Now, it’s not important you remember these names, just the effect that eating good quality protein has.

The best sources that get you ALL of your essential amino’s in one hit are termed COMPLETE proteins. Protein sources that lack one or more of the essentials are termed INCOMPLETE proteins.

To keep things a little simplified, the general rule of thumb is:

1) Animal proteins = complete proteins

2) Plant proteins = incomplete proteins

This kind of makes sense when you think about it. It you want flesh of your own, you literally have to eat the flesh of another animal to give you everything you need.

It turns out, some sources of animal protein are even better at doing this than others.

Whey protein, for example – you know that type of protein in all protein powder – is an excellent source of protein. Not only is it a COMPLETE protein, but it is also rich in ESSENTIAL AMINO acids. The main one being LEUCINE.

So, it has a high protein content. It is a complete protein. It is absorbed quickly in to the body and is a rich source of Leucine, meaning it will stimulate muscle protein synthesis.

There was even studies that compared feeding ESSENTIAL amino acids in a bolus dose vs NON ESSENTIAL amino acids only. The essential amino acid group stimulated muscle protein synthesis, the non essential group did not. So, make sure the quality of your protein sources tick the boxes above.

Other sources of animal proteins that fulfil this criteria are:

  • Eggs
  • Chicken
  • Beef
  • Different types of fish…

You know, the usual suspects.

As a general rule of thumb, you don’t want the fat content of your meat too high, as this actually lowers the protein quality slightly. The higher fat content means it is absorbed a little slower. This can sometimes be desirable, but again, we’re keeping it simple for now.

So, just as a recap, good sources of protein are:

  • Dairy (some better than others)
  • Eggs
  • Lean Meat
  • Whey protein

If you want the best quality protein, it is a good idea to get it from a variety of sources, as each of these also contain other benefits that are crucial for optimum health.  For example, you will get iron, zinc and creatine from beef. So, don’t think you can go and have protein shakes all day.

In your quest for fat loss, don’t forget you need to keep as much muscle as you can during the whole process. This comes from eating the right AMOUNT of protein each day, but, more importantly, the right QUALITY of protein.

Call it Yo Yo Dieting. Metabolic Damage. Set Point Theory. Call it what you want, you’re still going to get fatter.

I remember back in the 80’s, fad diets were all the rage.

In short, people would go on these crazy short term diets that would cut out groups of foods completely, dramatically drop down their overall food intake, and get awesome short terms results.

The problem was, as soon as these people came off their “diet” and returned to their normal eating habits and normal calorie intake, they would end up FATTER than before!

(Any of this sound familiar?? It should…)

The best way they used to combat this, was to go on another diet. Maybe even a different one this time. Maybe the grapefruit diet. Or the Garth Brooks Juice Diet (ok, maybe that one was from a movie, but you get the drift).

This gave rise to the term YO YO DIETING. Peoples weights would go up and down according to which fad diet they were on. But in the end, they would end up bigger than before. Even when they went back to the same calorie intake!

Again, if any of this is sounding familiar, that’s because it is. We have precisely gone no where over the past 30-40 years when it comes to mainstream consumption of dieting BS and our expectations of what a “diet” can achieve.

In the last couple of years, we gave it a different name. Metabolic Damage.

There’s even talk in the literature again on the Metabolic Set Point Theory. Almost as if these people have reinvented the wheel. When people were talking about this years and years ago.

Here’s the quick breakdown of the Metabolic Set Point Theory:

  • Your body has a natural “set point” or level that it likes to keep its weight at. This is determined by a number of factors including lifestyle, genetic, metabolic factors, etc.
  • Just like your body temperature, your body naturally regulates it’s weight fairly accurately over the long haul. You have in built mechanisms to match your energy intake and output to kind of maintain the status quo – or homeostasis – as scientists like to call it. So, just say your set point is at 2000calories. Your body likes to keep its input and output around that point, so it all evens out.
  • If you drop your energy intake too low for too long a period, your body will fight against it in order to try and keep things the same. To do this it will deliberately slow down your “metabolism” to accomodate this.

Congratulations, your new set point is now 1500calories

Guess what happens when you’ve finished your “diet” and return to your normal eating habits of the 2000 calories again? That’s right. You get fatter than before. Even if you just go back to what you were eating before you started your diet!

That’s Yo Yo Dieting in a nutshell. That’s Metabolic Damage in a nutshell. That’s learning nothing over the last 40 years of diet fads.

Again, it’s important to note your “Set Point” is influenced by many factors:

  • Genetics
  • Neurological Factors
  • Hormones
  • Calorie Intake
  • Body Composition
  • Gut Health – micro biome

And the list goes on…

You can’t just try and fix ONE thing and think you’ve fixed the whole problem. BUT, you can still influence the Set Point back to a positive way and not be stuck in the negative.

The Solution??

  • As tempting as it is to “get results quicker” you should never make big sudden drops to your energy intake.
  • Don’t ever “diet” for extended periods – comp dieters I’m mainly looking at you. NO, you can’t maintain comp conditioning all year round. NO, you shouldn’t compete back to back seasons for years consecutively. NO, not everyone was designed to step on the competitive stage and bean shredded AF.
  • Same for coming out the other end, it takes time for your body to adapt and recover. Give it time.

Regulation of your Set Point is a complex multifactorial issue, but ALL of which can be influenced by the big 4 pillars of fat loss:

  1. Diet
  2. Exercise
  3. Stress Management
  4. Sleep Quality

You don’t have to just drop calories to affect your set point. You don’t just have to then increase calories to affect your set point. Every girl seems to think they should be able to eat over 2000 calories per day. Every guy thinks they should be eating over 4000 calories per day. It’s just not as simple as that.

Forget the quick fixes. Forget the fad diets. Focus on meaningful long term change. And long term change only happens with the small things done consistently. You are the only yard stick you should ever measure anything against. No one else.

So each day, each little step, each little meal, each little training session. Over the long term, they will bring you the results you are after.

The Rapid Response program is built around these 4 pillars of fat loss. Looking at key indicators that are measurable and achievable. By maximising each of these factors and you can get fast results with positive changes, not just “quick fix” solution of just dropping down calories.


Is A Bigger Muscle A Stronger Muscle? Muscle Myths Part III – Intermuscular Coordination

Is A Stronger Muscle Is A Bigger Muscle: Muscle Myths Part II – Inter muscular Coordination

Last time we looked at some of the structural affects of training, namely Functional vs Non Functional Hypertrophy as part of an article written for Ironman Magazine.

This time we turn our attention to the next step of the chart, namely Functional Effects of a Training Stimulus, with this articles focus on Intermuscular Coordination.


Traditionally we always think that if we have a bigger muscle, we have a stronger muscle. But this is only the case “if all other variables are equal”. The truth is, these other variables are really never equal and can be affected a great deal by training.

“The fact that Olympic weightlifters can increase their strength from year to year while remaining at the same body mass reveals that strength depends on other factors as well.” (Siff)

This is also easily seen in the fact that bodybuilders are the most muscular athletes in the world, but they are by no means the strongest, or the most powerful.

The biggest element in the strength training equation, therefore, is from the adaptation of the nervous system.

“Strength is the product of muscular action initiated and orchestrated by electrical processes in the nervous system of the body. Classically, strength is defined as the ability of a given muscle or group of muscles to generate muscular force under specific conditions.” (Siff)

So what role does the nervous system play in strength?

“Strength is not only determined by the amount of muscle mass but also by the extent to which individual fibres in a muscle are voluntarily activated and coordinated between many muscle groups (intermuscular coordination).” (Zatsiorsky)

It’s therefore not only the size of the muscle, but how effectively you can contract it. 

Each physical movement is not reliant on one or two muscles contracting, but the coordinated effort of a number of muscle groups that cross a number of joints.

Intermuscular coordination involves the sequencing and synchronisation of different muscle groups to work together optimally to produce any given movement. This may involve the facilitation of:

  1. Activation
  2. Timing
  3. Sequencing of certain muscle groups
  4. as well as the inhibition of others from cooperating in the execution of a skill.

Intermuscular coordination is coordinating the activity of many muscle groups to achieve the greatest force summation.

Even the simplest exercise is a skilled act requiring the complex coordination of a number of muscle groups.

Take the Posterior Chain for example. Your posterior chain is what is referred to when we are discussing the groups of muscles that make up your back, glutes, hamstrings, etc that contribute to powerful hip extension. These muscles are classically the main ones used in the deadlift, for example.

Inter muscular coordination optimises the activation, timing and sequencing of each of these muscle groups to maximise the total force summation of each movement.

If each group of muscles activate too early the previous muscle hasn’t reached peak contraction yet = suboptimal force summation as noted by the blue lines

If each group of muscles activate too late, the previous muscle has already reached peak contraction and has started to taper off = suboptimal force summation as noted by the green line

If each muscle group times perfectly right at the peak of each previous muscles contraction = optimal force production and a much greater end force produced in the movement as noted by the yellow line

Force Summation Chart

The movement pattern, rather than the strength of single muscles or the movement of single joints, must therefore be the primary training objective.” (Zatsiorsky)

This has given rise to the term “train movements not muscles” if increasing strength is your objective.

The biggest thing to note here is that


In a nutshell, neurological adaptation is the highest priority for strength training athletes

Metabolic adaptation is paramount for bodybuilding.

If you want strength, train movements not muscles.

If you want size, train muscles.

Training for performance is NOT the same as training for cosmetic adaptation.

Specificity of your training stimulus is one of the most important factors in your training program success.

And in case you were wondering, you don’t just “max” out your neurological adaptation and then muscular adaptation starts. Again, this is witnessed by elite athletes able to hit new 1RM’s year to year without changes in weight category and increases in “lean mass”

In the next part of the series, we will look at Intramuscular Adaptation as yet another way of increasing neurological adaptation with no change in the muscular size as a way to increase strength.

Is A Bigger Muscle A Stronger Muscle? Why Are We Even Still Debating This?

One thing I love about my training crew is we get to discuss the trends in the industry and throw back and forth ideas and what we’ve found as far as our research goes.

Seems lately – as with most industries – the hot topics are ones that have been thrown around for decades now. Almost to the point I can’t still believe we are discussing them. Every new generation of trainers think they’re reinventing the wheel when it comes to training ideas and discovering the science behind lifting.

As I mentioned to a colleague earlier today, it’s like the whole “machine weights vs free weights, which one is better?” headlines all over again. Haven’t we already had these discussions enough?

The biggest one that always pokes the bear is the notion that you have to get stronger to get bigger.

At best this is an oversimplification of the idea of progressive overload, at worst its complete ignorance of the science behind strength training.

So, is it possible to get stronger without getting bigger??

If so, what are the training effects that actually take place

In Part 1, we will talk about the different effects that a training stimulus can have.

Subsequent parts in the series will discuss each in more detail.

Right off the bat, the answer to the first question is obviously yes.  You should know, at least anecdotally, that you can get stronger without “bulking”.

After all, isn’t that exactly what we tried to achieve for so many years? To convince females to strength train and show them it won’t bulk them up?

Lift weights we said. You won’t get too big. You’ll just get stronger.

And now what? We tell everyone the only way to get bigger is to get stronger?? Seriously.

So what’s the science have to say?

As most of you know, I’m a visual learner, and like nothing better than a good flow chart.

Outlined below is a simplified version, taken from Mel Siff’s awesome book on strength training – Supertraining.

Training S

It summarises each of the subsequent training effects that take place as a result of applying a training stimulus. For example…lifting a weight.

In truth, there are 3 main training effects that occur in response to a training stimulus:

  1. The Structural Effect – Or the one most of us know as “getting bigger”. This is the muscle hypertrophy that can accompany the training stimulus
  2. The Functional Effect – which further breaks down in to
      1. Inter muscular Coordination
      2. Intra muscular Coordination
      3. Reflexive Changes
  3. The Motor Learning Effect

Take a good look at the chart again, and notice the small tiny part of the overall table that is taken up by the word “hypertrophy”. Now pay attention to ALL of the other ways in which your body can adapt and increase strength WITHOUT increasing muscular size.

And not only that, you will find there are in fact 2 different types of hypertrophy. One that coincides with an increase in strength – what is termed FUNCTIONAL HYPERTROPHY and another where you can get an increase in size WITHOUT a subsequent increase in strength. This is termed NON FUNCTIONAL HYPERTROPHY.

This idea will be explored in more detail in Part 2. Along with discussing in more detail the other ways your can improve strength without increasing size.

Does Stretching Even Do Anything?

It’s been so ingrained in to our psyche over the years. You have to stretch!!

People will always tell you they need to stretch more. But no one ever asks the important questions. Like, does it even work?

Seriously. Is stretching even good at improving flexibility? And more importantly, does being more “flexible” actually help you prevent injury?

Obviously, I’m mainly referring to static stretching here, which involves holding a stretch for a certain period of time. The more traditional form of stretching we are all used to.

I remember reading years ago – in the awesome book Supertraining by Mel Siff – that static stretching affects the passive Parallel Elastic Component. Whereas the part of the muscle responsible for contraction is actually referred to the Series Elastic Component, which is affected more by dynamic stretching and lengthening under tension. Even back then I remember thinking, “why the hell do people make such a fuss about static stretching if it is only affecting the parts of the muscle that aren’t even responsible for contracting? Wouldn’t it make sense to focus on the Series Elastic Component instead?”

What does that mean in English? Well, the times when you actually NEED to be flexible is usually when you’re DOING an activity right? So, static stretching, which stretches the passive structures, seems like it would be a total waste of time.

Well, let’s find out…

Firstly, people usually think they need to stretch to be more “flexible”. Being more flexible helps prevent injury after all. Doesn’t it?

Well, here’s some awesome information from Stuart McGill, world renowned back expert, on the science of flexibility. (taken from Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance, 2009)

“Blindly increasing ROM rationalised by the belief that it is beneficial is problematic”

“There is no relationship between static joint flexibility and dynamic performance”

“There is a documented NEGATIVE correlation with more flexibility in the back and higher subsequent back problems”

“Stretching, to many individuals, is done to lengthen muscle in a passive sense yet there is little evidence that this occurs”

So basically, static flexibility doesn’t help you when you’re actually doing something active. Plus there’s little evidence that even static stretches are that effective at even stretching the muscle!

What are you really stretching anyway?

Most people would probably say it’s all about lengthening the muscles, but this isn’t entirely true.

The are multiple factors that contribute to your flexibility.

1) Obviously the muscles around the joint are one of the structures involved, but more than one muscle will have an influence

2) Passive tissue restrictions, such as joint capsules, ligaments, bony surfaces, etc

3) Neuromuscular modulation of length and tension. Or, in English, the nerves in the region play a role.

4) Pain threshold of an individual. If you have a high pain threshold, you’ll be able to push the range of motion further.

Basically, your muscles, joints and nerves. And how you handle pain.

In a nutshell, static stretching doesn’t even increase your range of movement in the dynamic context you’re after. And not only that, you’re not even lengthening the “muscle” the way you thought you were!

So what do you do?

What’s the best way to gain range of movement?

“More evidence favours stretching to modify the neuromuscular processes…the evidence suggests that modifying the neuromuscular process has the most effect on the functional range of motion, but these changes are short lived and must be challenged daily

“The concept of active flexibility is more important for performance”

Dynamic warm up techniques and stretching techniques such as PNF work to address these areas and are much more beneficial in that sense than just holding a stretch.

In a nutshell:

  • Don’t try and be more flexible just for the sake of it
  • Be specific to the activity you are trying to improve
  • Use different range gaining methods and approaches to target passive tissues together with the neuromuscular components
  • Slow twitch fibres may require longer stretches. Sustained static stretches may be indicated here. This may be important for a specific athlete. It may not be important for you
  • Use both static and dynamic stretches for both the series and parallel elastic components.
  • All directions are important
  • Don’t try and make yourself flexible just for the sake of it. You need a functional range of movement that is specific to the activities you do.

Still confused?

  • Static stretching doesn’t stretch the dynamic structures and doesn’t help with your dynamic flexibility.
  • Being more flexible for the sake of it doesn’t lower your risk of injury.
  • Keep your warm up SPECIFIC to the activity you are about to do. Warm up sets along with some dynamic flexibility work.
  • Passive stretching, if at all indicated, comes AFTER the workout.
  • Consistent daily work if you want improvement.

There may be neural factors affecting your flexibility and holding you back. You may need to incorporate neural glides, loaded stretching, PNF, foam roller work, etc. to work on all different aspects.

Range of movement is not about lengthening your muscles and being more flexible just for the sake of it. It’s a co ordinated control of the muscles, joints and nerves to control movement in conjunction with controlling the stability of the movement within the range of motion.

Make sure you come and see me if you are unsure as to what’s the best method for you and your situation.

Why “Good Technique” is Not Enough

On the surface it seems strange, how can you have good technique and yet your technique can still suck?

The simple reason is that good technique is more than just achieving what looks like good alignment.

The timing and sequencing of muscle activation patterns play not only a huge role in power production but also also how the body’s tissues distribute the forces and load.

In achieving good technique, you need to be aware of 2 things:

1) Alignment

2) Muscle activation patterns


Obviously this is an area where books can be written, but as it isn’t the main focus of the article, I won’t go in to great detail here.

There is no one perfect alignment. No one size fits all. It’s always a trade off. If you change technique to take pressure off one area, it will be distributed to an adjacent area. Sometimes this is exactly what we are after though. An example of this is adjusting someones technique so the load is distributed more to the hips rather than the lower back.

As a general rule:

– aim for symmetrical alignment i.e. left to right

– pay attention to weight distribution as this can determine where the force gets distributed i.e. weight through the heels and mid foot while squatting as drifting on to the toes can cause people to place more pressure on their backs than their hips

– neutral joint position of critical joints such as the vertebrae of your spine

Muscle activation patterning:

This obviously still coincides with alignment, but is also the main reason why someone can seemingly have “good” technique on the surface, but – because of poor muscle activation and neural sequencing – still have quite bad technique and leave themselves open to injury.

It really boils down to 2 key aspects:

1) How well you “control” your aligment

2) Where and how you develop your force production

Both of these aspects are controlled by 3 key groups of muscles, your:

Local Stabilisers vs Global Stabilisers vs Global Mobilisers

Local Stabilisers:

Think of different muscles as having different roles. There are some muscles that are quite small and literally are the only muscles that may cross certain joints. When they contract, they don’t actually cause any movement, but actually increase “segmental stiffness” (this is a good thing). By doing this, they contribute to the stability of the system. If these muscle don’t work (which can happen sometimes in response to pain), the stability of the system is severely compromised, which greatly increases your risk of injury.

Global Stabilisers:

As you start working your way outwards, you come across muscles that provide control – especially rotational control – to the system. These muscle should be efficient in shortening to their full inner range, controlling the lengthening and decelerating under load and also isometrically “holding” things in place when needed. Your Glut Med is a good example of this in pelvic / hip / and lower back stability.

Global Mobilisers:

Their main role is actually cause the movement. These are the ones that usually get the whole focus when we are doing an exercise. But, as you can see, they don’t contribute the stability of the system. Rather, they are reliant upon the other muscles to do their role to stabilise in order for them to be effective in producing the movement. By just focusing on these, we can sometimes miss the importance of the other two. Until it’s too late and we hurt ourselves.

I have been quoted in the past with regards to fixing someone’s technique along the lines of “keep doing what you’re doing, just do it differently”.

While they initially laughed, it is actually true. Sometimes there isn’t just an “exercise” you can do to fix a problem. It’s learning how to correct the neural motor pattern IN that movement that is more important.

It’s not WHAT you are doing, it’s HOW you are doing it.

The activation patterns. The timing. The sequencing. One good example most people are familiar with this is the timing of the Glut Max in power production and sequencing in the context of the whole Posterior Chain.

All of these muscle groups, the Local Stabilisers, the Global Stabilisers and Global Mobilisers, are just as – if not more important – than just the alignment.

If you think you are having issues with your technique, need help with pain while lifting, or would like to learn if you are in fact doing your exercises correctly, contact me for an initial consult to run through everything in more detail.

Why “Energy In Energy Out” Doesn’t Tell You If You Will Get Fat

The laws that govern whether or not you lose or gain fat is more than just an energy equation.

When it comes to storing and losing fat: It’s not just about a calorie surplus. It’s not just about calorie deficit.

Still, to this day, even so many so called experts can’t seem to get their head around this concept.

And still. Still, so many seemingly educated people will try and have you believe the only way you can lose fat is with a calorie deficit and the only way you can gain fat is with a calorie surplus.

Even though I’ve tried to explain this concept in detail over the years, it seems like people still don’t seem to “get it”. They think that as soon as you mention this, you somehow don’t believe in the laws of thermodynamics and conservation of energy. Or they think you peddle pseudo science like “you can eat as much fat as you like as long as you get rid of sugar”. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Hopefully, this chart can simplify the whole picture (yeah right) and break it down to be less confusing.

I’ve always been a visual learner. The whole process is obviously extremely complex. But I always find it easier to break things down into its simplest principle. This flow chart breaks everything down and summarises the whole process as simply as possible. It’s not comprehensive, but it will hopefully give you the overall picture. Sometimes it’s good to adopt a top down approach so you don’t miss the “forest for the trees”.


There are 3 Possible Pathways for the energy you ingest:

It’s an inescapable law of physics, the law of thermodynamics, you can’t create or destroy energy, it can only be converted in to one form or another. The energy of the system, therefore, has to ALWAYS be conserved.
When it comes to the human body, there are 3 possible pathways this “energy” can go down.

The food you eat can be converted to one of the 3 following energy forms:

  1. Kinetic
  2. Thermogenic
  3. Potential

Kinetic energy means it gets used to cause movement

Thermogenic means some of it gets lost as heat during normal cellular processes, maintaining body temperature and also during exercise.

Potential means some of it can get stored, either as structural material or for later use i.e. stored glycogen, stored fat.

Now. Look at these pathways closely again. And look at the “stored fat” pathway. The most important thing to wrap your head around is that the pathway that any “calorie” can go down is not fixed. It is a constantly fluid and shifting process that is influenced by a number of factors. NOT just whether or not there is an excess of energy in the system.

The main factors that influence which pathway any food can flow down is:

  • The type of macronutrient – not all macronutrients are capable of going down all of the pathways i.e. Carbohydrates do not serve any structural role. Protein has the highest Thermic Effect of Feeding.
  • The amount you eat influences the pathway – the amount of food definitely does matter, but it is not the only influence on which pathway a macronutrient will ultimately travel down
  • The hormonal environment influences the pathway – I have written about this extensively before in my Science of Fat Loss series, so I won’t go over it again here. Needless to say, the hormonal environment will influence which pathway the macronutrient is most likely to go down.
  • The hormonal environment is influenced by a number of factors including exercise, macro type and amount, recovery and wellness state (illness) of the organism. The whole system works off a feedback system and a complex interaction between all of these factors. Nothing happens in isolation!
  • Off the back of that, your “energy in” influences your “energy out”. People talk about metabolism all the time with little to no understanding what it actually means. People seem to accept that you can increase your metabolism by eating more food, but don’t understand how it works. This chart hopefully helps.
  • Just because you have an energy surplus DOESN’T automatically mean it will get stored as fat. Just because you have a deficit does not mean it will automatically get pulled from your fat stores. – don’t you think it’s possible that maybe, just maybe you can influence the system to put those extra calories to good use? Or pull that energy deficit from the right places and not muscle? Isn’t that also what calorie counters do anyway? Yes it is. And the very fact they do it also means it’s not just about how many calories they had that day.


What the calorie theory gets right:

The laws of thermodynamics, also known as conservation of energy, is an unbreakable law of our physical universe. You can’t create or destroy energy. It can only be transformed in to one form or another. What they don’t get is, you can have conservation of energy of the system. That’s not what we’re actually talking about.

What we’re really talking about is your fat cells specifically. What makes them bigger, what makes them smaller. As you can see by the chart below, for any “energy” to be stored as fat it has to go down a specific pathway. Whether or not a macronutrient goes down this pathway is determined by a number of factors, not just whether or not there is an “energy surplus”.

Problems with the calories theory:

All calories are definitely not created equally. Proteins are processed differently than carbs, which are processed differently than fats. They have different metabolic and hormonal effects and also different thermogenic effects. So, a calorie from carbs is never the same as a calorie from protein.

What the subject should be about is what are the circumstances that cause fat cells to get bigger, what causes them to get smaller. Energy in is NOT the sole determinant for this process to occur

Your Fat Is Not Just A Storage Dump For Excess Calories!

The main concept need to get out of your head is that fat is just a storage dump for extra calories or energy. Your fat cells are in fact an endocrine organ. Which means they release hormones. These influence metabolism and hunger amongst other things. Your fat cells also react to hormones.

Fat cells are under regulatory control. This control is actually exerted by hormones. Not calories. And while it’s true the energy you ingest influences your fat cells. They are not solely governed by it.

But, doesn’t this chart just proves it’s all about energy in energy out?

It’s easy after the event to look back and say “see, when we account for TEF, TEE, NEAT, change in potential energy, etc, we can show what happened” so it must be calories.

The very fact the calorie theory has had to change and adapt over the years every time it has been proven wrong shows it’s actually NOT just about the calories. Concepts such as NEAT (Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) have had to enter in to account for areas that didn’t add up. Not to mention that NEAT is influenced itself by the “calories in”.

It’s very easy to look at the system AFTER the fact and say “well see, we used this much for activity, their metabolism increased because of this, their spontaneous activity went up, they stored this much as muscle tissue and this much as muscular glycogen. So, subtract the remainder and…see!!! It’s still just about energy in energy out”.

But that’s like reading stock charts. Everything makes sense AFTER the event. (for anyone who doesn’t get predicting stocks on charts, it’s the finance world version of fortune telling) It does nothing to tell you about the fundamentals of the company. I just realised people would probably get a finance analogy less than a nutrition one, soooooo….

It does NOTHING to influence which pathway these “calories” can go down on the way in. And, again, it shows that just by having a surplus DOESN’T mean it will get stored as fat. Yeah, you can calculate it AFTER the event show where it went. Doesn’t mean you had complete control over it just by counting it on the way in. Which is EXACTLY what the calorie theory is based on.

You can still have conservation of energy. You can still abide by the laws of physics. They’re not the questions we should be asking. What you want to know is what influences your fat levels. And what you can see is that storing body fat is only a small fraction of an overall massive puzzle.

The main thing we are concerned with is dropping stored fat. Take a good look at the diagram closely and see what a tiny fraction of that whole equation it is.

Same when it comes to storing fat. Look at all the possible pathways and also look at all of the regulatory hormones that influence that pathway beyond just a simple “calorie” excess.

Don’t you think maybe. Just maybe the laws of thermodynamics can be adhered to and you can influence body fat levels on not just an energy in / energy out basis?

Having said that, what the hell should you be counting then? Well, only worry about the things you have control over.

Get your macros right. The amount and the quality. Measure them. Count them.

Then measure and assess the results. Adjustments should be made based on the results not just for the sake of having to drop calories.

Whenever you read anything or listen to anything from now on, keep this chart in mind. If they try and make you believe you can somehow circumvent any of these pathways or talk to you in absolutes, you can kindly now scientifically understand how they are simply full of crap.


Calories Don't CountBen Minos has Bachelor degrees in both Physiotherapy and Exercise Science (Human Movements). He has worked as a Personal Trainer for 20 years and a Physiotherapist for close to 15. Ben has authored a book on nutrition titled Calories Don’t Count, available through iBooksAmazon and most online retailers. He has also authored many articles for Ironman Bodybuilding Magazine and also co authored Australia’s first Kettlebell instructor certification course. He has competed in Natural Bodybuilding over a number of years, as well as prepared numerous clients for the stage.

TCC The Science of Fat Loss Series Part 9 – Can You Spot Reduce Fat?

Is Spot Reduction Real??


People who do 1000 crunches a day in the quest for a glimpse of a line on the stomach may tell you otherwise, but most should know by now that spot reduction of body fat is one of the great urban myths of our time.

Or is it?

1000’s of fitness girls doing leg kick backs on the stepping machine can’t be wrong surely!?!

It also doesn’t stop some “internet gurus” from espousing absolute crap online either (Click on it later, if you feel the need to lose 5 minutes of your life that you’ll never get back. Well, 10, if you include reading this article)

With so many people acknowledging that spot reduction doesn’t work – and yet so many people doing everything like it actually exists – the real question then becomes

Is there any science to back it up?

Is spot reduction actually possible?

Well. I’m here to tell you spot reduction is real!! Just not in the way you think.

Doing endless crunches is definitely not going to strip fat off your stomach. But there are other ways you can influence this.

In covering this, I’ll probably answer another even bigger question for some of you who have had some success in getting reasonably lean,

How do you get rid of that last little bit of stubborn body fat?

Do you just “cut more calories bro” or is there something more to it than that?

So, how is spot reduction actually possible? Because your body “spot stores” fat. If it stores fat in a regional bias, theoretically, you can spot reduce.

Remember how enzyme activation sparks the fat loss or fat storing process? And hormones in turn control the enzymes. And also remember, it’s not just a question of how much hormone is present in your blood. It’s also a question of how receptive you are to it.

I’ve already talked a little about this in the context of insulin sensitivity. Making your body more receptive to a hormone can change the effect of it at a low concentration. If you’re more receptive to insulin, you need less of it to get the desired effect. In the role of fat loss, this is a good thing.

Your sensitivity to the other hormones besides insulin can also influence how fat gets stored and lost. And it turns out, there are regions of the body that are more receptive to certain hormones than others.

Your thighs and butt, for example, have a higher affinity for the hormone estrogen. Your triceps and chest as well. This is one of the main reasons why females tend to carry more body fat around these areas, as they generally have a higher level of estrogen than males.

This is what scientists call the “topographical distribution of body fat”. And if your body stores fat in a topographical region influenced way. It makes sense if you influence these hormones, you can also affect the loss of fat in that region.

In each of these sections, I will present some of the science, then I’ll summarise what it means in plain English.


If you can recall, Insulin has more than one little hidden easter egg in it’s fat storage arsenal, it:

1) Stimulates glucose transport and fatty acid synthesis

2) Promotes fat storage through stimulation of LPL

3) Inhibits fat breakdown in mature fat cells

The unfortunate thing is, it takes a larger concentration of insulin to promote glucose uptake in to the fat cell. Whereas, the inhibition of fat breakdown happens at a lower concentration.

If you are insulin resistant, it will take a greater amount of insulin to stimulate glucose uptake, BUT the inhibition of fat loss is NOT affected. This makes it harder to lose fat when you are insulin resistant.

Insulin also acts directly on the fat cell and has a favouring role on cortisol induced LPL activity.

What’s this got to do with region specific fat burning? Abdominal fat shows a higher glucocorticoid receptor density (more cortisol receptors).

What all that means in English:

•Insulin only needs to be present in small amounts to have a large effect on stopping fat burning, especially if you are insulin resistant.

•If you are insulin resistant, it is harder for you to lose fat. Chin up if you are on the plump side with some insulin resistance. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen. You just have to spend some extra time reversing the metabolic processes.

•”Wonder twin powers activate!” If you got that reference, you and I are way too old. It basically means Insulin and Cortisol are bad on their own, but when they team up…whoooo. Therefore, increased insulin and cortisol results in a greater amount of increased body fat around the stomach. In Aussie English: Too much stress and crap make your guts fat.

•Insulin is the main regulator of your fat cells ANYWHERE in the body. So this is always the main focus point on influencing fat cell levels. Whether you cut calories, blah, blah, or whatever, this is the physiological process you are influencing and should always be the MAIN focus.

Catecholamines (Adrenalin and Nor Adrenalin):

As for some of the other hormones, your fat cells have different receptors for these. And these receptors are in different concentrations in different areas of the body.

The catecholamines – Adrenalin and Nor Adrenalin – may specifically activate four of these receptors called B1, B2, B3 and A2. You don’t have to remember any of these, just get the gist of what’s going down.

A2 is an inhibitory receptor and may regulate fat loss during the resting phase. B receptors regulate fat loss during exercise. B1 is sensitive at low concentrations and more acute effects. B3 needs higher levels.

Females have more A2 receptors from gluteal fat cells (butt and thighs) than males.

Males have a higher visceral fat cell volume, which seems to be associated with a decrease in A2 receptors and an increase in B3 receptor function.

There is a different regional sensitivity to both Adrenalin and Insulin action.

In both males and females, subcutaneous abdominal fat cells have a higher B1 and B2 density and sensitivity and a reduced A2 receptor affinity and number than the femoral and gluteal fat cells. Therefore, femoral and gluteal depots show a lower fat burning response to adrenalin than subcutaneous fat cells.

Fat around your organs is equally sensitive to adrenalin and nor adrenalin induced fat loss and inhibition of fat loss. But they don’t get affected as much by the inhibition of fat loss effect of insulin when compared to subcutaneous abdominal or femoral fat cells.

What all that means in English:

•Females have more fat around the butt and thighs

•Males have larger visceral fat cell volume (fat around the internal organs) aka beer gut.

•Adrenalin and Nor Adrenalin affect more abdominal subcutaneous fat cells (the fat just under your skin). This means you will lose more fat off your stomach than off your butt when it comes to doing high intensity exercise and controlling insulin.

•High insulin levels stops fat loss on the abs and thighs more than they stop fat loss around your internal organs.

Glucocorticoids (Cortisol):

I’ve written a fair bit about cortisol, but a couple of other interesting points.

Cortisol stimulates fat loss in peripheral tissues and also protein breakdown.

It actually helps to protect glycogen stores and delays glycogen depletion.

Resistance training (especially the eccentric part of the lift i.e. lowering the weight in a bench press) for repeated bouts decreases tissue breakdown via a modification of cortisol receptor content. In English, lifting weights helps to protect your muscles from breakdown.

The cortisol effect on LPL in human fat cells is dependent on insulin. Abdominal adipose tissue shows a higher expression of cortisol induced LPL. Increased insulin and cortisol increase fat deposition, with more congregating around the abs.

What all that means in English:

•Again, higher insulin and stress makes you fatter on your stomach. This fat is also highly correlated with about a million lifestyle diseases. Heart disease, stroke, cancer, etc.

•If you have high insulin and high cortisol it will negate any fat burning effects of adrenalin and nor adrenalin. It will make exercise less effective. Yes, once you are obese and insulin resistant, you are really pushing sh#t up hill for a while. Again, stick with it, you CAN change your metabolism.


Androgens (in this case let’s talk mainly Growth Hormone and Testosterone) not only stimulate breakdown of fat tissue but also stop the uptake of Free Fatty Acids.

They mainly stop the FFA uptake in abdominal but not subcutaneous fat. i.e. inner fat around your organs, not the ones just underneath the skin. This is because the receptors are more abundant in preadipocytes from abdominal rather than subcutaneous fat deposits.

Testosterone and Growth Hormone decrease LPL activity. (they stop fat from being stored)

Growth Hormone presence largely contributes to developing the full androgen reduction in food intake and normalisation of obesity syndrome.

Dietary amount and composition of macronutrients influence resting concentrations of Testosterone, but not cortisol. A low calorie / low fat diet may exacerbate the down regulation in resting Testosterone concentrations.

What it means in English:

– Growth Hormone (get enough sleep, don’t over do carbs, high intensity exercise) helps to stop you getting fat around your stomach organs. You NEED this if you are already fat. You need this if you aren’t fat and want to get leaner, stay lean…you just need this.

– Testosterone and Growth Hormone not only stimulate fat burning but also decrease fat being stored.

– Don’t go low calorie / low fat. If you are on a lower calorie diet, make sure you get enough essential fats and overall fat content, otherwise Testosterone production will be depressed.

There are certain disease states that highlight some of these hormonal effects. Cushings disease, for example, is a problem with your adrenal glands where there is too much cortisol production. This is highlighted by an increase in abdominal body fat and a decrease in fat on your limbs.

The bottom line, if you want a leaner stomach:

– Decrease Cortisol

– Decrease Insulin

– Increase Adrenalin

– Increase Testosterone

– Increase Growth Hormone


This one is a bit of a special one. Obesity can also be considered a condition of increased estrogen production, since estrogen production rate significantly correlates with body weight and the amount of fat in the body.

Remember how your fat cells aren’t just stored energy? But also behave as an endocrine organ?

Your fat cells are responsible for some of the aromatase activity in your body that converts androgens in to oestrogen’s. As you get fatter, your body converts more testosterone in to estrogen. Ever wonder how guys get boobs as they get fatter?

The fatter you get, the more estrogen your body produces. So, you get fatter. And the fatter you get, the more estrogen you produce, so you get fatter…

If you want fat off your butt and thighs:

– Increase GH

– Decrease Estrogen

– Decrease overall Insulin response

And guys, if you want to get rid of those man boobs:

– Decrease Estrogen

– Increase Testosterone

Can supplements help?

Are there any other natural remedies that can assist in affecting these hormones? Based on the billion dollar industry that is the supplement industry, the answer is “of course!”

Truth is, jury is still out on a lot of them. There are some that have been kind of proven to show some improvement. Tribulus and ZMA have shown in some studies to boosts testosterone levels. There has been some hype over DIM and Resveratrol over their anti estrogen effects. The Growth Hormone stack of arginine, ornithine, lysine and methionine showed some promise, but unfortunately not when taken orally (only intravenously).

Unfortunately, there’s nothing that’s going to make all the difference for you in the way you are probably thinking.


It is possible to spot reduce?

In a word YES.

Just not in the sense we originally thought. How much of an effect can you do naturally?? The reality is, not that much. Unless you want to take the other non legal “supplemented” rout. Which for various reasons, I obviously don’t recommend.

When it’s all said and done, what does it comes down to again?

Eat right. Lift weights. Sleep well. Learn to de stress.

Besides that, just thank your mum and dad.

As I’ve hinted at repeatedly. It is as complex as all of that, and as simple as all that.

Out of all the complex interactions and metabolic processes I have covered throughout this whole series, these 4 things are the ONLY things that keep cropping up that you have control over.

And, as you know. You should only ever worry about the things you have control over.

And maybe, just maybe, I might be completely wrong about those yoga moves stripping belly fat after all. Isn’t yoga supposed to “de stress” you? Maybe this mad genius is on to something. Maybe he knew all along it was about cortisol management. Maybe he is the one who has been right all along!

Or maybe he’s just full of sh!t…

Calories Don't CountBen Minos has Bachelor degrees in both Physiotherapy and Exercise Science (Human Movements). He has worked as a Personal Trainer for 20 years and a Physiotherapist for close to 15. Ben has authored a book on nutrition titled Calories Don’t Count, available through iBooksAmazon and most online retailers. He has also authored many articles for Ironman Bodybuilding Magazine and also co authored Australia’s first Kettlebell instructor certification course. He has competed in Natural Bodybuilding over a number of years, as well as prepared numerous clients for the stage.

TCC The Science of Fat Loss Series Part 8 – How To Strip Fat

How do you go about creating the ultimate fat loss environment?

If you remember last week, overeating on fats and carbs (especially simple sugars that elevate insulin) as well as stressing and not sleeping, was a one way ticket to Fatsville. Think middle aged person, white collar, high pressure job with kids. They may eat out at corporate lunches a lot and also drink alcohol.

Stress. No sleep. Lots of bad food. That’s the perfect crap storm for depressing all the good hormones and peaking on all the bad ones right there! I don’t care if calories are over or under your maintenance, no one looks good on that kind of lifestyle.

So, as discussed last week, you need to limit all of the things that make you fat.

Conversely to that, what are the most effective things you can do that are going to strip fat the quickest? You know, besides avoiding the above. Or better yet, what should you be doing instead??

Remember how the “Fasting State” was kind of good for fat loss? But there was also some bad stuff too?


Fed State

Fasted State

Insulin Glucagon
Lipoprotein Lipase Hormone Sensitive Lipase
Increased Leptin Decreased Leptin
Decreased Ghrelin Increased Ghrelin
Increases Thyroid Decreases Thyroid
Decreased Growth Hormone Increased Growth Hormone
Increased Serotonin Decreased Serotonin


And when it came to stress?


Chronic Stress

Acute Stress (Exercise)

Increased Cortisol Increased Adrenalin
Increased Adrenalin (chronic)
Decreased Growth Hormone Increased Growth Hormone
Decreased Testosterone Increased Testosterone
Increased Ghrelin


What is the ideal fat loss hormone scenario? As usual, control the bad, enhance the good.

  • Control Insulin and Stimulate HSL
  • Promote Short Term Adrenalin
  • Keep Thyroid Stimulated
  • Increase Testosterone
  • Increase Growth Hormone
  • Optimise Melatonin and Serotonin
  • Increase Leptin and Decrease Grehlin
  • Control Cortisol

What are the optimal hormones to maximise fat loss? And how do you eat to create this? Not only that, what other lifestyle factors can you focus on to make sure you are stripping your fat to your bodies fullest potential?

Bear in mind, we are discussing the above factors mainly in terms of how they influence your fat cells. Not necessarily some of the other important biological functions and effects these have on your physiology.

We will touch on a few other important factors in this discussion too. Factors such as: stimulating Muscle Protein Synthesis, Thermic Effect of Feeding, micronutrient make up, etc. As I’ve tried to make clear from the start, this whole process is anything but simple. Everything is extremely complex and interactive. There are not only different macronutrients with different energy yields, hormonal, enzymatic and thermic processes. There is also an intricate interplay between the different processes that affect your results.

Have you glazed over yet? Does it sound too complicated already? Don’t be put off though. The answer is so freakishly simple.

What I do want you to do is to ALWAYS keep these things in the back of your mind during any discussion. It doesn’t matter what diet, etc, you adhere to, there are a few base universal principles that any good diet should deliver on.

What you will find in any case, the diets that deliver on all or as many of these things as possible, also happen to work well to stimulate muscle protein synthesis, which also serve to give you maximum nutrient density, which also…and so on and so on.

But first…just need to air some dirty laundry a little.

Should you go High Carb / Low Fat? Or Low Carb / High Fat?

Oh yes. That old chestnut. The diet question for the ages. And ultimately the question that pisses me off the most. When did it come to that anyway?

Do I go HCLF or LCHF? Should I go 60% carb 20% fat? Or go 10% carb 80% fat? (If you do either of these by the way, you are beyond help)

Short answer is NEITHER. Adequate carb. Adequate fat. For what you are trying to do.

It’s like arguing if Pippin or Rodman were the bigger key to the Bulls championships. Motherf#cker it was JORDAN all along!! He da real MVP. But he still couldn’t have done it without them.

Scientists and the public constantly in a pissing contest over who holds the upper hand, while protein sits there with a wry smile thinking “I’ll let these knob jockeys fight amongst themselves”

Protein is the key (Protein is Jordan, by the way. Just in case you couldn’t keep up). First rule of fat club. Make sure you are getting enough protein.

There is one thing I will say on the fat vs carb debate. When it comes to FAT LOSS. For the same calorie intake, the lower carb version works better. Even when fluid, etc is taken in to account. Scientists even gave this phenomena a name. The metabolic advantage. I’m not going to say Google it like some internet guru’s who can’t be bothered to answer legitimate questions. But the metabolic advantage of this kind of diet should already be obvious if you have been paying attention to ANYTHING I’ve been saying in the first seven parts of the series.

How Do You Optimise MPS (Muscle Protein Synthesis)

Whether you are trying to lose fat or “bulk”. Or even “lean bulk”, as the kids of today call it. Your goal should ALWAYS be to maximise as much lean mass as possible.

The only way you can do this is to

1) Get enough protein

2) Get enough of the right quality protein

Get enough protein:

I’m seriously not going to talk about something that can be found in every single fitness and bodybuilding magazine and online forum for the past 15 years.

But, your protein requirements may increase above the usual 1.8g/kg/day depending on what you are trying to do and really it depends on what you are doing with the your carbs and fats. Some people (say prepping for a contest) can sometimes go up to approx 3-4g/kg/day.

Should you do that? No. I’m just saying that it can vary, depending on circumstances and goals.

And two more words when figuring out your optimal protein intake. Dose. Response. Have your nutrition coach calculate what is best for your circumstances. If they don’t know what that means. Find a new coach.

And just in case anyone even tries to mouth the words “what about your kidneys?” Or “that’ll strip calcium straight off your bones”….Well, let’s just say, as soon as they invent a way to complete a virtual punch to the throat through a mobile screen…you better duck and weave. Thanks for bringing up something that no study on healthy individuals EVER has ever shown. On the other hand, you can stick to your higher carb and / or higher fat. Just tell me how your diabetes, heart attack, cancer, etc goes. I’m sure your kidneys love that chronically elevated blood glucose even more…

IF on the other hand you have a legitimate pre existing kidney issue, you do have to be very conscious of your protein intake. On that note, anyone who requires any medical nutritional support at all, talk about everything with your treating physician first. Then again, if you’re getting your specialised medical advice from a Facebook / blog post, you probably deserve everything you get. NEXT…

How to choose the best quality protein??

It’s not that I’m inherently lazy. It’s just that I hate repeating myself. Which I feel I’ve already done enough during this series (it’s not all about the calories… “geez, we get it, will you give it a rest already douchebag!”)

Click here later

Can Eating Too Much Protein Make You Fat?

Well. Obviously, yes. And no. I mean. It can. But it’s kind of harder to. And it kind of depends. You don’t get the same 4 calories per gram as carbohydrates though, that’s for sure. Different amino acids have different caloric yields. Different protein sources have different amino acid profiles (ratio of amino acid contents). Some amino acids are more easily converted to glucose intermediates, some more fat intermediates. Some can even be used directly by your muscles as a source of energy (BCAA’s for example). Soooooo…it’s not really that simple.

What is simple is you have no “storage” form of amino acids. Other than, you know, yourself. So any excess above what can be used to replace your bodies cells, kind of has to be converted in to energy of some form for you to use. Usually, this accounts for about 10% of your energy intake. But, this changes depending on how much protein you are used to feeding your body.

You have what are called Glucogenic and Ketogenic amino acids. The Glucogenic ones are obviously converted more easily to glucose intermediates and can be used to make glucose, which can then theoretically be used to then make fats. But it’s a pretty long process and you have to ask yourself, what kind of nutritional environment does this happen in?
Conversely, ketogenic amino acids can be broken down to intermediates that can be converted to ketones and fatty acids.

Is there an advantage of one over the other? Not really. Just saying there are different types that go through different pathways. Not all amino’s are the same when it comes to how they are broken down for energy.

Because your body can’t store it for later, and any excess has to be dealt with as a priority. Think of it as protein having almost a carbohydrate and fat sparing effect. If you have too much protein, your body will try and convert the excess to a usable form of energy. What does it do with all those carbs and fats you just ate with it? Freaking store it obviously.

Now I’ve got that out of the way…

Meal Structure to Optimise The Fat Loss Environment:

At last. How do you put all this together in a freaking meal!?!

Despite any goal that any diet has, what is your first unbreakable law of nutrition? Say it with me. “To give your body adequate nutrients to promote health and function.” That’s right! Health, damn it. Health.

Does it fulfil all of the necessary requirements to provide enough essential amino acids, enough essential fatty acids, micronutrients such as vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients, fibre, etc to maintain and optimise health? If you fail this just to drop a few kgs. You just fail.

If anyone said “energy” in answer to above question. You can get your right hand. Lower it down to your mid section. And grab a big fat juicy handful of all that excess “energy” you have on your guts. Most people have enough “energy” on them to last a few months. We want to use it.

That said. In conjunction with above, what are the goals of your meals to optimise fat loss?

  • Control Insulin
  • Increase Leptin, Decrease Grehlin 
  • Maintain optimal Thyroid, Growth Hormone and Testosterone levels
  • Optimise Serotonin and Melatonin
  • Maximise TEF (see previous Courage Corner posts regarding Thermic Effect of Feeding)

How do you do all of this?

1) Again, Adequate protein: Not only does protein provide essential amino acids, promote Muscle Protein Synthesis and have the highest Thermic Effect. It also helps maintain Growth Hormone levels in the relative fasted state. There are even some amino acids have a Growth Hormone stimulatory effect (although not conclusively proven when it comes to oral doses).

In fact, you can think of everything we are doing here as creating a modified fasting state. And that’s exactly how it has been known over the years in some circles. Think of it as a variation of a “modified protein fast”. You get the same fat loss / fasting environment, but without the negatives and without the pesky muscle loss or slow down of metabolism.

2) Eat a LOT of High Volume Nutrient Dense Foods: This will optimise your Leptin and Grehlin response (your appetite and metabolism hormones). It will also stabilise your blood glucose and maintain you in the relative fasted state. You will feel fuller by eating more food while consuming less calories. So eat. A lot. Mainly highly volume, high fibre, nutrient dense foods. It will fill you up. It will send signals to the brain you are full. It will also keep your Thyroid humming along by not starving yourself. One of the biggest complaints I get initially on any of my diets is that people struggle to get in the volume of food and they feel full all the time.

3) Optimise Your Insulin Response: Mainly here we are talking about carbs here. Your goal is to maintain a stable blood sugar level. Typically, the normal levels are about 100mg/dL, with a range of about 80-120mg/dL. What the hell does that mean?? Basically, it works out to be about 5g of sugar in your blood stream at any one time. One freaking teaspoon of sugar in about 5L of blood!! You go get a 5L bucket, fill it with water, and then put a heaped teaspoon of sugar in there. That’s it. Think about that the next time you sink a can of coke.

And do you know how much glucose your brain uses per hour? About 5 measly grams. Coincidence? I think not.

Maintaining blood glucose levels for optimal brain function is, therefore, freaking easy. And nature made it even easier for you. In 100g of fibrous / plant based carbohydrates (not grain or dense root vegetables) you are going to get about 4-6 grams carbohydrates per 100g. No matter what type of plant. Whether lettuce or a tomato. Just the volume and density of the food will differ.

Remember, I’m not talking about optimising performance here. Just basic cell function and survival.

There will be a follow up post coming soon regarding Carbohydrates, but for now keep the following in mind.

– Carbs are purely an energy source, they serve NO structural purpose

– How much do you really need right now sitting there reading this?

– How much to maintain blood glucose levels for optimal brain function?

– Can you use fat for everything else?

– How much will you need for your workouts? Are you trying to refuel the liver or muscles? Or both?

– What type of carb and how much best suits this response?

– What has the optimal density of carbs and gives enough nutrient value?

Do I care if you ultimately have dextrose (glucose powder) after a workout or jelly beans instead (99% glucose)? No. What I do care about is people who argue about this kind of crap and think they’re smarter for it.

Never cut carbs altogether. Remember Serotonin? You need some.

4) Get Enough Fat: Make sure you get enough essential fatty acids to normalise cell function and to maintain adequate Testosterone levels. Testosterone is a fat based hormone (it literally uses fat to get made). Beyond that though, do you really need anything beyond structural essential fats? When it comes to energy, wouldn’t you want to use your stored fat? Why would you give it any extra? There are some fats, however, than can actually help you lose fat. Omega 3’s, for example, improve insulin sensitivity, and decrease inflammation. Be sure when you look at your fat intake, you start with the essential fats.

When you look at the above principles, the magical meal structure you should focus 80-90% of your meals around becomes….

(drum roll)

Animals and Plants

Yep. Let the disappointment sink in for a second there.

The stupidly simple 3 Step Process to the perfect fat loss meal:

  1. Choose your protein source
  2. If you chose a lean protein, add some essential fats
  3. Fill the rest of your plate with as much veggies as possible. Different families, different colours, use different herbs and spices.

There are a couple of meals in the day where this will deviate. And will depend on how much carbs you have earned. Whether you are trying to fuel activity, or to facilitate recovery.

No magic potions. No diet pills. Proteins, fats, fibre, nutrients. Energy only as needed to fuel training. Let your fat reserves do the rest.

Don’t Restrict “Calories” Too Much

Say the words “metabolic damage” one more time. Go on, say it. I dare you…

There is an element of truth to it though. Restrict calories to dangerously low levels for too long, and it will backfire on you. If you want to really mess with your metabolism, all you need to do is drastically alter your energy intake and deprive yourself of nutrients.

There have been numerous studies over the years on various starvation models. Starvation studies used to show that any severe calorie restriction (say 800cal diets for example) the metabolism would slow to such a rate, that, even after normal maintenance calories were restored, the person would ALWAYS end up heavier than before. Even if they just went back to the same calories as before! In my day we just used to call it Yo Yo dieting. Welcome to your body fighting against change. Scientists call it trying to preserve homeostasis.

Good news is, you can recover from this. Bad news is it might take time. Even months for some people.

Stress Less

Again. And again. And again. Chronic stress = bad. You can’t necessarily avoid a lot of stressors in your life. But learning to deal with and manage stress is critical.

Learn to channel your chi, align your chakras, work on your mantra, or quit your day job and go bush…

But seriously, don’t do any of those things. Or all of them. I don’t really care. As long as it works for you.

Get More Sleep. Get Better Sleep.

Fire up your pink salt lamp

Get your wifi blanket and magnet shield or whatever

At least have a decent night time routine. Limit technology and artificial light before bed. Don’t stay up til 1am watching Netflix or swiping right. Those sorts of things.

You’d think by now adults would have this sleep thing down. But we suck at it. People tell their kids to get to bed early, cos we all know what assholes they turn in to if they don’t get enough sleep. What do you think you’re like you cranky shit?

And the Obvious…Exercise. Hard.

30min 3 times per week of a lazy stroll doesn’t cut it. Although doing 16.5 every workout might be pushing it a little.

Adrenalin is a short term stress hormone. Short term stress is good. Long term stress is bad.

If you remember correctly, this “fight or flight” hormone is the main antagonist to insulin.

Weights. HIIT. Do it.


Wait. Wait. Wait….Is that it?

No sizzle? No sex?

Eat mainly protein and veggies? Exercise? Get some sleep? Manage stress?

Is that all??

Well. It’s as simple as that. And as complex as that.

What the freak did you expect?

There is nothing sexy about it. In fact. It’s completely unsexy. But unsexy doesn’t sell. You wanna know what does sell? If I take any one of these aspects. Just one. Give you a little bit of science to make it sound plausible. And exploit the living crap out of it. Give it a catchy name and brand, like macrobolic optimax 3.0. Tell you it’s the quickest, easiest way to fat loss. Have a few people on board screaming how good it is. Maybe even a celebrity endorsement. A few good before and after shots. Some recipes. And there you go.

Do they all work? Probably. Is one any better than another. Maybe. But not one of them. Not one. Can work without affecting one or more aspects we’ve discussed in this series.

The way I look at it? If exploiting one aspect. Like cutting calories. Or restricting carbs. Or limiting cortisol works. Imagine what you can achieve by doing all of these things simultaneously?!

Kind of like a “best of”. And I’m not talking a Milli Vanilli “best of”. But more like The Beatles “best of”. But with fat loss.

Coming Soon: Can You Spot Reduce??

Calories Don't CountBen Minos has Bachelor degrees in both Physiotherapy and Exercise Science (Human Movements). He has worked as a Personal Trainer for 20 years and a Physiotherapist for close to 15. Ben has authored a book on nutrition titled Calories Don’t Count, available through iBooksAmazon and most online retailers. He has also authored many articles for Ironman Bodybuilding Magazine and also co authored Australia’s first Kettlebell instructor certification course. He has competed in Natural Bodybuilding over a number of years, as well as prepared numerous clients for the stage.