“BUT THAT’S SO BAD FOR YOU!!!!”

For the most part, no single food is inherently good or bad.

Terms such as:

“Good for you”

“Healthy”

and of course “Clean”

….are extremely ambiguous and subjective.

They could mean anything.

In other words…. They mean nothing.

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Anytime someone overuses such terms, you can be pretty sure that they most likely have no clue what the hell they’re actually talking about.

The labeling of a food item as simply ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy’ without any context of where it fits into your diet as a whole, is a false dichotomy.

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Are avocados a bad food choice?

Certainly not, right? They’re one of the very highest-quality sources of fats.

But if you were to eat 8000 calories of avocados daily, would you be very healthy?

Probably not.

You’d very quickly become overweight and your health would decline.

Not only would you gain fat quickly from such a large excess energy(calorie) balance, but you also wouldn’t even be getting adequate protein.

No matter how ‘clean’ and ‘healthy’ that food itself is considered to be.

It would be HORRIBLE in terms of both health and body composition.

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When it comes to achieving changes in body composition, aka fat-loss and muscle gain, caloric intake is far and away the #1 factor.

The macronutrient makeup of those overall calories is a distant second – and everything else is nothing but minor details.

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Raw broccoli – totally “healthy”, right?

If you were stuck on a deserted island with nothing but raw broccoli, you would starve to death from not being able to consume enough calories to sustain living.

In contrast, if you were stranded with nothing but Big Macs and donuts you’d survive just fine.

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Now, those are obviously very extreme examples.

And I am BY NO MEANS suggesting all calories are the same, or even that all sources of a particular macronutrient are equally good choices.

In fact every single client I take on, and any person I give advice to regarding diet, I suggest that their overall intake be made up of at least 80% whole, unrefined foods (when looking to drop fat).

Perhaps even more than 80% – depending on the individual, and the size of the caloric deficit they’re aiming for daily.

Or perhaps much less, if their goal is gaining weight and they have a tough time eating enough calories.

Telling them to allow themselves to enjoy a good bit of calorie-dense “junk” is actually BENEFICIAL in said situation.

Imagine that!
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The takehome point is this: judging anything in a vacuum, without any CONTEXT, is meaningless.

A particular food item, in a certain quantity, might totally fit comfortably within one person’s diet – even improve it.

Yet might be disastrous in addition to another individual’s current intake.
When it comes to nutrition, diet, training, or really ANYTHING….

CONTEXT is everything.

Crossfit is winning. And you should be glad.

You can say what you want about CrossFit, but the advent of CrossFit and its absolutely huge community is an unquestionably enormous net positive for fitness as a whole.

It’s gotten a ton of people into, and excited about, exercise. Many that wouldn’t have done so otherwise.

Not only into exercise – but actually using a barbell.

And actually performing compound lifts!

That’s huge.

And I don’t have statistics, but when it comes to retention and people STICKING WITH IT, I’d bet Crossfit wins big there, too.

Call it a ‘cult’ and sneer at it all you want, but Crossfit has a huge sense of COMMUNITY and atmosphere of camaraderie to it.

They support each other. And they’re welcoming.

Combine that with one of the other reasons it’s often criticized – high gym membership fees – and you can bet people actually SHOW UP.

Again, no statistics or hard evidence – but you don’t have to look far to see that the average group of ‘hardcore’ gym bros/bodybuilders/powerlifters often aren’t quite as welcoming to newbies.

You can start with the overpopulation of cheeky “gym memes” in your social media newsfeed.

The resounding ‘elitist’ attitude that seems to be in vogue with most of the fitness community is unfortunate.

Does Crossfit do a lot of dumb shit?

Sure. 

The high injury risk that comes with doing certain things the way they do – for example performing very technical exercises like Olympic lifts to failure – is totally unnecessary. Absolutely.

Is Crossfit a bit too general and randomized for an advanced athlete to use for training for a specific goal? Yeah, probably.

And there’s of course the popularization of the completely nonsensical ‘Paleo Diet’ trend – which really needs to disappear off the face of the earth….

YET STILL, Crossfit is doing a hell of a lot more good than bad – and a WAY BETTER job than any other avenue, sport, community, etc at getting people excited about exercising effectively.

Crossfit is winning. And you should be glad. I sure am.

Should you be training to failure?

Most people (in my experience) seem to be under the impression that, when lifting, they need to take their sets to failure in order to get results.

At first thought, it absolutely DOES make perfect sense. Which is probably why it’s the norm.

You have to push yourself to the limit to get better, right???

“No pain no gain” – isn’t that how the saying goes?

However, it turns out that this is just not the case.

At all.

In fact, training to failure too often can have a lot of negatives.

And it actually isn’t necessary at all when trying to build muscle OR get stronger.

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Contrary to what many people (even some whom I consider pretty good coaches/trainers) believe, the training stimulus to force a muscle to grow or get stronger doesn’t happen in “that last rep”.

It’s actually already happening during every rep before that.

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The most important factor when it comes to muscle hypertrophy is not the difficulty of a workout or sets. 

The number one factor when it comes to hypertrophy is TRAINING VOLUME. The amount of work(reps*weight) you’re doing over time.

….AS LONG AS it’s above a certain ‘intensity’ threshold.

Intensity, as it relates to resistance training, is expressed as a percentage of your one-rep max on that movement or exercise.

Obviously, lifting 10% of your one-rep max isn’t going to be heavy enough to force any adaptations. (Aside from specific situations)

It has to be ‘heavy enough’ in order to do it’s job as a stimulus.

Research suggests that ~60% is the minimum threshold for muscle hypertrophy adaptations to take place.

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Now, once again, the most important variable in continuing to gain muscle is quality training volume.

As well as progressively increasing that volume over time – whether it be adding weight or (once strength increases slow) increasing the total number of REPS you do over time (weekly, monthly, etc).

Taking sets to failure causes a disproportionate amount of fatigue per the amount of work you’re doing.

The fatigue accumulated by pushing to failure or close to failure, simply far outweighs any added benefit of squeezing out those last few reps.

Recovery from that those sets, and from that workout, will take significantly longer and be harder to recover from.

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In the context of one workout this isn’t a negative – but over time (a span of days, weeks, months), this means you won’t be able to do nearly as much volume – not that you’ll be able to recover from, anyway.

And as we already know, less volume = less results.

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And what good is totally running yourself into the ground within a workout, if in turn you have to wait a whole week or more until you can actually be recovered and train that body part again with any effectiveness?

You’re not likely to be able to get a whole lot of quality volume in over time, or become very proficient at the movements, training a given muscle group or lift only once a week.

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Not only that, but going balls-to-the-wall to failure every set is a good way to engrain BAD form.

Anyone who’s ever taken a set to failure knows that those last couple reps can get UGLY.

Especially on very technical compound movements, such as squatting and deadlifting.

Bad form under heavy weight leads to exponential increases in injury risk.

You will likely end up hurting yourself, eventually.

Which BEST CASE scenario leads to you having to take time off. 

And at worst – very possibly permanent damage to your body.

Probably not a worthy risk to take for not much (if any) benefit.

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My advice? Steer clear of failure.

Some cases may call for exceptions to this. But in general, for 99% of the people reading this… It’s just not worth it.

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Like it? SHARE IT!!!

Tag your friends.

Agree? Disagree? Comment!

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And hey, don’t forget to follow me on Facebook and Instagram.

I’m always sharing quality(or so I’d like to believe) fitness-related content and tips. Fo free!

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And if you think you might want 1-on-1 help, I do that too.

I offer Online Coaching – both diet and training programming.

http://www.MarkHiltonFitness.com/services

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The ‘yo-yo’ cycle: Why dieting makes people fatter.

FACT: The number of times the average person attempts to diet in their life, is directly correlated to how much body fat they will gain.

Yep, you read that right.

It’s not that dieting doesn’t work, of course.

But rather the way in which the vast majority of people attempt to diet, sets them up for failure rather than success.

If you approach a fat-loss diet correctly you will NOT be losing 5+ pounds every week. 

You won’t. 

The reality of it, is that it isn’t going to be quick.

And if it IS quick, it won’t likely be sustainable.

I think everyone would agree that the goal is not to get leaner. The goal to STAY leaner.

Losing weight won’t matter if you just end up gaining it back.

If you cannot sustain it, all of your effort and hard work will be all wasted – and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that weight loss can be HARD.

You could approach it with a “whatever it takes” mentality – starve, run yourself into the ground, and drop a ton of weight quickly. 

People do it all the time. You most likely know a few individuals who have.

But how often do they keep it off

With such an approach, you’re likely just setting yourself up to regain that weight, and then some.

What good is that?

And it WILL happen. It happens to people all the time. Look around.

Losing a bunch of fat is a great accomplishment. But if you gain it right back, then it’s all for nothing.

And you actually end up worse off the next time you try to diet down. 

I won’t go too deep into the science of it, but there are a number of real physiological factors that will literally make it even more difficult to do it again.

Dieting – being in a caloric deficit for an extended period of time – takes a toll on your body and metabolism.

Famine obviously isn’t an issue to us in today’s world, and we’re fortunate enough that none of us are likely to be short on available food anytime soon.

Unfortunately, the human body doesn’t know that.

We’ve evolved over the course of thousands of years in order to ENSURE SURVIVAL, first and foremost. Not to look good naked.

Your body doesn’t want to lose weight.

A cascade of hormones is signaled in order for your body to adapt favorably to not intaking enough energy(food) to maintain.

It does everything it can to keep you from starving to death.
Metabolic rate decreases. In other words, the rate at which your body uses energy(calories) declines.
This drop in energy metabolism is executed in order to preserve fuel and ensure survival – in case of a prolonged shortage of food.

Hunger increases. Certain hormones, particularly the hormone ‘Leptin’, make it increasingly difficult to not eat everything in sight.

Protein breakdown increases. When you’re in a huge caloric deficit daily, your body starts breaking down protein stores to use as energy, in addition to fat, more rapidly.
This means muscle loss. Which is NOT what you want to be happening when dieting.

Ensuring lean mass retention is CRUCIAL if you want to improve overall body composition.

Unless, of course, you’re content with losing a ton of weight and looking exactly the same, becoming weaker, having a lower basal metabolic rate(and consequently not being able to eat as much), and generally being less healthy overall.

And the fact of the matter is that it is exponentially more difficult to gain muscle than it is to lose fat. Ask any competitive bodybuilder.

Piss away all of your muscle mass chasing unrealistic weight-loss goals, and you’ll likely spend YEARS trying to regain the lean mass that you lost.

Most of all, if you diet in a way that is unsustainable as a longterm lifestyle change(weight loss shakes, anyone?), what do you think is going to happen once you stop, and go back to your ‘normal’ eating habits and level of activity?

You’re going to regain the weight QUICKLY. And the majority of it is going to be fat.

Break the “yo-yo dieting” cycle.

Start with small, sustainable changes that you can ingrain as habits for longterm adherence.

Don’t look to do a complete 180 degree lifestyle overhaul overnight. 

And don’t expect a quick fix.

Intelligent approach/planning + Consistent execution = Sustainability.

Set yourself up for success. Don’t set yourself up for failure.