Monday, May 30, 2011

Response to Anon...

Anon--, I don't think there's any argument at all that being lighter will improve performance in many sports. I have never argued that weight is irrelevant for performance. Of course it's relevant, and I'm annoyed at myself for somehow not making that clear in my posts. So here goes, I'll make it clearer:

Consuming unsustainable and downright puritanical diets will not ultimately lead to better long-term performance. For the vast, vast majority of athletes (and the general public) simply training/exercising hard regularly and eating more simple food and less processed junk is the solution, just as it always has been. Some times the truth is really boring.

Focusing excessively (and if you regularly need to carry tupperware because you "can't find anything to eat and are over three years old that's excessive) is counter-productive at best, and downright damaging at worst., The diet game has a million new suckers a minute.

Let's look at the older athletes who have won or performed at top level over years or decades in contrast to this week's "Get real skinny and win!" book.

In general successful athletes focus on performance/winning, and then look at the pathways necessary to get to that point. Many amateur athletes look at the pathways more than they do at the goal. Do you want to be five percent BF for two months and place third in a local age division before blowing up or do you want to start at 12 percent, eat decently for a change, drop to 11 percent, place fourth in a local race, get stoked, train for another year, place 22nd nationally, notice you're now down to 8 percent because you're training like a fiend even though you eat the occasional banana split, and then win nationals the next year because you trained right (and holy shit, you did it at 7 percent, who knew!)? Or sit there worrying about whether or not to eat a piece of bread?

I see far too many athletes trying to control their performance by controlling their diet. Diet is simple to control short-term. So a bad race means a bad diet... No it doesn't, it most likely means the athlete didn't train well, or had a cold, or is distracted by a psychotic relationship or any of the other millions of things that can go wrong... But with the diet-based trainers it's always about the food, because they can control that (short term--long term they're gonna lose unless they're eating sustainably). Based on more than 25 years of competing in various sports where weight matters the diet-obsessed are not going to be the people on the podium in the long run. Nor are the 300 pound coach potatoes. Simple.

Diet is important, but performance is everything. Don't confuse the two, they are not interchangeable terms for god's sake! Read, understand, think, apply, train, adapt, understand, think some more, but do not become a victim of the diet is everything cult, it's a losing headspace.

Enough of this topic, my views are hopefully clear enough. There will always be a salesman with a new plan for getting skinny etc., learn to ignore them and focus on getting out the door as it's now time for me to do. Let's go get active, yeah!


James said...

This is a very interesting quote, Will. Thanks for this food for thought:

"In general successful athletes focus on performance/winning, and then look at the pathways necessary to get to that point. Many amateur athletes look at the pathways more than they do at the goal."

Anonymous said...

Will, i think we are generally in agreement. without a doubt. a sustainable approach to diet and training will win out over any short term "fad", but certainly we, as climbers, have examples of how extreme short-term dieting approaches have lead to extreme successes (think stevie haston on 700 cals a day for his redpoint of 15a, at age 51!). also, i do think that many elite athletes pay an enormous amount of attention on diet; it's in the literature.

nobody should attempt to starve themselves over the long run though. are there people really doing that? i'm out of touch in my little training bubble in the NW!

anyway, thanks for the feedback, and stay siked.

Anonymous said...

one last quick comment, regarding a previous post about losing muscle:

if the body is in caloric deficit, calories will be pulled from where available, including muscles (although mainly the ones not being actively used).

lance armstrong is probably the best widely known example of a rebuilt body: before cancer, big guy, only a threat in one day races. after the cancer, 20 lbs lighter, extraneous muscles gone, unstoppable. without this body change, there is no way he ever would have won 7 tours, or even one.

ok enough blah blah, have fun out there.

ed said...

there IS one diet out there that works.

its called the 'experimental diet' and entails a life of trying different things when the opportunities arise and never letting the inertia of thinking youve got it 100% right get in the way.

how do top athletes make their diest functional towards their aims?
they experiment and find what works?

obviously 'what works' changes because everything does, and success with the experimental diet is having a mind innovative and honest enough to keep updating.

the best get there by being intelligent, resourceful and creative - knowing what matters and what doesnt and when.

fixating on it all being available in one simple solution, training method or diet is naive - but a necessary stage to pass thru on the way to working it out.

there simply is sometimes when nothing but a big greasy burger and family sized latte will do the job :)

Toby Gadd said...

Anon 10:59: While Lance Armstrong may be a good example of someone who changed his body, I'm not sure that he is a good example of someone who changed his body through diet...

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure that he is a good example of someone who changed his body through diet...

i'm not an expert on the physiological effects of chemo but, having witnessed someone undergoing treatment, I can say that weight loss due to lack of appetite/nausea happened in this case.

so, assuming the same happened to Lance, his body loss would technically be due to diet, or more specifically, lack of!

not many would undergo the physical/mental hardship to reshape their body in a similar way voluntarily (meaning fasting), but it could certainly be done. i'd estimate it'd be a multi-month endeavor, first the extreme body loss through fasting, then the long recovery period from the emaciation....

any volunteers? the muscley guy who wrote earlier?

Greg said...

I could be wrong, but I would guess that the mental toughness Lance gained while going through chemo and his extremely hard work/training ethic and desire for greatness may have made a bigger difference in his success than his weight loss caused by the chemo. It seems to me that post-cancer Lance was not the same cyclist as pre-cancer Lance, but I don't think that had so much to do with the weight he lost as the character he gained.

Kim Graves said...

@Toby: I actually know a kid who was very muscular with single digit body fat levels who decided he wanted to lose muscle mass to climb harder. He did it on an extremely low calorie diet that allowed his body to cannibalize itself. It took several months, but was amazing to see. In terms of his climbing - I've lost touch with him and so can't verify - but I seem to remember that he went from 11's to hard 13's.

Anonymous said...

@Kim: must have been an interesting change to witness for sure, the malleability of the human body.

@Greg: i think it'd be hard to discount his mental change after surviving cancer, but i think it's impossible to discount losing as much weight as he did (and meeting up with Ferrari!).

Anonymous said...

"without this body change, there is no way he ever would have won 7 tours, or even one."

I think Toby was alluding to the LA's doping (alledgedly). O.o. Best Jim Rome O.o...

My middle school coach, a former Olympic shot putter was pretty succinct and adamant that at the Olympic level doping is pretty darned common...

Sabree Blackmon said...

I'm just going to assert my .005 cents here - I'm not going try to stick words in Will's mouth but I think what the overarching points of his rants (which I enjoy very much so) are these:

- This is more to life than your sport, whatever it may be. If your nutritional obsession is an obstruction of enjoying life to the fullest with friends and family, then what is the point?

- A simple non-convoluted diet with simple foods and use of common sense that matches your training intensity will lead to the results you want. This diet also has the benefit of being instantly adaptable for the long term and it becomes one less thing you have to worry about.

Some points of my own -

- While it maybe true the BF% plays a role in performance, its one of many. Your training regimen and intensity plays a much greater part to your long term success.

- Some people need to obsess over their BF% to squeeze that last .0001% of themselves out. Others will not, due to their body types and how their bodies have adapted over time. Everyone is different! Some people are better off with some excess BF around as a source of energy because of their metabolisms.

- Calories are calories at the fundamental level. If have a training regimen that has you needing 4200 cals a day, as long an adequate number of those of those cals are from carbs, it doesn't matter what sources those cals come from, be it cake, ribeye and potatoes or some highly engineered sport food. As long as you are putting in the effort with your training, you can eat crap and whatever else, and maintain or lose weight. Simple as that. Simplifying your diet makes it all the easier as going overboard becomes more difficult. It also keeps your vitamin and nutrient intake in check.

- Extraneous muscle may not help your climbing, but being a well rounded, fit, balanced athlete is not a bad thing. Engineering your body to be good at one thing will often make that much more difficult to be half decent at anything else without a huge amount of effort to fix the imbalances. Having the physical goods to be able to tackle any sport or activity you try and only be limited by your technique can make life a lot more interesting!

So, enjoy life - You must ask yourself if anything preventing that for even a moment is actually worth it.