Aggressive dieting often has a negative connotation, but does it actually work for weight loss and muscle maintenance?
To delve into this topic and other aspects of nutrition science, I interview Martin MacDonald in this episode.
Martin is a Clinical Performance Nutritionist, a senior lecturer at the Mac-Nutrition Uni (an evidence-based online nutrition course), and a renowned speaker in the realm of nutrition science. With his deep knowledge of nutrition science and experience in the field, Martin shares his perspectives on dieting and nutrition in this episode.
In our conversation, Martin and I discuss . . .
- The concept of aggressive dieting and the evidence in its favor for weight loss and maintenance
- The impact of traditional calorie-restricted diets on muscle loss (and how to recover it)
- How to calculate your maximum calorie deficit
- The challenges of aggressive dieting and how to adopt a flexible approach
- The myths around muscle loss during weight loss and the reality behind it
- The negative effects of aggressive dieting and calorie deficits on bone health, fertility, and obsessive tendencies
- Misconceptions about maintaining a larger calorie deficit
- The benefits of aggressive dieting for developing better eating habits
- The concept of “sugar addiction” and strategies to diminish the desire for high-sugar and high-fat foods
- And more . . .
So, if you’re looking to understand aggressive dieting better and explore the field of nutrition science, be sure to listen to this conversation with Martin MacDonald!
0:00 – Please leave a review of the show wherever you listen to podcasts and make sure to subscribe!
3:38 – What is aggressive dieting?
21:54 – Where can people find your calculator?
29:10 – Can an aggressive diet help your relationship with food?
32:39 – Shop Legion Supplements Here and use coupon code MUSCLE to save 20% or get double reward points!
40:35 – What is mac-nutrition uni?
45:17 – Who is Mac Nutrition Uni aimed for? Is it for practitioners?
51:46 – Where can people find you and your work?
Mentioned on the Show:
Shop Legion Supplements Here and use coupon code MUSCLE to save 20% or get double reward points!
Mike: Hello. Hello, I’m Mike Matthews and this is Muscle for Life. Thank you for joining me today for an episode that you should listen to if you want to lose some body fat, or if you plan on losing some body fat sometime in the near future. Because today’s episode is on the topic of aggressive dieting, which has probably a, a generally negative.
Connotation. Most people, at least most fitness influencers that I see giving fat loss advice these days are telling people to do the opposite, to not diet aggressively. Sometimes to maintain a very small calorie deficit that might produce, let’s say, a pound of fat loss per month at most, and that is, Advice that has never quite made sense to me.
I can remember, it was probably eight or nine years ago, writing an article on slow cutting versus quote unquote fast cutting. And at that time I concluded, based on my understanding of the research that I was reading at that time, and my experience with my own body and with working with others, that the general advice.
Given to most people, which is to cut rather slowly, is probably bad advice. Much better advice for most everyone is probably the opposite. To cut. Quickly to maintain a much larger calorie deficit, to be aggressive, not necessarily reckless, but aggressive. And I had various reasons at the time for why I, uh, believed that.
And for the most part, my position has not changed in that matter over the years. And in this episode, you are going to learn why and how to go about it. Correctly, and you are not gonna learn from me. You are going to be learning primarily from my guest who happens to share my position. And that’s not necessarily why I chose him.
I chose him to come on the show because I like his work generally. He suggested we talk about this topic. I think it’s a great topic. So here we are, and my guest is Martin McDonald, who is a clinical performance nutritionist. He is a senior lecture at the Mac. Nutrition Uni, which is his evidence-based online nutrition course that recently got some significant government recognition and regulation.
Martin is also a renowned speaker on nutrition science, and in this conversation, Martin and I discuss what aggressive dieting is. Many people think, for example, that a 500 calorie deficit, daily deficit of 500 calories is aggressive dieting. I would. Say not for most people, maybe if you are a 100 pound woman, yeah, that might be in the realm of aggressive.
But if you are a 250 pound man, that is not aggressive dieting. And so anyway, Martin explains what he considers aggressive dieting, and he also goes over some evidence in its favor for losing fat, for keeping fat. Off Martin talks about the impact of restricting calories on muscle mass. Many people are very concerned about losing significant amounts of muscle mass by restricting their calories too heavily, and Martin explains why that is much harder to achieve than many people think It does not.
Happen nearly as quickly or automatically as many people think. Martin also debunks some other common myths and misconceptions about maintaining a larger calorie deficit, aggressive dieting, and more. Hello Martin, thank you for taking time to come and talk with me and everyone who’s listening.
Martin: Very honored to be here actually, so thanks very much for inviting me.
Mike: Absolutely. So I wanted to talk to you about two different topics. Uh, one is aggressive dieting, the other is personalized nutrition. And I thought we should start with aggressive dieting because that is more clickbait than, uh, just being honest, right? Because a lot of people listening are interested in gaining muscle, gaining strength, losing fat, or at least, you know, maintaining a certain body fat level.
And there is an ongoing, it’ll probably never end. Debate about what is the best way to diet for fat loss? Should it be aggressive? Or is that actually just reckless? Should it be more moderate? Should it be slow? Should you really take your time, use a very small deficit. So with that, I’m, I’m just gonna, Turn the mic over to you and get your thoughts on that and aggressive dieting in particular.
Martin: Yeah. For me it’s, it’s really interesting how you phrase that. I would typically go to this idea of like, oh, it depends on the person you should work with, the individual in front of you, and, which is kind of like that, um, bro, bonus answer. It’s kind of like the, any question in, uh, In Sunday school is just, the answer is Jesus.
You know, it’s just like, uh, any question they ask you, it’s like, uh, that’s, you just say it depends, you know, do it based on the person. But actually I, I ended up saying, you know what, if you look at the evidence on fat loss and the success of fat loss or weight loss maintenance and weight loss, maintenance statistics, at two years, three years, seven years, if you had to put your money on.
A small deficit or an aggressive deficit. So an aggressive deficit being, it’s difficult to define, but I would typically say people are comfortable with a, a small deficit being maybe 500 up to a thousand calories deficit per day. Approximated, cuz we’ve got all the, the issues with it being a dynamic system of in calories, in and calories out.
But people would be comfortable with that. So aggressive being anything above that and towards. More a maximal deficit. You know, if, if we talk about any research today, the studies are using as little as four or 500 calories a day in heavy individuals. So that’s not, you know, we are not talking a 50 kilo female, uh, you know, a child or anything.
We’re talking fully grown adults, heavy adults. And if you had to pick a side, you know, if this whole thing of like, well, I can pick whatever side, I can work with a client. They can pick those, these are great things, typically, their magnet, nutrition, uni, our education course, we have this very. Client focus, client-centered, client led approach.
We’re not sticking on flags to the master of we we die in this way or we adhere to this particular principle of, I dunno, even like veganism or, or omni omnivore or anything like that. But with, if you had to stick. To one side, the evidence is, is almost irrefutably in favor of aggressive dieting. And so I will caveat that with not for athletes.
And so typically, uh, and I imagine loads of your listeners are like super fit enthusiasts, either athletes or pretty much trained like an athlete, even though they’ve got a full-time job. Somewhere else, and then they may be, are very lean. And so we can even talk about that. There has been research in those kind of individuals and, and where that maybe doesn’t suit them so well and the results we get from that.
But typically if people are trainers, coaches, nutritionists working with people, or they are someone who has a. You know, a significant half decent amount of weight to lose aggressive dieting. The outcomes you see in the research, even some of people’s typical expectations of aggressive dieting. Well, if I only eat 500 calories or, or a thousand calories or whatever, I’ll be so hungry.
And not only in all of the n equals one, you know, individuals showing their own experiences on the internet, the research, you know, the randomized control trials where we control for these things. And we can measure these things well, and we can measure the, uh, gut hormone responses, appetites lower. In the lower calorie groups, when you dial it back to, well, how, there’s a few reasons.
One of those being nutritional ketosis in some individuals. I’m, I’m not a huge fan. Well, I’m actually probably quite anti the keto diet and not because I’m anyone can’t do it, but just because of what tends to come with. The sort of keto religion that some people follow
Mike: and there’s the always the question of why, what are you trying to achieve?
And there’s probably a better way to achieve that, but
Martin: Exactly, that’s exactly it. It’s, it’s more if it suits you happy days, you know, but I feel like I could probably help you find something a bit more fun and you’d have more friends doing it my way. But nutritional ketosis, we understand that there are potentially some decent, uh, appetite suppressing elements of that with very low calorie diets that we’re discussing here.
We get into that area very quickly. Um, even when carbohydrates aren’t the main thing that we are limiting, whereas, you know, on that aggressive diet really everything’s being limited. The kind of, I suppose, evidence-based aggressive diet that I would be, or at least, so I have an aggressive dieting calculator that helps people talk about the real numbers and we can talk about how that calculator works.
In terms of, the point of my calculator is it’s, it doesn’t take you into those 400, 500 calorie realm because. Almost everyone will lose muscle doing it that way. And most people are really well if I can diet for just 1, 2, 3, or four weeks and not lose any muscle, and that’s the entirety of my diet for, for those who don’t have a great deal to lose.
You know, I just recently did a 14 days and lost 14 pounds, and of course all of that’s not fat, but it’s just that thing of like, oh, I’m done. And the visual changes are, are, are dramatic. You know, people are like, oh, it must have been so hard. It’s like, well I did two weeks and, and, and now we’re gone. But the key thing being is I actually wasn’t hungry.
But yeah, mo most people wanting to retain muscle mass. So,
Mike: I mean, you could argue that any muscle that you might have lost in two weeks, you’re gonna regain in what a week of training, you know? So,
Martin: That is such a good point, and one that I try to stress a lot because certainly with, with regards to natural muscle gain, I have actually seen some discussions and I, I’m not an expert enough to really talk about it, but in terms of genetic ceilings and, and maybe the, the plateauing, not complete plateauing necessarily, but the plateauing away from newbie gains and once you’ve got four or five years under your belt of training, you lose a bit of muscle.
Whether that is actually myofibril proteins or whether that’s more just something that would show up on a DEXA scan, which some of the studies that people throw back at me of like, progressive diet doesn’t work. This study showed this. And I’m like, they use the DEXA scan and we can plus or minus gain muscle mass as measured by DEXA by like two kilos in a few days.
And how do we do that? Muscle glycogen like it, it shows up.
Mike: Yeah, exactly. Eat carbs, eat a lot of salt, take some Cree and look at that. You just gained five pounds of muscle in a few days.
Martin: Exactly. Yeah. So the, with regards to this idea of maintenance of muscle mass, the key caveat I’ll say here is, Percentage body fat is one of the ways that we can try and calculate our maximum deficit.
So a, so a few years back I said this thing of diet on as few calories as you can realistically maintain to for the duration that would get you to your goal. The new addition to that would be you could diet on zero calories like a lot of people. And it has been done. There’s that. I dunno if you’ve seen that cool medical case study, the 385 day fast, like um, this is one of my favorites.
Mike: It was a man right, who lost half of his body weight from 400 pounds to 200. He didn’t eat a calorie for a year.
Martin: Yeah, in absolutely insane. Like it’s such a cool, again, when people go, oh, your body goes into starvation mode. I’m like, this dude, he went from whatever it was two, I used ki like 200 kilos to 85 kilos ish, 82 kilos.
Imagine after he skipped breakfast the first day and his body went starvation mode. Lads like, stop the metabolism. Like his, his body weight loss. Stop burning fat. Yeah. People, when people go, am I eating too few calories to lose body fat? I think his body fat was no 0.72 pounds. Per day for 385 days, like the most motivating.
This is the other factor of aggressive diets. The most motivating factor is results and it they just come so thick and fast with regards to body fat percentage. If you can get a rough handle on what your personal body fat percentage is, then we can use some research on this. The. Essentially that looks at the presentation of energy from fat into your bloodstream to be used by your, you know, transferred into mitochondria to be burned as energy.
That’s a rate limited process, but we can look at that based on someone’s percentage body fat. And the rough maths works out as if you just d divide your body fat percentage. So let’s say someone’s 20% body fat for really, really easy maths. You divide that by 20. And that’s the percent of your body weight that you can lose as fat per week.
And you, you should lose no lean body mass. So if someone weighs really easy mass, just uh, a hundred kilos, 220 pounds, and they’re 20% body fat, they can lose 1% of their weight per week. So one kilogram or 2.2 pounds per week. And that will all come from, from fat stores. Anything above that, we will start dipping.
We will need to dip into lean body muscles. Now, one of the good things of our lean body muscles are just as we mentioned, muscle glycogen. So we, it’s not like, oh, I’m, I’m burning protein now as soon as I go above that, but after a while, you simply will get to this point where we’ll have. To take from other stores if you’re going too fast so we can then work out our deficit.
So in that situation, using the very rough numbers that we have of 7,700 approximately calories per per kilogram of fat, we can go, okay, well that’s the deficit we need to create per week. And in that, in in instance, you haven’t got a particularly aggressive diet for that person. It’s a 1,100 calorie per day deficit.
And that’s that. And I will just say actually that that. Figure that I said there, 20 is like the most moderate. So on my calculator I kind of have this little dropdown that says, you know, your most important goal is muscle mass maintenance. But as we kind of discussed, ah, you’re gonna regain it back, so who cares?
Let’s die a bit quicker. And a, and actually, You know, the research and, and other things. It might be that through the use of caffeine, for instance, increasing lipolysis, we might be able to slightly speed this process. So I choose 15 as mine. There was some earlier research that showed you could maybe use 13, but then that’s been updated.
So if you use 15 in that instance, we get a slightly faster speed. So for instance, someone who’s 30% body fat, which is very, very common for a female, you know, is, is co completely within the normal realms. It’s not very high body fat percentage. We’ve got then 2% weight loss. Let’s say that individual’s a hundred kilos, well straight away there you’ve got, that’s big.
That starts getting into big numbers. Um, 4.4 pounds every single week moving forwards. And the deficit that, that would be to create that. And there’s kind of 15,000 realm. So that sort of instance gives you, uh, an idea of the rough realms of, when I say aggressive diet, that’s what I’m talking about. Not necessarily what we see typically used in the research, again, in the research.
There’s lots of use of, um, total meal replacement to kind of more liquid diets, um, and these sorts of things. And again, there isn’t a great deal of el of evidence that that’s the unique factor within these things. It does. Kind of, uh, as you said earlier about flexible dieting versus some people might not get on so well with that method.
Taking some choices out for some people is just another hidden factor of aggressive dieting. I never really went through some of the other factors why people’s appetite. Appetite might be less, but they’re a bit more complicated. But something just from a psychological perspective is when you’re aggressive dieting, you don’t have a great deal of room for choice and.
Whilst I’m very, very pro the phrase unconditional permission to eat, which you probably heard, and flexible strategies that aren’t just flexible dieting. I e the bros of I eat, weigh an ice cream and I look, I’ve got a six pack more like flexible in your whole approach. Flexible in your. Your time scales flexible in the level of deficit you do that day.
Flexible in, well actually I’m gonna do a multiphasic diet way, this bit is rapid, and then I have a moderate deficit or a maintenance period. And using that to, especially for people who have that big weight loss goal, like doing these periods, maybe two to four weeks of the aggressive and then going maintenance on moderate and so, but yeah, just this idea of removing that level of.
Choice where I want to eat the most satiating foods and they’re typically the, you know, the foods that we would be recommending anyway for good health in terms of it has to be leaner proteins. Not saying that non-line proteins are unhealthy, but just those are the ones we have to choose for this. Then you are very low fat dairy.
We can maybe try and squeeze some legumes in there. Although they, for me, they, my most recent approach, I went very, very moderate for me. So it was like an 1800 calorie deficit per day. So I was probably on 1000 to 1,400 calorie calories a day, roughly, but not, no more like 1400. And that was typically because I made myself this lentil mixed being, and I don’t, I’m not someone who eats lentils, like just for me.
I’m like, I’m lazy. With my cooking, but I made this with my chicken and it was just the same meals each day, but such variety with just in this one meal choice of this big different bean and legume and mix, and then the vegetables with the protein. But it just makes life so simple like, oh, what do I want to eat?
What’s in the cupboard? Like it’s just there and I’m getting it done. And the reason I’m so drawn to. You know, I say to people, don’t look at my results. Don’t look at my physique or anything like that to believe me please. Because how someone looks, has no bearing on their knowledge. And people do like to challenge me on that, and it’s quite a fun debate, but it’s, but it just has no bearing.
They’re like, oh, it does have a bit. And I’m like, it, it really doesn’t,
Mike: I mean, what you could say is they are clearly doing something right. Sure. We’ll give you that, but what is that something? What are those somethings they might not even know, or there may be some things they don’t want to tell you about?
Martin: yeah. Yeah. In our industry, that’s often the, that’s often the big one, isn’t it? Yeah. It, it’s like my personal experience of it’s just so good. But I’m like, but all I’m doing is being the messenger for what is shown consistently in the research, and it’s just crazy. We are a bit like muscle. I have said this before, but muscle loss is a bit like the boogieman of the fitness industry.
It’s a bit.
Mike: For a long time, I’ve been trying to tell people just don’t worry so much about it. Uh, okay. If you’re a natural bodybuilder and you’re trying to get to 4% body fat, striated, glutes, and all of that, and you have a six month diet ahead of you, and you are going to be judged purely on the muscularity of your physique, okay?
We actually do need to care about muscle loss. We really do because if you could hold onto those extra five pounds of muscle over six months, That actually might make a difference when you step on stage, but for the rest of us who are at most lifestyle bodybuilders just trying to look good, it is almost impossible over the course of two, three, maybe four months of even aggressive dieting to lose an amount of muscle actual contractile tissue, that would be a legitimate cause for concern, where you might look in the mirror and be like, whoa, whoa, what happened to me?
No, it just won’t happen.
Martin: Yeah. And that’s so cool that we’re singing off the same hymn sheet with that because it’s just, I think as well, and, and that meant that research I mentioned, I can’t really pronounce the author’s name and I’ve never heard anyone who knows the author’s head, but it’s, it’s that it looks like Huon.
But basically they did this study, uh, at an aggressive dieting study. But what was cool about them is they stratified people by the, their level of body fat. And you saw that the people you described, the very lean individuals and who were getting lean, they were the ones who. Some lean body mass loss was occurring in.
But for the rest of us who never, ever are gonna have stray utes, which is where the muscle loss for those natural b bodybuilders starts to happen, the the start of their diet, they’re not losing muscle. It’s not like they’re losing the whole time. It’s like, and actually the. The best natural bodybuilder guys and prep coaches now seem to be the ones who are doing the much longer prep periods.
They are kind of ha you know, even this whole, what’s it called, like digging and maintaining, uh, they, they’ve got their cool new language that they use and, um, like 3D MJ type guys, but, and they’re staying lean for a long, long time, not getting away from it. And really, I, I’ve. Mapped it out on a, an Excel spreadsheet in terms of where your calorie deficit should end up when you’re that level of body fat based on this presentation of energy to the, to the system.
And you’re talking like, Your deficit needs to be like 180, 200 calories per day when you’re at that level. To get the last bit off now, then look at what that is in weight loss poly, I’ve got two pounds of fat to lose. Divide the the 7,000 by the 200 and think how many days you need to diet like you are not getting that shredded, shredded glutes like you striated, glutes.
Look, without those super prolonged and anything, that’s the thing for people to bear in mind. Anything above that 200 calories will come from lean body mass stores. You’re just losing muscle mass eventually. So yeah, for the rest of us, this whole muscle loss thing is just a bit of a boogie man. It just doesn’t happen all that easily.
You get certain people who are maybe pro very low carb intakes and. Or anything, really, any of the kind of zealot type people, and they will make up this human physiology that doesn’t exist of when you do that, the first place your body will go is your muscle stores, your protein stores, and it’s like, no, like that’s not happening.
We can test that. We can test respiratory exchange ratios. No one’s coming back with 1.2 from the respiratory quotient going like, oh, geez, bro, you’re like burning mostly proteins sat here at rest. Like it doesn’t happen.
Mike: You clearly have not eaten protein in. Three hours.
Martin: Yeah. So this whole thing of of of like your body’s just gonna take protein stores.
Like it will go there once you’re super lean and it has nowhere else to go from, but it’s, it’s gonna take carbs from your muscle glyco in the liver, and it’s gonna take your fat stores like, and when you’re in a big deficit, that’s the cool thing people like to preach about. Whenever I talk about calie deficits or energy balance, people.
But you are not taking into account insulin sensitivity. And I’m like, the calorie deficit takes that into account for me cuz you eat a thousand calories a day and you are so sensitive, your non-insulin dependent glucose transport, is it through the roof? So these sorts of things like. I sound a bit like I’ve got an aggressive diet to sell, like for all your listeners.
I have no monetary incentive to, uh, to sell this, my calculator’s free,
Mike: which by the way, I, I’ve been waiting to ask where can people, I’m sure there are people listening who want to use this calculator,
Martin: martin mcdonald.com, which is my website, and that it’s just like aggressive dieting resource, hyphen resource.
Yeah. It’s not calculator resource because I’ve put a few of the other on, on my podcast. I’ve done a few just little podcasts talking about. Just some extra bits that people should take care of and just consider, because I think there’s also this thing of aggressive dieting. Oh, what are the bad things that can happen?
And oh, it must be worse than moderate restriction. And the typical one is it’s gonna give people eating disorders. And again, let’s look at the evidence. Let’s please, let’s, I’d love to know. And we go and look at it and it’s like, uh, no, that doesn’t happen. It
Mike: only right in people who already were essentially, At the point of having an eating disorder, that’s what I’ve seen in research.
Martin: Yeah. Predisposed and, and yeah. And, and it’s just so multifaceted. But people also need to realize, cause I think people conflate this idea that the size of the deficit relates to how much it’s gonna push you towards having food issues. But that’s a bit like the, uh, I guess reductionist or, or just over commonsensical thinking, which is not good in an organism of the less I eat, the hungrier will I, I will be, but actually it’s not, it’s a bit of a, it’s a curve, as I’ve kind of explained in the research, just shows time and time again.
So actually what, weirdly, and I was kind of surprised to say this, and I’m not like, I don’t shout about this too much, but you actually see in these individuals, they have better. Relationship with foods and lower disinhibition, lower binge eating scores after aggressive dieting therapy. And why is that?
Possibly? Well, it might just be this management of hunger that improves, whether that is something to do with an increase in leptin sensitivity, which I’ve not discussed at all. You know, or just, uh, you know what, whatever that reason is, it’s just not happening. So what are the negative effects? And for me, it’s a simple case of most of the negative effects are just the same negative effects we get from any dieting, any obsessive tendencies we might have.
Like I like talking about. It’s not a calorie deficit like Celiacs. There’s a much, much greater prevalence of eating disorders in Celiacs. Why is that? Well, likely, possibly. The hypothesis is that they’re being forced into a way of eating that they don’t want to have. It’s this thing of you can’t eat that they haven’t chosen to, and it’s very helpful for them to cut out gluten.
It makes them so much healthier physically, but actually why did they end up then with these disordered eating or eating disorders? So, you know, even just calorie counting at maintenance calories can lead in some individuals to more obsessive tendencies. But that’s not to say calorie counting causes or deficits cause.
So another thing I will just say, because someone asked me about it at one of my tour talks, uh, this weekend in Dublin, or the weekend Just Gone, and that was about fertility And um, that’s the only thing that I think. Really anyone and actually no bone health. So there’s a really cool study that’s ongoing.
Oh, I’ve forgotten their name. C S E I M O N. Seon Simon. Yeah, and it’s an ongoing in postmenopausal women, and they have shown some slight reduction in bone mineral density through a very, very low calorie 500 calorie. Again, I’m not even telling people or would never tell people that mine typically comes out as like 800, a thousand much higher protein than they typically would be looking at.
And then promoting resistance training and other stuff that might benefit, which doesn’t typically happen in the studies. So the fertility side of things. So that’s the only thing that if someone’s trying to conceive and maybe even their doctor has said, you might be better off losing some weight, it might improve.
Um, your body weights very high. Well actually maybe. They shouldn’t try and conceive during that time period and they should try and lose their the weight and then try and conceive again. And if they did choose, because I’m like, wow, aggressive dieting is better than slow calorie deficits. You know, if we have to pick one, it may reduce your kind of reproductive potential, is what I’m gonna call it.
It’s temporary reduction in your reproductive potential. So, Probably the same in both males and females, simply because if we just think about it from an evolutionary biology perspective, you are really in a very fasted, very famine state during that period, and the body likely doesn’t want to. The person who asked me the question, she said, look, I’m getting married in two months.
And, but I’m trying to get pregnant. The doctor said weight loss might not be good for this. I think she might have been going through some treatment, IVF type stuff. And she said, but I’m not trying to conceive now. And I said, well, now’s the perfect time. You know? She said, my body weight’s the highest it’s ever been.
I’m, I’m getting married, this, that, and the other. I said, look, and she had heard me talk about this aggressive dieting data. She said, I think it could be good for me. I said, I think it could too, you know, two months there. Please listen to all the other stuff I’ve said about protecting your relationship with food, which we’ve not, I’ve not really talked about today.
But again, I, I normally harp on a lot about that in, uh, and if people want to listen to the stuff I’ve done, they can go find it. Yeah. Aggressive diet, get to that body weight, then have your wedding, have a great honeymoon, and then. You know, coming out, it’s the other side of things. That’s one big thing that people often say is, you know, diets should be sustainable.
I’m like, no they shouldn’t. It’s a temporary phase to reach a specific goal.
Mike: I’ve said this, this is an intervention. It’s not a lifestyle. Let’s treat it accordingly.
Martin: Exactly, and so it’s then it’s like set yourself up for success long term. And again, on malnutrition uni, this is something we, that I harp on about is coach people to live and you need to consider that.
It’s like your overall holistic process needs to be, we look at the diet like as you just said, as an intervention. What’s the best way for us to achieve this goal? And nicely we can, if we have any diet breaks or any refeeds or anything like that. We can look at that as, okay, let’s do a test. Now we’ve lost 5% of body weight, 10% of body weight, some level of metabolic adaptation, cuz that’s another thing we haven’t discussed is like the metabolic metabolism, metabolic rate effects of this spoiler.
They’re no different from, uh, normal diets. Um, if you equate weight loss, you know, let’s look at this. Okay, we’re gonna do a two week diet break or one week diet break for whatever reason. And actually, let’s look at. We don’t want a calorie count for the rest of of our life. So are we able to look at, at some habits that achieve maintenance, not this whole thing of life.
You need to achieve a habit and the habit has to help you lose weight. It’s like, no, you don’t need to. That doesn’t need to be a lifelong habit. If you lose weight for the rest of your life, you die. We want a habit that’s. Great for weight loss maintenance, so let’s test it during that week and test how dieting or moving away from a set point or settling point, how that’s impacted our hunger.
That’s one thing that I mentally toil have some mental toil over is the Kevin Hall data around, for every one kilogram of weight loss, we lose what our appetite increases by a hundred calories. And you know, it’s, and it’s sort of very linear. Process from that. And that’s why so many of the things are like, okay, if we are talking about habits, what are they?
Well, anything that over the long time is going to help us manage our hunger. Not necessarily put us in a deficit, but are we just eating junk food all the time? And you know, our flexible diet was, you know, we just dunno how to cook or we dunno how to prep meals, or we dunno the foods that are good and, and make us feel good or just satiate us well, as long as we know those things, then we can die in whichever way.
We won. And for me it’s just aggressive dieting just has these evidence-based, research-based, much improved outcomes and it just means you get in and get out quicker. And just anything that people come to of like, what about this? What about that? The whole what Aboutm, they’re all just the same as the slow weight loss.
Anything and, and the slow versus fast weight loss studies. They either don’t. Control for time or control for weight loss. So it’s like, oh, the testosterone in the fast weight loss group went down more. And it’s like, yeah, but they lost twice the amount of weight because it was a four week study. So your group has to continue for another four to get to the same and will compare then or the other way when they compare total weight loss.
And it’s like, so they lost the same amount of weight, but this one took twice as long. I think it’s Garth fatal. They basically said, well, the slow weight loss group was ever so slightly able to increase strength and maybe even slightly muscle mass. And it’s like, yeah, they dieted for twice as long. The data they took from the fast weight loss group was from just until the end of their weight loss phase.
So what were they doing for this period of time while you were still dieting? Well, they were outta the study, but in real life. They’re back at maintenance and training phenomenally. So let’s compare light for light. So it does sound like I’m preaching about it a little bit, but, uh, I just want people to be aware that it’s a method
Mike: I, i second every, every single point you’re making.
And it’s, these are, these are things that I can remember years ago. I can remember writing an article on this topic. Aggressive versus slow cutting end, coming to many of the same conclusions based on even the research that was available at that time Plus, What I felt was a little bit of common sense, plus a good amount of experience working with various people of different ages and circumstances, and doing it myself, but just seeing uniformly positive results with these.
What I would say aggressive approaches that other people would criticize as completely reckless. I, I was saying, Hey, here’s what I’m seeing. People are doing quite well physically. They also are doing quite well psychologically and emotionally, first and foremost, because as you mentioned, they’re very motivated because they’re seeing rapid changes and they know that this is only gonna be for 6, 8, 10, 12 weeks max, and then they can get right back to.
Maintenance or, or maybe lean bulking if they want to do that. Also, what I would consistently see in people, and you mentioned this as well, is that maintaining a 250 or maybe a 500 calorie deficit every day is not, well, let’s, let’s flip it around the other way. Maintaining a 1000 calorie deficit is not, Twice as grueling or difficult as a 500 calorie deficit doesn’t work like that.
And yeah, it might be a little bit more difficult. You might be a little bit more hungry, but it’s not twice as difficult. And so if you can get twice the results, real results with a minor increase in difficulty. Most people in my experience, they say, yeah, sign me up. Press the button. Let’s do it.
Martin: Yeah, it’s so true.
I feel like the only thing it makes consistently harder is just the variety of foods that you can choose because yeah, if you have 500 calories deficit, you can choose, still include some of your favorite foods and, and highly palatable foods. But so often that’s what then sends people, you know, into misreporting or into making things feel harder or just feeling hungrier for the rest of the day.
And so, Well, I, it’s easier because I can eat more food, but it’s like, no, but it’s actually harder because you’re doing those things and eating those foods, and when they’re not in your diet, like you said, you’re getting the results. It feels great, and you’re in and out.
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Use the coupon code muscle a checkout to save 20% or get double reward points if it is not your first order and try my supplements risk free. And you had mentioned what might sound a little bit counterintuitive, some people, is that people can come out of an aggressive diet phase with a better relationship with food.
And I’ve seen that as well. And one theory is that. Based on this point of it forced them to eat a very quote unquote clean diet. They did have to get rid of the stuff that they tended to overeat. And so for a period of time, they’re eating a lot of nutritious food and they were getting into the ha habit of not overeating, not binging and purging.
And after doing that for some period of time, it’s possible that. They just started to acclimate to what is actually a more normal eating pattern, uh, which is eating foods that are not hyper palatable and you, you eat until you are satiated and then it doesn’t quite taste that great anymore. So you’re done, you eating.
And so for whatever reason, again, that’s just kind of a hypothesis, but I have seen that as well.
Martin: Yeah. Yeah. Some of the research by Tony Goldson, he’s, and that, and that’s talking about kind of some of the, uh, addiction research or like addiction or, or like addictive like behaviors. You know, the whole sugar addiction thing is like, bs, you know, it’s like six times more addictive than cocaine.
It’s like, no, it’s not. Uh,
Mike: yeah. Well, why don’t you start doing cocaine and then, let’s see. Then you can see for yourself subjectively.
Martin: Yeah, exactly. It’s like no one who’s ever tried it has ever said those words like, shut the hell up. But that stuff, plus basically remove, removing very high sugar or very high fat foods, seems to reduce our want for those foods.
So there’s two sides of it. The, that’s the physiological side, and then it’s hammering home the other side of you have unconditional permission to eat those foods. So, and you can’t just, I, I say this, you can’t just tell yourself, yeah, yeah, I know if I want a donut, I can have one. But when people are like, They won’t truly allow themselves to have those foods and have that good relationship.
And, and that’s I guess, one of my caveats to even starting any, again, it’s not just aggressive dieting, any dieting program, if you have a very poor relationship with food and you are using food to manage stress, this is in, in the, in the weight loss. Um, Lean habits study. Essentially one of the key things was people who had good stress management techniques were, is was one of the only, I think there was only two or three things that were highly correlated with weight loss, maintenance, stress management.
If you are using food as a comfort food because you’re lonely, food to emotionally regulate, then it’s not whether it’s aggressive or not aggressive, it’s probably not the time for you to do that. So with regards to this thing of. If you truly have got unconditional permission to eat whatever your favorite food is and, and you don’t feel that guilt and it doesn’t lead you into the the binge purge cycle that you mentioned, then you are onto a winner in terms of you can pick your method and actually make and see those results, and you don’t have those foods that really have that power over you of.
You know, when these idiots go, when you eat sugar, it lights up the brain like cocaine and, and you’re addicted and, and therefore you can’t have this, so you should never eat it and, and, and whatever, whatever. But we know full well that actually in humans, the way to create addiction with a food, and it’s not addiction, but it’s addictive like behaviors, is to restrict it and not allow them to have it.
And it’s just, there’s all these cool studies where, which demonstrate this. And typically people who can have. Just a more flexible approach to food. Non rigid rules around food just end up faring so much better. And there’s a study I ca, I don’t know the author, but it’s, I call it the bread study, which is why, I dunno, the author, cuz I always refer it to as the bread study.
But they basically say two diets, two groups, you know, randomized controlled trial. You can eat whatever you want, anything whatsoever. 1,500 calories per day except bread. Just know bread. And then the other group, you can eat whatever you want. 1,500 calories per day, whatever go. Like they can eat cookies, ice cream, chocolate, whatever they want, just no bread.
And what do they find? Well, the weight loss is no different, but there’s a statistically significant increase in dropouts in this group. Non-adherence, non-attendance at follow up sessions just because they couldn’t have bread. And so, you know, lots of things like this that just going, you need to not be someone who’s demonizing any food because instantly, you know, as humans, it, it’s just this strange phenomena.
You can’t have it. You want it. And for me, I, you know, in my aggressive diets, I will put some of these foods in and then I’ll go, I’m so much hungrier today. I’m not gonna do that tomorrow. And just being reflective and learning from it.
Mike: And that’s different, right? Making a conscious choice to not eat the bread.
Not because you can’t have it, but simply because you know that calorie for calorie, you just are gonna get a better experience out of swapping this. And you know, maybe when you take your diet break you’re gonna have some bread or maybe when you’re done dieting cuz you don’t really care that much, that mentality.
That’s very important. I’m glad you brought that up. You’ve mentioned, uh, Mac Nutrition Uni a couple of times now. Can you talk a little bit more about what that is?
Martin: Yeah, so Mat Nutrition Uni is, I mean it’s, I used to be a practitioner and then, uh, then Mat Nutrition Uni happened, which we essentially created this year long course.
And really, I feel very privileged that I was the first person who managed to create what I believe really to be one of the o fully evidence-based qualifications. And, and just very recently actually, we became government regulated. So that’s like my big thing at the minute going. Some people go, oh, the, you know, you need to go to university or college, whatever to get your degree.
And I’m like, go look at the modules. Go look at what they’re teaching you. Like I’ve employed so many degree qualified nutritionists and, and I can tell you what the best thing they learned was how to make sausages. Like they could tell you exactly what goes into a sausage and how the factory makes it and what this, what was on the outside.
They don’t know how to. Coach, they don’t know. How about behavior change. They don’t know about metabolic adaptation, aggressive dieting, calories, energy, but it’s just not taught at university’s colleges degrees. So, you know, the government regulation is fantastic for us because internationally we have students in over 80 countries.
So for it to be regulated against what’s called this, Regulated qualifications framework, people in the US and Canada and Australia and the UK can all go, oh, I understand what level you’ve learned at. Um, and so we’ve become this level five diploma in advanced nutrition science. But for any of your listeners, we actually, um, I sort of got my PA to do this, but.
We created a coupon for your listeners actually. So it’s, it’s Muscle for Life 90. So our enrollments are opening next month, fourth or 5th of July, and we only do one yearly intake. We try and make it like university, but just not the rubbish bits. So yeah, one intake a year, but that code will actually give them 90% off their enrollment fee onto the course.
Mike: And where can people find it?
Martin: Mm. Yeah. So Mac Nutrition, Mac nutrition uni.com, um, they can go there, get all the details, look at the prospectus in terms of, uh, it’s something that I feel like is changing the industry in a really positive way towards evidence-based practice and the understanding of just loads of stuff that we’ve kind of, you know, you said you echo some of the things I’ve said.
It’s just you’ve obviously got loads of experience, the stuff that you don’t learn, like we try and teach that from day dot, and I feel like I’ve done. Postgraduates degrees masters and actually had to learn it the hard way. And so we’ve gone, you know what? If you want to know how to coach muscle gain, coach fat loss, uh, we also have some clinical population stuff within there.
If you wanna know all the underpinning theory, evidence-based and all the health stuff, we will teach you that, how to do it, how to do it. A nutrition consultation, like I did so many degrees of masters and no one ever went. This is how you conduct an appropriate nutrition consultation. These are some counseling skills.
These are some motivational interviewing skills, so we do all of that. Yeah, if people are interested, go check it out. It’s the best qualification in the world.
Mike: I understand firsthand the problem that you’re addressing, and so some people might. Be a little bit surprised to hear what you just said about people going to university and learning about about nutrition, and then not being taught about energy balance.
That’s a little bit shocking to some people. You know what I mean? That’s actually why I wrote, so this all started for me 10 or 11 years ago. I wrote a book called Bigger Lean, leaner, stronger, and it very much was, here’s the book. I wish somebody would’ve just given me when I was 17. And just say, here’s the 20% that that gives you the 80%.
Here’s what you need to know about energy, balance, macronutrient balance, and food choices. And then on the training side of things, here are the, here are the, the big levers and the big buttons. If you just know how to operate these things, you’re gonna get. Probably all the way to where you want to be and you basically can ignore everything else if you want to.
Like if all you wanna do is get into great shape and not get hurt and stay that way for the rest of your life, you actually don’t need to know anything else. And so I’ve. Updated and I’ve, I’ve written a book for women and other books, but I’ve also continually updated my quote unquote flagship books as I’ve learned more.
But always with that in mind, trying to give. Now I, I think our target audiences are a little bit different, which is a question I wanted to ask just to understand for people listening to understand who is Mac Nutrition Uni. Four specifically. So in my case, I was writing books just for everyday people who at most want to be a lifestyle bodybuilder, but they probably have a few hours a week to their fitness.
It’s important to them, but it’s not their life. They don’t make money with it. And you know, fitness isn’t everything, but everything’s harder if you’re not fit. They would agree with that. And that’s about it. So in the case of Mac Nutrition Uni, it sounds like it is geared more toward practitioners, so that would be coaches or nutritionists.
I don’t wanna assume that if somebody’s not planning on making money with it, that. That it might not be for them.
Martin: I actually remember when your book came out. You know, it’s so funny when you it’s it’s, it’s crazy, isn’t it? The way, anyway, so yeah. The course is, I suppose, mostly taken by, we have lots of career changes and ever since, uh, 2020 when the world kind of got turned upside down, people realized they hated their jobs.
They were working from home, whatever that was the. Biggest influx of career changes during the course because again, just to say through the course, you become fully qualified insurable. We have bespoke insurance policies in, in 30 different countries. There are a few states in the US where, and, and we, we can tell people all about these in terms of actually the, the regulations are a bit crazy.
So, and a bit unfair I think. I think someone’s just maybe monopolized it, but yes, so it is more for. People who want to have a career like IT Mnu, certified nutritionist. We are a amazingly, like big, big coaching companies, you know, the world over our, our headhunt, our graduates to work within their coaching programs.
And you know, we’ve had some fantastic stuff with regards here. Public Health England, there’s a new initiative to help binge eating because it’s such a big problem that there isn’t enough of the health service to help and amazingly, M and U certified. Nutritionists have been brought in to work alongside a, a multidisciplinary team because again, we don’t teach people to go out and work with eating disorders.
That’s a very clinical situation, but as part of a, you know, a psychiatrist, a psychologist, a maybe a specialist eating disorder, dietician, our practitioners are being taken on for that. But I will say that, I guess surprisingly to me, but I guess these are people who are just. Lifelong learners, they do our course because it’s not, you know, it’s not like a Groupon rubbish course, like it’s a, it’s a 10th of what a degree will cost you and it gives you much better information.
And this, you know, the same if not a greater scope of practice, but, um, it’s not like a cheap, well, whatever, I dunno what it translates to in dollars, but say $3,000, no. Yeah, exactly. It’s a full on qualification. And, and it. I think the, the feedback we get from it is, you know, we tutor people 365 days a year.
It’s a very, very hands-on course. We do small, realistic size intakes. It’s not like a sign up to the course any day of the year. You know, read the textbook, take the multiple choice exams, like it’s a, it’s, it’s the real deal.
Mike: And a and a VA in the Philippines will reply.
Martin: Yeah, yeah, yeah. No. So, um, yeah, you’re right.
It’s very much for personal trainers who want to be the best and people, or people who want to become nutritionists extraordinaire type scenarios. Yeah. Nutrition consultants and
Mike: Yeah. Even if it’s just a, a nutritionist for themselves, their family, their friends, but, and you know, something that just. I would consider doing something like this if I weren’t planning on making money from it, if one, I wanted to gain a very deep understanding, and two, I wanted to facilitate that learning because that one-on-one attention that you get with a service like this is, is worth a lot of time if you want to save time that otherwise you’re gonna have to spend looking around for answers.
Trying to decide whether the answers that you found are right or wrong, and some people like to do that. I put a premium personally on my time. I am somebody who is very willing to trade money for time and, and so this would appeal to, to me, if I were. Not looking to make any money from it. I really wanted to learn a lot and I wanted to, to learn efficiently and know that I have experts I can go to with any questions and have that kind of immersive experience.
There’s probably something to be said for the accountability too, knowing that it’s like why a lot of people like to work with trainers that they’ll say, A lot of people will say it’s, it’s actually purely for the accountability. That’s why they’re paying the money.
Martin: Yeah. Yeah. No, I, I appreciate that, that that is very much in terms of, I’ve been told by, um, I can’t remember if it’s when we were talking or fair.
Yeah. But you know, like in terms of, I don’t consider myself a great businessman, a great marketer or anything like that, but you know, those types of people have said to me, you would make so much more money if you just let people enroll at any time of the year. And I’m like, I kind of think you’re probably right.
You know more than me, but I’m just not doing it because walking that journey with people, for me, this is more about leaving my legacy. I did lots of stuff wrong, but I have been true to the ev to evidence-based practice my whole career. You know? Now we’ve created this truly 100% evidence-based, you know, not deviating from that message.
I guess also I’d say not science-based, not just like all reciting an abstract, like being able to use practitioner experience. All the stuff that we’ve discussed today of like, you don’t just go, well, the no paper says this is the case. That’s not true evidence-based practice. So yeah, walking that journey, making sure that our graduates are really gonna be leading the way.
And I feel like now we’re this, we’re in our seventh year starting to just see. You know what they’re bec we’re becoming the gold standard. Then when you said my nutrition is the gold standard of like, you know, big gyms are now putting it as like, yeah, we want someone who also can do the consultation with our, with our customer base, our, our clients.
If people wanna check out Yeah. Mac hyen nutrition uni.com and that muscle for Life 90. I’ve got it written down here. Uh, if people want to use that
Mike: and it’s, uh, I’m, I’m assuming it’s just cuz some people might wonder it’s f o r life, right? Not numeral muscle. F o r.
Martin: Yes. F o r. Great.
Mike: Well, I was thinking that we would.
Move on to talk about personalized attrition. However, we’re coming up on an hour, so maybe we save that. I also would love to hear your position on and, and just hear you talk about developing a healthy relationship with food. Always a good topic. I’ve written and spoken about it. I’ve had Jordan Sya and others come on and talk just because it is a very important topic and I’ve found it to be productive, to get other people’s perspectives because I usually end up learning things myself.
So if you’re up for it, maybe we can end this one here. Cause I think this is a. We went an hour. I thought it was a lot of great information. And then maybe when it goes live, we can schedule another one sometime if you have the time.
Martin: Yeah, that sounds good to me. Yeah, talk about the, like I said, there was, there’s stuff I would probably normally talk about that we didn’t, so I’m, I’m really happy to talk about that personalized nutrition, uh, as a big topic as well.
Just, yeah, it’d be cool. I’ve enjoyed this.
Mike: Okay. Yeah, same. And, and why don’t we, before we, we end off here, why don’t we also tell people where they can find you online on social media, aside from Mac Nutrition Uni. What else do you want them to know about?
Martin: Yeah, I suppose Instagram is the, the place that I exist the most.
You know, I, I post on most of the platforms. Yeah. So I live there on, uh, my Instagram stories. But yeah, Martin Nutrition, if people Google or want to look like Martin Nutrition is my handle on all, all of the platforms. Forms and, um, I, I kind of put out some, some good stuff, some educational, some funny stuff.
And then my podcast, not another nutrition podcast is again, just it’s fairly short form. It’s supposed to be quite bite size. Um, I don’t always manage it as I’ve kind of gone on today. I sometimes do that as well, but those are the two places. If people want anything more of me, they can find.
Mike: Great. Well thanks again for taking the time to do this.
Uh, I enjoyed it and I, I look forward to the next one.
Martin: Yes, thanks very much for having me.
Mike: Well, I hope you liked this episode. I hope you found it helpful, and if you did subscribe to the show because it makes sure that you don’t miss new episodes. And it also helps me because it increases the rankings of the show a little bit, which of course then makes it a little bit more easily found by other people who may like it just as much as you.
And if you didn’t like something about this episode or about the show in general, or if you have. Uh, ideas or suggestions or just feedback to share. Shoot me an email, mike muscle for life.com, muscle f o r life.com and let me know what I could do better or just, uh, what your thoughts are about maybe what you’d like to see me do in the future.
I read everything myself. I’m always looking for new ideas and constructive feedback. So thanks again for listening to this episode, and I hope to hear from you soon.