Whether you’re totally new to the gym or have plenty of experience, you’ve likely struggled with trying to make sense of conflicting diet, training, and supplementation advice.
No matter where you go online, for instance, you’re sure to find seemingly-credible people with completely different and often contradictory viewpoints and suggestions.
Instagram influencer XYZ says the key to losing fat is a keto diet, with a strict 6-hour eating window on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
But Fitness Blog #532 of Guru Zed claims that studies show you can get ripped eating all of the carbs you’d like on any schedule you’d like. The key, he claims, is you just have to stop eating harmful, gut-destroying lectins found in nutritious foods like tomatoes, potatoes, beans, and peanuts.
In fact, if you look hard enough in this space, you can find someone with bonafides making a seemingly plausible argument for doing just about anything you can imagine to boost fat loss and muscle growth.
How do you separate the sheep from the goats? How do you know who to trust?
That’s exactly what I’m discussing with this episode’s podcast guest, Christian Finn. In case you’re not familiar with Christian, he’s a researcher and writer who holds a masters degree in exercise science and is the creator of Muscle Evo and Gutless, a science-backed nutrition system for getting rid of fat. His work has been featured in Men’s Health, Vice, BBC TV, as well as Jonathan Goodman’s PTDC.
In this episode, we chat about . . .
- The cyclical nature of fads and fitness info
- Why expectations matter and the necessity of accepting diminishing returns
- How to separate the charlatans from the experts
- “Shiny object syndrome”
- When to change your mind and why your views should evolve over time
- When and why to switch training programs
- And more . . .
So if you’ve ever wondered why there’s so much conflicting advice out there, and how you can be sure you’re not getting hoodwinked, listen to this episode.
6:43 – How did you use your time during COVID differently?
15:23 – Where should people start to get more progress?
22:31 – How does a person separate the wheat from the chaff?
34:38 – How do you deal with that process of changing your mind?
39:54 – What are some of the barriers people experience from conflicting ideas on fitness advice? When should someone consider switching training programs?
Mentioned on The Show:
What did you think of this episode? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!
Hello, and welcome to another episode of Muscle for Life. Thank you for joining me today. I am Mike Matthews, and whether you are totally new to the gym or have plenty of experience, you have likely struggled with trying to make sense of conflicting advice, conflicting diet advice, training advice, supplementation advice.
Because no matter where you go online or or offline, if it has to do with fitness, if it involves fitness people, you are going to find many seemingly credible people with completely different and often completely contradictory viewpoints and suggestions. You know, Instagram influencer X, Y, Z says the key to losing fat is the keto diet.
And if you want to supercharge your. Then you also work in some intermittent fasting, strict six hour eating windows on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, and then nine hour eating windows on the other days. And then you go to fitness blog number 532 of Guru Zed. And. She claims that studies show that you can get ripped eating as many carbs as you’d like on the schedule you’d like, but there is a kicker.
She claims you just have to stop eating the gut destroying lectins that are found in otherwise known as healthy foods like tomatoes, potatoes, beans, and peanuts. That research shows is the true one Weird trick. Melting belly fat. My point is, if you look hard enough in this space, you can find someone with bonafide making a plausible, at least superficially plausible argument for doing just about anything you can imagine to boost fat loss and gain muscle faster.
How do you separate the sheep from the goats? How do you know who to trust? How do you know who to follow? Well, that is what today’s podcast is about. It is an interview with Christian Finn, who is a fitness researcher and writer who holds a master’s degree in exercise science and who is also the creator of Muscle Evo and gutless, which is a science-backed nutrition system for getting.
Fat, as you can probably guess from the name of the book. And Christian’s work has been featured in Men’s Health Vice B bbc, as well as Jonathan Goodman’s, P T D C. And in this episode, Christian and I talk about the cyclical nature of fads and fitness information, why expectations matter and why you have to accept diminishing returns as you become a more experienced weightlifter.
We talk a bit about how to separate the charlatans from the experts shiny object syndrome and more. Also, if you like what I’m doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, definitely check out my v i p one-on-one coaching service because my team and I have helped people of all ages and all circumstances lose fat, build muscle, and get into the best shape of their life faster than they ever thought possible.
And we can do the same for you. We make getting fitter, leaner, and stronger. Paint by numbers simple by carefully managing every aspect of your training and your diet for you. Basically, we take out all of the guesswork, so all you have to do is follow the plan and watch your body change day after day, week after week and month after month.
What’s more, we’ve found that people are often missing just one or two crucial pieces of the puzzle, and I’d bet a shiny shackle, it’s the same with you. You’re probably doing a lot of things right, but dollars to donuts, there’s something you’re not doing correctly or at all that’s giving you the most grief.
Maybe it’s your calories or your macros. Maybe it’s your. Selection. Maybe it’s your food choices. Maybe you’re not progressively overloading your muscles, or maybe it’s something else, and whatever it is, here’s what’s important. Once you identify those one or two things you’re missing, once you figure it out, that’s when everything finally clicks.
That’s when you start making serious progress, and that’s exactly what we do for our clients. To learn more, head over to www.buy legion.com. That’s b y legion.com. V I p and schedule your free consultation call, which by the way is not a high pressure sales call. It’s really just a discovery call where we get to know you better and see if you’re a good fit for the service.
And if you’re not for any reason, we will be able to share resources that’ll point you in the right direction. So again, if you appreciate my work and if you want to see more of it, and if you also want to finally stop spinning your wheels and make more progress in the next few months than you did in the last few years, check out my v i p coaching [email protected] legion.com/vip.
Hey Christian. Hey Mike. How are you? I’m good thanks. Can’t complain. Just staying busy working out family stuff and that’s about it, you know. Nice. . It’s funny, we were talking just before we started, how one of the silver linings for us personally, of the Covid 19 situation is it has dramatically reduced the choices that we have as to how to spend our time.
And in some ways the enforced simplification has been refreshing and for me particularly, it’s been productive cuz it has given me, I guess, more of an excuse to just work more. But also it reminds me of the, of the book Paradox of Choice, where sometimes having too many choices creates. Anxiety or creates stress or makes it harder to make good choices.
Right. Well, I
think that’s certainly the problem that I, I find that I come across sometimes when I’m, you know, I can sit down and start a work day and I might be thinking to myself, well, should I actually be doing this? Should I be booking a, a holiday to Norway or should I be training to climb some mountain or, or some, Thing that’s floating through my head, and I think it becomes more of an issue because you’re only ever one click away on your Facebook feed or somewhere else from seeing some kind of tempting alternative future or alternative path that you could possibly go down and just having all of those options shut off, you know, I actually liked it.
I liked just having, you know, I couldn’t go out and play tennis, I couldn’t go to the gym. It was literally, I could do a, a workout in my house. I could go for a run, I could go out on my bike, I’d go out and walk my dog, and that was about it. There wasn’t much else to do and I, I just, I liked the simplicity of that type of lifestyle.
How did you use your time differently?
Well, I did spend a lot more, like you, I spent a lot more time working. I redesigned my website. I did a lot more writing. I, I was starting to work on a new, a new program. That was focused more on integrating cardio and resistance training. I took it running as well. I mean, it was one of those things that I’m not interested in running, I don’t like running.
And then I thought, well, let’s start it again. Let’s have a go. It was probably about 20 years ago, probably over 25 years ago, that I decided I wasn’t gonna go running again. So I thought I hated it and I actually liked it. Where we live is in the countryside and I was going out, starting off with just short two, three mile runs, and eventually I got up to the point where I was doing 7, 8, 9 miles and I really liked it.
I understand why people get hooked on it now.
Interesting because I haven’t. Gone for a run in a long time. I do some cardio every day, but I just have an upright bike in a little exercise room in my basement and I like that because I can read or I will listen to these days back over to the great courses so I can do something I like to do anyway, educate myself and just burn some calories and get the health benefits of cardio as well.
But the last time, Went for a run . I’m trying to remember when that was. It’s probably been a while because I base concluded that I just don’t like this, I don’t like running, but I probably didn’t give it a chance to grow on me. I probably did it for a couple of weeks and was like, nah, I’ll just do something
Yeah, I I, that was exactly how I was. I thought, no, I’m not interested in running, but like you, I, I like listen to audiobooks, so I was out in the sun. We live in the middle of the country, so you’re right in the middle of the countryside when you’re running and
which helps cuz it’s pretty, I’m sure. Right?
Yeah. Yeah. It’s very nice. Well, glad to hear that you have made some lemonade from the lemons of 2020. I wanted to get you on the show today to talk about something that you had mentioned in a men’s health article that you wrote back in, uh, February of 2019. And that is essentially how. navigate conflicting fitness advice.
So let me set the stage a little bit here for the listeners and then for you, just give you some context of how I think we can make this discussion most productive. And so we have people who are new and people who are new to weightlifting and then people who are experienced and who actually know a lot more than the average person and have made a lot of progress.
But what I’ve found, and I’m sure you’ve found this as well, is you have many people who are brand new and who are actually quite experienced, but who are experiencing the same problem. So, and really what that is not getting the results they want and not knowing why. And the specifics are different of course, because the newbie often doesn’t know the basics.
They don’t understand energy balance and macronutrient balance and progressive overload and volume and the simple. 20% that gives you the 80% of your results, type of principles. Mm-hmm. . Whereas the experienced weightlifter often does understand those things, but what got them this far is just not working anymore.
So the way that they’ve been implementing those principles, it was working for a bit. And this is usually in the, I don’t know, maybe year two or three. So your newbie gains are long gone, and the gears have kind of just ground to a halt, and the experienced weightlifters doesn’t know what they’re supposed to do.
So similarly, the newbie, they might be looking to fad diets and fad exercise techniques like muscle confusion or functional training and other such things to try to. Their first real results and then you have on the experienced side of the coin. Yeah. They know that stuff isn’t the answer. Although sometimes fad diets do gain currency among experienced weightlifters because you know, something like the keto diet becomes all the rage.
And they see people on Instagram who are not only in great shape, but seem to know what they’re talking about, praising it as the end all be all. And they go, I guess I’ll try it. But usually the experienced weightlifter, okay, they know that muscle confusion is not the answer, but what is the answer? Often they’re drawn to different types of advanced or sophisticated training techniques or ideas simply because they’re just not sure what to do.
And so I think that’s, uh, enough of my rambling, but I just wanted to share that picture, which I know, you know, but also for the listeners because when it comes down to it, again, we have the person who knows very little. And the person who maybe knows a fair amount, trying to weigh different opinions and trying to weigh different advice as to how to eat, how to train, and how to supplement for the maximum
When you were saying that it, it reminded me of a guy that emailed me once. He was looking for advice about what sort of diet are following, and this was, for some reason, it sticks in my head. It was probably 10, 15 years ago that I actually got this email, but I’d still remember it. And he was confused about should he be low carb, should he be low fat?
He’d only recently started looking for information and he’d come across all this conflicting advice. And so he said to me he was actually going to wait. The science and the research had actually got it sorted out. Mm. They’d figured this one out and then there would be some kind of definitive answer in the next few months, and all the confusion would end.
So he’ll get
fit maybe in his next lifetime. Yeah,
exactly. Because that’s not going to happen. I’ve got these archives here in, in my house where I’ve got magazines that go back to the late eighties and early nineties, and you see the same arguments that we are having today. You know, high volume, low volume, should you train to failure?
Should you not train to failure? Should you go low carb or high carb? So the arguments, they don’t change. The protagonists change the people making the arguments change. And some of the science obviously has updated, but there will always be this debate. Opposing forces, different opinions.
That’s partly driven by marketing, right?
Because once an idea becomes more obscure, fewer people know about it. It’s now ripe for reemergence. It’s ripe for packaging it in a new way and offering it as the new
thing. Well, it goes in cycles, doesn’t it? It’s a bit like films. It’s a bit like songs. You know? You hear a song now that I can remember maybe was out 20 or 30 years ago, but to someone who hasn’t heard it before, yep.
It’s a new song. It’s the same with with most things in life. I think if you’re around long enough, you see the same patterns and the same cycles just repeat themselves over and over again. What this guy was proposing that he was gonna do was that he was gonna wait. That’s probably the one thing that I would say don’t do, because yeah, you are not really gonna learn anything that way.
If you are trying to search for your own answers, then I think one of the best things that you can do is just jump in and do something. Even if you are not sure if it’s the best thing or the ideal thing is just get started. Just start off with one particular program. It, it doesn’t have to be particularly complicated or difficult, and just see how you respond to it.
Just get started with something. Make it a habit, make it a regular thing that you are doing every day, every other day, whatever it is. Notice the things that you like, the things that you don’t like. And that at least gives you something to build on. If you don’t do anything, then you are not gonna know. I totally
All right, so you’ve done that and you have gotten started, you have gotten results, and you either are curious if you can get better results, which is probably something we should talk about because that can be a trap, especially I, I’ve seen it in people who are now, let’s say they’re moving out of their novice phase and into their intermediate phase when they just don’t realize that the rate of progress slows down dramatically.
So you have people who, they’ve been doing something, they’ve been getting results, they are curious if they could get better results, or maybe they are no longer seeing results and that leads them into this. Free for all in the advice, information, even evidence space, because of course it all depends who is presenting the evidence, how they have interpreted it, how they are explaining it, and so forth.
So where should these people start in navigating this, which it can be difficult. I remember I’ve, I remember being there myself where now what you were doing again, either seems like it’s not good enough or it’s not working anymore, and it’s kind of like you feel like you have to just go back to the drawing board.
Like you have to go back to square one because well, you’re not seeing any results or you’re seeing results that feel so inadequate that you are looking
Well, I think one of the things. I think people get caught out on is I isn’t in terms of results, and obviously you mentioned earlier that, that people start out and the results tend to come quite quickly, but then over time they will gradually slow down and sometimes it turns out that somebody is actually making pretty good progress, but they think that they’re not me in progress because they have this inflated idea of what results are possible.
So if, let’s say somebody started out lifting weights and maybe gained 20 pounds of muscle in their first year of training, that which is, they’ve done remarkably well to do that, they’re not gonna do the same again. in the second year, you know, their gains will slow down and they’ll get slower in year three and year four and so
Just to put a specific number to it, many listeners probably already know this because I’ve spoken about this topic in detail and I’ve mentioned it along the way quite a few times. But if a guy, and we’re talking about guys here, right? Women could probably gain about half of that. Women could probably gain an upward of 15 pounds, might be a stretch, but most women could probably gain 10 pounds of muscle in their first year, right?
But then year two basically cut your year one gains in half, assuming that you did the most important things mostly, right? Most of the time, right? So if you’re a guy and you gained 20 pounds of muscle in your first year, you did very well. You are obviously a good responder to training and. Ate well and you got most of your workouts in, did what you need to do.
But in year two, if you keep doing what you’re doing and you may actually even have to work a little bit harder, maybe not, but you can’t decrease the intensity of your effort. You can expect to gain probably no more than 10 pounds of muscle, right? Yeah,
exactly. It slows down over time and there isn’t really a great deal that you can do about it, you know what I mean?
If you, you obviously you can take drugs. That’s it. Um, and that, that is really it. That’s it. That’s pretty much it. You can’t have your genes tampered with by a, uh, a renegade scientist unfortunately. So that’s what will happen. And so I think that would probably be the first thing that I would recommend is that just get real.
There’s obviously, there’s a lot of people out there claiming that you can gain 30 pounds of muscle in a month or 20 pounds of muscle in two months or whatever it happens to be, and it’s just not going to happen. Building muscle is a slow process. It’s incredibly hard work. You need to have a lot of things dialed in in order to make that progress and the progress slows down over time.
I think it’s important to, you know, to be upfront with people and say, well, look, it’ll take time and, and it’s going to be hard.
Totally. And that’s something that I discuss to some, I do talk about it in my books for. Men and women bigger than or stronger and thinly or stronger, but as those are oriented more toward people who are new to proper weightlifting, it’s not a huge part of the conversation because it doesn’t need to be, because that’s not how it is in the beginning.
like you were saying, if you do anything. You’re gonna get results. If you do anything halfway decent, you’re gonna get good results. And if you do things well, you’re gonna get great results. Most likely. Some people are very low responders and maybe their results to them will be not great, but just good.
But it is very hard to get poor results in your first year if you know what you’re doing and you just do those things fairly well. Right? And so I talk about it more though in the sequel to bigger Than or Stronger Beyond. Bigger Than or Stronger, which is intended for experienced weightlifters. Because now what you just said is a very, very important part of the inner game of the mindset.
Uh, or say the winning mindset of an experienced weightlifter is realistic expectations and accepting that. Now it’s gonna be a lot more work for a lot less reward. We have reached the point of diminishing returns, and that still can be a fun game to play, but to go into it with the expectations that you had or the expectations that you have developed in your first year, right?
As a novice, you’re really just setting yourself up for failure because the first thing you’re going to experience is disappointment and confusion, because you’re not gonna like what is happening in the gym and in the mirror compared to what was happening previously, and you’re not gonna know why.
Exactly. Moving on from that, I think one of the things that would, that helps once you’ve got your expectations clarified is to narrow down what your goals are. So for example, A lot of people when they start exercising, when they start eating better, they’ve got multiple goals. So they might wanna lose a little bit of fat, they might want to get a bit stronger, they might want to get a little bit fitter, they might wanna build a little bit of muscle over time.
I mean, they will be able to do all of those things in the early stages of training, but then over time they will need to focus on one particular goal and put the other ones almost on, on hold, or at least in maintenance mode. So you can, as you know, you can lose fat and build muscle at the same time, but you generally don’t do them at the same rate.
You know, you might be able to lose 10 pounds of fat and gain a pound or two of muscle, but you, you don’t lose 10 pounds of fat and gain 10 pounds of muscle at the exact same time once you’ve moved past that beginner stage of training. And so I think it’s important to start saying, okay, I’m now gonna focus purely for the next three months, six months, whatever it is.
Just purely on muscle growth, or actually I’m gonna focus on, on getting stronger Again. There’s, there’s a link between the two. Generally a bigger muscle is a stronger muscle, but if you wanted to maximize your rate of progress in either direction, you’d need a program that was geared specifically for that purpose.
And so I think over time, this narrowing down of your goals and saying, okay, for the next three months, the next five months, whatever it is, this is gonna be my focus. I’m gonna accept that I’m, I’m perhaps not gonna be able to do those other things to the same, to the degree that perhaps I would like to, but that’s fine.
I’m just gonna put them on hold. I’m gonna reduce the amount of pain, I’m reduce the amount of cardio I’m doing, and I’m gonna focus more on getting stronger or building muscle, or whatever it happens
to be. Yeah. Yeah. That’s good advice. If you like what I’m doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, definitely check out my v i p one-on-one coaching service because my team and I have helped people of all ages and circumstances lose fat, build muscle, and get into the best shape of their life faster than they ever thought possible.
And we can do the same for you. As far as now weighing, okay, so somebody, they go, all right, I’m gonna focus on losing fat, or I wanna focus on getting bigger and stronger. How should I go about that? Because when I go to the internet and I start poking around, I find a lot of opinions, I find a lot of advice, and a lot of these guys and gals are in really good shape, and they seem to know what they’re talking about.
How do I separate the wheat from the, uh, chaff? That’s the million
dollar question. . That is a lot easier said than done. It is difficult because I, you know, you can read articles and you can go and watch videos, and the information that is being presented often looks very credible. It’s a bit like you could watch one of the, you know, one of these, I’ve seen these flat.
People talking about the flat Earth videos and all the evidence and the scientific research that points towards the Earth being flat. And if you didn’t know better, you might think, well, this is actually putting forward quite a, a solid
case here. Yeah. You know what’s funny? You just to quickly comment on that.
I use that as an example of how I, I try to remain open-minded and willing to consider anything that isn’t just patently absurd based on what I already know. And when I first came across some of the arguments for Flat Earth, I was like, okay, so of course the first thing I think of is then how do these people explain all of the footage that we have of the planet being round?
And how do they explain how we put people on the moon? How do they explain. Satellites in orbit, how they explain all of these things that we can with, uh, a fair degree of certainty, just observe ourselves. Of course, we don’t quote unquote ultimately know, but there is a lot of circumstantial evidence that all of those things are real.
And what I found was basically the claim. That all of that stuff is fake and it’s part of the big conspiracy. And that’s where I immediately was like, mm, nah, this is dumb. And I’m over it. , I didn’t even go any, I didn’t go further than that. I used the word conspiracy theory normally, ironically, because that’s a weaponized term that’s just used to discredit anything that the mainstream media and our handlers don’t want us to talk about.
So I, I’m not the person to just dismiss something that is a little bit unorthodox as Oh, that’s just a conspiracy theory. But anyway, so , I just, it’s funny you bring that up. Cause I was just thinking about that the other day as to an example of something that when I first heard it, I was like, okay, why not?
I’ll hear this, uh, person on the internet who claims to be an expert about this out. But that’s when he lost me, right when he said that. Anyone who has been involved in the production of an image of the. Earth showing it as a spear or video footage, all of NASA’s footage, the people supposedly going up to the space station, like they’re all in on it.
Why? No, no, I’m sorry. You’re extraordinary. Claims require extraordinary evidence. Where’s the evidence for of that? Oh, you don’t have any.
Okay. I mean, like you, I, I thought, okay, well let’s have a look what they’ve got to say. I watched the Netflix documentary and, you know, obviously wasn’t convinced by it, but I was interested to see how they presented their evidence and made their case and, and it’s the same in the fitness industry.
You can make a case for pretty much anything. You can make it appear as though it’s evidence based and it’s backed by science and all of those things. It’s not that difficult
to do, and that is the unfortunate truth. It’s very true. If you can make people think that science, quote unquote says blah, or if you can make people believe that there is a historical precedent for something that history shows, they are very.
Likely to listen to what you have to say, and if you are halfway good at rhetoric, you can make some really persuasive arguments for some really ridiculous things. Yeah,
yeah. I think you’re right. It’s certainly, it’s difficult for me to put myself in the shoes of somebody that is relatively new to resistance trainer or exercise or diet or whatever it happens to be, but I got a taste of it myself when I started learning to play tennis, because I’d never played tennis before.
I bought myself a racket and I thought, okay, let’s go online and let’s have a look and find out what to do. And so I went on and I, and it was just, it was unbelievable. It’s something as simple as just how to hold a tennis racket. There was so many different opinions about, well, you should put your hand here, you should put your hand there.
You should hold it in this position. And I had to stop. I had to come off and I just thought, okay, I, my, my, I, I understand now how people get so confused and overwhelmed by all this information because that’s how, exactly how I feel. It was frustrating. I took maybe a day and thought, okay, I need to go back to this.
What I did instead was I chose three people or three websites or just three sources of information and thought, right, I’m gonna sign up to their, I’m gonna sign up to the YouTube channel. I’m gonna get the emails, whatever it happened to be. And how did you choose them? That was the tricky bit, I suppose.
It was a combination of how they presented their information, how reliable they seemed to be. They didn’t seem to be promising any quick fixes or crazy results. Again, the process that I used was not perfect. I couldn’t say, well, absolutely. I actually chose the three right people to listen to. Ultimately, I didn’t know, but I thought, well, I need to start somewhere.
So I’m gonna go with these three people. I’m gonna cut myself off from everything else. I’m not gonna listen to anyone else. I’m just gonna do, and I’m going to look for some kind of common ground. If two of these guys are saying, well, this is what you should do, and the other one says something completely different, I’m gonna go with what these two.
People say, I’m gonna go with the majority. And instead of looking for what they disagree about, I’m gonna look for the areas of agreement. So I could always say, well, they, they don’t agree on this. They don’t agree on that. You’ll always find areas where people will disagree. When in reality they actually might agree on 90% of it,
especially if they truly are experts, because that’s what is, is even interesting to them.
Like the fundamentals. Oh yeah, of course. This is the way that you would, in fitness terms, it would be, yeah. Energy balance, macronutrient. Balance, mechanical tension, progressive overload. Yeah. How about stuff’s boring? What we really are interested in though, is the subtleties of how you count volume. For example, direct and indirect volume, and I think that.
The deadlift should not be counted as 0.5 sets per set for the quads, but 0.25, and let me explain why , that’s the, the level of detail that many experts, people who I would have on my podcast. Like I think of someone like Eric Helms. He’s very interested in the neediest of the grittiest details and I appreciate that.
But that’s just speaking to what, how you approached it that allows you to sidestep all of that and get to. The fundamentals, the first principles, the things that, you know, in the case of tennis are going to provide, it’s gonna be the minority of information and techniques, right? I’m sure that it is going to or did provide the majority of results in terms of actually being able to just play the game.
exactly. It’s that old 80 20 rule that the 20% of the things are responsible for 80% of the results or something like that. It’s, it doesn’t always work out to 80 20, but it’s this. There’s an imbalance between input and output and a small minority of the inputs are often responsible for a large portion of the results.
That was the first thing that I did. I cut down. On the amount of inputs I cut down on the confusion and I looked for this common ground, the convergence. I didn’t allow myself to get too caught up in those minor details, like you talk about, well, is a deadlift or half a set for this or a quarter set for that?
Should I be, is my max recoverable volume this or the minimum effective volume for
that? Or should it be 15 hard sets a week or 18 hard sets a week? Yeah,
exactly. Should I do two reps in reserve or one rep in reserve, or I’m not sure. It’s those minor details that I, I mean, they’re interesting and I think that they’re important for certain individuals.
But for a lot of people it’s a confusing sideshow that actually can be a distraction from what is important. And it’s like you said about the fundamentals. I think a lot of the time to make progress is just this relentless execution of the fundamentals day after day, even when it’s boring, even when you don’t want to, even when you can’t be bothered.
It’s just get it done day after day after day. And the details, while they are important and. They do matter. They probably matter a lot less than can often appear by some of the discussions that you see online. And
that’s an unsexy reality, right? That uh, you just need to double and triple down on the fundamentals really.
And maybe we add a couple of these extra techniques or these extra bits of information in because now they are relevant. And this is the case in fitness. And I would say in, well, in every activity I’ve gotten fairly good at is when the newbie gains have been exhausted. Continued progress does mostly just depend on, like you were saying, relentless execution of the fundamentals, and you have to actively resist the shiny object syndrome.
That, and this is something you alluded to, that savvy markers will use to draw you in, which is one of the things you are explicitly staying away from in searching out your three sources of information. Right?
Yeah, exactly. I think that the shiny object syndrome is also, I think something I touched on in that men’s health article that you mentioned.
It’s this, I’m naturally skeptical of novelty. I suppose by skeptical, I don’t mean that I’m saying I think there’s a difference between skepticism and cynicism. I think cynicism is you just, oh, well, that’s nothing works. It’s all a waste of. Yeah,
everyone’s a scammer. They’re all just out to get your money.
exactly. Whereas I think skeptical, it’s saying, okay, well this is interesting. It’s coming at it with an attitude of curiosity and saying, well, let’s have a look at this. I’m not completely taken in by it.
I mean, take flat earth. When I first heard about it, I mean, you could just immediately say, oh, that’s ridiculous.
But if somebody were to press you and say, why is it ridiculous? Unless you’ve looked into it, you probably won’t have a great rebuttal. Now, in the case of that, I would go immediately to, okay, so then all the footage is fake, and that just offends against common sense. But in many cases, Things that you’re supposed to think are ridiculous.
If you were to ask yourself, why do I believe that? And I do this myself, and I’ve of course experienced it many times myself, sometimes you don’t actually have a great answer, . And so there’s this point of curiosity and being willing to look, even if it’s something that is supposed to, that you’ve just heard.
It has a label and it’s not even worth looking into. But that’s not always true. Yeah, and
I think it’s important to always be willing to certainly at least entertain an idea or listen to an argument. There’s been times, I mean, there’s a bunch of things that I’ve been wrong about over the years. If I’d have just dismissed any evidence to the contrary, I would still be doing things that, you know, that have ultimately proven to be a waste of time.
You know, I used to spend a lot of time on the, the glycemic index with my food, eating a particular meal frequency because I thought that’s what I needed to, to lose fat. You know, there’s a bunch of things that if I hadn’t have been open to an alternative way of doing things, I would’ve ended up wasting a lot of time and a lot of effort.
And so I think that’s certainly one of the things that I look for in, in people that I want to listen to, is that they’re willing to change their mind and they’re willing to shift to a different point of view if better evidence or different arguments.
And how do you deal with that process of changing your mind though?
Because. Everyone being human. We don’t like to be wrong. Now, some of us though, dislike it so much and get so entrenched that we become unwilling to change our mind. I mean, in some cases, on just about anything, at least in certain arenas of life, like politics comes to mind obviously. But even other things related to just our ideas about the culture or in fitness, how have you overcome.
That tendency that, that we all have, because it can feel almost like a personal attack. Let’s say it’s fitness and you are paying attention to your glycemic index and you think that’s the way to go. And then somebody comes along and maybe they’re not rude about it, but they’re just like, oh, by the way, here’s a bunch of evidence that that actually doesn’t matter at all.
And you don’t have to pay attention to that at all.
I think that the first, you go through these stages, don’t you? The first feeling is kind of is resistance. So you look to kind of to fight or Certainly I would look to, okay, well this is how dare you question what I’m doing. And I suppose it, it’s being willing to, to go beyond that and instead of actually, instead of actually wanting to put it resistant, say, okay, well let’s have a look at this.
Let’s have a look at what the evidence actually shows. And what I’ve found over the years is I actually. I went from not liking, changing my mind almost to the reverse that I actually like it when something comes along and I see it and I think, oh, that’s interesting. That changes my mind about something.
And it’s almost like, you know that feeling you get when you clear out a wardrobe and you get rid of all your old clothes that you don’t wear anymore. It’s just this kind of, it’s this nice feeling that you’ve cleared out a lot of baggage, a lot of stuff that you don’t want anymore, and it, that’s the same feeling I get sometimes.
When I realized that I’ve been wrong about something, I just say, yeah, actually, you know what? I like having this new belief. It’s actually, it’s probably more useful than the old one. So
yeah, I think of it as not being wrong. I think that’s looking at it the wrong way in terms of looking into the past and with the wrong perspective.
I just look at it as now I’m more right. I mean, certainly when we’re talking about things that are genuine advancements of our understanding, where it’s not that we were being deceptive or misleading people about what we believed. It is something that. At the time we were right based on the information we had, and then we got new information and now we are more.
Right. That’s how I look at it. I think that,
what did Muhammad Ali say? There was something, you had a quote that the man who views the world the same at 50 A as he did it, 20 has wasted 30 years of his
life. I mean, I think you can look at that. I personally look at that on a year to year basis where I feel that if my ideas, and that would just be the things that I think about, the things that I read about, that I write about, that I talk about, if my ideas on the whole have not evolved in in some way, at least in the last year, I think that’s a bad sign.
That means that I probably didn’t do a good enough job educating myself or. Thinking about these things and thinking of new ways to think about these things that are more Right. Yeah,
I think it’s very true. I think you, there’s certainly things in the last 12 months, I’ll be going back to what I was talking about earlier, is, is going running.
You know, I used to have this view that running was, I didn’t like it, I didn’t enjoy it. It’s gonna, it was gonna have a negative effect on what I was doing in the gym to try and build muscle and get stronger. And the more I looked at the data, the more I tried it for myself. I, I actually, I changed my mind.
I thought, uh, you know what? I don’t think that that’s true. I think that, I don’t think it’s gonna have the same adverse effect. In some ways it’s actually gonna be beneficial rather than harmful.
So that really is such a powerful meta skill, so to speak. I think being able to communicate effectively is as well, but being able to change your mind and ideally you’d be able to do it quickly and easily.
Right. That would be the, I think the ideal state would be you could have a belief one day that you are certain about, and the next day you could be confronted with evidence or circumstances that would allow you to flip 180 degrees without any resistance or emotional aftershock. Right? Where now you believe a steadfastly the exact opposite of what you believe the day before.
Mm-hmm. . But that is such a powerful ability. Our quest to flourish, I think in life because, I mean, it’s really what we’re talking about, right? It’s, you could look at it, I guess as psychological adaptability.
Yeah. I think it is, I suppose a degree of resilience and a degree of, I suppose also with skepticism of, of your own views and your own ideas is not necessarily being attached to these beliefs that you’ve got about something that you are actually willing to just say, you know what?
This belief or this opinion, or this conviction even doesn’t necessarily define who I am, and I’m actually quite happy to let it go. Now that I’ve realized that it’s not a particularly useful thing to believe anymore. Yeah,
I think that’s a good way of putting it. So let’s talk about some of the specific barriers that people run into when it comes to conflicting fitness advice.
I’m curious as to your thoughts on what about like switching training programs. When should someone consider switching and what should they consider switching to? And of course it depends where they’re coming from. What are your thoughts on that?
Well, I think switching programs is useful in a couple of instances.
So number one, if whatever you are doing has stopped working, so if you are in a particular training program, You are not seeing performance gains
at all, and how do you define a plateau? Because I know there are different ideas as to when are you officially
stuck? Yeah, I mean, that’s a good question. I would say if my repetition, I look a lot now towards how many reps am I doing in a particular exercise and for a particular muscle group.
So if my repetition strength is stalling or is actually starting to go down over a period of maybe two weeks, that’s when I’m starting to think, okay, well I might need to change things here. Some aspect of my program. Isn’t working
and to be specific there. So you mean, okay, you’re benching 2 25 for sets of 10, let’s say You want to see some sort of progress with that weight over the course of, I mean, ideally it’d probably be a couple of weeks, but you may give yourself a little bit.
Longer, three weeks maybe. Maybe as many as four weeks. Yeah. If
I’m not seeing any sort of movement on the reps or if it
goes down. Right. So at the end of three weeks, you’re now only able to do sets of nine with 2 25, whereas at the start of this meso cycle you’re doing sets of 10.
Yeah. If things are going down, that’s definitely a sign that some element of my program needs to change and that the entire thing might not need a complete overhaul.
Maybe I need to change some aspect of it in terms of frequency. Maybe I need to train less often. Maybe it’s a case of, of switching to a, perhaps to a different exercise. I mean, that’s not necessarily gonna get me past the bench plateau, but it’s something that’s, it’s just gonna freshen things up a little bit and that I think is.
That’s another reason why I think it’s useful to change your program if you’re just getting bored of it, if you are fed up, if you are not particularly motivated anymore to do the program. Yeah, if you don’t
look forward to your workouts, I mean, we’re not gonna look forward to every workout. We’re not going to enjoy every workout.
But I think that it is reasonable to expect that we should look forward to most of our workouts, and we should enjoy most of our workouts, and we certainly should enjoy having worked out. So if a workout is, or if a program is so grueling that you’re just limping out of the gym and dreading the next day’s workout, no matter how supposedly scientifically optimal that program is.
It’s not for you.
Yeah, absolutely. And I think that’s one of the problems that you can follow a program that is absolutely the most scientifically optimal program that was, that’s ever been developed. But if you don’t like it or if you can’t do it, or if it takes too long or if you don’t enjoy the workouts, then ultimately over time you are not gonna stick to it for long enough to see the results that you want.
So programming is an art as well as a science. There is an art to applying the science when it comes to finding something that is gonna work for a particular individual. And I think one of the interesting things that I’ve seen in. In the research over the last few years is this focus on individual responses to a particular program.
You often find a lot of the older studies they used to just report the average. So you just see, well, what were the average gains in muscle or strength or whatever it happened to be? Now you are seeing things split up in terms of, alright, well we saw three outta 10 people did well with this type of program, but another three did better with something slightly different.
And that is where I think it’s important to experiment with what you’re doing. And rather than getting caught in this trap of believing that there’s one best way for everybody, is it actually be willing to, to try different things and to accept that actually sometimes multiple paths can lead to the same goal.
And while what you are doing might not have worked as well as you would like it to, Just switching to something slightly different, changing your training frequency, increasing, perhaps decreasing the volume may actually be all you need to get things back on track and moving in the right direction again.
Yeah, I agree. And volume in particular is, uh, very effective lever to pull on. One of the first that I recommend people look at if they are not making progress, which I would agree with you, you could look at it as rep strength or you could just turn that into a, an estimated one rm. But if you’re not gaining any strength over the course of several weeks, then it’s time to look at your programming.
It could also be your diet though, of course. So are you in a calorie deficit, um, five days a week And because you eat a bunch of food on the weekend, like I know a lot of people make that mistake because they were able to do. In their newbie days and it didn’t get in the way of anything cuz their body was so hyper responsive.
But that is a losing strategy for muscle and strength gain when you are an intermediate or an advanced weightlifter. Anyway, looking at volume in particular, if somebody knows that their programming is pretty solid, it is. A good representation of the fundamentals of effective weightlifting. That’s always my first question if we’re just talking programming, is how many hard setss per major muscle group per week?
Because if you are an intermediate or an advanced weightlifter, you could expect that you’re gonna have to probably do some, or around 15 maybe if you’re a really high responder, 12 or 13 might get the job done. But let’s just say upward of 15 to 16 hard sets per major muscle group per week to continue making progress.
Whereas when you were a novice nine or 10 sets per major muscle group per week was all it took. And you could have done more, but you wouldn’t have gained any more muscle and strength. You would’ve just spent more time in the gym and maybe you would’ve burned some more calories. So that that volume point in particular, I just wanted to highlight because it may not be necessary to change your entire program, and I know that’s not what you meant cuz you had mentioned programming.
It’s some element of your programming and in many cases when I’ve spoken with. Intermediate and advanced weightlifters who were stuck. The primary mistake was just not doing enough volume, and particularly in the big major muscle groups and with the big lifts that most increase whole body
strength, it’s sometimes as simple and unsexy as, as that isn’t it?
Well, if you’re training three days a week, maybe you just need to do a add a fourth and a fifth day just to, in order to get that extra volume in and that sometimes that’s all you need to get things moving. Again. I, I’ve certainly experimented in the last few months with when the gym’s opened up again, I thought, well, I’m gonna start playing around with some, some higher training volumes in that sort of 15 to 20 set.
Per muscle group per week range. And again, I’ve really enjoyed doing that. It’s more of a style of training that I did years ago that I’d kind of got out of the habit of, and, and I’ve started doing it again and I’ve really enjoyed it. How has your body responded? Yeah, it’s, it’s responded well. I went to see someone the other day and they said, oh, you look, you’re looking, you’re looking fit.
Which was very nice to hear. I have noticed, I mean, it’s obviously at the age that I am, in the length of time that I’ve been training, it’s, you know, I’m not gonna see the same sort of gains that I did when I was starting out. But even now I can still see that, you know, to my eyes anyway, making some new progress.
And that’s nice. It doesn’t matter what stage of training that you are at, as long as you can see that you are actually, that you are getting somewhere. I think sometimes that’s all people want is just to feel like they’re not wasting their time and that they’re just, they’re making progress. Even if it’s just small progress.
It’s just this constant one foot in front of the other. You’ll eventually get where you want to go.
Yep. And that point of small progress is, progress is the right mentality if you are an intermediate or an advanced weightlifter, because as Christian had said earlier in the podcast and I commented on, all right, so let’s say the average guy can gain 15 ish pounds of muscle in the first year, maybe upward of 20, probably not 25.
Average woman is probably about half that. And for both of them, their potential gains basically get cut in half with each successive year. And so when you run that math, you quickly realize that you quickly get to a point, well, in the scheme of. Doing this for the rest of our lives, we quickly get to a point where we’re not gaining much muscle anymore.
You know, by year three, the average guy is probably, if he gains five or six pounds, he’s done well, not only is it five or six pounds, but it’s five or six pounds that he’s gonna have to work hard for. As you had mentioned, you know, if you’re working out three days a week, maybe you have to go to four or five.
Well, similarly, if a guy starts out working out five days a week, cuz he is really into it, makes a lot of progress and then he’s pretty happy. Year two, he cuts one day out. So now it’s four days, still does pretty well. Year three figures, oh, I can work even less now. Goes down three days and. Is almost guaranteed.
You just get stuck forever at that point, cuz you just can’t get in the volume you need doing just three workouts per week because you can only do so much per session before it becomes unproductive. Right, exactly. An important element of the mindset again is if you’ve been at it for at least a couple of years and you are able to consistently get a little bit stronger over the course of months, not weeks, there’s no more adding weight to the bar every week.
For me, just to give a specific example, so for. About eight months or so before covid, I was doing the programming in my new book, beyond Bigger Than or Stronger, just wanna make sure I run through everything myself and work out any kinks. And at the end of each four month macro cycle in that program, there are some AMRAP sets where you are testing your strength, basically.
Like did you get stronger over the last four months? And you have some indicators along the way if you have or have not. But that’s like the litmus test, the true test. And I was happy with, so at the end of this Macrocycle, you put 95% on the bar and as many reps as you can get ending one rep shy of technical failure or, I mean that’s what I do.
I don’t, I don’t like to go to technical failure on the big lifts. And I remember before covid, I got I think four or five reps with 95% that was calculated four months earlier. So at the beginning of the macro cycle calculated, my one RMS went through the training. And then with 95%, which I should’ve only be able to get like two reps with, obviously if you put that into a calculator, I was able to get four or five and I was excited.
I was like, that’s actually, Hey, that’s great. That progress is progress. Yeah. I gained a few reps with some heavy weight. That’s great. Four months I’ll take it. And that I
think is what you have to do isn’t, it’s actually to be excited and to be happy about those small bouts of progress, those small doses of progress, because ultimately that’s all you’re gonna get.
And it’s a case of finding things in the process to enjoy and also enjoying the small wins. It’s not necessarily about gaining 10 or 20 pounds on your one RM in, you know, over a period of six or 12 weeks. There’s, you know, those days have gone. It’s a case of looking at things. in what you are doing or the, the small results that you’ve gotten.
And I’m being happy with that. Totally
agree. Well, those were the, the main questions I wanted to ask you about. I had a couple of other things on my little outline, but we already talked about them. We talked about fads. I, I don’t know if there’s much more to say about that. It’s generally stay away from them, I think would be
You’ve made your position clear on that. Yeah, I
think, I suppose it’s always difficult to know in advance what a fad is and, and you know, sometimes if you’ve got a, I dunno, a particular diet that some people may, may class it as a fad and then actually it turns out to be. To be an effective form of eating.
So intermittent fasting, for example. I know in the early days, maybe that was seen as a fad and it would soon pass, but I actually think there are, there are lots of benefits to various forms of time-restricted feeding. Sometimes it’s hard to know in advance what is, what will turn out to be a fad and what isn’t.
So it goes back to the flat earth thing again. I think you can always entertain an idea and at least look at it if only briefly and think, okay, well that’s interesting, but I’ll put it on the back burner and see what other research and evidence turns up. Maybe it’ll just turn out to be a complete waste of time and a load of rubbish, but actually maybe it won’t.
Maybe as time goes by and the evidence a. It may actually be worth looking into that again. So there’s some ideas that I’ll come across and I’ll say, well, I’ll just park that because it doesn’t look at first glance like it’s worth paying attention to, but I don’t know. So I’m gonna be open to the possibility that it might be.
Yeah, that’s a
good point. And with intermittent fasting in particular, I suppose, and this could apply to all fads, the more something is sold as a breakthrough, and this comes back to this point of being skeptical of novelty. So the more it’s being sold as a breakthrough and certainly the more it’s being sold as a, a magic, well, in this case it would be diet of sorts, right?
And the one diet to rule them all, and the diet that provides a long, a long list of health benefits and performance benefits and is going to solve all of these. Pain points for you. I think the more anything is being presented like that, the more skeptical you should be, at least of the person who is presenting the information.
Like I think of um, I think his name’s Jason Fung, who says all kinds of unsubstantiated things about intermittent fasting and has built his whole brand around it. And he is constantly beating the drum for time-restricted feeding. And I don’t agree with a lot of the things that he says and I don’t think the literature agrees either, but, I do agree that intermittent fasting is a valid way of eating.
I mean, it’s skipping breakfast. Come on. That’s really what we’re talking about. Skip breakfast. There you go. , yeah. Start eating at 12 or one and stop eating at eight or nine and you are doing it. And just get all your calories and macros in. So when viewed through that lens, it would be silly to say that skipping breakfast is going to wreck your metabolism or supercharge your metabolism.
And again, if you look into, of course you know this, but for anyone listening, if you look into the research on intermittent fasting and on how our metabolisms work and how they are affected by food and how they are not affected by food, which aspects are not affected by food or, or the number of feedings, the reasonable position is that intermittent fasting is a fine way to eat if you like it and if it helps you stick to your diet better.
And that’s probably about it. There may be some additional benefits, but certainly. Not to the degree that some people would have you believe. And the real question is in the context of people who are otherwise healthy, people like us who work out regularly, who are not overweight, who have no health conditions, at least no serious health conditions.
And so the big question is, are some of the health benefits that have been seen in sedentary people who are not very healthy or suggested to be present in these people, is that gonna be applicable to us healthy fit people? Or are the effects gonna be so minimal that like our workouts alone provide 100 times the longevity benefits?
You know what I mean? So it’s like, okay, I guess if you want to add 1% to that bucket by forcing yourself to follow a diet you don’t really like, you might wanna rethink
that. Exactly. And it’s always the case that a lot of the times these studies are done in people that aren’t particularly healthy.
They’re not exercising regularly, they’re extremely overweight and they make one particular change to their diet, be it intermittent fasting, or they skip breakfast or whatever it happens to be. And you see an improvement. But you can’t necessarily say that’s gonna apply to somebody that’s already eating a good diet.
They’re eating plenty of fruit vegetables. They’re lifting weights three or four times a week. They’re doing cardio a couple of times a week. Their body fat percentage is relatively low. So it’s a completely different ballgame for those people compared to somebody that’s overweight and
especially when the overweight and obese people are losing weight as well.
Right. Which that alone is gonna produce market improvements in their health. Exactly. So anyways, on fads. Yeah, I think that’s a good point. Is there anything else, any other thoughts you wanted to share on weighing if a fad is worth considering or not? No, I think that
much covered. Great. Again, uh, that was it.
That was were the main points I wanted to discuss with you. So I really appreciate you taking the time to share your wisdom and share your insights. And why don’t we wrap up with where people can find you in your work and if there are any specific books or programs or services that you’d like them to know about?
Yeah. If people
wanna know more about me and my work, they can go to mus evo.net and that’s got all the latest articles and updates, links to my Facebook page, and you can get in touch with me there. Awesome.
And then as far as books or programs, you have several, right? Are there any in specifically that you wanna tell people about?
Because I, I know you’ve been emailing on one that you have called Gutless, for example.
Gutless. Yeah. That’s a, a kind of a, a simple nutrition manual. Again, it’s something that I wanted to do for people that didn’t necessarily want to get in physique contest shape, but they just wanted a simple, straightforward approach to getting rid of fat.
That wasn’t too long. There weren’t a lot of complicated rules in it. I just wanted to keep things as simple and straightforward as I could, so I, I lay out the principles behind getting rid of. Without losing muscle, I actually possibly gaining some muscle at the same time. And then I also talk how I apply those principles myself.
Cause I think one of the, one of the difficulties with diets and meal plans is actually putting something together that somebody will stick to. I know that, I’m not sure if you do it anymore, but you offer customized meal plans for people. Yeah, yeah. We still do. If you are not doing that, if I just put out a generic meal plan, it’s very difficult for somebody to stick to that.
So I, rather than saying, well, you should eat this or you should eat that, I talk about the principles behind effective fat loss and then show you what a typical day of eating looks like for me. So you can actually see how those principles are put into practice. So yeah, that’s one of the products that I’ve gotten.
There’s, there’s a few other ones on there as well. So go and take a.
Cool. Cool. And that’s muscle evo.net. That’s where people can find gutless as well as your other
products. That’s right. There’s a store link on there and, and that takes them to the, the store
page. Perfect. Well, thanks again, Christian. I appreciate you taking the time to, uh, have this discussion with me.
I think it will be well received. Thank
you, Mike. I really enjoyed it.
All right. Well, that’s it for this episode. I hope you enjoyed it and found it interesting and helpful. And if you did, and you don’t mind doing me a favor, please do leave a quick review on iTunes or. Wherever you’re listening to me from, in whichever app you’re listening to me in, because that not only convinces people that they should check out the show, it also increases search visibility.
And thus, it helps more people find their way to me and learn how to get fitter, leaner, stronger, healthier, and happier as well. And of course, if you want to be notified when the next episode goes live, then simply subscribe to the podcast and you won’t miss out on any new stuff. And if you didn’t like something about the show, please do shoot me an email at mike muscle for life.com.
Just muscle f o r life.com and share your thoughts on how I can do this better. I read everything myself, and I’m always looking for constructive feedback. Even if it is criticism, I’m open. And of course you can email me if you have positive feedback as well, or if you have questions really relating to anything that you think I could help you with, definitely send me an email.
That is the best way to get ahold of me, Mike, at muscle life.com. And that’s it. Thanks again for listening to this episode, and I hope to hear from you soon.