The other day I watched a documentary called “Particle Fever.” It was recommended to me by a friend, Dr. Tyler Evans at Arete Chiropractic. The whole back story of the documentary is huge for the world of science, and involves a super team of physicists trying to prove the theory of the Higgs Boson atom. One of the main physicists in the doc, explains that, proving its existence “could mean nothing… or everything.” Fascinating.
While I’m not big into the world of physics, it was super interesting. You get from the very beginning of the film that this science is groundbreaking, and could lead to bigger and better things for the universe. It also got me thinking a little differently about strength and conditioning science, too. Particularly, when new studies are coming down the pipeline, how much application can we really get when sometimes people just need to... I don't know... get to the gym in the first place, stop binge drinking on every weekend, or eat something green once in a while.
I mean, think about that for a second.
When new articles come out about health (which happens every day), do they have application to your own personal barriers? While I’m certainly not bashing the exercise research field or anything like that, we have to continually look at application in our own lives when new information is available. There is a phrase:
So, I think it’s far more important to strategize around your own life, than new research articles that claim:
Wheat is bad.
Kale is the devil.
Kettlebells will hurt your back.
Only squat with your feet straight.
Bacon elevates testosterone.
None of these are actually true, but then again, there may be some study out there to refute me. I’m not saying we should ignore new knowledge at all, rather use it in the context of your own health. How can you actually put the information to good use? It’s easy to jump the gun in application these days and end up doing some juice "cleanse."
While the research field has told us over the years a lot of different, conflicting things, we have to keep our own life struggles and barriers at the forefront of our approach. As I said above, new science is cool, but life happens to us every day. Long term adherence is impossible if you can’t shrug some dirt off your shoulder and continue to make good choices.
In a perfect world, we want to be able to strength train at full intensity all the time. And get our conditioning in. And our mobility work. But, sometimes you have to cut a workout short, or buy packaged food in the airport. Not ideal, but yeah, that’s how life goes.
The world of new research and science does not always include the variability of life. It is controlled, statistically analyzed, and then interpreted in six different ways by you and I. While I’m a huge nerd (I repeat: I actually watched a physics documentary), I’m also practical. We have to be. Life will inevitably try to mess up your day and force you to get chipotle for dinner, even though you had something else planned. Or you just, you know, plan to get chipotle for dinner.
Just keep in mind that while new science is fun to have conversations about, it may or may NOT fit into your plan. So don’t stress over whether or not you are doing the latest and greatest protocols. They will eventually be watered down, misused, and misunderstood.
With that said, don’t completely dismiss all new information, either.
Case in point: This article on Intermittent Fasting by Dr. John Berardi and the folks over at Precision Nutrition. Now, when I saw this come out, I was surprised. Precision Nutrition has always been pretty straight and narrow, emphasizing consistency and balanced meals. They’ve also been big proponents of eating breakfast in the past. But, I was impressed of the objective approach he took, properly laying out the pros and cons of IF.
While I didn’t change anything for myself personally when I originally read the article, something stuck with me about using it as way to mediate hunger signals, scheduling demands, and energy flow. As I transitioned to my new job in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, I was starting to get up earlier than ever. Three to four times a week, I’m up before 4:30 in the morning. Now that seems super early, but in perspective it’s about 1 hour earlier than I was accustomed to, and not as early as some of my new team members.
Once I was in that position, I was reminded of Dr. Berardi’s piece on IF. He talks about a lot of things; traditional approaches, lifestyle patterns like whether breakfast actually works for you, and meal frequency.
Quote from PN’s Dr. Berardi, which is basically an ebook:
“I became intrigued with the idea that you could skip meals – and sometimes entire days of eating – without suffering lethargy, brain fog, and muscle loss. Even more intriguing was the idea that you could accelerate body fat loss and get healthier with strategic, well-timed fasts.
These claims run counter to today's popular nutritional recommendations, which assert that small, frequent eating – grazing, if you will – is the best way to control appetite, blood sugar, and body weight. As someone who's averaged 4 to 7 meals per day for nearly 20 years, I was skeptical at first.”
I was curious, too.
Situationally, for those early days, it made a bit of sense for me. I normally have 2-4 AWESOME sessions starting at 5am. From there, I choose to eat when I’m ready. I’m flexible. Some days it’s 8am. Some days it 10am. I don’t have a “breakfast time.” The rest of the day, I eat pretty normally, and make sure I get some post workout nutrition in after I train in the afternoon. Dinner happens after my night sessions and there, I pay attention to what my body is saying. Do I want a big meal or a small one? Pretty simple.
I think down the road, I’ll do a more comprehensive post on IF, but here I’m talking about it to illustrate the point of taking information and applying it to your own circumstance. My own schedule demands dictated a change with my eating pattern. Given my current fitness goals and routine, I didn’t see an immediate need for a meal in the morning, so long as my energy level stayed up. I’m not in full endurance training mode (shorter runs, little to no mountain biking, 3x/week strength training), and am pretty much trying to maintain my weight.
Also, in the wee early hours of the morning, I value 30 minutes more sleep. It’s easier for me to grab some water, coffee, and be ready to get to the gym and start crushing training sessions with folks. It was an experiment I was willing to try, and so far, I like it.
Do I think that this approach is the end all, be all, cure to ailments and illnesses worldwide?
No. Not even close. It’s just another strategy in the toolbox. But, for my situation, it’s working right now.
And that’s where we need to focus. On our own barriers. With each new study or breaking piece of content, it is another opportunity to add value and education to yourself; but it is another chance to create chaotic confusion about your approach.
Focus on your own goal and how you can personally optimize execution.