Monday, November 5, 2007

Two Gurus "Go at it"

While many of the experts I read on the internet agree with each other on certain methods, some of the experts also disagree with methods.

One is what I wrote about yesterday, Brad Pilon. He is often very controversial in his nutrition advice, and I do believe it's because he comes from a different viewpoint that most PT's. The other guru with a completely different viewpoint, that of a bodybuilder, is Tom Venuto (you'll see I recommend his program, Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle, especially for the goal-setting and mind-set part of it). Well, the two of them are now in a face-off.

Portions of Tom's post:
"I’m afraid the “fitnes professional” who wrote that article is mistaken about starvation mode. Not only is his article filled with technical errors, but anyone who sees what kind of products he promotes will realize where all his biases come from if you simply read between the lines a little bit. The pot calls the kettle black.

He accuses those of us who use the term “starvation mode” as being unscientific and he even says “dont buy diet books if they mention the starvation mode.” Yet in a moment, it will become clear that he is the one who is not very well read in the scientific literature on the effects of starvation and low calorie diets."

Portions of Brad's responsive post:
"Here is a little background for you, Tom makes a living selling a weight loss program that "is based on keeping you OUT of starvation mode or minimizing its effects", while my program Eat Stop Eat, is based on the idea that when it comes to short periods of fasting combined with weight training, starvation mode does not exist.

pretty confusing. Two guys saying two completely different things about what sounds like the exact same thing. Well let's take a deeper look.

Firstly, the point of the grrlathlete email was that "starvation mode" as defined by most diet people as "a reaction to a caloric decrease that causes your body to slow down its metabolism and actually store more fat WHILE you are dieting", does not exist."

I do think that having the gurus "duke it out" every once in a while is a great thing. It provides a place and time to back up beliefs, allow the reader to form their own opinions based upon their own experience, and forces the gurus to make sure they know what they are doing. I've gone head to head with Scott Smith of Motivation To Move before, and it really made me think. Yes, it was somewhat upsetting when his response post read something along the lines of, "What makes you think you've got all the answers, because I'm the one who's right and I'm the guru here, not you, you silly personal trainer." However, it was also gratifying for me to clarify some of my points, and when he wrote back saying, "You know your stuff," that made it all worthwhile. It definitely made me examine my beliefs. The whole debate was over interval training vs. long slow burn, and it helped me understand why I believe in intervals so much. Since then, I've been able to get several more people turned on to them.

So, go check out the posts and form your own opinion. I'll see if I can dig up the original email, and I'll post it here.
Here's the article:
Take Control of Your... Starvation Mode?

Part 6: Fads, gimmicks, and tricks

Now that we've covered the facts about how metabolism,
weight loss and weight gain works, I'd like to tell you about
some of the tricks the diet and food industry use to sell you

I hope by now you have a good understanding of what your
metabolism is and how food and exercise affects it. Now it is
time to see how food and diet products are marketed based
on some misinterpretations of what metabolism and BMR
really are, and how diet and exercise affect these.

I'm sure you have heard of the popular term 'Starvation
Mode'. This is the concept that if you follow a calorie
restricted diet and eat too few calories your metabolism and
BMR will slow down. Even though you might lose weight,
when you got back to 'normal' eating your slower metabolism
will now be primed to store more calories than before.

I know this is a very popular theory, but it is not based on
scientific facts, and really is very illogical.

First of all, 'starvation mode' is not a scientific term, it is a
term created by the fitness and diet industry and has no
scientific definition. Therefore it can mean whatever someone
wants it to mean, so as far as I am concerned this makes it

Here are some of the convenient definitions of starvation

Def 1: When your metabolism slows down due to under eating

Def 2: When your body starts storing more fat while you're
eating less

Def 3: When your body gains the ability to store more fat
when you go back to eating 'normal' after a calorie restricted

Def 4: Some combination of the above 3 definitions

As you can see by this loose and flexible definition,
starvation mode can be used to justify eating a specific
product, nutrient or type of food. It is also why it is difficult
to dispute the existence of it, because nobody can strictly
define it. Really, starvation mode, is just a term used to try
and convince you that dieting is bad for you.

Starvation mode is the basis for the concept of eating 6
small meals per day. It is also usually the basis for diets
that promote eating some form of food over another, calorie
cycling, and every other diet that does not promote eating
less overall calories, but instead promotes eating special
types of calories and with special timing.

In reality any diet that has been proven to cause weight loss
is always due to eating less calories. It doesn't matter how
you arrive at this caloric deficit (eating less carbs, or less fat)
all that matters is that you eat less total calories.

As you have learned, your muscle mass is a major
contributing factor to your BMR. If you eat less calories and
lose muscle mass your BMR will decrease over time. This just
means that you will need to eat less food to maintain your
new lighter body. It is simple math, a smaller body needs less
calories. Weight training/resistance exercise will prevent you
from losing muscle mass while you eat less, and therefore
maintain your BMR.

There are specific measurements scientists use to study how
much fat you are burning while you are dieting,how much
energy you are expending and how your fat is reacting to a
low calorie diet.

According to a very large number of research studies, even in
situations where caloric intake is greatly reduced, scientists
have found that if your muscle mass remains the same your
metabolic rate will remain the same. They have also found
that you will rely more on your fat stores for energy (therefore
you can't be storing more fat), and as a result the enzymes in
your fat and muscles will be primed to move fat out of your
fat stores to your muscles where it can be burnt as a fuel (so
your body is not building up the ability to store more fat).

These results are found in both short-term and long-term
studies. They are found with short periods of fasting or long
periods of caloric restriction. They are found with low-carb and
low-fat diets. And since they are consistently found to be true
in all of these different scientific studies, using many different
measurement techniques, it means that starvation mode
cannot possibly exist.

If you think about it, it doesnt really make sense that your
body would store more fat while you are dieting, after all, this
is why we store fat in the first place - it is stored energy, to
be used when food energy is scarce.

When reviewing new diet books, this is one of the first things
I do to see how credible the book is, and it is something you
can do too.

If the book says that starvation mode exists, I know that it is
not well researched. If it does not mention starvation
mode, then I know that the diet has a greater chance of being
based on sound scientific facts.

You can use this one single trick to help you weed through
the good and the bad in the world of diet programs and
weight loss books.

John and the team at

PS- Now that we have covered the truths about metabolism,
and you know our opinion that the best weight loss program
is one that restricts your calories in a maintainable way, and
that promotes exercise that includes weight lifting, why don't
you check out our diet program Eat Stop Eat.


1 comment:

Marcol said...

Wow...i honestly havent bought into Brad's stuff...something about his methodology just grinds me the wrong way. Hmmmm....