Archive for the Category Weight Loss Research


Why I now listen to Fitness Charlatans

A good friend of mine recently bought me the book “AntiFragile” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. A very fascinating book with lots of hidden gems in it (worth a read).

One of those gems was a little paragraph about “Charlatans”. In this chapter Nassim explained that a ‘Charlatan’ was someone who relied on experiment and experience to ascertain what was correct…

…Basically, someone who figured out what worked through trial and error and tinkering. Which of course is thought to be, or suggested to be, inferior to the ‘learned’ version of figuring out what works.

Pretty much the old street smart vs book smart argument.

So really, ‘charlatan’ was the derogatory term given to anyone not “in” on the scientific thought of the day. Not certified, licensed, approved… basically not part of the establishment.

But Charlatans did, and do have experience. And, if you are able to look past the typical mistakes that charlatans make when they try to sound like they’re part of the establishment, they can have some absolute gems of wisdom.

Here’s an example.

Trainer X has, through trial and error, developed a workout program that has shown time and time again to help athletes gain muscle — so much so that he begins to develop a reputation of being an expert in muscle building.

Then Trainer X is interviewed and during that interview he states that his workouts are effective because they are able to turn Fat into Muscle.

Obviously a mistake – trying to sound like an expert the way people expect an expert to sound – book smart.

The scientific establishment, or in this case what I like to call the OEC’s (Online Expert Commentators) quickly point out that you cannot turn fat into muscle. And due to this error they label Trainer X as a fraud and his workout as bunk.

Only the workout wasn’t bunk, the explanation was the bunk.

Baby and the bathwater.

The fact is the workout was effective, but in attempting to fit in with the establishment and appeal to everyone’s love affair with science, trainer X overstepped his expertise and tried to explain WHY his workout worked…

And he got it wrong. But the workout was still effective.

Truthfully, I would probably be one of the people who would have jumped all over Trainer X pointing out his error (at least the old me would have), but now I’m not as quick to judge.

Yes, it is incredibly hard to separate correlations from causation from catalysts in real everyday life, but to be honest, there are a lot of examples in life where you don’t need to know why something works to know that it works.

(case in point, I have no idea how my car works – I mean seriously – zero clue – but I know that it works)

Bottom line, the point of today’s email – careful with today’s health and fitness establishment, we’re quick to argue over science, and sometimes we are blind to results.

If something is working for you, but the explanation for why it works is less than perfect, it doesn’t change the fact that is is working for you.

The goal is results, not the best explanation for how the results were reached.



That mouse study

If I remember correctly, the FTC views the use of animal research in supplement advertising to be one of the most heinous advertising infractions, right up there with Photoshopped before and after photos.


Because they believed that due to the lack of transferability of animal research to humans, doing so would be intentionally misleading the customer as to the potential benefits of said supplement.

Even the most ‘fly-by-night’ ethically-devoid supplement companies do not use animal trials in their marketing for this reason.

Keep this in mind when you see journalists and bloggers reporting on the latest mouse research, using it to create clickbait style articles about human diet, nutrition and weight loss.

Alright, now that I’ve said that, lets get to that article that appeared on Yahoo suggesting that skipping a meals will actually make you fatter.

It was an animal study, using mice.

We know that mice are extremely sensitive to fluctuations in both body weight and meal patterns. They are very small animals, and without getting too technical I’ll just say it’s well known in the scientific community that many parts of metabolism scale with size.

For 5 days the mice in the diet group were given half the amount of food as the control mice, and all of the food was provided in one meal per day (that’s why it’s being referred to as a ‘fasting study’).

After 5 days of dieting the mice were allowed to gorge for 13 days, they were given an amount of food that was the same or more as the control mice, and were still only eating it all in one meal.

So what happened?

The control mice continue to grow normally, and their weight increased throughout the study, but the fasting diet-restricted mice lost almost 20% of their body weight in the first 5 days of the study. (This should be your first hint that mice are different than humans. If you and I eat 50% of our daily intake for 5 days we’re not going to lose 20% of our body weight – heck, we could do this for a month and we’re probably not losing 20% of our body weight.)

Then, the fasted mice were fed 98-122% of the amount of food as the growing control mice, so the fasted mice started to grow… and they grew quickly. If you think about it, they were getting fed the same amount of food (or more) as the mice that were 30% heavier then them… so rapid weight gain (and fat gain) make sense.

So end result? Mice who rapidly lost 20% of their body weight and then regained most of that weight by overeating ended up with larger fat cells then the control mice. I’m not sure why this is surprising.

They also had worse measurements of a bunch of health markers… again not surprising.

I’m not sure how much the eating cycle mattered here. Again, as I stated earlier, mice are really sensitive to eating patterns so it probably did play some sort of role, but rapid weight loss then overfeeding causing increased fat stores and messed up glucose control isn’t surprising.

What’s surprising is the reporting.

Mice aren’t people, people aren’t mice. Yes, there is value in animal research, but setting dietary recommendations is not one of them.

Overeating and causing rapid weight gain is generally not a good idea. Losing excess body fat generally is.

So what does this have to do with humans and Intermittent Fasting?

Simple. Fasting is popular, so it makes for great headline fodder.

We were baited in with the headline, then they attempted to blind us with the science.

Here’s the truth – There are lots of ways to lose excess body fat – Fasting is just one of dozens.

They all work, and some will obviously work better for you then others, based on your personal likes and dislikes and styles of eating.

The bottom line is please don’t worry about the mouse study, and feel free to voice your anger when people use mice to try and tell you how to eat.

The Biggest Loser Research Study

OK, first I want to tell you one last thing about the Reverse Taper Diet- Simply that it was designed with the goal of preventing post-weight loss weight-rebound. You know, how people diet like crazy, hit their ideal weight, then 3 days later they are back up 15 pounds?

I want that to stop.

My goal with Reverse Taper is to literally have you ‘plateau’ at your ideal weight and leanness.

That’s the idea behind RTD – eating well and staying lean.

OK, now enough about that, I have something else I want to discuss with you.

If my future telling software is accurate then the on-line community is going to be BUZZING about one particular new study coming out.

After all, the subjects in the study are practically celebrities.

This particular study is on a group of people in “a nationally televised weight loss reality TV show where participants are voted off weekly”

Gee – I have no idea what show that could be 😉

Anyways, here is what I want you to look for – really distorted scaremongering –

Here’s why:

I took the numbers of all the participants, particularly their BMR’s and then used the predictive equations to figure what we think their metabolic rates SHOULD be.

Here’s what I found –

In the beginning of the study, when the average weight was 328 pounds (162 pound of body fat!), the average BMR was almost 2,700 a full 700 calories ABOVE what even the most generous equations suggested.

At the end of the study when the average body weight was 200 pounds, (they lost more than 120 pounds) the average BMR was 1,900 –  Still a full  100 calories ABOVE what even the most generous equation predicted it should be given their lean body mass.

Heck, it was still higher than my BMR!

So here’s my confusion, and my guess:

My bet is that everyone focuses on the almost 700 calorie ‘drop’, and not the fact that in the end their metabolic rates were right where they should be. And I doubt ANYONE will be concerned with how HIGH their metabolic rate was in the beginning.

This is the part I find confusing – their metabolic rates are MASSIVELY elevated when they are overweight – like with sepsis! Is this evidence of a metabolic ‘slow down’ with dieting or a ‘hyper metabolism’ from a body that is in really, really rough shape??

To me, the ultra high metabolic rate just shows the damage of being more than 100 pounds over-fat, how much work the body has to do at this level of fatness, and it adds strength to argument that obesity of that degree truly is a disease state.

And at the end of the study, to have lost over 100 pound of body fat, and have a metabolic rate that is precisely where it should be seems to be an amazing accomplishment, but will somehow it will be turned into more metabolism scaremongering.

To bad, because the study itself is full of things to be positive about, yet the negative sells better.

Keep on keeping on, and remember, the story is usually much more complex than the headlines suggest.