We’re delighted to add yet another writer to our ever-growing Wanderer team, this time with the charismatic and energetic Michael Dietrich. Growing up in Edmonton, Mike played elite soccer for Southwest United, guiding his squad to a U-18 national championship. In the years that followed, he moved to Vernon, B.C., and established fitMD. He has seen this personal training business grow at an almost uncontrollable pace. Now he’s back in Edmonton, inspiring countless people to live healthier lives. Today marks the beginning of his Friday health column. In the future, expect videos and podcasts from Mike that expand on his writings. You can follow him on Twitter via @DietrichM.
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If I had a dime for every time someone asked me if I’m on a diet, I would be writing this from my private gym located on my own island, bathing in the sun before my afternoon workout.
So what’s the answer? Am I on a diet? No, not at all, and I never will be. I hate the word diet with a passion. When the word diet comes up people think Atkins, Weight Watchers, L.A. Weight Loss, Jenny Craig, Bernstein diet, and the 17-day diet. Also very popular is the cleanse, which is usually some absurd combination of super power foods that, when mixed in the right amounts, promises significant weight loss and health in a short period of time.
Now the reason I hate the word diet is because it is often intended to be temporary, in order to get fast results and go back to normal eating (whatever ‘normal’ is for the dieter). The 17-day diet says it best: it’s right in the title of their diet… In 17 days you will lose x amount of weight and inches. Will you lose weight and inches? Yes, probably. Will the weight loss be significant? At the start, yes, it probably will be. But why is that? Simple: most of these diets cause you to severely under-eat, well below your maintenance or even BMR (basal metabolic rate). I am not going into detail about why under-eating is so bad, but in short, it severely slows down your metabolism. Once the metabolism is slowed, your body thinks it is being starved and starts holding on to everything it can. So when the dieter goes off their diet, the weight comes back and we see that yoyo effect. Of course, by under-eating you will lose weight, but where does this weight come from?
Our bodies are amazing instruments. Much like a car, our bodies are able to store fuel to run. We do this by eating. However, we fuel up with carbohydrates; not gasoline or diesel (unless you are like me and siphon my gas for free from my neighbors). We store carbs as glycogen in our muscles, liver and then some circulate throughout our blood stream. The storage of carbohydrates causes us to gain weight… But how much weight? Lyle Macdonald states that one pound of lean body mass stores seven to eight grams of glycogen. So let’s use me as an example and do the math.
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– 225 lbs and am 10% body fat =
225 x 0.10 = 225- 22.5= 202.5
202.5 lbs of fat-free mass x 7.5 glycogen = 1519 grams
So I have the ability to store 1519g of glycogen in my body.
1 pound = 454 grams so 3.3 lbs of glycogen. But that’s not the end of it, because
every gram of glycogen yields approximately 3 grams of water,
so 1519g of stored glycogen x 3g of water = 4557grams total!
Convert to this pounds: 4557g divided by 454g in a pound.
And we get 10.03lbs!
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Does this sound familiar? Omg I lost like 10 lbs in a week on ____________ [insert stupid generic diet here] in only _________ [insert stupid amount of time here]… See where this amazing 10 lbs of weight loss came from?
Same goes for the “Bros” at the gym that gain ten pounds of muscle in a week. This comes from glycogen stores being full. This leads to spill-over of the glycogen and subcutaneous fluid (even more weight gain) often while using creatine (even more weight gain). This doesn’t even mention the weight of ingested food in the stomach and intestines. Moreover, over-eating copious amounts of food leads to added spill-over of adipose (fat) mass. **Slow clap for your spare tire… Congrats, BRO**
So next time you hear about someone with this ‘amazing’ weight loss or ‘amazing’ weight gain, please refer them to this article. Weight loss and weight gain should be a slow process if you are doing it correctly and want effective and permanent results.
I have one more point to make. Sometimes, I hear people say that they have put five or even ten pounds of muscle on in a very short period of time. No you didn’t. Not at all. Dr Colgan of the University of Auckland in New Zealand states that “because of the limiting rate of turnover in the muscle cells, it is impossible to grow more than an ounce of new muscle each day.” Let’s think about what you are saying when you “put on ten pounds of lean muscle in a month.” When you work out, you cause microscopic tears to your muscles. The way you build muscle is through rebuilding those tears. Now, is it realistic to create ten pounds of muscle, through repairing these micro-tears? Nope. Not even close. I love how Lee Labrada (a professional bodybuilder) puts it: gaining five pounds of muscle is like Christmas has come early. It is also reasonable to assume he had the help of a few ergogenic aids.
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So going back to the start, answering the question “Do I diet?” No, I do not diet; instead, I live a healthy and active lifestyle. If I want to gain weight I do it slowly, properly and make sure most of the weight that I’m putting on is quality muscle mass. I do this by slightly adjusting my calorie intake and just as importantly, adjusting the balance of my macronutrients (proteins, carbs, fats). If I want to lose weight, I eat the same foods with slight periodic adjustments to my calories and macros, so that I can achieve the results I desire. I eat healthy foods that I enjoy. It’s a lifestyle choice, not a diet. I very much enjoy the foods I eat, and they allow me to look and feel good. All nutrition plans I create are geared towards healthy living and lifestyle choices. Eventually, my goal is to get my clientele to the point where they live a healthy lifestyle eating whole, nutritious food – and love it – because they look and feel good.
While eating clean, you are able to really understand your body and learn how to see and feel results with minor adjustments. I have learned a lot about my body and how it reacts to different dietary changes, which can make for meaningful changes in the body over time.
Photograph by Skye Oleson-Cormack.
Michael Dietrich is the founder of fitMD and trains Edmontonians every day of the week. Send him a tweet, @DietrichM.