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The Science Of Compliance

Of late I have noticed an influx of concentration on nutrition in the strength sports industry. A lot of guys aren’t buying into the mass moves mass ideology anymore and we’re seeing some real freaks in the lighter classes. Guys are moving some serious weights only to stand at the top of the podium with a set of abs and I think it’s a phenomenal trend. Along with the interest in the market of course there comes interest from the other end, the sellers of the product. So there has also been a huge increase in nutrition coaches looking to provide a product to these athletes. And I must say there are a ton of top notch scientists coming out and providing some really great information from their own studies and also interpreting this information for the general public. I am seeing a Dispelling the Myths of Nutrition article put out at least once a week and it’s knocking down the latest fad diet and non-science based trend. All of these things are great! BUT there needs to be a balance. The problem is there are a bunch of highly educated individuals, most of whom are lab rats, working with the general public. I’ve talked to them before and seen the faces on people around us disfiguring their facial expressions at the mention of gluconeogenesis and pyruvate.

Here lies part of the problem. The general public and most of their audience does not understand what exactly it is that they are writing about. Sure it’s great when an article is published that shows how medium molecular mass carbohydrates are better for intra workout supplementation than monosaccharides in terms of sustained energy release. Or that post workout carbs with L-Leucine rather than protein have the biggest effect on insulin release to increase nutrient transport and protein synthesis and muscle recovery. All of these things are fantastic. However there’s one big drawback, their audience does not understand half of what they’re reading. So naturally they go to the individual coach saying “Take my money, and just tell me what to do.” I get emails like this all the time and it’s just not that simple. I know it’s not that simple because I’ve seen plenty of people get a meal plan and fall off the band wagon after 2 weeks because it’s not for them. It does not matter in the least if the diet is the most beautiful scientifically synergistic program ever written because compliance trumps science! Is it a bad diet in this case? You bet it is!

Compliance is ignored more often than not and it is probably at the fault of the industry. A lot of these guys are working with high level athletes that will do anything and everything they tell them to. So on the occasion that somebody legitimately cannot follow the program the excuse is, “Well if you wanted it bad enough you will find a way to make it happen.” So the person is left to believe that it is their fault that they are unable to succeed. One of the first questions I ask any person inquiring about nutritional programing is what is your flexibility like with eating when you are at work or school? If the client is in and out of meetings all day long in a professional setting is it possible for them to get in 6 even meals a day? Hardly. So this person might do better with say 3 large meals and 2 smaller snacks because it is acceptable to drink a shake and pick on nuts during a meeting for them. Let’s say a client is looking to lose some weight but has a tendency to pick a lot at night. A logical method for them might be to have them fast in the morning and set up a large quantity of their food at night so that they are literally so stuffed after dinner they cannot pick. The caloric deficit you have created during the day is shattered the second they start picking. Another example would be perhaps the person is on a low carb plan and they love their carbs. If you schedule carbs with every single meal there’s a good chance they won’t be able to stop with just that. However, if they know they have a bolus carbohydrate meal coming at night they can count down until that meal and hold off. So is there any science to this type of carb backloading? I suppose you could make an argument for or against. I think the latest trend I have read about is against right now because there hasn’t been a scientific article published supporting it in the last week. But the point is this person is much more likely to stay below their allotted carbohydrates for the day because that is what works for them.              

It is absolutely essential that the coach is able to work with the client and get a feel for this client. I think that some of the recent trends I have read about with flexible dieting are great because some people can refrain from eating things just because they know they can if they so desire. Contrarily, if an individual is a person that has struggled with sweets their whole life and is unable to eat just one Oreo I might argue it isn’t such a good idea to tell them, “If it fits go for it.” There’s a minimum chance that this maximizes their compliance. So my plea to the coaches out there that might fit this hyper scientific description is think about it in terms of pharmaceutical prescription. If a patient will not comply with a drug because of the administration procedure isn’t the drug essentially put on the back burner or deemed all but worthless? This is the same thing happening to the perfect diet that just got inscribed. Get a feel for your client and become a master of compliance. Because once you can figure out the best way to get that individual to follow your program to a T by making a few compromises you just figured out what’s best for that individual.

Mike Mastell