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Recently, I've been doing quite a bit of reading around the idea of 'clean eating' - an idea proposed by Tosca Reno in Oxygen magazine - and likely proposed by others, in alternate guise, elsewhere.  I purchased several of her books and I have to say they contain some excellent and creative recipes.  But I would like to ask for some feedback on one of her claims; she states unequivocally that the attainment of a fit, lean physique is 80% nutrition, 10% training and 10% genetics.  This seems counterintuitive to me....

Lori, I have read in numerous places, and personally believe it stands to reason, that in terms of having the appearance of a fit, lean physique nutrition may play the most important role.  My interpretation of what is meant by that is that even if you do consistent strength and cardio conditioning exercises you will not have that perfect bikini body or six pack unless you also pay very, very close attention to nutrition (or unless you're 20 years old and you workout so much that you can consume virtually anything you want because you are constantly trying to eat yourself out of a calorie deficit anyway).  Or more plainly, you can do all the crunches you want but unless you have no more than 6-8% body fat you won't see the six pack, even though it's there. 

To say that to attain a fit, lean physique you need to focus 80% on nutrition I would consider a bit misleading though  - when I've read this sort of thing before I've assumed that it's been written to someone who already does most of the training they need so in that context they need to now start spending more of their time focused on nutrition (in other words they've already got the training thing going so it won't take much effort to just keep that going while focusing on nutrition). It could also be said that it takes more effort to figure out how to eat properly than it does to figure out how to workout properly (more on that below).  In those terms more of a focus is required on nutrition.

Specifically referring to Tosca Reno (I've read a lot of her stuff) I don't want to put words in her mouth but I wonder if what's she's saying is that she could get to within 80% of her body looking as lean and cut as it is by nutrition alone (which might be true), but I'd suggest that that shouldn't infer that training only counts for a portion of the % that's left.  It's also worth noting that Tosca Reno is speaking from the point of view of a former 200+ lb 40 year old who got herself into fitness model shape as a middle-aged woman.  I think most people would agree that in her situation nutrition would play a much more important role in recovering from that level of poor conditioning at that age than it would for a 20 year old who weight 15 lbs more than their ideal weight.

I think the danger here is that the 80%/10%/10% breakdown may be interpreted as though if you can only focus on one aspect of physical wellness it should be nutrition, not training, because nutrition will yield more results to your wellness, and I would really question that.  In fact I'd suggest that if anything the opposite holds true.  Dr. Steven Blair, in a much-cited study done in 1999, concluded in his study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that "moderately overweight men (meaning they had more than 25 percent body fat and an average body mass index of 28) who were physically fit had half the death rate of their thin, but out-of-shape, peers" (you can read a related article here).  Now of course being overweight (which is only one aspect of poor nutrition - you can of course be overweight but get good nutrition, just too much of it, and conversely you can of course have poor nutrition but eat so little that you're still thin) causes you all kinds of problems even if you're otherwise physically fit, such as joint issues, diabetes, etc.  There's also a lot debate about the whole "Fat but Fit" issue, with may recent studies suggesting that even a little bit of extra mid-section fat is bad no matter how good your marathon PR is - click here for an article on a study that partially refutes the Fat but Fit theory, with a response from Dr. Blair.

Anyway, I'd counsel (I mean this in a general sense; I'm not telling you what to do Lori ) that there should be equal focus on nutrition and fitness, and that the attainment of a fit, lean physique is equally dependent on both with a small remaining % dependent on genetics, but if you're serious about both you'll find it takes more time to research and think about proper nutrition than it does to plan for proper training, but it will take less time to actually implement proper nutrition and more time to implement proper training.  A good example of this might be looking at Canada's Food Guide vs. Canada's Physical Activity Guide.  The print copy of the Activity Guide is 1 page - it's pretty easy to read that you need 60 minutes of light effort activity most days of the week or 20-30 minutes of vigorous effort 4 days of the week in order to maintain adequate fitness - actually going for a 30 minute walk every day, stretching for 10 minutes a day, and doing 20 minutes of moderate level yard work a day to achieve your goals takes, well, an hour every day.  On the other hand the Food Guide is 5 pages long and a lot more detailed, but once you understand it the practical application just becomes integrated into your weekly grocery shopping habits, how you choose meals when you're eating out, etc.  So the question then becomes "what is the 80/10/10 split really referring to?"  Is it the amount of ongoing time and effort required to focus on nutrition and training (and what do we do about the genetics?), or is it the initial effort required to learn about nutrition, training, and genetics, is it literally saying that nutrition is more important (by a long shot) than anything else in order to get a fit, lean physique, or does it mean something else entirely.

Two last things: (1) I arguably had the fittest, leanest physique of my life when I was 19 years old and was training as a high performance track athlete many hours a day.  However I paid absolutely zero attention to nutrition at that time and ate out at McDonald's many times week, sometimes ordering more than one extra value meal at a time.  In a holistic sense I am undoubtedly more fit now even if my fat % is a couple digits higher because now I really focus on a balanced diet while still getting in good cardio and strength training exercise.  So, what precisely is meant by "fit, lean physique"?  (2) Although I've said above that the concept and planning behind the training aspect of physical wellness is pretty straightforward and not too time consuming, I'm assuming that you (a) are personally motivated and (b) are only interested in "adequate" training.  If you really want a six pack or a model perfect figure you're going to have to invest a lot more time planning.

Don't know if I've helped any here, or if I'm doing a good job of directly answering the question, but those are my immediate thoughts.
Vern Nelson
I would think that good nutrition and a bit of training can help someone attain "a fit, lean physique".

But to echo what Scott said what does she mean by "a fit, lean physique"?
Does that mean you look good in a suit and go up a flight of stairs without suffering?

If you want to run a marathon in a respectable time, then you need to put in the miles.
80% focus on nutrition will not get you there.

Thank you Scott, for taking the time to answer my query in such detail.  You say so much that really resonates.   I have been a committed exerciser for 20+ years, but have definitely noticed that, after that initial tightening up one notices upon first embarking upon a fitness programme after a good while not exercising, more visible results do rest upon careful consideration of nutrition.  Not only that, a careful balance of macronutrients seems to make a difference as well - superseding in fact, an approach of strictly calorie counting. 

And, you are correct in saying that considering and researching a nutritional approach does take some time and then the implementation can become routine quite easily.  I have been enjoying doing that reading and slowly implementing my findings into the weekly menu. 

My other ongoing dilemma is deciding how much cardio, how fast or how slow, how often, and balancing that with strength training...some of the information and beliefs I have held around this is being challenged by some of the research i am doing but it is really hard to 'switch gears'...but maybe I should stop here and sign up as a client, since you have achieved your certification, Scott!

Good point, and much less verbose than my response, Vern.  All the nutrition in the world won't get you across that 26 mile marker. 

Lori, I have some ideas as to what I might do with my certification and am planning to invest a lot of time investigating things this coming week, while Deanna is spending the week vacationing in San Diego - I mean while she is attending a couple of conferences in San Diego.  One thing I'm doing is looking at and testing a number of online stength and cardio conditioning programs that would allow me to track and report on the progress of client's programs.  If I settle on something, and if I decide to head that direction in terms of a practical application of my interests and education, you will be more than welcome to use the program.  I'll keep you posted!
Well Vern, she certainly looks good in a suit!!  At 50 yrs old no less....she purports lots of strength training - 5 sets per exercise, 10-15 reps in a 45 min session generally working 2 to 3 body parts per session -  (as well, she trains 2 exercises for an upper body part and 3 exercises for lower body part in any given session).  She doesn't specify how many session per week but says one should work each muscle 2 to 3 times per week.  I'm not sure what that would translate into....I would think 6 days per week. 

Her cardio consists of 4 sessions of 35 minutes on the treadmill at a rate above 70% VO2 max.  This is where I find it hard to make the shift...I spend much more time doing cardio - and most of that time is spent in a lower zone.  Which leads me to wonder if I should spend less time on the treadmill and more time cuddling up to the Hoist.....
All excellent replies here, that I am in agreement with in the "Big Picture" of fitness and physique.

I would agree with Tosca (at least 80% anyways ) with regards to the "attainment of a fit, lean physique" and the importance high importance of nutrition.  We all know the results of poor nutrition, whether we are working out properly or not.
Quick story of my own:  When I was on a four month flying training course out in Ontario about eight years ago, all the dudes I was on course with were really into working out.  So we went to the gym every day for weights and cardio, plus extra sports on the weekends.  However, we had access to free food at the base cafeteria and although I thought I was not overeating, I was not eating a properly balanced diet and there was too much carbs and the wrong fats.  Result ... I gained 20 lbs in two months!  I normally did not put on weight, so I called Lori to confess and she quickly focused on my diet specifics.  Result ... I lost the 20 lbs in the next two months and finished the course stronger and fitter.  I did not workout more ... I just fixed my diet!
However, focusing primarily on diet (even if the 80% factor is correct for leanness) is not correct for real active living!

While professional bodybuilders know that diet is critical to chiseling down to their ripped competition physique, they have no hope of success if they have not made their weight training workouts their primary focus.  Same-same for every other athlete and active person.  Besides, most of the examples of "perfect" lean physiques we see in fitness magazines (especially the bikini models and bodybuilders) can only achieve their photoshoot bodies for a few weeks in the year.  Check out how much weight and size they gain after every bodybuilding competition is over.

Lori, I think you are onto something here when it comes to your cardio workout intensity and VO2 max levels, with regards to fitness results and calorie burning.  The old school recommendations for long slow runs to burn calories may not be the "be all - end all" of weight management!

I think you should "cuddle up" more with our Hoist Weight Gym and I'll be right there by your side !  Mind you, you were using it more than me until recently.

Scott ... I won't be surprised if you have a new client soon!
Lori, I would definitely spend more time at or above 70% VO2 max (and mix it up with intervals so that you spend some time well above 70%).  If you do most of your cardio at or below 70% your body is likely using its fatty acid oxidation energy system most of the time.  This energy system is the most efficient way for the body to produce energy so although it uses your stored fat for fuel (as the 'fatty acid' name implies) it uses it so efficiently that you don't burn as many calories as you would if you used your aerobic glycolysis system, which generally speaking operates at a higher intensity level of aerobic exercise and is only about 1/3rd as efficient.  As the name "glycolysis" implies this system converts glucose (from either the sugar or the carbs you consume) to energy.  I'm simplifying things here a bit for the sake of argument, but generally speaking that's how it works.  If you do interval cardio training and periodically use your anaerobic glycolysis system during really intense training you will use still more energy (way more in fact - this type of anaerobic energy system produces only 2 units of energy per unit of glucose compared with the aerobic oxidative system which produces 38 units of energy per unit of glucose), but you can only do that intense training for brief periods of time (generally no more than 2 minutes or so at a time).

As you've likely read elsewhere already adding more strength training may also be helpful for you because carrying more muscle requires your body to use more energy all of the time, whether you're actively training or not, thus increasing your calorie use. 
As it stands now, I do interval training as you describe, using either speed or incline or both, probably twice per week.  I have been trying to cycle through a combination of speed and/or incline interval training, short faster runs, hill climbing programs and just in the last 2 weeks, I've added a long run 1x per week.  (It would total 4 runs per week - 1 full body workout on the Hoist, and arm work/ab work on cardio days).  Today I ran 6.50 miles (for me that's long-ish !), and plan to build and maintain a weekly 8 mile run.  I have found in the past that simply adding that long run takes off 5 pounds in about a month - which is not the reason I'm doing it - I'm trying to build more of an endurance base for Moab and beyond. 

All of this must be balanced with wear and tear issues which have not been an issue as of yet per se, but I'm in the mid 40s and I want to make sure I can run as long as possible.  I did find even a few years ago while into the long run craze and training for the half marathon, I developed a sore hip which induced me to revert to a more regular and less demanding running schedule thinking that this was the way to go when considering my long term health.

I really appreciate the feedback.  It's been awhile since I've posted but I just wanted to let you all know that I'm still at it!

Hi Lori, you've gotten a lot of good feedback already and I don't have anything to add from a practical stand point, but here's another perspective on 80/10/10:

Nutrition never ends. What I mean to say is, that after you do your workout on any given day, you're done. You can forget about it till tomorrow (or whenever your next workout is). But clean eating doesn't stop. You need to eat multiple times throughout the day, so you constantly need to make good choices and focus on your nutrition, even after you've got 'all' the research done and have decided on a plan. That decision to eat right doesn't take a lot of time, but it does need to be made not just once in a day, but repetitively over and over again. That's how I interpret the 80/10/10 rule: mental energy. For me, it's relatively easy to make a single choice to work out (well, sometimes easier than other times ). But to really eat properly requires a lot more commitment and continued focus.
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