Episode 45. Carbs, Avoiding Macro Obsession, and Modeling Success

Episode 45. Carbs, Avoiding Macro Obsession, and Modeling Success

Episode 45. Carbs, Avoiding Macro Obsession, and Modeling Success

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Show Notes

We began by talking about questions Scott got about Andy when he and Andy went live on Facebook. A lot of the questions were about very, very specific things like macros, what brand of protein powder to buy — all things that are 1) more incidental and less fundamental than people think, and 2) although success leaves clues, the things people were asking about were going to be specific to Andy in any case.

Are you a 6’3 fitness model with the same genetic and athletic history as Andy? The same goals, or lifestyle? No? That’s okay. You should still model success and learn, but you have to focus on what will be applicable to you.

This episode was about those things, as well as dealing with some of the obsessions that come with focusing on things like macros instead of the bigger picture.


Modeling Success

  • Tom Platz, a bodybuilder known for having freaky huge legs, used to get asked all the time what he did for his legs. He said to Scott (and elsewhere) that a better question is what they should do for their legs, since Platz admitted he could basically walk up a hill and they would grow.
  • It’s the day-to-day grind and sacrifices that people don’t get.
  • It’s not a magic potion. It’s a lifestyle.
  • In terms of sacrifices, the trick is that for Andy it’s not about “overcoming” this or that, but about adjusting and tweaking his lifestyle over the years so that at this point there are not “sacrifices.”
  • It’s not, “Oh, well, when I think I’m going to cheat on my diet I do this [insert magic thing] instead.” It’s: “Uh… I don’t think of that now? Like, it doesn’t even come up…?”
  • The goal is to make the things that will take you to your goals an invisible part of your day, like a fish in water who doesn’t even notice anymore that he’s surrounded by water. It’s just that fish’s world.

Being Obsessed with Macros

  • Scott read out a letter from a woman who had previously dieted at 1,800 calories per day, but was not having problems with satiety, hunger, and cravings when eating 2,200 calories per day, and feeling (understandably) confused.
  • Scott compared the metabolic compensation system to a tsunami, borrowing a joke from Amy Schumer.
  • The key is that if you’re struggling now, it is often due to the diet from earlier. Yes, the one that “worked.” It set in motion all the stuff you’re dealing with now.
  • It’s easy to think, “Ah, if only I could enjoy the benefits of that diet, but then overcome these after effects,” but the two go hand-in-hand (both mental and metabolic)
  • Kevin pointed out that this kind of thing is getting worse, especially in the competition world, where people’s expectations are getting a bit more unreasonable — no, you can’t maintain a stage physique.
  • Even Scott experienced a huge rebound after his first show. (The story is in his Cycle Diet book.)
  • Mike related a story where he was at home visiting his parents, in the middle of a low-carb diet to “get ripped,” when he realized his food scale was out of batteries, and his parents didn’t have replacements for that kind. He slammed the scale down on the kitchen island while screaming out F***!  His advice: just be real, realize it’s not a good place to be, and stay out of there.
  • One of the hardest parts of climbing your way out of there is that so many people online will be promising you that, no, no, totally, it’s no big deal, you can just do this special post-diet diet and you’ll be able to maintain this unreasonable body image blah blah. No. You can’t. The human body isn’t built that way.
  • Mike made a joke about carb cycling, but Kevin pointed out that refeeds and some form of cycling can help *to some degree*, and is certainly better than a linear downward slope.

Links & Resources

Scott’s Cycle Diet Book and Course

Scott’s books, Metabolic Damage

Relevant SSP Episodes


Episode 44. Metabolism, Muscle, and Fat Loss with Vince Del Monte

Episode 44. Metabolism, Muscle, and Fat Loss with Vince Del Monte

Episode 44. Metabolism, Muscle, and Fat Loss with Vince Del Monte

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Click here to leave us a review and rating!

Show Notes

We continued our discussion with Vince Del Monte, this time spending a lot more time talking about metabolism, and especially the relationship between metabolism and muscle gain. Most people talk about metabolism only with respect to fat loss, but it’s important to emphasize how muscle support metabolism, which in turn supports fat loss. At the same time, you want to optimize or prime a metabolism in order to gain muscle.

Rules vs. Principles

  • Scott emphasized that some rules are based on principles, but some are not. He quoted a passage from Josh Waitzkin’s The Art of Learning:

Over time each chess principle loses rigidity, and you get better and better at reading the subtle signs of qualitative relativity. Soon enough, learning becomes unlearning. The stronger chess player is often the one who is less attached to a dogmatic interpretation of the principles. This leads to a whole new layer of principles — those that consist of the exceptions to the initial principles.

  • Vince agreed. He often gets attacked, but his response is “Look, don’t get mad at me. I’m literally just describing facts. I’m not making these up because that’s how I want them to be.”

Metabolism and Muscle

  • Both Scott and Vince emphasized that muscle building takes time. The body will add muscle at the time it will add it. You can’t just stuff your face and speed it up. There’s a limit to what your body can do.
  • Vince’s brother’s transformation.

    Vince shared the thoughts of his brother, who transitioned from very high-level distance running to bodybuilding. Vince’s brother found bodybuilding… weird. It’s an all-the-time thing. You have to keep eating. You have to always be on. It can be mentally exhausting.

  • Scott somewhat disagreed. It can be exhausting. So: how do you avoid this? For Vince, it’s about listening to your coach, and the trusting the process. Don’t question. Just follow the plan and let it happen.
  • You will also develop a lot of skills, and the only way to do that… is to do it. Learning to prep your meals is a skill. Learning to adapt your diet to different social situations is a skill. Indeed, it’s a series of skills.
  • Scott is often surprised by the people who don’t learn. They don’t learn in such a way that they can take any of these skills with them.

Fat Loss Before Gaining Muscle?

  • For Fat loss, Scott emphatically suggests focusing on metabolism first, weight loss second.
  • But… with that in mind, Vince asked Scott how much Scott recommends losing fat at all before trying to gain muscle. Vince will often lean guys out a little bit, for the sake of optimizing their metabolism, but also for the sake of getting their habits and discipline in check, before beginning a muscle gain phase.
  • Scott does this *to some extent.* There is an anti-catabolic phase to any relative caloric deficit, and this is something you can take advantage of. Your body will, at the beginning of a diet in a caloric deficit, preferentially lose fat rather than muscle or lean tissue, and you need to coax your metabolism and your hunger levels to get things sorted (insulin usage and storage, hormones, etc.).
  • On the other hand, if you’re thinking of losing fat before you have gained any muscle, remember: you can’t sculpt a pebble. One of the reasons for this is that your metabolism won’t support it.
  • Muscle supports metabolism, metabolism supports fat loss.
  • And when you try to lose fat and get “ripped,” you will lose some lean mass. So you have to have enough there to accommodate that.
  • Muscle, Carbs, Satiety and Metabolism are connected. So adding way too much aerobic activity, cutting carbs more, and doing this when the client has no muscle already, is a recipe for metabolic disaster. Of course they’re going to stall out and feel miserable.
  • Vince points out that the human body isn’t meant, biologically, to sustain extreme leanness and low fat levels while holding a lot of muscle.

Three Non-Sexy Principles

(…for optimizing metabolism)


One. You need a diet break.

Two. No more deadlines.

Three. Let your diet support your workouts.


One. The truth is simple, and simplicity is the truth. Avoid over-complication.

Two. The goal is the process and the process is the goal

Three. Stealing from Michael Pollan, “Eat Food, Not Too Much, Mostly Plants.”

Vince’s Bonus Challenge

Get to 10% bodyfat without any cardio.

Find out more about our guest today,
Vince Del Monte:


Watch Vince’s discussions on YouTube, where Vince has been talking more and more about metabolism. You can also find out more at his website, and massmechanics.com.

Relevant SSP Episodes

Episode 43. Interview with Vince Del Monte: Muscle Fiber Activation

Episode 43. Interview with Vince Del Monte: Muscle Fiber Activation

Episode 43. Interview with Vince Del Monte: Muscle Fiber Activation

Enjoying the Podcast?
Click here to leave us a review and rating!

Show Notes

We had Vince Del Monte on for an interview about training for muscle activation, and thinking through what your goal is with your training. There was a lot of overlap with what Vince talked about and what Scott has said about innervation principles, but there was also some disagreements about things, such as tempo training, and whether such things can serve as tools to help the trainee get a better mind-muscle connection or not.

Marketing Sexy vs. Marketing Longevity

  • Both Scott and Vince agreed that social media has watered down how people recognized value and expertise.
  • Vince: “Sell them on what they want, but give them what they need.”
  • Vince even says he’s been criticized over the years for making bigger ballsy promises (on what his market wants), but he tries to deliver what his market really, really needs.
  • Mike quoted an anecdote related to copywriter David Ogilvy (pretty sure the story came via current copywriter Ray Edwards in this interview here) in which Ogilvy was hired to write copy for a company, and when he handed the copy in, the company responded, “Whoa, whoa, you can’t say this! This is over the top?” and Ogilvy is like, “What? Look, you say this on page 78, and you say this other thing on page 116, and if you say both those things are true, then, logically, what I claimed also has to be true”  (i.e. a logical syllogism: all men are mortal, Socrates is a men, therefore it must be true that Socrates is mortal).
  • Vince noted that he has friends that sold crap and made a lot of money very quickly, but not they’re struggling.

4-5 Experts Vince respects:

  • For metabolism: Scott Abel
  • For mechanics: Tom Purvis
  • For program design: Ian King & Charles Polliquin

Training for Muscle Activation (…or… “innervation”!?)

  • Vince really likes RTS, or Resistance Training Specialists by Tom Purvis.
  • RTS has a lot of overlap with stuff Scott talks about related to controlling and owning the wieght. Your goal isn’t just to move the weight from A to B. It’s to use the weight to contract muscle fibers. (See Scott’s free Innervation Primer.)
  • Vince says you need to really think through your goal with each exercise: what are you trying to accomplish?  If your goal is muscle growth, the numbers are not the be-all end-all.
  • E.g., guys are able to lift more weight on the bench by thrusting their hips weigh in the air and butchering their form, but the one thing they aren’t doing is working their chest.
  • Vince also mentioned the way a lot of muscle gain advice boils down to, “Well, train harder.” Well, sure… but that’s simplistic. First, a lot of guys are training plenty harder than other folks who are seeing more results. Secondly, you’ll hurt yourself, especially when you look at the effects of training over the long term, and what you’re going to do to your joints.
  • Scott noted the difference between training at “optimal” work capacity versus “maximum” work capacity.
  • Bill Pearl: “Don’t workout to see how much your body can take; workout to see how much your body can give.”
  • Vince: “You are what you can recover from.”

Vince’s Principles of Mass Mechanics

Principle One: Principle of ownership.

You need to own the weight. You own the weight during both the eccentric and concentric phase of the movement: one pound at a time.

Principle Two: Principle of respect.

This is related to active and controllable range of motion. You bring with your certain anatomical qualities and leverages you need to respect. What is you active and controllable range for this exercise? This is individual. Deadlifts, for example, don’t need to be done from the floor.

Principle Three: Principle of disadvantages.

If you’re trying to build muscle, you should be trying to find ways to make things harder and get the most out of every movement. You’re not trying to get better at doing more reps or more weight. You’re trying to use the weights to isolate the muscle.

  • Bob Paris: “If I can make 300 lbs. feel like 500 lbs., then that is my goal.”
  • Vince likes micro progressions. Get it right and don’t develop bad habits.
  • What’s the number one thing Vince would recommend to someone who’s hearing all this and thinks it’s great? Answer: Quality control. Reps don’t matter if they all suck.
  • In Scott’s verbiage: every every rep of every set of every workout.
  • Another key: embrace your goal. Don’t jump between training for a big 1-rep max limit strength and training for muscle gain. Embrace the goal.

Benefits of Quantification? (A disagreement!)

  • One of the elements which Vince and Scott disagree about is with respect to quantification. Vince thinks some elements of quantification can lead to a better understanding or better mind-muscle connection. So he will sometimes assign a tempo or a guide or a few numbers here and there.
  • Scott doesn’t believe in outside-in stuff, but Vince thinks it can be a tool to get to the inside-out stuff.

Find out more about our guest today,
Vince Del Monte:


This is the site Vince recommends people check out. It’s the project he’s most proud of right now.


Vince’s main website.


Watch Vince’s stuff on YouTube.

Relevant SSP Episodes


Episode 42. Meal Timing and Frequency, Macros, and Metabolism

Episode 42. Meal Timing and Frequency, Macros, and Metabolism

Episode 42. Meal Timing and Frequency, Macros, and Metabolism

Enjoying the Podcast?
Click here to leave us a review and rating!

Show Notes

We began by discussing snack foods (and the insane amount of marketing surround them), which lead to us discussing meal frequency, hunger, metabolism, and what kinds of strategies lead to an optimized metabolism. Snacking as such is dangerous, but what about other strategies to deal with hunger and cravings? How does one negotiate these things?

Snacking & Metabolism

  • Buyer beware: A lot of snack foods designed to “crush cravings” (and so on and so forth) are not going to help you lose weight.
  • Generally speaking, if you’re not feeling “tolerable hunger” you’re not losing weight.
  • Snacking just feeds your snacking habit. Even hormonally, it trains your stomach to be hungry “all the time” since it doesn’t “know” when to expect a snack. A stomach can’t “know,” obviously, but hormones like ghrelin have rhythms based largely on how you eat.
  • In Scott’s words, you feeding a craving just… feeds a craving.
  • A big part of this is learning to get in touch with your own body: am I legitimately hungry, or just craving a cookie, or some combination thereof?

Meal Frequency & Metabolism

  • Right now Kevin eats only one meal a day. Scott definitely doesn’t think this is the optimal way to achieve and maintain a lean physique and an optimized metabolism, but Kevin says that personally has not experienced draw backs.
  • Kevin mentioned that one of the benefits is that he’s less hungry when it’s not time to eat, but for Scotts, that’s almost a drawback: “tolerable hunger” is super important, and is a sign of an optimized metabolism; you don’t want to depress that.
  • Mike thinks hunger is more a balance. This is why he calls it the “sweet spot” of hunger. Sure, you can take things too far, but reducing what Scott would call “intolerable” hunger is a reasonable thing to do, provided you don’t take things too far, and you can still assess your own hunger to some degree. All of this is also related to how we define hunger versus appetite, “mental” vs. “physical” cravings, and so on, and the overlap between and intersection between these things.
  • Scott points out that more often than not if you look at high-end bodybuilders you’ll find them eating five or six meals a dya, not three. That’s worth mentioning.
  • Mike agrees that, yes, it is basically indisputable that frequent smaller meals at the same times each day “works.” If you want  a sure thing, it’s there. But he admits that he’s looked in the research, and he hasn’t found overwhelming evidence that it’s physiologically advantageous.  [I didn’t mention it in the podcast, but I like Alan Aragon’s Research Review is in this regard. It’s certainly not comprehensive — that’d be impossible — but it is balanced and fair. — M]  
  • Scott believes this is one of those things where the research is just behind the folks in the trenches.

Low Carb vs. “High Fat”

  • Scott also wanted to point out that when Kevin eats a high fat diet, it’s not really the same as what is often sold as a “low carb” diet. Scott has written about Kevin’s diet before. It’s not “chicken breast” and broccoli.
  • Scott and Kevin “agree to to disagree” though about the high fat diet itself. Scott thinks it’s more dangerous metabolically than a high carb diet.