Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Artist, Scientist or Accountant

Joe Friel is the co-author of the Paleo Diet for Athletes. Recently on his blog he threw out this idea that there are three types of athletes:

  • Artists - who go by how it feels, they do what seems right;
  • Scientists - who like to analyse the numbers and then make changes to see what happens with performance; and
  • Accountants - who love numbers, tables, graphs and charts.
I was thinking of how this also applies to diet.

  • There are the artists who go by feel, by the big picture. I was thinking of many of the paleo guys here - they have a big picture template within which they operate. Some low carb people are the same.
  • There are the scientists who will experiment with different combinations of nutrients, meal frequencies etc and see what works.
  • There are the accountants who measure everything, recording how many calories are consumed, how many grams of protein/carbs/fat etc. They keep records in fit day and can chart their macro nutrient percentages.

I suppose I am artist / scientist. I like the big picture, principle based diet. Eating to some general principles. But I also like to experiment - trying fasting, adding some carbs around workouts, upping the protein, cutting the fat or whatever and seeing what happens.

Counting grams and calories is a chore and I find it difficult to apply myself, so I am not really an accountant...

I am not sure what is best, but it probably depends on what you are trying to achieve. I have done some accountancy recently, prompted by consulting with Martin, and it was instructive to see that I wasn't really eating as much protein as I thought I was; nor was I getting as many calories as I needed. I was within my artistic limits, but the accountancy has helped the scientist in me understand things more. I've actually leaned out a bit while eating more. Sometimes the artist is working becomes lazy and blinkered - the paradigm that you are committed to is too closed.

Lyle has some interesting related thoughts in his article: How Detail Oriented do You Need to Be

What are you: artist, scientist or accountant?


Anonymous said...

"I've actually leaned out a bit while eating more."

Can you provide details on how you went about analyzing your diet?

Chris said...

I used Fitday to analyse what I was eating in a day. I've experimented by increasing the protein to at least 1 gram per pound of bodyweight - which is a fairly common recommendation for active athletes.

Calories are still important and so I have cut back a bit on fat - leaner meats, less butter, fewer egg yolks (I do not have any problems with the healthiness of fat by the way).

I have added some more carbs too - mainly sweet potatoes or potatoes before and after workouts.

The big picture is still fairly paleo but I am experimenting. My main focus is getting the protein in now.

I am training quite hard so that shapes some of my approach.

IF is still in the mix too with occasional fasts.

Debs said...

That's an interesting breakdown. I'd probably be an artist/scientist too by those categories.

I also think there's another category: social creatures. People who follow dietary trends or eat based on what foods are most visible and prevalent, and especially what those in their social circle are eating.

It's an important category to keep in mind for helping others eat more healthful food. Some people will change eating habits if their friends do, or if food access in their neighborhood changes.

Food Is Love

scott said...

Chris, very good insights. I was devoted to LC for years, but had finally given up weight training (which I love) because I would just be wiped out for days. Most mainstream LC books aren't geared toward athletes (even us non-competitive, just-want-to-be-in-great shape athletes). Then I began to learn more about glycogen and recovery from reading blogs (all of which you have listed as links).

I read Martin's stuff and bought several McDonald books and finally decided to add the carbs, which I had come to regard as evil. Lo and behold, I could work out again and not have my mood and energy crater. I'm also affected by Peter, so have used potatos and been fine.

Yesterday, I tried using rice (after not touching grains for weeks) and did not do as well. Didn't seem to digest the same.

Still lots of experimenting to do to achieve my goal, which is nothing less vain than seeing my abs for the first time in my life.

Questions after this long ramble: FitDay online is a little bit of a pain. Have you tried the version that you buy and download?

Second, I had already settled into fasting from 6:00 pm to Noon as the best system for me when I ran across Martin's stuff. So much of it makes sense to me. Trying to follow some of his recommendations from his site, piecing together with McDonald information, but it is hit and miss. Sounds like you are doning online consulting with him? Does that work out smoothly and you feel you are getting value for your money?

I wish he'd finish his book.

Chris said...

Hi Scott

I've not tried the PC based Fitday. They have just updated the web based version and it seems OK - it now takes grams which helps.

My abs are slowly coming in - which has also been my goal.

I've been sort of emotionally committed to LC for a few years too and adding some more carbs was a bit of a step. I have not gone mad with carbs - sweet potatoes after the workout, fruit before and sometimes porridge at breakfast. Probably about 100g a day, +/- 50g depending on training. Which is still pretty low by many standards.

The Paleo Diet for Athletes book is interesting - basically a paleo diet with proper pre and post workout nutrition. you might want to check it out. Mark Sisson had a good post on this recently too.

Also cutting down on the fat and increasing the protein was another major step. I think the hyperlipid / Optimal diet percentages are generally OK formost people, but if you are training hard I am coming to think that you need more protein - at least the 1g per lb of bodyweight as Lyle recommends.

I also think that some people can tolerate carbs better than others. Grains I think are still a problem, but spuds can give the carbs.

I decided to do a consultation with Martin, as an experiment, after seeing the results he was getting. He laid out a diet - with macro percentages and calories to aim for on workout and non-workout days, with sample menus and meal times.

This was not LC. Well it was lower carb on rest days, but higher on training days. I tried to apply this, but it has taken me a little while to "dial it in". To be honest after 4 weeks I have given the fasting part a rest, because I was struggling to eat as much as I needed in the 8 hour window. I may return to that later however, or at least to an eat stop eat style fast, a couple of times a week. What I am trying to do is to hit the calories and macros that are recommended.....and it is working. I seem to be eating a lot and still slowly losing fat.

I think that the consultation has been worth it. You can get a general outline of Martins approach on the internet, but with a consultation he will tailor something to your needs. He really got me to appreciate proper nutrient timing - i.e. pre and post workout nutrition. I'd been following Art Devany in training fasted and not eating much after, but now I'm trying to fuel myself before and after. It also showed me that I should be eating more.

Anyway - email me if you want to discuss more.