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Do you take the Red Pill or the Blue Pill?

Make a choice. Basically how do you look at your life and are you willing to step out to change?

Make a choice

This is one of my favourite movies and I love this scene from The Matrix.

Neo’s choice.

Neo is stuck in a virtual world, completely unaware that anything is going on. To him, sidewalks are solid, everything tastes like chicken and women in red dresses just happen. He’s then taken in by a group of Rebels who know what’s really going on, and given the ultimate choice:

“You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”

If Neo makes the choice to take a Blue Pill, he doesn’t need to worry about a thing. He just continues living the lie that he’s been told up to this point and forgets all about it. He’ll never know the truth and he’ll never truly be free, but at least he’ll be content and doesn’t have to undergo the pain of changing his view.

Neo The MatrixIf, however, he make the choice to take the Red Pill, his eyes are opened to an entire new world which has been hiding from him this whole time, covered up by lies and deception.

This is a perfect analogy (if I do say so  myself) of the world of health, fitness, nutrition, research and marketing.

 

THE BLUE PILL

One thing I always find, at CKElite, is that there is a huge range of people who come to me with a vast range of views around nutrition. This is fantastic, of course, because nobody should ever shy away from an intellectual challenge or an opinion that differs from his or her own. The day you decide that you have the answer and you stop looking for different opinions that challenge your views is the day you become dogmatic, and that’s rarely a good thing.

But when you think about it, it’s actually pretty surprising that these different opinions exist. The research is what it is, and it exists in a largely free space. What isn’t free, has been read and disseminated down in textbooks, articles, magazines, blogs, Facebook posts and Tweets by people who have access to the latest research for us all to take in.

Surely if we all have access to the same body of research, then we should agree on everything – right?

This is where the problem comes in.

In an ideal world, that’s exactly what would happen – but this world isn’t ideal. What actually happens is that people are free to ‘cherry pick’ different bits of research to back them up and ignore the rest of the stuff which suggests they have plucked their ideas from a dark orifice. We also have well-meaning folk who spread ideas that they have heard or have read a little in to but don’t really know the context behind and so things get misrepresented or repeated incorrectly in a kind of research-based Chinese Whispers.

Chines Whisper

We also have the helpful guy at the gym that did something for himself and got results, and therefore concluded that the thing he did is the thing which got him results, rather than the million other things he’s doing at the same time. And finally we have the folks who simply lie in order to sell you something.

All of those things are ridiculous.

Yes, in an unregulated industry such as fitness, you don’t even have to be reading from the hymn-book at all to get so sing in the choir, and this has led to some pretty ludicrous things being spread over the years, meaning that this whole ‘health, fat-loss and muscle gain’ malarkey has become infinitely more difficult to decipher than it ever needed to be.

Here are some of my favourite  ridiculous gems….


EATING FAT MAKES YOU FAT OR EATING CARBS MAKES YOU FAT.

Fat is very good for you, it’s just pretty easy to overeat due to it’s caloric density and overall deliciousness. One or two studies was all it took for this little idea to take hold, despite a huge volume of data which stood to the contrary.

carbsThen because fat wasn’t the bad guy any more, carbs had to go. We had the insulin hypothesis (which states that carbs=insulin=fat, and which was never backed up by anything and doesn’t even make sense when you know about how insulin actually works) and a number of low carb diet successes to thank for this one going viral, but again the vast amount of the evidence never  supported it.

SO WHAT’S THE TRUTH?

To be honest, both of these diets do work. They work because when you remove an entire macronutrient you, by default, remove a fair amount of calories unless you make a conscious effort to replace them with other things. In fact, when studied directly, there is no difference between low fat and low carb diets so long as the amount of protein that people eat is accounted for. When protein isn’t accounted for, typically a low carb diet will have more protein due to people eating a bunch of bacon and eggs and steak, so these people will lose weight faster – owing to protein’s filling nature and a few inherent fat loss benefits.

SUGAR IS BAD FOR YOU

This is a really popular one at the minute, but it’s not entirely true. Earlier I mentioned that people say stuff without context – well this is important because the context of a statement can determine its truthfulness or lack thereof. The statement “Sugar is bad for you” is incorrect, but the statement “Sugar is something which is probably best monitored within the diet, especially for non-active individuals” is not. Let’s back up.

The word sugar is a word used for short chain carbohydrates. They come in a number of forms (such as lactose in milk, or fructose in honey), but the most commonly spoken about one sucrose, which is a combination of two different monosaccharides – sugars – namely glucose and the above mentioned fructose.

Now, sugars are sweet to taste, and dissolvable in water. This means that they taste delicious and you can pack a lot of them into something that won’t fill you up like a drink or a syrup. These pack a lot of calories and are easy to overeat, but that doesn’t necessarily make them bad for you per se. In fact, sugars are pretty damn useful.

Your body likes them so much, that it makes it’s own.

If you were to eat a white potato, you would be consuming a food which contains a carbohydrate known as starch, which has a long and complex molecular chain comprised of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen which needs to be digested and simplified before your body can use it. Starches or ‘complex carbs’ are typically considered good for you, but…

Upon digestion, this starch is broken down into, you guessed it, shorter and more ‘simple’ molecular chains, or sugar (glucose, specifically). In fact, your body is quite the fan of glucose – it’s the primary energy source for pretty much every part of you, and without it vital organs including your brain, and intense activity like lifting heavy weights start to suffer dramatically.

When you consume a sugar, the only real difference as far as your body is concerned is that it doesn’t have to perform this ‘breaking down’ stage before getting the exact same substance (worthy of note, your body can convert most things into glucose, including protein in some situations, and the other sugars mentioned above – it all gets used for energy as dictated by the calorie load you consume).

Because of this, a lot of the arguments against sugar are in fact arguments against carbohydrates, as the mechanisms for their use are more or less the same.

In fact, sugar has never shown, in humans, to be fattening, toxic, addictive, or any of that good stuff. It’s just tasty and calorie dense, while being poor at keeping you full, and when refined  contains no nutritional benefit to us other than a raw fuel source.

YOU HAVE TO TAKE X OR Y SUPPLEMENT TO DO SOMETHING

Now, barring some unusual circumstances whereby a dietary or lifestyle choice makes it impossible to meet your nutritional needs, you should be able to get everything you will ever need to be perfectly fit, healthy, happy and on top of your game from food. If you’re a vegan it might be worth looking into B Vitamins and if you work night shift all of the time, Vitamin D might be a shout – but generally speaking you’ll be fine.

Supplements

So why is it that just about every magazine, every other article and just about every athlete seems to be telling us (with scientific backing) that we need a certain powder or pill because it will dramatically improve our gainz or because without it we literally may as well just stay at home and drink tea instead of hitting the gym?

Simple – marketing, and loose usage of research references.

THE RED PILL

So, it’s confusing. Half of the industry tells us to eat carbs, half says don’t. Half recommends calorie counting while half recommends manipulating hormones. Some say do cardio, some say don’t, and at every turn someone is trying to sell a training program, diet, supplement of fancy bit of kit which promises to be ‘the answer’.

It’s time to make a choice and take the Red Pill – it’s time to start your education.

The only way to learn what’s what, is to soak up as much information you can from trusted sources while also fostering critical thinking skills and a base level of suspicion which is offset by an open mind. These things seem conflicting, but it’s very possible to have an open mind whilst also being critical of all things you consider allowing in.

“If your mind opens too much, your brain falls out” – Tim Minchin.

So, what should you look for in a trusted source? Look for someone who stays on top of the research, someone who changes their approach and their stance on things as new data comes out – rather than simply ploughing ahead with whatever biases they have, fingers in ears and eyes shut. Look for someone who is able to take the vital information you need, mash it up, wring it out and present it in a way which allows you to understand, appreciate and actually LEARN.

SO with this in mind, you can stay in the Matrix, never really safe from marketing, lies and false prophets.

It’s your choice – which pill will you take?

Hopefully here at CK Elite I can help educate you in making the choice and guide you down the correct path.

 

Buy the CK Elite Nutrition Guide

 

 

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