Frankly, I am (umm somewhat) usually interested in what anybody has to say about training or nutrition because, odds are, each person knows something that I don’t. Even if I disagree with 99% of what they have to say, the 1% that teaches me something new or useful is worth it.
In my mind, all training tools are only that: tools. Swiss balls, machines, free weights, compound movements, Olympic movements, HIT all have their role in training. But each is only effective when used correctly as a part of a comprehensive program.
People often get frustrated with me because they will ask me a question and typically get the answer: ‘IT DEPENDS’. That’s because it does! In the training and nutrition world, it’s typical to see people get ‘married’ to a single concept and defend it for all people, under all circumstances. Whether it’s high-carbohydrate or low-carbohydrate dieting, high volume or high-intensity training, or the never ending free weights vs. machines, or compound vs. isolation exercises debate, the typical message is the same: ‘There is a single correct answer in terms of how to eat or train and I have it. Now give me you money’.
So I’m a little cynical but I can’t look at training or diet or the countless aspects of human physiology that simplistically. The appropriate training for a 35 year old female newbie who has never performed competitive sport before is not the same as what’s appropriate for a 22 year old athlete. A beginning power-lifter (or any athlete for the matter) shouldn’t be trying to copy what folks with 15-20 years of training experience behind them are doing. Whether machines or free weights or compound or isolation exercises are ‘optimal’ depends on the individual. It depends on their previous training or their current training, their current and future goals and the remainder of their workout approach. It can all potentially fit into a given workout scheme, depending on the circumstances.
The same goes for nutrition. The optimal nutrition for a competitive cyclist isn’t the same as that of a sedentary couch potato, or that of a bodybuilder or a power-lifter. ‘Optimal’ can only be defined in a context-dependent way: what is optimal in one situation isn’t optimal in another. At the same time, I find that a lot of folks get so wrapped up in useless details that they tend to miss many of the fundamental principles of proper eating.
A training program must provide progression, overload, recovery and a few other things to be ideal. However, which approach to progression, overload, and recovery are optimal for a given individual will depend on their circumstances.
A fat loss diet (aka structured meal plan) needs to meet certain requirements to be correctly set up; that includes below maintenance calorie levels, protein intake and dietary essential fats intake. Beyond that, issues of how many carbohydrates, or how much dietary fats are required, meal frequency and meal timing all depend on the circumstances. The same goes for mass building. The nutrition plan needs to supply sufficient amount of calories (from proteins, carbohydrates and dietary fats) for gains to occur, but the composition beyond that depends on an individual’s training volume and genetics (some people seem to respond better to higher carbohydrates, others to lower).