Sunday, 6 February 2011

The Trainer Vs The Dietician

Hi all,

Before I start on todays blog, I want to mention my client Sarah Al Falaij, aged 15, who (during January)rowed an amazing 1:54:0 for the 500m row! A time which (according to concept 2 world rankings in 2010) would have placed 4th - very proud, well done sarah!

There must be something in the water recently, The concept 2 times have been flying down. I will post more results in another blog but 3 RCC gym records were broken in the space of 3 days!

500m - 1.26.9 (NW) -5 seconds
1000m - 3.20.2 (NW)  -6 seconds
1000m - 3.19.6 (ED) -8 seconds!!

Beaten by my client!!! Game on.

Current RCC staff member and my training protege, Lullu Muralli, has started his own blog. Lullu has spent the past 3 months learning lots of new stuff and is (at present) probably 'more read' than me. He has got some great ideas and i think you will like his blog a lot. I read this week that Mike Boyle once took a seminar and said "If you haven't done 10,000 PT hours then dont start a blog". I actually disagree with that. I started writing blogs for my clients so I could get basic messages/lessons across to everyone at one time and it gave me a chance to get ideas down and work on my writing. I have encouraged Lou to start it early on in his PT career and he has already written a great opening blog on glute training. Check it out on: 

The RCC training group is now in Week 4 and things are going well. We have had a few drop off but it will provide good results against the main training group so im happy with that. The training is going well and early signs are that we are all getting bigger!!! the guys are getting used to the different diet strategies so overall im excited by the first 2 week results. If anything, at the end of this 6 weeks all my guys will be super fit and maintain all the muscle they took into the program - which cant be bad? The challenge now is managing fatigue over the next month, that is the main concern... more to follow.

Disclaimer: The following blog is mostly written with entertainment in mind. Over the past few months speaking with Elbha, she has definately influenced my own views on diet/nutrition in a positive way. The following 'interview' was done via email and the final version had 100% co-operation with Elbha before it went live. I hope that beyond the humour and banter, there is an important message to be learned here regarding different views on diet/health. I may turn out to be wrong in most things but it's been fun to go against a nutrition expert and see the difference of opinions from a professional point of view. I would 100% agree with the advice and suggestions that Elbha would give towards maintaining a healthy lifestyle and recommend her expert advice and services to anyone looking to eat and live a more healthy lifestyle.

Onto the blog. For the past month or so I have been talking, debating and basically arguing with my client, Elbha Purcell, on diets. I'm looking to pick a verbal fight with a nutrition expert, here it goes!

Ding... Ding... Round 1.

N: Hi Elbha, Can you tell my blog readers who you are and what you do day-to-day?

E: My name is Elbha Purcell and I am a UK trained and state registered dietitian. I have been living and working in Bahrain for the past 4 years. I work mainly in an out-patient setting, seeing various types of patients, both adults and children. My consultations include those who want to lose weight or have issues with cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes, IBS, food intolerances and a few that require long-term artificial nutritional support.

N: Now for those of you who don't know you... you're female and you're Irish, so there is a massive possibility i may not get many words in from here on! Therefore, i'm going to attack with some questions to see if i can unsettle you! Hahaha.

N. Firstly, What is a dietician?

E: (Official answer) - Registered Dietitians (RDs) are the only qualified health professionals that assess, diagnose and treat diet and nutrition problems at an individual and wider public health level. Uniquely, dietitians use the most up to date public health and scientific research on food, health and disease, which they translate into practical guidance to enable people to make appropriate lifestyle and food choices.
Dietitians are the only nutrition professionals to be statutorily regulated, and governed by an ethical code, to ensure that they always work to the highest standard. Dietitians work in the NHS, private practice, industry, education, research, sport, media, public relations, publishing, NGOs and government. Their advice influences food and health policy across the spectrum from government, local communities and individuals.

The title dietitian can only be used by those appropriately trained professionals who have registered with the Health Professions Council and whose details are on the HPC web site.

N: Call me ignorant but I feel that i have learned everything i need to know about healthy eating through reading different books and certain websites (Namely John Berardi's 'Precision Nutrition' system and the t-nation website). Do you think 4 years in university to study nutrition is a bit overkill?

E: If you are referring to my qualification, I didn’t study nutrition for 4 years I studied dietetics, which includes biochemistry, physiology, clinical sciences, psychology, food sciences, to name but some of the modules and I also had to undertake 7 months of hospital placements.

So yes I would probably agree that 4 years of study of sole nutrition is a little over the top, however I also feel that someone needs to do alot more than read a few websites and 1 book before they can call themselves an expert in the field!!!!!!!!
"Ahhh... Feisty one you are!"

N: Ok, good points but i never said i was an expert, i said i feel i have learned 'everything I need to know', as a trainer i cannot claim to be a dietician (by UK law) and can only give nutritional recommendations. It has been said that to be an expert in a field you would need to complete 10,000 hours practise...?  I have not done that with nutrition but nearly half way with PT... anyway.
It’s rare that I have seen nutritionists or dieticians in really good shape, why do you think this is?

E: First of all, what are you trying to say about my shape???????? Second of all, how many dietitians or nutritionists have you actually met???? – I think you need to broaden your horizons before you come out with another statement like that!

N: Im saying nothing about you at all! I just said its 'rare' that i see nutrition experts in great shape - not impossible. Honestly, I have come across a lot of overweight "nutrition experts" and its difficult to take them seriously when they talk about food - if only they could turn their passion and knowledge into the practical habits of eating and training!

E: Maybe this is because most of these people have desk jobs and are not always exercise type people. I know this is completely wrong, but i'm guessing thats the case with the people you are talking about?

N: Yeah maybe, I believe this is probably the first glimpse of our main differences when talking about diet and exercise people. I think we (PT's and Dieticians) have 2 different versions of many things like lifestyle, habits, typical clients and ideal body composition. Regarding the last point (bodyfat %) I'm thinking ideal is more 10%, you're thinking more 20% +, our fields have different end goals in mind?

E: Interesting point. That could be true, but my field is fundamentally concerned with health and yours would probably be aesthetics then health second.

N: True i guess, but i would then argue that 10% is healthier than 20%?

Lets stick with Bodyfat %, One of the worlds top strength coaches Charles Poliquin has said something like “if you are over 25% bf, your body cannot handle carbohydrates and you need to restrict carbs to after training and early morning only”. Also, athletes under 10% can utilise Carbs better because their bodies are super efficient machines. I believe this is true, what would you say?

When we deplete CHOs...

N: Whoooaaa... Hold up there, Monica. Whats a CHO?

E: Carbohydrates. You're the self confessed "expert" remember? Dont call me Monica again!

N: Ok Monica, It was for my readers, i knew what that was (I was 95% sure.. can never be 100%)

E: Anyway, depleting CHO's generally leads to fatigue and erratic blood glucose levels. Once someone is fatigued it would be very difficult for them to achieve the kind of exercise they might require to reduce their body fat to below 25%, so this would be counter-productive. The easiest and most effective way to get skinfolds down is through exercise which would involve interval training made up of cardio and resistance training.

An erratic CHO intake such as early morning and after training only could potentially lead to insulin resistance through peaks and troughs of Blood Glucose Levels throughout the day. I understand including the CHOs after training would help to replenish glycogen stores lost through exercise, but if someone trained in the morning, then ate their CHOs directly after training and then weren't allowed any CHOs for the rest of the day until the next morning, glycogen stores would already be depleted and it would be very difficult to have enough energy to perform adequately at the next training session.

N: I agree and disagree here. You have stepped into my training world with that answer and i'm ready for you! I agree exercise is important but i have never met anyone (not already genetically lean) who got lean eating carbohdrates. In my experience, you have to drastically lower your CHO intake to get into the fat stores and achieve low bodyfat %. Otherwise you would have be a competitive athlete who trains 15+ hours per week Personally, I got down to around 3mm on the calipers after a 12 weeks intensive weight training (the last 3 weeks being almost zero carb). I would have never done it eating carbs to fuel my exercise? All bodybuilders the world over will tell you to get super lean you need to:

- Take steroids and/or
- Drastically lower or cycle carbs

You said "the easiest and most effective way to lower skinfold is through exercise?" Im going to disagree and say diet, metabolism and hormones are a bigger part of the equation.

E: You are probably talking about a field (bodybuilding) that I have no interest in personally or professionally. My clients, like you said earlier, have different goals. Its all about general health and good habits leading to positive physical change. What you just described sounds a bit extreme.

N: Extreme gets extreme results.

E: Maybe, but thats not what i do. To me, extreme will often go the other way and lead to Yo-Yo patterns in dieting. This is a common problem i see and my job is to enforce good, long terms habits not extreme, short term methods that will ultimately fail.

Branch Warren probably adopts extreme eating/training methods

N: fair enough. A great man called Ron Burgundy once said "Men have bigger brains than women, look it up, it's science", what do you think of that?

E: I've always thought you were a smart guy, so i guess if you believe it, it could be true.

Ron Burgundy has suits so fine they make Sinatra look like a hobo!

N: Good, im glad we are clear on that.

On to supplementation. I am currently aiming to consume 10 fish oils capsules per day, which gets me to about 3g DHA/EPA daily. What are your current thoughts on fish oil supplementation?

E: Most adults and children over 12 are advised to eat 2 portions of fish per week (1 portion is about 140g cooked), one of which should be oily. This is equal to about 450mg EPA/DHA per week. There are currently no UK Department of Health recommendations for fish oil supplement use. The British Dietetic Association recommends you stick to the amount in 2-4 portions of fish (450-900mg EPA/DHA).

So I think your intake may be a touch excessive!!!!!!

N: Lets stay with fish oil consumption. The following paragraph is taken from an article by "king of strength training" Charles Poliquin.

I was introduced to fish oil by a friend of mine Mauro Di Pasquale (author) about 20 years ago and even then he claimed this was the 'best supplement ever'. Humans used to consume 300-400g per week and if we now eat 2g per day it is deemed excessive. There was a study published four years ago that showed that if the US government issued three grams of fish oil per day to American citizens, then the amount of cancer and heart disease would go down by 50% within one year. Most readers don't care about cancer and heart disease, but they may care about this: the biggest limiting factor in naturally training people to getting lean and adding muscle is the consumption (or lack thereof) of omega-3s. Anyone who wants to put on muscle and lose fat should be on 30-45 grams of fish oil per day. That's just three tablespoons of fish oil. It would be a pain in the ass with capsules though because that's around 45 capsules per day, but it's easy with a straight oil.

According to King Charles, Fish oil is the 'best ever supplement'

N: Not my words, but the words of one of the most experienced Strength trainers in the world, Charles Poliquin.

E: .......................................

N: Silence is golden.

Onto a controversial topic now - fasting. You know we are doing an extreme diet/training regime at the moment which involves fasting periods. What are your thoughts on fasting?

E: I believe that sustained periods of fasting can slow down your metabolism in the long-term. Fasting also limits intake of energy and important nutrients that are needed for health and well-being. Rapid weight loss occurs when one fasts or severely restricts their dietary intake. However, the weight lost is mainly water, glycogen and muscle, rather than fat. While fasting, you may feel fatigued and dizzy and likely have less energy. At the end the programme, when you return to your old eating habits, any weight lost is likely to go back on!

N: So you wanna see what my guys look like after 8 weeks post training?

E: I would yes.

N: They'll still be ripped! I think again we need to recognise we deal with different animals. My guys all love to train, they love the gym, they love working hard. Im guessing (and this is no way a slur on your clients) its difficult to get your guys motivated, therefore its easier for them to go back into bad eating patterns and weight gain? Just a thought.

E: Lets see them after 8 weeks, then again after 6 months, then we can talk.

N: Deal. Sticking with the same subject - In our training plan we are using 3 days of Intermittent Fasting, where we are using eating windows (say 8 hours with 16 hour fasting periods) do you think this is healthy?

E: Since IM fasting is reasonably similar to a regular eating pattern, and if you are choosing to eat healthy, well balanced meals during your non-fasting periods, then IM fasting could be deemed healthy. However, if you eat 8000 kcals in one day consisting of junk food (as I believe you did last Sunday!!), it would not pass the healthy eating test.  

N: Aha, but all that calorie consumption is tactical hormone manipulation! What do you know about Leptin and its fat burning effects?

E: I know that Leptin plays a key role in regulating energy intake and energy expenditure, including appetite and metabolism. The absence of Leptin leads to uncontrolled food intake and resulting diabetes.

Leptin circulates at levels proportional to body fat.

Although leptin is a circulating signal that reduces appetite, in general, obese people have an unusually high circulating concentration of leptin. These people are said to be resistant to the effects of leptin, in much the same way that people with type 2 diabetes are resistant to the effects of insulin. The high sustained concentrations of leptin from the enlarged adipose stores result in leptin desensitization.

There is also growing evidence that sleep is a powerful regulator of appetite, energy use and weight control. During sleep, the body’s production of leptin increases, and the appetite stimulant grehlin decreases. Studies have found that the less people sleep, the more likely they are to be overweight and obese and prefer eating foods higher in calories and carbohydrates.

That is my understanding of leptin, how it burns fat I am not sure.

N: Im totally with you on the sleep thing and i think thats an awesome topic for another blog.

Onto Leptin, according to best-selling author Joel Marion "By strategically cheating with high calorie foods (and yes, even stuff like pizza, ice cream, BBQ wings, cookies, burgers, fries, etc.), you can give leptin and metabolism a major boost mid-diet which sets you up for plenty of subsequent fat loss when you resume your reduced calorie eating regimen. This means greater net fat loss week after week, and ultimately, a much more realistic, maintainable way to bring you to your leanest condition".

For the most comprehensive article on leptin, click on the link below:

For all the nerds that read the blog... your welcome!
Cheat eating is used as a strategy not only as a mental break from the tortures of 'dieting' but it has been researched to have phisiological fat burning benefits too.

E: I have never heard of that to be honest but again it seems like extreme strategies which is totally the opposite to what we want our clients to do. We would never advise to gorge down junk foods as part of any plan, does that seem sensible?

N: Great point, but like we have discussed in the gym, all these guys are ripped and are getting great results so who cares?

E: To me that's the difference between sensible and stupid. Not that im saying your stupid!

N: Thanks (I think!). More on dieting, What do you think about “Warrior diet” eating 6-9pm only?

E: I think it sounds absolutely ridiculous and one that cannot be sustained in the long-term. One look at the warrior diet website, (which I confess to knowing nothing about till you brought it up!), shows that it is a complete money making scheme! Have you seen all the supplements you need to purchase to ensure your diet is nutritionally complete?? It is absolute craziness! Plus a diet high in meat consumption has been very clearly linked to colon cancer, not to mention higher cholesterol levels and other conditions.

N: I honestly have not looked at it from that angle before. I know these people are a movement, who practise this eating strategy and love it. They get great results and have excellent vital statistics/blood work, etc. I would not do it myself but it doesn't seem that bad/unhealthy at all?

E: Im not going to change my first answer. I saw the website and it looks like a scam to sell supplements.

Creator of 'The Warrior Diet', Ori Hofmekler - looks pretty healthy to me?

Lastly, a little birdie tells me your nickname is Monica, as in Monica Geller from friends. Care to explain?

Awali Hospital's very own... Elbha Purcell

E: No Comment. I told you not to mention that!

N: Anything to do with that character being really annoying?

E: You're a.....



I think it is clear from the above conversation that although Elbha and myself are both in the 'Health' Industry, we deal with totally different people. Elbha's job is focused on getting people into a sensible lifestyle. My focus is on body recomposition - getting people in good shape into great shape. I believe that a large majority of the clients that Elbha deals with will not great results in the gym because they are 'often' always the type of people who:

- Dislike gyms
- Have no work ethic
- Hate physical exercise/work
- Are looking for excuses for their weight gain/genetics

Generally, i feel that most people are scared to try things out on themselves, why is this? The last 15 years of my life has been like an experiment and its been fun. Some things worked, some things didn't. Sometimes I've eaten what i wanted for weeks/months, sometimes i've been on restrictive diets. However bad my diet or lifestyle in that time, i have never been over 18-20% bodyfat since the age of 14.

The main reason for this? I love physical activity.

I only give extreme diet strategies to the guys and girls that are willing to try them out - the top 5% who are willing to try things out. These guys have a great work ethic and the talent to give 110% in the gym that leads to great results. (excluding genetically lean folk and steroid users) I have never met anyone who was under 10% bodyfat who didn't either:

- Religiously eat and live clean
- Give 100% in the gym every time
- Lift 'heavy'
- Perform challenging Cardio like 500m row, Tabatas, Max efforts, etc.

By simply looking at the 2 different lists in this conclusion, you can see the attributes of those who believe 25% bodyfat is healthy and those that believe 25% is fat.

Im firmly in the 2nd group.

Again many thanks to Elbha for allowing the final draft of this blog go out, i hope it provided some fun and some value to everyone.

What diets have worked for you?

Do you fast?

Leave comments and share with FB friends :)


  1. good blog!! I agree with your conclusion, I think for dietetitions its important to get people at an average healthy sustainable weight, and its aimed at the masses...their methods are successful for 90% of people (the non-athletes)... but for the small percentage of athletes who are looking for specific results, they need tougher measures.

    I fast in Ramadhan, and it helps me break bad habits! smoking, drinking...etc. its just 30 days, and you can organize your food intake before sunrise, and after sunset... it makes me wake up earliar, sleep earliar, i reduce my excersize during that works great! it feels like a break for the body.

    I've been on GFD for 2 weeks, i do admit i feel tired but I just couldnt care less because seeing my belly shrink makes up for that fatigue and I'm planning on getting some rest this weekend to make up for it.

    anyways you only live once and we're all getting old so better take advantage of your body NOW and use it before its too late right ? :)

  2. the longest and most informative interview post I've ever read.

    I have tried fasting for 3 days without food, just water. At first I felt too dizzy and my stomach often rumbles but you won't already feel that on the second and three days. Perhaps it was easier for me because I gave up smoking 8 years ago and that my only dilemma is my coffee addiction. But then I felt cleaner and more alive even after I deprived my body.

    Indeed when u stop fating you can rapidly gain lost weight. But so does when you stop exercising and go back o your sedentary life again.

  3. That was sure very much pampering. Thanks for the tips, your very sincere insights regarding proper way to lose weight and related subjects are very delicate. No one is more responsible of one's diet rather than one's self alone, a trainer nor a dietician can perfectly control one's diet, they are just guides after all.


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