Hi Mike, thanks for being with us today. Quickly give our readers who may not have heard of you an insight as to who you are and what you do.
Hey Adam. Thanks for the opportunity to chat.
I’m a personal trainer by trade. I’ve worked in commercial gyms and now train clients in their homes in Southampton (UK) I started out as a PT in 2008, but over the years, I’ve veered more into online work, training clients remotely, and writing fitness articles for publications like T-Nation, EliteFTS and Livestrong.
I think I first came across your blog from a mention by Layne Norton. It was your article about how you got fat from ‘clean eating’, but how you got shredded eating ice cream. Before we get further into IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros). Tell us a little bit more about how you ‘used’ to eat, and the condition you got yourself into.
Oh man, I was a train wreck!
Well, actually, that’s not entirely true. 6 days a week I was Mr Clean – we’re talking hardcore paleo here. Then, I’d binge every Sunday, cramming as much junk food down my neck as I could, thinking I was giving myself a “metabolism boost.” Not only did that mean I wasn’t dropping fat (quite the opposite in fact) but I also developed a very poor relationship with food.
I wasn’t obese, but I was certainly a little podgy.
How old where you when you first got into training, and what was your motivation for starting to train?
I was always a bit overweight, despite being active, so at 14 I took up running and loved it. Then at 15 I got a bit more into weight training, but didn’t really know what I was doing and just followed routines from Flex and Muscle & Fitness. I first started training properly when I was qualifying as a personal trainer, when I realised that I needed some muscle.
As you racked up experience within the weight room, and gained more knowledge about nutrition, have your own personal goals changed?
As a teenager, I did want to look like Jay Cutler and Ronnie Coleman. Now, I aspire more to natty guys, and while I know I’ll never have as insane a physique as people like Alberto Nunez or Brian Whitacre, I’m inspired more by people who I know in the industry – Nick Cheadle, James Conci Mitchell, Eric Helms, and my buddy Steve Hall.
As far as strength goes, most of my goals are just to be a stronger me. That sounds cheesy, but I try not to compare myself to others too much.
Tell us about how you made the jump from exercising for yourself, into coaching for a living.
I wanted to be a lawyer when I started college, then did a law A Level and hated it!
I knew I didn’t want to work at a desk, sit in an office from 9-5 or have a boss. I also wanted to make a positive difference to peoples’ lives, and seeing as I loved sport and activity, training seemed like the best options.
What pitfalls did you come across when first wanting to become a coach?
The ruthless approach in a commercial gym. You were expected to “whore yourself out” to get clients, undercut other PTs and become a salesperson, rather than someone genuinely trying to help.
The UK training industry is overrun, as people see it as an easy career that makes excellent money. In reality, it’s hard work, though extremely rewarding. There are so many inexperienced, under-qualified PTs that there’s now a stigma attached for all the wrong reasons.
Personally, people also thought I was selling myself short by not studying at university. In reality, not going to university and pursuing my passion instead was the best decision I ever made.
Who are some of the industry experts that have inspired you most?
Well, Layne Norton for one. He’s been my coach for 3 years, and it’s an honour to call him a coach and a friend.
In the UK, someone I already mentioned – James Conci Mitchell is a big influence on me, as I seriously admire his ethical practices. As I do with guys like Chris Burgess, Berto Nunez and the rest of 3DMJ.
As far as business goes, Travis Jones is insane (in a good way) and some names who were unbelievably helpful when I started out include Nate Green, John Romaniello, Dan John, Martin Rooney and Kevin Larrabee.
Ok onto IIFYM. You’ve recently wrote an ultimate guide to IIFYM. If you had to explain what IIFYM is to someone who was just starting to workout, how would you describe it?
“Flexible dieting is the process of tracking your food intake, and aiming for certain calorie and macronutrient ranges. How closely you hit them depends on your goals.
The concept is that you eat mainly nutrient-dense, “healthy” foods, but you can consume some nutrient-deficient foods, provided you stay within the aforementioned calorie and macronutrient guidelines.
By not imposing unnecessary restrictions, it essentially means that a person never breaks their diet. It preaches healthy habits and moderation, while allowing you to maintain a social life, and reaching whatever physique and performance goals you have.”
There are a lot of misconceptions about what IIFYM is. I personally put this down to fitness youtubers going out of there way to highlight stereotypical ‘junk’ food, which gives the perception that IIFYM is the poptart diet. What are some of the biggest myths about IFFYM, in your opinion?
That you HAVE to eat junk food. You don’t.
For a start, what “junk” is, is highly questionable. Additionally, anyone who practices flexible dieting properly will eat plenty of fruits and veggies, and loads of fibre. In fact, the average flexible dieter probably has more of a balanced diet than a “clean eater.”
For the general public, they also think “eat whatever foods you like” translates to “eat whatever foods you like IN UNLIMITED QUANTITIES” so picture us stuffing our faces with crap!
What do you believe the root of this misconception is?
Unfortunately, it’s the fact that us flexible dieters do like to brag a little about being shredded while eating ice cream and cereals. I blame Instagram! (Though I’m guilty of this myself too)
Do you think IIFYM style eating videos on Youtube can be harmful to those who are misinformed and aren’t clued up on the subject? Or do you think most people realise they should be having processed foods, such as the poptarts, candy bars etc, in moderation?
That’s a difficult one.
In one way, they can be blamed, but in another, they can be helpful in getting people who are obsessed with food “quality” to lighten up and realise it is okay to indulge a little every now and then and that foods shouldn’t be seen as good or bad.
Do you believe IIFYM can be followed by someone who is looking to get stage ready?
100% absolutely. I’ve talked about them already, but guys like Layne, Berto, Eric, Brian, along with Philip Ricardo Jr, Matt Ogus, Paul Revelia, all use IIFYM and look incredible.
Do you believe there are any flaws within the IIFYM approach, and if so what are they?
If you JUST do “IIFYM” then yes. You can manage to hit macros with just processed meats, table sugar and vegetable oil if you like! But with proper flexible dieting the only issue I see is potentially becoming obsessed by numbers. When prepping, you do need to hit macros spot on, but the rest of the time you can have more leeway.
When my family see’s me eating something that isn’t classed as a ‘clean food’ they’re like “are you allowed to eat that” and are shocked. It could be something as simple as adding jam into some cream of rice. Going from the super strict diet you were on, to the IIFYM style of diet, what was the reaction like from your family and friends who were used to seeing you follow a specific diet for so long?
Exactly the same man. Unfortunately you can’t win.
When you’re obsessed with “clean food” they berate you for being boring and picky. When you eat non-clean foods, they judge you for being weak-willed!!!
How do you incorporate supplements into your diet? Are you reliant on them, or do you use them in moderation?
I freaking love protein powder!
I love protein powder to! Im a big user of whey isolate, and i used to use a ton of impact whey protein or true whey from myprotein. I actually don’t rely on protein shakes as much now, as I used to. What is your current supplement stack?
1-3 scoops of whey per day
3g fish oil
5g creatine mono
Is there a particular brand of supplements you favour, and if so, why?
Yea I love protein works to. The Protein Works Whey Protein cherry bakewell flavour tastes awesome! Are there any supplements you consider as ‘must haves’. I remember when I first started lifting,i would scitz out if i ran out of a tub of whey protein. Im now a lot more sensible, and realise it’s no big deal. Are there any supplements that you feel are essential to your training regime though?
Nope. Though as I said, I do love whey for the taste and convenience, so make sure I never run out. I rarely drink it in shake form though – I usually blend it into smoothies or use it with oats or oatcakes.
I do that all the time with micellar casein protein. It makes a really great protein dessert / mousse. A lot of newbies step into the gym and before their first week is up, they’re looking to buy protein, pre workouts, weight gainers. What supplements would you recommend to someone just starting out?
I’d tell them not to buy any, and get their diet sorted first. I do like some supplements, but I’d rather a newbie learnt about nutrition.
Great advice. As i touched upon, newbies, especially the younger lifters such as teens, seem to think that pre workouts are the missing piece to the puzzle. They place more of an emphasis on what pre workout they should be using, or trying a different one every day, as opposed to working out their macro intake. To these people, what advice would you give them?
Have a double espresso and watch some videos of Layne Norton, Pete Rubish or Eric Lillebridge lifting – now tell me you need a pre-workout!
What are thoughts on weight gain shakes, or mass gainers?
If someone really struggles to eat enough calories, they can be useful. Most people don’t have a need for them though I’d say.
What is your take on the increase in high protein snacks? We now have a range of high protein peanut butters, protein chips, protein bars and even protein bread. Do you think these are necessary, or just marketing bs?
A bit of both. I think a lot of people could use more protein, but if you’re going much over 1 gram per pound of bodyweight, it’s probably a waste.
For someone who is not a competitive athlete, bodybuilder or fitness model. How would you recommend they get the right balance between enjoying their life, and restricting themself to get the physique they want?
Your family should always come first, along with your friends. Then your job/ career. After that, it’s up to you how you plan things. For me, training and nutrition come next. Realise the level you’re working at – prepping for a show, or coming up for a serious competition? Then you need to dial everything in. Just maintaining, or trying to be healthy? Nutrition and training matter, but life matters more.
You can fit everything in if you plan right though.
In my opinion, you’re an expert on IIFYM. Tell us about your ebook.
Thank you kind Sir =)
It’s called “The Foolproof No-Fail Guide to Flexible Fat Loss”
It’s a guide to everything IIFYM-related. It takes you through WHY clean eating diets fail, the “science” behind flexible dieting, then gives a step-by-step guide on working out your own calorie and macronutrient intake for fat loss.
Part 2 is an FAQ section – how to bust through plateaus, it addresses many common queries such as alcohol, eating out, sugar, exercise, and so on.
Part 3 is the bit I’m most proud of – breaking mental issues and psychological barriers. I’m not sure I’ve read many diet books (and none on flexible dieting) that properly address this, and it’s such a big deal. Diets rarely fail because they don’t work, rather because people can’t stick to them due to mental pressures, so I really wanted to include this to help people get lifelong results.
People can find out more here – http://www.healthylivingheavylifting.com/flexible-fat-loss/
For those who want to hear more from you, where can they find you?
My website is http://www.healthylivingheavylifting.com/
Or on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/HealthyLivingHeavyLifting
Do you have any final words for our readers?
Just thanks for reading really. If this interview has helped one person break the binge/restrict cycle of fad dieting, and adopt the flexible approach, I’m a happy guy.
Thanks for your time Mike!
Thank YOU Adam