In this modern day and age where FitBits are gaining traction (on pavement or treadmills) and fitness advice can be sought on YouTube free of charge, trainers and coaches alike have experienced competition like never before. With free apps like Myfitnesspal and a healthy portion of the public tracking everything they eat, it was a shock for me to hear a professional bodybuilder and coach tell me that he ‘doesn’t track calories at all.’
Ted Trush is a Canadian bodybuilder with over 25 years of experience and 12 competitions compiled under his career. His last victory was a 1st place trophy in the Superheavyweight Open Division and 2nd place in the Heavyweight Masters division at the 2011 Ontario Bodybuilding Championships. He is also the co-founder of BodyAthletica which helps athletes and individuals get in shape for competitions, big events, photoshoots, or simply for personal fulfillment.
So on one windy August evening when I called Ted and he told me that he didn’t track any calories, I thought I was going to be in for a ride on the ‘Bro science’ train. In his calm, controlled demeanor, he quickly followed up by saying that different macronutrients affect individuals differently and that the human body is akin to that of a soundboard or a radio with different dials and knobs.
‘Let’s say a radio with a bunch of dials and an equalizer…when you adjust just one dial, you have to adjust all the other dials as well, in order to get the sound you want. And that’s the way the body works, if you have an increase in insulin, it affects other hormones and it cascades down.’ Trush told me over the phone.
‘The body runs and produces hormones and it has a lot of hormones acting on each other. It’s been proven that you have to keep insulin levels low because [that’s] a fat storage hormone,’ Trush reiterated. ‘Let’s say you have someone on 1500 calories of protein and someone else on 1500 calories of carbs and no protein. I can guarantee you that the person eating carbs is not going to lose the weight. Because you’re basically giving [your body] a ton of fuel and the body doesn’t have to burn body fat as fuel.’
‘It’s not as simple as saying, well its physics, energy in and energy out kind of thing. It doesn’t work like that.’
Although current, updated studies have shown that flexible dieting or IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros) does indeed work, few to little studies have shown the implications on athletes that resistance train (over a long period, 3 to 5 years or more) and the efficiency of a diet composed of mostly whole and ‘clean’ foods versus a diet with an emphasis on staying under a caloric limit.
Studies have shown that both flexible dieting and the generic ‘Bro’ diet do work, but they have not yet deciphered which one is more efficient, allows for better adherence and is most optimal for the individual. Is the rate of fat loss in a generic ‘Bro’ diet, with mostly micronutrient- based food, faster than that of a flexible diet? Do ‘Bro’ dieters tend to maintain more of their muscle mass during their fat loss phase as opposed to a flexible dieter? Is it easier to adhere to a flexible diet in the long run than a bland bodybuilder diet? The philosophy of the flexible diet seems to be founded on the principle that one calorie is the same as another calorie.
But Trush seems to think differently, ‘different macronutrients will affect you differently…say you eat 100 grams of carbs, you are going to get a lot of insulin release. If you eat 100 grams of protein, you won’t. So that means the carbs will affect you a lot differently than the protein. So 100 calories [of carbohydrates] is not the same as 100 calories [of protein.]’
Trush continues, ‘I don’t generally count calories, I count macronutrients…..because there are two essential nutrients. You have essential amino acids and essential fatty acids, no such thing as essential carbohydrates. Carbs are basically used as fuel and that’s it. It’s like putting gas into your car. Some people can have a full tank and still burn a lot of fat, others need close to an empty tank in order to burn a lot of fat.’
‘So it really depends on the person, I start people high [on carbs] and then cut their carbs back slowly and see how they react. [With] some people you have to cut them way back, like for myself, I know I have to cut my carbs way back in order to lose fat. And I didn’t really know that until I started to compete and worked with a few guys who knew a lot and that I learned off of.’
Intuitively it seems right that certain foods, being that they are natural and from this earth, will be absorbed much easier by the human body and thus digested easier. Wouldn’t the body recognize 30 grams of carbs from a sweet potato or white rice differently than 30 grams of carbs from say Swedish Fish or Oreos? Moreover, from a biological standpoint, the consumption of food requires energy and as such, certain foods require more energy to be digested and other foods require less energy. Some foods have negative calories because it requires more energy for the body to digest the food than the caloric value of the food itself. For example, the body burns more calories digesting celery than the amount of calories the celery contains. So, adhering to that philosophy, eating certain types of foods would not only create a hormonal response but also a digestive response where the body burns calories to digest the food.
For Trush, who put in a lot of hours in studying nutrition and the human body, he was also gifted with the expert guidance of a Canadian Powerlifting Champion in Al Young. Young taught a beginner in Trush the fundamentals of the Big 3 (bench press, deadlift and squat) and soon his progression as a powerlifter reached a point where he needed multiple spotters to ensure his safety. Just like every other professional bodybuilder, Trush’s encounter with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Pumping Iron soon forced him to switch over from powerlifting to bodybuilding and he has been competing and coaching clients ever since.
‘I want to be more of an educator. I’ve learned a lot from the people I have worked under and studied and I believe in a science-based program so I try to give the best advice [I can] and answer the questions that a client has,’ Trush explained. ‘And by doing that, I really never had to market myself or do whole tons of social media. I get clients through word of mouth and that’s been hugely successful.’
Compared to a lot of fitness giants these days, Trush’s approach is a drastic contrast to how they build their business. Nowadays, fitness YouTubers are gaining momentum and macro coaching has reached a new level of popularity. Along with Instagram and Facebook, coaches and trainers have been popping up digitally like never before. So how does a traditional coach like Trush still manage to keep his business afloat?
‘A number of reasons, the guys that are online, the kind of Bostin Lloyd type guys, they reach a different demographic. They’re going after young males, uneducated, no knowledge of how to train or nutrition and these guys like Bostin have no knowledge either.’
‘[They reach] the microwave demographic, they don’t want to spend 10 years in the gym doing things correctly. They want to spend 6 months in the gym and look like those guys. How much drugs can I take, what shortcut can I take to get there? I don’t want to cook it for 20 minutes, I want to put it in for 1 minute and be done with it, [the microwave demographic.]’
Trush goes on, ‘I don’t attempt to go after that demographic, I don’t want those clients because they don’t listen anyways. They go on YouTube to find ten different things and then say this guy says this and that guy says that. I always tell my clients, if your trainer tells you something make sure if you ask him a question, he has an answer for you. Because 98 per cent don’t have an answer because they don’t know, they’re just spewing hearsay and advice that someone told them.’
‘The more people that you satisfy and help reach their goals, [the more] they are going to tell other people and then your reputation will speak for itself.’ And with all the transformations and testimonials on the BodyAthletica website (www.bodyathletica.com) it is safe to say that their reputation is still going strong.