Interview: Nate Miyaki, Nutrition Expert
This is another repost from my last site that I took down. Here is an interview I did with Nate Miyaki, who is now huge in the fitness industry. He is most well-known for his nutrition philosophies, and I highly recommend checking out his site and his products.
Well to get started, you just got back from a bodybuilding competition. What competition was it, and how did you end up doing?
Yeah man, I threw on the ‘ol posing panties and twirled around to some Def Leppard. It was fun.
The competition was the 2011 Ironman Naturally. I placed 6th, which was a slight disappointment. It seemed as if the judges leaned more towards the size component than the conditioning component this time around — which is cool. And I definitely need to get bigger and move up a weight class to be competitive. I was the tallest guy in the class by three inches. But honestly, I’ve never put much stock into the places in a subjective sport. How can you?
The overall weekend, however, as Borat would say, “was a great success.”
The main reasons I compete at all are:
1. To market my training business. Getting into contest shape shows that I have more than just a formal education and certifications, I have practical experience. I think this is invaluable as a coach. I’m not just quoting research studies (which is very important too), I also know what works in the real world. And sometimes, what looks good in the lab or in textbooks doesn’t always translate to the real world. That’s why you need both.
2. To gain exposure in the fitness industry. I’ve been told multiple times that I have much more potential as a fitness model than a bodybuilder. I have a certain body type and look that is more suitable to that market I guess? I get it, but that’s a tough sell for me coming from a performance sports background.
So doing bodybuilding shows makes me at least “feel” like I’m still training for some sort of an athletic endeavor, although I understand bodybuilding is really just about appearance as well. But at least it’s a “competition” rather than just a photo shoot. Ideally it all works out and the two go hand-in-hand, because by competing, you are putting yourself out there in front of photographers and other industry folks. If they like your look and personality, maybe you can end up getting some work out of it.
And wouldn’t you know it, we (my wife and I) got a few photo shoots out of the weekend, and even a spread in an online magazine. So like I said, the weekend served its main purpose.
And honestly, I have no delusions of becoming a top-level bodybuilder or making a living from it. I just like the focus and discipline necessary, both with the nutrition and training plan, in the preparation phases leading up to the show.
As a nutrition and fitness expert, what is one current trend in the fitness industry, either diet or exercise related (or both) that you think is completely wrong?
I think the trend of trying to slot everyone into one universal diet plan, or the idea that one dietary approach works best for everyone, everywhere. Right now, the industry trend is towards low-carb/Paleo/caveman eating. Now I think this is a great approach for a certain demographic, and many of the principles are solid and should form the core foundation of any diet plan (ie no sugar, better EFA balance, etc.), but not everyone should be following the plan 100%.
You’ll never convince me a 175lbs lean, athletic individual that strength trains 4-5 times a week should be following the exact same dietary prescriptions as a 300lbs, obese, sedentary office worker. That makes no sense — common, scientific, or any other.
Glucose/glycogen is the primary fuel during high intensity, anaerobic training. So the athlete needs more concentrated sources of starchy carbohydrates in their diet to fuel and recover from their training sessions. And that’s not to mention that carbohydrates, via the insulin release (which in controlled amounts is actually beneficial for the athlete), shuttle amino acids into the muscle cell and initiate protein synthesis/muscular repair and growth.
But if you are sitting on your butt all day, playing video games at night, and you’ve eaten yourself into insulin resistance and type II diabetes, well, you don’t need those frickin’ carbs. See what I’m saying? Treating sick people is different than treating athletes. A person with heart disease probably shouldn’t be running wind sprints on a track, but an athlete could get great benefit out of that very same protocol.
You compete in bodybuilding contests. What does your training and diet look like, say, 8 weeks out? Are you making big changes or do you stay in competition shape all year?
Yeah, because of the reasons I mentioned above about why I do bodybuilding competitions, I pretty much try to stay in good shape year round. It’s not good for my business, or getting potential jobs, or even my sex life, if I’m walking around a fat dude 90% of the year. Although I do love tempura and M&M’s, and I think I could get by on internet porn (not really — sorry for even suggesting that babe), so who knows, maybe I’ll try it for a year. The return of Baby Sumo — that’s what my brothers used to call me.
I’ve been writing a lot lately about a Paleo-meets-Sports Nutrition dietary approach. That’s pretty much my diet plan year round. In short, I combine a serving of lean protein (fish, chicken, egg whites w/1-2yolk, lean beef) with a serving non-fructose, non-gluten containing carbs (mostly potatoes, rice, rice cakes) 5x a day. Because the diet is higher in carbs, I keep my fats lower — dietary fat comes as by-product of protein sources.
My training? It is old school, basic bodybuilding/hypertrophy training — body part splits, 5-15 reps, higher volume with sets and exercises, moderate interest rest, etc. I know that these days that style of program gets ridiculed, laughed at, deemed archaic and uninformed, etc. But if you objectively look at the science of (1) biomechanics and (2) exercise physiology, you’ll see it is one of the best ways to train IF your goals are purely cosmetic/appearance based. Of course if you have athletic/sport performance goals, your training should be much different.
And anecdotally, despite what the strength training community pumps out, the most successful natural (and not-so-natural) bodybuilders I know and have competed against train like — well, you guessed it, BODYBUILDERS — not MMA fighters or athletes preparing for the NFL combine.
Again, I think we run into the problem of trying to slot everyone into one system, this time with training protocols. There is no one right protocol for everyone, everywhere. Your training program needs to match your training goals. And just so you don’t think I’m being biased, obviously MMA fighters and performance athletes SHOULD NOT be training like bodybuilders.
The only change is that 8 weeks out I start pumping myself full of steroids, growth hormone, thyroid medication, and a even throw a little cocaine and a few toxic cleaning agents in there for shits and giggles.
How do you feel about cheat or binge meals? A lot of people seem to either love or hate them – what’s your personal take on cheating?
Well, from a purely nutritional standpoint, I hate them. I don’t think they are necessary. I think you can get all of the metabolic effects cheat meals are supposed to provide (increased metabolic rate, increased thyroid and leptin output, etc.) by just eating more “clean” food. Calorie spikes will do the trick, but you don’t need junk to do that.
But that’s not the real issue. This is not really a nutrition question at all. It is a psychology question. There is a huge psychological component to dieting that often gets overlooked. It’s not all just about macronutrient ratios and nutrient timing patterns. We’re humans not machines.
You will find different opinions on cheating because we all have different personalities. And there is no one right answer. Different approaches work best for different people.
Some people need to cheat. They need that psychological release. They need that break in the diet, to turn it more into a series of sprints rather than one long marathon. It’s the only way they can follow a targeted nutrition plan long term. The process of cheating actually helps them stay rock solid during the week. “I’ll just put off eating “x” until Saturday night, and then I’ll indulge”.
I’ve been thinking about it more for myself, but I believe I’m the type of guy who does better when he doesn’t cheat. I like to put all of that leverage and effort necessary in the beginning transition phase to cut out the junk, and then ride the wave of momentum. Once I get rolling it is much easier to just keep things rolling with no breaks or deviations.
If I cheat, it just throws me off track. I get intense cravings and want to cheat again the very next day. Psychology-wise, I also see it as a sign of weakness or not giving my 100% best effort at something. In fact I always tell my wife to “call me a pussy” if she sees me slipping on my diet. But that’s my personality, I respond better to negative reinforcement, and I’m a 100% on or 100% off kind of guy.
Does any of that make any sense to anyone? I’m confused myself. Lets see if I can rephrase. So if you see cheating as a positive thing — a weekly reward for a job well done — I think it can be beneficial. If you see cheating as a negative thing — “Ah, I’m being a wussy, lazy, uncommitted, etc. — you may want to forego the Ding Dongs for awhile.
What’s your advice to someone who is considering competing in bodybuilding; maybe they work out a little now and are thinking about making that commitment. How hard is it to get into bodybuilding shape, and what’s it like getting started with competitions?
Well, it is pretty damn hard to get into bodybuilding shape, especially if you are doing it naturally. Unless you have great genetics, it requires discipline and sacrifice. I don’t know why, but for some reason people think it’s easy for me to get ripped. Nothing could be further from the truth. I work my butt off. Where was I last Wednesday morning at 5:45am? I was training at the gym before my full day of clients started. I can tell you what I ate 3 weeks ago on Tuesday at 10am.
So if you are going to do it, commit to it. But beyond that, I don’t know why more people don’t compete, especially in natural bodybuilding. I understand people don’t want to take a bunch of bodybuilding drugs, but getting into shape naturally for a drug-tested show is a healthier, less extreme approach, and its just a step above what most people are in the gyms for anyways — to look good, get big, get ripped, etc.
You don’t have to have world-class potential to get on stage. I certainly don’t. But you don’t have to have world-class potential to enter a marathon either. Tons of people do that each year with the goal of instilling more discipline in their life, giving them a specific reason to train (and maybe cutting back on the boozing), and upping their motivation to get in shape. They don’t expect to win or run the fastest time, but they use the event as a personal challenge. If they can finish what they’ve started, or improve upon where they were at from the previous year, well then they’ve accomplished something. They’ve won no matter where they place.
Training for a bodybuilding show can do all of those same things. And since it is appearance/cosmetic-based training, you’re going to look way better than if you were training for a marathon.
Which brings me to a side topic. I never understood when people said they were going to run a marathon to lose weight. Running miles and miles is a performance-based goal, not an appearance-based goal. You should be strength training if your goal is to change your physique.
But if you don’t want to shave the pubes, slap on a fake tan, and wear a European man-thong in front of a crowd, I completely understand that too. Maybe just schedule some photos to give you SOME reason to train.
Now on to the hot topic. You say that you can get very lean without eliminating carbohydrates or doing lots of cardio. This seems to fly in the face of what many other “experts” would say, so tell us how this works. How would someone accomplish low body fat levels without eliminating carbohydrates or doing tons of cardio?
Dude that is a loaded question! I don’t think I can honestly do justice to the answer without writing a book. There is a ton of science behind my recommendations, because I know the uphill battle I’m fighting with that stance.
Lets start with the cardio.
Changing your body is not about how many calories you burn while exercising (1 hour a day), or what percent of those calories come from fat vs. carbs as a fuel source. Changing your body is about how many calories you burn at rest (the other 23 hours of the day). Which do you think will have a greater impact?
Stated differently, changing your body is not just a simple calories burned vs. calories consumed formula (although that’s definitely part of the equation), but its also about the positive effects exercise can have on your metabolic rate AND natural hormonal output. Strength training has a far greater impact on these processes than cardio, either intervals or low-intensity cardio.
Here is just some of the physiological processes that happen in the 48-72 hours following a strength training session:
- Satellite cells are activated when muscle fibers receive trauma or damage.
- Satellite cells fuse to existing muscle fibers and help to repair/regenerate the damage by increasing the size and number of contractile proteins (called actin & myosin) within those fibers.
- The body restores cell fluids, electrolytes, and minerals lost during training.
- The body must refill muscle glycogen stores as glycogen is the primary fuel used during high intensity training. Contrary to supplement marketing, this doesn’t just happen with a single high-carb post-workout shake. It takes multiple balanced meals to adequately restore glycogen levels.
- The immune system responds with a sequence of actions leading to inflammation. This inflammation is what causes muscle soreness. The purpose of this inflammation is to contain the damage within the muscle cells, increase blood flow and nutrient delivery to the damaged area, repair the damage, and clean up the injured area of waste products.
- Antioxidants scavenge free radicals and repair oxidative stress caused by the increased rate of oxygen consumption during the training session.
- Growth factors (such as IGF-1) regulate insulin metabolism and stimulate protein synthesis.
- Testosterone, cortisol, and growth hormone levels rise, fall, and return to baseline levels in their own respective patterns (assuming you are training naturally without performance enhancing drugs).
All of those processes require energy = CALORIES BURNED in the recovery process. And at rest, fat is our primary fuel source. So you are going to burn a ton of fat during the recovery process from strength training. Whereas most people think of weight training as a means to build muscle, and it is, it is also the best mode of training to get your body to burn fat. Consistently strength training is going to turn your body into a fat burning machine.
You ain’t gonna get that mindlessly plodding away on a treadmill or stationary bike reading Cosmo magazine.
If you are interested in more, here is a link to an article I wrote on cardio, and how it is overrated for fat loss/body composition change:
And the carbs? See what I’m saying, we could go on forever. I’m sure half the audience is already asleep by now. Wake them up Matt — fart, or something funny like that to break up the boring science.
How about this? I’m in the process right now of writing my next article for T-Nation. It’s really about defending my stance regarding why carbohydrates can be valuable for an anaerobic athlete, even in a fat loss phase. I’ve gathered a ton of research and will be quoting and citing several in the article. I think it will do a much better job of answering the second part of your question than me just winging something right now. Cool?
Finally, as a bodybuilder you train extremely hard to have a great body. What body part are you the most proud of, and how do you train it?
Well, I’m not a big guy, so usually if I’m going to impress anyone it is because of my definition. And what is definition usually measured by? ABS.
I could B.S. you and your readers, and tell you I have some secret ab-training program or cream, and charge $19.95 for it. Unfortunately for my bank account, I’m not a scumbag. Anatomically, everyone has abs, and they’re probably way better than mine, but most are just covered with a layer (sometimes several layers) of body fat. Dropping that fat and getting your abs to show has way more to do with diet than any specific training protocol.
What do I do for my abs: a couple of sets of foot-elevated crunches twice a week. I can hear the “experts” whooing and haaa-ing now. Fortunately, I’m not trying to gain anyone’s acceptance or establish credibility or get-in with the right people or circles. I’m trying to share my experiences and help people.
And in my experience, crunches aren’t as useless as many coaches say. A crunching motion is the abdominal wall’s natural function as a prime mover. You just have to do them right. Elevate your feet to put your psoas muscles in a contracted position and prevent them from initiating the movement. Don’t round the thoracic or cervical areas of your spine (kyphotic posture) like a rolly-polly bug curling into a ball to protect itself. Your back should stay flat as the abs contract. Chin goes towards the ceiling not the chest. It’s actually a real short range of motion when done properly, and you’ll feel the difference. Think of it as the opposite motion of a Romanian/Stiff-leg deadlift if that helps.
The second, more important function of the abs is as a stabilizer of the spine. Well, any time you lift some free weights you should be using your abs to stabilize your spine. So if you are pressing, rowing, deadlifting, and squatting properly, you are working your abs as stabilizers. If not, you probably have some serious low back pain.
All of these core training, core-based programs you see in commercial gyms these days are for the most part, bullshit in my opinion. It’s a marketing thing bro. You have these trainers touting core programs, and in the meantime the uninformed customer is thinking they can spot reduce the fat on their abs by core training.
You have to train the entire body to get results: torso, limbs, AND core, not just the core. And like I said above, if you are training your limbs and torso properly, you are also training your core as a stabilizer at the same time.