What "How Heavy are the Dumbbells You Lift?" Gets Wrong about Nutrition

Last week I wrote “How Heavy are the Dumbbells You Lift?” was surprisingly accurate in the information it was providing to its audience. For a beginner, one could do far worse than following the advice given by this particular anime. However, it did have one negative aspect that being its depiction of protein intake and “Golden Time” a concept thoroughly debunked by nutritional scientists. With episode three this issue comes back in a big way and as hard as it is too say Dumbbells information on nutrition is beyond subpar.

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While the story of the episode largely focuses on introducing the new character Satomi Tachibana, a teacher by day a cosplayer by night. The big scene of interest for me takes place when the three girls are eating lunch. At which point Hibiki mentions how she only eats one huge meal a day as it allows her to keep from snaking all the time.

At this point Akemi explains this will result in fat gain and is in fact the “opposite” of what she wants to do. Causing Hibiki to get inspired to try out the “Bodybuilders Diet” whereby you eat multiple smaller meals a day and then promptly gets depressed about it in short order. That is until she is introduced to the concept of “Cheat Days” which she takes too like a fish to water. Unfortunately, for the viewer this is largely not correct. I’ll explain.

The interesting thing is what Hibiki originally was doing actually has a name. It is called “the Warrior Diet” an extreme example of what is known as “Intermittent Fasting” or “Time Restricted Eating”. Now, do not let the name fool you, this is not actually a “diet”. It is merely a way of framing when you eat. A concept I myself am a fan of and a practitioner of. Whereby I restrict my eating from Noon to 8:00pm giving me a “Feeding Window” of eight hours. This is referred to as the 16:8 method or “Lean Gains” which is nice marketing for skipping breakfast, which I did not tend to eat anyway.

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Now, despite what you may hear online and in Dumbbells when you eat actually has little to no metabolic advantages towards losing fat. If you choose to eat five meals a day, one meal a day, or restrict eating to a certain window that action will not beneficially or adversely affect your fat loss. When you eat does not matter, what you eat and how much you eat does. This is because the second law of thermodynamics still exists, how many calories you consume vs burn in a set window - normally a day or a week.

Time restricted eating helps people who have a hard time limiting what they eat when they are eating. Telling somebody like Hibiki, who has a propensity to over eat, to eat multiple times a day is exactly the wrong advice. It is because she has found a method in time restricted eating that works for her. As long as she burns more calories than she consumes in a day she will lose weight. Furthermore, as long as her protein is suitably high and she continues resistance training she will lose more fat than muscle in that process.

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Insulin, while it does affect blood glucose levels and fat storage is a single part of a very complicated system. You cannot isolate one thing, call it bad, control it and think everything will be good. Nutrition does not work like that. Basically at its core, losing fat simply put involves eating less moving more. Hibiki was doing that and she was fine with it. That is a good thing.

This brings up another point I think needs to be made. Just because somebody looks like and sounds like they know what they are talking about does not mean they do. Akemi was the perfect example of this, while bodybuilder dieting works for her, it may not for somebody else. Not everyone is the same, look for what works for you and keep doing it, until it does not work anymore then adapt. You will get far better results than in you just follow blindly along with somebody who seems to know what they are talking about, even me.

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The show also brings up the concept of “Cheat Days”. We all know what a “Cheat Day” is right? Whereby for one day a week you can eat anything you want to prevent your body from adapting too much to a low calorie diet. This is wrong.

While cheat days and prolonged “diet breaks” (eating at maintenance calories while on a body weight cut) have been shown to be very beneficial to losing fat they have to be done correctly. The first thing is the mistaken idea you can eat anything, something Hibiki implies. I will use math to explain, since everyone loves math.

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One pound of fat contains 3,500 calories. As such to lose one pound per week you need to create a caloric deficit of 3,500 calories (it is a bit more complicated than that but let us stick to basics). Say you are semi-active and have a daily caloric expenditure of 2,000 calories a day, to create a weekly deficit of 3,500 you’d need to cut at 1,500 calories a day (500 per day) a pretty standard and realistic cut for a smaller woman like Hibiki.

However, if you add in a cheat day once a week you now are not getting to that 3,500 goal unless you cut deeper on those six days. Furthermore, if you really go all out on your cheat day, you may binge eat, potentially erasing a lot of your progress from the week before. Easy ways of doing this: alcohol, pizza, fatty foods, chips, ect. For somebody who has not yet learned to control their cravings at an optimal level saying they can eat anything they want one day a week is a recipe for disaster.

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While including cheat days and meals helps mentally deal with the strain of low calorie eating and that is a huge plus in their favour. Over time if people do not see steady and sustainable progress, they will invariably become discouraged. Cheat days and better yet cheat meals are fine, you just have to watch what you eat and not go overboard. Everything in moderation is key to achieving results in fitness.

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That being said not all of Akemi’s advice was incorrect. It is still eminently possible to eat good and tasty foods while cutting weight. One just needs to be aware of what one is eating and cut back on other things. I for example love ice cream, no way I am giving up ice cream. Since ice cream is largely fat and carbohydrates if I know I will be eating ice cream that day I cut back on those the rest of the day. Also with nutritional properties being equal going for a healthier mode of cooking works. A good rule of thumb if given the option of grilled or fried grilled will almost always be better in terms of caloric density.

It is simple and I find for myself it works. Other folks prefer a very restrictive diet that they can follow without thinking too much. Again, it all comes down to personal preference.

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Honestly, right now How Heavy are the Dumbbells You Lift kind of reminds me of some of the Bros you will meet in many gyms. They’re very solid on the exercise side of the equation while not being too up to date on the nutrition. Which is a shame as when it comes to getting results, especially losing body fat, 70% of the fight is your nutrition.

If you take anything away from this I want it to be this. Your body is your own and what works for you may not work for someone else and vice versa. However, at the end of the day burning more calories than you consume you will lose weight. Nutrition is not as hard as people make it out to be. Good luck!

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