Dit interview moet ik aankomende week nog naar het Nederlands vertalen, maar voor de Engelse lezer hieronder alvast het origineel.

For the people who don’t know you, could you tell us about yourself and what it is that you do?

My name is Armi Legge. I’m a writer, coach, and entrepreneur. Most of my projects are focused on helping highly motivated and obsessive people simplify their health, fitness, and productivity so they can achieve their goals with less work, time, and stress.

At what point did you decide Imprüvism just had to start and could no longer wait? Also, what keeps you going?

In a way, I’ve been developing Imprüvism my entire life. It’s a combination of everything I’ve learned about health and fitness since I was born. I resigned from my last job of working as a ghostwriter, podcast producer, and social media manager for an alternative health website last year. The information conflicted with the scientific evidence on just about every topic, so I stopped supporting that message.

I had started writing my own blog back in 2010, but at that point I still wasn’t very good at writing or research. After several more years of learning and practice, I decided to make a more concerted effort and launch Imprüvism by January 2013. I launched the site on Thanksgiving Day, 2012.

My curiosity and passion are what keeps me going. Helping people is a huge bonus, one that I’m appreciating more and more, but the main reason I do this kind of obsessive research and detailed writing and podcasting is to help improve my understanding of these different topics. I love learning and always have. Plus, I have to make a living somehow, and I like doing it in a way that helps people improve their lives.

I’ve also benefitted tremendously from the work of people like Alan Aragon, Lyle McDonald, James Krieger, and others, and I wanted to be able to create the same kind of content they did and continue to do. I’m not anywhere close to their level yet, but I had to start somewhere.

Imprüvism tries to simplify a science-based approach towards nutrition and fitness. I feel that most people in the industry who are science-based know where to find the right information. People who aren’t, mostly stick to what their peers tell them or what makes them feel warm inside. Right now it’s clear the people are divided into several groups, each with its own way of doing and thinking. Most of those groups don’t even think about science, unless it’s to talk about how biased and unreliable it is. Science is extremely important in their daily lives, but they don’t care for it at all when it comes to nutrition. Do you feel it’s important to focus on convincing ‘non-believers’, for the lack of a better word, how important evidence is? Or do you not think about it, keep writing your articles and hope the fence sitters will eventually be convinced?

You make an excellent point, in that many people really don’t value science. Others might value it, but they don’t understand it. I do think it’s important to convince people of the value of science, but I think the best way to do that is through example, marketing, and questioning. Here’s what I mean.

1. Example:
By writing articles that dissect and synthesize complex topics, you show people how to evaluate research. They see why certain kinds of studies are better at showing cause and effect than others. They learn why assumptions and anecdotes are not reliable ways of deciding what’s true and false. They learn that while science can be complex, the same basic principles are always at work on every subject. They also learn that science is imperfect, but that it’s still the only method that works for finding the truth.
People learn best when you involve them, which is what I try to do with my articles and podcasts. I make it clear that I’m always learning too, that I can still be wrong, and that I want them to be involved.

2. Marketing:
I’m using Seth Godin’s definition of marketing here

“Telling a story that resonates with your audience and spreads.”

People don’t care about stuff that they don’t think is going to improve their lives. They care about stuff that will.
As you said, people use science every day, but they don’t always realize how it benefits them. Marketing is not about lying to people or always about selling something – it’s about helping people understand why something is awesome or helpful, so they can benefit from it too.

On a practical level, this means speaking to people’s desires, goals, and preferences. I try to make all of my articles extremely relevant to what people are struggling with or trying to achieve. I don’t publish any fluff or rants – it’s just articles and podcasts that try to address very specific problems people are facing. I also work hard to explain exactly why this information benefits them. You can say “eating more protein enhances muscle protein synthesis” and you might get a blank stare. If you say, “your goal is to gain muscle, so you should eat enough protein. One of the reasons is that it promotes muscle protein synthesis.” That’s obviously a simplistic example but when you talk like that, people will care. You can’t assume they understand something is valuable. Even if they do, they need to be reminded, because science is important.

This is one of the biggest problems with public schools and many formal education systems– they teach things out of context. They have people memorize a bunch of formulas, principles, and methods without actually helping them understand why they need to learn it, how the information can help them reach their unique goals, and how to use the information in the real world. Writing articles and creating podcasts that help people with their specific problems is a better way to teach people about the value of the scientific method.

3. Questioning:
Lastly, I encourage people to question me on everything. I don’t assume I’m always right or that there are always clear sides in every argument. I want people to question everything I say and what everyone else says until they get a reasonable, logical, scientific answer. Then they should ask again and again until it makes sense to them. Then keep asking over time to make sure the science still supports the previous answer. I like to joke that skepticism largely boils down to asking “why” as much as possible.

That said, some people are going to cover their ears and keep screaming random word vomit that, as you said, “makes them feel warm inside.” In those cases, yes, I either ignore them or make fun of them (in a light hearted way, of course).

What are your general thoughts on the following subjects, especially the hysteria that comes with every one of them? I realize some of them have been argued to death, but I think it’s good to show readers the opinion of reliable authors in the industry.
– Sugar consumption
– Diet soda/aspartame
– Organic food

Sugar – bad in excess, fine in moderate amounts.
How much depends on all sorts of factors such as your health, training status, age, insulin sensitivity, activity levels, total calorie intake, and a few more. In general, however, most people are probably fine consuming no more than 20% of their calories from sugar. Obviously, most people who care about their health aren’t eating anywhere close to that amount.

Diet soda/aspartame – delicious, safe, and potentially helpful for weight loss.
Aspartame is one of the most heavily studied artificial foods in human history, and studies have repeatedly shown it to be safe in animals and humans. Like every topic it deserves further study, but at this point it’s pretty much a non-issue. Studies have also shown that replacing caloric sodas with diet drinks often leads to weight loss, even when the people aren’t actively counting calories (meaning they aren’t just compensating elsewhere in the diet).

Organic food – not necessarily healthier than regular food, might taste better to some, inconsistent definition which makes discussion hard.
Studies have generally not found organic food to be any higher in micronutrients than regular produce. It also doesn’t have any nutrients or other beneficial compounds that aren’t found in their conventional counterparts.

Organic food sometimes has fewer pesticides, but not always. Sometimes the pesticides used are just a different kind, many of which are associated with just as many health risks as conventional pesticides. There’s also little evidence that once you’re below the minimum safe level of pesticide consumption, that driving that number any lower by avoiding pesticides is going to do anything for your health.

Some people claim they like the taste of organic food more, but in most blind tastes tests people can’t tell the difference.

The biggest problem with studying organic food is that the definition and standards are so inconsistent. Something can be labeled “organic” even if it’s not entirely organic. There probably aren’t big differences between 95% organic and 100% organic, but it makes it hard to accurately study. I personally think that growing vegetables in well fertilized soil, organic or not, is probably far more important and likely has a greater effect on micronutrient quality and taste, but that’s somewhat speculative.

At this point, there’s really no evidence that organic store-bought food is better than conventional store-bought food, but I’m sympathetic to the idea that produce grown in different kinds of soil might have different properties.

Thanks for calling me reliable. 🙂

What do you feel is the most common nutrition related issue people run into?

Not understanding that weight loss and weight gain are controlled by calorie intake and expenditure.

What aspect of nutrition interests you the most? And which areas could use a lot more research?

Right now, the science of relationships interests me the most, largely because there isn’t much accessible information about that topic online, yet there is a lot of good research on it. The following topics all need a lot more research:

  • Eating disorders.
  • Optimal versus bare minimum protein intake for athletes and dieters.
  • Individual differences in macronutrient needs and use.
  • Glycogen replenishment after exercise.
  • Strategies to help people maintain weight loss, after it’s been lost.
  • How environmental cues influecce calorie intake.
  • Intermittent fasting.

What are your general macronutrient recommendations for muscle gain and fat loss?

These guidelines depend on the person’s needs, tolerances, and preferences, and I don’t like giving general recommendations out of context, but…

Muscle gain:
Calories: Around 35-40 calories per kilogram of bodyweight, or enough to cause about 1-4 pounds of muscle gain per month without too much fat gain.
Protein: 2-3 grams per kilogram of lean body mass.
Fat: ~20-40% of calories.
Carbohydrate: Whatever is left, adjusted based on their health, preferences, and training.

Fat Loss:
Calories: Around 20-30 calories per kilogram of bodyweight, or enough to cause around 2-4 pounds of fat loss per month.
Protein: 2.5-3.3 grams per kilogram of lean body mass.
Fat: ~20-40% of calories.
Carbohydrate: Whatever is left, adjusted based on their health, preferences, and training.

Any interesting plans for the future with Impruvism?

I’m going to write a lot more about the following topics soon:

  • The role of deliberate practice in becoming better at everything.
  • Developing greater self-control and willpower.
  • Strength training for fat loss, muscle gain, and endurance performance.
  • Optimal macronutrient intakes for different goals.
  • The psychological aspects of dieting.
  • Eating disorders.
  • And much more.

The biggest new project I’m working on is ChefLabz.com, a website that helps you learn to prepare delicious and nutritious meals for yourself and others, so you can have more control and get more enjoyment out of your diet.

To learn more, go to http://www.impruvism.com.

Thanks for the opportunity to be interviewed Guy!

Author

3 Comments

  1. Michael Stephensen

    Great interview. Having followed Armi for awhile it is nice to step back and get a bit of a picture of who he is. Thanks!

  2. Martijn

    Cool interview, ik lees altijd graag de artikelen van Armi Legge!