Book Review: 3DMJ Muscle and Strength Pyramid–Nutrition by Eric Helms
A few years ago, Eric Helms filmed a video series outlining a pyramid of importance for nutritional proficiency, following it up with a parallel for exercise programming. This past year he’s turned those pyramids into two books, which I’ll review here. What follows is my personal review of the Nutrition book.
NOTE #1: Eric is a personal friend and colleague. I interviewed the man here here and here. In my opinion Eric lives life better than just about anybody I’ve ever met, and is one of the most kind, compassionate, generous, reasonable people you could ever meet. I can also say that I’ve hammered at him with every bone that I could pick regarding the contents of this book, using every personal bias and defensive logic I could come up with, and Eric–and his writing–came back every darn time. Just read the book!
NOTE #2: These books are written for people who have training experience, a generally healthy relationship with food and their bodies, and more likely than not are bodybuilding or powerlifting athletes. The logic and advice in these texts can definitely be helpful to nearly everyone, but one must examine this text through a barbell-and-body specific lense, in my opinion.
Eric very correctly leads off with the notion that one cannot cheat the laws of physics, and at the end of the day, calories in, calories out are a major factor behind weight and body composition. Next up the pyramid is macronutrients, dealing with what proportions of protein, carbs and lipids one consumes. I was happy to see Eric note that high protein consumption in nearly all cases is useful for maintenance of lean mass, satiety, and plenty of other factors. After macronutrients come their micro-counterparts, rightly so since so many seem to worry (and supplement) too much about micros without filling their jar with the proverbial big rocks. Once all those ducks are in line (enough metaphors?) Eric advises then one can worry about timing of nutrient intake and potentially adding supplements to the mix. All-round, I agree with this stuff!!
THING’S I REALLY LIKED:
In the age of flash-bang (mis)information saturation, nearly everything one reads these days is overcomplicated and uses as many big words and complex concepts as possible. To read something which keeps it simple is an incredible breath of fresh air, so bravo to Eric and co for that. Hand in hand with the simplicity is qualification and annotation of the content in this text which very much falls into the category of, “just pay attention”. The main example I’m thinking of when I say this is food content. Eric doesn’t go into detailed pros and cons of vegetables, fruits, certain lipids, etc etc the way so many nutrition texts do nowadays. Instead, a sober and well reasoned couple of paragraphs early on in the book basically summarize as, “Too much of anything will make you sick, but nothing will kill you in small doses. Be reasonable and eat foods whcih make you feel OK and produce results”. It took me several attempts to absorb this section, but once I did I full understood the approach taken to this text.
THINGS I’D HAVE ADDED OR CHANGED:
Food content and inflammation–on the flip side of that same coin, I think that while the text generally advises to minimize processed foods, the fact that most people are woefully uninformed (see “organic paleo cupcakes”) as to what this means is somewhat glossed over. Therefore this book does rely on the reader to self-educate a bit. That’s all good, just something to note. A year ago I’d have said no humans serious about their health should ever eat gluten. Now I’m not so sure, but remain aware that there is a broad spectrum of opinions on the significance of food content in health and body composition. It’s my observation that there’s massive individual variability in this too, eg some people really can eat anything and feel fine, some can’t!
Regarding macronutrients–I think what balance one does best with is highly individual, and probably (epi?)genetic, so testing can really aid this process. Guesstimations are useful and in Eric’s practice largely effective, but I’d just add here (which Eric does note) that some do well with high carb, some do not, same with low carb, high fat, etc.
One thing which didn’t make it into the visual piece above but is featured significantly in the text and YouTube series is the role of behavior and adherence. Decently informed, well-intentioned adherence rules all potential details, folks. I love that this is a message of The Muscle and Strength Building Pyramids. Overall, this is a truly outstanding text which anyone can benefit from. If you are a food evangelist looking for validation of one view or another, search elsewhere. If you’re someone with a sound idea of what already works for you and have a good relationship with food, this is probably the best resource for informing on strategies for muscle and strength building success which I have ever come across! Check it out, folks.