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Matt's Magic Diet

Getting in shape can be a maze of pseudoscience, fads and frenzy. Matt’s Magic Diet won’t make you fit or healthy but it will make him a very rich man. Which would you choose, expert advice or the expertly chosen words of a flimflam merchant?


Fridays mean fun here on BFM. Once we get the next hour out of the way we can start looking forward to the weekend. That’s right, it’s time to throw some hope out of the window as we Mattsplain with Matt Armitage.


What are we talking about today?

  • •    Some of our listeners will be getting themselves prepared for their reunion dinners next Friday, which of course means that we will be off the air and they will have slightly less chance of getting indigestion.
  • •    I've come here today with a message of hope, to say that despite all that saturated fat, bin bags full of cholesterol and mountains of sugar and alcohol, mattsplained can save you and get you back into shape.
  • •    I can't help you with all the money you're going to lose at mahjong but by golly I can do something about your waistline.


That’s what listeners love most about you. Your compassion and humanity.

  • •    I know. sometimes I have to check myself and remember how humble I am.
  • •    Yet another of my positive attributes.
  • •    If there was a Nobel prize for services to radio I think I might win it every year.
  • •    Try and beat me there with your superbrain, Neil deGrasse Tyson!


Whenever I get the feeling that you're going to talk about food, I get scared that we’re going to spend the next 20 minutes talking about meat grown in labs. Are we going to spend the next 20 minutes talking about meat grown in labs?

  • •    No we going to talk about the next best thing, my new diet plan.
  • •    I think it was over the Christmas break while I watched someone exercise for me as I ate mince pies and watched Bad Santa for the 28th time that I had something of an epiphany.
  • •    Most celebrities either follow a celebrity diet or they come up with their own celebrity diet.


Suddenly you’re a celebrity?

  • •    You have to be objective about these things.
  • •    At one end, you have the A list of celebrities and at the other end you have the z list.
  • •    Well I'm using the Khmer alphabet which has 75 letters, so I may not be in the top 28 of the Latin celebrity lists, but I'm hiding under a rock somewhere in Khmer.
  • •    So as I don't really like following diets, I thought that I should probably come up with one of my own.
  • •    I'm calling it Matt's magic diet.
  • •    Of course, to get a buy in from the VCs, I've had to build in some kind of lockout mechanism.
  • •    So when you subscribe to this diet, you will receive food packages through the post which can only be unlocked with a pair of smart scissors, which cost USD300 a pair, that have an RFID sensor on them.
  • •    The blades of the scissors will only come apart when they detect the tag on the food package and then you can use them to cut the package open.


Can't you just use a normal pair of scissors or a knife to open the package?

  • •    I’ve thought about that. Progress is all about knowledge and learning.
  • •    And I've learned from Juicero. If you attempt to open the package without pairing it with the smart scissors, a sensor inside the food package releases a small bag of horse urine which then soaks into the contents.
  • •    This ensures that people will pay me an awful lot of money for food.


And what can people expect from your mealplans?

  • •    I wanted to keep it simple, one of the things I find pushes people away from their diets is a feeling of well-being and hope.
  • •    I want to emphasise monotony and regularity and the dull futile ache of depression.
  • •    By keeping every meal the same, it makes it easy to monitor your progress and to understand which parts of the diet are having an impact.
  • •    You have to look at the whole. Every person is different, we react in different ways to different foods, we have different metabolic rates, so if I introduce a lot of variety and a lot of different foods it's very difficult to be sure what is having a positive or negative effect.
  • •    This way it's very very clear. You know instantly what kind of impact this diet is having on your health.


I don’t think anyone’s dying to know, but what’s in the food packages?

  • •    It combines two things that are very passionate about: recycling and making obscene amounts of money.
  • •    When it comes to food and recycling we tend to think about the packaging and not the food itself.
  • •    I want to change all that, that's why Matt's magic diet is as much a nutrition disrupter as much as it is a meal.
  • •    When you open one of my packages, you can congratulate yourself that you are helping to lower your carbon footprint and get healthy. Everyone wins.
  • •    So what's in the packages?
  • •    Well, if you look at the fast food industry, all those deep fat fryers generate a colossal amount of waste, and that oil has to be collected and disposed of.
  • •    Some of it goes towards creating biofuel but most of it ends up in landfill and storage dumps. And that makes it very cheap.
  • •    What I've done is combine that waste oil with dough, specifically highly absorbent white bread.
  • •    I don’t need to enrich it: because of all the food there's already been cooked in the oil it has trace elements of all kinds of proteins and minerals. It's rich in essential nutrients.
  • •    The bread acts as an edible sponge and a digestible delivery system.
  • •    Each package contains two pieces of this magic suspension which will meet all your calorific needs for the day.


And what's the scientific basis of this diet?

  • •    Sometimes I think we talk about science too much on this show.
  • •    This diet is all about belief. You eat the food and you believe yourself healthier.
  • •    Sure, I paid some experts to come up with a study for me. They said most of my test subjects died. I said that's just a coincidence.
  • •    it's perfectly to find a dozen 25-year-olds who they all experience massive heart attacks in the space of a month.
  • •    If anything, it was better that they died. Far more expensive to cover medical bills of someone who might live for another 70 years. I think we got a big win.
  • •    And because my diet is just food I don't need approval from any health regulators.


Have you had many sign ups?

  • •    Hundreds in our beta phase.
  • •    We are tweaking the calorific values as we move into our mass production stage.
  • •    This is a subscription model, so it doesn't make sense to kill off so many consumers in the first 30 days.


I assume that behind all this silliness, there is some kind of point? Something that does have a basis in science or fact or technology, preferably all three?

  • •    I’m entirely serious. My evil lair needs repainting and matt’s magic diet is how I’m covering the cost.
  • •    [Pause] We usually do one of these personal betterment shows early on in the New Year.
  • •    I thought this year we would keep it for Chinese New Year.
  • •    Traditionally this is the period where we start thinking about renewal, making changes, getting healthier. All that kinda stuff.
  • •    We start thinking of ways to get happier, wealthier, fitter, healthier.
  • •    And it's easy to start falling for all the latest fads.
  • •    For example, I was listening to a podcast a few weeks ago and where a biochemist and chef called Anthony Warner was talking about various food fads and in particular about the current vogue for coconut oil.
  • •    He pointed out that when colleagues of his in the research field want to induce heart failure in laboratory mice they feed them coconut oil. Because it's saturated fat.
  • •    That's not what today is about, I want to talk about scientific health positives rather than negatives, but if you would like to listen to what Anthony Warner had to say, check out the modern man pod cast, that’s man with two n’s, from January 2.


Let’s kick off with some good news.

  • •    Well for those of us who might describe ourselves as somewhat gym averse, there is actually some good news.
  • •    As usual I've let my chums over at new scientist do a lot of heavy lifting for me on the show. Which just goes to show how clever I am, because who needs to lift heavy things when someone can do it for you?


I don’t think that’s in the spirit of a show about healthy lifestyles, is it?

  • •    Humbug.
  • •    A massive study was released last year by a team from McMaster University in Canada.
  • •    The research tracked more than 130,000 people in 17 countries and it suggests some movement away from orthodox thinking.
  • •    One of the things we've heard over the last few years is that exercise has to be regular and constant. There's no point being a trails runner at the weekend if you stare slack-jawed at the TV all night every night from Monday to Friday, even if there are new episodes of the ranch to catch up with on Netflix.
  • •    the McMaster study suggests that this kind of targeted approaches just as beneficial in terms of cutting your risk of early death.
  • •    It also suggests that moderate activities such as walking to work, doing chores around the house will also cut your chances of cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes et cetera as long as you do around 2 1/2 hours of them per week.
  • •    I have to say that certainly made me feel better. I have started lifting my own teacup to my mouth instead of having an intern do it. Although, I wasn't expecting the compression fracture in my wrist from that overfilled mug.


We’re going to take a break now, while Matt disappears into his oxygen tent. When we come back. More fitness, less fatness. On Mattsplained.




Today we’re talking about taking a scientific approach to getting fit and healthy. Matt obviously doesn’t listen to his own advice: If he was blue he’d look like Violet Beauregard. As it is, he looks like King Edward. The potato. 


Before the break we were talking about some evidential changes in the way we view exercise and its effects. But what about the exercise itself?

  • •    The body is a wonderful and complicated thing but when we look for exercise trends, we are often looking for simple solutions.
  • •    And often that means assuming that our body will always react in the same way.
  • •    A guy called Dylan Thompson at the University of Bath in the UK ran a test to see if it's better to exercise on an empty stomach than a full stomach.
  • •    He put a bunch of obese guys on a treadmill, half of whom had skipped breakfast and the other half who'd eaten.
  • •    Tissue samples were taken from everyone after the session and yes, it was found that those who had skipped breakfast burned fat to fuel their workout while those who had eaten merely burnt off some of their breakfast.
  • •    However this may not be the full story, a sports scientist at the University of West Scotland called Chris Easton suggests that for more high-intensity exercise this approach may be counter-productive, as the lack of carbohydrates in your body May reduce the intensity of your performance.
  • •    So I guess if you're a slow burner like me, Skip the cooked breakfasts, but if you're planning a 15 km run you'd better load up on the carbs.


I think the intensity of exercise is one of the things that confuses people most. Do you have to get a good sweat on to lose weight?

  • •    The easy answer to that is no. Next question.
  • •    As I mentioned before the break, the Canadian exercise study found that even moderate exercise like vacuuming is beneficial.
  • •    We've all seen the burnouts at the gym. Deliberately wearing heavy sweats to make themselves perspire more.
  • •    But there is no evidence to suggest that heating yourself up is going to help you to get fit or burn fat.
  • •    We all sweat at different rates, all you're really doing is making yourself a haven for microbes and making the environment smell for those around you.
  • •    You may make yourself a little bit lighter because you've reduced the amount of water in your body, that's called dehydration. And in any case, as soon as you drink some water you'll simply put that weight back on.
  • •    Of course, if you're the kind of person who sweats buckets when they do any kind of physical exercise, that's just the kind of person you are. It's not good or bad, it's just your body doing what it needs to maintain a safe temperature.
  • •    And yes, men sweat more than women. I think that's one area that women will be happy not to seek equality in.


While we're talking about rehydration, what about all those energy and electrolyte drinks?

  • •    It probably won't be too much of a surprise to hear that science doesn't really see the benefit.
  • •    The test was carried out last year where swimmers again divided into various camps, some were given energy drinks and others were given water.
  • •    There were no improvements noted in the group that had consumed the energy drinks.
  • •    In fact, because of the sugars and the carbs in the drinks, it's possible that you could end up consuming more calories than you've burned. So you end up with a net loss.
  • •    The International Olympic Committee’s own guidelines suggest that it's unlikely that your body will dehydrate if you are exercising for an hour or less.
  • •    And as for the sodium levels, most of us already have diets that are too rich in sodium, so it's unlikely that we’ll reach a state of electrolyte depletion after 20 minutes on a cross trainer.
  • •    That said, and this is my advice rather than that of the scientific community, if you're consuming the drinks in moderation and they help you to feel better about your workout then they’re probably not doing too much harm.
  • •    If they're helping to make you feel better about yourself, and to exercise more regularly, then the only real loser is your bank balance. Those things are damn expensive.


You've touched on motivation there. How can we keep ourselves motivated? Should we listen to music? Is it better to exercise indoors or outdoors? And how much do I need to feel the burn?

  • •    Let's start with the burn. It's pretty simple: if your muscles hurt straight after you've exercised, then you've probably pulled or strained something and you need time to rest.
  • •    If your muscles hurt the following day or the day after or even the day after that, then you have what's called delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS for short.
  • •    Surprisingly, DOMS is actually a good thing.  While you exercise you cause small amounts of damage to the muscle tissue, in the pain and ache is the tissue repairing itself.
  • •    But not only is it repairing itself it's actually making itself stronger, so this is part of the process of building bigger muscles.
  • •    You still need to give your body time to repair, don't go for another workout while you're feeling the burn, work on something else and let the achy parts do their thing and get stronger on their own.


There’s always a lot of debate about whether to exercise in a gym or outdoors. Which is better?

  • •    Again, no real surprises here. Outside is better.
  • •    One of the reasons it seems that gym fatigue sets in so quickly is the monotony.
  • •    When you run on a treadmill, you’re running to an even pace, but when you run outside naturally on the ground your pace is constantly altering, you’re adjusting for the terrain in front of you so you're a lot more engaged.
  • •    Your body has a lot more stimulus in general, there are the sounds and sights of the outside world which we lose in a gym even if we are catching up with episodes of the ranch - what great TV that is - on a screen 6 inches in front of our face.
  • •    If you are, like me, stuck in the gym because Malaysia is just way too hot, then vary your speeds or use one of those programs on the machine that alters the settings and speeds frequently and that will help to give your body more of the real world feel and hopefully increase your motivation.
  • •    But it is still better to be outside.


What about the music?

  • •    This isn't such a new discovery but a paper published by a guy called Costas Karageorghis at Brunel University in the UK back in 2012 likened music to a performance enhancing drug.
  • •    It helps with strength, endurance and power.
  • •    But it isn't as simple as banging up a high energy playlist and cranking up your energy levels.
  • •    It's a little more nuanced: it's about finding music with the tempo that matches your own movements, whether you're running or cycling or whatever.
  • •    Studies have found that runners can keep going longer with a metronome that is set to their own running rhythm. Rather than the runner chasing the rhythm.
  • •    Some music streaming services, like Spotify, have a playlist function that matches the BPM to your workout.


We’re running out of time: Hi Intensity Interval Training?

  • •    HIIT as it’s known is based on the idea of 4 minute workouts, where you exercise at high intesnsity for 20 seconds and then rest for 10 seconds.
  • •    I hate it. It makes me feel like I am about to have a stroke. but it’s good for you. 
  • •    The body adapts to consistency – hence the monotony of the treadmill I was talking about - so when you push it out of its comfort zone, with these frequent bursts of nerve shredding activity, it has major benefits for your heart your lungs and your circulatory system.
  • •    it's also really good for people who are time poor.



  • •    I have to admit yoga is far more my speed.
  • •    Unfortunately for me, studies like the recent one at the University of Colorado, have found that Yoga is not massively good for aerobic fitness, unless you're one of those yogis who is doing it for hours and hours a day.
  • •    Most studies have so far concentrated on Bikram yoga, so it's perhaps unfair to generalise but it does suggest that you would probably burn more calories with a walk or a gentle jog.
  • •    However, it does seem that yoga has other benefits.
  • •    The effects of Depression, stress and even eating disorders may all be reduced by yoga.
  • •    In fact, yoga, Tai Chi and meditation may help us to switch off genes that trigger inflammation, a byproduct of many diseases.
  • •    Various pieces of research have pointed to yoga playing a part in reducing the risk of heart disease, improving the quality-of-life of people with diabetes and some forms of cancer. It may even shrink the areas of the brain that trigger fear and anxiety, which could explain why your yoga instructor always seem so calm.
  • •    Because yoga is literally shrinking their brain.
  • •    I know we’re out of time: If you want to know more about the things we discussed today, you can find everything online you might want to check out the January 13 edition of New Scientist which covers a lot of the things we've discussed today and a whole bunch more. 
  • •    There are a lot of people in the fitness world who declare themselves to be experts, some of them are, some of them are pedalling Matt's magic diet, so check out the new scientist as it might help you to sort the fact from the fiction. To note: the NS website is behind a paywall, because, you know, good stuff has a cost.


M.ExMatt Armitage