Synthetic Wisdom Equals True Bullshit

I’m not one to complain, but for a society catapulted to the pinnacle of world power by scientific achievement, we sure do love mystics. Not mystics in the neo-cultural sense that read palms, the stars or numbers to tell the future; I’m talking about the vintage mystics, witch doctors of former times who keenly watched the world and codified observations into a manual for health, happiness and curing the common ailments.

Tribal witch doctors never understood why anything worked, so they couldn’t modify or deviate from their code; they only knew if A happened, do B and expect C. And if C didn’t happen, then it was time to beat something—maybe a person—with a blunt object.

Society’s witch doctors never left the scene, they only fell out of focus, nothing more than a background prop giving atmosphere to the action on center stage. Don’t get me wrong, they played an important role by making keen observations, but without the mental ability to explore these observations, develop hypotheses and experiments to verify, refine or redefine their ideas, witch doctors remained unimportant. That is, until their extreme-makeover in the 21st century. Enter the millennia of the Synthesist.

Despite the cool new name, Synthesist—notice how closely this resembles Scientist—not much has changed. Synthesists, by their own admonition, observe, read other people’s work, talk with experts then create a pseudo-scientific explanation that they can understand. In terms of cognitive science, we can think of this as creating a metaphor: when a true understanding of the world is beyond our grasp, we create an explanation that’s good enough to deal with reality, i.e. we may not understand shit, but we know not to eat it.

Think what Hulk say stupid? Hulk Smash!!!

All in all, this isn’t such a bad thing. Metaphor enables physicists, mathematicians and engineers to advance their fields and seemingly unrelated ones. Here’s a good example of metaphor. When I talk to the average person who only wants to lose fat, I describe how cells of the body get sugar by telling the person that the body releases insulin, which carries the sugar into cells. I know that this is not how sugar gets into cells—the glucose transporters are responsible for that—but it’s a good enough metaphor for the layman. As long as they grasp this, we can continue the discussion. I would never push the insulin metaphor as truth, even if the metaphor was the best I could do to understand it—which it’s not.

The Synthesist, on the other hand, through hubris, vanity or sheer stupidity does believe their half-baked, mock-understanding is absolute truth; they eat their own shit, so to speak. Helping others understand things via metaphor is fine and dandy, and except for this last problem—eating shit—Synthesists could be an asset to society.

What goes wrong, then? As has always been the problem with witch doctors, they try to impress their tribe by using half-assed metaphors to explain everything. They hypothesize like madmen and once it sounds good enough, they pass it to the masses.

In the olden days, they had enough power and their tribes were small enough that they could drown out the truth by smashing the skull of the more intelligent tribe members with a rock. Today, they have a new tool: the internet. Their excrement travels the globe at roughly ⅓ the speed of light and they try damn hard to make it look like cake. And if you question them, or prove they’re wrong, they start bashing with another new tool: forums.

(I’ve learned that a lack of knowledge in this industry can be measured by how much time a supposed-guru spends trashing someone when they’re challenged and worse, when someone points out what they don’t know—for an excellent example, check out Lyle’s comments on my article Logic Does Not Apply pt. 3).

And all this bullshit and vitriol does one thing: it makes my job really—pardon the expletive—fucking hard.

For example, I speak often about glucose transporters and how to manipulate them to our advantage. Synthesists, unable or unwilling to grasp the situation, explain it in terms of insulin sensitivity and make erroneous, fat inducing suggestions when pitching a plan for lean gains, like eating very low-glycemic carbs post-training. This is not what you should do if you want to avoid getting fat while adding lean muscle, but they can’t understand that. What they do understand is that South Beach is popular, it recommends low-glycemic everything so they will too. Both health and growth have something to do with insulin…so let’s throw all the shit on the wall and see what sticks.

Pea protein hydrolysate might not be as exciting as Sweet Pea from Sucker Punch, but it’s just as bad-ass.

Or, upon hearing that breakfast might be worth giving up, they assume that protein because it’s so awesome, as they say, is always okay to eat. Instead of normal breakfast, their logic goes, eat 30 grams of a fast-absorbing protein. They know that fast-acting protein stimulates growth post-training. And after training the body’s hungry, right? Just like it is when you wake…Eureka, they’re genius. Just give the body the same stuff when it wakes.

It’s bullshit. The hormonal and anabolic milieu first thing in the morning differs drastically from post-training. Thirty grams of a fast-acting protein after training will not stop the body from burning fat. Thirty grams of a fast-acting protein first thing in the morning, however, destroys the body’s fat burning ability as much as thirty grams of carbs and imparts no special muscle-sparing action1-3. If eating first thing in the morning, skip the Muscle Milk at breakfast and go for the stack of pancakes instead…metabolically, there’s not much difference.

It never ends: soy protein is bad, therefore all plant proteins must be bad (not true4-8); if training at 5 pm allows you to eat carbs in abundance all night (Carb Back-Loading™) then training first thing in the morning should let you pig out all day without getting fat (definitely not true-see here); if the Warrior Diet—which forgoes eating all day, allowing only a single huge meal at night—works, then modifying it to include food all day and a feeding frenzy at night must be awesome (good way to get fat—see here); if a Carb Nite® works, then a whole carb day would be bad ass (again, awesome way to get fat—I’ll discuss this more in the next post); and the list goes on and on.

Maybe, at this point, the root of my frustration is clear. Synthesists lack experience, they lack true knowledge and they lack wisdom, but they believe they possess all three in amounts greater than anyone else. They never check if their ideas are true or not; nor do they care. They never say, “I don’t know” or “scientists haven’t figured that out yet,” because they think their guess—and that’s all it is—doubles as fact. Not only do they eat their own shit, but they want you to have a serving too—extra steamy, please.



  1. Akhavan T, Luhovyy BL, Brown PH, Cho CE, Anderson GH. Effect of premeal consumption of whey protein and its hydrolysate on food intake and postmeal glycemia and insulin responses in young adults. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Apr;91(4):966-75.
  2. Bowen J, Noakes M, Clifton PM. Appetite hormones and energy intake in obese men after consumption of fructose, glucose and whey protein beverages. Int J Obes (Lond). 2007 Nov;31(11):1696-703.
  3. Pal S, Ellis V. The acute effects of four protein meals on insulin, glucose, appetite and energy intake in lean men. Br J Nutr. 2010 Oct;104(8):1241-8.
  4. Aluko RE. Determination of nutritional and bioactive properties of peptides in enzymatic pea, chickpea, and mung bean protein hydrolysates. J AOAC Int. 2008 Jul-Aug;91(4):947-56. Review.
  5. Diepvens K, Häberer D, Westerterp-Plantenga M. Different proteins and biopeptides differently affect satiety and anorexigenic/orexigenic hormones in healthy humans. Int J Obes (Lond). 2008 Mar;32(3):510-8.
  6. Humiski LM, Aluko RE. Physicochemical and bitterness properties of enzymatic pea protein hydrolysates. J Food Sci. 2007 Oct;72(8):S605-11.
  7. Claessens M, Calame W, Siemensma AD, Saris WH, van Baak MA. The thermogenic and metabolic effects of protein hydrolysate with or without a carbohydrate load in healthy male subjects. Metabolism. 2007 Aug;56(8):1051-9.
  8. Calbet JA, MacLean DA. Plasma glucagon and insulin responses depend on the rate of appearance of amino acids after ingestion of different protein solutions in humans. J Nutr. 2002 Aug;132(8):2174-82.
  • Louis Sica

    Hey Kiefer, would Carb backloading apply to people taking part in metabolic training such as BOOT CAMPS. Not as much heavy lifting as the bodybuilding type but more high intensity interval style training.

    • Kiefer

      @Louis Sica: I can’t answer this fully without know the exact details of the boot camp, but if it falls anywhere within the various types I’ve seen, you won’t get the muscle-building benefit of Carb Back-Loading, but, if you limit calories, you can still get the fat-burning, muscle-sparing effects.

    • Kiefer

      I can’t answer this fully without know the exact details of the boot camp, but if it falls anywhere within the various types I’ve seen, you won’t get the muscle-building benefit of Carb Back-Loading, but, if you limit calories, you can still get the fat-burning, muscle-sparing effects

  • Anonymous

    aragon…lyle…they all luv u kiefer hahaha, u must be doing something right to upset them so much :)

    • Kiefer

      This isn’t the first time someone’s pointed out that Aragon is not a fan. I barely even know who the guy is other than he’s still stuck to the calories-in-calories-out (CICO) methodology of nutrition. Come to think of it, for a guy who sells a Research Review Newsletter, I can’t understand why he doesn’t seem know what I know. There are only so many medical journals in the world-we must read at least one or two of the same ones. Weird.

  • Luis


    I gotta give it to you man, you slap these fools in the face with pure facts, but at the same time crack me up. Even though i just fell upon DH recently thanks to the forums in Animalpak, i gotta admit i admire your work and the passion you have for it. Im only on my 4th day of carb back-loading and i am already seeing incredible results and feeling 1000 times better and stronger. Keep doing what you do best (comically entertaining us while providing cutting edge science) and i, and countless others will continue to follow you as your dedicated fans.

    I have one question about Back-Loading. Are there any effects of back-loading carbs after the 2 hour window? If so, are they possitive or negative?

    • Kiefer

      @Luis: Back-Loading after the two hour window has few negative consequences other than lethargy, that is, unless you try back-loading with “healthy carbs” then you might end up with excess fat gain.

    • Kiefer

      Back-Loading after the two hour window has few negative consequences other than lethargy, that is, unless you try back-loading with “healthy carbs” then you might end up with excess fat gain.

  • JR

    Great Article Kiefer! This is easily becoming my favorite blog.

  • Marc Theiler

    Are you surprised? Most of our country believe in gods, angels, demons, ghosts, psychics and other supernatural bullshit; the same psychological applications render the same results with regards to marketing and other such intakes. Average Joe has built his framework with the elements of bullshit and then wonders why he cannot make authentic progress and enjoy a sincere quality of life. Sorry, but I find it black and white; if you believe in anything supernatural you will with the highest probability utilize that same framework to discern the quality of expressed stimulus e.g. nutrition articles, marketing propaganda, political positions, etc. The only way is to build and cultivate a sincere, authentic, critical framework based upon the absolute best scientific basis in the now.

  • ADTS

    Im still stuck on the fact the coconut oil in the coffee can provide an abundance of ketones which if not burned off will stimulate an insulin rush. I have no plans of activity to burn those off and cant tolerate dairy (heavy whipping cream), what other suggestions are available.

    PS-I will buy the book, if you want I can email you my cc info now.

    • DH Naomi

      Well, you can always sweeten it with sucralose or stevia.

      You could try cinnamon… although don’t go overboard with it, because it does have appreciable amounts of carbs beyond a tablespoon or so.

      • adts

        I wasn’t referencing the taste, but the ketones that Kiefer referenced in his interview.

        Are there any fatty alternatives to coco oil or heavy cream that are approved for consumption in the morning coffee? Do I need to put anything in at all? I’d rather just have a cup of coffee and not take i any calories until lunchtime.

        • DH Naomi

          Ah, I see — no, you don’t need to put anything in it at all. I didn’t realize your confusion was over whether plain coffee was recommended.

          • Richard S

            So is it reccommended to take in coconut oil, or heavy cream (any types of heavy cream to put in coffee that is best) since I do Interval Cardio in the morning? I do cardio first thing when I wake up and don’t intake anthing till around lunch time.

          • Kiefer

            Basically-and this is a response for the whole thread-1 to 2 tbsp of coconut oil will likely not spike ketone levels enough to destroy ketogenesis. To be honest, I wouldn’t stress about it.

          • ADTS

            Awesome, thanks Naomi.
            Plain coffee is what I’ve been used to coming from another “breakfast-skipping” method.

    • Kiefer

      @ADTS: How much coconut oil are you adding, ADTS? A tbsp or two will only sustain ketone production, but not overproduction. As long as you’re breathing, your nervous system and other more metabolically active tissues will burn them off as they’re produced. Don’t stress about it.

  • Orangepop

    People like Lyle are never willing to admit they’re wrong. They’re like the people who back out of bets after they lose by making a lame excuse. They act like their the Gods of nutrition and anything that differs from their advice like the article Kiefer posted on T-nation with Soy is wrong even though they provide no proof to back up their claims.

  • RC

    All this science stuff sounds really fancy, but I am pretty sure carb nite is some kind of witch craft, cuz it worked like you could not imagine. I lost weight by eating pizza and Ice Cream a true WTF moment. All I gotta say if you are a witch doctor I’m not gonna hate cuz that stuff works.
    If this carb loading thing works out as well as carb nite I am coming to frisco to buy you a cup of coffee with heavy cream and a box of cherry turnovers.
    I’m gonna start on Wed. so if you can shoot over a few spells to get me going that would pretty cool
    Thanx for doing what you do.

    • Kiefer

      @RC: You better start making travel plans…

  • Dmunnee

    I’m actually interested in the physiological explanation of glucose transporters, I hope you include that in the new book.

    • Kiefer

      @Dmunnee: it’s included in the book, don’t worry.

    • Kiefer

      In the book, I go into a decent amount of detail about the physiological response to different stimuli that cause certain GLUTs to translocate. But I’m not sure that’s what you’re looking for. Maybe the physical aspect and energy processes that allow GLUT to transport within the membrane in the first place?

  • JC Carter

    Maybe spend less time with math and more time understanding your refererences

    • Kiefer

      Nobody here really has any idea what you’re trying to say. Care to elucidate?

  • Rsbmg

    Holy cow! This sums up my arguments on the crossfit forums perfectly!

  • clutch1

    Hi Naomi,

    Some of the comments aren’t showing. Is there a setting to display all comments?


    • DH Naomi

      You noticed! Yeah, there’s some weirdness with this new commenting system.

      Comments made through the WordPress built-in system aren’t showing up, I think because Disqus needs to associate each commenter with a Disqus account.

      We’ll figure it out… even if it means disabling Disqus.

      • Fiorito

        @ naomi…..yea as some of kiefers comments arnt showing and we all luv to read his lol

  • Fred

    Great stuff as always Kiefer

    I wanted to ask something that I have not seen asked. Should we be concerned about hydrogenated fats in the “crap” we are eating, when we backload?

    • DH Naomi

      Very good question with a complicated answer. There’s a strong chance this issue will be tackled in a future blog post.

  • Ken

    I have a question about your point: “Thirty grams of a fast-acting protein first thing in the morning,
    however, destroys the body’s fat burning ability as much as thirty grams
    of carbs and imparts no special muscle-sparing action1-3. If
    eating first thing in the morning, skip the Muscle Milk at breakfast
    and go for the stack of pancakes instead…metabolically, there’s not much
    difference.” I don’t drink muscle milk, but eggs cooked in coconut oil have become a staple of my diet. Typically I also drink coffee and and cook bacon with the eggs as well. I don’t do this necessarily for the protein, but for the fat and the satiation it brings me that lasts for hours. Should I forgo the eggs for another breakfast source that is higher in fat? One more point, I typically avoid carbs throughout the day until after I have worked out. If I workout early, I still try to avoid carbs until 7:00p.m. or later.

    • stelbel

      Mr Kiefer explains that we should limit ourselves to 1 egg, as more can have an insulin response, even though they’re are our lovablele BB staple. But I’m guessing the actual answer is skip the breakfast totally and heavy whipping cream, coconut oil or butter in a hot beverage will help satisfy…..but please anyone, feel free to correct me! It’s just you waited 11mths for an answer!

  • stelbel

    Want to give you some feedback Mr Kiefer as the name ‘Lyle McDonald’ came up today in a hostile and defensive attack on me on f/b as I was just f/b ‘chatting’ to a friend. She has a penchant for excessive cardio while trying to build muscle for a show in 5 mths and she sent a picture of her having a gluten free panda pop and pancakes after 2 weeks of LC. I told her about you and your advice…well, her trainer just about had a fit! He described you as a ‘ rip off using info that’s already out there ‘and ‘you charge notorious amounts off $ for your book’ He then bragged about how well his clients did on a palumo keto diet and he sided with L. MacDonald.

    Well, I thought this all highly entertaining, even when he started on me (I have never met the guy) I am describing this to show how Jon Goodards social theory was at work. The girl I was just innocently chatting on f/b with saw all this reaction and said ‘holy cow, I’m not going to the bars tonight but researching this stuff!

    But I think YOU will always have us figure girls on your side, as you have cherry turn overs in your corner, screw the science!!! (I also think my non threatened joke response irritated him too!)