I know I took a week off of writing anything other than the “our training” posts. This has been because my life has been ridiculous. I’ve recently got an influx of people I train at various gyms, had to prepare arduously long lectures for people that don’t want to hear what I have to say, get the ground running on various research projects, all while still trying to drop the last few pounds for meet coming up on the 23rd.
For this post I wanted to address some things that I think are extremely important. If you ask an honest person they will tell you that when it comes to losing weight, changing your physiques, getting healthier, etc… it all comes down to diet. However, the problems don’t come right when starting a diet, it’s normally about a week in when you’ve fell super deprived of donuts (cake, cookies, or whatever you love most that you can’t have) and then you go berserk and binge on it.
I fundamentally don’t believe that a person can build will-power like a muscle (now there is research to counter my point of view, but I think that they are flawed either in study design, working from a false premise, or interpreting the data incorrectly). Thus, I generally try to seek making an environment that “can’t” fail. If you can augment your neural chemistry, stay full longer, eat more food, not over work yourself, know yourself, and eat things that make it easier, WHY WOULDN’T YOU?
Here I’m going to expand on Whitney’s recent post and give a few tips on how to scientifically stack the deck in your favor. Granted, I am biased in the sense that I do overall endorse lower carbohydrate diets. When compared to normal one’s they work without counting calories, people feel more full, and will often maintain more muscle mass. However, these principles do work regardless of the type of diet you lean towards, and I’d be remiss to say that ultra hardcore raw food vegan diets don’t work, I am just a lowly vegetarian by the way. So here’s 5 tips to help you along your way.
5 tips when starting a new diet
1. Take omega 3s
Omega 3 fatty acids are more or less a godsend. Some evolution researchers believe that it was the ingestion of fish that gave us the cognitive edge over much stronger Neanderthals. Omega 3 fatty acids are alpha linolenic acid (ALA), primarily found in vegetable products, with flax seeds and chia seeds being some of the most potent sources. Also, there is docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). The latter two are found primarily in fish, fish oils, algae (how I get it), and there are some higher amounts in grass fed beef or more “natural” meats. These last two are the more important ones because of their substantial affects on the brain, cognition, development, inflammation, and over-all making you suck less.
Along with increasing working memory and other cognitive benefits, ingesting pretty high amounts of fish oil can impact many of the other parameters that are impacted by beginning a diet.
First off ingesting it seems to decrease anxiety in several different populations (1). This is pretty crucial because if you’re anything like anyone I’ve ever helped with diets you’ll experience some anxiety when you can’t eat pasta for every meal because its “easy”.
Ingesting omega 3’s seems to affect a significant neurotransmitter called serotonin (2). How it affects serotonin seems to be through inhibiting its reuptake. Any of you that have ever had depression have more than likely been put on serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRI’s). Thus, omega 3 supplementation tends to decrease overall depression scores (3). This is significant because starting a new diet (or anything for that matter) gets excruciatingly difficult if you are battling being sad about not being able to eat that muffin for breakfast.
Dopamine, another neurotransmitter, is a major modulator in motivation (4) and oddly enough omega 3’s moderate dopamine production in the brain (5).
This is pretty crucial because after starting something new it takes an absurd amount of motivation to stick to something, especially after the initial stage when our results aren’t coming as fast as they used to. Essentially, omega 3’s augment the brain’s reward and motivation systems and thereby reinforce good behavior (at least potentially).
2. Eat more protein
This is an easy one that just about everyone needs to do. Eating more protein increases satiety (6), so if you feel full you think about donuts WAY less. Yet again, I want to emphasize that the thermic effect of protein is greater (6). You can consume more total calories, be more full, and a lot of the food energy IS LOST AS HEAT! And just because I care about this more than I probably should, higher protein improves cognitive function overall (7). I will write later IN GREAT DETAIL about my dealings with stupid people.
So if you eat more protein, you can eat more food, feel less hungry, and be more awesome. What’s not to love? Now make sure that your protein is coming from complete sources like fish, eggs, beef, dairy (if you can tolerate it) and essentially anything that had parents, unless you’re a lame vegetarian like myself…
3. Exercise (but only if you want to)
Exercise for the right reasons. Adherences is associated with enjoyment, social interaction, and competence, NOT fitness or appearance (8). So, make sure that you are only doing it because you want to.
I try to emphasize that exercise really isn’t super important because EXERCISING TO BURN CALORIES IS STUPID!
One medium donut has about 250 Calories in it. Lets be honest, you won’t just eat one. So lets say you’ve taken omega 3’s and you have some willpower and you only eat two. That’s still about 500 Calories. Assuming that you aren’t super efficient at cardio (like how many gym goers are) You’d have to jog about 5 miles and depending on your speed that could take over an hour.
Clearly the better time investment is: JUST DON’T EAT THE DAMN DONUT!
Stress relief is another good reason to exercise. I’ve written in the past about how, as people, we probably need to expend some of our fight or flight energy either by sprinting really fast, lifting heavy stuff, or beating the hell out of a punching bag.
One more thing that I wanted to point out, is that will-power isn’t necessarily like muscle. You may not be able to train it and subsequently get more of it. Thus, dividing yourself over a bunch of tasks that require a bunch of attention (like diet and exercise) might be a terrible idea. Only take one at a time until you master it, and then move on.
4. Know your limits
What I mean by this is that you can’t eat like a 300 lb muscular man if you aren’t one. For women this sucks a lot of the time because they may see some men in their lives that can eat anything and want to mimic that behavior. They can’t of course. It sucks I know. I wish I could eat a gallon of ice cream everyday, but I just don’t have the amount of muscle mass to support this behavior.
One thing to keep in mind is that muscle mass is a pretty metabolic tissue (it doesn’t just burn tons of calories, but substantially more than most tissues except for your brain). So, the more muscle mass the more dietary leeway that you have. Muscle is just about the only storage site for carbohydrates (along with the liver). So if you are a low carber, you can eat slightly higher carbs and not experience any weight gain.
5. Adapt your metabolism
This is a topic that I’ll expand upon a lot more later because it has the potential to change how you feel, how you look, how you think, and make you the most awesome.
Essentially, switching your metabolism to burn fat can be done somewhat easily with just a few steps. They are ingest large quantities of medium chain triglycaride oil (MCT) also know as coconut oil (slightly different, but fight me). Ingesting larger amounts of caffeine aids in this process as well. Also, limiting super carbohydrate intensive exercise aids in this process (fast running, high rep weight lifting, and things in that same vein).
As always- Be awesome
1. Peet, M., & Horrobin, D. F. (2002). A dose-ranging study of the effects of ethyl-eicosapentaenoate in patients with ongoing depression despite apparently adequate treatment with standard drugs. Archives of General Psychiatry,59(10), 913.
2. Kodas, E., Galineau, L., Bodard, S., Vancassel, S., Guilloteau, D., Besnard, J. C., & Chalon, S. (2004). Serotoninergic neurotransmission is affected by n‐3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in the rat. Journal of neurochemistry, 89(3), 695-702.
3. Su, K. P., Huang, S. Y., Chiu, C. C., & Shen, W. W. (2003). Omega-3 fatty acids in major depressive disorder: a preliminary double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. European Neuropsychopharmacology, 13(4), 267-271.
4. Le Moal, M., & Simon, H. (1991). Mesocorticolimbic dopaminergic network: functional and regulatory roles. Physiological Reviews, 71(1), 155-234.
5. Zimmer, L., Vancassel, S., Cantagrel, S., Breton, P., Delamanche, S., Guilloteau, D., … & Chalon, S. (2002). The dopamine mesocorticolimbic pathway is affected by deficiency in n− 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 75(4), 662-667.
6. Long, S. J., Jeffcoat, A. R., & Millward, D. J. (2000). Effect of habitual dietary-protein intake on appetite and satiety. Appetite, 35(1), 79-88.
7. Fischer, K., Colombani, P. C., Langhans, W., & Wenk, C. (2002). Carbohydrate to protein ratio in food and cognitive performance in the morning. Physiology & behavior, 75(3), 411-423.
8. Ryan, R. M., Frederick, C. M., Lepes, D., Rubio, N., & Sheldon, K. M. (1997). Intrinsic motivation and exercise adherence. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 28, 335-354.