In this podcast, I chat with Menno Henselmans again in what’s meant as a part two to our last podcast on the science of self-control and willpower. This time, we’re specifically talking about willpower as it relates to diet.
The episode is chock-full of practical tips for improving your diet adherence, which can help you lose fat faster and more easily. This is something Menno is an expert on because he recently released a book called The Science of Self-Control, which is an evidence-based look at willpower that references over 500 scientific papers and distills it all down to actionable tips you can implement now.
Menno’s book is designed to help anyone boost their self-control so that they can better stick to a diet, work smarter (not harder), and simply put, be the best version of themselves. And this time, we’re focusing solely on the dietary part of the book.
In this interview, Menno explains why dieting is inherently difficult, ways to make it easier, how macronutrient composition, meal timing, and consistency can help (or hurt) adherence, cravings, the difference between satisfaction and satiety, tips for eating out and going off-plan, and a whole lot more.
Menno has been a repeat guest on my podcast, but in case you’re not familiar with him, he’s a former business consultant turned international public speaker, educator, writer, published scientist, and physique coach who’s passionate about helping serious athletes attain their ideal physiques.
So if you want to learn evidence-based tips to better stick to your diet, definitely check out this interview!
0:00 – Pre-order my new fitness book now for a chance to win over $12,000 in splendid swag: www.muscleforlifebook.com/
8:05 – Why is dieting difficult?
16:47 – Why do you only eat “healthy” foods with no junk?
19:15 – When do you feel a difference from your diet?
21:50 – What can we do to make dieting easier?
24:29 – Consistency is more important than “optimal”
26:05 – What are the key aspects of consistency that matter most?
27:19 – Are you always getting healthier when you get leaner? Is 15% body fat healthier than 10%?
29:59 – Does macronutrient composition matter in dieting?
32:45 – Why “if it fits your macros” with junk food isn’t sustainable
35:27 – Can you satiate a craving?
38:40 – The order you eat foods has a significant effect on adherence
39:41 – Meal satisfaction
43:43 – Meal timing
44:37 – Tips for eating out
45:50 – Why you shouldn’t save up calories by starving yourself before you go out to eat
48:53 – The satiety sweetspot
49:17 – The difference between craving pleasure (satisfaction) and satiety
52:15 – What should you do if you overeat one day?
56:14 – Where can people find your book on self-control and your other work?
Mentioned on the Show:
Pre-order my new fitness book now for a chance to win over $12,000 in splendid swag: www.muscleforlifebook.com/
Menno’s new book: The Science of Self-Control
What did you think of this episode? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!
Mike: For decades now, most doctors have recommended cardio over strength training because they believed it produced more health benefits, stressed the body less, and it was more popular among the public. We now know though that strength training has multiple major advantages over cardio, and if you had to pick just one kind of exercise, it should be strength.
That said, there are good reasons to include cardio in your exercise routine as well. First, as the term implies, cardio boosts the health and the function of your cardiovascular system. For instance, while cardio and strength training are. About equally effective for reducing blood pressure. Research shows that doing both reduces blood pressure the most.
Additionally, cardio but not strength training helps keep your arteries flexible and responsive to changes in blood flow. And that’s why studies show that people who do the most cardio have these sublist arteries, and that is crucial for maintaining healthy blood pressure. And minimizing stress on your heart and blood vessels.
Another circulatory downside to aging is the reduction of the capillary health and density of your muscles and other tissues. And studies show that cardio can significantly increase capillary density, which is the number of capillaries in an area of the body in muscle tissue, in just a. Weeks cardio also burns substantially more calories per unit of time than strength training does.
And that of course can help you lose fat faster and help you keep it off more effectively. Cardio is great for body composition maintenance for that reason. And when you combine strength training, And cardio together. And when you combine them, especially in the way that I teach in my new book, Muscle for Life, which you can learn about at Muscle for Life book.com, muscle f o r life book.com.
You can maximize fat loss without hindering. Muscle or strength gain. So the takeaway here is with moderate, sustainable and effective doses of strength training and cardiovascular exercise, you can build a body that looks, feels, and functions like a well-oiled machine and cardio’s easier to incorporate into your fitness regimen than.
Think too. In fact, in Muscle for Life, I share three simple principles that allow you to enjoy most of the benefits cardio has to offer with none of the potential downsides. And again, you can learn all about that book as well as the now it’s over $13,000 of Cool goodies, fitness goodies that I’m giving away to people who pre-order the [email protected].
Hello. Hello, I’m Mike Matthews and this is Muscle for Life. Thank you for joining me today, and if you haven’t already, please do take a moment to subscribe to the show in whatever app you’re listening to me in so you don’t miss any new episodes. They will be queued up for you. And it helps me by boost, by boosting, by boosting the ranking of the show in the various charts.
So this episode was a fun one. This was one of the more stimulating conversations I’ve had recently. In it, I talk with my buddy Menno Hensman, again, about a similar topic to our previous discussion, which is the science of self-control and willpower. But this time we talk about dieting in particular, the first discussion that we had, the part one if you.
Was more broadly about self-control and willpower because Minnow recently released a book on the topic and I wanted to have him back on to dive into self-control and willpower with dieting. And this episode is chalk full of practical tips for improving your. Diet adherence. This is not just academic theory.
You are going to be a better dieter by the end of this episode, I promise you, and that means losing fat faster and more easily, maintaining your ideal body composition more easily, or even gaining muscle and strength faster and more easily because lean, gaining can be. Similarly difficult to cutting.
It’s difficult in different ways, but many people struggle to successfully lean, gain, mostly because they get sick of eating a lot of food, and they have the opposite problem of when they’re cutting. And all of that is something that Minnow is an expert on, not only because he. Is a veteran, evidence based researcher and writer, and he is also a coach with a lot of experience working with normal everyday people.
But Minnow also recently released a book called The Science of Self-Control, which is an evidence based. Handbook. I think that’s the right term because it’s very practical. It has over 500 scientific citations, but it is not a dry, complicated textbook. Not that all textbooks are like that, but many textbooks are that give you a lot of.
Theory and then leave it up to you to figure out what to do with all of it. Minnow’s book is not like that Minnow’s book was written with an eye to application, which resonates with me because I try to do that in all of my work. I don’t just want to teach people interesting facts. I want to teach people useful things that they can.
Put into application and get good results with. And so in this interview, Minnow is going to share a lot of the material that is in his book. He’s going to talk about why dieting is inherently difficult, several simple science based ways to make it easier to stick to a diet, how macronutrient composition, meal timing, and consistency can help or hurt dietary adherence.
He talks about craving. The difference between satisfaction and satiety, tips for eating out and eating off plan and a whole lot more. And in case you are not familiar with Minnow, he has been on my podcast a number of times. He is a former business consultant, turned international public speaker educator, writer, published scientist and physique coach, who is passionate about helping serious athletes attain their ideal performance and physique.
Hey, Mano, it’s good to see you again. Thanks for coming back and taking your time.
Menno: My pleasure. Always good to talk. Yeah. Yeah.
Mike: So this the idea here was to kinda make this a part two of our previous talk, which was about your newest book about self-control and discipline and willpower. And the first discussion for people listening, if you didn’t listen to, You don’t have to listen to it, for this discussion, but it will provide good context because in that talk, Minnow gave some o overarching principles that would apply to anything, not just fitness related things.
And in this talk though, I thought it would make sense to get into diet the context of diet in particular and how we can use. I guess you could say evidence based strategies and tactics to help with dieting. And a lot of that obviously comes down to compliance. But that can start with design, because some diets are easier to stick to than others and are better in that regard. And yeah that’s the general topic for today’s discussion. And Meno I’ll just give it to you because I. , you you have a lot to say on this.
Menno: Sure, yeah. In my book I go into a lot of tips on how to improve diet adherence, focusing on willpower.
And the first important thing probably to realize is that dieting in itself relies on willpower inherently because, Essentially it’s an investment. You are foregoing something. Now, certain foods that you may want or you are more primitive brain, you are system one for those that followed previous talk once, but you choose not to eat.
So if you didn’t have hunger and you didn’t have these sensations that drives you to eat certain foods, then diet thing would be as simple as simply making a. Unfortunately that’s not the case. We can’t just say, Okay, I’m just gonna eat broccoli and chicken and that’s it. Because you’re gonna have cravings, you’re gonna be hungry.
You’re gonna feel restrained and restricted. And interestingly, it’s exactly that feeling of being restricted. That is the primary problem with, because this is a serious rat pill moment for those that haven’t seen this research, but. In research where people are unaware that they are in energy deficits, they are zero cognitive, behavioral, psychological, or sleep related effects.
Of the diet. In fact, a recent, pretty recent math analysis found that diet related symptoms or side effects, so troubles with concentrating, fatigue, those kind of things, they were unrelated to the degree of weight loss. Completely unrelated, meaning people that were not actually losing weight at all. So they were trying but failing.
So they were actually at energy mainten. Not an energy deficit, and they still have the same number of side effects, the same problems, Whereas in, for example, military personnel where they just have. Rations and they don’t know how much they’re eating. Or in experiments where people eat modified gels, so they have no idea of what they’re eating.
They just know it’s a certain amount of gel, it has a certain flavor, and one group has basically maintenance, e energy intake, and the other group consumes essentially zero. Galleries, and you can do that for several days. And there are no differences when you unleash a battery of psychological and cognitive testing on these people.
Like they perform equally well on IQ tests, reaction times their mood states. They also, they can’t tell in these kind of experiments whether they were in the diets group or not. But if you contrast that with most people’s experience with dieting, it’s a completely different world, right? Because.
Almost everyone that I’ve talked to thinks dieting has some negative effects on how they feel. So it’s that feeling of restriction, knowing that you’re dieting. That is a key part of the problem, and that is also the feeling of being restricted and having to give up certain things. Making choices.
That is the biggest problem with dieting. Now, may, maybe in contest prep where you actually get near starvation levels lead, then maybe we can talk physical effects. But for most people that just want decent six pack and not like crazy contest shape, most of the effects of dieting are not physical effects of the dieting.
They’re mental effects. They’re in the. So that is the foundation of everything. I think realizing that first.
Mike: That’s interesting. And that makes me think of the last little cut that I did, which was during, so it was. Maybe six months, four to six months of last year when the first round of lockdowns first began.
And so I couldn’t go to the gym and I was at home doing home workouts, and I wasn’t driving to the office or to the gym. And so it’s yeah, I’ll just. Take that time and I’ll just do some cardio and I’m not gonna change anything about how I’m eating though. And it was very easy. And I guess there’s a caveat in that I, I can’t say that I’ve ever had a particularly rough time of cutting, but I have had cuts where I do start to notice it.
And the end point of this previous cut. It did not feel like a diet at all. And of course I was eating the foods I like to eat but that point of making no change to my diet probably helped make it even easier when all I did is just increase my activity level, eat exactly the same in a calorie deficit, but had no, I wouldn’t have known it.
All I noticed is I just got a little bit leaner. A little bit leaner until eventually I was like, Okay, I guess I’m pretty lean now and I’ll just stop here. And that end point was comparable to previous cuts I’ve gotten. I. Pretty lean. It’s hard to say exactly, but maybe somewhere between eight and 10% where I think that’s where most guys like to be.
For looking good. And but in previous cuts where the diet was a little bit more aggressive and I guess the perception of it was a little bit different. It did, it, it did feel a bit harder.
Menno: Yeah, definitely. And I think what you have is most people should aspire to. I think that is the idea of being successful at diet thing is when you can diet at Lium, without necessarily tracking everything that you eat, you just know what kind of foods are good for you and you eat them until you’re associated and then you automatically essentially lose fat.
And you just stop when you’re happy with how you look in the mirror. That is, I think the ideal endpoint for most people. When you get so good at dieting and in particular managing your appetite, that you can just get to that point. And then for many people and myself too, cutting is actually easier than bulk.
Yeah. Because for bulking, you have to be more meticulous, Kate, you can’t just, Dreamer Bowl can eat whatever you want. You get fat. Yep. And if you eat your regular food choices that, or at least probably for us regularly you don’t end up in energy surplus anymore. So you probably need more tracking.
Mike: And I think we’re maybe the flip side is you just eat more of the stuff you normally, if I were to do that, I probably would. I like to eat oatmeal at night. Like, all right, so it’s usually about a cup dry. Cut it. Put some nuts and fruit in it. Fine. That turns into maybe two cups or That’s probably the way I would, I haven’t done a lean bulk in a while cause I don’t really see the purpose in it.
Cause I’m not gonna really gain much of anything anyway. I’ll just get fatter. . But that’s probably how I would approach it. .
Menno: Yeah. And that only works to a certain point though, especially if I have an adaptive metabolism. For me, when I end the cut at like 2000 calories and then I, for the bulk, I have to go up to 4,000 above it very quickly.
I’m already eating a lot of food. True. At that point, at 2000 calories. So I definitely cannot double that. .
Mike: True. That is the last time I was lean, gaining, I had to end, I was around maybe 4,300, and for me, probably similar to. That feels I was force feeding myself basically. I, it was the final meal of the day in particular.
It’s fine. I did it, but I didn’t enjoy it at all. Like I could’ve stopped eating probably at noon and would’ve been totally fine with that. I wouldn’t have gotten hungry again for the rest of the day.
Menno: Yeah, me too. When I go over about 95 kilos I’m for feeding now. I could easily do it if I started eating junk food.
But I have a sort of mantra for myself to only eat healthy food for nutritious food that has no adverse health effect. Let me put it that way. And yeah, it just it’s basically a luxury problem, because of course it is a problem. But on the other end, you can just stay leaner and then your appetite’s higher.
Cuz the leaner you are, the higher your appetites always naturally is cuz you have lower left levels. So it’s definitely the focus for almost everyone I think should be. How to get lean in a very sustainable, low effort fashion. And then if you have, if you’re one of the individuals that actually has the luxury problem of having difficulty with bulking, then you know, you can use some of these tips in reverse.
And but mostly for a lot of people it’s okay, you have 600 calories that you need to fill in, need a chocolate bar. Done? Yep. Peanut butter sandwiches. Okay. Oh you’re still eating lean dairy. Let’s make it full fat or lean meats. Let’s make it full fat meat. I see egg whites in there.
Mike: We can use whole eggs and also fruits and vegetables. Yeah. Eat a lot less of that stuff.
Menno: Yeah. Yeah. You don’t need that much of those,
Mike: Yeah. and I want, I wanna get back to the planned topic. But you said something that I’m just curious and I wanna hear your thoughts on regarding, You said it’s a mantra of yours to stick to nutritious foods or foods that don’t have any adverse health effects.
I’m curious what you mean exactly.
Menno: Yeah, basically a diet that’s and why, I’m just, because it sounds like you are just based on the comments you made, that I’m sure you’re probably not against having some chocolate every day, for example, but it sounds like you will only allow so much of that as opposed to some people are somewhere, maybe they’re not full Iif, yms, so to speak.
And I’ve run across a lot of these people in the gym too, that they. They don’t eat very much fruits and vegetables ever. Period, for example.
Menno: Yeah. Yeah. I talk about if I fm in the book as well, by the way, if it fits your macros it’s another interesting topic we can touch on.
But for me, I basically optimize the health of my diet because want optimal health. I, it’s like exercise both mentally and physically for me is a way to make the best version of myself I can. And hell, Health is a big part of that. And I’m also actually very sensitive to changes in diet.
Cause I, for example, for a period actually tried, What if I still eat mostly Whole Foods? . But for example, I don’t pay attention to the fatty acid ratio of my diets, and that ended up me basically eating just saturated fat and then my blood lips actually skyrocket. They were really bad very quickly. So LDL super high?
Yeah, LDL super high. That in particular? Yeah. HDL was low. So I actually have to pay attention to this. And I also have I think it just hereditary factors like I wa wasp genes, if you will, which most people have a hereditary predisposition for high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
And that’s definitely the case for me. So it’s also relevant and some clients I know can use more like the 80 20 rule where it’s 20%. Relative junk in their diet, at least when their bulk and it’s, everything’s completely fine. But for me, I actually see a difference in blood work. So I definitely are on the side of just making everything healthy as possible.
Mike: When do you feel a difference? Cause a lot of people don’t get, they don’t get blood work done, so they wouldn’t know unless there, there’s something that they notice, like it could be worse digestion, it could be worse sleep, it could be brain fog.
Menno: Yeah. I think digestion is probably the thing that people.
First, but there are a lot of adverse health effects that people don’t readily notice. Yeah. Yeah. In fact, if you take a bunch of people out of the population at random, then almost all of them will have at least one micronutrient deficiency and it’s hard to pinpoint for them like what Cause it, cuz it’s some, it’s something that creeps up over time and occurs gradually and you just get used to feeling a certain way.
You don’t know that, that way is suboptimal.
Mike: That’s what is so insidious about any non optimum state, whether it’s mental state or a physical state or being in a shitty relationship. Is just how easily we can adapt to shitty circumstances and Yeah. Yeah, exactly. And just go this is the new normal.
, and then if you are able to break through and fix it, then of course we’ve all had that experience where we look back and then we realize how bad it was before and we then wonder how we ever put up with it. It’s just one of those, it seems to be perennially human things that we all have to struggle.
Menno: Definitely. And with dieting sleep that, that is very much the case. If you look back on, your first diets like, Oh , that was bad. Yeah, it’s true.
Mike: That’s true. So let’s segue back to dieting. And okay, so we have this this framework here this mental framework, which is probably news to a lot of people listening cause I.
A lot of people, they think that even a mild calorie deficit within a week, you have all of these physiological things that start happening, metabolic adaptation, and it just it’s a very slippery slope. And if you don’t take a diet break every four weeks, you are just gonna feel miserable, et cetera, et cetera.
And So if, let’s just accept your, obviously it’s not your, but let’s accept this proposition that you put forward, which is for a lot of people who are looking to go from outta shape to in shape or probably even some people who are pretty in shape, who want to get really in shape, maybe something comparable to what I was talking about, my little covid cut.
And if. Most of the major obstacles are gonna be, I guess maybe a word could be psychogenic or just it’s more psychosomatic than it is actually physical. What are some things we can do to make that process to make that process easier to stop our mind from messing with us so much?
Menno: A lot of it comes down to basically when you realize that the problems are the restriction.
And the feelings associated with that and having to make choices you don’t like in your diet. A big part of it, other than realizing the first place, you’re not actually becoming healthier. You’re actually becoming a lot healthier. Like objectively. Almost every health biomarker improves in energy deficit even up to really lean levels.
So other than that, and realizing that there is a big part of successful dieting revolves. Not feeling restricted and restrained. And you can do that, for example, with successful appetite management so that you don’t you can eat as much as you want. You don’t, you’re not hungry, cuz hunger is, you always feel restricted when you’re hungry and you can’t eat more and reducing choices, not thinking about food.
I think one of the biggest problems a lot of people have when they’re dieting and in particular people that are very serious about. Is that they obsess the crap out of their diet and that only makes things worse. Cause dieting is like sleep. If you obsess too much over your sleep, you’re only making it worse.
And with dieting as well you’re not gonna make your diet any better if every day anew. You’re trying to tinker things and trying to optimize things cuz there’s just, there’s a range of basically optimal, for most people. You can mix a lot of different diets that are all result in similar effects both for your physique and.
So it’s not like there’s the one optimal magical number. Plus there’s actually a lot of research that shows that variation itself is detrimental, not just for diet adherence, but also for our mood and our cognitive functioning. For example, researchers have looked at the effect of changing the size of a meal that people are used to at a certain time of day.
For example, at lunch you’re used to a 500 calorie meal, and then some days they give them a thousand calorie meal and the other group just eats 500. And they can also do it at breakfast, blah, blah. And then they see if you eat a meal, that’s different, Very different. Not like hunter’s calories, but very different in size than you used to.
And also if that has different macronutrient composition, like very different, you go from keto to high carb, you actually have a worse mood typically. And. Cognitively you perform worse. So things like reaction time might deteriorate. If you do a testing, like acute testing, you’ll probably perform a bit worse on IQ test after an unusual meal.
And in general, one of the biggest predictors of successful diet is consistency in everything. People that are very consistent, even if it’s not necessarily optimal, but they’re doing things very consistently, those people are much, much more successful than other people. And if you realize that fully, then you can also see why I’m not a big proponent of things.
Mike: If it fits your macros in the sense of having a new meal plan every single day. I like the, or even on the fly every day thinking, All right, what do I want to eat for lunch? And then searching calories and macros. Oh, that doesn’t work. Okay, maybe I can, What about that? All right. What if I cut that in half and like that stuff,
Menno: Yes, definitely. Yeah. And diet break. Also not a fan. Any kind of very dramatic cycling or changes in the diet that do not have a very clear purpose, you have to be very wary of because if you can just make things very simple and basically make you know the road to success, the path of least resistance, and make the path that you’re on the default.
The best possible option. So for example, if you do meal planning and you have a fridge full of foods, and you already know, Okay, lunchtime, I put this ware box in the microwave, this is my meal. That’s the default. And then if you don’t think at all, you don’t make any choices, you just follow the plan, then you’re gonna be successful.
Whereas if you don’t have a meal plan, And you have to think, Okay, what am I gonna eat? And especially when you’re hungry, it’s the worst possible time to actually, you have to make those choices is much, much more difficult for yourself.
Mike: Absolutely. And so what are some of these key points? You mentioned consistency.
What are some of the key aspects of consistency that matter the most? Like I can, I. I can hear people wondering is it consistency of meal time? Is that the key or should, is it the calories or is it the macros? Is it the food choices or is it a bit of everything?
Menno: Basically everything.
Yeah. It’s it’s remarkably or it’s remarkable how much consistency matters in you, like every single field, like macronutrient, composition of the. The size of your habitual meals has been found to play role nutrient timing as in consistency of meal times. It was actually just a recent study that’s confirmed what I wrote also in the book, that if you have your meals at a regular times, the firm effect of food is actually significantly lower.
Like it’s not hundreds of calories. But based on the estimates from the two best studies that we have, you’re looking at a five to 10% difference possibly in total daily energy intake. In people that have their meals at the same time versus people that have different times every day. And that’s, that’s, that could be the difference between maintaining and being in a successful cut.
Mike: And you mentioned that when we are getting leaner, we are getting healthier. I could see that as something that, that many people, they had to Wait, did he say was that did he mean the other way around? Because again, many people especially if somebody is already looking fit it’s obvious.
If somebody’s very overweight and they’re going to a healthy body comp, let’s say a guy at 15% body. It’s totally fine. He’s gonna look fine, fit, healthy, But to go from 15% to 10% is it’s, and in women, let’s call it 25 to 20, that’s probably often considered not a healthy process. And then I know some people will say even well being at 10% or 20 as a woman is generally less healthy than 15 or 20.
Menno: Yeah. And that’s definitely false. That’s objectively false. So it, there is definitely an argument to be made when you’re talking about. 5% and 15% for men and women respectively.
Mike: But I’ve never been, I’ve never been to 5%.
Menno: Maybe you have, but most people, I’m listening that probably like I’ve hads for my last contest.
But yeah then you definitely don’t feel good . But for most people, if you objectively look at their health biomark, And you can literally do this yourself. If you’re 15% body fat as a guy, 25% as a woman, do your blood work. Don’t change anything in your diet in terms of general food choice and everything.
Lose like 5% body fat. Go to the doctor again. You’ll find your resting heart rate’s probably lower. Your cholesterol profile’s probably better. Your level of insulin resistance is almost certainly lower. The only thing that might deteriorate is your anabolic hormone levels. And do you think that’ll be meaningful though?
Yeah, that’s what I was gonna say. Like as long as they don’t go below the physiological range, they might at some point in contest prep, but they should like 10% body fat for a guy or 20 years a woman. It’s actually debatable if that’s really gonna affect longevity because hormone replacements therapy, for example, in elderly individuals and postmenopausal women, does not seem to affect all cost mortality.
It has some pros, it has some cons, so there might be slightly elevated risk. Cancer and certain types of cardiovascular conditions, other types of cardiovascular conditions are less likely to occur. Sexual levels seem to be, they definitely increase wellbeing, but they don’t really seem to affect longevity and full cost mortality.
Mike: Innocent, which means like your total risk of dying from anything basically. And what are your thoughts about macronutrient composition in the context of dieting? Many people that reach out to me, they understand high protein. There’s a little argument about that, but then I see a lot of people put a lot of attention on carb versus fat, and what’s the idea?
Yes. Should it be 40, 40, 20? Should it be 40, 30, 30? And so on.
Menno: Yeah. That’s an interesting thing with the. The whole flexible dieting range where there has been a major de-emphasis on food choices, but a huge emphasis on macronutrients. And I think a lot of people are actually quite obsessed with their macronutrients and they think of their foods.
You ask them like, What are you gonna eat? Like carbs? You don’t eat carbs. Okay? You eat a certain foods, you’re eating like potatoes or rice. It’s like protein or fat, cause there, and there are huge differences in kind tasty carbs.
Mike: What do you mean? Yeah, 50 gram. What do you want?
Menno: If you say fat, does that mean you’re drinking oil or you’re eating an avocado or, there’s huge difference in ground beef in effects.
Yeah. And exactly. Is it is fatty beef is that protein or fat? What about nuts? They’re carbs and fat and protein. Yeah, exactly. So any case that, that focus on macronutrients is definitely misplaced in a sense of, in the context of diet adherence and in fact in most contexts, actually, Especially when you’re talking minor differences.
There, there really aren’t any effects. And also in the book, I review the research on what kind of the optimal diet is, and you basically find as long as you’re consistent, it doesn’t really matter. There are a few principles like high protein works, but high protein means at least 1.6 gram per kilogram per day.
Above that, you again, don’t really see more effects. Super low fat and super low carb, but especially low fat does not. Like zero fat diets. You see this a lot in competitors. Works fine for a couple weeks, maybe even months, and then you completely burn outs. Typically unless you’re on gear, then it’s not as bad cuz you, if you get your hormones from a needle, you don’t need fats to make your body produce them itself.
And super low carb like keto carnivore. Shows some trends to be worse in the long run, but I think that’s mostly because people have a very difficult time implementing them properly, especially in research. A lot of people think keto is drinking olive oil, then no, it’s more like eating avocado.
You’re still eating vegetables. Keto is also not about minimizing carb intake, so I think that’s more, wrong implementation, getting micronutrient deficiencies and the like, rather than really necessarily. Suffering from the lack of carbs. So the most, most important thing, again is by far just getting the basics right of your diet and then being consistent.
And other than that, food choices are actually far more predictive of long-term diet success than macronutrients, composition of the diet. If someone’s still eating ice cream and pizza, then you can fit those things into your diet if you are tracking your energy intake. But even that up to a point is simply not sustainable.
If I want to eat a thousand calories of pizza or ice cream, and at some point in my diet I have to go to 2000 calories a day, I’m going to be super, super hungry and nobody gets successful long run, being hungry every day. So it’s theoretically viable. In physical terms, as long as we’re eating 2000 calories, you can fit some pizza in there.
But behaviorally speaking, it’s not. You also get into the problem that if you eat a little bit of pizza, but you can’t satiate yourself with pizza anymore, it can only result in further cravings.
Mike: And that’s why, for example, take ice cream for me, I eat ice cream if I’m maintaining, which I, that’s what I’ve been doing for some time now.
I like to have it once a week, unless some gonna be eating at a restaurant or something, but I don’t really like eating ice cream unless I eat a. Like for me, having a hundred, 200 calories of ice cream, it’s just not enjoyable at all. I’d rather just not do it. I’d rather actually just eat some oatmeal with some nuts and fruit.
So if I’m gonna eat ice cream, I want to eat the whole pint. And the brand I currently like is this brand called Jenny’s, and that’s a thousand calories a pint. And so I’ll do that once a week. But. That’s just once a week. I’m, I don’t nibble on the ice cream every day cuz I know that even if I have good, a good relationship with food and good discipline, I’m still gonna want to eat more and it’s just gonna be annoying.
So my little daily treat if I want to have something is just some dark chocolate. Cause I don’t have to eat much of that at all. And I, and it’s, and it just, I like it. I don’t, I can have just a square or two and be like, Oh, that, that’s nice. Not the case with ice cream. So going to your point of food choices I think if I’m hearing you, People that they need to understand what works for them.
That’s not the case. I I know people who they can eat five spoons of ice cream and feel, Hey, that was great. They can put it away. That’s not me though.
Menno: Yeah. And for a lot of people it’s not, even though they think it is . So a lot of people think, I just need a little bit of this and portion control in general.
Seems to be short term successful for some people, but long term really does not do well. So all that stuff goes right out the window when people get really lean and muscular, which massively increases your appetite. And if you just need a little bit, it just, it increases the craving. So I think that’s one of the biggest myths also in terms of diet adherence.
The idea that you satiate a craving and then it’s gone. Like it, it does not work. And then there, there are numerous studies on this, like literally I think at least a dozen, where they show that not eating a food reduces the craving for that food. And as long as you keep indulging in the. You keep fueling the craving and it doesn’t even matter how much you eat.
So if you eat a little bit of ice cream, you fuel the craving just as much as if you eat a lot. In fact, in large portions, this can be better to eat a lot, especially if you get nauseous because then you get a negative food association. Yeah, . So these are all things that work well when really isn’t a problem yet, but you see typically that when they get leaner, more muscular and those things don’t work anymore.
And there’s a lot of research showing that. There are some tricks that you can implement it like ice cream for example. There’s research on chocolate cravings, which shows if you indulge in the craving a little bit after you are already satiated. It induces far less for fewer cravings than if you eat the chocolate first or on an empty stomach.
Which makes sense, right? Because then if you eat it afterwards, you’re basically, you’re already full and you just have a little bit purely for the taste. But if you eat it really to eat to shake yourself, then you’re gonna feel restricted because you can’t eat the whole thing.
Mike: That’s a great point.
And that’s something that I’ve always done. I didn’t I didn’t realize that it, it’s an evidence based way to manage cravings, but I’ve always tacked whatever little thing I want to have. It’s always been, for me it’s almost always after dinner. But it’s not a meal unto itself.
I’m not gonna have a 3:00 PM snack of just like half of a chocolate bar or. Did you know that right now I am in the middle of a big book Launch Bonanza for my new fitness book for men and women of all ages and Abilities, Muscle for Life, which is releasing on January 11th and is currently available for pre-order over at Muscle for Life book.com.
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Menno: Yeah. The order in which you eat foods actually has very significant effects on diet adherence in research. And in my book I use the analogy of eating sushi with traditional Japanese order. And there the order is that you start with the least flavorful or most mundane kind of foods like the meso soup and aame the white fish.
And then you move up to more flavorful and more fatty kinds of. And that order is very successful for two reasons. One is that if you start with the fatty stuff, then you actually just induce the craving and then you switch the other stuff. You don’t want it anymore. Like you don’t want soup anymore when you’ve just already started eating ice cream, right?
But if you eat soup first when you’re hungry, you actually might like to soup, and then later on you are gonna be content with far less ice. And because you’re basically filling up your appetite units with lean foods, you reduce the total energy intake of the meal a lot. And there’s also one thing that’s I think very important to realize.
Research very consistently finds that meal satisfaction is completely unrelated to energy intake. lot of people think, especially if they go to a buffet, that they get the most satisfaction when they try the most things and they eat a lot. That’s not true. Like satisfaction is a psychological phenomenon.
It’s the brain registering satiety mostly, like you have a certain emotion, or in this case a feeling that which is mostly hunger. And if you. Satiates that emotion, like that’s where you satiate yourselves in this case of hunger. Then the brain creates positive emotions basically because it’s mission accomplished.
But the brain does not have a system where it’s like, Oh, we need this amount of calories. It’s actually with dieting, there are a lot of things where the brain is not that smart evolutionary speaking or it’s even smarter if you look at the even bigger picture than we think. So there are a lot of ways you can manipulate and trick the brain into being satiated or satisfied in general, much earlier with a certain type of meal.
Mike: And something that is probably worth mentioning just to, to carry that on is research showing that the amount of food volume that you eat has more to do with satiety than the calories. Yes. And that’s, I think, a useful tip when. To that point, I can eat a big vegetable dinner. I just call it vegetable slop that I’ve been eating forever.
Talk about consistency. I think two years now. I basically have the same dinner every, call it Monday through Thursday, maybe Monday through Friday, or even on the weekends if my family’s outta town or whatever, and it’s just a bunch of vegetables, some meat. Some, like, it’s like a bastardized Frankenstein stir fry, and I don’t, At one point I probably worked out the calories just to have an understanding of my overall calorie intake.
But it’s certainly not a high calorie meal, but it’s very filling and it’s very satisfying. Even when I’m hungry, even though it is just really a bunch of vegetables. It’s probably five to six servings of vegetables just in one go with meat.
Menno: Yeah, that’s perfect. I have a lot of things like that too.
A lot of soups that I really like. Soups are great. Yeah. I think a lot of people that are very successful with dieting, if you look at what they actually eat, it’s very consistent. They, I often joke that in large part the key to successful dieting is simply finding like four keeper recipes. And if you found those, then you’re basically set For example, I had one, one client, which he did not realize, but he actually loved zucchini.
And I gave him a zucchini soup recipe and he made that and he was like, This is amazing. And then he started implementing zucchini and everything made zoo. They made oodles, and that basically that one thing was for him, the difference between struggling massively with dieting. And since then, he literally said like a week later, I think I have permanently solved the dieting issue.
Because he could just eat loads of zucchini. Whenever he wants to lose fat, just eat loads of zucchini. Done you that. That was it. Zucchini diet, there’s a,
Mike: Yeah, he loved this diet.
Menno: Zucchini is super nutritious, super satiating, so he never had problems anymore with. Consuming mature calories. That was just it.
That was like the one golden thing he needed.
Mike: And I understand that. Trying to think. I guess I, I really like Brussels sprouts, so I eat ’em every day. I eat zucchini as well, that goes into my slop. But and everybody listening, I’m sure can immediately. Think of some nutritious, relatively low calorie food that you just really like, and especially if you find the right recipe, right?
And there are so many different ways to prepare things. It’s hard to not be able to find something like that. Like maybe the guy seems like he’s a little bit lucky in that he just loves zuki, can just pound zucchini all day in five different ways, and he loves it. All right, fine. Maybe that doesn’t work for a lot of people.
But what about three things and what about just three, go-tos? And I think that’s a great tip. Definitely. Yeah. What about meal timing?
Menno: Yeah. For diet adherence, again, consistency is the most important thing. Research on appetite generally finds, including a recent math analysis that the sweet spot is typically around free or four meals.
Most people do worse. Funny enough, the olds body building idea was that you need six, it’s better. But I think almost everyone has found for themselves. It’s actually really arent, when you get to low energy intakes to have six meals, cuz you just have tiny meals and there isn’t a single meal for the day that really says shit you.
So most people I think are best off with three or four, Two might actually be good for some people in terms. Diet adherence, but it’s most likely suboptimal for muscle growth slash retention. So I wouldn’t experiment with that unless it’s a lot easier for you diet adherence twice and you don’t care about maximizing muscle mass.
Mike: And what about eating out, I know that’s something I get asked about fairly often?
Menno: Yeah. There, there are a lot of good things you can. To minimize the damage there. The food order tip that we discussed, like starting with the least flavor for options, having your protein in fiber first in particular, that’s really important because then you’re also in a position to make much more rational choices.
Another tip from recent studies is that starting with something with the PAMI flavor and free glutamate, like mushrooms or tomatoes actually increases self-control and lower energy intake because the free glutamate seems to affect glutamate receptors in a mouth that subsequently enhance self-control and lower energy intake.
One of those things that MSG in, in soups has, is what research actually originally started with. And I found that it, it works like it’s actually a significant diet adherence booster to have an artificial flavor enhancer in your food . That’s h ironic. Ironic. Yeah. Pretty pretty crazy. But that’s, that’s one of those tips that’s almost too good to be true, but it actually works.
And another thing, I think the thing that most people do wrong is they save up calories by basically starving themselves before they go out. And you should think of it as you’re going to eat foods that have a higher energy density than the foods you normally eat. So you have a certain amount of appetite units, and if you’re gonna fill them with those foods, you’re gonna end up with a far higher energy intake than otherwise, Which means that if you starve yourself and then you’re gonna pig out on pizza and ice cream, you’re gonna do heinous damage.
Whereas if you show up already satiated, which is actually what I recommend for a lot of people actually at home first, eating a soup, for example, first eating a big bowl of tomato or a zucchini. And then you show up to the barbecue or wherever else you’re going. Then for one, you’re not starving, so you can make much more rational decisions and you can just eat the food for flavor rather than having to satiate yourself with those high energy density foods.
So it’s much more effective to switch to very lean foods, like just eating your filler recipe with a lot of vegetables, lean protein sources, saving up calories, but not starving yourself, rather than just saying what a lot of people do. In my experiences, for example, Oh, I’m going out to eat, I’m going, am I gonna skip the mule beforehand?
And that is not only not effective, it’s actually directly counter product. Because you’re gonna have more appetite at the cheap meal.
Mike: Makes sense. And that’s something, a mistake, I’m sure you I’ve made many times in the past and Yep. I, what I found my way to, and this is what I would say have most recently recommended is don’t mind saving up calories, but to your point, I’m going.
Probably most of my protein for the day. I’m probably gonna have some fruits, some vegetables. I’m gonna eat some, the, I’m not gonna come into the meal having only eaten a couple hundred calories so I can like, Oh, I have 3000 calories to eat in this meal. I’m gonna, I’m gonna come into it. Not any hungrier than I would normally.
Feel for, let’s call it a dinner, right? , And I’m gonna eat enough food and enough of the right foods to make sure that I feel more or less normal. And then I don’t restrict myself at the meal, but I also, I’ve learned to not and this is probably something that you might even have in the back of your mind to mention as well, that I’ve learned that.
You don’t have to, I think of Thanksgiving, which is coming up where in the past, just for fun, basically I would eat seven plates of food to the point where it was actually painful. I’m on the couch, can’t move, sweating . And it was fun, at like plate three. And then I kept going because yeah, it tasted good.
But have learned that you get most of the satisfaction just eating to the point of com of satie. And no more hunger and I’ve tasted everything enough and then just stopping there, yeah.
Menno: There, there’s good research on this where people have a satiety sweet spot. And I quote, I often like to mention it’s from Louis CK where it says the meal is not over when I’m full.
The meal is over when I hate myself.
Mike: Yes,exactly. That, that, that was my old Thanksgiving routine.
Menno: Yeah. I think for a lot of people, it is really good to have this framework that. Satiety is happens on a continuum. There’s certain points where you’re starving. And also good to realize for diet adherence.
By the way, if you are really hungry and someone’s there’s a saying in the Netherlands, actually, if you’re really hungry, then raw beans will taste sweet to you. So if you think I would love some beans right now, then you’re actually hungry. But if you’re like, No, I don’t think I’ll have beans ice cream though.
I think I can go for some ice cream. They are not really hungry. Then you’re just craving. Pleasure, basically. And that is a really important distinction also for yourself to note because that what I call the two Ss of diet adherence. You have to be satiated and satisfied and those things have different kind of things you can do for them.
And like with this simple test, you basically know if you’re problem at the moment is actual satiety or status satisfaction, which is more psychological. Where was that originally going?
Mike: We were talking about the, this idea of coming into a restaurant meal, for example, being safe.
sat society spectrum and so yeah. So I’ll guess, I’m guessing what you’re like, okay, you’ve checked off the satiety. Now you can go to that meal and just chase the satisfaction and not have to also try to get satiety from.
Menno: And with fullness on the other side of the spectrum, there’s also a sweet spot that you should be aware of where, like you say, you can be a certain point, you’re full and you don’t need food anymore, but you can keep eating and at certain points, if you keep eating, it actually makes you worse off.
Like it’s, every single bias just hurts. It doesn’t provide any more pleasure. You’re already full. All it does is it causes. So it’s really good to realize that the goal is not to eat as much as possible, and I myself for sure have made this mistake before where if you just go into the meals, the idea of eating as much as you can because you felt so deprived beforehand, and it really is not the goal of the meal is to say, shape yourself and to be happy and have a pleasurable experie.
And there is a certain sweet spot there that you just need to cross and you don’t need to, you don’t need more than that. On the other hand, it’s also very good to realize that you do need to be satiated because long term hungry is not sustainable for anyone. And research generally finds that men prefer to be a bit higher on the continuum.
Than women. Women are generally a bit more okay with being, just full, but maybe still having some idea of I could eat more, but I don’t want to. Whereas men typically want to be more on the end of, I’m really full, I’m very completely satiated. I could eat more, but it would definitely not be pleasurable anymore.
So it is good to realize that you do want to be. Because a lot of people also think, Oh, I just eat a little bit and I’ll be hungry. No, you definitely can’t be hungry, but you also don’t have to pig out and actually make it unpleasant. So yeah, that I think is a really important mindset to have.
Mike: And one other thing that you mentioned in the book is, and I think this is a good tip, is, okay, so you’re gonna have your cheat meal or treat meal or whatever, and you’re gonna go out for it and okay, so you overdo it and you would prefer that somebody.
Overcompensates the following day, as opposed to, or let’s say they just know that what they’re gonna go eat, it’s gonna be a lot of calories. It just is what it is, right? You’re gonna go eat the 2000 calorie pizza and you’re gonna have some ice cream after, and that’s what you wanna do. Okay, fine. You have two options.
You could starve yourself leading up to it, right? Which we already talked about, and why that’s a bad idea. And or you could even, let’s say, eat. Satiety go into it, but you still are going to eat what you’re going to eat. It’s gonna happen. But then the following day, is it okay to eat quite a bit less to get rid of maybe some of that previous days surplus?
Menno: It can be like theoretically it is. If you’re extra motivated at that point. That’s the reason I think it’s better to compensate afterwards than beforehand. Cause if you compensate beforehand, you run into the problems that we just discussed. Yeah, you just make, the overeating worse. If you compensate afterwards, you’re probably more motivated to do it.
So that’s good. On the other hand, Most research finds it’s much more important to focus on the long run and to simply reflect on why did you overeat and was it worth it? That’s a really important question to ask yourself, and also especially to do body composition measurements at the end of the week or even day.
If you overeat a lot and see was there a noticeable fating? Did I not lose fat compared to, I was supposed to lose fat and then reflect on was this worth. And you can often quantify things as, okay, this was a week of dieting, gone in a single meal, and then you may think, Okay, that maybe that was worth it, but maybe it was not.
And it is good to actually make that re that reflection objectively based on data. Now, other than that, it’s much more important to focus on long term habits and routines and just following your meal plan. Because if the next day you already had trouble with the diet and you have to change your meal plan to compensate for that one day of overeating, and you may end up hungry and you’re gonna obsess about food again, it’s better to just stick with the plan and learn from the mistakes if there were any, and continuous plans because it really, in the long term those single events, those aren’t gonna make or break things, but habits, routines, and long term sustainability, those definitely.
Mike: Makes sense. And something I will add to that, just in my experience is this is meme and it doesn’t necessarily apply to everybody. I’ve found, again I’m generally in maintenance mode. Sometimes I do a little bit of cutting but I’m generally in, in maintenance mode. And if I eat a lot and it’s, it, it was my plan to go eat a lot.
And so I would say, Is it worth it? Yeah, that’s what I wanted to do. That was the plan. And I didn’t go to the point of hating myself, but I was in a nicer surplus for the day. What I’ve found is it’s quite easy to eat a bit less the following day because I. Usually not very hungry like in the morning.
If I eat a s sizeable dinner quite a bit more than calories than I normally would in food I would normally eat. I am not very hungry in the morning at all, so I could just skip breakfast basically. And and then that, that also then carries on really through the rest of the day where and I totally agree with you.
I could just not, and not care at all and move on with my life, that’s totally fine, but because. Psychologically, physiologically, it’s very easy for me to just eat less the next day. I just do that. All right, cool. , then move on with my life and get right back to my normal plan.
Menno: Exactly, and that’s basically the decision I think you should make.
Is it very easy to do this and am I motivated to do it? If so, okay, you can do it. Otherwise you’ll stick to the plan. Focus on that.
Mike: Makes sense. Hey, this was that was all the questions I had for you and a great discussion. A lot of great practical advice. I know it’s going to be very well received and we’ve mentioned the book, but we have not mentioned the title yet, and I will mention it in the intro but a lot of people, Intros.
So why don’t you share the title and anything you wanna say about that. And then let’s tell people where they can find you in your work and if there’s anything else you want them to know about. Let’s wrap up with that.
Menno: Sure. It’s called The Science of Self Control, and you’ll find it on my websites in smos.com.
Along with all the other information on Amazon, you can read a preview of the book for free. And on my websites, you’ll find a lot more information to see if you may want to purchase it. Or just probably also good that there’s a free email course where you can just get a little free content and then decide if you want to purchase anything.
Other than that, I just hope people enjoyed the call and look forward to talk to you again at some point in the future.
Mike: Same. Thanks again. I hope you liked this episode. I hope you found it helpful, and if you did subscribe to the show because it makes sure that you don’t miss new episodes.
And it also helps me because it increases the rankings of the show a little bit, which of course then makes it a little bit more easily found by other people who may like it just as much as you. And if you didn’t like something about this episode or about the show in general, or if you. Ideas or suggestions or just feedback to share.
Shoot me an email, mike muscle for life.com, muscle f o r life.com and let me know what I could do better or just what your thoughts are about maybe what you’d like to see me do in the future. I read everything myself. I’m always looking for new ideas and constructive feedback. So thanks again for listening to this episode, and I hope to hear from you.