Leaner in 20 minutes. While doing NOTHING.
23 May

Leaner in 20 minutes. While doing NOTHING.

It all started when on an unexpectedly busy day I broke the mandatory rule of muscle-building, turtle shell abs nutrition: went waaay too long between meals.

I actually only had breakfast and it was almost 2PM. What the...

Trying not to drool too visibly, I pulled into the first Chinese buffet I came across. So I piled up a plate and began stuffing my face. Then I piled up another plate. And then a third one...

Nothing really out of the ordinary, you may rightfully say.


Just before I dove into the third plate, my phone rang. The conversation went on for quite a bit. So, I hung up and looked down at my plate. I was full. Not just full, but fully padded. I couldn't eat another bite, yet a few minutes earlier, before the phone call, I felt still hungry and planning to gobble down that third plate with no mercy.

What kind of sorcery took place all of a sudden?

Here the explanation can be simple or complex (what did you say? Ok, let's stick to simple...) 

We don't have immediate feedback from our bodies telling us we've eaten enough. It takes about 20 minutes for food to be digested enough that nutrients gets into the bloodstream and the hormones start working.

Said hormones — insulin, leptin, cortisol, and ghrelin — act as chemical messengers that run signals related to hunger and satiety between the stomach and the brain. Problem is, if you bomb the stomach too quickly, your body basically doesn't have time to "receive the messages". This is why if you eat very fast until you're full, you often feel nauseatingly stuffed 20 minutes after the meal. You were actually full halfway into your meal; you just didn't know it.

Alrite, so we have some slow body signals to deal with. Not that big of a deal, right? But there's another factor here: We still have the base physiologies of prehistoric man. Our slowly evolving bodies aren't made for a world of abundant, calorically-dense foods... or Chinese buffets. Our bodies (and for the most part our brains too) are still swinging between tree branches and dragging women into the cave by their hair (for Paleo dieters: don't take this as an excuse. It's NOT).

This means that when we see hot, abundant food, we think "YAY! fresh kill!" and have the innate desire to gorge on it, just like our pre-agriculture, pre-refrigerator ancestors did. They'd graze on vegetation and have small "snacks" until they killed a big animal, then they'd gorge. Thing is, today's "grazing" involves vending machine candy bars, and modern "kill gorging" usually takes place at McDonald's drive-thru. Now combine these two elements and what do you get? A huge swim ring of fat around your waist. And no, it ain't even good to help you floating, quite the opposite.

The aforementioned perfect storm makes us into fatties and can wreck our attempts at dieting. When we're ready to get ripped, most of us have to do battle with slow hormones, primitive desires, and a world full of cheap, fattening, tasty food calling our name.

Tip #1: Manipulate the 20-Minute Phenomenon

You need to stop eating before you get full, or at the very least at the first sign of fullness. Twenty minutes later, you'll actually feel full. This takes practice and discipline. It's just not easy for a big weight-training male to walk away from available food when he's not yet stuffed. In many ways, it goes against our instincts.

So when you're dieting and trying to reduce calories:

• Keep a food log. This sounds obvious yet many people "diet" without ever tracking their calories and macronutrients. Sorry, but just buying packaged foods marked "low-fat" does not count as a "diet".

As tedious as it is, you need to count calories and macronutrients at least once in your life in order to see the big picture. For example, I've known dozens of gym "vets" who went for years with suboptimal gains. When they finally tracked their protein intake, they realized they were getting just about enough to support the lean mass of a 13 Y/O anorexic girl scout.

So, let's say your diet calls for 2500 calories per day. Divide that by five meals and you get 500 calories per feeding. You do the deed: You read labels, you weigh and measure food, you consult online calorie guides, you write it all down.

A blind monkey can do that, you can too, most likely.

Awful stuff, I know. But now you have a reason to stop eating: You've consumed your 500 calories. (More importantly, you now know what 500 calories looks like!) Walk away. You will likely not feel "full," but you will in about 20 minutes.

• Learn to eat slower. Put down your fork between bites, just like mama taught you. Because she did, right? 😒

• Try using a small salad fork instead of that shovel you're using now. Use smaller plates too when dieting. Basically, if it's on your plate, you'll finish it, even after you're full.

A few years ago, some researchers  conducted a study where participants ate from soup bowls equipped with hidden refilling devices. Subjects who ate from these never-ending bowls consumed 73% more than those who ate from regular bowls. But here's the kicker: They didn't rate their feelings of satiety any higher than those who consumed less. You've heard the saying "You eat with your eyes first." It's pretty much true.

• Make your plate and sit at the table. No eating from containers in the kitchen.

• No eating in front of the TV. Studies actually show you eat more when your mind is distracted by television. Same goes with the friggin' social media on any device of course.

• Chew your food more, goddamnit!!!

• Anddddd the obvious: Never get starved to begin with. Eating every three hours or so should prevent this. Go too long between meals and you'll eat too fast, bypass the 20 minute effect, consume too much, get fat, and never have a decent looking girlfriend. On a positive note, you'll get really good at Minecraft. Congrats on that, killer. 👍

Tip #2: High Volume & Low Energy

By "energy" I mean calories. Some foods are calorically dense; others are not. The idea here is to have low-density foods with every meal so you'll feel full without adding tons of calories. Basically, you're taking up space in your stomach so you don't eat so damn much and kill time to reach our 20' target.

This type of dieting is known as Volumetrics. While I'm not a fan of the particulars of this low-fat diet, we can learn a few things from the approach:

-Have non-starchy vegetables with every meal. Along with all the health benefits, veggies fill stomach space. Starting every meal with a spinach salad is a great idea. Just watch those dressings, which can screw up everything.

-A big side of mixed veggies with every meal will only add 30 to 60 calories: lots of volume, takes up lots of room in the stomach, yet adds minimal calories and maximal nutrition. (I like those vegs stir-fry blends you can buy flash frozen. Get some of those microwave steaming bags, in four minutes my lazy ass is happy.)

On another satiety note, protein will make you feel fuller than fats or carbs. Dietary fat scores lowest on the Satiety Index. In fact, high-fat content foods create almost instant cravings for more of the same. On the other hand, foods high in protein and fiber slow digestion and prolong the "I'm full" feeling. And while water-dense whole fruits are generally recommended, avoid fruit juices, which aren't filling at all! 

Last but not least, be aware of something called "sensory-specific satiety." 

In simple terms, you can become "full" eating one kind of food, but when another food is introduced you suddenly feel the urge to "make room" and eat it. This is why you can eat until satiety yet still desire dessert. This of course leads to overeating, nausea, bloating, and, once again, a chronic lack of a semi-good looking girlfriend. (Evolutionary side note: the tongue seems to want a variety of stimuli {I'm not talking about the girlfriend anymore, perverts} in every meal — something savory, something sweet, etc. Maybe this is our body's way of making us desire different nutrients and different types of foods. Otherwise our ancestors would've been satisfied eating just meat all day and would've never looked for fruits [sweetness]. This would lead to deficiencies that could eventually kill and halt the continuation of the species. Again, there's a reason why hunger/cravings are so powerful: This drive, much like the sex drive, helps to propagate the species apparently.)

The "Proximity Problem"?

Now, we must consider the issue of proximity or how physically close we are to food. We sometimes eat not out of hunger, but out of just proximity and visibility.

The most interesting study about this looked at the snacking behaviors of 40 secretaries. Proximity was manipulated by placing chocolates on the desk of the secretary or two meters away from the desk. Visibility was manipulated by placing the chocolates in covered bowls that were either clear or opaque.

Guess what? Exactly what you'd expect: The secretaries ate more chocolates when they were easily within reach, and they ate more when they were visible instead of covered. And the kicker here is that they usually DIDN'T EVEN REALIZE they were consuming more calories from closely-placed foods.

Quite fascinating: If a human being sees food within reach, he'll eat it, even if he's not hungry. If that same food is a few feet away and/or hidden from view, he's less likely to eat it. Makes you think twice about buying one of those fancy and most fashionable see-through refrigerators, right?

This is how you should apply this info in real life. First, don't keep crap foods in your house. You may get a craving for something unhealthy, but if you have to get in your truck to go get it, you'll most likely eat something in closer proximity, which is healthy food.

If someone living with you does have some treat foods in the house, simply put these in a separate cabinet. Out of sight, out of mind. That's a good trick to use with your fat roommate's junk food too.

The proximity and visibility problem is also directly related to the 20-minute delayed satiation effect. You're not going to allow the feeling of fullness to kick-in if you don't remove yourself from the food. You may find yourself standing in the kitchen and looking in the fridge when it isn't time to eat. Many have this habit. You'll notice you're "hungry" in the kitchen, but satisfied when you're in your office. If you find yourself about to blow your diet, simply get out of the kitchen or the presence of food. Two minutes later you'll be back in control and shocked that you were about to wreck your nutrition plan!

You can also take advantage of the proximity/visibility phenomenon. Working on increasing your water intake? You'll drink more if you keep water close by and out in the open. If you're serious about your fluid intake, consider a home water cooler.

Were these very simple tips? Sure. But judging from the rising body fat percentages of even trained individuals, these simple steps can have dramatic physique transformation effects! 

Until later, 

Captain (not so) Obvious 

A.K.A. TheRoid