Palatability, Satiety and Calorie Intake

 discusses a study titled “A Satiety Index of Common Foods” by Dr. SHA Holt and colleagues.

This study, along with many others, suggests that focusing on simple foods that have a lower energy density leads to greater fullness and less subsequent food intake, and conversely that highly palatable energy-dense foods promote excessive food intake.  Potatoes, sweet potatoes, meats, fish, vegetables, fruits, rice and beans are foods with a moderate level of palatability and energy density, and are consequently helpful for weight loss and maintenance.  Conversely, baked goods, candy, ice cream and fried foods have the lowest SI, reflecting their extreme palatability and energy density.  These are exactly the same foods people eat to relieve stress, which reinforces the fact that they are hyper-palatable and hyper-rewarding.  In my opinion, these are among the most fattening foods, and the obesity literature as a whole supports this.

Read Stephan’s full post here.

I wouldn’t be surprised if this relationship was in some way an effect of missed dopamine predictions.  I am currently reading How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer.  He discusses how, after successfully learning an action to gain a reward, our brain releases dopamine in anticipation of the reward when we repeat that action.  This means our brain learns patterns and reacts in expectation of those patterns.  But, if that action response changes and no longer provides the same reward, our brain changes to no longer release dopamine.  So if you are throwing back peanut-butter cups, each time anticipating that super-sweet reward, your brain releases dopamine as soon as you reach for the next bite, before you even open the wrapper.  What would happen if you unwittingly grabbed a chunk of sweet potato that felt exactly like the candy?  Total let-down on taste resulting in a reduced dopamine response.  It’s a stretch, but I’ll bet you could break the streak of over-eating.


Thorin Klosowski of Lifehacker discusses the definition of cravings, both physical and psychological, and how to turn them from a negative reward response into a positive and useful tool.

Psychological cravings include the feeling you get when you suddenly realize you want a Sloppy Joe or an entire bag of salt and vinegar chips. Two systems in our brains create and tell us how to react to cravings:

  1. First, the reward system identifies a target and causes the brain to release dopamine. This makes the brain believe it will get happiness or pleasure from what you’re craving. This desire for immediate gratification blocks your prefrontal cortex from weighing your long-term goals against the craving. You know the classic image of the angel and the devil on the shoulder? That’s essentially your brain when you are deciding if you’re going to fold to the pressure of a craving. Your craving is the devil, only thinking about short-term rewards, and the angel is your prefrontal cortex, pleading for you to consider the long-term ramifications.
  2. Next, your body releases stress hormones that make you feel discomfort or pain. The stress essentially tricks the body into believing the only way to feel better is to succumb to the craving.

According to Dr. McGonigal, the brain can learn to attach the promise of reward to almost anything. If your brain believes that something is going to make you happy, your brain can initiate the craving response.

Your instinctive reward system is designed to make you pursue or chase a goal. If you’re trying to start a new habit you want something less abstract than “being healthy” to chase after. Using those cravings to force yourself into accomplishing goals is a great way to provide the temporary reward system needed to establish a long running habit.

There was discussion of this reward response in the book Why Zebra’s Don’t Get Ulcers by Robert Sapolsky.  It’s part of the stress response.  I don’t have the book with me to reference, but I recall a study where the brain activity of mice was observed in an experiment where the mice could press a lever to get a reward.  The part of the brain associated with the pleasure of receiving the reward was activated upon pressing the lever – in anticipation of receiving the reward.

I try to recognize cravings.  When I crave a trigger food (something not part of my planned diet that will likely lead to fat gain), I try to remember the last time I gorged on junk food and I focus on the disgusting feeling I had after the indulgence.  I also have developed a craving for my workouts.  I try to direct my stress response into anticipation of my next weight lifting session.  Then, when it’s “go time”, I unleash my fury on the iron.

Get the full story on Lifehacker.

Is Sugar Fattening?

A very informative post by   on the different types of sugar and how our bodies react to them.

Here are the take-home points from this post:

  1. Sugar, including fructose, is not inherently fattening relative to other calorie sources, and unrefined sugar is compatible with fat loss in the context of simple whole food diets.
  2. Sugar can be fattening in certain contexts, specifically if it is added to foods and beverages to increase their palatability, reward value and energy density.
  3. Sugar-sweetened beverages are probably one of the most fattening elements of the modern diet.
  4. Fruit is not fattening, and it may actually be slimming.
  5. In excess, refined sugar can cause body fat to redistribute from the subcutaneous depot (under the skin, where you want it) to the visceral depots and the liver (where you don’t want it). It can also cause insulin resistance in the liver and increase blood pressure, all components of the ‘metabolic syndrome’.  This is caused specifically by the fructose portion of the sugar.

Here are the implications:

  1. Avoiding sugar-sweetened foods, and particularly sugar-sweetened beverages (soda, punch, sweetened coffee, cocktails, maybe fruit juice as well?) can prevent and to some extent reverse fat gain and metabolic dysfunction.
  2. I see no reason to believe that refined and unrefined sugars, used in the same context (e.g. muffins baked with white vs. brown sugar), would have different effects on body fatness.  However, unrefined sugars may be less harmful to other aspects of health, because they contain other substances that may be protective.  Mark Sisson discussed this idea in a recent post on honey (38).
  3. Eating fruit does not contribute to fat gain in most people, but instead probably favors leanness.  Fruit is a whole food with a low energy density and a moderate palatability and reward value.

Get the full story on his blog.

Vitamin C for Cleaner Teeth

An older study examining the amount of dental plaque in subjects with varying frequencies of brushing their teeth and varying levels of ascorbic acid (Vitamin C).

Viewing brushing frequency-debris score relationships as influenced by ascorbic acid status (Figure 4) provides additional insights into plaque prevention and control. At all levels of brushing frequency, those with the better plasma AA levels exhibit cleaner teeth. In fact, the average debris score (0.92) for those who brush less than twice daily but have better vitamin C levels compares favorably with that of the poorer C subjects who brush twice or more daily (0.90 and 0.87).

Study full text in PDF here.


The Effects Of 2 Common Sweeteners On The Body

Study comparing short-term effects of sucrose and HFCS.

Both HFCS and sucrose have historically been considered to have nearly identical effects on the body. But this study finds that indeed there is a difference between the two. They found that the makeup of the sugars resulted in differences in how much fructose was absorbed into the circulation, and which could have potential impact on one’s health. Sucrose is 50 percent fructose and 50 percent glucose that is bonded together as a disaccharide (complex carbohydrate) and HFCS is a mixture of free fructose (55%) and free glucose (45%). It’s the difference in fructose amount that appears to create the ill health effects on the body.

Their study was conducted at the University of Florida, where they evaluated 40 men and women who were given 24 ounces of HFCS- or sugar-sweetened soft drinks. Careful measurements showed that the HFCS sweetened soft drinks resulted in significantly higher fructose levels than the sugar-sweetened drinks. Fructose is also known to increase uric acid levels that have been implicated in blood pressure, and the HFCS-sweetened drinks also resulted in a higher uric acid level and a 3 mm Hg greater rise in systolic blood pressure.

Summarized on Medical News Today.

Study full text here.

via Martin Berkhan.


When is the last time you stopped to reflect on patience?  Think about how much is centered on instant gratification these days.  Entrepreneurs and capitalists are finding more and more ways to give us what we want sooner.  As a consequence, we are conditioning ourselves to expect results without putting in the work.  How about you?  Do you still wait your turn in line?  Do you plan for things that won’t happen for months?  Do you even have the patience to read this post?

An obvious example is fast food.  Another is the tailgating reckless driver, fired up on road rage.  There are special lines at amusement parks where, if you spend more money, you can pass everyone else.  What about auto-tune?  Is it too much to take some singing classes and develop a sense of pitch?  I won’t even go into the general approach to relationships these days.  I’ll just say it’s a rare thing to find a couple who truly values investing in a life-long relationship with the true meaning of love (ref: 1 Corinthians 13).

How many Americans have accrued credit card debt?  It’s so easy to use that card and say, “I’ll just make sure I pay it off later this month.”  Only, that one purchase turns into another, which turns into another.  Before you know it, you’re wondering how you spent that much on “little things” – things that could have waited.  Then you’re making minimum payments and deferring the resolution.  Did you really need those things right now or could you have waited a little longer?  What happened to saving up money in anticipation of making the big purchase?

An example you might not notice, but one that is of a personal matter to me, is the progression of the DJ.  The first DJs used turntables and a mixer.  They matched the tempo of two songs, queued up the next song to match the beats and pitch, all the while manipulating the vinyl with their hands.  There was no automation.  During blends and transitions, the two songs had to be manually maintained with matched beats.  While this isn’t the hardest thing in the world to learn, it takes time to learn.  Just like any art, it takes practice to perfect.

Now, in the clubs and even in the mall, most “DJs” use a computer program that will automatically sync up two MP3s at the press of a single button.  Not only will the program adjust the tempo and pitch of the next song, it will even perform the transition for the most lazy and incompetent of DJs.  Where is the fun in that?  What skill does that require?  While this “gets the job done”, it eliminates the artistic element – the very skill that originated the profession.

Look in your fridge, freezer, and pantry.  How many raw foods do you have compared to products that have been processed so they can be prepared more quickly?  Look for chicken strips, instant mashed potatoes, microwave dinners, and Pop Tarts.  There’s peanut butter and jelly combined into one jar.  I’ve even seen microwave toast in the freezer section.  Seriously.  I understand we don’t usually have the time to roast a chunk of meat for a few hours, but it doesn’t take very long to prepare most meals if you keep it simple.

Now take the foods we consider raw.  I’ve been reading the book Eating Animals, which is not necessarily a call to vegetarianism or veganism, but more a look at the sources of our animal protein.  I’ll reserve my opinion until I finish the book and look into some alternate viewpoints.  Until then, I’ll just say it’s an eye opener if you put any consideration into the food you eat and how it affects your health.  Our collective lack of patience has changed the manner in which the animals we eat were raised, fed, slaughtered, and processed.  This certainly has had an impact on the nutritional value of our food.

What about all the ads for “quick weight loss”?  Why do liposuction, gastric bypass, and metabolism-changing drugs exist?  Except in extreme cases, I can’t believe people would willingly undergo surgery to remove fat.  It’s the same as paying to get cut open for a nose job or implants.  Except in this case, they could lose the fat the old fashioned way but instead choose an easier, yet more dangerous, approach.

I have endured a few exercises in patience over the past few years – some based on goals; some in reaction to circumstances.  I will try to not act like an expert on the matter, but I’d like to pass along some things I’ve learned.

When you make resolutions for this year, set reasonable and measurable goals.  Do not rush and quickly lose motivation, but do not neglect your goals.  Look for support from others with similar goals.  Make it a friendly competition.

Weight loss takes time.  The scale alone will not always show progress.  Use a tape measure and calipers.  Use bodyfat % estimates.  I bought a scale that helps me track my estimated bodyfat %.  Take pictures periodically.

Likewise, strength training takes time.  If you rush, you’ll over-exert yourself and only set yourself back.  With a proper program, you will see gains every week for the first several months.  Again, you have to track your workouts and you have to keep consistency between workouts.  If you change routines or rest periods in between sets every week, you can’t directly compare your progress.  Don’t focus on the amount of weight you can lift in comparison to others.  Focus on the form and pushing yourself to lift as heavy as you can, safely.  Form will ensure safety.  Heavy weights will ensure growth.

I recently took an interest in rock climbing.  I already have an appreciation for this sport because technique allows equality between women and men, children and adults.  But technique takes time to learn.  It also takes months upon years to develop the strength in fingers, joints, tendons required for advanced climbing.  It’s not something you can just buy your way into.

You will also face setbacks and adversity this year.  The first chapter of the book of James has something to say about this:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.  But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

My message may be a bit scattered, but I think that shows how patience can be applied in many situations.  Patience requires understanding that each of our problems or goals require different means.  As we start another year making resolutions and goals, reacting to diversity and confrontation, remember patience.  It will prove to be one of your most powerful talents.  Those of you who made it this far in my post already have a head start.


This site has always been focused on my interest in music.  I’d like to open things up a bit.

One Year Body Recomposition
Interesting what you can accomplish in a year

In the past year, I successfully recomposed my body.  I tracked my progress in a spreadsheet and periodically posted updates via Twitter and Facebook.  I found several online sources of motivation and I think it’s time I reciprocated.  So even though this site began solely to share my music interest, I’m going to expand and post whatever I find relevant to finding better health and fitness for yourself.

I started with the e-book Four Hour Body in December 2010 and changed my diet to high-protein and “slow-carb”.  Eventually, I hit a plateau and shifted into the Lean Gains method of intermittent fasting.  Around April of 2011, I found the book Starting Strength and focused my time in the gym.  In less than a year, I went from somewhere between 210-220 lbs to 175 lbs (about 12.5% body fat).  I also got stronger.  I can squat 360 lbs, dead lift 420 lbs, and bench press 220 lbs, all for a combined 1,000 lbs.

This transformation was just the beginning.  I recently joined Fitocracy to help track progress and find motivation through community support.  I plan to track my workouts here as a backup.  I also want to start a collection of references to medical studies and scientifically-based guidance for losing fat and gaining strength.  Goals cannot be measured without tracking progress and progress is more easily made with the support of others.

So I’m not really sure how well this will work, combining multiple aspects of my lift onto one site, originally meant just for one passion, but I’m giving it a try.  I might also try sharing some insight into my job, now that the Shuttle program is retired and things are slowing down considerably.