The Science of Self-Control with Menno Henselmans [podcast]

Categories: Videos & podcasts

This was a great podcast on how to lose fat and how to stick to your diet. Ben Brown was a good interviewer and did a professional job with this one. It’s aimed at the more general population, so long-term subscribers should be familiar with some parts, but you’ll probably find some interesting bits via the time stamps below. Enjoy it!

Time stamps

  • 3:32 How should we be looking at self-control and willpower in the context of dieting and weight loss
  • 7:16 Intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation
  • 8:33 How to deal with hunger in a diet
  • 15:57 Rigid vs flexible dietary control and diet dogma

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This is an automatically generated transcript of the podcast.

Menno welcome to the smart nutrition Made Simple show what’s going on brother my

pleasure well good here how about you I’m doing great I’m doing great I appreciate you taking the time to come

on the show I’m excited for myself frankly uh to have the opportunity to have a chat with you I’m excited for our

listeners as well to be able to provide some context around the science and the

psychology of behavior change and so what I would like to do here would you

mind just giving a very brief background about who you are and what it is that you do sure I’m a former business

consultant that started off online coaching basically just writing

about Fitness um although developed super nicely basically to the point where I’m now not just coaching people I still do that

part-time but I most of my time I spent on my online PT courses where I teach

people how to be better coaches I mostly specialize in people that are quite serious I also wrote the book that’s

very genpop and I’m a I’m a scientist like I do exercise science and

nutritional Sciences and some very side products public speaking

and stuff but mainly yeah I teach people how to take control of their lives and in particular their Physique in the aim

of personal development fat loss muscle growth strength development and and seeing as you have such a

scientific foundation and psychological foundation for this stuff what was the impetus to because you wrote a book the

science of self-control what was the impetus to write this book well I’ve had a lot of these thoughts it’s basically

10 years of notes or something that I compiled in a book and things that I

found very useful for myself but I didn’t really have a platform for so most of my my social media my

Instagram is very much focused on discussing the latest scientists on exercise science nutritional scientists

so it’s very specific about Fitness and also relatively Advanced compared to like mainstream Fitness channels

so I didn’t really have a good platform to post more General self-development stuff and yeah basically compiled all of

these things into a book also merge more of what I learned as a behavioral

Economist which is my original training actually which wasn’t about Fitness at all a switch path

in my early 20s and there I learned a lot about you know how

people make sustainable Lifestyle Changes how people like behavioral psychology in general is about why

people do what they do and understanding that I think is crucial to make them change what they do

because a lot of people we want to do things differently than we’re doing it now we have bad habits you know our

lifestyle is not as we would like it but it’s difficult to change these things because a lot of these things happen subconsciously psychologically and

therefore I think that’s a kind of a whole different area that you kind of need to get into before you can explain

these Concepts well so a book I found was the better option of trying to put it into a tweet yeah no absolutely and I

think that’s very relevant and obviously something that I think any coach realizes at some point in their journey

of working with clients is very quickly becomes far more than just calories and calories out and just the type of

exercise that we’re prescribing and I I think it speaks volumes to just the nature of the dieting industry in and of

itself and why so many people are lost in this Perpetual cycle right and so

um part of the reason why I wanted to have you and on and have this conversation because I’d love for you to

speak to the psychology Behavior change and and I guess one of the ways that we can start

off this conversation is how should we be looking at self-control and willpower

in the context of dieting and weight loss in a popular view of willpower is that it’s like a muscle

and it’s also like a sort of a fuel inside our minds that gradually drains with use and that’s not accurate it is

neither like a muscle in the sense of being trainable and it is also not like a fuel in the sense that you deplete it

and it’s gone if there is no willpower substrate and in fact your willpower is much more closely linked to your

happiness and there is a recent study that shows that a dieting adherence and happiness

strongly correlate which is also what I argue in my book that what you’re essentially doing with

willpower or self-control self-discipline these are all kind of the same things we use different words but essentially they refer to our more

rational part of our brain what we identify as us like our conscious part of our brain to control our more

primitive more um innate subconscious biases behaviors

Etc which scientists sometimes call system one you know or a reptile brain Billy or

mammalian brain and so we have these feelings like hunger and we have the idea that we don’t want to eat because

it doesn’t fit our diet so we have to exert self-control like this part of our brain the more conscious part has to control the part the that just says

hunger eat and that’s self-control and doing this requires Focus and what the brain essentially does if

you’re focusing on these have two activities rather than things that you want to do things that provide instant gratification or pleasure it’s at some

point makes you lose makes you lose the attention so when you’re focusing

excessively on things that don’t provide instant gratification your brain is essentially sabotages your or cuts off

the connection to the what you want to pay attention to and it’s like hey here’s this Facebook icon hey here’s the

smell of pizza and that’s what we deem self-control failure and in that sense

it appears like we have this limited self-control but it’s only limited

for one there’s a very big mindset issue but also it’s only limited when we’re doing things that we’re not inherently

motivated for because nobody complains about self-control when we’re doing something we love when we are listening

to a podcast for example that we love and it’s exactly the topic that we’re interested in you don’t lose focus when you’re doing something you love it’s

only when you’re doing things where you have this disconnect between these two sides of your brain that essentially

wants something different that your conscious brain has to override the usually more primitive uh brain so this

seems to be especially relevant in the dieting realm right because oftentimes people put themselves in these

situations where they don’t technically want to be doing whatever it

is that they’re doing like the the perception of going to the gym and training hard is not appealing to them

the perception of having to avoid all of the cookies right or avoiding alcohol or

tracking their calories right therefore the in their mind it requires a high

level of of discipline a high level of of willpower high level self control

however that however you want to use that term and therefore it becomes much more complex to be able to execute on

that is that correct definitely and that’s also where the link with kind of Lifestyle coaching comes in where most

coaches still at some point exactly I should say that hey I’ve designed this optimal program but my clients are not

following it and it seems like the issues that they are facing are have more to do with like General lifestyle

matters than you know how many grams of carbohydrates have what did I consume at dinner last night

yeah absolutely so and I want to come back to that um but I I suppose where do you factor

in the in terms of uh we’ll say compliance for lack of a better term in terms of of success in terms of maybe

motivation perhaps is a better way to look at this in terms of intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation and kind of

uh long-term success I think motivation is very important and trying to cultivate that and you already touch on extreme sick

versus intrinsic motivation that’s a very good distinction I think to be aware of intrinsic motivation is what

you are intrinsically drawn towards things that you naturally want to do like I don’t have to motivate you to do

this because you’re gonna do it anyway if left to your own devices and extrinsic motivation is more utilitarian

goal oriented it’s something you do to get something else like you if you do if you hate your job for example you just

go to work because you get a paycheck like you wouldn’t do it if you didn’t get the paycheck but in your ex more more extrinsically motivated and we can

cultivate this intrinsic motivation via three big pillars psychological research

has found and those are competence relatedness and autonomy and basically

to like something we want to get good at it we want to have our own

autonomy our own control like we want to be left to our own devices to pursue what we want to do we don’t want someone

telling us you have to do this and we especially don’t want someone to tell it you have to do this and I’m not going to

tell you why and it has to be exactly this way that’s the worst kind of um right right motivation and then we

also want to relate to something or it has to be something that we identify with something that we care about it

just it’s you know it’s if you’re um to give a terrible example if you have family that died of cancer that

you’re going to feel more related to helping out a cancer fund for example as opposed to a fund about cerebral palsy

or something what have you seen and and perhaps what is the the research say in terms of

um you know long-term success and and perhaps even your anecdotal experience working with clients in terms of those

that perhaps have a strong reason as to why they want to accomplish their

physique related goals their weight loss goals maybe they’re just their overall health goals versus you know versus not

I think for fitness that’s kind of relatedness but I just described like big life events that

influence your motivation it’s harder to find but

I think it’s more about aesthetic preferences and having Role Models like

I remember at various points in my life I I saw someone whether it was an actor or I remember one of the first people I

saw was Usher and he had this photo I was like protein or something I guess at

the time and yeah this photo where I get like mild ABS he wasn’t jacked or anything but he wasn’t he was in good

shape it just hit me like I need to look like that you know so we can have these things in

terms of Role Models but of course they’re not going to be as powerful as like life-changing events or anything yeah most definitely sometimes it’s the

extrinsic motivators that can be compelling enough in the initial stages to start to drive the intrinsic

motivation is terms of I don’t know you know maybe you sign up for a challenge

because there’s a 500 dollar prize right and then you start

exercising or you start eating healthier by virtue of the challenge and then you start to realize how good you felt you

feel by virtue of doing that upon which you take it upon yourself or perhaps it becomes a habit or you start to realize

how good you feel and then it’s more intrinsically driven is that fair yes definitely and it’s it’s about

cultivating these three pillars like cultivating the relativeness cultivating your competence and cultivating the autonomy so if with clients I think it’s

very important to they learn how to do things better they learn good exercise technique they understand at least the

basic principles of the program and they can do it themselves like they don’t need you there all this all the

time to be with them and explain how it works Etc so they have the autonomy to follow the program and ultimately even

the autonomy to proceed on their own probably and they feel that there’s something more to it like this this relatedness is probably the most

difficult and I usually cite CrossFit as an example of

um organization that Fosters relatedness very well like they have separate names

for everything they have names for their workouts which happen to be names of like upper class uh Caucasian women

which is like their their target audience for a large part and then their their gyms are not called gyms with boxes and then they have not just a

normal diet but paleo and they don’t train for physique or they train for function so it’s very much it all

cultivate more of a spirit you know you’re a functional paleo eating

um self-improving human rather than um a guy that just wants a bigger biceps

you know yeah just bodybuilding or um jacked and tan or whatever right yeah

and bodybuilding can appeal to some people but for a lot of people it’s it’s relatively empty in terms of the

relatedness yeah exactly there’s there’s definitely a different Market there as we see it so you know it’s in in

speaking of of self-control and speaking of habit change and speaking of

motivation it obviously begs the question of um and and I guess long-term success and

compliance it begs the question of reasonable starting points for people because we’re obviously both very aware

and so is every single person listening to this that calories matter right that

the exercise type matters um that there needs to be a caloric deficit to facilitate weight loss and

yet we could justify determining a different starting point on that uh

trajectory on that timeline for every single person based on a competence

Readiness for change commitment level pre-existing knowledge um how do you look at that from a

coaching standpoint as to what is a reasonable starting point as opposed to

just saying here’s your macro go yeah there’s there’s research on this which basically finds exactly what you say

that the initial degree of commitment should be proportional to their motivation so the more motivated someone

is the better they do when they go all in whereas if someone is not motivated at all you want to take baby steps now

in general I think research is only the side of being a little

aggressive at the start and there is also quite some research that shows people that are successful in the first

couple weeks of the diet have better even very long term adherence like you want those those instant results those

instant gains kind of to show that the program is working that Fosters not just

the instant results but it also Fosters confidence in the program and the

competence autonomy Etc that come with that so I generally are on the side of

starting relatively aggressively and research shows that for most people starting with both nutrition and

training at the same time is good like so basically shows you don’t want to be too much of baby step which also

if you’re essentially patronizing your clients too much like you’re saying hey we’re doing

this super slow because I know you’re not really into it right that that’s really a bad mindset for them because

then you’re basically saying I don’t have faith in you either I don’t you don’t have faith in you so really we’re

just gonna try this one step at a time but really not expect anything one of the keywords in my coaching approach is

empowerment like you want to empower your clients and in that sense you probably want to push them a bit especially as a coach

because they came to you they obviously they there is a motivation of some kind to really do this and they put their

faith in you so they they must have you know some confidence and faith in

whatever you’re going to prescribe for them and you want to capitalize on that to help them get good results in the

beginning and then you have okay they have faith in the process you have shown them that they can do it and they’ve already you’ve used probably with the

time of where they’re most motivated to start building the good habits that are gonna sustain them in the long run yeah

definitely so it’s the really the art of coaching and figuring out where a good starting point is for them uh to be able

to facilitate it in the most aggressive yet reasonable way for them so that they can get great results right out of the

gate obviously gain trust um in the process feel empowered as part of

the process and that ultimately is going to contribute towards better long-term

success for them as we’re starting to get into the actual coaching process here and as we talk

start to talk a little bit more about caloric control an exercise I’d love for you to touch on

flexible versus rigid dietary control and kind of what we’re seeing in the literature

um and I think how it factors into kind of the the general dieting sphere that

we’re in research very strongly favors flexible control over rigid control and people have taken that to me that

flexible dieting is sort of the end-all be-all of diet adherence but by placing

the emphasis on the diet rather than the control it actually kind of misses the mark because

of course research find that having too much permissions too much a lack of control of a diet it doesn’t produce

results either because you you need some rules you need at least some guidelines for yourself because some constraints

otherwise if I tell you well look you can eat anything as much as you want that’s your diet well then you’re gonna

do exactly what you’ve been doing right so you need to be pointed in a direction and in that sense

I think it’s more important that even though you have rules or guidelines as you may want to call them

but it’s your mindset that is flexible so you can have a rule for example okay

I’m not gonna consume any or many starches which for many people is probably helpful to lose fat

but it’s not set in stone so at any day for example you can say well if we’re going out to a nice fancy restaurant

Michelin dining I’m not going to be the person that’s not gonna have half of the

meals at a restaurant because that one day of the you know everyone per I don’t

know how much many months you do this you’re you’re gonna stick to this rule right and in general at any day when you

know that you could take a break or you you don’t have to do this what’s your choice

you’ve made the decision not to do this a whole different mindset than saying okay I have to do this and that’s where

the flexibility should come in people that have a very All or Nothing mindset what often happens is they break down at

some point and they go on binges they um they get yo-yo dieting essentially

because they don’t have that mindset of making like sustainable incremental changes do our kind of conventional

dieting tactics factor into people’s long-term success or proverbial failure when we look at this

rigid dietary control well one example for example is

with someone’s macros so you say okay you give someone their macros then a lot

of traditional if it feature macros proponents which is kind of if it’s your micro flexible dieting has become

semi-synonymous in a little circles they would say that the flexibility is that you can fill these macros with any

food but the rule is you have to adhere to these macros now for one probably having set macros

isn’t necessary for most people to begin with you can have ranges of macros that are acceptable especially as it pertains

to the ratio of carbohydrates to Fat for most non-athletes it’s really not that important

protein also you can set more as a Min as a minimum typically rather than it has to be this amount and that gives you

a lot more leeway to begin with but the idea that you have to hit these macros is not a flexible mindset rather a

flexible mindset would be you think of your calories as a budget and this is what you have to spend you

don’t have to spend it definitely don’t force feed yourself if you’re trying to lose fat and you’re at 1800 calories but

your target is 2100 then great take that 300 calorie free deficit and move on and

if you didn’t manage to stay under your calorie budget then don’t think of it as

a failure I certainly don’t think if it’s a failure of you but think of it as a learning experience and don’t worry

about trying to correct that deficit immediately but rather focus on what can I learn from this why did I not

adhere to the 2100 calories like what did I eat did I eat something that was too caloric did I try to starve myself at lunch and

it only backfired later what can you learn from this to prevent it in the future and then focus on the future like

move on with the plan if you have a meal plan just stick to the meal plan don’t go throwing out your the Tupperware

meals that you made and because you need to rearrange your day because now next day you have to eat 300

calories fewer to compensate and end up at the exact target for the week that’s also not flexible so that that’s I think

more of an illustration of flexible mindset versus flexible rules yeah so in that context you’re you’re leveraging

sort of your your perceived mistakes as learning opportunities and identifying

okay how can I make improvements upon my day-to-day to start to make those numbers fit a little more closely in

line with you know whatever my goals are however what I’m curious about from your standpoint is if we if we generally look

at you know things like keto things like you know food group elimination or

specific food elimination let’s say gluten and dairy as an example let’s look at you know other diets that are

rigid in terms of eat This these Foods never eat these Foods what are we seeing

uh in terms of long-term success adherence right all of

those things I think those diets typically have a mixture of one positive and one negative based on what we’ve

been discussing so far where the positive is that they Foster adherence or they Foster relatedness and

thereby in humans so keto diet carnivore diet especially carnivore you know it only sounds like I’m gonna eat like a

lion and you kind of have this feel with the diet so you feel like when you’re eating your own meat diets it’s like

yeah I’m a lion I just eat meat and that that that’s relatedness right but the

downside is it’s excessively restricted I would actually not recommend a carnivore diet for basically anyone I

would say that at least a targeted ketogenic diet would be superior and virtually every scenario

and research also finds that when you have these extremely rigid diets it’s not

beneficial even in the best scenarios like Atkins also in terms of long there was one meta-analysis where I compared a

lot of popular diets and Atkins and ornish which is like super high carbon super high fat they both did a bit worse

at the year end although it wasn’t actually that big of a difference because Atkins is still it does a lot of

things right in terms of high protein intake for example that other diets don’t get right but basically the trend is these extreme

diets they typically don’t do well in the long run and also this heart restriction again it’s it’s not a good

mindset if you feel like the essence of the diet is not consuming carbs that’s what Atkins essentially

says right they’re trying to make it seem like calories don’t matter it’s really just the carbs that matter and

that’s a wrong mindset because it’s simply factually incorrect so your you have a rule that simply doesn’t work

and then trying to enforce that rule is you’re confusing the means in the end

like you’re in ketosis you’re restricting carbohydrates to reduce your energy and tank so that’s also what we see with paleo

diets for example where people confuse the means in the end so I eat paleo because paleo makes me lose fat no you

eat paleo because those are generally Whole Foods based um not so energy dense food choices with

a good amount of nutrients that allow you to get all your micronutrients in be satiated and naturally end up in energy

deficit which is a form of AD libidden dieting but then what you see when people don’t understand that and they

have a factually incorrect rule or factually incorrect belief about what it is that will get them their goals they

will start eating paleo cookies dry dry meat paleo basically all the crap that

people eat that makes them fat but then the Paleo version and then because it’s paleo or it’s derived from a food that

was five processing methods ago paleo like really paleo right

um yeah it doesn’t work anymore because you’re still consuming super energy dense foods at that point yeah absolutely and I I think it goes back to

the whole idea around self-control is anytime we’re put in a position where we need to voluntarily restrict and do

something that we don’t necessarily want to do or be averse to you know have to be averse to foods that we actually

enjoy that there’s no reason they shouldn’t be part of a calorically balanced diet

um then we put ourselves in a position to have to exert more discipline and willpower and ultimately

experience less self-control potentially in the long term yes and that’s also why a big part of my book’s thesis is that

it’s not good to try to improve your self-control is that that also doesn’t

work there’s nothing to improve it’s not like there is this fact that we have to improve rather the best approach

typically is the diet that makes you rely the least on self-control that is that comes naturally to you that like I

said with the paleo diet naturally if you just eat intuitively you’re gonna end up in energy deficit it’s the diet

that you don’t know that you’re on that’s the best diet uh it seems that the people that are the most successful

it’s not that they have more self-control or discipline than anyone

else it’s simply that they have to exert left self-control so they put themselves in less positions that require

self-control so right they’re the ones that let’s say you’re trying to abstain from alcohol you’re not spending every

night in the bar right it’s just it’s just logical in that capacity and of course we could frame that around food

as well yeah so that goes for a lot of things actually in life there was a great study

um on students where they measured throughout their lives how successful they were in achieving their goals

whether it was weight loss or being more productive for school getting better grades and they generally found that

indeed it wasn’t that the students were better self-controlled it better in achieving their life goals it was the

students that relied the least on their self-control that were more successful in achieving their goals

self-structured focused and disciplined in that capacity of being regimented

lends itself to um being more successful in whatever the Endeavor is yes and habitual habits are

a big part of it I think it’s so relevant for everyone listening because so much of what we talk about and when

we kind of get into this with with clientele is It ultimately comes down to kind of us being a product of our of our

calendar of our schedule of the way we prioritize the things that we say that matter to us and that you know revolves

around our exercise taking care of ourselves sleep planning our meals right and and so on and so forth so

meno as we as we start to delve into um talking about calories because we’re

talking about rigid and flexible dieting a little bit I’m curious what you’ve experienced perhaps what the literature

says around the benefits of tracking calories versus not tracking calories

um especially from a behavior change standpoint from a habitual standpoint

um what have you observed in terms of the efficacy for people long term uh and

long-term success both can be viable I think in the very long run we want to move towards more adlibitum diets so

diets where we’re not actively tracking our macros every day and having to come up with a new diet

and typically the approach I find that works the best for people is you start off with calorie tracking and it’s it’s

not vital but it is extremely beneficial to at least have say two weeks where

you’re dedicated to tracking everything that you eat because it creates calorie awareness and it really shows you how

big the differences are between for example vegetables and bread or things that are already you

know kind of categorized in most people’s minds both being healthy or good for weight loss

and when you’ve done that and when you’ve created a good sense of calorie awareness then typically what you also

find is hey this is actually difficult to meet these macros every day and you’re spending way too much time like

configuring meals that um suit these exact macros and then the solution to that quite naturally and

which works extremely well in research is having a meal plan so instead of every day and new trying to reconstruct

some type of diet that fits these exact nutritional parameters and affect this amount of calories this amount of

protein what you’re doing is you’re just creating it once and then you’re eating that basically every day now you can

have multiple options for breakfast multiple options or you can have different days with different meals you can build as much Variety in it as you

like but it is scheduled and planned and importantly you’re having you’re making

your food choices in advance which allows you to make them rationally and not rely on self-control especially when

you’re hungry because when you’re hungry and you have to make choices about food that is the worst possible time and

that’s just even if you can control yourself why would you want to rely on your self-control all the time to do

these things it’s so much easier to do it when you’re in a satiated after a meal for example instead of before a

meal when you’re already hungry you need to eat something now and then after that when you set up a

meal plan it’s quite naturally develops into a limited dieting as you can kind

of you know what you’re eating and what your general structure of meals are and then you can kind of just stop tracking

it and that’s first if you’re eating the same things every day you don’t have to track it anymore you know exactly what

you eat because it’s the same thing every day and then when you’ve built in a certain amount of variety and everything you

know how you eat so you can just follow that same meal pattern and stop tracking it right maybe at first you make sure

that you’re still you get your protein in maybe you start with protein and calories and then you stop tracking

anything except protein or just your fat loss results and then over time all you

have to do is okay how am I eating now and am I getting the results that I want I think it is very important for most

people to track their body composition change because if you’re not tracking that either then you’re just shooting in the wind right

but at some point typically how I add limits and diets now I transition my clients into it is

okay at that point we’re not tracking anything any more deliberately in terms of the diet but we are still tracking our body composition and then on a

weekly basis depending on how um variable your life is let’s say you do weekly measurements and you say okay

I’m losing fat great that so we continue as planned at some point okay I’ve

stopped losing fat that means okay now we need to reduce your energy intake but we don’t have to

track it instead what we’re going to do is we’re going to take some of your food choices and replace them with

less energy dense foods more satiating foods and typically I find that in research also finds that it works better

to focus on adding certain foods rather than restricting Foods so if I tell you

or clients okay no more pizza that sucks but if I tell you okay A bit of extra

broccoli you’re like I can do that you know and then I have my pizza afterwards but in reality what happens is you’re

going to be so full that you’re going to eat a lot less of the pizza or maybe you’re going to skip it all together and then

um you still get the same result yeah and psychologically you still know that you get to have the pizza which in

and of itself is is part of helping you be compliant long term you know in in

listening to you I think what’s most relevant and hopefully what you know our listeners are picking up here is the

importance of having some element of a routine and a habitual process in place

it’s like listen it’s it’s not that tracking is the end I’ll be all here and you’re either all in the tracking camp

or you’re in the quote-unquote intuitive eating Camp which to by the way go hand

in hand um but also is you know it’s important

for you to establish caloric awareness and by virtue of that set a routine in place start to understand your daily

behaviors the foods that you enjoy and how they factor into your results and

then actually be consistent with those and I think everyone wants to be able to

eat out you know enjoy lunch out do all of these different dining out experiences and still reap the benefits

of a fat loss when in reality it’s far too difficult and it’s not that you

can’t have that here and there but if you’re serious about your goals it it’s far too difficult to effectively manage

calories when you’re relying on other places to prepare your meals generally speaking yeah it’s I would say that this

is something that clients struggle with a lot and it’s one of the more difficult skills to learn and I would say it’s it’s kind of the last level to master to

be able to go on holiday and to restaurants and still eat at Liberty and lose fat or at least maintain your goal

physique it’s kind of the last step because tracking is inherently basically

impossible as you say you can make an estimate but even trained dietitians make big errors a 20 error is is normal

and it makes sense that we cannot estimate the calories in a meal because we don’t

know what’s in it and we also there are many things that we cannot see and if you have the exact same meal but it has

three more tablespoons of olive oil in it that’s a good 300 calories extra and you don’t know you can’t see I mean

that’s for a woman 300 calories is huge makes a huge difference if you do that with two meals per day and all of you

you’re like how how come I’m not losing fat all that may be happening is that the restaurants you eat at for lunch and

dinner dinner lunch at work and dinner restaurant or whatever they have these three scoops of olive oil and this is 600 calories that you don’t see that are

obstructing all of your progress most definitely and so it’s it’s very very challenging if you’re serious about

weight loss and if you’re serious about fat loss and you’re eating out consistently and you’re not sure why

you’re not losing um well there’s a very strong likelihood that you’re consuming far more calories

than you think you’re consuming in fact I was just having a conversation with a woman yesterday day and she she was

discussing how her her naturopathic doctor recommended a certain amount of oil like udo’s fish oil or something

that she consume as well as macadamia nuts for her thyroid or not macadamus

Brazil nuts right for her thyroid and when we actually looked at the amount in

conjunction with her regular diet she was well over 100 grams of fat per day right so 900 calories of fat for a woman

who probably shouldn’t be eating Beyond 15 or 1600 calories for her given weight I mean that’s pretty darn con yeah

that’s pretty pretty significant that’s what you get when you have a doctor that presumably focuses primarily on the

firewood issues and they’re like oh selenium and iodine and they’re like yeah that’s found in macademia or not or

Brazil nuts you’re going to obstruct your fat loss in a big way unfortunately so how do you look at it as as you’re

taking clients through the dieting Journey um how do you start to and when do you

start to look at caloric cycling as a positive option as a necessary option

uh for for that client’s success so most research finds that calorie cycling in

in general of most kinds whether it’s via fasting or lower calorie days higher calorie days refeeds diet breaks it has

a neutral effect on diet adherence so in the end how we structure our energy intake over

time what matters is the average over time rather than how we distribute it over time now

there is some research that finds interestingly that alternate day fasting type diets

actually work slightly better now most research again and meta-analysis comes through collusion it’s neutral but if

anything I would say the edge is towards like certain days where you have very aggressive type energy deficits

and then because that frees up a lot of other days where you can eat more calories but it’s mostly a matter of

personal preference what fits into your diet if for example you

um you have family at home and you’re cooking for the family and yeah the family doesn’t eat that

healthily then it’s just going to be very difficult to have any days probably where you’re gonna diet extremely strictly so you’re kind of you have a

certain base where okay maybe 30 deficit is the max that’s feasible and then other days you do 10 deficit or you just

stick with the same deficit on any day and certain days are just going to be easier I think if you’re working a lot

on some days those are good days to actually be more aggressive with the diet because it keeps your mind off food and then

research also generally finds that people that have social eating events and the like then you want to free up

more calories for those which of course makes perfect sense because you’re more likely to eat more

at those times so what I’m hearing is it really comes down to just net calorie intake here and there’s nothing magical

about calorie cycling per se there’s nothing magical about intermittent fasting or any type of of special you

know fasting techniques um what we ultimately need is is a appropriate caloric deficit for that

individual and it sounds like the benefits really come down to that

individual’s preferences and perhaps the psychology of what works best for them given their schedule their

responsibilities their lifestyle their commitments all of those types of things yep definitely

cool I I love that and I think that’s such an important topic to hit home on here for our

listeners listen again there’s there’s nothing magical nothing magical about any of these diets that we’re discussing

what matters most is long-term adherence and that’s why you need to have autonomy and be empowered to figure out the diet

that works best for you the calorie management strategy that works best for you in a way that you can sustain it

yeah I would add to that like so General message is there is no such thing as the

best diet or you know D magical diet what matters is the diet that works best for you

uh but that’s not to say that it’s completely random or that you know

everyone has something different like there are systemic predictors for example of who will do better on certain

types of diet for example with intermittent fasting we have research that people that are there’s genetic

variants in how naturally hungry people are in the mornings and or surprisingly it’s the people that are not so hungry

naturally in the mornings they do better on intermittent fasting and research finds that if you force those to have a

big breakfast because it’s the most important meal of the day or make early breakfast because breakfast just means breaking the fast

and that it actually sabotages their weight loss efforts because it forces them to well

force feed and consume more calories great point and and that’s something we’ve definitely observed I at least

I’ve observed with clientele um is and by that same token

clients that enjoy eating breakfast and they strategically intermittent fast it

sets them up for disaster later on because then they binge eat the rest of the day and put themselves in the situation it’s not hard to eat far more

calories than just an eight hour window than you would have eaten in a 12-hour window right because you didn’t eat the

meal that you enjoy the most as an example so I think that’s a really good point is you need to figure out what actually works for you and it’s okay to

experiment I think one of the best things about you know the fact that we have all of these

dieting strategies is people have plenty of opportunities to experiment with what

does and doesn’t work for them and then to be able to leverage them as tools assuming like you said earlier is we’re

using these as learning opportunities and hopefully taking a few and gleaning some insights from them to be able to

apply to our own personal preferences um so as we start to wrap things up I’d be

remiss if I didn’t talk just a little bit about training here and

um I guess just just generally speaking and again for our general population audience how do you view strength

training and the importance of strength training in the context of weight loss and fat loss especially related to you

know same way we’re comparing all of these diets the same way you know we’ll compare perhaps some of these exercise modalities

spinning Boot Camp style classes cardio in general like what’s your outlook on

that in terms of exercise in general it’s not nearly as important as

nutrition most research finds that exercise helps for sure also because it improves diet adherence and it can

increase the Society of meals so typically it’s it’s kind of a free energy deficit and that doesn’t increase

your hunger sometimes even decreases it and you you do burn energy during the

workout but it’s not nearly as much as most people would like or intuitively think and as a result if you’re just

exercising but you don’t do anything with your diet most people are very limited and

finite fat loss success with that and that’s the saying you can’t out train about diet it’s it’s simply very very

true now in terms of given that exercise is beneficial and

that also for our health functionality Fitness everything strength training is actually by far the

best in research like this is this is something that is extremely counterintuitive but the meta-analysis

by Clark for example and multiple follow-up studies on that have quite strongly shown that given the same time

investment so per minute of exercise people that start strength training are

more successful in losing fat than people that start either aerobic exercise or a combination even of aerobic exercise and strength training

that’s because of multiple reasons like the acute energy expenditure during exercise is typically higher with

aerobic exercise cardio something like that but the acute exercise energy expenditure as we said isn’t that high

to begin with so it’s not the most crucial factor and then there’s some research that indicates strength training is more effective as an

appetite management tool and also it increases your energy expenditure not just now but also in

today’s across and in particular when you build muscle and your body wave goes up that’s extra energy expenditure and

extra body mass that you’re carrying around with you all the time now and this is this takes time like months to

years but some research that has looked at people like bodybuilders versus

untrained individuals I think they found a 20 higher even resting energy

expenditure and our multiple estimates of five percent ten percent now that’s if you’re chain you’re changing nothing

in your diet but you’ve just built say five percent ten percent extra energy expenditure that’s a 10 energy deficit

and that’s gonna last net you a lot of fat loss over the coming months to years

how do you look at the metabolic implications of more aggressive forms of exercise

particularly like high intensity interval training longer duration higher intensity cardio

and and fat loss and maybe even adherence as well adherence is quite a

variable Some people prefer ones people prefer the other I think there is a trend in research for higher intensity

exercise to um to eek out especially in terms of strength training but again it’s super

individual and in terms of cardio there’s actually some research that people prefer lower intensity cardio

because the high intense interval training just can be so brutal like the about the protocols if done correctly

yes and if not done correctly then you know maybe better to do something else that you can do correctly

so in that sense yeah just very individual but I would are on the side

of strength training if you like it at all meaning um most beneficial and

yeah really just finding something that you like doing in general like even more bigger picture speaking is the most important absolutely and and just

reiterating on reaffirming the importance of strength training here in The Grand in the big picture here

especially from a a fat loss standpoint and a body composition change standpoint for people listening here is is

understanding that exercise while an extremely valuable and healthful tool is not going to be the primary driver of

weight loss here it’s going to be your compliance with your nutrition and creating that and and maintaining that

caloric deficit but specifically if if you can speak to the metabolic

implications of the higher intensity forms of exercise and perhaps the

implications on like appetite and and energy regulation in general yeah high

intensity exercise typically offers the advantage of being better for appetite management it’s not a big difference in

research it seems also very individual but the trend is that or at least I think one

I think three Studies have found an advantage of higher intensity exercise most fines not much of a difference

there’s also an advantage in terms of the epoch like excess post exercise oxygen consumption so basically after

the workout you’re going to build muscle and you’ve you’ve damaged muscle fibers after a strength training or high intensity workouts and in the the coming

days your metabolism is still going to be increased now it’s not that much mostly it’s under 100 calories but it

does help offset the greater energy expenditure that you would get from something like cardio and if that’s

already equal and then you get the other benefits maybe better appetite management increasing your long-term

energy expenditure and building muscle which is also important for fat loss because if you’re building muscle that

is and not losing muscle as a result that is energy that you’re now not losing anymore in the form of muscle so

you want to lose all the energy that your body is losing in the body from fat and so any muscle that you lose is not

just as make sure you’re losing muscle but it’s also bad because that’s energy that your body is now not burning it’s

not burning fat it’s burning muscle and it’s only going to burn one or the other you have 500 calorie deficit if you lose

all of that from muscle which would be terrible but that’s 500 calories of fat that you’re

not losing so at the minimum maintenance of muscle mass is very important for to

keep your metabolism up because otherwise it’s going to decrease your metabolism and it’s just going to

get more worse and worse and worse as time progresses so how cognizant do we need to be about the form of

cardiovascular exercise that we’re doing and let me just preface and make sure because you are talking about true high

intensity interval training in terms of the benefits that you stipulated before but in my experience most people are not

doing true high intensity interval training like we you suggested you know

around exact Tabata type protocols but instead it’s a lot of these Boot Camp

style calling it hit style training but it’s really just jumping around for 45

minutes doing pseudo strength training but sort of like the objective is let’s

see how much you can sweat and how many quote-unquote calories you can burn in 45 minutes right just so clear

yeah that’s most research finds that those high intensity interval type workouts actually are metabolically much

closer to low intensity exercise than to strength training because you just cannot sustain that intensity and I

think it’s funny when people do Tabata Sprints like 20 seconds Sprint 10 second rest 20 second Sprints many people think

they’re training like a sprinter but you’re training like a soccer player because printers they do like 10 seconds

print and then five minutes rest which is a completely different work to rest ratio and soccer players they were the

ones that do 20 second Sprints by the time they are already pretty gas so it’s like a medium intensity Sprints by the first Sprint and then they have very

short rest periods and in the end if you train like that then well you’re going to look more like a soccer player in

terms of muscularity than Olympic sprinter when we go back to the client’s

preferences their lifestyle what’s reasonable for them in my experience for what it’s worth is we have to just look

at overall stress load and um how much you know just total stress

load that the client is under to the degree that again in my experience most people

prefer to and it’s perceived less stress to be doing consistent strength training

with low intensity cardio especially given you know poor sleep behaviors a

very busy job you know kids at home write all of the things yeah I would I

would say that in general hits like high intensity interval training is more of a

short-term I wouldn’t say gimmick but for for many people that just do it for fat loss or to look cool it it doesn’t

last because it’s so stressful and low intensity cardio not a big cardio fan

but it’s something you can sustain you know you can just you can get to the gym you can get on your bicycle you can take a run it’s something that you can do

multiple times per week it doesn’t burn you out you can you can maintain that and strength training as well is

something you can go to the gym you do one set you can rest you know it’s not something that uh every time after

workout you’re like oh I survived thank god well talk about motivation I mean no

one no one is going to be motivated to go do a high intensity workout if they’re doing it correctly so yeah

that’s it well some people have a massive case masochistic streak I guess right you got to be pretty darn crazy

but again if for most of our listeners they’re not uh looking for the best high

intensity protocol and if if they’ve found it before they’re not searching for it again assuming they’ve done it correctly but

um listen I think that’s a great play to wrap things up Mano so I just want to

express my appreciation for you taking the time to come on the show where can more people find out more about you

on my website.com the best way is when you’re going on my website like I said

mentalhensible.com you uh at the first you see a free email course that’s probably the best way to get in touch

with my contents because it gives you kind of a tour of my most popular content content that resonated the most

with my audience and then you can see if you like that and go on either YouTube Instagram Facebook and all these

channels and we do have some personal trainers that tune into this podcast so tell us just very briefly about your

personal training certification yeah I have an online course that’s now available in French English Dutch

Spanish and German and is doing super well and it’s more of an alternative to

people that want like a very Advanced in-depth comprehensive

science-based online PT certification so that’s more for the people that are

really um you know really want to know all the details all studies and then and that

will definitely give you everything that you want to know and more about nutrition and exercise science beautiful

so for those of you listening uh one is thank you for taking the time to to check out this episode

um two is we will have links to both of those to mano’s email course and the PT certification in the show notes so just

check them out down below and and go ahead and And subscribe to that uh and

uh again thank you Mano for your time much appreciated and we’ll catch up soon my pleasure take care brother

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About the author

Menno Henselmans

Formerly a business consultant, I've traded my company car to follow my passion in strength training. I'm now an online physique coach, scientist and international public speaker with the mission to help serious trainees master their physique.

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