Friday, April 22, 2011

Food for thought

A friend sent me this article. The main point of the article (that cheat meals are help not a hindrance) was essentially preaching to the choir. One line stuck out to me though: "carbs raise serotonin levels". Is that why I have been crying at cat food commercials?

This required further research. This is what I found:

Carbohydrates, when digested by the body, are effectively broken down into sugar molecules. When these molecules are absorbed and released in the bloodstream, blood concentration of glucose increases. Almost immediately, there will be a significant increase in plasma insulin levels as a result of the pancreas releasing its stored insulin. Insulin then steps in to do what it is genetically program to do–it breaks it down some more to produce energy and transport the extra glucose from the blood to the body cells. Insulin also makes it easy for tryptophan to enter the brain by eliminating its other amino acid competitors.

Tryptophan, an amino acid and an important ingredient in serotonin synthesis, is one of the substances allowed by the brain to enter from the blood. Tryptophan is the less occurring amino acid in the body and competes with the other amino acids in entering the blood-brain barrier. In a journal published by Springer Wien, it was observed that the concentration of the majority of the amino acids, including alanine and glutamine, are significantly reduced each time insulin is secreted. Tryptophan is then able to enter the brain at a higher rate. An increased level of tryptophan in the brain means more available tryptophan for conversion. Tryptophan undergoes hydroxylation to the 5 positions and is converted in 5-HT and eventually to serotonin.

Even when I was having a cheat day I was not really eating that many carbs because I was a little scared that I would loose the progress I made. I will rectify that his weekend.


  1. I took away a very different point than you did from this article. The article does say that cheat meals can help, BUT it says that most people don't do them properly and will NEVER achieve their goals with regular uncontrolled cheats.

    Now, whether or not getting down to such a low body fat percentage that you can barely type your blog, as the author admits to, is worth it is another thing altogether, but he's not advocating full-on cheats on a regular basis.

  2. The link had 'http//' rather than 'http://' for me.


  3. I just meant that I might need more carbs for serotonin levels not that I was going to go hog wild. I totally agree with you on the idea of a cheat day. I could do some serious damage in a day.

  4. I thought it was funny that he told that one guy to go out and have THREE PIZZAS. Now THAT's a cheat meal!

    It was depressing how he talked about not having any energy to type and then he would have a cheat meal and have a surge of energy (for 48 hours). I think there's got to be a pleasant in between and maybe sub 10% body fat is just not worth it.

    As you know I've been tinkering with the use of cheat meals and I've been doing one per week, but I don't always feel like I really need to "refeed" as he says so maybe that's too often. When I go a little longer and then have a cheat, I do feel a surge of energy in my workouts, but aside from all the scientific reasons for cheat meals (which is kind of over my head...when he said skip this paragraph if you get bored by science, I did), for me it's mostly psychological. I can convince myself not to eat bad on a daily basis if I know that I've got a cheat meal coming up. The trick for me is not undoing all the week's work in one day :)