Don’t Eat That, Eat This.
Nearly everyone I’ve ever met has a food they consider to be their kryptonite. Some people claim not to, but frankly I believe they have it too and are just in denial. The foods I’ve listed below are some of the most common ones cited, and a quick look at the list shows a few obvious common factors. They are all heavily processed, they all contain an abundance of the “feel-good” macros, which stimulate the brain’s opioid receptors and create that artificial sensation of wellbeing directly after consumption, and they all lead to a quick crash, which leaves you wanting more.
So what I’ve done here is write you out a quick cheat sheet. I’ve seen an infographic making its way around on the internet lately that lists the food you’re craving and follows it up with the food your body really wants. This is a neat idea, but in the 21st century it’s unlikely your body is craving chocolate because what you really want is broccoli. It’s far more likely that your body is craving chocolate because it gets fed too much chocolate too often and it considers that to be its baseline normal. So I’m not going to patronise you with the insistence that you try replacing chocolate with broccoli, or guilt you into feeling like you have to do it. There’s a very good chance that as a regular reader of The Gorilla Pit blog you’re already looking to make some positive lifestyle changes, so what I’m going to do here is suggest a few realistic alternatives to these common “kryptonite” foods that are not just healthier, but also close enough to the food you’re craving that over time you can teach your body to want them instead.
An abundance of processed cheese, a bready, carb-rich base, oil, sugary, heavily processed pizza-sauce. What’s not to like? Most of the time, if protein is represented at all on a pizza it’s in the form of a questionable, floor-scraping-and-sodium type meat. There’s not much going on there that’s going to do you any good at all nutritionally, but that’s not really what pizza’s about, is it?
If you’re craving pizza, try throwing together an omelette instead. A good omelette is simple, but requires practice to do well, so get in the kitchen and start acquiring the skill. Fry off some onions and grate a small amount of cheese to put into the middle of it, and you’ve even got your flavour base covered, all in a protein rich, nutritionally world-beating package of goodness.
I know, I know, blueberries and chocolate are two different things, but unlike broccoli, blueberries have a little sweetness to them. Chances are you already know that a good quality chocolate, with a high cocoa-solid content, is a better nutritional choice than your average sugar-packed bar of crap, but a small handful of blueberries will actually taste sweeter than that, and at the same time will outstrip it on the nutritional front. If you’re going to train yourself away from eating the unhealthy brands of chocolate, shoot for blueberries to replace it.
Years ago, one particular brand of chip was sold in a cardboard tube with a plastic lid, and all the ad campaigns bore the catchy slogan “Once you pop, you can’t stop.” It rolls nicely off the tongue, sure, but once you examine the content and acknowledge its truth it’s actually quite terrifying. I don’t think they use that slogan any more. Probably for the best. Chips aren’t just crap, they’re carb rich, fatty, coated with a thick layer of chemical sludge and have no nutritional value whatsoever. On top of this, as I said before, once you pop, you can’t stop. Chip consumption has been shown to trigger food intake rather than promote satiety.
A handful of nuts, on the other hand, is tasty, promotes satiety way beyond what you might expect for such a small volume of food, is packed full of protein and good fats, and has nothing to speak of in the way of carbohydrate.
And now we come to my own personal kryptonite. I can resist a burger (I don’t like to, but I can do it), I couldn’t care less about most potato products, but you wave a pot of ice-cream in front of me when it’s not time for one of my rare indulgences, and you’re going to see me start to shake and sweat like an addict. So you might say I have more invested in this particular listing than I do most of them. Once again, there’s not a lot that’s good about ice-cream. Years ago I worked briefly in an old-school bodybuilding gym, where a number of the coaches promoted things like a large bowl of ice-cream before bed to help get those calories into the hard gainers. There’s no evidence of the benefit of this practice, and a massive amount of evidence to suggest that long-term it’s nothing but counter-productive. All it does is promote insulin-resistance, which means you’re just making your body less efficient, and less responsive to the training and higher-quality foods you subject it to. Don’t listen to old-school bodybuilders on this kind of thing. I know you want what they’re saying to be true, but that don’t make it so…
Yoghurt, on the other hand, is still creamy and delicious, promotes gut health, contains respectable levels of protein but not an abundance of carbohydrate, and tastes even better when mixed with other foods on this list like blueberries and nuts.
Hot Chips/Baked Potato
Contrary to popular belief, the humble potato is not evil. It’s a delicious, satiety-promoting food with many admirable nutritional elements to it. Man’s bastardisation of the potato for the purposes of gluttony, however, have given it a bad name. As a rule, if you insist on frying anything in oil, tossing it in salt or other chemicals, then consuming it coated in sugary sauces, you’re going to see some negative side effects, it doesn’t seem fair to blame the raw ingredient. So if you want to see the best from your potato consumption, if you want to benefit from the vitamin c, calcium and iron content, just bake it and eat it. Sure, you’re still going to have to factor it into your carbohydrate allowance, but that’s not a hardship, is it?
Soft Drink/Mineral Water
You remember how your post-workout shake is great for delivering much-needed protein quickly to the body because it’s an easily absorbed liquid? Well, soft drink is much the same for sugar and chemicals. No, that’s not a good thing. It won’t make you feel full, nothing is triggered by your body to stop you consuming an absurd volume of it, and it’s available everywhere you look in ever increasing amounts. You could switch to the sugar free stuff, but it’s unlikely they got it tasting that way without the addition of more than one questionable, lab-developed substance, and more importantly, do you really want to teach your body to associate the flavour of sweet things with little or no calorific intake? Every time you experience a disparity between flavour and satiety, you’re complicating the signals the body uses to assess these things. Don’t mess with it. Just stay away.
Stick to filtered or mineral water. If you want to make it a little more exciting, squeeze a little lemon or lime into it (this will also boost the antioxidant content). I often use a sparkling water with ice and slice as cover for the fact that I’m not drinking when I socialise. Everyone assumes I’m on vodka-and-something, I don’t get questions, and then later when I tell them I was drinking water and I can drive them all home I’m everybody’s hero.
The cheese question is another hugely popular one. Everyone wants to know if they can eat it, and I wish I could give them a simple yes or no. The problem with cheese isn’t the way it profiles in terms of carbohydrate, it’s not a lack of protein, it’s actually a question of servings. Cheese contains an immense serving of fat in relation to everything else, and isn’t otherwise abundant from a nutritional perspective. This means that whilst a small amount is okay, we are talking about an amount so small that no cheese-loving human being on the face of the earth is going to be stopping at that point. Combine this with the tendency we all have to eat it in conjunction with breads or crackers, and you’re starting to get a picture of the many wrinkles this question presents. Are you really going to sit down and indulge in a tasty teaspoon of your favourite camembert, then stop and have no more? No, it’s not realistic, is it?
Avocado, on the other hand, rewards every mouthful with nutrients, antioxidants and good quality monounsaturated fats. It’s going to make you feel fuller than cheese will, and it’s going to do a lot more for you nutritionally. Sure, you’re still going to have to portion it appropriately, but it has a lot more value than cheese does. Eat some today.
Keep crushing it guys
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