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To lose 4lbs during a diet, yet gain 6lbs back within a few weeks of finishing it is a sadly familiar scenario. In the previous article “Why diets never work and what to do” we discussed in detail why fad diets generally have poor results. We also presented some of the best alternatives to fad dieting, with the goal of achieving desired ‘body correction’ and avoiding starving the body. This article is devoted to exit strategies for diets.
Any process embarked on should have an exit strategy.
Dropping a diet without planning is the equivalent of stopping your car in the middle of the motorway, or jumping out of the airplane before landing – not recommended!
In the previous article “Why diets do not work…” we discussed the body’s reaction to various ‘cut’ diets. Here’s a quick refresher:
A decrease in calories leads to metabolic slowdown due to inevitable negative metabolic adaptation. Being adapted to lower calories, the body burns less ingested nutrients for energy. The more you reduce your food intake, the lower your metabolic rate becomes and the lower the quantity of nutrients which are used for body maintenance. Muscle degradation occurs as a side effect of many diets. This is a result of the body using its own muscle tissue for its energy needs when it is being starved, rather than burning fat as the latter is used to store nutrient deposits for a ‘rainy day’. A final and important point is that the less muscle tissue the body has, the lower its metabolic rate. Consequently a decrease in food consumption leads directly to muscle degradation during ‘cut’ diets, resulting in a situation in which the dieter is both eating less and getting fatter.
By instead taking a path of balanced and healthy eating, you could achieve visible sustainable results and reach a desirable body correction. This, in combination with the right training strategy, is the right solution.
Now let’s imagine a situation in which you are a healthy eater and regular exerciser. You have adopted the right nutritional strategy and follow an appropriate fitness plan for your body’s needs, but you want to achieve even more.
In this instance so-called “manageable cut dieting” may be suitable.
Imagine that you achieve this additional goal; fantastic! But what next?
You always have two options: to either return to your normal eating habits, or follow a correct exit strategy. In the first case the pattern will be more or less classic. If you are a healthy eater, you will inevitably gain weight after the diet is over and your metabolism will accelerate due to an increase in calories. Super-compensation will occur and you will come back to your normal body weight and body composition with an additional 1-3% of body fat. This is the most favorable scenario. However, you have to be ready to be slightly “softer” for a while until all your bodily processes are settled. If you are not a healthy eater, you will probably fall into the vicious circle of any diet, described above.
The second scenario, which involves a smart exit strategy, is a bit more sophisticated in terms of execution but at the same time will definitely help to keep your physical achievements for longer. It may even shift your body composition permanently and allow you to be lean all-year-round. This is exactly what happened to me after 3 years of competing.
Exit strategy recommendations:
Increase calories gradually.
It is always very tempting to start eating all your favorite treats after a diet. However, keep in mind that your body will have become extremely sensitive to all previously excluded food sources. Be careful and conscious with carbs and fats first of all. Lane Norton (one of the most notable experts in metabolic damage) believes that the best way to smooth the transition to a non-dieting state is to increase your carbs by 10%, and fats by 1%, every week. Such moderate increases boost the metabolism and help the body to adapt to a new macronutrient modulation, without drastic changes in body composition.
Track protein intake
Protein consumption also should be trackable. In the majority of smart fitness diets (not fad diets) protein intake is sufficient at the ‘cut’ stage. Macronutrient increase usually happens on account of carb and fat intake. However, some strategies such as various “detox” programs exclude or minimize protein consumption for the entire duration of the diet. This leads to severe muscle loss and metabolic damage.
Conversely, there are some diets (Dr. Atkins and his numerous imitators) that exclude carbs almost completely. One of the biggest misconceptions behind such an approach is that the human body does not need anything apart from protein. This in turn gave birth to the following misunderstandings of the human body: One is that you can eat any amount of protein and not gain fat. In fact, any excessive amount of protein is converted into glucose by the liver via the neoglucogenesis process. Excessive glucose and fatty acids not used for energy are literally converted into body fat. So keep your protein intake attuned to your body composition, type of exercise you do and your activity level, but be careful with any extra amount consumed. If you want to increase muscle mass the nutrition strategy you follow should be allied with your training and supplementation plans to achieve desirable results. Eating mountains of protein without a smart plan will not bring benefits. On the other hand, excessive consumption of protein can even be dangerous and lead to unexpected fat gain, increased acidity and an additional burden placed on the kidney and the liver. For more details about this, read my article “How much protein should be eaten”.
Increase physical activity
It is clear that any increase in food consumption provides the body with additional energy. This increased energy should be burned up, in order to avoid undesirable body fat formation after a diet. As the metabolism is still slow after the period of reduced calories the only way to make sure you are on the right track is to increase your physical activity until the metabolic rate is normalized. The question is how we can do this in a more efficient and productive way. Obviously, we can not spend 2-3 hours a day doing low intense steady state (LISS) cardio as some so-called ‘fitness gurus’ recommend. That sort of free time is far too scarce for most of us. The best way to increase activity after a diet is to increase the intensity of your normal workout by increasing resistance (weight), or the number of receptions. Another recommended tactic is to add 15-20 minutes of highly intense interval (HIIT) cardio after your workout.
After any diet all bodily processes are altered. Being excluded for a while, and then re-introduced, some food sources could provoke digestion problems and cause bloating and other unpleasant consequences. You need to help the body to start working properly. Short, 2-3 week courses of digestive enzymes and friendly bacteria will be beneficial.
Metabolic boosters are another useful thing. Two of the most well-known natural metabolites are chili and black pepper. Just add a pinch of those to your meals.
The next possibility is an insulin controller. Keeping going without simple carbs for a period of time increases insulin sensitivity. Add 1-3 tablets of chromium to your meals to avoid insulin spikes. Also be careful with fruit: Those fruit with a high glycemic index such as mango, figs and other exotic fruits likely will be harmful for your six-pack.
Check your list of wellbeing factors daily
Try to get eight hours of quality sleep, fresh air (and, at least, a one-hour power walk outside) and attempt to keep your stress levels low. These three wellbeing factors should always be checked and whenever possible, observed. High cortisol levels (stress hormones) alone could ruin all your fitness and dietary efforts. Insufficient sleep, excessive alcohol consumption and smoking, and constant tissue hypoxia (lack of oxygen) will make change impossible.
Check your body composition
This is a pretty obvious point, but very often ignored. After a diet, it is essential to know what the proportion of your lean muscle mass is to your body fat percentage. Check it once every two weeks, a reasonable length of time to let your body react to new nutrients and any adjusted fitness plan. Ideally, both figures should stay unchanged or increase very slowly. Keep an eye on them. If you notice a drop in muscle mass or an increase in body fat of more than 4lbs within a two week period, your exit diet should be reconsidered and adjusted accordingly.
Have you ever noticed that after any diet, the pounds inevitably pile back on? Not only that, but people often actually gain more than they lose after finishing a diet. The idea of dieting is fundamentally flawed, with the process frequently being useless, painful and even dangerous to the person following it. In this article we are going to shed light on fad diets and provide you with some recommendations on how to avoid mistakes, and achieve long-term results.
Are still considering dieting?
What does an average diet consist of? They vary enormously in terms of the type of food stipulated or prohibited, timeframe, and degree of strictness. However, there are a few common features. Let’s examine them briefly.
All fad diets are low in calories and rely on a nutrients deficiency principle. That means a dieter consumes fewer calories than he or she burns. This usually leads to a certain weight loss, but a series of studies have shown that the drop in body weight usually occurs predominantly as a result of muscle – but not fat – loss. This is only the tip of the iceberg. Beneath the surface, the body experiences a significant metabolic slowdown.
All diets are short-term (up to a few weeks). First of all, that does not allow the body to change in the longer term. Secondly, it means that a dieter will soon return to his or her “normal” – often unhealthy or semi-healthy – eating habits. These dietary habits caused weight gains in the past, so it’s fairly certain that the same thing will happen again.
All diets impose strict restrictions on the type and quantity of food consumed. That might provoke not only temporary mood swings and fatigue but also long term hormonal problems. Another consequence can be malnutrition (i.e. a deficiency of some important micronutrients and vitamins). It could impair bodily functions and negatively impact the overall health of the dieter.
Now, let’s dig a little deeper.
Very often calorie restriction in the course of a dietary programme is too extreme, and has no scientific basis. The buckwheat diet, green diet, zero carbs diet, fruit diet and even the lemon-water diet are just few examples of type of diet which are – to put it bluntly – complete nonsense. Do people lose weight on such diets? Yes, they do. Do they gain it back? Yes, and it happens very quickly.
Decreasing calorie intake is another form of dieting. People keep their eating habits unchanged and just reduce the size of the portions or general quantity of their food intake, and exclude “criminal” food such as white bread or refined sugar. At first glance, this approach looks logical. Curbing excessive unhealthy food consumption will inevitably lead to weight loss. However, it is temporary. Having reached his or her target, a dieter reverts to “normal” eating habits, quickly gaining back everything that was lost, plus a little bit more, after every diet.
Another important point is that dieters almost never measure what they eat (we’re not speaking about bodybuilders, who, in opposite, obsessively weigh every ingredient). All food intakes is approximate and cannot be precisely replicated every day. Eating in public spaces makes tracking exact consumption even more complicated. It is impossible to be certain how purchased meals were cooked, and what additives such as oils, sugar, starches and so on were used. I’ve heard this stock phrase a million times: “I eat healthily but can’t lose fat”. When I start analyzing what people really eat I always see an abundance of hidden salt, sugar and fats in ready-to-eat or processed meals consumed. As a result, a dieter has fluctuating macronutrient intake (proteins, carbs, fats, fibre as well as salt and water) from day to day without any degree of consistency, consuming extra unnecessary nutrients that negatively impact the body in both the short and long term.
Sometimes people stop eating completely for a while (“detox” fasting). This is probably the most terrifying scenario in terms of negative metabolic adaptation and the degree of harm it inflicts on the body.
Juice diets, which are currently extremely popular, are another example of outrageous fad strategies that inevitably cause overcompensating fat gain after the diet is over.
To recap, people do lose weight during diets but mostly due to three key factors:
loss of body water due to loss of muscle glycogen (1 molecule of muscle glycogen retains 3 molecules of intramuscular water keeping the body hydrated),
loss of intestine bulk due to extremely low food consumption.
Now, let’s look in more detail at muscle loss. Why is this factor important? It has been scientifically proven that muscles burn more calories for maintenance than fat. In other words, two 130 pound individuals with the same activity levels but with different body composition (let’s say, the first has 10% of body fat and the second – 30%) have completely different daily calorie expenditure. Who is going to burn more? Obviously the first one, as he has more muscle tissue.
Another interesting fact is that the human body starts burning muscle tissue for energy when calorie intake is insufficient. Fat is used to store nutrients for the body in case of starvation, which is why the human body tends to keep it for as long as possible, destroying muscle tissue first. It’s a survival mechanism. Only in certain circumstances the body uses fat for energy (for example, when a certain heart rate is reached). Muscle loss during fad diets is inevitable even if a dieter continues exercising, and the less muscle tissue the dieter has, the fewer calories he/she burns. That’s why prolonged fad diets provoke muscle degradation and, as a result, significant metabolic slowdown.
Let’s say a couple of words about metabolic adaptation (slowdown/damage). This probably the simplest correlation to explain: The human body is both ingenious, and highly efficient. Survival is its main objective, so the fewer calories consumed, the fewer calories used. The body becomes very efficient and stores everything possible to deal with the possibility of starvation. In other words, the less you eat – the less you burn. And it works the other way around: the more generous the food supply, the less the need of the body to store fat for a raining day. However, don’t forget about food sources. Fat-laden, sodium-rich and sugar-heavy processed food never brings benefits. When boosting your metabolism, always opt for whole foods.
To sum up, when a dieter starves him/herself for a prolonged period, negative metabolic adaptation occurs. In combination with inevitable muscle loss it causes even more dramatic consequences – a dieter simply starts gaining more and more weight, while eating less and less.
Cortisol is a human stress hormone. Overwork, fad diets, long and exhausting cardio sessions, over-exercising, and lack of quality sleep, sunshine and fresh air are only a few examples from the long list of cortisol boosters. High cortisol levels cause major water retention (in case of some extreme female dieters, up to 25-30lbs). Moreover, high cortisol slows down the metabolism even further.
To diet or not to diet
Taking into account all of the above evidence, the question must be asked: is it actually worth dieting?
The answer should be obvious: No, if we’re talking about fad diets.
Another, related, question is how can we achieve targeted body correction?
It’s all about long term life-style changes: Short-term diets don’t provide long term results and may be harmful, whereas permanent changes to your eating habits bring long-term benefits.
How to start and what to do
Here are just a few simple tips that could make your healthy eating easier, and more effective.
Always rely on a scientific, fully customized approach! Generic diets and programs work poorly. Don’t copy someone else’s strategy. Most likely it was designed for an individual with a different somatotype, body fat percentage, activity level and other differentiating factors.
Would you perform dentistry on yourself? I didn’t think so. Always rely on professionals. Hire a qualified nutritionist to design the right strategy for your needs and guide you through the journey. It’s not going to be easy, as any life-style change requires complete focus, dedication, patience, and competent support.
Never starve yourself. Remember, fad diets are harmful.
Accept that finding healthy food in public places, or around your office, is pretty much impossible. Make it a habit to carry around a few little Tupperware boxes containing your freshly made meals. You will definitely be hungry at some point. Take care of yourself and don’t allow hunger to force you eating rubbish, or to starve.
Try to avoid processed food. This step alone will be hugely beneficial in the long-term.
Always put your health first.
Fast food and junk food cravings only exist in your head. The normal human body does not need junk food at all. Believe it or not, our brain can work perfectly on complex carbs. The human body is able to produce endorphins and serotonin without eating mountains of sweets. Our ancient ancestors never knew McDonalds or Nutella and lived happily without them. So the biggest monster lives in our own heads. Stop feeding it!
Take your time. The human body needs a far longer time to change than we tend to believe. Give yourself time. Be generous. Healthy eating will start working sooner or later. Just be consistent
Keep calm and eat your chicken (or broccoli/spinach/cod – whatever suits you!). Stress slows down the metabolism, making the body store more fat and retain water.
Sleep well and get enough fresh air every day. It’s a basic rule and you shouldn’t make excuses for yourself.
Just as you can’t be “almost pregnant”, you can’t “almost eat healthily”. You either do it or you don’t. The more you cheat the more you crave. It is better to eliminate junk food from your diet completely. Good luck!
Everything is easy when you know the rules. It is even easier when you enjoy them. Stay positive whatever happens, be in charge of your life, in control of your thoughts, be consciously aware of your own imperfections, and understand and embrace those flaws without blaming yourself or being envious of others: accept people as they are without ego-driven expectations, and – ultimately – try to love them by reminding that they are moulded from the same universal dough as you. Enjoy the moment, even if it doesn’t seem ideal, but don’t postpone your happiness to a point in the future…All of these look easy at first glance, but require hard work, focus, and knowing the rules. There are plenty of them, and there are even more interpretations. However, everything is actually simple.
Rule 1: Be open
The universe constantly brings people and opportunities into your life, and teaches you lessons. That’s why it is important to be open and accepting. I have a philosophy: never close doors. I never close them for two reasons: because I trust the universe and hence feel safe and open to accept whatever/whomever comes into my life. I also believe that everything and everyone comes with a purpose.
Rule 2: Trust.
There is a Buddhist parable which states that before any soul is reincarnated it meets the souls of all the other people it is going to meet during its life journey, and makes a pact with all of them to bring them both good and bad experiences in order to learn, and obtain the required experience to attain higher consciousness. So there is no need to be worried. Simply meet people, and accept whatever they bring with gratitude. Even if they bring you pain and suffering you have to remember: there is nothing you can’t go through and that everything happens for a reason. Learn. Learn and be grateful each time.
Rule 3: Be grateful
Appreciate and value everything you have at this moment in time. Never forget that there are far worse scenarios. Many people in the world couldn’t begin to imagine what you have, yet do not value. A while ago I met a lady who was very angry at her mother. She kept a childhood memory of when she had a toothache. At the time, her mother was young, single and insecure – both financially, and psychologically. To boost her confidence, she bought herself a necklace instead of spending the money on taking her daughter to the dentist. My acquaintance carried that sad memory for more than 20 years, that deep-seated anger with her mother. Her mother died of cancer, without the issues between her and her daughter being resolved . Very often we take things, people, and opportunities for granted. What often happens next? We lose them. So, be grateful for everything, even for tough experiences.
Rule 4: Be attentive
When you have something – be attentive to it. It could be a new book you are supposed to read, or new person you are supposed to learn from or teach, or even just a moment with someone special. Be attentive; listen, feel, and utilise all your senses. Very often we are only partly focused on the reality around us. That is why we miss those little miracles that other more attentive people (talented artists, photographers, writers, or the very lucky!) can grasp and transform into something wonderful, or obtain priceless knowledge from. Everything we experience carries information and messages. Some of these are more immediately obvious, whereas some insights are more deeply hidden. But all these messages are sent to us with a purpose. They will continue to be sent until we learn a particular lesson, or get the information we are meant to acquire. Every subsequent message will frequently be harder and more painful than the previous one, in order to make you listen more carefully and to wake you up. Have you ever noticed that before something unpleasant happens in your life, you may experience a series of events that give you a hint that something bad will happen? Those are messages. Possibly the unpleasant event itself is a message, but by that point it’s a kick rather than a nudge as a result of your ignoring it.
Being attentive to events and people is not the same as overthinking things. It’s all about awareness and being conscious of your surroundings. If you are truly awake you will know what is worth paying attention to, and what is just background noise.
Rule 5: Everything is temporary
People and opportunities, pleasure and pain… these things come to us, enter our lives, and then they pass. It is part of the natural cycle – nothing is permanent. Even tattoos and scars will disappear when the body dies. Everything and everyone will eventually go away. We do not possess anything really, and the weakest form of attachment is to the ego. We should accept the fact that everything is transient, and life will become brighter and better. After every end, a new fantastic beginning will emerge and the new experiences it brings will be both exciting and disappointing. There is always a shadow on a sunny day.
It today’s world we crave excitement, which is often a good thing: It can make our life sparkle and worth living. (I’m not speaking about pathological cases when people look for pain and drama.) But we are very bad at having no expectations. Our tendency is to create unrealistic aspirations and expectations, and consequently to be disappointed after they are crushed. We often fail to see clearly, our consciousness number by the churn of conflicting thoughts, sensations and feelings that we continuously experience.
We are dreamers. But every dream has a chance of being realised. The secret is just to accept from the outset that the pursuit of our dreams may be fraught with difficulty, and that those aspirations and ambitions may even dissolve. But never stop dreaming. It makes us go forward.
Rule 6: Learn to let go, and have no regrets.
When we get something great, we tend to think it belongs to us forever. But it is not our property at all. We possess nothing: we are guests who are, on occasion, treated very well, but those experiences inevitably disappear in time.
Rule 7: Don’t resist
Just relax, breathe, smile, and be grateful for everything you’ve got – people, feelings, experiences – and learn to let them go at the right time. Keep yourself clear from possessiveness, worries, jealousy, and sacrifice.
Rule 8: Don’t sacrifice
Nothing is worth it. Sacrifice is betrayal of who you are. You are a part of the universe – in fact you are the universe. By sacrificing yourself you betray the universe, as doing so has no positive net effect. No one will be happy at the end of the day and any sacrifice always brings suffering, drama, resentment, recriminations, and hatred. Sacrifice is a form of collective madness. Some theologists say that holy scripts teach to sacrifice. No one can deny the proliferation of fiction books devoted to various forms of sacrifice, declaring it as a good thing. But it is a lie. It is the biggest lie, based on a fundamental misinterpretation of who we are as human beings. Jesus taught: “Do not let your heart be troubled…”. For me, that means a happy heart radiates happiness out into the world, making it a better place for everyone. Carrying the burden of a sacrificed heart leads to resentment, and the poisoning of everything around you. This is why our principal mission in life should always be to bring light and positivity into the world. Our duty? Simply to be happy. And it really is easy when you know the rules.
When you wake up with a smile on your face it is good indication that you are doing something right. Our simple emotions are like litmus paper – the best indicator of what is going on in our lives. But what if you wake-up drained, apathetic, scared about your future? There are five crucial fields you should check daily.
The body reacts first
The body is born to serve our basic needs and act as a box for the soul (our essence or spirit). Ayurveda practitioners believe that the body is “older” than the mind. Indeed, when one is born he/she is not able to analyse things, because cognitive skills are as yet undeveloped. This is the probably the best period of our existence, as we are still free from that constant, irritating and uncontrollable churn of thoughts that plague us later in life.
The body is the only real means a new-born has of indicating his or her feelings. Being adults we always put rationality first, not paying enough attention to our body’s signals. This is a huge mistake, as the body never lies! All the signals it sends us should be accepted, acknowledged, and taken into account. So, if you suffer a lack of energy, poor focus, or constant fatigue – it is time to change your routine.
Sufficient Sleep + Healthy Eating + Physical Activities + Fresh Air + Sex = Body Wellbeing.
It’s a pretty simple equation, but at the same time, one which is surprisingly difficult for most of us to put into effect.
However, this apparent complexity is just an abstract construction of our mind. If you walk instead of taking the train, car or bus, you have already met two fundamental needs at the same time (activity and fresh air).
Sex is the most well-known source of both endorphins and serotonin (happiness hormones). Of course, not all of us have the possibility to have regular sex – but this isn’t a problem. I don’t believe it was an issue when you were 15 (at least for most of us!). There are so many other ways of getting your daily dose of happiness: Weight training, yoga and deep relaxation, 5 HTP (naturally occurring amino acid acting as a precursor of serotonin), deep tissue massage, and proliferations of other methods, to name a few. You should aim to a rule of thumb to get two separate happiness experiences a day, topping up your levels of endorphins and serotonin.
Healthy Eating is also fundamental. Doing nutrition consulting over years I realized that 99% of people have difficulty in telling apart basic carbs, fat and protein sources. Very frequently we suffer from minor and major food intolerances: Major intolerances can inflict a great degree of pain, and so we are usually aware of them. Minor intolerances are not so obvious, but could nevertheless cause serious health problems. The best way to tackle the problem is to conduct an allergens and food intolerance test to identify the core problems, and then hire a qualified practitioner to design a well-balanced flexible diet to meet your needs. Even if you have a perfect body and don’t plan on losing or gaining weight, a balanced bespoke flexible diet could help you to maximize performance, boost your energy and immune system, and even extend your youth.
So, keep your body in good order and always listen to its signals: It will definitely pay off!
Monster in your head
Have you ever caught yourself thinking almost obsessively about something very unpleasant? I bet your answer is yes.
You are not alone. Obtrusive thinking is a major “defect” of the human brain.
Eckhart Tolle, the author of bestseller “The Power of Now”, and “The New Earth” compares this trait of human cognitive processes with the concept of original sin. In other words, all of us suffer from obtrusive negative thinking. It could be snippets past conversations, fighting with invisible “enemies”, or simply anxieties about possible future events that, most likely, will never happen.
It has been scientifically proven that obtrusive thinking is very energy-consuming. I compare it to a hungry vampire, sucking out your energy, draining you of life. You should remember that this ugly, greedy vampire only exists in your own head.
To many of us it seems like a trap from which we can’t escape, but wait: There are some people who are able to beat the Monster, for a while, at least. How? By focusing exclusively on the present moment. All your negative feelings, fears, anxieties and regrets dwell in the past (which you can’t change) or in the future (that you can’t control). So the present moment is the only safe place you have. Next time when the Monster attacks, do something that immediately requires your full, undivided attention. According to Zen principles and cognitive behavioural therapy practitioners, humans are not really able to successfully multitask, as we tend to believe. It’s an illusion. We are really able to do one thing at any one time, and this is a potent weapon in battling our Monster.
My personal method of combatting my inner, negative voice was to start lifting heavy weights, for instance, and counting reps. Doing this slowly, by flexing my muscles for 10 seconds during every rep, didn’t allow me to pay much attention to the Monster. Try this technique, or your own, and send me feedback.
Through controlling your emotions and managing that inner Monster, you will be able to save your energy for far more exciting and inspiring moments in life.
Just do it
When living each moment, try to extract maximum value from the present. Try to accomplish more, try to get new experiences, learn something relevant and useful to your life, visit new places; do something that you’ve never done before.
You’re probably thinking that you could be disappointed, that the experience may not live up to expectations. You might also worry about being put down by negative people, or failing in some way. Those possibilities exist, certainly, but why don’t we simply accept them, move on, and focus on the positives instead? There will always be experiences in life that disappoint us, which may be unpleasant or cause us to be upset. Your Monster is waiting for these feelings to surface, never sleeping, always ready to thrive on negative emotions. So be smarter than your Monster, and collect only beautiful pictures for your life album. Would you keep an ugly picture next to your bed? I don’t think so. Why are we so selective for our physical environment and not as selective for our inner peace?
Don’t be afraid, and open yourself to new and exciting experiences:
A life filled with wonder is a wonderful life.
Vampires feed your Monster
Celestine Chua, the author of the bestselling book Personal Excellence, states that your level of consciousness and energy levels are an average of the 5-10 people you interact most often.
Keep in mind that having negative, greedy, jealous, judgemental, aggressive or constantly moaning people in your circle is not good for you for three key reasons:
They drag down your level of consciousness. Remember, misery loves company. If you see that someone is suffering from personal problems, and you are in a position to help, don’t hesitate. But in majority of cases such people don’t need your help at all. It is ultimately their life choice to struggle. Try to help, but don’t get stuck in fighting a futile battle – if after a month or two you’re making no progress, walk away. They are simply draining your energy, benefitting neither of you.
Such people feed the Monster in your own head, multiplying anxieties, fears, jealousy and complexes. Have you ever noticed they are always keen to give you so much negative ‘food for thought’?
If you interact with negative people too often, you may also start to perceive other people negatively. If your close ‘friend’ is never grateful, doesn’t appreciate what you do, always tries to diminish your achievements – run away. Otherwise, very quickly, you will start seeing the world as a place full of people like them.
The Power of Words
Words have an incredible power to form our reality. Even the Bible begins with the sentence:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”.
Nowadays all of us are drowned in information. We read countless meaningless articles, snippets of news here and there, newspapers, magazines and text messages. We absorb all of this noise, again providing sustenance for the Monster.
On the other hand, books are the best teachers. Reading meaningful texts from positive and reliable sources could help you to acquire new useful knowledge and deeper insights. So, read, read, read, but be selective at the same time. Try to minimize your exposure to negative and meaningless information, or things written by negative people. Take care of your health, energy and purity, and spread positive vibes around to make our world a better place.
You wake up, down a cup of coffee, grab your stuff and rush to the station to take the tube to work. The same stations, the same people, the same situations are repeated over and over again. Every day. Every month. Every year. You live like a sleepwalker, in a trance-like state, losing your “today” and waiting passively for things – one day- to change …
… but miracles like that rarely happen by themselves. You clock-watch, spending much of your time waiting for the end of each day, looking forward to the weekend and that holiday you have planned. You are often angry, scared or indifferent. You are always in a rush and not really happy, but live in the hope of a better life. You don’t truly live in the present, but instead in the past or future, overwhelmed by irritating memories of what could have been, or dreaming about a better future life. You focus on the material side of life, trying to get more goods, more money, more brands, and better holidays. You are greedy for pleasure, but when you actually get them you still feel empty…
Does that sound familiar? If yes – it’s time to wake up.
Let me introduce one key term at this point – consciousness.
What is consciousness?
Simply, consciousness is the state of mind when you are fully awake, living in the moment, objectively aware of yourself and others, and possessing a clear understanding of the roots, causes and consequences of events and actions.
Why is it important?
In her book Personal Excellence, Celestine Chua says that
the perception, beliefs, mindsets and values we hold right now are a result of the consciousness we are operating in.
Chua compare consciousness with “a lens you use to view reality”. Eckhart Tolle, author of the bestselling The Power of Now, compares consciousness with the ability to be awake and present at any moment of being. He believes that people spend 99% of their time conducting an internal dialogue about their past and future, which could be classified as an unconscious state. Sometimes this internal dialogue stops, most often when we are involved in some process requiring our full, undivided attention. However, most of the time we perform tasks automatically whilst fully immersed in our stream of our worries.
Another scholar involved in the field of consciousness and self-development, Dr. Hawkins, believes that
the higher the level of consciousness you are in the more objective, positive and loving your mindset.
Chua compares consciousness with myopia. The lower the level of consciousness you have at any moment, the more distorted your perception of yourself and reality. Conversely, the higher the level of consciousness you have, the greater your clarity of vision:
The higher you go, the more lucid you become, and the calmer, more loving and compassionate, more successful, more generous and sharing, and more balanced and positive you become.
Successful people vs normal
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
Have you ever thought what the unique characteristics of successful people are? Why they always look calm and confident and seem to reflect so much positive energy? I’m not talking about people who are ‘successful’ by chance (inheritance, lottery or other miracles!). I’m speaking of inspirational visionary leaders, trendsetters and philanthropists such as Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, and Richard Branson. What do they have in common apart from fame and, in the case of the business-people on that list, money? You got it – a high level of consciousness! For exactly this reason they reached their goals and were able to manage their emotions and feelings, overcoming failure and disappointment to pursue their ambitions.
Levels of consciousness
Dr. Hawkins described 17 levels of consciousness. All of them were measured and marked from 0-1000 by the logarithmic method. I’m not going to cover the methodology in this article. I will focus on description of all 17 levels.
1). Shame (1-20)
This is the lowest level of consciousness, characterised by a feeling of constant humiliation and low self-esteem. These people feel worthless, miserable, ugly, stupid and unable to improve themselves or their lives. They tend to blame other people (parents, teachers, partners) or circumstances for their misery. According to Chua, “vibrating on this level for prolonged period of time can lead to elimination (of the self or others), in extreme cases resulting in suicide, or turning them into serial killers, rapists, moral extremists (mental of physical sadism)…”.
2) Guilt (30)
Feelings of misery are projected outward: This state is associated with public ‘punishment’ – a willingness to hurt or embarrass others. If you meet a person who tries to humiliate or hurt you, they are probably vibrating on this level.
3) Apathy (50)
This is a state of despair and helplessness. After being aggressive to others, abusers often experience feelings of emptiness that in turn trigger a sense of apathy. Many manifestations of addictive tendencies are common at this level, such as addictions to drugs, alcohol, TV, video games and social media.
4) Grief (75)
Many people are at this level at times of personal loss. The life-view is essentially tragic. The dominant colours are grey and black. People usually feel empty and paralysed, and want to break social contacts and escape from reality. This state is mostly inward focused. It may be externalised as a vibration of emotional disability or sadism, coldness, or ignorance.
People on the first four levels are overly focused on past heartaches, disappointments and tragedies. They don’t function ‘in the moment’ and are consequently unable to plan and create a future for themselves.
5) Fear (100)
The dominant feeling is one of anxiety. This level of consciousness is very often associated with anxiety disorder, and fears manifest themselves in a variety of ways: a fear of failure, loss, pain, death, even strangers, but the most powerful, overriding vibration is the same – timidity and defensiveness. People on this level are focused on the terrifyingly uncertain future. This level prevents any options for personal growth and self-development. One living on this level denies information and knowledge, and neglects and discounts the talents and wisdom of others.
6) Desire (125)
The dominant feelings at this level are ones of lust,craving and avarice. Someone on this level craves food, emotions, money, sex, and the consumption of material goods. They perceive others not as independent, valuable individuals but as tools to satisfy their cravings (material, professional, sexual, social). These people are focused on past experiences and on future pleasures and gains: They deny, and could even hate, their present existence as they see it as unsatisfying.
7) Anger (150)
The dominant emotion is hate. One of the common social expressions of anger is strident activism against something, followed by feelings of aggression, frustration and even revenge (ex. religious, environmental, animal rights, sexual minorities etc.). People on this level are focused on past pains and future revenge, seeing the present moment as basically frustrating, a time of waiting.
8) Pride (175)
The qualities which characterise this level are scorn, arrogance and racism. However, this state of consciousness is unstable, and could be destroyed at any time by people from the previous level (anger). You have probably noticed that arrogance is often “punished” with aggression. This is not by accident. Vibrating on the pride level, people often transmit the negative energy of dualism (I’m better then you – you are less worthy then me) that is easily picked up by people from the anger level (which may result in physical violence!) or even those on the guilt or shame strata (who, in a worst-case scenario, may be at risk of being physically or mentally abused or even killed). People on these level could be living in the present from time to time, but mostly dwell on their past achievements and dream about their future victories.
9) Courage (200)
This is the first wake-up point and a threshold between force (violence, aggression, physical and emotional extremism, jealousy, possessiveness, rudeness, and abuse) and power (help, support, sharing, empowering, and inspiring). The dominant emotions are openness (to knowledge, emotions, people, and tasks) and curiosity. Someone on the courage level of consciousness sees the world as an exciting place, full of great people and opportunities. Such a person is warm, open, willing to share (resources, emotions and information), supportive, collaborative, positive, and optimistic. These people have made a conscious effort to live in the present moment, even if their thoughts are mostly future-orientated. The past, in their mind, is accepted as providing lessons and experience.
10) Neutrality (250)
At this level people stop being judgmental. The dominant emotion is a feeling of safety and satisfaction. The individual is not possessive, not hungry for recognition, not aggressive, and very flexible. If they don’t attain something they aim for, they can easily refocus their energies toward something else. They believe in themselves and always have a plan B, a result of a solid understanding of the external world, an inner peace and a high degree of self-awareness. These people are very responsive due to their awakened state of being and are positive, supportive, confident and friendly.
11) Willingness (310)
This is a point where real social contributions begin. The dominant emotions are optimism and sympathy. Life is seen is hopeful. Someone on this level is able and willing to create and to contribute, not only for the benefit of themselves and those people close to them, but for the good of the whole world. These people are present and happy in their ‘now’.
12) Acceptance (350)
This is the second waking point, according to Chua. At this point the individual consciously realises that she or he is a creator. The person is highly aware of themselves and of the society in which they live, and see a clear path to reaching their goals of improving life. The dominant features at this level are acceptance over rejection, creativity, collaboration, openness, long-term vs short-term, ‘striving for personal excellence and growth’, and a willingness to educate and to develop him/herself and help others.
Another defining emotion at this level is forgiveness: Personal pain and old offences are relatively unimportant and go into the “memory box” of the past. One on this level clearly understands the abstract nature of time, and is able to separate the present from the past (in particular, painful memories) and the uncertain future (anxieties and fears) and direct all their optimism to fulfilling present tasks.
13) Reason (400)
Starting from this level, the individual’s presence ‘in the moment’ is constant.
Understanding and rationality are core features of those operating on the Reason Level. A person on this level tends to gather an enormous amount of information from various fields, puts it together, analyses it, and transforms it into easy understandable forms or extracts completely new ideas from it, transmitting these to others. “The life-view is meaningful” on this level, according to Chua. People on this level have the potential to make a huge, positive impact on society in general. Inventions, breakthroughs, and new scientific discoveries take place on this level. Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, Eckhart Tolle, Tony Robinson are just a few examples of people who reached the level of Reason.
14) Love (500)
Starting from this level, the uncontrollable internal dialogue is over. People reaching this and the following levels are constantly present ‘in the moment’, and consciously free from negative emotions.
The dominant feeling is unconditional love. There is no antithetical feeling of hate, just overwhelming, outwardly-radiating love. Mother Teresa is one of the brightest examples. According to Dr. Hawkins, only 0.4% of society could reach such a state of consciousness.
15) Joy (540)
According to Chua, “the dominant emotions are serenity and compassion”. The world is perceived as being inherently perfect at this level. “This is the level where saints, advanced spiritual students and healers dwell”, Chua concludes. She adds that some people close to death could also briefly ascend to the level of Joy.
16) Peace (600)
Bliss is the dominant feeling. “At this level, there is no longer any distinction between observer and subject”, Chua says. Eckhart Tolle describes this level as free from judgmentalism and negativity; the individual lives constantly in the ‘now’.
There are no random thoughts, no random emotions or destructive feelings. One on this level is fully connected with the universe at every single moment of their existence. Hawkins thinks that only one in a million could reach this level of consciousness. Examples include Jesus Christ, and the Buddha.
17) Enlightenment (700-1000)
No emotions and no thoughts at all exist at this level. The individual transforms into a channel of pure universal energy. Examples include Christ resurrected, the Buddha following enlightenment, and Krishna.
Consciousness vs success and productivity
What is the correlation between consciousness and productivity/creativity? The lower the level you are on, the lower your productivity and creativity are. Real creativity starts from the level of Courage, the first positive, outwardly-focused, level. Productivity is pretty low before the level of Pride because individuals waste their energy through continuously occupying themselves with negative thoughts, and worries.
Consciousness vs energy level
Your energy level is tightly linked with your level of presence ‘in the moment’, and the quantity of negative thoughts or dreams about your future you fill your mind with, with no actions to realise or avoid those possibilities. People literally waste themselves away on worries, anger, jealousy, aggression, pointless competition, and empty dreams, rather then creating anything useful for either themselves or others.
How to wake up
According to Dr. Hawkins 85% of society never even reach the first wake-up threshold, the level of Courage, instead fluctuating between shame and anger.
He explains this phenomenon largely through economics (being below the poverty line, many people simply don’t have any opportunity to develop themselves, instead spending their life time struggling to survive). Even with an abundance of resources, most people don’t even reach the level of Pride, as they are overly focused on competition and the acquisition of material goods. He concludes that the average level of consciousness on our planet is fairly low. The lower the average level, the greater the level of damage inflicted on a daily basis to both the planet, and ourselves.
Your personal level is mostly your own responsibility. Here are just a few tips on how to increase your consciousness
It could be anything, or anyone, inspiring: gurus, books, motivational talks, travelling to new places, interacting with interesting people.
Try to find inspiration in every day of your life. Collect inspirations, write them down or take pictures to use them in future. The more inspiration you have in your life, the more focused on the present moment and positive you become.
Leave your comfort zone.
Thy to do something new, explore new areas of activity, enhance your experiences and develop your skills, learn new subjects or delve more deeply into subjects you are familiar with, and acquire new experience and knowledge. Do this daily. Add new things on both the mental and physical sides to maintain a balance.
Time is an abstract phenomenon, existing only in our head. Logically, there is no past and no future. There is only the constant present moment – ‘now’. If you make an effort and focus on the present moment, cutting out the past (painful or aggravating memories) and the future (uncertainty and related anxieties) you could easily clear your mind of any negative thoughts. If you ask yourself if you have problems now, at this particular moment, 99% of the time the answer will be ‘no’. So, there are no reasons to worry. Just stay in the present.
Stay positive whatever happen
As in the previous point, there is no need to worry as the past no longer exists (it passed a second ago!) and the future has not yet happened. 99% of our worries live in our heads only, so be upbeat and create a better future for yourself.
It’s related to any sort of waste: clothing you don’t wear, folders you don’t use, watching TV, scrolling social medias feeds, chatting about nothing with people who don’t bring your up. Clean everything up and regularly aerate your space with fresh air, new ideas and new knowledge.
Moreover, be very careful choosing people you interact with. According to Celestine Chua your level of consciousness is an average of 5 people you interact more often. So, it’s up to you but keep in mind aggressive, shallow, apathetic, jealous, competitive, miserable and constantly moaning people will drag you down.
Help, support and empower others if you can. Remember the more positive energy you spread around the more positive your World will become.
Collaborate rather then compete
Competitiveness gives birth to aggression, jealousy, constant comparisons and other lower energy feelings. Collaboration is in opposite: put together creativity and recourses for better off, empower people, and multiply positivity.
Share experience and knowledge
Don’t be shy to share your knowledge and experience with others. Very possible they will appreciate and use it for better off.
Follow your life purpose
This point is worth to write a book. I will definitely write a separate article about it. For now just saying: never betray your dream. If you feel that you were born to express yourself in dancing – dance, if your were born to acquire and share knowledge – teach, if you feel you have a talent in sport – go for it.
Human body needs quality protein on a daily base in order to repair and rebuild not only muscles but also all other tissues including skin, hair and other organs. Varied diets suggest consuming different amount of protein in order to meet a need for proper body functioning and achieving variety of fitness goals. The main purpose of this article is to provide scientific framework to determine sufficient protein intake.
Let’s start from basics and describe protein itself.
Protein is a type of macronutrients comprised of amino acids and used by the body to build, rebuild and maintain cells of all tissues and organs. The right consumption of protein is essentially important for proper body functioning.
According to Donna Cataldo, Ph.D. and Matthew Blair, B.S from American College of Sports Medicine, there is three main types of protein: animal, plant and engineered (supplements such as whey, casein, egg albumin, etc. that are artificially synthesized from organic plant and animal ingredients in order to provide easily digested forms of protein with the whole profile of amino acids very often combined with enzymes and precursor-type of vitamins and microelements). Scientifically proved that all plant proteins have incomplete amino acid profile (one or more amino acids are missed). It means that missing one or more amino acids the body simply can’t get enough of building blocks to repair its tissues. In other words, having only plant proteins the body will inevitable suffer from required nutrients deficiency. According to Ripped to Shreds by Sean Petafi the best solution is the right supplementation or mixing of all three types of protein (plant, animal and engineered) in one meal.
Let’s move forward. Mixing protein sources is a great idea but the question is in what proportion they should be mixed and in what proportion to other nutrients they should be consumed. Let’s leave the first question for another article and focus on the second.
Here we have to introduce another term “nitrogen balance”. According to Gastelu D. and Hatfield F.C. (2000) protein contains nitrogen molecules in its structure apart from carbon and hydrogen. Exactly this fact makes protein different from fats and carbohydrates chemically. So, injected protein is broken down by the body into amino acids and they consequently into carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen. The latter is partly used as building blocks for cells and partly excreted with sweat, urine and feces. According to Bender D. from UCL nitrogen balance is simply nitrogen input minus output. In other words nitrogen balance is the key figure to understanding how much protein you have to consume in order to maintain your muscles and other organs. If your nitrogen balance is positive you body has enough protein for proper growth and repair. If balance is negative your protein consumption is too low and should be increased.
So how much protein should be consumed? According to Bender D. (2006) the average amount of protein a day for not training individual is about 80g. However, this figure looks too generic. According to Cataldo D. et.al. the average protein amount consumed should be equal to 0.8g/kg. of body weight. MacDomald M. (2013) suggests that the sufficient consumption of protein for individual participating in endurance sport such as marathons, cross-country skinning and other sport events lasting more then 2 hours is from 1.2-1.4g/kg, for individual participating in strength training such as fitness, sprinting, circle training is 1.7-1.8g/kg and for heavy lifters or bodybuilders is about 2-2.5g/kg of body weigh. Bayesian Bodybuilding in its literature review related to the topic suggests that the ideal sufficient amount of protein to build muscles is 1.8 g/kg. Bodybuilding iconic book Ripped to Shreds suggests that the average required amount of protein for muscle hypertrophy is from 2.5-4g per kg of lean weight. According to Robson D. the golden rule of positive nitrogen retention is about 1g of protein per 1 lb. of lean body weight. About the same amount (1.5-2.5g/kg) is recommended for sport participants by Gastelu D. and Hatfield F.C. (2000). Researches also believe that whole food alone hardly could provide enough protein for maintenance and growth, so, the right supplementation is necessary thing for any sport participant.
As we can see figures are pretty various. And it’s just a little snippet of the literature review. What be the best way to determine the right protein intake for a particular individual?
Here we have to say couple of words about protein-carbohydrate sparing effect. Protein sparing effect is the phenomenon when the injected protein is used by the body for energy needs in the lack of carbohydrates. In other words, if the diet is deficient in carbohydrates the body withdraws consumed protein and convert it into glucose to survive. As a consequence the body doesn’t have enough protein to build and repair as it was used for energy needs. So, we have to emphasise that our further consideration related to protein intake and nitrogen balance is made with an assumption that the carbohydrate content is sufficient in the diet.
There are few frameworks to determine protein requirement for particular individual. Obviously there is no unified ready to use figure. Every particular individual has his/her own metabolism, body type, activity level and other characteristics that should be taken into account.
The first framework to determine protein requirements is based on nitrogen balance measurements.
Here are few steps that could be done to use the framework:
determine your body weight and body composition in order to understand how much muscle mass you hold (body weigh – body fat)
determine your fitness goal (build muscle, maintain muscle mass, increase strength, decrease body fat, etc.)
determine your current protein intake per day by protocoling all protein consumed during few days
find a way to measure your nitrogen output in the same days you protocoled protein intakes (nitrogen sticks or laboratory tests)
calculate your nitrogen balance using a formula
N retention=(pure protein total in g. consumed/6.25)-(nitrogen output +4)
If you figure is positive you are on a right track to build muscles. However, keep in mind that excess protein could be converted into fat if carbohydrate content is sufficient or used for energy if not. Also too high protein consumption would escalate ammonia level in the urea and put additional burden to the kidney. So make a final check dividing your consumed protein by your lean body weight. If you are an active sport participant, your nitrogen balance is positive and you stay in the range 0.8-1g/lb. of lean body weight your consumption is sufficient. If your figure is higher look carefully at your total diet, your fitness goals, your progress and the body fat percentage in dynamic over 4-6 weeks and adjust your diet accordingly. Ideally, if your progress is little just involve competent nutrition and fitness professionals who will be able to correct your training and diet programs and guide you through the process optimizing output and minimizing risks.
If the figure of your nitrogen retention tests is negative your protein intake is insufficient and should be increased. In order to understand how much it should be increased just multiply the figure by 6.25. For example, if your negative figure is 10×6.25=62.5 g of protein should be added into your diet in order to come to nitrogen equilibrium. If you are willing to increase your muscle mass so increase your protein intake even more. How mush more? We will cover one or the calculation methods below.
The nitrogen retention estimates method, however, has some limitations. Firstly, not every individual has an opportunity to test nitrogen excretion. Secondly, according to Rassel G.R. et.al., even laboratory nitrogen excretion tests in majority of case are underestimated or estimated incorrectly.
Here is could be utilized another more conventional approach to calculate protein requirements. According to Mantovani G. (2006) 0.6g per kg of well-balanced protein a day is sufficient to maintain zero nitrogen balance for an averagely active person. The question is what if the person is not averagely active? What if the person tend to lead sedentary lifestyle or in opposite trains twice a day? How much protein should be consumed in such cases? Another question is how much protein should be consumed in order to not only maintain but also increase muscle mass? Here is a method to calculate the approximate amount provided by Gastely D. and Hatfield F.C. from International Sport and Science Association.
First of all, gender and a lean factor of a particular individual should be taken into consideration in order to calculate basal metabolic rate (BMR – calorie requirements to keep the body alive).
So, the formula is:
Weigh in kg x gender coefficient (1 for male and 0.9 for female) x 24 hours = Basic metabolic rate
BMR x lean factor=adjusted BMR
Lean factor is determined by proportion of the body fat towards the body weight. So, lean factor 1 is for less than 14% of body fat for men and less than 18% of body fat for women; lean factor 0.95 is for less than 20% and 28% of body fat for men and women respectively; lean factor 0.9 is for less then 28% and 38% for men and women and lean factor 0.85 is for over 28% and 38% of body fat for male and female.
Next, the level of activity should be determined and taken into consideration in order to calculate total daily caloric requirements.
Adjusted BMR x activity multiplier = total daily calories.
1.3 – sedentary life style
1.55 – very light activity (writing, teaching, some walking through the day)
1.65 – moderate activity (walking, jogging, training 1-2 hours a day, active job)
2 – heavy activity (manual job, sport activities between 2-3 hours a day)
2.3 – extremely active (combination of moderate and heavy activities more then 8 hours a day, plus sport training 2-4 hours a day)
Finally, type of activity should be determined in order to calculate the percentage of total daily calories that should be taken from protein sources.
Keep in mind that adequate protein intake for people not participation in any sport should be in the range 10-20% of their daily total depending upon goals, current condition, metabolism, body weight and age.
Protein intake for sport participants could be determined more precisely.
All kind of sports could be divided into 4 main groups with its own ideal ratio of protein, carbohydrates and fat:
Anaerobic sports (immediate energy sports such as power lifting, bodybuilding, boxing, football, etc.) – the ideal proportion is 30%P, 55%C, 15%F
Anaerobic glycolytic – (sports where explosive strength and power is required on a sustained and highly repetitive basis such as field hockey, rock climbing, mid-distance skiing, ect.) – the ideal proportion should be about 25%P,55%C,20%F
Anaerobic glycolytic – Oxidative glycolytic (sports such as dancing, fitness, long distance swimming) – the ideal proportion should be 20%P, 60%C, 20%F
Oxidative (aerobic sports such as marathon running, triathlon, all endurances events more than 2 hours long) – the ideal ration is 15%P,60%C,25%F
So, understanding daily total energy needs we could easily calculate protein requirements for a particular person taking into account his/her activity level. However, this method requires certain adjustments over time. Start from the figures you get via calculations and observe how your body reacts on a certain macronutrient modulation. If you notice muscles catabolism increase your protein intake by 10-20% of your previous figure and keep training and observing results. If in 4-6 weeks of intense training you don’t see any changes make a further adjustment or recalculate your daily total.