EATING FOOD THAT TASTE GOOD IS JUST AS IMPORTANT AS PROPER NUTRITION
We’ve all fallen into the trap of eating to feed the machine- it’s been a badge of pride for me throughout the years, and I know it is for many lifters. The asceticism of eating bland, unfulfilling meals with perfect macros and the superiority with the stoic refusal to eat a slice a pizza while out with your friends on Friday night, or patently refusing to go out while silently proclaiming your supremacy over the people you know who refuse to live like some weird, tan monk to achieve weight-induced enlightenment.
If you’ve ever attempted this sort of asceticism, you know that it was pretty much wholly unnecessary and probably detrimental to your gains. As I mentioned above, I managed to stay reasonably lean, maintain most of my size, and not get fat eating nothing but summer sausage and Ramen noodles for seven months, and I barely had access to weights. I discovered then that it was possible to out-train my diet, which was a fact of which I had an inkling when I managed to stay big and lean after a year of literally nothing but partying, chicken fingers, strip steak, pizza, and tater tots. Does this mean I was completely wrong to diet so hard for years and years, treating carbohydrates like they were tainted with fallout from a dirty bomb?
Nah, I don’t think so- I was onto something. Taste, texture, and smell all affect digestion, and good digestion is critical to good health. If your gorge is rising in your throat since you’re spooning canned chicken slathered in a bit of Texas Pete’s into your face, your stomach is not prepared to deal with digesting that slightly-better-than-cat-food nonsense… and by the way, Texas Pete’s is just about the most disgusting hot sauce on the planet. Seriously, spend some time on Amazon and find some tasty hot sauce if you’re just going to force-feed yourself the type of bland pap that one would expect in a futuristic prison movie where people are being fed nutrient paste (I’ll give you a damn good reason why hot sauce is awesome for you later on in the article).
What’s it matters? It’s simple- your digestive tract doesn’t just digest your food and process nutrients- it controls 75% of your dopamine production and thus has a great deal to do with your mood. Before I get into the details of that fact, your mood has a great deal to do with your dopamine levels- too little dopamine and you’re an ice cream eating saddie in stained underwear living in your parents’ basement trash-talking the depth of world record squats, and too much makes you so goddamned razor-focused that you’re what the Terminator would masturbate to as a personal fantasy (Perez, Teta).
In 2012 the badass podcast Radiolab aired a segment on a guy who had a massive inoperable tear in his intestines. Doctors said that the only way to fix it was to anesthetize his digestive tract and let it heal itself. For years he was on liquid diet pumped directly into his stomach, but this caused a new problem- he was so goddamned depressed he started acting insane- he literally broke into a guy’s backyard to grill for him immediately after failing at suicide and wandering the streets like a deranged, syphilitic hobo.
He’d noticed that his tongue had gone completely smooth, as he’d lost his taste buds, which pissed off his vagus system worse than a hillbilly when you tell him you hate him so much, you’d like to send him to country festival in Vegas. Your vagus nerve runs from the tip of your tongue to your colon, so pissing it off can screw up pretty much aspect of your life… and that guy nearly died from doing so.
After having another infection that had the doctors thinking he’d die if he stayed on the pump, he reintroduced solid food into his diet slowly, but still had no sense of taste because he wasn’t eating foods he loved, so he was still more or less miserable. This all changed, however, when he went to his favorite diner and got the only meal he ever ordered (which is apparently the greatest breakfast sandwich in history) … and suddenly he could taste. One of the largest nervous systems in his body responded immediately with his wet dream because he fed it what it wanted. As such, it seems like saying that taste is a factor in optimal health is like saying that punching is a factor in a Ray Rice elevator trip, because both can cause serious and immediate changes in the health of their surrounding environment.
It goes further than that though- we can apply this to hoisting heavy crap and looking like Grecian statues. A study using two groups of mice fed them either lactobacillus-infused broth or regular broth, then dropped them into a bowl of water. Mice hate water more than Pol Pot hated intellectuals, but they’re great swimmers. So, they’d swim all overlooking for a way to escape, and at about four minutes the broth-only mice would just give up and do a dead man’s float.
The lactobacillus mice, however, went on like tiny fat little Michael Phelpses and the reviewers pulled them out at six minutes while their legs pinwheeled like a dog held over water. In the first group, there was a 100-fold increase in cortisol that caused them to burn out and shut down. The Michael Phelps group had a huge change in the receptors for GABA (which keeps you cooler than Jason Statham karate kicking in the middle of a gun fight), and they had half of the cortisol of the other mice. The reason for this is… the vagus nerve’s stimulation with an extra-healthy colon.
To prove that the vagus nerve was the way the lactobacillus-induced changes became tiny little badasses, they conducted a second experiment in which the good swimmers had their vagus nerves cut, were still fed the probiotics, and the mice suddenly became the couch potato saddie wusses their compatriots had been.
If you want a more philosophical reason to eat stuff that tastes good and avoid just eating like a half-retarded Nascar fan on a food binge around Talladega weekend, consider the fact that food links you to your heritage and your heritage to you. Cultures have forever been defined as much by their dress or speech as their food, so if you want to be recognized as a half-retarded bodybuilding asshat who owns nothing more than a gym membership and a microwave, eat like a Men’s Health model. For me, I’d rather embrace the foods of the jacked sonsabitches from history who loved eating, fighting, and screwing. Ajax from the Trojan War or Honey Boo Boo’s mom. Take your pick.
So, if you’re good to your tongue and your colon you’re going to be a goddamned god in the gym. Because science. Don’t know about you guys, but I’m too off try my hand at making triple dipped fried chicken (which I’m using for ultra-spicy chicken sandwiches) because I plan on breaking my ass at the gym tomorrow and science says I’ll PR.
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Bravo JA, Forsythe P, Chew MV, Escaravage E, Savignac HM, Dinan TG, Bienenstock J, Cryan JF. Ingestion of Lactobacillus strain regulates emotional behavior and central GABA receptor expression in a mouse via the vagus nerve. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Sep 20;108(38):16050-5.
Perez SM, Carreno FR, Frazer A, Lodge DJ. Vagal Nerve Stimulation Reverses Aberrant Dopamine System Function in the Methylazoxymethanol Acetate Rodent Model of Schizophrenia. J Neurosci. 2014 Jul 9; 34(28): 9261–9267.
Teta, Jade. Is your brain making you fat? Metabolic Effect. 21 May 2009. Web. 14 Nov 2017. https://www.metaboliceffect.com/is-your-brain-making-you-fat/