Craving Carbohydrates

>> Friday

I've been watching Man Versus Wild and I've noticed no matter what wild environment he's in, he always finds more protein than carbohydrates. He finds it relatively easy to find protein to eat, and very difficult to find any carbs to eat.

Our ancestors for millions of years of our evolution were in similar environments, and not until the invention of agriculture would carbohydrates become abundant.

But agriculture was only a brief moment ago in evolutionary time, so the brain mechanisms causing our cravings are not adapted to our current situation (a constant availability of abundant carbs).

In other words, our bodies and brains are assuming protein is our mainstay, so when our brains want to make more serotonin, we crave carbs, not protein.

Anyway, as I said in the article, What Goes In, we have a simple rule to follow that doesn't require counting calories or weighing food or keeping track of grams of protein: Always mix carbs and protein in every meal (and in every snack) and you'll be getting the maximum amount of tryptophan into your brain. Your brain will have what it needs to make enough serotonin, so you'll feel better more often and you won't have an unnaturally voracious appetite.

All the research is fine and dandy, but the real test that counts is the one in your own life. Give it a shot and find out what happens.

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What Goes In

Tryptophan is an amino acid (a kind of protein) your brain uses to make serotonin, and in experiments, more tryptophan in the blood causes more serotonin in the brain. What does it matter? Well, if you don't have enough serotonin, it can make you depressed and irritable. This is especially important for women ("Women have much less serotonin in their brains than men," says this article from MIT).

Almost all good sources of protein have many different amino acids, including tryptophan, so it shouldn't be a problem to get enough tryptophan, right? Unfortunately, the other amino acids compete with tryptophan to get into the brain.

But if you eat some carbohydrates with your protein, the insulin your body releases in response to carbohydrates takes the competing proteins out of your bloodstream, which allows more tryptophan to get into your brain.

If you eat meals containing nothing but protein, your serotonin level will be low (too much competition so not much tryptophan can get into your brain). If you eat nothing but carbs, you won't have any tryptophan (it's a protein), so your serotonin level will be low. If you drink a sugary beverage, you have put calories into your body and missed an opportunity to make serotonin. If you eat a fruit snack and nothing else, you missed another opportunity. But if you always mix protein and carbs together in every meal, you will get the maximum tryptophan into your brain, so you'll have enough serotonin, and that will help you feel good.

A nice side-effect is that a higher serotonin level suppresses your appetite. A low serotonin level makes people crave carbohydrates. Isn't that interesting? This means if you eat nothing but protein, you will crave carbs. But if you eat only carbs you will still crave carbs because you're actually craving the tryptophan you need to raise your serotonin. It's as if your body assumes the protein will be there, so it only craves carbs. But carbs won't do it. Mix some good quality protein in there (and good quality carbs too while you're at it) and you have the best chance of being slim and happy.

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Can Posture Make You Feel Better?

WHEN YOU change your posture, you can change your mood. Someone who feels down tends to slump. Someone who is happy tends to sit up straighter, walk more upright with the head held up, looking forward instead of down.

If you have been paying attention, you know this already. Posture tends to be a reflection of mood.

What you might not have realized is that it goes the other way too: You can change your posture and it will influence your mood. Experiment today and find out for yourself.

One thing you'll discover is that when you slouch or slump, it is harder to take a deep breath. And the way you breathe influences your mood, too.


When you change anything physical, it might potentially change your mood. A researcher told his volunteers to rate how funny a series of cartoons was in their opinion. They looked at a cartoon, and marked its score, picked up another cartoon, and marked its score, etc. Half of them were told to keep a pen between their lips. The other half was told to keep the pen between their teeth.



The ones with the pen between their teeth rated most of the cartoons as funnier than the other group. Their mouth was in a sort of smile and it changed how amusing the cartoons were to them. Interesting, eh? When you want to raise your mood, your body posture, the look on your face, and how you breathe, are easy things to change without having to even stop what you're doing.


Read more about this idea: A Simple Way To Change How You Feel.

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The Moodraising Effect of Comparisons

ONE WAY to change your perspective is to change what you're comparing your situation to. This is probably one of the easiest ways to change your mood quickly. For example, if you're feeling kind of grumbly about having to get up and go to work in the morning, if you gave it even ten seconds thought, you could find many things to compare it to that are much worse. You're not in prison. You're not in a concentration camp. You have enough to eat. You aren't worried about a tribe coming and chopping your arm off with a machete, etc.

You are already comparing your situation to something. Naturally and automatically, we usually compare our situation to something better. Although that's natural and automatic, we certainly aren't stuck with it. A little deliberate comparison can go a long way.

Think of something you are unhappy about. Now notice that the reason it makes you unhappy is that you are comparing it to something better. You're comparing your situation to something more ideal. But try this: Think of someone in this world who would take your situation over theirs in a heartbeat.

Whatever you are unhappy about, you can easily find a worse situation to compare it to. And from that perspective, you are lucky to have the problem you have, even though it is obviously not ideal. Who says the ideal is a legitimate thing to use as a comparison anyway? Something worse is at least as legitimate, and has a benefit too: You feel better.

This is how to feel grateful for what you have. Once you know how, it's very easy and works every time. Read more about this here: Comparison.

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