Food is great. It gives us energy. It gives us gainz. Can you believe that there are some people out there—especially in the fitness world—that have learned to stop enjoying food? Instead of enjoyment, food is just a fuel source for your body. While it is indeed a fuel source for your body, we ought not to demonize certain foods and the choosing of them, else we run the risk of being a pariah amongst our friends. You know, like when you get invited to a surprise wedding proposal for your two bros, and that one die hard fitness fiend is eating cold tilapia and sweet potatoes instead of Eddie & Sam’s fucking awesome NY pizza. It is the water that makes them awesome.
Opportunity cost is a pretty simple concept. It is what you forfeit as a result of a given choice. If you have a deadline for work and you decide to binge watch Supernatural seven hours instead of working on it the day before it is due, your opportunity cost can come in the form of a few things. You could lose out on sleep. You can lose out on making love to your romance partner. You can lose out on spending time with your children if you have them. Or your puppy.
In the realm of flexible dieting, your food choices have an associated opportunity cost. And this is not bad. It simply is. You must be aware of this as you choose what you eat.
For the purposes of this, I’ll define a few terms.
- Clean Foods will now be known as “micronutrient dense foods”
- Shit Foods will be known as “foods with a dearth of micronutrients in relation to their caloric content”
As problematic as each term can be, I’ll use them here. Just remember, it’s nebulous. As an example, four glazed munchkins from Dunkin’ Donuts has four grams of protein, 28 carbs, and 16 fat grams. The total calorie count comes out to 272.
On the other hand, 30 grams of spinach has about seven calories. Along with some Vitamins A, C and B-6. In addition to that, some iron, magnesium, and calcium. So after about 38 cups of spinach, you could equal the caloric amount of the munchkins. But the munchkins don’t give you those sweet ass vitamins.
There’s your opportunity cost.
While many people liken flexible dieting to stuffing your face with Shit Foods, that simply isn’t the case. I am sure there are some people who do so, but most don’t. In the most optimal of situations, flexible dieting can afford you the opportunity to actually expand your palate. While that happens, you will get exposed to a greater array of micronutrients, and cultural culinary diversity, if you play your cards right. (I should point out that while I try to follow this, I always supplement my diet with more micronutrients in the form of a greens drink. Its use becomes apparent when I travel or in other times when I am not exposing myself to a variety of foods).
Or you can sit around and eat Cap’n Crunch all day and still make gains.
Furthermore, the ingredients in Clean Foods are those that are not only nutrient dense, but will also keep you sated and leaving you less hungry. Protein and fiber are great examples. And if you ate 30 cups of spinach, you actually might wind up feeling extra full. The Shit Foods are not quite as awesome in that regard. But they do taste great.
I once was with a friend who had a binge eating problem. At the time I did too, but this time I exercised a modicum of restraint. We went to the Krispy Kreme and I got a coffee. He got 25 donut holes. Of the 25, I ate six. Out of the 19 left, he devoured them before we arrived back home. Given what I’ve said about Shit Foods over Clean Foods, we can see why both of us would be hungry again later.
With foods like lean beef, spinach, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, the eating of them becomes self regulating. There’s a reason eating contests use hot dogs as opposed to kale. Making two cans of soda fit into your daily needs isn’t supposed to be easy.
Try the following experiment. Make sure you are aware of your physiological sensations when you do this. They’re important. Here goes:
- Eat something you like, regardless of whether it is a Clean Food, or a Shit Food
- Note how you feel an hour or so later
- Eat something else
Lethargy, explosive diarrhea, or nausea, as well as any other unpleasant feeling, will be a negative feeling. This determines the healthiness of a food, as it relates to you. (Full disclosure: salmon, more often than not, will yield the first two results for me). The more you can expand these limits, the healthier you will be.
In the above experiment, try to mix the combinations you have of Shit and Clean, and track your sensations each time. And each time, pay attention to your sensations and how sated you are.
Fuel or Pleasure?
The debate over this preposterous. If you are flexible in your dieting practices, you can do both. You can go out with your friends, play Dungeons & Dragons with your crew, have a an ounce or two of whiskey, and some pizza if you want. It takes a bit of planning.
Using myself as an example, here’s how I make this happen. First, note that I have two days wherein I have a higher caloric intake. Wednesday and Saturday, to be exact. Wednesday is arbitrary. Saturday is Vampire: The Masquerade with my squad. The whiskey flows, and we often cook something for us all to enjoy.
That’s hint number one. We cook our own shit. So when I said to the group, “Ya’ll motherfuckers want some stuffed shells?” it was quite easy for me to make them fit my calorie intake, and have six big ass shells. No low fat bullshit, or anything. Honest to goodness stuffed shells. When it came time to weigh in that Tuesday following, I still lost weight. I actually was lighter the following day, FYI.
And that’s hint number two. There is a difference between having six donut holes as opposed to 19. There’s a difference between having a few stuffed shells vs. the entire baking pan full of them. Not only was it the perfect amount, but it was regulated by what I had earlier—a load of choices erring on the side of the Clean Foods—and by my caloric/macronutrient needs for the day.
Remember, you are an adult. You know what good food is. You also know that you should err on the side of the good foods. You can figure out these foods as they relate to you by following the above experiment. But there is one trap that you don’t want to fall into.
Rewards and the Cheat Meal
Sometimes, the fuel only people will do so well on their Clean Food diet that when they have a “cheat meal” they go on a full on fucking bender. At worst, it’ll last a few days and they’ll gain fat. At best, they can move on and go back to normal. Given my personal background and biases, I am of a mind that you can eliminate cheating. You also know exercise is good for you. Don’t be that person who says, “I cardioed for 40 minutes instead of 30. I think I’m gonna have an extra Oreo.” It doesn’t have to be like that.
At it’s core, food is energy. It’s all fuel. That being the case, eat your goddamn tilapia and enjoy your donuts, too.
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