Anxiety Low-Carbohydrates Whey and BCAA

Question: Hi Lyle. I happened upon your site while researching the connection of dieting leading to anxiety. I am prone to anxiety and panic attacks and have been on zoloft 50mg for years. As of mid November I did Isagenix 30 day program with one day a week of a cleanse. The cleanse days were horrible for me as I don’t do well on not eating. Anywhoo…after I completed the month of cutting out a lot of carbs and drinking their whey protein shakes 1-2x a day, drinking BCAA’s and eating healthy, I had a major panic attack about a week and a half later. It was odd. I hadn’t had one in years. I am very active.

I teach Cycle, Boot Camp and am a long distance runner. I workout 5-7 days a week. This panic attack was about 4 weeks ago. Since then, I have had to increase the Zoloft to 75mg and I’m trying to get through the upstart side effects (ironically, agitation and anxiety increased) that I can’t seem to shake just yet (4-6 weeks to feel a difference. I am on week 3). I just wanted to get your opinion on the correlation between dieting and anxiety. I am curious if the addition of adding Whey protein with amino acids and BCAA’s once / twice a day caused this issue. I am SO frustrated to not feel normal again and it has definitely hindered my outlet – running. Thoughts would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

Answer: Ok, I swear this will be a short one.   I addressed this a lot of this within the context of depression as well and you can go read that for most of what you need to know.  Tangentially, re-reading that piece, I couldn’t honestly write it today.  I suspect I was mired in a bunch of research on the topic because most of those details are completely wiped from my brain.  In any case, reading that will give at least some background to this question along with some general concepts of how to address it.

Now, first let me state that anxiety spans a lot of different types of things; interestingly, and suggesting that serotonin plays a role in many of them is the fact that Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhitibors (SSRI’s), drugs that raise serotonin in the nerve space by preventing it’s re-uptake appear to have major benefit for treatment of anxietyZoloft which you mentioned being on is an SSRI (and note that SSRI’s take 3-4 weeks to really kick in for some reason). As well you didn’t mention if you’re still on a low-carbohydrate diet.


Muscle and Strength Pyramids by Eric Helms – Book Review

Given that it’s the New Year (remember that 2016 goes on your checks now, man that dates me, how many people still use checks) I wanted to review a couple of new e-books that should help almost anybody (except perhaps the complete novice set up a plan).  And those books are the “Muscle and Strength Training Pyramid” and “Muscle and Strength Nutrition Pyramid” ebooks by Eric Helms, Andrea Valdez and Andy Morgan.  I’ve shown the pyramids below (the covers are prettier) and I don’t know why the formatting is off.

Eric Helms Strength Training Pyramid Cover

Eric Helms Strength Nutrition Pyramid CoverLet me say upfront that as Eric has been giving me invaluable feedback on the woman’s book (along with contributing sections on peak week and making weight), he asked me for critical feedback on the books just prior to publication (because he knows how much of a pedantic, overly critical ass I am).  So I broke out my metaphorical red pen and went to town.  I only mention this since I believe in complete transparency about issues like this.


You can probably understand the titles of both books by looking at the cover designs.  Eric has described a pyramid of importance for both training and nutrition that moves from most important to least important with each level.  I’ve used similar conceptualizations before but the idea is exceedingly valid.  Far too many trainees get up their butts with the tips of the pyramid (i.e. the stuff that is far less important in the big scheme) without having the far more important and fundamental levels in place.

Short version of the review for short-attention span folks: both books are excellent and you should buy them.


Carbohydrate Loading for Endurance Events – Q&A

Question: Lyle, what does the science say regarding the proper protocol for carbohydrate loading before a goal endurance event like a full marathon? As usual, internet articles are all over the place: some say 2 days, some a week or more, some say keep calories the same but higher carb percentage, some say to jack it up to 5-7 g/lb…Appreciate any advice! PS – if the answer is “it depends”, please pretend the individual is running 50-60 miles per week with a goal of qualifying for Boston.

Answer: Since I’m at a bit of a loss as to what to write about today, I thought I’d get into the mailbag and take what will be a fairly quick and easy one: carbohydrate loading.  As usual, I’ll give too much background instead of getting to the point quickly.

What is Carbohydrate Loading?

The concept of carbohydrate loading is fairly simple.  First and foremost it’s based on the fact that during fairly intense exercise, fat cannot contribute as much to energy production as most would like (folks spent decades trying to improve this but the fact is that near threshold intensities, carbohydrates are the primary fuel source).

At best fat adaptation increased the body’s ability to use fat for fuel at lower intensities, sparing muscle glycogen but it also came with some problems, including the impairment of the use of carbs for fuel (due to some enzymatic changes) during sprint performance.  Since real sports have bursts and sprints (in contrast to studies which often use submaximal time to exhaustion), this is relevant.

In any case, the concept of carbohydrate loading is that through some types of dietary manipulations, the body’s normal glycogen stores (glycogen is carbohydrate stored in muscle and liver) can be overfilled, like overfilling the gas tank after the nozzle stops.  This puts more fuel into the tank.  So why is this useful?


Calories Not Matching Macros – Q&A

Question: This may come across as sounding like a very rookie question so bare with me. I just had a question regarding my macros/calories. My current macros are at 46 fat, 165 carb and 144 protein and calories at 1650. However, recently I have been hitting my macros spot on but not my calories. I am aware that there is 4 calories per gram of carb/protein and 9 calories per gram of fat. What am I doing wrong?

Answer: This is going to be a very short Q&A since I am currently embroiled (perhaps better described as overwhelmed) in the editing of the Women, Training and Fat Loss book.  Just in case anybody is not familiar with the term, macros is simply short for macronutrients and refers to protein, carbohydrates, fats and technically alcohol.  It’s all nutrients that are consumed in large amounts (lots of grams).  Fiber could technically fit here as well.

Calories are a measure of energy.  Technical one calorie is the amount of energy required to heat 1 gram of water by 1 degree Celsius.  This is done in something called a bomb calorimeter and many correctly point out that the human body is not a bomb calorimeter.  But this is all accounted for and yields the Atwater constants.

Nutrient Calories/g
Protein 4 cal/g
Carbohydrate 4 cal/g
Fat 9 cal/g
Alcohol 7 cal/g
Fiber 1.5-2 cal/g


Briar Lane Homemade Fudge – Product Review

So a week or three back (I’m old, my memory is failing so cut me some slack), I posted a long-needed update to my resources page including a link to what may have seemed like an odd entry: Briar Lane Jams and Jellies.  It’s a company up north run by an online buddy that produces old-school recipe jams, jellies and importantly, fudge.

I know I know, this is a site about body recomposition.  But I’m also the one who literally wrote the book on flexible dieting and have been a proponent of such far longer than just about anybody else.  All foods can have their place in a diet so long as you don’t go stupid and eat nothing but junk (someday I will write something about the current trends in flexible dieting and IIFYM but today is not that day).  More importantly, despite having literally decades now of eating as an athlete, I still have a sweet tooth.  And I love fudge.  I always have, both the thick gooey kind and the fluffy marshmallow kind.  When I was back in Salt Lake City, I’d go to the annual state fair primarily to get a big old hunk of fair fudge. Yeah.

Briar Lane Homemade Fudge - Closed Boxes







And today I want to tell you about the fudge that I had sent to me by Briar Lane.  Since I like all kinds of fudge, I was sent pure chocolate, peanut butter chocolate and something I actually wasn’t familiar with called penuche.  This is what arrived in the mailbox (yes, I took pictures).