Physiqonomics Weekly #37: Pink Elephants

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11 Mar 2021 | by Aadam


What a week it’s been since we last spoke, huh?

There were lows: WandaVision ended. There were highs: My boy Drizzy blessed us with a new EP reminding everyone why he’s the 🐐

There were “what-the-shit-is-actually-happening-right-now” moments brought to you by the girl from Suits featuring the Royal Family, and Burger King probably fired its marketing department after it tweeted, “women belong in the kitchen” on International Women’s Day.

So, yeah. Much excite.

Anyway. It’s Thursday. So let’s Toosie Slide right into this week’s Physiqonomics Weekly.


Q– Is completing a 30 minute workout counter productive? I find that some of my upper body workout don’t take much longer than half an hour, especially when training late at night and reducing rest breaks.

If you’re taking shorter rest breaks, naturally, the workout will be shorter than if you rested longer. But a shorter workout doesn’t mean it’s counterproductive. As long as you’re implementing the basics––progressive overload, the right training intensity, etc.––even a 30-minute workout can be effective.

QWhen you are trying to lose body fat, I thought the macros you should follow is 40% protein, 40% carbs and 20% fats, while being in a sustainable deficit. And then I heard it’s actually better to do a much lower carb ratio and have a higher fat ratio. I’m confused, I thought there were more calories in fats per gram and based on how fats are stored in your body, it was important to lower the fats ratio. Can you elaborate on an ideal macro ratio for someone who is trying to lose fat and maintain muscle (high protein and calorie deficit is already happening).

Please repeat after me: There is no special “macro ratio”.

One more time: There is no special “macro ratio”.

Has that sunk in? Because if it hasn’t, we can all don grass skirts, sit around a fire, and kumbaya the shit out of this. It has? Thank god. Because nobody wants to see me in a grass skirt, including me.

As I mentioned in my fat loss article, if you’re consuming enough protein and sustaining a calorie deficit, you’ll lose fat regardless of how many carbs or fats you’re eating. And so, you can distribute carbs and fats as per your personal preference.

Also, seeing we’re on the topic, I should clear this up too. Despite the fitness world’s fetish for macro ratios, they’re not the best way to set up your diet. Actually, scratch that––I think they’re pretty fucking stupid.

Now allow me a moment to back up my bold claim by way of an example.

Imagine we have a 150lb female who needs to eat ~1700kcal per day to lose fat. If we use the 40/40/20 macro split, her macros would come out to:

  • 170g protein (40% pro)
  • 170g carbs (40% carbs)
  • 38g fats (20% fats)

If we set her protein intake based on her bodyweight––let’s say 0.8g/lb (or 1.76g/kg)–– she only needs ~120g of protein.

Or, a male who weighs 180 lbs with a calorie requirement of 2500kcal would end up with 250g of protein if we set protein at 40% of total intake but would only need ~140g if we set protein at 0.8g/lb.

These are only just two examples using the popular 40/40/20 split. There are a host of other ratios. Some that recommend setting protein intake as low as 10-15% of total calories.

And that’s the problem with macro ratios. They can over– or underestimate your macros because the numbers scale with your calorie requirements versus things like your weight.


– Are Pink Elephants Ruining Your Progress?

Be honest: when you read the subject line of today’s email, you thought of pink elephants, didn’t you?

I’ll get back to brightly-coloured mammals in a second. First, let me set the scene.

A new coaching client emailed me lamenting that every time she starts a diet, she suddenly gets cravings for “junk” food. Almost as if her body is rebelling against her for pursuing this goal.

So I asked why she doesn’t just eat the foods she’s craving but in smaller amounts? A few days later, she reported back that as if by magic, her cravings had disappeared.

This client was experiencing a concept in psychology called the White Bear Problem or, in our case, the Pink Elephant Problem (also known as Ironic Process Theory).

The Pink Elephant Problem occurs when you try not to think of something, only for that thing you’re trying not to think about becoming the only thing you can think about. Just like if I told you not to think of pink elephants, well, now you’re thinking of pink elephants.

The Pink Elephant Problem was why the client would have cravings every time she started a new diet. The more she tried to not think about all the things she couldn’t eat, the more those foods occupied her thoughts.

When she ate the foods she was craving, the cravings disappeared. And further, because she now knows she can eat those foods (sensibly) whenever she wants, she isn’t thinking about them.

Here’s another example of this problem which involves going back to the halcyon days of 2019 when we were allowed to go out and do things, and Burger King wasn’t saying dumb shit.

You’re great on the weekdays; you’re capital-C crushing your nutrition and training. Then, you get a message from your friend Brad or maybe Brandy inviting you to some random party at the weekend. Even though you don’t really want to go, screw it. What else are you going to do?

But now you keep thinking about the upcoming party. And the more you think about it, you also think about all the food and drink that’s going to be there that has the potential to ruin all the effort you’ve been putting in all week.

In response, you start to make a mental list of all the things you’re not going to do. But then you get to this party and all of a sudden your deep-throating cake like it’s going out of style because HOLY BAKED-GOODS, THIS CAKE IS AMAZING.

Sound familiar?

The problem here is framing. The more you tell yourself you’re not going to do something, the more likely you are to do it. Why? Because your brain hates you.

When you’re under stress, the unconscious doesn’t process the “not” part of the message–– I will not eat cake at the party; I will not drink too much; I will not blow my diet. I will not do lines of coke. You know, typical party stuff. All it recognises is the overall message. So it becomes: I will eat cake; I will drink too much; I will blow my diet.

The solution to your pink elephant problem, though, is pretty simple. Instead of thinking about what you won’t do, tell yourself what you will do.

Instead of “I won’t have cake”, try “I’m only going to have one slice of cake.” Instead of “I won’t drink”, try “I’ll only have a glass or two.” You get the idea.

This works because it allows you to be specific and narrows your focus.

Something like “I’ll stick to my diet” is too broad. What does “stick to my diet” mean? But something like, “I’m going to skip appetisers and only have the main course with some dessert” is much better because it’s specific and concrete. By focusing on what you will do, you don’t have to worry about what you won’t do.

Give this a go the next time you find yourself stressing out about an event or party that might throw you off track.


– The Truth About Your Slow Metabolism

The slow metabolism myth has been around forever. And while there is some truth to it, it’s not what many people think it is.

In this article, I deep-dive into the research to help you understand why your lack of progress has nothing to do with your metabolism, what’s really going on, and what you actually need to focus on.

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