Friday, October 13, 2006

Neuro Chemical Diet Warfare

October 12, 2006

The Next Frontier in Legal Fat Loss Pharmacology that

Goes BEYOND ‘Thermogenics’ for Rapid & Permanent Fat Loss


By Vince Andrich

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Over the years, I’ve probably been asked more about getting ripped than about any other fitness-related topic related. I’m totally cool with that because my focus has always been on the cosmetic aspects of nutrition and exercise. While some may balk at the idea of cosmetic fitness, it is my view that people are more likely to put forth the effort it takes to get the health benefits associated with fitness, if they are doing it the name of vanity. Arguably, improving your appearance seems to have more immediate “benefits” than for example, improving heart health, making it a much more motivating pursuit. Ironically, what it takes to improve cosmetic fitness in fact delivers superior health benefits, but that’s another article all together.

Needless to say, the topic of getting ripped is an area that really intrigues me, and I’ve got more than a few theories that I’d like to elaborate on. But beforehand, we all need to get on the same page and understand that if you wanna get ripped — if you really want to get lean — there is no such thing as a free ride. Next, let’s agree that any serious “cutting regimen” includes an eating strategy based on some type of macronutrient control and manipulation. The wide range of eating strategies includes everything from protein/carb cycling to simple calorie control, but for the sake of this conversation it doesn’t matter. Now, if you’re still with me, understand this: I believe that no matter what “diet” you’re on, going beyond your previous best “muscle to fat” ratio will eventually come down to a game of mental Russian roulette.

That’s right. Think about it! When you attempt to go beyond your normal limits in any endeavor the mind calls the shots. Those who’ve been there know what I mean. Like Christopher Walken’s character in the Deer Hunter, you take your diet to the point where each day, you roll the cylinder and see if you can escape the bullet in the chamber that will be your mental breaking point.

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Don’t be confused; I’m not talking about a breakdown of mental motivation, that’s another discussion. I’m talking about improving your chances of diet success by tweaking the balance of your “mindspace” through the use of what I like to call “Neuro Chemical Diet Warfare”.

Engineering Irrational Minds To Prevail
I could be way off, but my opinion is that concentrations of neuro chemicals that can benefit dieters are scarcer, or simply less affective when the body is deprived. My reasoning? Well, it seems when deprived, the mind automatically obsesses on the exact thing you’re being deprived of––even if the obsession irrational. For example, I remember during those last weeks of contest dieting, the mere thought of being “allowed” to eat anything “extra” was always top of mind. I’d often say to myself; “maybe I screwed up my food journal and can eat another meal.” Knowing full well that my food journal was always followed to the letter — to the last morsel. So why would I begin this debate with myself? Sound familiar?

I know it has been written about many times before, but it’s worth mentioning again; dietary restrictions kick in untold years of programming that tells your brain that “you’re starving”. So even if you really aren’t starving — even if you have plentiful food within your reach — your mind becomes irrationally obsessed with eating.


Quite possibly our starvation radar goes off even sooner when we are simply attempting to go below a certain level of bodyfat, often called the “set point”. This effect is most pronounced and extremely exaggerated when restricting water, say for a bodybuilding contest or making a weight class. All you can think about is liquids, or something wetter than your dry like the Sahara desert mouth! Seriously, until you REALLY restrict water intake you just don’t know how good a thimble of water or ice cube sounds. These thoughts take precedence over everything. No doubt food (and more so, water) top the charts for survival and so getting an extra edge in this arena will be tough, but certainly worthwhile. IMO, this survival or pleasure mechanism can be overridden. Why? Because it happens naturally in everyday life, and is most easily seen when a person either falls in love or they have issues with their love interest such as the possible break-up of a marriage/relationship. Simply stated, the desire for food has been known to significantly change whenever a person experiences something very pleasant or unpleasant.

These are just a few of the reasons I believe tweaking your supply and balance of serotonin, epinephrine, norepinephrine and dopamine is seriously a BIG DEAL when it comes to fat loss. No matter how experienced you are as a dieter, understanding the power of these neurochemicals holds the key to suspending or minimizing those unforgettable feeding signals that are hardwired into our biology.

Talking Points, Theories and Situation Analysis
The talking points set out below outline a possible prototype for future neurochemical diet strategies. Take these points for what they are; theories, but they are theories with the added insight of what really goes on inside the mind of a serious dieter. Some experts in the applicable fields will probably cringe, at least in places, because inevitably, some of my pop neuroscience is simplistic to the point of perversion. But I am not here to cure mental illness; but I do want to give YOU a mental advantage so you can lose more fat with less pain and suffering.

So that’s all the apologies I’ll make. I feel the subject matter is relevant and in the near future will be key a factor in any high level athlete or serious dieter’s fat loss plan. It is almost insane NOT to realize, quite intuitively that is, that the mind is the ultimate decision maker and all diets succeed or fail because of these decisions.

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Willpower and Anti-Food Psychotropics
There is a whole host of psychotropic players that can affect food intake, but for the most part your brain levels of two key neurochemicals — serotonin and dopamine — seem to be most notable. The problem is that when it comes to making neurochemical connections to food intake, not everyone has the same wiring, and thus, there is not one off-the-shelf solution. Take serotonin for example; this neurochemical has been linked to carbohydrate cravings and is, in fact, released in response to eating carbohydrates. This is why dieters who want to naturally increase their brain levels of serotonin often take the supplement 5-HTP, a precursor to serotonin. The simple reasoning for increasing serotonin in the brain would be to reduce or delay your carbohydrate cravings. Put another way, your mind knows that eating carbs will eventually lead to the release of -serotonin, but if brain levels are “artificially” adequate (through supplementation) your cravings might be minimized. On the surface this seems to be a great idea for low-carb dieters or those with heavy carb cravings.

Too bad it’s not that simple

Let’s take a look at some popular drugs that work on serotonin. It is well established that many people who use Prozac®, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), eat less and therefore can lose weight (although in some cases weight gain does occur). In contrast, Paxil®, another brand name SSRI, lists weight GAIN, not LOSS, as a side effect. In fact, I’ve spoke to many people who use Paxil and swear it is the cause of their weight gain. Now, it can be argued that the two SSRI compounds listed above are similar, but not exactly the same. However, it would seem that inhibiting the reuptake of serotonin would result in many of the same side effects or benefits. But it doesn’t always work that way. Something else must be going on.


The answer may be found in a study comparing the effects of fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), sertraline (Zoloft®), citalopram (Celexa™) and fluvoxamine (Luvox®) on extracellular concentrations of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. In this study, only fluoxetine (Prozac) showed robust and sustained increases in extracellular concentrations of norepinephrine and dopamine after acute systemic administration. This simple difference might explain why Prozac could be a better drug for dieters. Of course this study doesn’t take into consideration what happens when you’re faced with dietary “restrictions.”

Keep that thought….


On the flip side, dopamine, a naturally produced neurochemical, functions as a neurotransmitter that activates dopamine receptors. Dopamine is also a neuro-hormone released by the hypothalamus. Dopamine is a precursor to epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine (noradrenaline) and is part of the catecholamine family, which plays a key role in releasing energy from fat and inhibiting fat storage. So, maybe we should just find a way to crank up the dopamine, right?

Well, take a look at this…

One drug affects dopamine and IMO, deserves much attention when it comes to dieting. The drug is Bupropion (amfebutamone), which is better known by the brand names Wellbutrin and Zyban.

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I’m fascinated because the chemical is both a dopamine reuptake inhibitor and a norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor. Also, Bupropion has only a small effect on serotonin reuptake. Not surprisingly it is similar in structure to the stimulant cathinone, and to phenethylamines in general. It is a chemical derivative of diethylpropion, an amphetamine-like substance that is prescribed as an appetite suppressant. Pretty, cool so far, right?

For an athlete looking to get ultra ripped however, we want a reduction in appetite, not amphetamine induced anorexia that will grind up our mind and muscle and spit it out. You see if you flip the dopamine switch on high and break off the knob, you’ll be headed for a downhill spiral. This is because the closer you chemically get to amphetamines such as methamphetamines or cocaine, you beat on your dopamine system to the point where the desired signal is always ON and the neurotransmitters are not recycled. The net result is that dopamine gets severely depleted and the user becomes mentally addicted and in no condition to positively alter body composition.

The good news is that when dopamine rises to higher ranges in an intermittent fashion, our body handles the increase by engaging dopamine transporters (DAT’s) to remove excess dopamine from the receptor, effectively ending the signaling of the neurotransmitter and recycling the transmitter. So a transitory boost in dopamine levels when food cravings are imminent could be a very useful appetite suppressor. For sure it seems any positive neurochemical diet protocol would require the availability and proper recycling of serotonin and dopamine. Coincidently, Bupropion is also used to for smoking cessation, and since people who quit smoking seem to gain weight, there must be another food connection. So what’s the big deal with smoking?

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Stay tuned for PART TWO

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