Decision Fatigue Could Be Ruining Your Progress…Don’t Let It!
Should I have eggs or oatmeal for breakfast?
A protein shake sounds good too.
Even Greek Yogurt and berries would be really good this morning.
But wait, how about pancakes or waffles?
Or maybe one of those frozen baked goods I have in the freezer.
And after breakfast maybe I’ll do some sprints.
Or maybe I’ll lift some weights.
Do some yoga?
That Crossfit thing down the road seems like something I’d be in to…maybe.
Or maybe I’ll just stay right here and finish the 101st season of The Walking Dead.
When it comes to your health, fitness and performance goals, it is not a lack of information or lack of options that is holding you back.
If fact, it is usually the exact opposite that causes the problem.
When we have too many options (and no plan), we run into what has been termed decision fatigue.
What happens is when there are too many choices, there is a longer sessions of decision making and we may experience decision fatigue.
When this happens have a greater likelihood of choosing something that is less than optimal for our goals.
Decision fatigue plagues those of us that have too many choices and no plan.
Because I hate getting caught in this trap, I have limited my choices when it comes to meals, and to a lesser extent, training.
Sometimes I catch quite a bit of flack for this, and sometimes I can (and should) be a little more flexible with my food and training, but the majority of the time this has served me well.
You may get made fun of for “having the same thing every night” or “training at the same time every day.”
“Dude, that is so boring!”
But believe me, if you limit your choices it makes it much easier to stay on task with your nutrition and training. I’ll take someone calling me boring when I am one of the more athletic guys in the crowd, and knowing I won’t scare off the ladies when beach season rolls around.
With that in mind, I wanted to share how I approach my meals and training to limit decision fatigue.
On 95% of the days during the year you will find me consuming 1 of 3 breakfasts. Each of the three provides me with the nutrients necessary to support an intense training regimen, an active lifestyle and my performance and aesthetic goals.
Oh ya, and each are delicious and something I look forward to every day and never get sick of…maybe I’m just weird.
Option 1: Veggie omelet with baked sweet potatoes, 1 medium banana, 2 tbsp peanut butter, 1 cup of coffee with a splash of whole milk.
Cut up 1/2 green/red pepper, 1/4 sweet onion, 1/2 cup mushrooms and sauté them in a pan. Scramble 2-3 eggs and add to pan. Let eggs cook until you can flip and cook the other side. Add a pinch of shredded cheese and salsa if you desire.
For the sweet potatoes I cut up a sweet potato, add cinnamon and bake at 400 degrees for 23-25 minutes in the beginning of the week. I then reheat a portion of the potatoes at 350 for 5-10 minutes while I am cooking my omelet.
Plate the omelet and potatoes and have a banana and peanut butter on the side if desired and it fits your caloric intake for the day.
**I cut my veggies the night before and cover them with plastic wrap and put them in the fridge so all I have to do it the morning is throw them in the pan…another way to avoid decision fatigue.
The total time it takes me to make my omelet is roughly 10 minutes once the veggies hit the pan.
Option 2: Protein Shake (mainly whole food)
Using a blender (a personal blender such as the Ninja single serve cups works great), add 1/2 to 1 cup of frozen berries and 1/2 frozen banana to the blender cup.
Add 1-2 handfuls of spinach, 1-2 tbsp peanut butter, 1 scoop of protein and cinnamon to taste.
Add your liquid, about 8oz of almond milk, regular milk, green tea, water, coffee, etc…I prefer unsweetened vanilla almond milk.
Blend until desired consistency…if you want it thicker add a few ice cubes or reduce the amount of liquid next time. If you want it thinner add more liquid.
For many of us this will be enough for the meal. Because my goals are to gain quality weight I need a few more calories. Therefore I have a piece of Ezekiel bread, 1/2 cup of green beans with hot sauce and a handful of mixed nuts on the side.
**I know the green beans with hot sauce sounds weird! One day I didn’t plan very well and all I had left to have with my shake were green beans. I didn’t want plain green beans so I added hot sauce and voila, the sweet and spicy back and forth between the green beans and shake got me. Ever since then this has been my combo.
Option 3: Loaded Oatmeal
For my oatmeal I pretty much take what I put in my shake and throw it in oatmeal. Recently though, my wife has introduced me to carrot cake oatmeal and it is definitely my favorite. A little more involved so it is usually a treat for me on the weekends.
For the oatmeal, cook 1/2 to 1 cup of old fashion oats…the serving depends on your goals. I use 1 cup so you may want to go a little less to start.
Once the oats are cooked, add 1 scoop protein powder and cinnamon to taste. If you are using chocolate protein powder you can also add a little cocoa for enhanced flavor. Stir in evenly.
Next add 1/2-1 cup of berries, half a banana chopped and a small handful of mixed nuts.
Stir in, dump into a bowl and enjoy!
On days where I know I have a heavier resistance training session planned I typically lean more towards the oatmeal as it provides me with a little more carbohydrate for energy.
On my lighter days and off days I will go for the omelet or protein shake.
For training it is more about the time of the session, and the overall plan for that day/week.
If you have the choice to train at 6am, 12pm, 5pm or 7pm, and don’t plan on which time you are going to train, the day could easily go something like this:
5am: Alarm goes off in time for you to get up and get ready for 6am session and work…you push the snooze button and training is put off until lunch.
12pm: Instead of training you decide to go out for lunch with a co-worker…so you will train at 5pm after work.
4pm: Your significant other (or your kids…or both!) want you home for dinner. This is not a bad thing but pushes your training off until 7pm after everyone is fed and settling down for the night.
6:45pm: Not only are you tired, but you have to get ready for work/school for the next day, and therefore, training is pushed off until tomorrow…where your schedule is the same as it was today!
Now I know life is busy, but if you have chosen to train at a certain time every day, it is much less likely that you will fall into this trap.
Also, the mode of training is a key choice as well.
If you could resistance train, hit a bodyweight ciruit, sprint, jog, play some basketball, or simply go for a walk each and everyday, you may find yourself spending an entire week walking the dog.
This isn’t going to be enough if you want to get stronger and more defined…and could lead to some other problems ↓
Or you may find yourself throwing heavy amounts of iron around the weight room every day…a quick way to burn out or get injured.
Having just one (maybe two) choices per day as to the mode of training you are going to perform limits your chances of picking a suboptimal choice.
With that, a couple things you can do to prevent decision fatigue from working its way into your training:
- Choose a time of day to train, every day!
This doesn’t mean you have to train at the same time on every day of the week, but each individual day should be the same, 90% of the time.
Maybe that is 6am on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 12pm on Tuesday and Thursday and 9am on the weekends.
Whatever time works best for that day, but make sure to stick to that choice.
2) Choose your training method for each day.
Like the first point, choosing which training method you are going to perform on each day helps you stay on track.
That could be resistance training on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Then sprints on Tuesday and Saturday. And on Thursday and Sunday you could perform a light circuit, go for a jog or enjoy a long walk.
Of course depending on your level of fatigue you can (and probably should) modify the original choice to prevent any unwanted injuries.
The point is, when you have an overall schedule that you have chosen, you are more likely to see greater progress.
You could say that this is any good program that is drawn up, and I would agree, but I am saying that you still have to choose to follow that program.
If you want some more help with your program, fill out the online coaching application if you are not in the Nashua NH area.
If you are in southern NH, stop by TOP Fitness in the Conway Ice Arena and we can help you out.
Make the Easy Choice
We all have choices to make, and each choice we make has a direct effect on our health, fitness and performance goals.
By limiting the available options, you have a greater chance to select a choice that helps you move closer to your goals…not further away.
Not only this, but when you don’t really have to decide on something each and every day, you reserve more energy (predominantly mental energy) to use for other areas of your life (school, work, relationships, sports, etc.).
Prevent decision fatigue from plaguing your nutrition and training efforts by implementing tips above.
And don’t worry when someone wants to call you “boring” or “predictable”…they are just mad and tired of fighting decision fatigue so they are taking it out on you!
Share this with your friends and family, and anyone else you think could use this info to help enhance their life and performance!
To your health and performance,