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How Lunch – and Decisions – Make You Weak

By: Dave Asprey

While interviewing my friend Dan John for a Bulletproof podcast, we got into an interesting discussion that deserves its own blog post. Dan has become a fan of Bulletproof intermittent fasting (only drinking Bulletproof® Coffee in the morning to sustain fullness and energy into the afternoon while losing fat and building muscle) and he noticed something about it that isn’t obvious.

Dan and I have both paid attention to the fact that simply having Bulletproof Coffee takes very little time to prepare. Once we have the Bulletproof Coffee in the morning, there is no additional thinking about food, worrying about hunger, or making even a single decision about food for up to 6-10 hours. And it just so happens that those are the hours when most of us are focusing on work and getting things done.

By contrast, if you are still stuck on the snacking treadmill (eating a meal or a snack every two or three hours) you *have to* think about your energy level, AND decide what to eat. Then you battle with deciding what would be the right thing to eat. Is it a bag of chips? Is it a low-fat, vegan, franken-patty made out of twigs and leaves? “Just one” of those candies that obese friend keeps on the desk to share with coworkers? Whatever you decide, even if it’s on the green side of the Bulletproof diet, it’s still yet another decision you have to make.

As a high-performance entrepreneur, I’ve recently become more aware of decision-making fatigue. In addition to a demanding job as a vice president at a billion-dollar Internet security company (one that is likely protecting your PC from attack right now), I run the Bulletproof Executive website. Between these two jobs, and my two young children and wife, the number of daily decisions I make can be daunting. I became aware of the small psychological and biological cost incurred for each decision I make regardless if it’s a large decision (like deciding to create the world’s most Bulletproof decaf coffee even though caffeinated has more benefits), or a little decision (like deciding to have dinner at 6:00 vs 6:15).

By the end of some days, my decision-making power is completely used up. I simply don’t care if dinner is at 6:00 or 6:15. I just want to eat whenever it’s ready, so I can refuel and recharge my decision-making capacity!

You might think this is just a bunch of whining from an overachiever, but it’s not. It’s a real psychological effect, and decision making fatigue is probably hurting your performance too.  Decision fatigue is documented in psychology and it refers to the deteriorating quality of decisions after a long session of decision making.[1][2] It is one of the causes of irrational trade-offs in decision making.[2] For instance, judges in court have been shown to make poorer decisions later in the day.[1][3] Decision fatigue may also lead to you to make less optimal choices when you buy things.

Decision fatigue may even be keeping people you know in poverty. Dean Spears of Princeton University has argued that decision fatigue caused by the constant need to make financial trade-offs actually helps to trap people in poverty. Financial situations force the poor to make so many trade-offs that they are left with less mental energy for other activities.[1]

The main effects of decision fatigue are:

  • Reduced ability to make trade-offs
  • Decision avoidance
  • Impulse purchasing
  • Impaired self-regulation

Those are totally not Bulletproof.

On days when breakfast and/or lunch are on the agenda, not only do I lose the time it takes to cook two meals (or buy them), eat them, and return to work, but also I incur the cost of deciding what to cook, where to eat, how to cook it, et cetera et cetera. So the decision to have lunch is actually composed of a long series of micro decisions, each of which takes energy that I could have better-applied elsewhere.

One impact of this realization is that I’ve started asking people in my life, both coworkers and family, to stop asking me to make decisions I don’t need to make. A loving, “dinner at 6:00 or 6:15?” question is meant to show concern and care, but in fact “dinner at 6:00” requires no decision at all, and serves to save a decision for something that is going to matter.

That said, I’m certain that the primary effects of Bulletproof® Coffee come from the  amazing effects of Upgraded Coffee combined with the satiating and nourishing effects of the right types of fat without toxins. Now, I realize that some of the performance enhancement comes from the simplicity and lack of decisions that the daily Bulletproof Coffee ritual brings to my life.

What do you think? Is it the simplicity offered from Bulletproof Coffee and similar lifestyle protocols in the Bulletproof Diet Book that help increase your performance by removing distracting decision making? I’m considering adding this concept to my next book and would greatly appreciate your input!