I’ve recently started to delve into the world of psychobiology when it comes to finding the right diet and workout plan for people.

It’s fairly obvious that some people do well on low carb diets whereas others would rather gnaw their own arm off than spend another day chasing ketosis.

It’s understandably tempting after seeing your friend lose lots of body fat to copy exactly what they did.

It also makes total sense why you would be attracted to a company that can show you 1000 fat loss testimonials.

What you don’t realise is that there is often another 10,000 who failed miserably.

If I place enough random bets on horses I will eventually win ten.

If I then show you the record of those and sell you my fool-proof gambling system would you buy in, expecting to win every bet you put on?

If the answer is yes, then you need to consider how naive and gullible you are.

To be fair, it’s usually more a case of sheer desperation and lack of willingness to investigate things more deeply.

We all want the shortcut.

So what’s the best approach?

How can we make a more sensible shortcut to what is most likely to work for us without years and years of trial and error?

A smart scientist called Claude Robert Cloninger proposed a theory that people could be classified into three broad personality categories base on their behaviours and dominant traits:

Novelty Seeker

Harm Avoidance

Reward Dependent

Whilst it’s not black and white and three clear boxes, each person tends to exhibit a dominant personality profile largely arising from the presence and activity of certain neurotransmitters in their brain.

These cause them to repeat certain patterns and react in certain ways to certain situations or changes to their environment, including exercise and nutrition.

Here is an express summary of each personality profile and what we can recommend as a starting point for dropping fat and avoiding a battle against your neurotransmitter and hormone bases.

NOVELTY SEEKER

These guys and girls are the risk-takers in life and like to jump out of planes, fight and do anything to spike their adrenaline and avoid being bored!

They tend to have low dopamine and high serotonin, which helps us relax and chill out.

Consequently, putting them on a high carb diet (which increases serotonin) will often turn them into a walking zombie making it very hard for them to get fired up for a effective workouts.

Instead they will do well on low carb diets, including intermittent fasting.

Novelty seekers don’t tend to experience the same elevations in the stress hormone cortisol which can feature in periods of fasting.

Because they have a better ability to manage cortisol, Novelty Seekers will function better on short, intense periods of calorie deficits (3-6 weeks).

Typically a fast with a carb ‘re-feed’ every 3-4 days will work very well for these people.

That said, they should avoid high sugar cheat foods because of the large impact on the dopamine:serotonin ratio.

Finally, to keep topping up dopamine levels in Novelty Seekers, a high protein diet is a must as dopamine is made from the tyrosine found in high protein foods.

HARM AVOIDANCE

These people are the opposite of our risk-taking Novelty Seekers!

Crucially for our nutrition selection, they don’t manage cortisol well.

Cortisol does many useful things in our bodies as part of the fight or flight reaction we’re built with, one of which is energy mobilisation to help us deal with stress.

Unfortunately, this energy will be stored as body fat if it isn’t used to help combat whatever stress we face.

Running from a lion requires energy but being pissed off with your boss doesn’t!

So our Harm Avoiders need to focus on nutrition and supplementation strategies that help manage cortisol in order to look and feel better.

Eating small amounts of carbohydrates at each meal will do just that, whereas going on excessively low carb diets is likely to leave them feeling like they’re depressed because their serotonin levels are already low.

These people should look to create small calorie deficits over a longer period of time because an intense diet and periods of fasting will sky-rocket cortisol and likely leave them fatter than before.

A Harm Avoider who engages in intense training on a regular basis should consider a small amount of carbs before training to blunt the stress response during their workout.

REWARD DEPENDENT

These people are the people-pleasers of the world and the ones who need the ‘Likes’ on social media so they know they’re doing the right thing by everyone else.

They typically have low base levels of adrenaline and may also have low levels of GABA which helps us deal with anxiety and stress.

GABA also helps maintain optimal gut function so if low GABA is determined, any nutrition plan must first prioritise gut health to kick start any plan to build energy and burn fat.

These guys need to be careful with ‘cheat meals’ because they can easily get addicted to sugar (as a form of reward) and will often obsess all week about every last detail of how they’re going to ‘cheat’ on Friday night.

When it finally arrives, it doesn’t live up to the unrealistic expectations they built up, so they immediately start to plan the next one and so the cycle continues, becoming more extreme and controlling!

Reward Dependent people will often train hard but reward themselves after with crappy food leaving them frustrated as the body fat doesn’t seem to come off as fast as expected given their efforts.

The best approach for a Reward Dependent personality is short, alternating phases of low and medium carbohydrate intake. 

HOW DO I KNOW WHAT PROFILE I AM?

There is a lot more to this kind of profiling and unearthing clues as to what will genuinely work for you, stopping all the guesswork and falling for the latest diet fad.

Determining your dominate profile requires some detailed questioning about your typical behavioural patterns and reactions to certain situations and environments.

The concept involves working with how you are naturally built and making the most of your hormonal and neurotransmitter profile.

Think of it like a top construction company that doesn’t start work until they know what the foundations are like, what materials they have and what obstacles they are likely to face when they start building!

This enables us to design much more targeted nutrition and training plans to stop you forcing certain methods for as long as you can stand them before an inevitable crash!

Don’t be the maverick builder who just dives right in and makes project-ending mistakes because he rushed into things too fast!