Addiction and proven strategies to help: The 20% change which gives you the 80% benefit.

This is spoken about a lot in terms of behaviour change, business and so on. What are you doing or not doing 20% of the time which is limiting 80% of your potential progressions?

Another way to think about it is your ‘big rocks’ or ‘key stone habits’ these can be small or seem small habits but they begin adding up to big rocks or blocks once you add them all up and compound their effects.

These can be strong habits or ones which may weaken you. For example training is a strong habit whereby you might eat better, sleep better and prepare better for your training session and longer term planning and goals. Lack of training you may drift and think ‘why bother’ eat well and looking after yourself in other ways. The benefits you get in the gym in terms of progression, might at times be the only progression you see in your life whilst other areas stagnant, struggle or even go backwards. If you get addicted to training it may take over your life, causing fatigue, injury and lack of progression.


Keep on training. Just make your you rest enough between sessions to adapt.

A negative habit might also be a key stone habit suck as eating biscuits, ice cream or liking booze too much.

Each day the packet of hobnobs (or other biscuit I’ve not got anything particularly against hobnobs) gets opened. You say I’ll just have one – of course once the packets finished, you feel rubbish, can be the same with a tub of ice cream or a bottle of wine. You could be looking at 1000, 800 or 750 calories.

Daily packet of hobnobs = 1410 calories. Yearly cost £365-434.35. Yearly calories 514650
Daily bottle of wine = 644 calories. Yearly cost (cheap bottle £5.99) £2186.35 yearly additional calories 235060. Don’t like cheap wine? Yearly cost £4500 yearly calories likely higher due to higher alcohol content often with more expensive wine….

As wine gets stronger so it contains more calories from ethanol.

Depending on the brand and strength of the alcohol. Even if you train hard and eat well, A thousand calories excess from empty calories is a hard surplus to counteract. Not impossible, it’ll just make things much, much harder for you.

Drinking a bottle of wine and eating a packet of hobnobs on top of your normal requirements?

Good luck with that one and staying lean. You’d need to run quite fast for 2 hours to burn that off each day….

Some of these are fine, as long as it’s not every day or getting in the way of your life, goals and health. However if they are verging on addiction which is defined as a behaviour which;

1. the fact or condition of being addicted to a particular substance or activity.
"he committed the offence to finance his drug addiction"

synonyms: dependency, dependence, craving, habit, weakness, compulsion, fixation, enslavement;
"he blamed Murray for his heroin addiction"
devotion, dedication;
obsession with, infatuation with, passion for, love of, fondness for, weakness for, penchant for, predilection for, appetite for, mania for;
informalthing about, yen for;
rareappetency for
"a slavish addiction to fashion"

Some addictions can be healthy, it’s all about the dose – and some can eventually be harmful if followed excessively.

If you know someone who is struggling with addiction then please share this with them it might help them.

We’re all compelled to eat, however when we eat to excess or repeatedly eat the same kinds of foods this also can be classed as addictive behaviour.

Often replacing more unhealthy addictions with healthier ones is a good start. It embraces one of the essential principle of making changes which is;

“If you remove something – you must replace it with something else”.

Hobbies are good things for addicts to take up. Addicts need them.

“I tried to give up but it didn’t work out”

“what did you do instead”?

One of the hardest things about stopping doing something is the sense or actual physical process of withdrawal. You lose your comfort blanket. Doing something else distracts you from withdrawal. It also potentially supplies the brain chemicals the substance was giving to you. Why is giving stuff up so difficult?

This is down to a couple of factors. Mainly to do with brain chemicals. When the addictive substance or behaviour is indulged the pleasure centres in the brain light up, get stimulated and release feel good hormones, endorphins, dopamine, serotonin and a bunch of lovely chemicals which make you feel happier, calmer, sedated or more rewarded than you were before taking the substance, eating the ice cream or rolling the roulette wheel.

Some drugs and habits are more dopamine (sex and cocaine) related and some are more GABA related (weed, booze and sedatives).

If you think you might be addicted to something which is limiting your progression in life then consider these factors when trying to make some changes;

Quantify the level of addiction. Having to have 1 biscuit each day or 1 x 125ml glass of wine doesn’t really fit the problem area – if it’s 2 bottles of wine and your friends and family have mentioned it then it’s certainly worth listing.

Get help – if you feel this is too hard or beyond your control, you are certainly not alone. Sometimes the bravest thing you can do is acknowledge and seek support.

Count your patterns, how much money do you spend? How many packets of hobnobs per week? What is the extent of your addiction?
List the negative associated with your habit;
High body fat?
Spending and cost
Family copying your habits when they are older or even now?
Health risks – e.g. liver health, brain health with drug addiction or alcohol addiction
Sleep and productivity
Work stability and progression – not getting ahead cause you are tired every day?
Number of times you’ve tried to give up and failed
Level of withdrawal – how bad do you feel when you can’t indulge in your behaviour?
Multiple addictions, you might like sugar, gaming, gambling and whiskey…. Then you might need rehab or prioritise the key habit which is causing the most damage either physically to financially. Staying at home and gaming at first will save your liver and your wallet……whilst you build up your strength and resilience with exercise
Pleasure vs pain – reframe and look forwards. Remember how you were before the addiction set in. Do the pleasure pain activity / task. You can email me for this if you like.

Look at habits unrelated to the key addiction e.g. sugar, bad fats. All of these disrupt normal function and can make withdrawal and addictive patterns more difficult to break. Trying to break cravings when you have low
Check nutrient status. Magnesium deficiency can make people more anxious thereby craving more sedative type options like alcohol or Valium. Dosing up with magnesium when withdrawing can help with withdrawal symptoms. There’s plenty of other nutrients which assist see below;
Detoxification can help. The short answer in this is the quicker the substance is removed the quicker the normal processes can resume. Nutrients like NAC help detoxify quickly and are associated with better outcomes when used for alcohol withdrawal. Glutathione and antioxidants also play a vital role.

Support the brain. Even when combatting a sugar addiction, using 5HTP or serotonin supporting herbs can help with withdrawal and sustaining a lower intake. These are good for when people – especially women cut carbs too. Adaptogens can be incredibly calming and useful for these times when you are making changes.

Omega 3 fats are one of the most powerful mood stabilising nutrients keeping these high is essential to preventing compulsive and addictive type behaviours both personal experience and science supports this.
Not sleeping will make you more likely to crave sugar and comfort. Take care to support deeper more restful sleeping patters, using blends like R5 Aminos is an excellent method to do this.

Making a destress amino acid cocktail can go a long way towards assisting you breaking the cycle of addiction, read on for more detailed approaches, protocols and handy ways you can break the vicious cycle of addictive behaviour;

CASE STUDY; cortisol and additive behaviours.

Functioning alcoholics often get no cravings at all during the day, but when they get home at a normal time for them to get a dose of their addictive substance the cravings increase dramatically. Breaking this cycle requires skill and mental toughness – but you can also make it easier on yourself by not having the substance freely available.

There’s a law in nature ‘if it’s in your kitchen you’ll eat / or drink it’ – whether it be cookies or wine, cigarettes or a line of Charlie. If it’s in your pocket you’ll take it. Get rid of it to break the habit.


We often associate substances with comfort and their ability to lower stress. How many people reach for a glass of wine as soon as they get home. With booze consumption within the home increasing, one glass can lead to 2 and 2 leads to a bottle being finished. The 1stthing to remember is we often crave booze due to low blood glucose levels and also thirst.

I get clients to make themselves a virgin gin and tonic (no gin) with ice and lemon. A big pint of it. Drinking this seems to take away that initial drive to drink alcohol. Afterwards resisting becomes much easier for the rest of the evening. Even if you drink, you’ll drink slower cause you are hydrated.

Another excellent craving protocol is to use amino acids mixed in with some fruit juice or low sugar cordial. The aminos acids, glutamine, taurine, and GABA (check legality in your country + not suitable for tested athletes) along with a b-vitamin called inositol – this evokes a calmness and relaxed feeling which lowers the temptation to get the same feeling from alcohol, fat or sugar or a combination or all 3.

Earlier in the day the aminos acids tyrosine can help withdrawal from caffeine or complement caffeine intake – you need less to feel alert. You may need none at all. Green tea consumption can also evoke a feeling of calmness and offer an excellent lower caffeine alternative to coffee. Examples and more information of these types of drink are included below. The key ingredient in green tea is Theanine this is truly a powerful mood stabiliser.

Steady as she goes – blood glucose reminders

Foods that will have a stabilising effect on addictive behaviours are ones that have a stabilising effect on our physiology. Maintaining stable blood-sugar levels for example will help keep levels of appetite suppressing and hunger stimulating hormones more stable, helping you avoid cravings and fluctuations in mood. Carbohydrates should be chosen that release sugars gradually into our bloodstream, rather than suddenly elevating levels, which would lead to a subsequent “sugar crash”. These are known as Low Glycemic Index (or low GI) carbs.

This would be achieved by eating fibrous vegetables and greens or slow carbs portioned controlled such as lentils accompanied with sources of protein. Dietary fibre and protein are both known to slow the release of blood sugar, stabilising levels in the body. Remember that dairy foods although they have a low GI and GL actually have a very high insulin raising effect making them poor choices for blood glucose regulation.


Swapping the pub for an exercise class, group or PT session is a great idea. Generally you can’t eat or drink too much whilst exercising. Plus you get endorphins and dopamine all for free. Exercise is essential to overcoming and preventing addictive type behaviours – just keep enough rest or the exercise itself might become damaging.

Antioxidant functional foods

Some foods are naturally high in proteins and amino-acids involved in our body’s antioxidant defences. Regulating oxidative stress may also help addiction and many foods help the body maintain high levels of glutathione, a protein that prevents such damage.

Glutathione is made inside our cells, from the amino acids, glycine, glutamate and cysteine. Food sources increase glutathione by providing these aminos, with sources of cysteine being particularly important.

Antioxidant rich greens like broccoli, avocado and spinachare also known to boost glutathione levels. Egg whites, garlic and fresh meats contain high levels of cysteine, and other such sulphur-containing amino acids, which may help to maintain levels of glutathione and NAC in the body. Some research is also hinting at the possibility that as well as individual amino-acids, the specific shape of these certain proteins, like those in

Undenatured Whey Protein Isolates, may give additional antioxidant protection. This would mean that a benefit could be obtained from ingesting these proteins in there undenatured, un-cooked, natural form to preserve the delicate structures that give these proteins their bioactivity.

The Spice of Life:

Many spices used in Indian curries have been shown in numerous trials to regulate glutathione levels, stimulating the body to take anti-oxidant action! Curcumin (from turmeric)is one of the best known spices for increasing antioxidant enzymes in the body.
Chili increases catchecholamine release which in itself means you can get addicted to chilis if you are trying to get over a stimulant addiction however these little raskels and help you along your way and are good for your health to boot.

Mighty Micronutrients
Increasing vitamins and minerals like selenium (which helps antioxidant enzymes in the body) can help the body help itself! Oysters and shellfish are a rich source! Other important vitamins for addiction would include the B-vitamins which are found in whole grains, pulses and meats.

L-phenylalanine, Involved in dopamine noradrenalin synthesis take 50mg / kg
L-tyrosine, useful for ‘get up and go’ take 100mg / kg
Best taken in morning to assist energy levels and concentration

5HTP and Tryptophan Used in serotonin synthesis, best taken at night with B6 to assist absorption and utilisation, take 50mg of 5HTP in the evening
ZMA formulas complement aminos well in the evening – assisting deeper levels of sleep and recovery, use these as directed


L-glutamine; Involved in inhibitory neurotransmitter production, use 5g t.i.d
GABA; (GABA/Glutamate) check with legality otherwise use 5g before bed
Taurine; best taken later in the day or after exercise, use 1-5g each day
N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) use 1-5g per day use with vitamin C


It’s best not to mix inhibitory and excitatory aminos if you are looking for the brain boosting or calming effect. You can mix them all together when you are using these for recovery and repair of muscle. For the neurotransmitter effect it’s best to take the same group all together or stick to 1-2 in larger dosages.

Some of the studies to support amino acid supplementation to lower addictive tendencies and support withdrawal from your addictive substance of choice are included below;
Taurine – (5-10g per day) split dose best used with magnesium and cofactors
This amino acid, found in energy drinks such as Red Bull, has effects on neural function and muscular contraction. It is also associated with inhibitory neurotransmission in the brain, calming excessive signalling. It’s in Red bull to regulate heart beat – as it helps with calcium regulation and muscle contraction.
Essentially, taurine acts a regulator, supporting muscular contraction and neural function. When nerves are firing, taurine makes them fire harder. When they’re resting, taurine keeps them calm. The same goes for muscles, particularly those in the heart. Taurine exerts a real stabilising influence that helps nerves and muscles become more decisive... they’re either firing, or they’re resting.
Taurine levels respond to alcohol ingestion, while it is seemingly necessary for certain addictive or aversive responses to alcohol (Ericson, Chau, Clarke, Adermark, & Söderpalm, 2010). Interestingly, oral supplementation has been shown to ease addictive behaviours resulting from alcohol (Olive, 2002).
A Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT – an experiment using placebo, where none of the experimenters know, or can choose who’s taking the supplement) showed successful treatment of Gambling addiction in 13 gamblers with <1000mg/day N-acetyl cysteine (Grant, 2007).
One theory to explain this result is that the powerful antioxidant properties of the supplement N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) may reduce damaging actions leading to addiction, where as it may also help increase inhibitory neurotransmission.
By increasing levels of the neurotransmitter GABA, NAC can turn off certain brain-circuits that would otherwise stimulate cravings and the need for reward!
Multi Vitamin
Fish Oils
Focus Formula
5HTP + Taurine + NAC these are included in a mixture of the R5 Aminos along with the Metabolic Amino Complex(available from next week).
Ancillary nutrients needed to support the body’s own neurotransmitter production and brain biochemistry; for example B-vitamins, magnesiumand vitamin-C
Most of these will be covered in a decent multi vitamin and mineral formula; some may be required in higher amounts such as magnesium for severe stress or anxiety.
Additional amount can be taken at night or may be included in a decent ZMA formula along with other helpful antioxidants
Vitamins and minerals keep the body’s own metabolic machines (or enzymes) working in fine order to keep on building new molecules.
Vitamins such as b vitamins and antioxidant are often low in the modern diet
B-vitamin status related to heroin addiction and heroin (el-Nakah, Frank, Louria, Quinones, & Baker, 1979)– and other addictive patterns;
Low B12 status and drug dependence (Elsborg, Hansen, & Rafaelsen, 1979)
Reducing oxidative stress. This has been proposed to be a unifying factor between many addictive substances and may also explain the success of supplementation with NAC, a powerful antioxidant (Kovacic & Cooksy, 2005)
Regulating cell signalling, for instance by affecting fatty acids the cells are made of
Essential fatty acids: 1-3g of EPA+DHA/day previously used to treat addiction
Fats - my omega 3 supplement is 50% off at moment
Palmitic acid (a “bad” saturated fat added to convenience foods like ice-cream), affects behaviour and brain biochemistry (Benoit, S. C. Et al., 2009).
Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs). As well as omega-3 being related to addiction, a lack of essential fats has been proposed to be at the centre of addictive behaviour and is thought to cause of binging and increase the effects of sugar-withdrawal symptoms (Avena, et al., 2009).
1-3g of the omega-3 Fatty Acids EPA+DHA/day was previously used to treat addiction.(Laure Buydens-Branchey, Marc Branchey, Dana L. McMakin, & Joseph R. Hibbeln, 2003)
Lower EFA levels and lower omega-3 compared to omega-6 found in more aggressive cocaine addicts.

Subjects who relapsed at 3 months had significantly lower baseline levels of total n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), and total n-3 PUFAs (L. Buydens-Branchey, M. Branchey, D. L. McMakin, & J. R. Hibbeln, 2003).
The medicine Cabinet

As with most biological disorders, particularly psychological ones, it is too simple to reduce the problem to one cause or to one nutrient – the human body is comprised of millions of interacting systems. However, if we give the body the building blocks, the body can often take care of itself.
Providing the starting materials for neurotransmitterscan stimulate the body to produce/regulate relative levels of different neurotransmitters. Successful interventions have involved the following aminos

L-tyrosine, Involved in dopamine/serotonin/noradrenalin synthesis
GABA, Involved in inhibitory neurotransmitter production
Taurine (GABA/Glutamate)
N-acetyl cysteine (NAC)

Nutrients needed to support the body’s own neurotransmitter production and brain biochemistry; for example B-vitamins and vitamin-C. Vitamins and minerals keep the body’s own metabolic machines (or enzymes) working in fine order to keep on building new molecules.

Regulating cell signalling with Essential fatty acids was previously used to treat addiction. 1-3g of the omega-3 Fatty Acids EPA+DHA/day was all it took(Laure Buydens-Branchey, Marc Branchey, Dana L. McMakin, & Joseph R. Hibbeln, 2003)

Antioxidant vitaminsinclude A, C, D and E. These can mop up free radicals and support various antioxidant enzymes!

NAC is a powerful amino antioxidant that helps the body help itself. Oxidative stress may worsen addiction, with NAC being seen to help (Kovacic & Cooksy, 2005)!

Tags: Addiction