Experiment #1

Experiment #1: Wherein Regex Kinda Sorta Flops In The General Direction Of Nutrition

Background

Previously, I did some informal experiments with soylent and decided diet was one of few absolutely crucial variables feeling incredible and being productive. Other major factors identified at the time were sleep and stress. When these factors are poor I enter a state where I have an inability to work on school, do projects, or learn effectively. It never gets so bad that I lose basic functionality, but trash and unexamined paper does start piling up. Thus solving this issue is absolutely crucial to my quest for world domination. Er, I mean building killer robots. I mean-

Epistemics:

I predict: ~2 weeks of 7 or more pomos per day.

Quality sleep + quality diet + low stress -> feeling amazing & being productive

As of this writing I had had a productivity streak the past three days. It is unusual for productivity to stick for more than five. This could be a momentary spike from having no classes, but it is probably mostly the effect from eating mostly dietitian suggested recipes instead of just rice, beef, flour tortillas and beans.

Yeah. It really is little wonder I’ve felt terrible and been unproductive just reading that sentence.

This experiment is thus primarily to see if that productivity pattern holds, and so most of this experiment is to test my experimental machinery. I don’t particularly expect to get meaningful data from the limited amount of time testing each of the treatment, but looking at my rescuetime numbers for the past two weeks of informal experimentation there very well may be a noticable effect. I’ll use this to to determine which set of recipes to use for the next school term and as my baseline for the next diet experiment.

Methods

   Diet

For a 4 days at a time I will eat the same things every day. After the 4 days end I will change at least one food item and continue with that for another week. Meals: 8-9am 2-3pm 6-7pm

Supplements

2 Barleans’s Fresh Catch Omega 3 EPA/DHA fish oil capsules per night

1 Rainbow Light Men’s One multivitamins per night

Foods            (see appendix for recipes)

  1. ½ cup bob’s red mill 10 grain + 2 spoonfuls peanut butter
  2. burrito bowl (sans cabbage, sour cream, and cheese)
  3. Chinese Beef and Vegetable Stir Fry
  4. additional recipe to be supplied by dietian after this is posted
  5. additional recipe to be supplied by dietian after this is posted

Treatment sequence                                                              (breakfast, lunch, dinner)

A, baseline  Sept 2nd – 5th #1, #2, #3
C, first treatment Sept 6th – 9th #1, #2, #4
D, second treatment

 

Sept 10th – 13th #1, #5, #4
E, third treatment Sept 14th – 17th #6, #5, #4
F, final treatment Sept 18th-21st #6, #5, #3

Measurements

Productivity: #pomos/day, productive minutes & percentage as measured by Rescue Time

Feeling incredible: scale from 0 to 1, not expected to change much.

Fatigue: at 8am, 2pm, and 8pm answer a questionnaire that is a modification and combination of: The Revised Piper Fatigue Scale, The Brief Fatigue Inventory, The Checklist of Individual Strength, the Fatigue Assessment Scale, and The Multidimensional Fatigue Inventory. I removed duplicate answers and things I interpreted the same way (“I feel good” and “I feel bad” are just inverses of eachother, and so those can be converted into a scale from “I feel bad” to “I feel good”).

Stress is quantified by a daily average answers from the task questionnaire weighted by length. Every activity I spend more than a half hour on will get the task questionnaire, a modification and combination of: NASA Task Load Index, the DSSQ, the ERSQ.

Every non-recreation activity longer than a half-hour gets a task or recreation questionnaire.

Sleep: Number of times waking in the night, estimated time to fall asleep, length of sleep

Sleep

Biggest thing here is just not doing something dumb and losing a day or two to sleep deprivation. That would obviously have a major impact on productivity.

I am maintaining a constant dosage of melatonin ~3ml (0.75 mg) in order to ensure sleep.

I also will continue to take one ibuprophen per night to reduce residual neck pain.

melatonin, ibuprophen, & supplements time: 9:55-10:10 (ideally 10:00)

wake at 7:15 – 7:45 (Ideally 7:15)

alarm set to: 7:45 (blue LED above my bed that turns on for 3 seconds and off for 3 seconds)

sleep at 10:25 – 10:45 (Ideally 10:30)

After dinner I am limited to half a glass of water (~15 oz). This should reduce waking up in the night.

In order to encourage better sleep, I will go swimming on the last day of each treatment for 25-35 minutes at 10am-1pm.

Stress

This bit is tricky. In many ways, resistance to stress is the whole point: if I can deal with more stress then my productivity goes up. On the other hand, when I do things the overall level of my stress goes up, reducing available resources and making it more difficult to actually do anything else later.

The first informal experiment with soylent showed I was able to be continuously productive for nearly two weeks doing my own projects. The second time I was drinking Soylent I got a productivity boost, but it didn’t last long. I am fairly certain the cause of the cut in productivity was entirely because of giving a speech in class. After that day I was largely unable to be productive for the rest of the term. The stress never really left me until I had a full two weeks off. I am not taking classes currently, so I do not expect stress to be significant enough to prevent me from being productive. I expect my next experiment to be on recovering from stress.

It is still entirely possible for me to push too hard or too fast and make the next treatment suffer because of having to deal with the stress increase. To that end I am keeping track of how much stress my tasks generate with the task questionnaire, and the degree of my exhaustion with the fatigue questionnaire. I will try to keep a roughly even, and fairly low stress level. This should mostly control for stress so that the primary loose variable is the productivity.

There is also a question in the fatigue questionnaire about how much my fatigue has impacted my work, so I’ll use that to figure out how much of an issue this is. It may be that some days I simply am doing random things such that low productivity may have nothing to do with fatigue at all.

 

Statistics

Admittedly, I am not yet proficient at using statistics. I mostly care about the number of pomodoros, so I will use that as my determining factor, although I will also examine the rescuetime and fatigue data. That may have some impact if I find anything interesting.

I’ll be comparing this entire enterprise to my previous pomo numbers from just before I started eating well along with the period where I was eating sporradically from the selection provided.

For each treatment, and the set of treatments with each item I will find the: Mean, median, mode, slope, and standard deviation. I’ll also apply a t-test for each treatment against the baseline.

Also, graphs with clear markers for the treatment.

Thoughts

This is almost certainly an insufficient amount of data for each treatment. At bare minimum I would want a week for each. Unfortunately, classes start on the 21st which will bring a level of stress that will make it difficult to distinguish the effects of diet. I need some kind of data before then, and so this will have to do. This is also a dry run to make and run an experiment.

APPENDIX A: Mental Exhaustion Scale

  1. To what degree is the fatigue you are feeling now causing you distress? To what degree is the fatigue you are feeling now causing you distress?

1 No Distress —— 10 A Great Deal

  1. To what degree is the fatigue you are feeling now interfering with your ability to complete your work or school activities?

1 None —— 10 A Great Deal

  1. Overall, how much is the fatigue which you are now experiencing interfering with your ability to engage in the kind of activities you enjoy doing?

1 None —— 10 A Great Deal

  1. How would you describe the degree of intensity or severity of the fatigue which you are experiencing now?

1 Mild —— 10 Severe

To what degree would you describe the fatigue which you are experiencing now as being:

  1. 1 Pleasant —— 10 Unpleasant
  2. 1 Agreeable —— 10 Disagreeable
  3. 1 Protective —— 10 Destructive
  4. 1 Positive —— 10 Negative
  5. 1 Normal —— 10 Abnormal

To what degree are you now feeling:

  1. 1 Strong —— 10 Weak
  2. 1 Awake —— 10 Sleepy
  3. 1 Lively —— 10 Listless (“washed out”)
  4. 1 Refreshed —— 10 Tired
  5. 1 Energetic —— 10 Unenergetic
  6. 1 Patient —— 10 Impatient
  7. 1 Relaxed —— 10 Tense
  8. 1 Exhilarated —— 10 Depressed
  9. 1 Able to Concentrated —— 10 Unable to Concentrate
  10. 1 Able to Remember —— 10 Unable to Remember
  11. 1 Able to Think Clearly —— 10 Unable to Think Clearly

Please rate your fatigue (weariness, tiredness) during the past 24 hours.

(0 No Fatigue —- 10 As bad as you can imagine)

  1. Usual level
  2. Worst level
  3. Best level

The one number that describes how, during the past 24 hours, fatigue has interfered with your:

  1. General Activity
  2. Mood
  3. Normal Work (includes both work outside the home and daily chores)
  4. Ability to concentrate
  5. Enjoyment of life

score 30-50 from 1 to 10 with 1 being completely true and 10 completely false

  1. I feel very active
  2. Thinking requires effort
  3. Physically I feel exhausted
  4. I feel like doing all kinds of nice things
  5. When I am doing something I can concentrate quite well
  6. I feel rested
  7. Physically I feel I am in a bad condition
  8. I am full of plans
  9. I get tired very quickly
  10. Physically, I feel only able to do a little
  11. When I am doing something I can keep my thoughts on it
  12. I dread having to do things
  13. Physically feel in excellent condition
  14. It takes a lot of effort to concentrate on things
  15. I don’t feel like doing anything.
  16. I have enough energy for everyday life
  17. I have problems starting things
  18. I have problems thinking clearly
  19. Mentally, I feel exhausted

Random additions and alterations:

  1. Anxiety level? (1 Calm —- 10 Panic)

(rate between 1 Not at all —- 10 Extreme)

  1. Stressed?
  2. To what degree can your lack of ability to concentrate be attributed to sleep problems?
  3. To what degree can the fatigue you are feeling now be attributed to sleep problems?

Today I

  1. enjoyed myself
  2. sat around not really doing anything
  3. worked on things that are important to me
  4. found my activities engaging
  5. found it difficult to maintain focus for a large majority of my work, or stopped working soon after losing focus
  6. feel full of life.
  7. found minor roadblocks in the activities became major emotional obstacles
  8. actively tried to push through the harder parts of my activities
  9. was able to push through emotional obstacles and continue working
  10. experienced a sense of capability damage because of, or when trying to push
  11. was strongly able to cope with the feelings of fatigue

Which things contributed most to worsening the fatigue today?

Which things contributed most to alleviating the fatigue today?

APPENDIX B: Stress Instruments

NASA Task Load Index (Rate from 1-10)

  1. How mentally demanding was the task?

(1 very low —- 10 very high)

  1. How physically demanding was the task?

(1 very low —- 10 very high)

  1. How rushed or hurried was the pace of the task?

(1 very low —- 10 very high)

  1. How successful were you in accomplishing what you were asked to do?

(1 failure —- 10 perfect)

  1. How hard did you have to work to accomplish your level of performance?

(1 very low —- 10 very high)

  1. How insecure, discouraged, irritated, stressed, and annoyed were you?

(1 very low —- 10 very high)

rate between 1 Not at all —- 10 Extreme

DSSQ

  1. I would rather have spent the time doing something else
  2. I became fed up with the task
  3. I found the task boring
  4. The task brought out my competitive drives
  5. I was motivated to do the task.

ERSQ

  1. How nervous were you during the task?
  2. How upset were you during the task?

Misc

  1. Did you enter flow? (Forgot to eat or use restroom?)

 

APPENDIX C: Recipes Provided by Dietitian:

Burrito Bowl

*These ingredients can easily be put inside a tortilla for a regular burrito. However, this option offers some variation and you can generally add more vegetables to this bowl than in a burrito. J You can google “burrito bowl” for images and additional recipes. This recipe provides loads of nutrients such as Vit C, Vit E, Vit K, potassium, iron, calcium, lycopene, etc.

Ingredients:

Rice (ideally brown rice, but white rice works too)

Beans, black or pinto or even garbanzo (canned is fine)

Cheese (optional)

Leafy greens (spinach, “spring mix”, baby kale, romaine)

Cabbage, chopped

Tomato, diced

Avocado, chopped or mashed

Salsa (ideally the kind you find in the refrigerated section like Emerald Valley)

Sour Cream (optional)

Instructions:

Heat the beans in a pan on the stove or in the microwave. Cook rice according to package directions. To construct the burrito bowl, place cooked rice at the bottom and top with black beans. Layer additional ingredients on top such as cheese, leafy greens (1 handful or 1 cup), chopped cabbage, diced tomato, avocado and salsa and sour cream. ***These ingredients could also be layered in a tortilla for a more traditional burrito.

***Can also put the above toppings on a baked potato instead of rice. Choose either Russet potato or yam (sweet potato). Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash/scrub outside of potatoes under cold running water. Poke each potato several times with knife or fork. Place potatoes on baking sheet (consider lining baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy clean up). Bake for 1 hour (or more) until tender. Top potato with any of the above toppings (beans, cheese, tomato, avocado, salsa, sour cream).

Lots O’Veggies Spaghetti

*This meal is packed with nutrition and the sauce is great as leftovers. You can even freeze the sauce for eating much later. I recommend whole wheat pasta, but any is fine. Spaghetti is a good shape – but you can use any shape pasta (linguine, penne, rigatoni, farfalle, macaroni, etc.). You can make it with meat or leave it out and have a vegetarian meal.

Ingredients:

1 package pasta (16 oz) any shape, whole wheat if possible

1 pound ground turkey or beef (optional)

2 tablespoons olive oil (or vegetable oil)

1 medium onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 green bell pepper, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 zucchini, chopped (optional)

2 medium carrots, thinly sliced or shredded

1 (10 oz) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained

2 (28 oz) cans peeled, diced tomatoes OR 2 jars spaghetti sauce

Salt/pepper to taste

Instructions:

In a medium sized skillet over medium heat, cook meat until brown. Drain and set aside. (if no meat, skip this step).

Meanwhile, in a large skillet or stockpot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, bell peppers, zucchini and carrots, stirring frequently and cook until tender (7 – 10 minutes). Add in drained spinach, tomatoes or spaghetti sauce and meat (if including). Let simmer on medium or medium-low heat for 10 – 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

While sauce is simmering, cook and drain spaghetti as directed on the package. Serve drained pasta with sauce on top. May add parmesan cheese, if desired.

Vegetable Fried Rice

This recipe can be made with brown or white rice. It is easy to use leftover rice from the refrigerator. This recipe makes enough for 2 or more servings. You can use frozen or fresh vegetables. Consider adding chicken or tuna fish for a variation.

Ingredients:

3 cups leftover cold rice (brown preferred)

3 tablespoons oil, divided

3 eggs, beaten

1 package frozen mixed vegetables

¼ cup to ½ cup of low sodium soy sauce (to taste)

Instructions:

Pour 1 tablespoon of the oil into a skillet over medium heat. Add beaten eggs and scramble until cooked. Set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil and add frozen veggies to the skillet. Cook until heated through and tender (5 minutes). Add soy sauce to the pan (start with ¼ cup) and warm through. Slowly mix in rice by the spoonful and stir until all the rice has been added and all ingredients are well blended. Add cooked eggs into the skillet and stir. Serve warm.

Breakfast Recipe

Bob’s Red Mill Cereal

  • High fiber hot cereal with flaxseed
  • 7 grain hot cereal
  • 10 grain hot cereal

Any of these three hot cereals are a great base for a nutritious breakfast. You can purchase Bob’s Red Mill at most grocery stores…Fred Meyer (maybe Winco?) or online at Amazon. Prepare the cereal according to the package instructions. You can make a large batch and store in the refrigerator for several days (just microwave to reheat).

Toppings for hot cereal:

  • Peanut butter
  • Dried fruit like raisins, dates, cranberries, etc.
  • Fresh fruit like berries, chopped apple, banana, etc.
  • Nuts such as almonds, cashews, pecans, etc. You can chop these or leave them whole.
  • Additional toppings such as dried coconut, cinnamon, Nutella, etc.
  • For added sweetness consider maple syrup, honey, brown sugar.
  • You can also add milk, almond milk, soy milk or even yogurt.

Chinese Beef and Vegetable Stir-Fry

Sauce:

1/3 cup tamari or soy sauce

1 teaspoon grated ginger root

2 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 small clove garlic, minced

½ cup water

Blend together all ingredients for teriyaki sauce in a saucepan and warm on low heat until the sugar dissolves. http://www.cookusinterruptus.com/honey-ginger-teriyaki-sauce-4136-41.html

Stir-Fry Ingredients:

2 tablespoons cooking oil

1-pound flank steak (chuck steak works well also), cut into thin slices

1 small onion

1 cup sugar snap peas or snow peas

1 large carrot, sliced

1 bell pepper, sliced (any color works)

1 small head of broccoli florets

*Recipe for sauce above

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Make sauce according to instructions. See this video for help.
  2. Slice flank steak into very thin strips, against the grain.
  3. Finely dice onion, slice carrot and bell pepper and chop broccoli.
  4. Put skillet on stove and turn on heat. Add oil. Add beef, stirring constantly until well-browned (6 – 8 minutes). Remove meat from pan and set aside.
  5. In the same pan, add onions. Cook 1 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the rest of the veggies and the half of the sauce to pan and continue cooking for 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
  6. Add meat back to pan with the rest of the sauce and stir to combine everything. Cook 2 – 3 minutes until everything is cooked and heated through.
  7. Serve over a bed of cooked rice.

 

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