How Tim Grover Proved the Unbelievable Power of Diet on Willpower

His heart was racing, his hands were sweaty, and he knew this was going to be his one chance to impress the great Michael Jordan.

He was not going to let this opportunity slip.

Tim Grover, an up and coming athletic trainer, called the Chicago Bulls for a meeting every day since he learned Michael was looking to get stronger. Michael didn’t want be pushed around anymore, and he was willing to do whatever it took to make sure of that.

So Grover created a detailed plan that outlined what exercises Michael would do, how much sleep he would get, and which food he was allowed to eat.

Grover explained his plan to the finest detail, but Michael was not fully convinced it would work. Be he did agree to give it a try for the next 30 days.

And he ended up following it for 15 years. [1]

Grover's relentless Training

The training and diet regimen that Grover put Michael through helped him become the greatest basketball player in the world.

Since that time, Grover has worked with the best of the best in the game of basketball. The list includes Charles Barkley, Hakeem Olajuwon, Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade.

His training methods are so intense that even superstar athletes like these are seen vomiting from the workouts within the first 30 minutes!

When someone starts vomiting, it doesn’t matter how physically fit they may be, they need extraordinary willpower in order to continue. Yet, somehow Grover’s athletes are able to develop the mental strength to keep going.

This might be due to Grover’s screams of “encouragement”, but more likely it is due to what he has his athletes eat.

The Actual Breakfast of Champions

“I can’t lose weight. I’m 30lbs over where I need to be.”

One of Grover’s athletes told him as he was preparing for the season. “I don’t get it. I’m working out every day, no drinking. Eating healthy…”

“Tell me what you’re eating.” Grover chimes in.

“Oh you know, healthy. Start my day with a huge smoothie…”

“What’s in the smoothie?”

“Healthy stuff. Orange juice, pineapple, strawberries, bananas, blueberries, granola, yogurt…very healthy.”

"Got it. Good news: if you're consuming that much sugar every morning, be grateful you're only 30 pounds overweight. It could be a lot worse, and probably will be, because there are more sugars in that smoothie than the average person should consume in an entire day." [2]

What does Grover mean by this?

Well, sugar is what the body will burn through first when it begins exerting energy. So rather than burning any of the 30lbs of fat that the athlete wants to lose, he is just burning through his morning smoothie. This leaves his body just as out of shape - no matter how difficult the workout.

So what does Grover have his athletes eat instead of this “healthy” food that is full of sugar?

“I give my athletes what I call 'The List'. No sugar, no dairy, no fruit, no breads, no alcohol. No junk.” 

This diet avoids “high-glycemic” foods which cause a sharp increase in your blood sugar. Instead, Grover only allows his athletes to eat low-glycemic foods – those that increase your blood sugar gradually.

These include eggs, meat, vegetables, nuts and other low-carb foods. On this diet, his athletes are now burning through their fat and not just the sugar they ate for breakfast.

This helps them get into better shape every day as they go through Grover’s program. And, whether Grover realizes it or not, the bodies of his athletes aren’t the only thing affected by his diet. The diet also fuels their willpower. 

The willpowered Diet

To exert willpower, the brain uses a chemical known as glucose.

When the body takes in food, it turns some of that food into glucose which is sent throughout the blood stream. 20% of the body's glucose goes to the brain, which it uses to think, communicate and, yes, exert willpower. 

All foods create glucose, but not all glucose fuels your willpower as effectively.

High-glycemic foods, like the ones Grover prohibits, cause your blood sugar to spike. That gives your brain a quick boost of willpower. But it is shortly followed by an extreme drop in blood sugar, which causes a "willpower crash". 

Grover's athletes can keep going because their low-glycemic diet provides a steady stream of glucose to the brain. They are able to persevere through their workouts because their willpower is being constantly fueled.

You may not have to go through an intense workout, but by following a similar diet, you might just be able to find the strength to hit the gym after work, clean out your garage, or stop procrastinating. [3]

To get the most willpower out of your diet follow these guidelines:

  1. No sugar. Especially sugar that is artificially added to foods during processing.
  2. No dairy. Milk, cheese, yogurt, everything. Because the lactose in that food will lead to the spike and crash effect.
  3. No breads. The grains are processed into sugar by your body.
  4. No junk. Any sort of processed food will likely be high-glycemic due to high-fructose corn syrup.
  5. Yes lean proteins. This includes cuts of beef, poultry, pork, fish and free-range eggs.
  6. Yes nuts. Specifically those nuts that are high in omega-3 fatty acids like walnuts, pecans and cashews.
  7. Yes vegetables. All vegetables will help build your long-term willpower, so choose your favorites!
  8. Yes fresh fruit. Fruits do have more sugar than others, but many fruits like berries and avocados are still low-glycemic – even though they have sugar.  Fresh fruit is preferred over dried because dried fruits have a higher concentration of sugar in them.

You can also check out this list of the 10 Best Foods for Long-Term Willpower.

Do not worry if this diet seems intimidating. You likely are not a professional basketball player and you do not need to overhaul your diet entirely. Just start slow. Have one more "willpowered meal" per day - preferably for breakfast.


Tim Grover’s has trained some of the greatest basketball players of all time. Part of the reason why they’re great is because they trained at such a high intensity that even the best athletes could not last 30 minutes without vomiting.

To make it through a workout like that you don’t just need physical strength – you need mental strength. Whether he knew it or not, Grover’s diet plan helped his athletes survive his workouts because they had a consistent supply of glucose, which is what the brain uses to exert willpower.

All foods provide the brain with glucose, but high-glycemic foods – like baked goods and candy – will create a spike in glucose that is followed by a crash. For long-term willpower, stick to low-glycemic foods like lean meat, nuts, fruits and vegetables.

But do not completely overhaul your diet. The best long-term strategy is to ensure that you always start your day with a low-glycemic breakfast!