Diet… Everybody’s favourite word. What if instead, you thought in terms of performance and rather than nutrition. Perhaps you think of it more like your engine instead of your body.
Most of us (myself included) cringe when we hear the word “diet”. We tend to equate the D-word with pain, suffering, deprivation, and misery. After all, we’ve learned through hard experience (with all those crash, fad, and low-calorie diets we’ve tried in the past) that the only way to lose weight, burn fat, or improve our health is to cut out all the delicious foods—the ones that usually tend to be unhealthy.
We’re used to the word “diet” meaning “a special course of food to which one restricts oneself, either to lose weight or for medical reasons”, but that’s not the kind of diet we’re talking about here.
The truth is food isn’t nutrition, what you eat isn’t a diet… that’s boring AF.
When your mouth opens and you ingest a mitt full of flatties and drummies (those are wings for those of you who diet) you aren’t eating you are fuelling. Topping up the tank to fuel the machine.
The correct fuel choice is one that includes a balance of proteins, carbohydrates, fats (unsaturated and saturated), minerals, vitamins, fiber, enzymes, and antioxidants. It’s also limited in hydrogenated oils, trans fats, refined sugars, low-fiber grains, and anything artificial. Good fuel has nothing to do with pain and suffering—it just means making smarter food choices that are consistent with how you want to fuel your machine.
You might want to run really hot like a supercharged alcohol burning dragster, which is the equivalent of burning your engine on refined sugars and processed carbs. You’ll probably run great but for a very short amount of time. There’s a very high likelihood that you will crash and burn.
On the other hand you may choose to run fuel efficient like a hybrid or electric engine. Using fats as your primary fuel source. This will feed your brain and enable you to maintain a desirable body composition.
The fuel you choose comes in endless forms however regardless what you choose your body turns it into either fat for energy or glucose for energy. Mixing the two can cause your body to perform poorly resulting in excess weight gain, inflammation, heart problems, diabetes or a wide range of other health complications.
People who are successful at fuelling their machines have either chosen to become fat adapted, where their body utilizes dietary fat and stored fat as the primary energy source or glucose based where glucose remains the primary fuel source.
My personal observations, having interacted with thousands of clients who have a less than desirable body composition, are many people are not able to effectively manage using glucose as a primary energy source (i.e carbs).
Often times the fuel source is a combination of too little fat and too many carbs which is the equivalent of mixing gas and diesel. Eventually your machine will stop performing.
The human body is simple: give it the nutrients it requires, and it will work well. Give it only SOME of those nutrients, and it won’t run as well. Deprive it of important nutrients and fill it up with “junk”, and things will start to go haywire.
Here are 10 simple reasons it’s time to change your fuel:
1. Your Heart
Your heart is one of the two most important organs in your body (together with your brain). It’s basically a group of muscles that contract and expand to pump blood. To keep those muscles working, you need to consume protein. The protein will be used to repair and rebuild muscle and what isn’ t used is transformed into glucose through a process called gluconeogenesis
If you consume a lot of unhealthy fat, the fat will accumulate in your blood vessels—particularly your arteries. The more unhealthy fat there is floating around your circulatory system, the harder it becomes for your heart to pump blood. Consume too much and your heart won’t be able to pump enough blood, which could lead to heart attacks, strokes, and other heart diseases.
Oxidative stress is guaranteed to strain your heart, and it can lead to cardiac disorders. Antioxidants can help to combat this strain on your heart.
Try a heart-smart diet, one that’s low in trans fats, sodium, and refined sugars and high in proteins, antioxidants, and healthy unsaturated and saturated fats.
2. Your Brain
Do you know what your brain needs in order to function properly? Oddly enough, it’s fat, well sort of.
Your brain is composed of 60% fat, so you have to keep feeding it fat in order for the organ to keep functioning properly. But not just ANY fat will do. Your brain needs unsaturated fatty acids, as well as Omega-3 fats. Saturated fats can be good for your brain in moderation. Basically, a diet with plenty of healthy fats (and very little unhealthy fat) will make your brain work better.
But don’t think that’s all your brain needs! You also need to make sure to give your body energy which can be obtained via ketones. Ketone bodies are three water-soluble molecules (acetoacetate, beta-hydroxybutyrate, and their spontaneous breakdown product, acetone) that are produced by the liver from fatty acids on a fat adapted diet. There are many academics who support the theory that ketones are a superior energy source for the brain.
3. Your Muscles
For many of us, our muscles are the body parts that get the most attention. We spend hours working them out at the gym each week, and we make sure to get plenty of the nutrients needed to build new muscle tissue.
Protein is the most important nutrient for your muscles. The amino acids in protein-rich foods like salmon, beef, and eggs are the building blocks of muscle tissue. They’re also needed to produce ATP energy, the only source of energy your muscles can use as you work out.
There are a lot of important minerals as well. Potassium prevents muscle cramps and ensures a healthy fluid balance in the body. Magnesium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, and iodine are also vital for proper muscle function.
To get all these nutrients, your fuel choice should include plenty of protein, and dark-colored veggies.
4. Your Liver
Your liver is one of the most important organs in your body. Its job: to eliminate toxins from your bloodstream, secrete bile, promote blood clotting, and so much more.
The fact that your liver eliminates toxins means that it’s an organ that does A LOT of work, especially due to the higher toxicity of the modern diet, pollution in the air, chemicals in cosmetics, and more.
There are a lot of things that can place a strain on your liver, but the two worst offenders are alcohol and processed foods. Too much alcohol can lead to cirrhosis and alcoholic fatty liver disease. Processed foods contain a lot of toxins and chemicals that end up absorbed by the liver, and which can slow down liver function.
A “healthy diet” involves very little alcohol (a few drinks per week can do your body good), and as little processed food as possible. These changes to your diet will give your liver a break and avoid straining this vital organ.
5. Your Intestines
Do you have any idea what your intestines do for you? Yes, they are a very important part of the digestive tract—the villi in the small intestines absorb nutrients into the bloodstream, and the large intestines absorbs water from the food you eat. But it’s the immune activity taking place in your bowels that make these organs so important.
There are trillions of bacteria that call your intestines “home”. These bacteria break down the food you eat so your body can absorb it, but they also prevent viruses, bacteria, fungi, parasites, and other pathogens from entering your body. It’s estimated that 80% of the threats your body faces on a daily basis are eliminated by the beneficial bacteria living in your gut. That’s A LOT of your immune activity taking place in your intestines.
To keep your body healthy and reduce the risk of disease, it’s imperative that you eat foods that promote a healthy balance of gut bacteria. That means eating foods that not only feed the bacteria (prebiotics), but also eating foods that contain live bacteria cultures (probiotics, like sauerkraut, yogurt, and kefir). Avoid refined sugars as well.
But don’t forget about fiber! Fiber makes the digestion process easier, as it absorbs excess water, sugar, cholesterol, and toxins. It also scrubs out your intestines and gets rid of any waste matter clinging to the intestinal walls. Fuelling with fiber is the key to healthy digestion!
6. Your Eyes
Your eyes use SO MUCH energy! It’s estimated that your brain consumes 20% of your resting metabolic energy rate, and a large amount of that is used up by the eyes. After all, your eyes are constantly moving around, absorbing new information, and sending it to the brain to be processed.
Healthy fuel shows love to your eyes in two ways:
- It gives your brain and body the required energy. This means delivering plenty of glucose and healthy fats to power your brain, but also enough protein to produce ATP energy used by the eye muscles.
- It protects your eyes from degradation. This means consuming antioxidants (beta carotenoids like Vitamin A) to protect your eyes from macular degeneration. The breakdown of eye cells is the primary cause of vision difficulties.
Give your eyes the nourishment they need, and they’ll keep working well for years to come. Work them too hard and deprive them of the vital nutrients, and you’re all but guaranteed vision and eye problems.
7. Your Skin
Your skin is a fascinating organ (yes, it’s an organ—the largest one in your body, in fact). Its primary purpose is to protect your squishy inner bits from damage, but did you know that it also acts as an indicator of what’s going on inside your body?
For example, many people develop skin problems (like rashes) as a result of a virus they’re fighting. Or, take a look at jaundice, the yellowing of the skin that results from liver failure. If you want to know what’s going on inside your body, your skin is often the first indicator of problems.
You need to approach fuelling your machine with the mindset of keeping your skin healthy in two ways:
- Inside out. This means eating the foods that will keep your organs running well, your internal functions balanced, and everything in your body working properly. If everything in your body is in proper working condition, your skin will receive sufficient nourishment to keep it healthy.
- Outside in. This means caring for your skin specifically, which will free up your body to deal with other internal problems. You can use natural creams, ointments, oils, and lotions to treat existing skin conditions, as well as provide the nutrients (Vitamin C, protein, zinc, etc.) needed to produce new, healthy skin cells.
8. Your Bones
Your bones provide “structure” for your body. Without them, your body would basically be a meat sack filled with organs, tissues, and nerves. Thanks to your bones, you can run, walk, move, sit, stand, and play sports.
Activities (exercise, sports, etc.) will increase the risk of bone damage, but age and inactivity can cause degradation of the bones. Your bones (and joints) require a few important nutrients in
order to be healthy: calcium, Vitamin D, phosphorus, manganese, and magnesium. The more of these nutrients you consume, the healthier your bones will be.
9. Your Immune System
Your immune system is responsible for eliminating all the threats your body faces on a daily basis. This means viral, bacterial, fungal, parasitic, and pretty much everything else.
As mentioned above (see the section “Your Intestines”), a lot of the immune activity in your body takes place inside your gut. But your immune system is responsible for protecting your entire body, so you have to do more than just cater to your intestinal health. You need to make sure your “diet” includes a wide range of immune-boosting vitamins and minerals: Vitamins A, C, D, E, K, zinc, iron, selenium, and many more.
The good news is that “good fuel” includes a proper balance of all the important nutrients, including those mentioned above. As long as you are eating correctly, you should have no problem feeding your immune system to maintain your body’s internal defenses.
The human body has a VERY delicate balance of hormones. Disorders, health conditions, and even your lifestyle can throw off the hormonal balance. If you add a poor diet into the mix, there’s a much higher risk of hormonal problems.
There are a lot of foods that can promote a better hormonal balance, including clean proteins, foods rich in unsaturated fatty acids, antioxidant-rich fruits and veggies, and healing herbs and spices. Basically, anything that promotes healthy circulation, provides your body with antioxidants, and keeps your organs working well will improve your internal function. “Normal” organ function is vital for the production of all the hormones: appetite hormones, reproductive hormones, energy-producing hormones, and the list goes on.
To button this topic up my recommendation is that you should focus your fuelling efforts on one type of fuel or another.
Whether you choose fat to fuel your body or glucose to fuel your body is a personal choice. My personal experience is that I have been able to optimize my own body composition and performance by using fat as my fuel source.
Regardless of what you eat, the number of calories, the macro nutrient breakdown or whatever… it all becomes fuel which is either fat or glucose. So your job then becomes to choose your own concoction of fuel. Which means food that will either ensure you are running on fat primarily or glucose as your main energy source.
If you have questions about this or any other nutritional or exercise questions visit me over at the Alpha Nation Facebook page and I will do my best to help you out.