We don’t really eat food anymore. Okay, maybe we eat some food, but certainly not the same way our grandparents ate food. Think about it. They ate meat, eggs, vegetables, potatoes, some grains, and fruit. Juice came from the fruit it was named after, and milk came from a local cow. In many cases that cow even lived in the backyard. But today we drink soda and juice blends with artificial flavorings, and we have milk that is pink. We eat things called “Pop Tarts” and “Cheez-Its”, and put purple ketchup on dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets. There is even such a thing as “tofurkey”. More often than not, food items like these come more from a guy in a white lab coat than from nature, and these products are not good for your body, your health, or your athletic performance.
America got really good at producing large quantities of cheap food (like products).
There are a few things that make processed foods less optimal than whole foods.These include trans fats, high levels of sodium, hydrogenated oils, and refined sugar, especially high fructose corn syrup. All of these things have been linked to one or more chronic diseases. In addition, many processed foods are much lower in vitamins and minerals but more dense in energy (or calories) than whole foods. And while athletes tend to need more total energy than the average person, too much energy at one time can make you feel lethargic.
Think of the food coma you have after a high fat, energy dense meal or snack. Or that slump you feel one or two hours after eating a bagel or drinking a large coke. The food coma happens because fat slows the speed that your stomach empties after eating, so the food sits in there for a long time before it can be processed and used as energy. The crash happens because after eating or drinking something high in sugar, your blood sugar makes a big jump. This tells your body to make a lot of the hormone called insulin, which helps your body use carbohydrates and sugar for energy. But then the insulin makes your blood sugar drop low, which makes you tired and lethargic.
The chart above makes it clear - you are what you eat.
Its a new year, time to make a resolution to eat real food. I’m talking fruits and vegetables. Meat. Eggs. Dairy. Nuts and seeds. Oils. Try fruit and nut butter, a smoothie with Greek yogurt and fruit, or some nuts and dried fruit before your next workout. Next week I will get into the different nutrients that provide you energy (carbohydrates, proteins, fats).
Looking to 'get real' and change your eating habits?
It can be tempting to come up with a long list of resolutions or goals that will make life better: get healthier, get organized, spend more time with family, get finances under control, the list goes on and on. I don’t know about you, but that growing list just adds to my anxiety and if I don’t accomplish the changes I hoped to see, then it also adds to my guilt.
Here's some good reading In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto
Here's a documentary for great motivation: FOOD FIGHT is a fascinating look at how American agricultural policy and food culture developed in the 20th century
And if you need help planning including family dinners and kids lunches its all put together for you