Energize Your Success – Use The Right Fuel

by Stephen Mills on May 28, 2009

Blueberries

You wouldn’t put diesel fuel in a rocket or rocket fuel in a truck.  They each were made to run on a certain kind of fuel and so are you.  If you put poor quality fuel into your body, you are going to have a poor result.  One result will be a lack of energy, or in any case a less than optimal amount of energy.  Remember, you are essentially drugging your body every time you eat.  Put in good drugs.

This article is second in a series that will be dedicated to helping you improve your energy. You will not escape the rat race or enjoy life if you are energy deficient. Energy level is a fundamental key to thriving and not just surviving. Take it from someone who knows. I have been chronically fatigued for much of my adult life. I’m turning it around big time, but I’m not all the way there yet. The first article was:

Energize Your Success – Decrease Distress

So what kind of fuel do you need to perform at your optimum level?  This is something that tends to get people fired up and controversial.  There are a wide range of schools each with their own gurus.  Each of them can make good arguments that their particular vision of healthy eating is the “right” way.  I’m not really going to wade into that because I think you can make some general conclusions that are widely accepted across most schools of thought.

The human body and its operation is extraordinarily complex.  We know only a tiny fraction of what we need to know to be making categorical pronouncements.  I know people who are very healthy and seem to eat right even though they have very different ideas about what “right” looks like.  You can be a vegan or a meet eater; you can be a raw food enthusiast or a cooking enthusiast and still eat very healthy.

The Diet Your Body Was Made to Eat

If I had nothing else to go on, and I don’t have a lot, I would suggest that we should generally eat the kind of diet that humans and human ancestors ate during our biological development.  It seems uncontroversial to say that the bodies that thrived on those diets were the ones who survived and passed on their genes to us.  Agriculture was only invented 10,000 years ago and our modern dietary habits have only developed in the last couple of hundred years.  Neither of those is nearly long enough to significantly change our biology.

So right off the top we can assume that our bodies are not made to eat processed foods any more than a truck is made to run on rocket fuel.  Furthermore, there is plenty of logic and research that shows that those foods are not good for us.

Individuality

One problem with giving diet advice is that we are all different.  I think I remember my biology studies enough to remember that for some genes they have identified as many as 20 different alleles (genetic variations).  That was way back in the dark ages and probably is far out of date.  These individual variations can make a huge difference in what you can tolerate.  There are a lot of people who do poorly on gluten while it doesn’t seem to bother others.  Same thing for dairy, wine, shellfish, etc.  Some people have poor glucose control and others have excellent glucose control (although if they abuse it they can ruin it).  Some people remove toxins well and others don’t.  There is a metabolic typing system that I don’t know much about but it makes sense to me.

Some of these problems with food tolerance surely developed recently.  The gene pool is going to hell in some ways.  I’m pretty sure that not too many of my ancient ancestors had my poor eyesight.  The spear in their chest would have limited the number of descendants they produced.  The point is that regardless of what someone tells you, and that includes me, you must pay attention to your own body and how you personally react to various foods.  That will tell you more than a lot of the advice you get that is based on a non-existent typical person.  I can’t emphasize that enough.

My Recommendations

I am trying to stay fairly uncontroversial and I welcome your thoughts.  I’m not an expert but I have studied this enough to have some opinion.

General

Eat as much natural and whole food as you can.  Eliminate most or all of the man-made and refined foods you eat.  No matter what anyone claims, there is simple logic to this:  Human bodies did not develop eating the crap most of us eat now.  There is no way the body is going to handle this stuff as well as the whole natural foods that were the basis of our biological development.  I recommend Vin’s Natural Bias website for more information on natural foods.

Toxins

I’m not a organic bigot, because if truth be told the reason I’m able to type on this computer to you and the reason you are able to read it,  is because of mass produced agricultural products.  Agriculture, even if it was bad for our bodies, allowed civilization to develop.  Later, pesticides, herbicides, fertilizer, etc. allowed us to go from an agricultural based economy to one in which agriculture is now almost unnoticeable.  I’m probably pissing a lot of people off with this, but I believe it to be the truth.

However, having said all that, if you can afford it I think organic natural food is far better for you.  Just because we are where we are because of less than wholesome food, does not mean you shouldn’t optimize your own situation.  There are reasons to believe, aside from the toxic effect of eating all that poison, that the natural foods are far better.  Starving people or countries that are not as blessed as mine can eat all the mass produced food they need.  Enough said.

Don’ts

  • Refined Carbohydrates – I’m sure there are millions of articles on the net on the dangers of refined carbohydrates so just read them.  If you want to slowly kill yourself, just load up on these.
  • Trans-Fat – Zero positives and tons of negatives.  It damages your cell membranes.
  • Deep Fried Food – They are cancer producers.
  • Man-made sweeteners and other additives – Aspartame for example kills your brain cells, especially sensitive ones in your hippocampus.  That’s very important to memory in case you didn’t know.
  • Carbonated Drinks – They rot your teeth and bones.

You Can’t Go Wrong With These

Balance

Eat carbohydrates, protein, fats, and fiber at every meal.  I’m not going to preach about ratios since there is plenty of information on that, but avoid extremes.  I eat mostly carbohydrates, a good amount of protein, and smaller amounts of fats every time I eat.

In my article, How To Take Care of Your Brain, I recommended a colorful rainbow diet and I repeat it here.  Eat colorful foods; orange, red, blue, purple, and green foods.

Cruciferous Vegetables

Cauliflower, broccoli, kale, bok choy, cabbage, brussels sprout, etc.  These are nature’s miracle foods.  Find me somebody who thinks you should not eat these.  They are absolutely loaded with phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals, and soluble fiber.  They are complex carbohydrates that break down very slowly and give your body a constant supply of blood glucose.   In the GI index they are at the top of the list.  They have strong anti-cancer properties.  Men, scientists have discovered they have powerful anti-prostate cancer properties.

Green Leafy Vegetables

Arugula, spinach, collard greens, Romaine lettuce, mustard green, Swiss chard, etc.  The darker the leaves the better. You can almost repeat the cruciferous vegetable paragraph for these.  Dark green leafy vegetables are a super food and you should eat them at every meal if possible.

Vegetables in General

If you look at a GI index you will see the top of the list (low GI foods that are good for you) is dominated by vegetables.  In general you should eat more good vegetables than fruit.  Some fruit can spike your blood sugar.  You can almost not go wrong with vegetables.

Avoid the few hi GI vegetables like white potatoes, parsnip, beets, and be careful with corn and yams.  The latter two you can eat in moderation.  Carrots are high GI but low in carbohydrate content so you can eat them without worrying.

A Note On Blood Sugar Testing

My wife is mild type II diabetic.  She has those finger-prick home testing kits.  I have taken advantage of this to watch my own blood sugar level.  Your level will vary throughout the day, mostly as a result of eating.  With most people it spikes dramatically.  You want to maintain as flat a level as possible and avoid too much spiking.  If you eat the white death foods, you will spike your blood sugar and produce a lot of insulin.  I take my readings at random occasionally and I spent a couple of days taking it all day long.  My blood glucose stays very flat and doesn’t rise much even after eating.  I consider this evidence that eating the way I recommend with low GI vegetables and small frequent meals, is ideal for blood sugar maintenance.  I also eat a lot of protein which helps maintain it between meals and overnight.  Test yourself if you can.

Fruits

Fruits are excellent but they tend to be much higher blood sugar producers than vegetables. So eat more vegetables than fruits.  The berries are fantastic and they are generally low GI and low carbohydrate content so eat away.  They are packed with phytonutrients and antioxidants.  The berries should be a basic part of a healthy diet.  The purple/black berries like blueberries and blackberries are super brain foods.  I eat strawberries and blackberries like candy, because once you stop eating processed sugar, fruits taste so sweet!

With fruits stay away from fruit juice.  It will spike your sugar and most of the fiber has been removed.  Other high GI fruits to be avoid are raisins and pineapples.  Be careful with mangos, bananas, and too much watermelon.  Grapes are excellent sources of nutrients (especially red or black grapes), but don’t eat too many of them at once.  They are moderate on the GI index.  Eat berries, apples, pears, grapefruits, and plums about any time you want.  Just don’t eat too much of them at one sitting.  Don’t eat two or three apples for instance.

Lean Meats

If you get protein from meats, eat mostly lean meats.  You need fat, but too much of the wrong kind is bad for you.  If you review my articles on brain chemistry, you will find a common pattern of good meats with wild game topping the list:

Your Brain on Food and Supplements – Dopamine
Your Brain on Food and Supplements – Acetylcholine
Your Brain on Food and Supplements – GABA
Your Brain on Food and Supplements – Serotonin

In addition to wild game, chicken and turkey are excellent.  Ham is a fairly lean pork if you cut the fat off the outside.  If you eat fatty red meat, at least eat it in moderation.  The grain-fed beef most people eat has the wrong kind of fat content and produces inflammatory arachidonic acid.  Grass fed beef is supposed to be great, but I haven’t started it yet.  Read Vin’s article Why Grass Fed Beef is Better for Your Health for good information.

Eggs

Despite the bad rap they have received in the past, I think eggs are a great food.  They are loaded with high quality protein that is good for your brain and they contain Omega 3 fatty acids.  Eat your eggs without worrying.  I guess I’m getting controversial here but I couldn’t help it.

Vegetable Protein

I’m not too good in this area so I would welcome comments.  Meat protein is more complete than vegetable protein and since I am a meat eater I don’t worry about vegetable protein too much.  From what I know I would recommend seeds (sunflower especially), nuts, beans, peas, soy, rice, and spinach.  I need help on this please!

Supplemental Protein

Why not take a high-quality protein powder just to be sure?  Especially if you don’t eat meat.  I eat meat and I still have one glass of protein powder drink every morning.

Nuts and Seeds

I eat a ton of nuts and seeds.  I know they are very fatty but in general this kind of fat does not make you fat and is very good for you.  Like I said I eat tons of them and I am still losing weight.  My body chemistry is likely different than yours, but everyone should eat some of them.  Walnuts are a supper brain food.  Please eat them.  Almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts, macadamia, cashews, sunflower and pumpkin seeds are my other favorites.  I eat them with every meal and snack.

Summary

I tend to be scientific and over analyze everything.  If you want to be more relaxed about it I would suggest you eat a rainbow diet with a wide variety of natural whole foods.  Eat a lot of vegetables, a moderate amount of fruit, and a moderate amount of lean protein.  You need to eat some seeds and nuts and you should eat a lot of berries.  Eat small frequent low GI meals and snacks.  Mix your meals up with portions from each food group: fiber, vegetables, fruits, protein, and good fats.   Enjoy your super health!

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills May 28, 2009 at 10:56 am

Stephen, I have studied nutrition, diet, and exercise all my life. For many years my wife and I did nutritional counseling and she ran a health food store. Over the decades I have seen diet fads come and go, and quietly watched as science change it’s mind constantly. In the middle of all the opinions, conflicting research, and new discoveries I find this article to be refreshingly logical and well grounded. I couldn’t agree more with your observations and recommendations. Thank you for your balance and reasonableness.

Jonathan – Advanced Life Skills´s last blog post..67 Ways to Make Him Feel Super Respected

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Diane May 28, 2009 at 12:27 pm

This is an excellent article. I was Ms Niagara District in 1988 and I run a whole suuplement store on various platforms.

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Dragos Roua May 28, 2009 at 2:49 pm

I’m very much with you on this one Stephen. Being raw foodist for more than 7 months I can say that almost anything you’re writing here is spot on. And I mean tested it on my own body. I tend to avoid meat and get my proteins from nuts and seeds and lately from fish (smoked salmon, which is also omega 3 rich).

One thing must be clear: your diet influences a lot more than you think in your behavior. It’s not that you get fat or lazy, it’s you overall life approach that is influenced by what you eat. And, as you said, we’re all different and you got to work with yourself, test, try new stuff, until you find your balance.

A great one 🙂

Dragos Roua´s last blog post..The Productivity Map

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Roger | A Content Life May 28, 2009 at 3:28 pm

Stephen,

Informative post!

I know I eat to many carbs although it generally is in the form of whole wheat bread, pasta, etc. I’m also addicted to dark chocolate and I usually have a little every day.

Where do you cheese and milk fit in?

Roger | A Content Life´s last blog post..Meditation for Beginners (Week 4) – Loving-Kindness Meditation

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Tim Brownson May 28, 2009 at 4:12 pm

Actually I did once fill up a petrol truck with diesel…..twice.

Seriously, twice in about 3 days when we changed vehicles one time. I wasn’t too popular.

Tim Brownson´s last blog post..God Helped Darwin Find A Piece Of The Puzzle

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Vin | NaturalBias.com May 28, 2009 at 5:39 pm

Great article Stephen! It’s great to see you sharing the importance of individuality in our dietary needs. It’s such a powerful and sensible approach to nutrition that I’m amazed it’s not more popular.

My wife and I are pretty much opposites and I get a great reminder of how well this concept works whenever we go out for steak. I can eat a 16 oz steak and feel great afterward while my wife will be stuffed and groggy from a steak half the size. However, I’d be a mess if I ate the amount of carbohydrates that she does.

Vin | NaturalBias.com´s last blog post..Why Grass Fed Beef is Better for Your Health

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Focused Awareness | Matt May 29, 2009 at 5:30 am

There is so much useful, quality info in this post it should be handed to everyone on the day they are born. How can anyone succeed in their endeavors if their body isn’t fueled right. This problem of improper nutrition, or even a basic understanding of nutrition in epidemic here in America, and even in the rest of the world many eating paradigms are swinging toward the bad western habits. Only adequate information and education is going to change that. Thank you for doing your part.

Focused Awareness | Matt´s last blog post..Get Out of Control

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Positively Present May 29, 2009 at 10:30 am

Oh man…So you mean I’m not supposed to be living on Red Bull and granola bars??? Haha. I really need to work on creating a rainbow in my diet. Great post. I really like the way you’ve organized it and made it so accessible for the reader.

Positively Present´s last blog post..stop judging: 4 reasons, 5 things, 6 ways

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Lisis | Quest For Balance May 29, 2009 at 11:13 am

Well, you must know what you’re talking about because my mom always said to eat colorful (natural) foods… and she was always right, it seemed. I completely agree that the specifics of what works for each of us are a personal thing… but in general we all need to eat and avoid the same stuff.

Do you think there’s any chance that MY body just happens to be one of the few that can thrive on pizza and ice cream? Because that would really make my day, if I could start eating that stuff without worrying about killing myself slowly.

I once heard it said that when you eat only healthy foods you don’t actually LIVE longer it just FEELS longer. I think I know now what they meant. 😉

Lisis | Quest For Balance´s last blog post..Fellowship Fridays: Wonderful Women

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Kikolani May 29, 2009 at 7:48 pm

My change in diet resulted in a world of difference, thanks to listening to my body and remembering how I was as a child. My mom told me that I would get really fussy, before I was born, if she ate or was around meat. And when I was little, they had to bribe me with vegetables, saying I couldn’t get broccoli if I didn’t eat my chicken. So needless to say, my body from birth wanted to be a vegetarian, although doctors then didn’t think I would grow up right if I didn’t have protein (which in the south is only attainable by meat).

At the age of 27, I almost had to be put on cholesterol meds. That was the kicker that got me to be vegetarian, and I have been much better off since. Not to say that it is good for everyone, but it’s just a matter of listening to what your body wants, and not eating the things that cause you to have to take tons of meds to compensate.

~ Kristi

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Giovanna Garcia May 30, 2009 at 1:46 am

Good eating habit is so important. I am working with my 16 months old with a balance diet and good eating habit ever since he started to eat solid food.

Great information here, a wonderful post of how to fuel our body with the right stuff.
Thanks,
Giovanna Garcia
Imperfect Action is better than No Action

Giovanna Garcia´s last blog post..Do you feel like you have been hit by a Tornado?

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