The picture above is part of a bike ride we did the length of New Zealand’s south island.
In my last article I shared my views about how each of us can improve our health, energy and well-being by focusing on some relatively simple steps. In this piece I will get more specific and share some of those steps relative to nutrition. Simple? Yes, they are simple but not easy for most. Let me explain.
It’s amazing how much better our bodies perform when we fully understand what they need to excel and how to go about making the changes. When I’m with patients/clients in office or at camps or clinics I tell them about the “Big Rocks”–the very few, most important things that must be done to improve health. And I do mean “few.” There really aren’t that many things one must do to turn the corner on health, brain strength and body composition. The key is knowing what the Big Rocks are and incorporating them.
The little rocks, and even the sand particles become increasingly important as the absolute level of health improves. At the highest level, everything is a Big Rock. There’s no room for anything to be done even somewhat haphazardly in our quest for world class health. But it isn’t that way for the rest of us “normal” people.
Most of us overestimate what we can do in three months and underestimate what we can do in three years of top shelf focus on health. I urge you to find your potential. I altered my blood pressure from 165/110 to 110/65 without medicine; my total cholesterol went from 290 to 145 through nutritional choices.
The Big Rocks:
If it grows out the ground or if it swims, flies, or runs, you can eat it. It is essential that you consume plenty of good fats like seeds, some nuts (almonds and walnuts), avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, etc. I also allow myself nonfat dairy like cottage cheese and yogurt (both usually with fruit). Think of your foods as palate of color. You want plentiful colors of all types.
Eating healthfully is not complicated but you’ll need to break some old habits. To the extent you do, you will get healthy and see an improvement in health and body composition. Your goal should be to get as healthy as possible. You shouldn’t rush changes, they will happen in time as you maintain healthy habits.
Avoid focusing on specific calorie deprivation or weight. I never count calories. Eat when you are hungry and stop before you are full. Eat 6-8 small meals a day rather than three large ones.
Avoid holding back too many calories when exercising. The biggest mistake made by people focusing on health and body composition is disrupting the quality of workouts and recovery by depleting calories. If you ever choose to withhold calories and have some back ground noise of hunger, do it by not eating after 6:00pm. KEY: have a larger breakfast and a smaller dinner!
Recall, consistency is KEY in everything we do. Any program that is a bit too aggressive sets you up for self-sabotage. Control, control, control.
What to eat ==> fruits, veggies, lean protein and good fats.
Good fats are olive oil and MCTs. I supplement four tablespoons of Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs) each day. MCTs are found in coconut oil and palm kernel oil. These fats are rapidly metabolized in the liver, increase energy expenditure (thermogenic), decrease fat storage and preserve lean body tissue. MCTs are _great_ brain food.
What to avoid ==> processed foods, trans fats, hydrogenated oils, sodas, alcohol, sugars and other high glycemic load foods.
I eat about .7 to 1.0 grams of lean protein per pound of lean body mass per day. Lean protein can be found in fish, chicken, turkey, non-fat cottage cheese, eggs, quinoa and a small piece of red meat every few weeks.
If food comes in a box or wrapper don’t eat it. No fast food.
Drink 64 to 128 ozs of plain water a day. Even slight dehydration is often mistaken as hunger. Cut out sodas and most juices as they are mostly sugar.
Eating mostly fruit, veggies, lean protein and good fats will make you edgy/grumpy for about two to three weeks. Then, you’ll get over your sugar and high glycemic CHO addiction and feel more energy than you have ever had. Not only that, you will become extremely healthy over time. Be prepared to lose some aches and pains, allergies, malaise and brain fatigueas a result of nutritional excellence.