Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Nutrients for Thought – Part 1 of 2

Notice how I said NUTRIENTS and NOT food?

Well that is because I want you to THINK for a minute about what food really is, or at least how it should be thought of, for the sake of your health.

‘Burning off’ your Food?  Really?
In my career as a Personal Trainer, I am often amazed at how most people I encounter both in and out of the health & fitness industry think of food as being a source of ‘fuel’ we need to ‘burn’ for energy…
… when they know very well that the human body is not a diesel engine. If it was, where would the combusted substances be going all this time without us noticing?

Therefore food is not really a burnable fuel, is it now.

Nay, and our bodies are much more than simple engines I can assure you.  It’s time to even erase the images you were shown in biochemistry class of a linear connection between chemical A, B, C, and so on.  Instead it’s time to imagine an ever-changing collection of chemical compounds within every tiny cell inside all of our organs, glands, and tissues which in turn are interconnected in a complex web-like fashion.  On top of all that we are a storehouse of gut bacteria – that outnumber our own cells – and are crucial for proper digestion and neurotransmitter production.

Let’s talk about DIGESTION for a second.  Yes, the collective physical and chemical processes by which food is broken down and converted into substances that can be absorbed and assimilated by the body.

What the definition of digestion is saying is that substances from food – the essential nutrients plus other stuff – become part of the body for some amount of time following breakdown.  In an ideal situation, specific nutrients go where they are needed for function and conversion (energy incorporated and released) and the toxins and waste products eaten or produced get filtered out.  This makes a lot more sense considering that your cells are constantly reproducing and dying in order for all organs, tissues, and glands to replace themselves in a certain number of days, months, or years.  How else but from the food you eat becoming part of you?

Definition of Nutrients
Nutrients are the substances what we NEED from food.  Nutrients can be divided further into macro-nutrients (proteins, fats, carbohydrates) and micro-nutrients (vitamins and minerals).

Now I hope you are realizing that nutrients are needed for our complete function physiologically speaking and energy cycling energetically speaking.   That is to say, the function of our various organs, glands, and tissues, is what truly ‘drives’ us.

To all the people concerned with the body’s calorie usage, I’m sure there is an energy total for the collective organs in our body, but it’s not so easy to calculate – and rather foolish to do so – if nutrients are the missing parts that drives the organs to function.  But that’s not all.  Hormones and related chemical messengers produced in the organs and glands themselves are what also control the processes within the cells via a multitude of feedback mechanisms.  Whenever there is a shortage of nutrients, or an imbalance of hormones you will not be running organ/gland/tissue processes optimally!

To look at the body from an energy perspective only (calories in vs. calories out) and trying to set food energy intake below your body’s estimated metabolic energy is the most naive approach to weight loss ever devised.  It’s a battle instantly lost because it’s contrary to good health, which is never sensible.  You get deprivation of nutrients and the act of obsessively measuring food quantities, and the body creates more cortisol (stress hormone), which in the long-term has been shown to deposit fat in the midriff and beyond.

It’s a little known fact that caloric value of food can not even be estimated accurately, just as a piece of fruit growing near the trunk of a tree has been shown to have a different caloric value than fruit that was further out on a limb.

The Ugly Truth about Fat Gain
Now relate all of that to the issue of FAT GAIN for a moment.  Can you see that it has more to do with lack of nutrients (malnutrition), stress (hormonal imbalance), and toxicity (toxic build up and blocking of pathways) than the amount of energy you’re eating?  If you ask me, it’s all about the chemical nature of the food and the impact those chemical components can have on us.
Surprising stuff huh?

I hope I now have your attention…
…and you are now realizing that you fell into the food-calorie trap at some point in your life, as have we all.  That also means looking at labels for the caloric value of something before deciding whether you will eat it or not.  Realize that no one used to follow this practice before the advent of food packaging and Wilbur Atwater’s 1890 experiment of burning food to determine total energy contained within it – remember that dumb yet fun calorimeter experiment you did back in high school science class, where you burned a piece of food into a crisp?  Now someone tell me how that makes any sense when it comes to food digesting and assimilating in your body.

Not only that, but you may have forgotten to feed the organs, glands, and tissues of your body with the right micro-nutrients they each need and a good balance of macro-nutrients.  Either because you are too busy to eat in a planned manner amongst all the stress in your life, or you think that skipping a meal will cut down your energy intake to make you smaller.  Perhaps, but only temporarily (I promise you this), and at a certain expense that you don’t want to mess with – your metabolism.  It is important to realize that by not getting what is required by each organ, you will sooner or later have symptoms manifest as illustrated in the figure below.

On the link provided below, Cellagon has created a diagram of the organs of the body which can be clicked and explored to see which food sources provide the nutrients that are needed:


Granted, some people out there have good intentions and try their best to make the best choices to eat nutritionally and never skips meals, and yet they are still battling the bulge.  Why is this?  Well another fact about nutrients is that they are severely depleted in many soils of N. America where unsustainable farming practices are being used, so what you get are vegetable nutrients and fruit nutrients much lower than they would have been a century ago.  The livestock we eat are also raised off of the depleted vegetation so they are deficient as well.  Another likely reason those who make good choices are overweight is toxicity exposure that an individual has had, either from pesticides in the food or any number of environmental toxins we are surrounded by that have entered, but not exited, the body.  Toxins often contain heavy metals and can remain bound to molecular sites meant for minerals, thereby causing blockage to the normal working physiology.

The consensus among the experts in the health & fitness industry is that food alone is not enough anymore for most people to stay lean and live a long, healthy life.  We need additional support from nutraceuticals and supplements to fulfill our nutrient needs and to improve and/or complete the ability to detoxify.

 Nutrient Advice
Please listen closely now to what you really need to focus on for fat loss and good function

QUIT eating processed food that introduce very little nutrients and chemicals that are toxins to the body.  Say bye-bye to fast food, and most packaged and chemical-preserved foods.  I am also going to include genetically-modified (GMO) foods into this category, as it is definitely nature that is tampered with and is not fully accepted by the body in digestion and assimilation.

START eating clean, nature-derived, and naturally-produced foods ONLY, and you will incorporate MORE NUTRIENTS and reduce ingestion of a lot of toxic substances.  This includes and is not limited to organic or pesticide-safe greens/vegetables/tubers etc., organic or pesticide-safe fruits, organic grass-fed meat, freerange poultry, wild game, low-mercury seafood, nuts, organic gluten-free whole grains.

STOP eating an abundance of carbohydrates and/or sugars (from ANY source - including fruit, no matter how natural or clean) because sugar is sugar and our physiology was never designed to handle a lot of sugar in a short period of time.  Rushes of sugars will in the short-term thicken the blood and spike insulin towards fat storage, while in the long-term throw off the blood lipid profile (raise bad cholesterol) via inflammation.  My advice is to keep the total grams of carbs at 50 grams or less per day for most people.  Those that work out and train with a lot of volume or workload will require recovery of muscle glycogen and therefore handle carbs well in a non-fattening way.  Therefore, you have to EARN YOUR CARBS.  I will admit that there are some people out there that can handle high sugar levels naturally, and they MUST have their carbs in order not to lose body mass.  Let me also add that I have seen time and time again, sugar tolerance/management being lost after some years and tragedy commencing shortly afterward (inflammation, accelerated aging, and cardiovascular complications) if the carb-heavy eating habits go on unchecked.

BEGIN eating the right fats in high quantities to fight inflammation and support your brain and nervous system.  First lose the fearful mentality that ‘fat makes you fat’.  It’s the same as what the REAL nutrition experts have been saying all along – you need to eat certain fats to function properly – in this case to absorb fat-soluble vitamins, and even to burn fat!

The fat types to focus on are monounsaturated (olive, avocado, sesame), polyunsaturated (omega 3 from fish, seafood, seal, some plants, and nuts), saturated (wild or pastured animals, coconut).  Here’s a tip on how to use them: Bake/grill/fry with coconut, avocado, sesame, and butter; sautée with olive, avocado, coconut, grapeseed, or sesame; marinade (do not heat) with olive, walnut, almond, or truffle; holistic use (keep cold) with fish, flax, and hemp.  STAY CLEAR AWAY from trans-fats (shortening, vegetable oils) as they are processed and chemically altered that they resemble nothing found in nature and will cause sudden inflammation!

I just made you really think about things didn’t I?  Exactly my goal!  I truly want good things for others and a better world for all.  Stay tuned tomorrow for the second part of this post all about thought, and how you can improve your ability to think for a prosperous life!

by Asim Khan