A lot of people take the time to learn about nutrition only after they've had a health scare, or when they’re well into middle-age.
I’ve spent a lot of time trying to learn about my health before I get a scare, but - like a lot of you, I’m guessing – no matter how much I learn, I still am not sure how to answer the question: “What should I be eating?”
Fortunately, a good physician friend of mine, Dr. Bruce Bloom, is an expert on nutrition and metabolism. And as the following Q & A with Dr. Bloom will show you, there’s no magic food or diet that will bring you to tip-top shape. It’s a balance of a lot of factors, all revolving around energy.
Nevertheless, Dr. Bloom does give us all some simple, basic concepts to keep in mind for maintaining health and well-being:
What should I be eating if I feel tired all the time?
This is kind of like saying “I have a bump on my head” – there are a lot of things that could cause it. Consistent fatigue could be caused by a low-grade infection; could be you’re not getting enough sleep; could be that your body is low in B12 or iron. For a lot of people, it’s all those things in one form or another. But assuming you’re ruling all that stuff out – a lot of people eat too much. Your digestive system is a very energy-dependent system. So the more food you put in, the more energy it takes to process that food and the less energy there is for other functions of your body. That’s why typically, when you eat a big meal, you’re very tired after.
So what should I do, generally, to keep my energy up?
Eat smaller amounts of food, more frequently, throughout the course of the day.And eat food that’s easier to digest and requires less work. High-fat foods require a lot of energy to digest. Simple carbohydrates and high-sugar foods put a lot of stress on the system; your body has to spend a lot of energy regulating them. In many cases, the secret to getting more energy is staying away from junk food and eating more fruits and vegetables.You always want the energy coming in to be greater than the energy needed to process it.
How about if I feel cranky all the time?
The brain is the most energy-dependent organ in the human body. So if you’re cranky all the time, there’s a good chance that you’re not creating a lot of energy. Or your system is being overloaded. Look for things you’re doing that might be overloading the system. For instance, if you’re sitting in front of a computer all day, getting this constant sensory stimulation, your brain gets overloaded and it fatigues, just like any other muscle. You need to factor in some down-time.
What should I be eating if my main priority is to lose weight?
It depends what you want to lose. You can cut off both your legs and you’ll lose weight! I’m joking, but the truth is, most weight loss programs create more health problems for your body. Because you’re not losing the weight you think you’re losing. You’re losing fat and water but also muscle mass – that’s tissue that consumes and creates energy for you. The more healthy tissue you lose, the more energy or “revenue-producing” tissue you lose, the less calories you can burn, the less energy you create, the less fuel your body can process.It’s like a business. You have overhead and revenue. If your revenue is going up but your overheard is going up even higher, it’s not a particularly good model. The goal is to maintain revenue-producing tissue – muscle tissue – and to lose non-revenue tissue – excess fat and water. It’s all about maintaining balance in the body.
Okay then. How do I get my body to process the right kind of energy in the right places?
Eat relatively consistently, throughout the course of the day. Every two to three hours. Not too much sugar or fat coming in all at once. Leaner proteins and high fiber vegetables and even high-fiber starches if you can get them – and in limited amounts. But keep in mind, everyone’s metabolism is different.
Understanding everyone is different, are there good foods and habits, and bad foods and habits?
A lot of people skip breakfast and use caffeine and other stimulants to give them energy. That’s not a good idea. Your body’s always going to create energy – if you’re not feeding it, then your body is going to create energy from what you have stored inside. If you’re using caffeine, your body goes to its protein stores to get energy, not fat stores. So your body is breaking itself down. The goal is not to do that. It’s good to eat fuel on a regular basis, so your body doesn’t have to access its own healthy tissue to feed itself. It’s all about the right combination of diet, stress management and exercise. Exercise by itself doesn’t necessarily cause a lot of weight loss. But it benefits circulation, stress management, and other functions that do help with weight loss.
Why won’t you make this simpler? What should I be eating? Just tell me what to eat!
Look, a lot of people look for the one thing they can do. But the human body is very complex. There’s no one, magical thing you can do. It’s like saying, “We’re gonna play against the Boston Red Sox, but we’re only gonna have a pitcher. We’re not gonna have a catcher or anyone else. That’s how we’re gonna compete.” Then you’re sitting there, thinking, “I don’t understand why we’re not winning.” Well, you’re not winning because it’s a team effort. It’s a coordinated effort between all these different players. You have to make sure that everybody on the team is up and running, and doing their jobs effectively.
The bottom line is, it’s all about energy. That’s where the rubber hits the road. Human life begins and ends with your ability to create energy and the more efficient you are at creating energy – and getting rid of waste – the healthier you’ll be.
Please visit Dr. Bloom at his website.