Wednesday, November 3, 2010

More Energy

With all those energy drinks out there, loaded with carbs, one could think that fat and protein are not useful for creating energy.  Anyone ever tell you to eat bacon for energy?  At the same time, for years folks told us that fat has too many calories per gram, so we should eat less fat to keep our caloric intake lower.  Also, we're told that calories are all that matters as regards accumulation of body fat - or liberation of body fat - and that we could therefore theoretically eat all our calories as fat or protein but we'd still have enough 'energy'.
So why would folks need to drink a high carb drink for energy while avoiding fat?  Why would someone need an 'energy' drink - our paleolithic ancestors didn't have Red Bull, is it normal for us to need one?
I think all these questions and practices serve to illustrate how easy it is to confuse an uneducated public.  Let's briefly dig into 'energy' systems in our body, and how they can go wrong.
First off, most of your body can run fine on fat, which can be oxidized to produce energy for virtually everything you do all day.  Walking, computing, talking, driving, watching TV, eating, cooking, or reading, your primary energy source is aerobic metabolism of fat through oxidation.  However, if you are constantly shoving carbs in your mouth, you will interrupt this process!  In other words, your natural, most functional state is one of fat oxidation (which saves your small stores of glucose for the CNS and hemoglobin cells, which use either glucose or ketones.  Ketones are a glucose substitute converted from body fat).  If you chronically eat enough carbs that your body is struggling to dispose of the excess, you will preferentially burn glucose throughout your body - and over time, you will lose the ability to burn fat (and due to the chronically elevated insulin levels needed to deal with the sugar overdosing, you won't be able to liberate fat from storage, even if you could burn it).  That is, your cells will not sustain the necessary levels of fat burning enzymes, and thus, if needed, you won't have the capacity to sustain your 'energy' levels via the constant, slow oxidation of the massive quantity of stored fuel your body sustains as fat.
If you do become or are a 'sugar burner', you will be on the razor's edge of running out of fuel all the time, because your body's capacity to store glucose is relatively small.  'Sugar burners' have two choices - eat frequently or be hungry and hypo-glycemic.
To have more energy, you need to change what you eat.  If you eat meat, vegetables, nuts and seeds, little fruit or starch and no sugar or wheat, you will become a 'fat burner.'
Following this approach, you get all the nutrition you need, your body's finely evolved feedback systems make sure you don't eat too little and don't encourage you to eat too much.  Your blood sugars stabilize at lower, healthier levels, and are used primarily as they should be used - to recharge depleted muscle/liver stores of glycogen after exercise, and to feed the CNS.  The vast majority of your tissues develop the necessary enzymes to run off the nearly endless quantity of fat our bodies sustain.  You may experience minor blood sugar drops after a long fast - say from your last meal of the day until noon the following day - but a little protein in the AM will stave that off.
You won't need energy drinks, because your body will naturally have the energy you need (fat), and it will be available, and your cells will be adapted to use it.
Shifting from being a 'sugar burner' to a 'fat burner' also creates every positive metric you'd like to consider for your health.  Lipids?  Better.  Blood sugars and A1c?  Better.  Blood pressure?  Better.  Sleep quality?  Better.  Body composition?  Less fat, more muscle.
It's always your call how you will live, but the 'meat, vegetables, nuts and seeds' route offers deliverance from carbohydrate suck land, superior mental and physical performance, and gives every known benefit to health.

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