Tuesday, December 3, 2013

PN: Food Is Fuel ... And A Lot More

PN writes about their concern that fitness folks can only talk about food in term of it being fuel.  Why does that bug them?
Food is so much more than “fuel” or “energy” or “calories”.
For one thing, even if we’re looking at food purely in terms of its physiological effects, when we focus on “energy” and “calories”, we’re only telling part of the story.
Sure, the macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates, and fats) in food contain “energy” or “calories”. Or, perhaps most correctly, “chemical bonds that, when broken, are used to create ATP”.
But food also includes micronutrients, phytochemicals, zoochemicals, water, and more.
Think of these as character actors in a movie. They may not be the “stars” of the show. They don’t really provide “energy” (or fuel) at all.
Yet their dynamic interactions create the spark. They’re absolutely critical for energy, performance, mood, and optimal long-term health. In other words, without them, the show won’t go on.
Unfortunately, the “food as fuel” story almost completely ignores these important characters. 

My dearly deceased martial arts instructor and mentor used to reminisce about his instructor/uncle taking him to Star Wars, many times, usually late at night, and saying "Dis good part!"  Which is what this is:
Okay, so here’s the thing: Living organisms are not machines.
Rather, they’re incredibly complex, self-regulating, and dynamically steering. Frankly, they’re almost magical systems.
If you’ve spent any time doing “calorie math”, you’ll know that trying to calculate precise inputs and outputs is frustrating.
Perhaps you ate more calories than you thought you should… but got leaner.
Or you ate fewer calories than you thought you should… and gained weight. (Or you didn’t lose that last stubborn 10 pounds.)
Or you started eating breakfast instead of skipping it… and dropped a couple of inches off your waistline.
According to the simplistic “food as fuel” view, none of this should be possible. Yet it happens all the time.
Because human bodies aren’t combustion engines. They’re complex, dynamic, organic, and infinitely sensitive systems.

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