Eating is a habit and like many habits we don’t know it’s a habit because it’s what we’re comfortable with. What makes eating habits in America harder is that we don’t have a food culture. The French has a food culture that is rich in tradition. They don’t serve leftovers, they eat at prescribed times and at the dinner table, and snacking is frowned upon and taught to French children. You can read more here: http://renegadehealth.com/blog/eating-habits-france
In America we just eat to eat. We eat while walking, driving in cars, on plane and trains. We eat at movies, concerts and sporting events. We eat when we’re hungry and not hungry. We eat when sad, when happy, when angry and lonely. We have the worst affair with food than any other nation and we’re the most obese country on earth. You can get up to the day stats on the obesity rate and the amount of money spent on weight loss diets at http://www.worldometers.info/obesity/
Recreational runners who train to run long distances and races need to understand that their normal habits with food will not assist them to become a better runner. If you started running to transform your body and get rid of weight, body fat etc., then it begins with nutrition. You can’t out run a bad diet. Our nutrition mantra at Run2LIVE is “Eat2Train/Eat2Recover.” We focus on eating healthy so we have the fuel necessary for hard workouts and eat healthy post workout so our bodies have the nutrients available to repair and strengthen our bodies for the next day’s work.
Do you see yourself eating like this person throughout the day?
The following is an example of a person who is consuming carbohydrates throughout the day, making their liver work very hard. This person may have a bagel in the morning (which can have anywhere from 200 to 400 calories each), which breaks down into glucose very quickly, triggering the release of insulin to store it either as glycogen or fat. When the blood has a flood of glucose, insulin tends to overreact, forcing the blood glucose levels to a sub satisfactory level. Therefore, their blood sugar is now low, an hour after eating the bagel. Now this person then snacks on another carbohydrate, whether it’s juice or a sugar cookie, which breaks down to glucose and enters the blood stream very quickly. Again, their blood sugar peaks and then bottoms out. This person feels lightheaded and ready for lunch. Typically this person eats readily available refined carbohydrates, such as pasta with marinara sauce. Although pasta can be a healthy food choice, it is not going to keep this person satisfied, because there is little or no protein or fat to balance the meal.
One or two hours later, this person is hungry again and snacks on another carbohydrate. they ends the day too tired to exercise and has yet another low-fat, low-protein, high-carbohydrate meal for dinner.
What is happening to this person’s body? By the end of the day, this person has consumed 1200 to 1500 calories, at least 80% of those from carbohydrates. The lack of protein in their diet caused this person’s body to catabolize their precious muscle tissue, if not their vital organs, as its source of protein to sustain itself. Catabolism of muscle tissue not only makes this person weaker, but also lowers their metabolism rate. This is because muscle tissue requires more energy to sustain itself: the more muscle one has, the faster the metabolism will be. It is the body’s innate defense mechanism for conserving energy.
As illustrated in the previous example, nutritionists find that the lack of fat, particularly essential fatty acids, diminishes a person’s ability to metabolize (break down) stored fat, especially since their insulin is busy clearing their blood sugar to store as glycogen and fat. Again, this is one of those innate defense mechanisms to conserve energy.
How do you improve on the above eating habit?
To easily improve a diet that contains too many carbohydrates, one could keep the same type of diet and integrate some protein and fat, which would completely change this whole scenario. By eating a better mix of protein, carbohydrates, and fat at each meal, sticking with complex carbohydrates instead of simple sugars, and by “grazing” on smaller balanced meals and snacks, it is possible to keep blood glucose within an optimum zone all day. The result: A steady supply of energy and far less stored fat.
For athletes looking for a boost of energy, it’s important to choose complex carbohydrates, like vegetables, rice, and whole grains, as opposed to simple carbohydrates, which convert into sugar immediately, are taxing on the liver, and cause a spike in blood sugar levels.
The typical American diet consists of three large meals. If these meals are not balanced properly, especially if they are primarily simple sugars and refined carbohydrates, the effect can be a devastating emotional and energy roller coaster. Almost immediately after a highly refined carbohydrate meal, the blood glucose level rises above the optimum zone and we feel full of energy, but only for a short while. The liver senses the flood of blood sugar and signals the pancreas to dump insulin into the bloodstream. Insulin removes glucose from the bloodstream, and in this scenario a high level of insulin is required to clear out most of the blood sugar. Some of the glucose is stored as glycogen; the rest is stored as fat. This rapid drop in blood sugar causes us to feel tired, weak, and even worse, hungry. An unbalanced, high-carbohydrate meal will restart the cycle.
It’s ironic that The Standard American Diet acronym is (SAD) and this diet is high in unhealthy fats, processed foods, simple carbohydrates, and low in fiber. When blood sugar levels are drastically fluctuating, we put ourselves at risk for health complications like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attacks, and other common issues.
As athletes it’s our responsibility to our body and performance that eat as healthy as possible and reverse eating habits that don’t work.