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San Diego Uptown News | Mar. 18–31, 2011

You can’t train yourself out of a bad diet, and true happy meals don’t come in a box

By Connie Cook I know how you think. Especially on

Mondays as you make your way back into the gym to sweat out all the sins of the weekend. The birthday dinners, happy hours and tailgate parties are simply the devil in disguise. They tempt your taste buds and promise you instant happiness while blocking out all avenues of reason to your brain. “I’ll just work out extra hard next week and burn it all off.” Well genius, that might sound like a great idea while you’re slammin’ down another late night slice or two of pizza or guzzlin’ another locally brewed beer. But guess what, you can’t train yourself out of a bad diet no matter how much blood, sweat and tears you put out while trying. Clean eating does not mean wash- ing off the dirt from the ho ho you just dropped on the floor, nor does it mean washing the grime off your hands before you dive into your chili cheese fries (though you definitely should do both). I’d like to clear up a few food fallacies and help you understand the difference between mindful and mindless eating. When you eat clean, you eat food that is as close as possible to how it occurs in nature. (You eat the potato, not the potato chip.) Once you start changing the quality of a naturally grown food by adding preservatives to extend its shelf life, or artificial flavors to change the taste of it, you rob yourself of all the nutritional value that food can provide and end up doing your body more harm than good. The more processed your food is the harder it is for your body to digest, absorb, and eliminate. (Those fast food burritos may go down quickly, but they’ll take their time making their exit and slow things down along the way.) Processed foods offer your body very little in nutri- tional value and leave you feeling sluggish and depleted. Where are you going to get the energy to burn off your surplus of calories when you have the energy of a two-toed sloth stuck in the mud? You’re not going to exercise your way out of nutritionally deficient body when you haven’t given your body the fuel it needs to perform. Food is energy, and bad food can’t deliver good energy. Un- like a car, your body derives fuel from more than one source. Carbohydrates, fats, and proteins are your body’s fuel sources, and your body will use the fuel

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that is most available to it—in other words, whatever you feed it. Therefore, what you choose to eat determines the quality of the nutrients and energy that you bring into your body. Think of the vital energy you get from organic foods, which have been freshly harvested. In comparison, consider the en- ergy you get by eating meat and processed foods, which also contain pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, preservatives, and artificial flavors and colors.

Eat organic produce: If we avoid pro- cessed foods, what can we eat? Nearly everything in your local supermarket is processed in some fashion, even the vegetables (you don’t want to know how commercial tomatoes are processed). The answer is to eat organic produce. Organic produce is grown without the use of commercial pesticides. Now, no produce will be free of pesticides completely. America banned DDT in the 1970s, but vegetables grown today still have traces of it because the DDT breaks down so slowly. We can at least eat produce that hasn’t had extra pesti- cides added.

The bonus with organic produce is that it usually tastes better than con- ventional produce. Organic produce is usually fresher and not loaded with preservatives. The extra taste can take some getting used to, but once you do you won’t want to go back to conven- tional produce. Be sure you don’t cook your food to death. Organic produce tastes best when it’s raw or in as near a raw state as possi- ble. If you overcook it, it may taste just as bland as conventional produce, and there will be nothing left, nutritionally, for your body to use. Steaming is an excellent way to enhance the flavor of your food if you do not wish to eat it raw. Try to keep your food out of the water when you steam; it will retain more nutrients (parchment paper is a great way to boil veggies).

Pay attention to your body: This

is important! Your body knows what is right for you. Now, this doesn’t mean to not make any changes because you’re comfortable with what you’re eating, but it does mean to make changes in small doses. If you jump straight from a high meat and processed foods diet to eating only organic produce and no meat, your


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• Processing. Processed foods tend to have fiber removed and, therefore, are quickly digested.

Everyone knows that regularly taking

part in physical activity is important for maintaining good health. But if you have a big night at the pub, you’re not going to


body will be in a state of shock. You’ll probably feel worse after the change than before until your body gets used to it. Just pay attention to how you feel, and make smaller changes over time rather than one large change all at once. Pick an area that you feel drawn to,

and make a small change there. Per- haps start eating some fresh organic produce along with your meals. After your body seems okay with that, reduce the amount of meat you eat. Take it as slowly or as quickly as your body needs. The best pre-workout snack is a food that raises your blood sugars slowly. These foods are slow digesting; there- fore, the sugars from the foods are re- leased very slowly into your bloodstream, your body releases small amounts of insulin at a time, which translates into a steady energy supply over several hours.

Tips to remember:

• Fiber. Foods with higher fiber content take longer to digest.

• Sugar content. Sugar is quickly digested and released into the blood stream.

• Fructose (fruit sugar). Fructose is a simple sugar, but takes longer to digest because it must go to the liver first to be converted into glucose and then sent back to your bloodstream where your body can use it for energy.

• Raw or cooked. Cooking makes a food more digestible. Raw foods take longer to digest.

• Protein content. About 65 percent of protein becomes glucose, but it takes six-eight hours to do so. Foods with protein take longer to digest.

• Fat. Fat takes longer to digest, and therefore has a stabilizing affect on blood sugar.

compensate with a workout the following day. Damage from regularly drinking too much can slowly creep up, and you won’t see it until it’s too late. Some evidence for this comes from research published in the American Jour- nal of Clinical Nutrition. Eight men were given two drinks of vodka and sugar-free lemonade separated by 30 minutes. Each drink contained just under 90 calories. Fat metabolism was measured before and after consumption of the drink. For several hours after drinking the vodka, whole body lipid oxidation (a mea- sure of how much fat your body is burn- ing) dropped by a massive 73 percent. Rather than getting stored as fat, the main fate of alcohol is conversion into a substance called acetate. In fact, blood levels of acetate after drinking the vodka were 2.5 times higher than normal. And it appears this sharp rise in acetate puts the brakes on fat loss. In other words, your body tends to

use whatever you feed it. Consequently, when acetate levels rise, your body sim- ply burns more acetate, and less fat. In essence, acetate pushes fat to the back of the queue. So, to review, here’s what happens to fat metabolism after the odd drink or two. • A small portion of the alcohol is con- verted into fat.

• Your liver then converts most of the alcohol into acetate.

• The acetate is then released into your bloodstream, and replaces fat as a source of fuel.

The way your body responds to alcohol is very similar to the way it deals with excess carbohydrate.

Although carbohydrate can be con-

verted directly into fat, one of the main effects of overfeeding with carbohydrate is that it simply replaces fat as a source of energy. That’s why any type of diet, whether it’s high-fat, high-protein, or high-carbohydrate, can lead to a gain in weight.

Connie Cook is fitness director at Fit Athletic Club, 350 10th Ave., Ste 200, (between K St & J St), 92101.


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