DIARY: Diet Samples–Introduction

Based on some feedback on Facebook, I will post a few samples of recent diet to give people an idea of how I have tried to improve my cardiovascular health (and overall health by the same reckoning). But first an introduction of why I made the change.

Note that while this is loosely inspired by the approach taken in “The Paleo-Diet for Athletes” (e.g. a cave-man diet) and the film “Food Matters”, it is by no means a complete representation of either. Rather it’s a transition step between those diets and my former diet which, on analysis, I found to have the following major issues:

  1. Too many processed foods
  2. Too many proteins
  3. Too much diary, grains and breads
  4. Too much warm food
  5. Too much caffeine
  6. Too late meals
  7. Too much sugar

In addition, I needed to supplement better to get enough of the right nutrients as the only way of achieving the amount of nutrients necessary to reverse the damage done and stay super-healthy is to do substantial shopping of specialised foods in organic food markets and health shops, something very difficult to do especially from Wicklow.

Why “too”

It takes a substantial article to explain the why the above list can be eaten “too much” so I am just going to summarise and you will have to take my word that I have done the research (or if curious go have a browse yourself.

So taken from the front, processed foods are high-calorie/low nutrition and tend to be extremely acidic. This means they contribute little positive to your system (unless you’re starving) but require energy from your system to break down and calcium from your bones and muscles to return your body to a neutral pH.

Proteins have the same problem, we need much less “pure” protein than we believe because it is not the proteins the body needs but the amino acids that they are made up from. Consider this: When you eat protein your body spends energy to break it into amino acids. So if you can simply eat amino-acids, you’ll still get all the protein you need and a better more efficient absorption. Most proteins also come from animal sources which increase the acidity of the body and causes the body to cannibalise its own calcium stores to the detriment of your muscles and bones as mentioned above. Spirulina is a great natural alternative and possible the best source of easily absorbed non-acidic protein available.

Diary, grains and breads have the same disadvantages as the previously mentioned foods: they make the body acidic and have a poor nutritional content. In addition, grains and breads contain nasty proteins such as gluten and lectins that inflame your intestines, pollute your blood stream (forcing work on the liver), and are likely the main cause of almost all auto-immune dysfunctions including rheumatoid arthritis.

Eating predominantly warm foods is a problem because cooking is a process of food destruction which renders food more or less toxic. Studies have shown that people eating predominantly warm food triple their white blood vessel count in the period after (e.g. your body treats the warm food as “an invader”). Cooking generates carcinogens, mutagens, coagulates proteins, destroys vitamins, and returns minerals to their native state (e.g. iron as found in the ground rather than the organic type we can digest). Fats are altered chemically into free radicals, more carcinogens and other damaging components. Cooked food is therefore largely dead food and often dangerous food.

I do not think I need to say much about caffeine. I enjoy my tea but this artificial stimulus to the central nervous system creates strange peaks and troughs in energy levels. Caffeine is not intrinsically bad and has many health benefits (and some types like that found in Yerbamate tea have few of the normal side-effects) but needs to be dosed properly to allow steady energy over the day and deep sleeping at night.

This brings us nicely to late meals: After around eight o’clock (depending on your unique circadian rhythm), the body switches to “maintenance mode” and begins repairs for the following day. Eating a hefty meal at this stage (or later), diverts energy from these crucial processes and into trying to break down this food. Sleep disruption can be the obvious result as it proved in my case (I had a particularly bad penchant for eating late).

There’s a lot to take in here, so at ChampionsEverywhere we’ll use the latest science from the researchers behind the “Paleo-Diet” and the “Gerson Therapy” to give very specific guidelines for ideal nutrition pre, during and post exercise.

Sugar finally is one most readers will be familiar with and it needs stating that not all sugars are born equal. Certain sources such as fruit and honey have health benefits especially if eaten at the correct time of day in reasonable quantities but most do nothing but suppress your immune system, upset your mineral balance, cause drowsiness, increase insulin responses and an absolute host of other negative effects.

Why is acidity bad?

I’ve spoken a lot about acidity, so just to point it out: There is a strong relationship between multiple diseases (including cancer) and the acidity level of the body. A healthy body, be it for purposes of injury or illness, stays in a primarily alkaline state (e.g. a “positive pH”). It’s a topic that deserves its own article but you cannot take your acid balance seriously enough if you want to feel great and stay injury and disease free.

Quick word on the pancreas and liver

This is something I want to cover in A LOT more detail later, but all the above may make more sense to new readers on the subject if I throw in some information about what poor diet does to your system. Consider that the liver is your “internal cleaner” while your pancreas is one of your main hormone factories as well as being the producer of most of the enzymes that break down your food.

However, what is less often discussed is that these organs have an important role to play in keeping you healthy and fight off all forms of diseases. If these organs are constantly busy breaking downs heavy processed foods or animal proteins or cleaning up the damage done by poor food, they cannot also perform those functions as well (they are like you and me, they only have that much time!).

Are we all sick?

“This seems a bit extreme, I’m perfectly ok, healthier than most,” is a reaction I would expect (I had the same). But then I remembered a memorable comparison made by perhaps the foremost intellectual of our current time: Sam Harris, writer of the “Moral Landscape” (a book that, if made mandatory reading in all schools, might make for a better world).

Harris states that like morality (the main topic of his book) the term “well-being” (substitute health for our purposes) does not have a clear definition. If someone vomits thrice daily we consider them “unhealthy” or “sick” but what if everyone did so? “What about a world,” asks Harris, “where anyone who can’t run a marathon is considered sick?” Is that conceivable? The answer is not as important as to realise that what is considered healthy depends on the standard around you. If everyone runs marathons, and you can’t, then you are likely to be viewed as sick by such a society.

So what if we are all more or less sick, poisoned by our own food habits? Well, then we don’t see it that way, because its not obviously apparent. Yet, compare us to the health status of tribesmen before they were contaminated by a Western lifestyle. Consider that many scientists believe we humans do not live as long as our maturity age suggests we should. Consider the plethora of cardiovascular and cancer diseases we fall afoul to. Consider that instead of fixing the cause, you are given a chemical, a poison, or radiation as a correction. Consider the wide-spread obesity. Consider the afternoon energy slump (it should not happen!). Finally, consider that it is possible, that you, like most people around you, are sick and that eating differently could make you healthy. Consider that the difference between you and a Kenyan may be less genetic and more lifestyle. Then go do something about it.


Ian Spleen said…
Very good sir! Impressed by your run in the National Half, happy for you and so many others races too. Barry ran well again, I'm looking forward to seeing him in the marathon this year - and you too maybe?! I watched that food matters docu after seeing the post on your fb page. Very interesting, I've been following similar veins of thought this season. I've been mostly veggie throughout the year. It's the only way forward to be the best athlete one can be. Think of it this way... if you consume animal fats your blood effectively becomes congested as the fats solidify. So your cardiovascular system cannot work as well. Also, something I noticed from the euros and other races is that if I food combine (a la hay diet as in that book I sent you) correctly the morning of an event the food digests more easily and I feel lighter. Plenty of salads, fruits and vegetables are consumed and oats and legumes also form a large part of my diet. You should check out www.drmcdougall.com as well and the starch diet. Anyway, congrats again on the great race performance!
Renny said…
Almost forgot to post your comment there Ian! Thanks for chipping in on this topic and confirming some of the assertions. Sometimes I can feel like the old man in rags with a long white beards spouting craziness from some rock!

You seem to have the right idea, the only food I'd warn against is legumes. They have some desirable properties but they contain something called "anti-nutrients" which essentially blocks the absorption of other food taken with them. So if you do eat legumes, they are best eaten on their own.

On the marathon, I won't be running Dublin (eager to get a full cross-country season in) but I have decided to return to the distance and my "comeback" race will be the Copenhagen Marathon in May 2012. We'll let training dictate the target but I'm certainly encouraged by this weekend's result.