So what does it mean to fuel our body?
I use car analogies a lot in teaching people how to fuel their body. Not because I feel we share anything in common with the humble automobile, but because of 3 little reasons:
1) It's relatable (even if you don't have a car!)
2) It's simple
3) It works!
So lets say you fill your fuel tank with some very poor quality fuel. What happens? The car runs, but it's sluggish. Slow, noisy and your carbon footprint is the size of Canada. Now what happens the next time you put super quality, clean ethanol fuel in your engine? The car runs much better, faster, cleaner and more efficient and economical.
Now, the occasional batch of poor fuel will not kill your car in much the same way that occasional unhealthy food choices will not see you to an early grave.
"To be perfectly healthy, you don't have to eat perfectly"
However, consistently using poor quality fuel over time – can cause irreversible damage. Cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, obesity, stroke. These are just some of the longer-term poor health comes associated with consistently putting poor quality fuel in your tank.
"Poor health outcomes CAN be avoided by being more mindful of the fuel stations you stop at."
In order to be more mindful of the stations you stop at, you need to know the basics. What to avoid, and what to aim for!
What is good fuel?
Our bodies use 3 macronutrients for energy.
Each one of these macronutrients is critical for our body. Cutting out a macronutrient WILL impair functioning. It's that simple. Current recommendations advise that approximately 40% of our energy should come from lean sources of protein, 40% from complex carbohydrates and 20% from essential fats (with about 5% of our fats being saturated fats).
Micronutrients are also critical components of a healthy eating plan. They consist of vitamins and minerals. Kind of like the oil in the car engine, we don't use them for energy – however they enable the engine to work efficiently. Without them, our engine is sluggish, and over time can become damaged. The main sources of vitamins and minerals are fruit & vegetables, however bread, cereals and protein sources also contain essential vitamins and minerals.
By eating a wide variety of different foods each day, we can ensure that our body receives the right fuel to function efficiently.
In addition to eating a variety of different food, a healthy metabolism depends on how frequently we refuel.
Eating every 2-3 hours means that our body learns to burn fuel efficiently. By not eating for long periods, our body burns fuel at a slower rate – storing what it can. This is often referred to a "starvation mode". How do you know you have a healthy metabolism? Hunger is your body's way of letting you know it needs more fuel, it's also a sign of a healthy metabolism!
Forget diets, forget restricting food groups – having a healthy relationship with food means enjoying food, and not depriving yourself. In fact deprivation is by far the biggest risk factor for overeating and/or bingeing.
More about that later!