Eat to Win - Strategies to Maximize Performance and Health
by Lt. Col. Bob Weinstein, USAR-Ret.

Have you ever wondered why, for so many people - especially anyone older than 30 in the U.S. - weight gain seems to be a fact of life? It is because the human body is way too efficient. It doesn’t take much energy to maintain the human body at rest. In addition, when exercising, the human body is amazingly efficient when it comes to turning food into motion. Here are some basic strategies to eat for performance and health.

There is a health crisis in the U.S. and here are some of the symptoms.
• 50% of Americans are overweight
• 33% are obese
• 40% of women are trying to lose weight at any given time
• 25% of men are trying to lose weight at any given time
• Being overweight is the second leading cause of preventable death in the US.

At rest - for example, while sitting and watching television - the human body burns only about 12 calories per pound of body weight per day. That is 26 calories per kilogram. That means if you weigh 150 pounds, your body uses only about 1,800 calories per day.

• Those 1,800 calories are used to do everything you need to stay alive:
• They keep your heart beating and lungs breathing.
• They keep your internal organs operating properly.
• They keep your brain running.
• They keep your body warm.

If you could drink gas and digest it, you would get 312 miles on a gallon of gas. At $2.90 per gallon that would be about $0.01 per mile. I don’t think I need to mention this but I will anyway. Don’t drink gas. It will kill you!

In motion, the human body uses energy very efficiently. For example, a person running a marathon—, which is 26 miles, or 42 km—burns only about 2,600 calories. In other words, you burn only about 100 calories per mile when you’re running. Still, the body is designed to be used. If you don’t exercise, your muscles will deteriorate, your arteries could clog, and your heart will have a harder time pumping enough oxygen to the body. In short, you’ll age and die faster.

Did you know that if we could drink gas and the body could actually process it as food, you would get about 912 MPG while bicycling? Now, that’s great gas mileage! A gallon of gas has 31,000 calories.

If you have been dieting, you may be out of touch with your body and its signals for hunger and fullness. To get back in touch, you can do several things.

Eat at least every three to six hours. Include breakfast, lunch and dinner. Add a snack if your body really signals the need. If you are physically hungry, do not fill up on water or coffee – eat something. Why? It’s about getting back in touch with what your body says about hunger and responding to it. It takes three to six hours to digest a balanced breakfast, so you will be hungry by lunch time. If you eat these meals and stop eating when you’re full, you will ultimately eat less at the evening meal and throughout the evening. Ignoring your natural hunger signals and under eating early in the day inevitably lead to overeating - even bingeing - later on. Eating regularly involves resetting your internal clock to a regular pattern of meals. Once you are in the habit of eating breakfast within an hour of getting up, you will soon start waking up hungry for the morning meal.
So what if you don’t eat breakfast? About 50% of overweight people do not eat breakfast. Breakfast is the most important meal, so a nutritious breakfast should not be skipped.
What about more frequent meals, say, five to six times a day? Be careful with this one. It may lead you to eating more than you should, because you could eat only to not miss one of those six frequent meals. Eat when you are hungry and develop the habit of eating a nutritious breakfast. If you normally don’t eat breakfast, ease into it by having just a little, such as half of a banana, and working your way up to a regular sized breakfast. You should eat at least three meals a day.

The basic premise of any good diet is variety, moderation, and balance. Let’s make this step easy. Divide your plate into thirds: One third for protein (meat, seafood, poultry, and beans) and the other two thirds for vegetables, bread, potatoes and/or pastas.
“Well, instead of figuring out portions, I’m just going to get a really big or really small plate.” If that helps you to adjust, that’s great. Remember the focus. It’s not about legal or illegal food. It’s about getting back in touch with your body and responding to its real physical hunger and basic needs and what will satisfy you, while seeking out the most nutritious choices. A healthy lifestyle is one of both moderation and balance.

So let’s go back to dividing your plate into thirds and follow the 15/30/55 RULE—15% protein, 30% fat and 55% carbohydrates. If a racecar driver had to use food for his racecar, this would be the formula for ultimate performance, as long as the ingredients overwhelmingly are unprocessed, unrefined, highly nutritious food. No racecar driver is going to put low-octane fuel in his car. No human being should put low-octane food in his body. That will influence health and performance. This does not exclude once-a-week moderate amounts of sweets or desserts. More than once a week on a regular basis is too much.

We all have a tendency to count the protein that comes from animal sources, and that includes dairy. We tend to disregard the protein that comes from plant sources, thereby eating too much protein. That is hard work for the kidneys and could indicate that either you are eating too much or you’re not getting enough of the nutrient-rich plant products, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and nuts.

Eat animal products no more than once a day while eating nutrient-rich, plant-based foods, and you will give your health a big boost. In fact, complete elimination of animal products while supplementing with calcium and Vitamin B-12 is extremely healthy.

15/30/55 RULE
How much food should you eat to follow the 15/30/55 guidelines? Now we’re back to the topic of calories (and quantity), which doesn’t necessarily mean more food. 200 calories of vegetables take up about the same amount of space as 1,000 calories of pasta! Your body will tell you how much to eat, if you “listen” carefully and closely. Moreover, if your body is still in the learning phase of “listening,” a little old-fashioned, timeless, self-discipline will do the trick.

If you eat what you want, you will eat less in total. You need to eat enough to fill up—food that you like. Nevertheless, you also need to be careful to balance carbohydrates for energy—especially more complex carbs such as sweet potatoes, oatmeal or beans—with enough protein to keep you satisfied. This balance is what keeps you satisfied until it’s time to eat again.

Effective eating takes time. You need to find out how good it feels to sit down to a meal pleasantly hungry and to take your time with it. You will end up satisfied and able to forget about eating between mealtimes. On the other hand, don’t go telling yourself you’re not going to eat a meal or healthy snack if you can’t eat it slowly. That would be a fatal error. Do not skip a meal if you can avoid it. Gulp it down if you can keep it down and continue to work or do whatever you are doing.

25 to 30 grams of fiber a day from unprocessed, close-to-nature food is a nutrient-rich diet. A fiber-rich diet helps your body deliver nutrients to its cells. If processed food and supplements are the sources of your fiber intake, you are probably not getting a sufficient amount of nutrients, which leads to an unhealthy diet. Does that mean you have to eat a can of beans a day? I think you and I know what could happen if you did that. No, eat more green and yellow-orange vegetables, citrus and yellow-orange fruits, and whole grains.

Drink 6 to 8 glasses of water a day. Keep your body hydrated. If you are in a hot and humid climate your need for water will be much greater. With increased sweating your body will also need replenishment with electrolytes.

Think about the changes you need to make in your eating habits and start making one or two changes today.

Please mention the author when using this article.
The author is Lt. Col. Bob Weinstein, USAR-Ret.

Author's Bio: 

Lt. Col. Bob Weinstein, USAR-Ret.
Fitness Boot Camp Instructor and Personal Trainer
Lt. Col. Weinstein, nationally known as the Health Colonel, has been featured on the History Channel and specializes in a military-style workout for all fitness levels on Fort Lauderdale Beach in South Florida. He is the author of Boot Camp Fitness for All Shapes and Sizes.