There is a huge difference between eating healthy versus eating right, as these are two completely different worlds. When individuals focus on eating healthy, they tend to miss the mark, big time. For example, individuals may choose a handful of almonds for a snack. Or they may choose an apple or hummus and carrots as a snack. Are these examples healthy? Absolutely, but at the same time they are complete train wrecks when it comes to fueling the body properly. Notice the operative word in that sentence, fueling. Always remember, feeding the body and fueling the body are completely different. We do not want to feed the body, rather, we always want to focus on fueling the body. Let’s use a car as an example. Gasoline and water are both liquids. So why can’t we just put water in the gas tank of our car? Well, we all know that water, albeit a liquid like gasoline, is not going to fuel our car. The human body works the same way. Those snack examples above are simply, water in the gas tank. They are feeding he body, but they are not fueling the body.
Let’s look at the details. A handful of almonds has 340 calories and a whopping 71% fat…71%! Often times the knee-jerk reaction is, ‘But Rick, it’s good fat!’ I don’t care if its good fat or bad fat, this snack is 71% fat. With only 13% carbohydrate, this snack is nothing shy of, water in the gas tank. Sure, its’s feeding the body, but it’s not fueling the body. So how do we properly fuel the body? We do so by having the proper balance of carbohydrate-protein-fat at every meal/snack. Our goal, at every meal/snack is have 50-60% calories from Carbohydrate, 15-25% Protein, 15-25% Fat. When we achieve this, we are fueling the body and brain for success. “The brain is dependent on sugar as its main fuel,” says Vera Novak, MD, PhD, an HMS associate professor of medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. “It cannot be without it.”
And no, vegetables are not carbohydrates. Sure, while vegetables contain a few grams of carbohydrates, this does not make them a fuel/carbohydrate source. Vegetables are just that, vegetables. They are good for us and they provide the body with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. They are not a fuel source. A slice of dense, whole grain bread has a few grams of protein, but that does not make this slice of bread a protein source; rather, this is a great example of a fuel/carbohydrate source.
Let’s examine a popular meal individuals gravitate towards because they want to eat healthy: 6oz grilled salmon plus 1 cup steamed vegetables. A healthy meal? Absolutely, but again, a complete train wreck in terms of properly fueling the body. This meal provides the body with 430 calories, 16% Carbohydrate, 41% Protein, 44% Fat. Aside from this meal providing virtually no fuel for the body and brain, it’s far too high in protein and fat. Let’s change the game. Let’s stop focusing on eating healthy and let’s focus on fueling the body right. Here’s how easy it is to change the game and take your nutrition to a completely new level. Watch how to easily reconstruct this meal so that we can properly fuel the body and avoid putting water in the gas tank: 1 cup cooked whole grain pasta, 3oz grilled salmon, ½ cup steamed vegetables. This meal now provides the body with the following high-octane fuel: 498 calories, 54% Carbohydrate, 26% Protein, 20% Fat. Boom! Now we have a meal worth writing home about. This is how we fuel the body and brain (and not just feed the body).
In order to maximize and optimize performance and recovery, athletes need to continually load and reload muscle glycogen stores. This process cannot happen with a low-carbohydrate/high-protein diet. According to Ashley Chambers, M.S. and Len Kravitz, PhD, muscle glycogen is the primary fuel (followed by fat) used by the body during exercise. Low muscle glycogen stores results in muscle fatigue and the body’s inability to complete high intensity exercise. The depletion of muscle glycogen is also a major contributing factor in acute muscle weakness and reduced force production. Both aerobic and anaerobic exercise decreased glycogen stores, so the need for carbohydrates is high for all types of exercise during this energy phase. Jeukendrup, PhD, and Michael Gleeson, PhD mention that there is convincing evidence from numerous studies indicating that carbohydrate feeding during exercise of about 45 minutes or longer can improve endurance capacity and performance.
Dr. Rick Kattouf II is a 2x Best-Selling author and the CEO/Founder of TeamKattouf® Inc., TeamKattouf® Nutrition LLC & Virtual Gym LLC. Rick is a Sports Nutrition Specialist and Heart Rate Performance Specialist. He has personally coached thousands of individuals around the world in 30+ states and 10+ countries; from the morbidly obese to the professional athlete and everyone in between.