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The Athlete's Food Pyramid

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Canada’s Food Guide serves as an acceptable basic nutrition table, but it is still far removed from the standards advocated in the natural food movement. For example, the Guide doesn’t mention water, the importance of organic food or the value of dietary supplements. In spite of mounting evidence to the contrary, it places major emphasis on grain products and empty starchy carbs and provides no information pertaining to essential fatty acids.

It also tolerates many health destroying imitation foods, including white flour (and all of its concoctions), white rice, luncheon meats, processed breakfast cereals, margarine and literally hundreds of other chemically altered, micronutrient deficient wonders of modern food technology. When it comes to health and athletic performance, one should follow a model that is based on objective science and the pursuit of optimum function, regardless of political intervention or pressure from powerful food conglomerates.

Dietary Supplements

Experience and twenty years of detailed dietary analysis has taught me that NO ONE obtains optimum quantities of each and every single essential nutrient from diet alone, let alone what conservative, government funded Nutrition Research Councils and scientific Advisory Committees advocate. Don’t be fooled by any Guide that implies a provision of “everything you need”.

Define “everything” and be specific about “need”. For example, the average Canadian male consumes about 2mg of zinc or less daily. This is clearly well below the Canadian RNI of 12mg. Most of us have no idea what zinc does (plays a vital role in prostate function, testosterone chemistry and immunity) or where it is found (oysters, red meat and pumpkin seeds). And even less is known about molybdenum, omega-3 fatty acids and lutein.

The perfect diet doesn’t exist and it never has. We didn’t even discover vitamins until the early 20th century. In the so-called “good old days”, when food was relatively wholesome and fresh, millions still died of scurvy, pellagra and beriberi. Today we’re dying of heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes, but the cause is still the same. Malnutrition!

And even if you think you eat well, which is highly subjective, adding supplements to your menu can still improve your tolerance to stress, retard tissue degeneration and support long-term function. Objective research in human performance from dozens of universities worldwide provides an overwhelming degree of irrefutable evidence in favor of using dietary supplements to enhance recovery from workouts, build strength and protect against training induced oxidation, glycation and sport related injuries. Correctly utilized, dietary supplements are The Intelligent Choice.

Filtered Pure Water

Water is critical to fundamental cell chemistry. By weight we need more of it than any other dietary substance, as it provides multiple detoxification benefits and removes acidic waste liberated during athletic activity. That’s why its purity is such an important issue.

Consuming 2-4 liters of tap water per day, which is how much an active, athletic person needs just to prevent dehydration, means you’re consuming on average a thousand liters per year. That’s a lot of H2O potentially contaminated with chlorine, bacteria, parasites, heavy metals and literally thousands of toxic industrial chemicals. As a baseline, I recommend drinking 33ml (1 oz.) of filtered water per kilogram of your bodyweight daily, consumed throughout the day between meals, at the gym and before, during & after aerobics.

Adequate water prevents overheating and protects the kidneys from the potential threat of eating denatured protein. When protein is oxidized, some of the nitrogen is converted to ammonia, which the body then converts to urea in the liver. Urea is soluble in water and excreted in urine, so it’s obvious that a chronic state of dehydration permits the concentration of cellular waste throughout the entire body, which then compromises performance and threatens overall health.

“The solution to pollution is dilution”.

Use distilled water or water filtered by carbon and reverse osmosis, to which additional oxygen and ozone is added. Splitting hairs over which process is superior is less important than actually drinking the amount required, although distilling your own is probably best. Some of the newer “living” waters are now electromagnetized to simulate the effects of natural atomization. This may improve water absorption, its transport and cellular retention. Water is almost always the “cure” for what ails us.

Fresh Live Juice

The difference between freshly squeezed juice and the canned, bottled or boxed variety is that fresh juice is alive, alkaline forming and teeming with enzymes, whereas virtually all commercial juices are deactivated, acid forming and “dead” as a result of being pasteurized. Vitamin C and the bioflavonoids are destroyed by heat.

Pasteurized juice concentrates are frequently loaded with sucrose, fructose, artificial colors & flavors and a host of other chemicals, most of which are not listed on the label. One such offender is brominated oil (BO), added to prevent settling and the formation of “rings”. BO is known to cause changes in heart tissue, enlarge the thyroid gland and cause problems with the liver. Is that what you want your kids to drink?

Fresh Organic Vegetables

Vegetables are typically high in carbohydrates and rich sources of potassium and magnesium, which makes them alkaline-forming. Besides supplying an excellent source of pure water, enzymes, carotenoids, fiber & antioxidants, green vegetables are an invaluable source of chlorophyll, which is anti-mutagenic and heralded as one of nature’s best natural healing agents. Eat at least 3-5 times more vegetables per day than fruit.

Raw vegetables provide hidden antioxidant value behind every color and pigment. A serving of raw or lightly steamed broccoli is alkaline-forming, loaded with nourishing phytochemicals and enzymes, high in soluble fiber, provides a slow release of natural sugars into the bloodstream (low-glycemic), contains chlorophyll (no gluten) and hydrates the body (broccoli is mostly water).

In contrast, whole wheat bread is acid-forming, provides zero enzyme value, is low in fiber due to the effects of grinding and cooking, provides a fast release of sugar into the bloodstream (high-glycemic) causing a high insulin burst, contains the common allergen gluten (no chlorophyll) and dehydrates the body (bread is low in water). See the difference?

Fresh Organic Fruit

The general rule with fruit is to consume them before noon or after exercise when insulin sensitivity is highest. Like vegetables, fruits consist mainly of carbohydrates but in a more concentrated, simple sugar form. They are good sources of some rather exotic but powerful antioxidants, like the polyphenols, flavonoids and proanthocyanidins, which improve capillary strength and strengthen the immune system by scavenging free radicals.

My favorites are berries, papaya, mango, kiwi, pears and cherries. The trick with fruit is learning when to apply them based on their glycemic index. Timing is everything. Fruit also hydrates the body with pure “living” atomized water. Dried organic fruit, like medjool dates or figs, are a much better snack than cookies made with sucrose, white flour and hydrogenated oil.

Low-Fat Wild Tissue Protein

Commercial, domesticated meats are typically high in saturated fat (sirloin steak is 72% fat), provide little or no essential omega-3 fatty acids, are frequently contaminated with pesticides, antibiotics, parasites, prions, salmonella and E. co’li, and become prone to rancidity as soon as they are ground. The worst ones include hamburger, luncheon meat, sandwich spread, wieners and surprisingly, canned tuna. Overcooked animal flesh is mutagenic.

Wild game, such as elk, venison, bison and caribou, is more nutritious, easier to digest, much, much leaner and typically higher in protein, B-complex vitamins and trace elements. Unlike plants, tissue proteins provide natural sources of creatine, carnitine, EPA, DHA, CLA, heme- iron, pre-formed vitamin A (retinol) and vitamin D, as well as a much higher source of biologically active, correctly assembled amino acids. I prefer fresh fish, such as wild salmon and halibut, shellfish, venison, New Zealand lamb, turkey breast and free-range fertile eggs. Our original ancestors were hunters & gatherers, not farmers. Omnivores are highly adaptive. Carnivores are survivors.

Cultured Low-Fat Dairy Products

When consumed direct from the breast human milk is raw, suited biologically for our species and teeming with important friendly bacteria, colostrum, enzymes, HMB, GLA, DHA and other fatty acids not present in infant formula. On the other hand, commercial cow’s milk is pasteurized, homogenized, reinforced with synthetic additives and typically contains residue’s of hormones, antibiotics and pesticides derived from grains fed to cattle.

The premise that our bone density is entirely dependent on the continued consumption of cow’s milk is a complete fallacy. From a global perspective, billions of people are lactose intolerant and/or allergic to non-fermented casein, the principle protein in bovine milk.

If you want to get lean stop drinking milk. Drink filtered water instead, but you’ll need therapy to deprogram yourself. Use soured, plain “active-culture” milk products in moderation, such as yogurt, cottage cheese, kefir and feta cheese. They are much easier to digest and when selected for health and smart body composition management, they will provide a superior protein, carbohydrate and fat ratio.

Peas, Beans, Lentils, Legumes, Whole Grains, Nuts & Seeds

Cereal grains are high in carbohydrates and low in protein, all of them. The germ should never be removed, as this nutrient dense component of the seed is where virtually all of the vitamin E, essential fatty acids and coenzyme Q10 reside. In terms of allergenicity, wheat, oats, rye, corn & barley are the most common culprits, with quinoa, amaranth, millet, buckwheat & brown rice the least suspect. Almost all grains are acid-forming (high in phosphorous) and when consumed as flour, tend to cause problems in the gut, the brain and in joint capsules.

Nuts and seeds are high in fat (68-78%) not protein. They are good sources of minerals, lignin’s and fat-soluble nutrients but need to be chewed well or ground into a meal or butter. They are easily corrupted by heat, light and oxygen, as their oils are volatile and therefore prone to rancidity. They should always be purchased unsalted and in the shell. Lentils, legumes, peas and beans are high in carbohydrate, low in fat, possess low glycemic indexes but again are low in protein with very low biological protein scores.

This entire food group is highly concentrated in carbohydrate or fat energy and therefore must be consumed with discretion. Ectomorphs and endurance athletes have a much higher tolerance for these foods. But if you have a slow metabolic rate, eating too much concentrated starch, such as bread, potatoes and porridge can make you fat or keep you fat, as their natural sugar (carbohydrate) content can drive insulin through the roof, turning you into a fat-storing machine. If you don’t believe me, drop the bread, muffins, bagels and pasta and eat the same amount of calories from kale, cauliflower, cucumbers and spinach. Now watch the fat disappear.

Fresh Live Oils

The primary purpose of consuming fat is to obtain the two essential fatty acids, linoleic acid (omega-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3). Fatty acids are a critical structural component of our brain, nervous system and cell membranes. Without them and especially omega-3, we are doomed to chronic inflammation, water retention (edema) and loss of tissue elasticity.

Healthy, living fat also transports and provides many other important nutrients and co-factors, including vitamins A, D, E & K, alpha-lipoic acid, GLA, EPA, DHA, the carotenoids, various phytosterols and the phospholipids (lecithin). We need to carry some fat around but too much adipose tissue (storage fat) is a serious health risk, especially abdominal fat. It also reduces athletic performance. Fat doesn’t contract and therefore acts as an unnecessary drag-weight.

The vast majority of commercial oils sold in North America are worthless. They are simply dead “white oils” high in fat calories and low in life-sustaining fat-soluble micronutrients. Most of their original goodness is lost, destroyed or chemically altered through commercial refining methods. Choose your oils well. To update your knowledge of fat, read Fats That Kill, Fats That Heal, by Udo Erasmus. I like organic flax, hemp and extra virgin olive oils pressed without heat in the absence of light - dated, refrigerated and packed in black or tinted opaque containers.

Natural Sweeteners

Stick to raw honey, crude molasses and real maple syrup, but consume them sparingly in small doses. Use dried fruit or its boiled juice to sweeten cookie and muffin mixes made with fresh milled organic gluten-free flour. Avoid refined sucrose, fructose, corn syrup, glucose-fructose and all refined, empty calorie, granulated white sugars. They are addictive, immunosuppressive and will destroy your body’s ability to regulate blood sugar and insulin metabolism.

When consumed beyond 10lbs per year, sucrose accelerates aging, creates a breeding environment for yeast and fungus in the GI tract and will leach important minerals from vital organ reserves, such as magnesium, potassium and chromium. The national average is >120lbs per year, per person, if you can believe it. Eating that much refined sugar is inconsistent with good health.

Use sucralose or acesulfame-potassium as a safe alternative to aspartame. They are both heat stable, non-insulin dependent, calorie-free and resistant to human digestion. Like the urban lives we lead, they are indeed artificial. Use discretion and logic to weigh the odds and always compare risk to benefit and cost. Be practical.

Proponents of the multi-billion dollar sugar industry will oppose any criticism of sugar. They will tell you that it’s pure and natural, like the islands in paradise where it’s grown. The slave trade was instigated in part by the sugar cane industry. Sugar is historically rooted in lust and greed. How ironic that we ourselves have become slaves to this very same sweet but deadly substance.