Proper nutrients will allow you to heal your fatigue, think more clearly, and feel better
You may have heard the expression that “size doesn’t matter.” When we hear this, we generally don’t think that it applies to nutrients.
But when it comes to choosing the right nutrients, getting well, and generating energy, size really does matter.
Want to feel better, and reclaim your energy? Consider these two sizes.
Macro and micro.
Of course, we are talking about nutrients here. These are the molecular structures that allow the wheels of our cellular machinery to turn. When these molecules are out of balance, the machinery turns slowly and inefficiently.
Macro nutrients are the big ones, and they are the focus of this blog. These large molecules need to be broken down to enter each of our cells. They are taken into our bodies, digested and absorbed by our gut, and carried to each cell by the capillaries.
Over the course of a year we consume about a ton of macronutrients.
Be sure that they are the right ones.
Macro nutrients to live by: Fats, carbohydrates and proteins
- Fats are strings of carbon atoms, with hydrogen atoms sticking off to the sides. They resemble a caterpillar, with carbon atoms forming the body, and the hydrogen atoms jutting out like legs.
Saturated fats are long and stiff, shown in the diagram below. Imagine a caterpillar with a straight, long back. These are often stiff at room temperature. A Hershey’s bar is filled with saturated fats.
With too many of these fats in our diets, our cells get stiff. They don’t work as well. They tire easily. We get tired.
Trans fats, found in processed foods, have a double bond (𝍪), but act like the stiff, saturated fats. This is due to the orientation of the hydrogen atoms across the double bond.
It’s the same story. Our cell membranes get stiff, and our cells don’t work as well. We get sick, lose energy and feel tired.
As fats become unsaturated the same hydrogen-ion leg is removed, but this time it is replaced with a double bond that causes the molecule to bend. This gives the molecule a bit more wiggle, more flexibility, and a bit more cellular groove.
Think of a salmon, filled with healthy, unsaturated omega-three fats, swimming contentedly in near-freezing water.
Have you ever seen a Hershey’s bar or a donut with the energy to swim upstream?
Case in point.
As our cells become more pliable, with the right kind of fats, we start to feel better.
Fix your fats, fix your fatigue.
- Carbohydrates are both our savior and our kryptonite. These long strings of sugar molecules are rapidly absorbed to make energy for our cells. With adequate carbs on board, we can generate power for the chase, the escape, or the battle.
In these cases, carbs are our savior. They help to keep us alive.
But this breaks down when we have too much energy already stored. It is likely that throughout the history of man and womankind, we have struggled with too few, as opposed to too many calories. Our body doesn’t quite know what to do with the excess calories.
Excess carbohydrates are like kryptonite to the human body. The extra sugar gums up the gears, and the machinery slows. It is almost as if too many carbohydrates are too much of a good thing. As our carb intake goes up, without being shuttled into the tinderbox, we get inflamed.
A low carbohydrate diet is the first step towards getting more energy, and getting back your health.
- Proteins are collections of amino acids. They are present in meats, nuts, legumes, grains, liquids and vegetables.
Something lower on the food chain (like a chicken or a walnut) has arranged the amino acid chains for its metabolic needs. We then break down these amino acids into something used for our needs.
Imagine one child assembling a bunch of Legos into a boat (her need). Another child disassembles the boat and builds a castle (same components, but a different end product. His needs). Tears ensue, but that’s not the point.
An individual Lego (or group of Legos) can be assembled into both a castle and a boat, depending on their relationship to one another. In the same way amino acids can be arranged to form a wide variety of proteins.
In the human body, proteins are used to make muscles and organs, enzymes and neurotransmitters. We don’t want to lack any amino acids to build our own proteins.
When we become deficient in proteins, our machinery falters. In many cases we can assemble the amino acids from something else in the body. We build the proteins from scratch. But there’s a hitch.
Nine of the amino acids are essential. This means that we are unable to build these amino acids “from scratch” and must get them from our diet. If we don’t have the amino acids, we will never build our castle. Our body is held back from making the components it needs to function well.
Build muscles, proteins and energy with balanced amino acids.
Our bodies work best when we provide the right kinds and right amounts of macronutrients. We need to establish a correct balance of energy (carbs), cellular structure (fats) and building blocks (proteins).
Take these simple steps today to improve your health with macro nutrients
- Eat more fat. There was a time that we thought that eating more fat made us fat. I think that science is showing us that fats may be some of our best dietary options.
This makes sense for a few reasons.
Gram-for-gram, fats contain more calories of energy than carbs and proteins. Burning a carb or protein produces four calories. Fats yield nine. That’s a bit like getting 21 miles to a gallon of gas as opposed to 10.
The body is pretty smart. We were designed to lug around our energy reserves on our skeleton, never knowing when the next fast was going to hit. It makes sense to carry around a fuel that burns hotter and burns longer.
Fats are excellent energy sources. They take a variety of forms, and can be adapted to many different dietary needs and tastes.
- lean meats
- olive oil
- coconut oils
Think of a plate displaying a sampling of a Mediterranean diet. Eat those kinds of fats.
Change your nutrition intake to feel better
- Cut the carbs. A high carbohydrate diet is necessary if you are a weightlifter, cyclist or a distance runner. In these cases, the carbs are not getting stored, they are being used to build muscle (through insulin release), or keep the animal going for yet another mile. But for those of us who are more prone to be seated than sprinting, we don’t need excessive carbs. To beat fatigue and feel better, you can instantly begin to make changes by decreasing the amount of carbs you consume.
If you are putting on weight, tired, and feeling slow, try this. Drop your daily carbohydrate intake down to 20% of your daily calories. Minimize this nutrient relative to the others.
Do this, and feel better instantly.
- Eat more protein. Eating the right kind of protein will help your body to harness its potential energy. Protein is used extensively by the body, and we don’t want to fall short in essential amino acids.
Protein is everywhere! We commonly think of the proteins found in meats, like lamb, chicken and fish. It is also found in dairy, nuts, and all vegetables. But how can we be sure to cover the 9 essential amino acids so that we are not for want?
Eurasian and South American cultures have known for thousands of years that combinations of legumes and grains kept you covered. Aztec cultures ate beans with rice. East Indian cultures continue to use dahl and rice.
The secret to optimal protein intake is balance. Too often the Western diet emphasizes beef. While this does cover our amino acid needs, high red meat intake is associated with increased inflammation. We amass too many of the inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids, and too few of the anti inflammatory omega-3 fats.
When we improve our protein intake, we begin to feel better. Our cellular machinery turns smoothly.
We need these high energy, high volume foods to power our bodies and our mind. So be sure to choose these crucial nutrients well.
Size does matter. And so does the relative quantity and quality. So make sure that you are taking in the right amounts and kinds of these macronutrients.
If you are active, and always on the move, you may need to take in more carbohydrates relative to the person who is more sedentary. Use them. Listen to your body. If you are feeling tired, putting on weight, and feeling more sluggish, cutting down your carbs will be a good start.
We all need to take in more of the healthy fats. Try to make more dietary choices from the bulleted list above. Your cells will work better, your nerves will work better, and you will burn energy more efficiently.
Finally, be sure to consume adequate amounts of balanced proteins. Look to the ancient wisdom of balanced grains and legumes, or choose to eat a little meat.
Be smart about your meats. Corn-fed, hormone-injected and antibiotic-infused animals deliver less healthy fats (and possibly more unhealthy hormones) to your body. As always, the best diet is one in lean, clean meats. Make your meat portions smaller, with a greater emphasis on vegetables and healthy fats.
As with so many factors in medicine, there is a balance.
Get your macro nutrients in balance. Then set sail towards a lifetime of health, happiness and boundless energy.
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