Live to Eat
Eat to Live
When we live to eat, we use food like a drug to satisfy and stimulate our senses. This leads to overindulging and a lack of appreciation. Habitual habits set in as we reach for the endless supply of delicious foods.
When we eat to live, food becomes a precious resource to be respected and understood. Eating to live does not mean less enjoyment from food. Quite the opposite in fact. With a deeper understanding of how food affects our body, each bite can mindfully utilize, savor and appreciate food.
Life or Death
Too much protein produces too much ammonia. Too much fat clogs vital functions and directly kills cells. Too many carbs will caramelize and cement cells.The same food that is your friend can also be your enemy when consumed in excess or at the wrong time.
Understanding how food is converted into energy empowers us to make better choices for an energy-rich life. Though the information of food energy is vast, understanding just the basic macronutrients (carbs, fats, and proteins) is all one needs to treat each meal as a learning experience.
The fact this was glossed over this in school is frightening…
The Foundational Three
All foods consist of some ratio of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats—these three are referred to as our macronutrients. Each is beautifully designed to function differently within our body and supplies us with the body and brain power necessary to survive. Knowing this, it’s clear there are better times than others each macronutrient should be consumed.
I’m no food scientist, but I’ve come to discover how each macronutrient works and how I can be more intentional with eating my way to a healthy and energetic day.
Let’s get right to it.
1. Carbohydrates (body power)
Carbs are the quickest form of physical energy. So it makes sense to limit carbs to be consumed before physical exercise; not before a 4-hour sit on your ass and stare at a screen sesh.
The best time to consume carbs is 30-60 minutes prior to physical movement. For myself, eating 30-50g of carbohydrates would fuel me through an hour workout.
There are good carbs (aka. complex carbs) our body needs and bad carbs (aka. simple carbs) that mostly do us harm.
Complex carbs (good carbs)
These carbs are made up of sugar molecules that are strung together in long, complex chains that contain essential vitamins and minerals our body craves.
E.g., green veggies, fibrous fruits, whole grains, beans, potatoes, corn, pumpkin, and lentils.
Simple carbs (bad carbs)
Simple carbohydrates are composed of simple-to-digest, basic sugars with little real value for your body. The main purpose of simple carbs is to enhance flavor and act as a preservative in processed foods.
E.g., table sugar, corn syrup, candy, soft drinks, and pastries.
Simple carb exception: simple carbs are found naturally found in high sugar fruits (like grapes, peaches, and bananas) and veggies (like carrots and beets). These can be a great source of natural sugar that delivers fast digesting energy.
2. Fats (brain power)
Healthy fats are derived mostly from vegetables, nuts, seeds, and fish. Fat is great in the morning as it lubricates the digestive system. Fats should be avoided during physical exercise as they slow the digestion process and could lead to fat storage if your insulin levels are high.
From best to worst, here are the four different fat types:
- Polyunsaturated fats – the essential fats our body requires for normal functioning and are broken down into omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids (e.g., fish, avocados, nuts, and seeds).
- Monounsaturated fats – fatty oils that are liquid at room temperature (e.g., olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil, avocados, and most nuts, as well as high-oleic safflower and sunflower oils).
- Saturated fats – fatty oils that turn solid at room temperature, like bacon grease (e.g., red meat, dairy, cheese and Pillsbury’s Crescent Rolls).
- Trans fats – these are created through hydrogenation that turns the healthy fats above into solids to prevent them from becoming rancid (e.g., deep-fried foods, pie crust, frosting, nondairy creamer, store-bought baked goods and Dairy Queen’s Blizzards).
As a rule of thumb, healthy unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature, while unhealthy saturated and trans fats become solid at room temperature—assuming you live in a seasonally neutral climate.
3. Protein (structural power)
Proteins are the building blocks of the body. They handle the day-to-day jobs of our cells which can be categorized into four primary functions:
- Provide structure
- Regulate body processes
- Transport materials
- Help with immunity
Now if we combined these primary functions into one, we can see that protein’s core function is to convert carbs and fats into energy.
How much protein do you need per day?
This depends on your weight and health goals. Though since we can only gain, lose or maintain weight, there are three ways we can use protein to help with those goals.
Maintaining weight: it’s wise to consume 50% of your body weight, in grams of protein per day. So for someone like me who weighs 170lbs, I should be eating ~85 grams of protein/day.
Burning fat: protein intake can be increased to replace unnecessary carbs. In this case, ~75% of your body weight in grams per day is recommended. So for 170-pound me, I would be eating ~128 grams of protein/day.
Building muscle: the body can use more protein when you’re tearing more muscle through workouts because it helps repair and strengthen those muscles being used. In this case, you can consume 100% of your body weight in grams per day. For 170-pound sweaty me, ~170 grams of protein/day can be eaten.
Tip: Knowing that proteins provide structure it’s also wise to increase protein intake when we have repairing cuts, burns or body damage.
With the never-ending flux of outside influences, it’s easy to become dissociated from what our body truly needs. Friends, advertising, culture, and other mediums sway us to consume what they believe is best. Societal forces push us towards eating without our being aware.
5 Questions to Increasing Mindful Eating
- Can I minimize distractions? A fork in one hand and your phone in the other is the epitome of mindless eating. Studies show that when distracted, you’ll eat 15% more.
- Does my environment feel cluttered? Cluttered kitchens increased overeating by 44% in this study!
- What’s on my fork? Pay attention to what you’re putting in your mouth. Use your tongue to massage around and taste each individual ingredient. In just a couple weeks after I started this, I noticed a drastic increase in my cooking confidence.
- Am I using all my senses? Notice the food’s textures, flavors, and aromas as well as your own feelings of hunger or fullness.
- Is it fully chewed? Extend the enjoyment of every meal by thoroughly chewing each bite. This will be better for your digestion and you’ll get nutritional bang with each bite!
With awareness of how food works in our body, we begin to eat in a way that’s most beneficial to our well-being. We have the opportunity to enrich our existence. We can gain insight into the roots of difficulties and overcome any addictions. We can nourish our body and mind and the well-being of future generations. We can cultivate more energy and spend it on things and people to alleviate suffering and bring joy. Food can be a tool to illuminate and help us savor every day of our life.