One of the best things I ever did several years ago was to reduce my overall intake of carbohydrates while increasing my proportional intake of protein and fat. While this is just one of a hundred and one things I have done to improve my health, it was one of the most important things I have done to improve my health and physical performance.
I'm writing this while having an early breakfast here in Quebec, Canada, where I'm preparing to defend my M65 UCI Masters Mountain Biking World Championship title. I'm fit, I'm thin and I am raring to go! How I'm feeling has a lot to do with how I've been eating.
Please take several minutes to read these articles by Stuff writer John McCrone, then come back to here:
While John McCrone's article is focused on Type 2 Diabetes, the general dietary principles he is describing would apply to at least 80% of the population, including children. Children nowadays tend to be fed highly processed, flavoured foods that are high in all kinds of sugar.
This article is worth reading as well: "The Big Fat Keto Diet Debate".
Carbohydrates are sugars, once digested: a common food industry ploy is to claim a food is low in sugar, although it may be high in carbohydrates. When reading food labels be aware of this attempt to mislead you.
What is constantly overlooked in this discussion about nutrition and diseases like diabetes is just how important detailed nutrient testing is for improving and maintaining health and this is as helpful for the elderly and children as it is for athletes and people struggling to manage chronic health conditions.
Keto, Atkins, Intermittent Fasting, Vegan: when it comes to health and fitness, including the management of chronic disease, some diet regimes may be better than others but there is never a "One-Size-Fits-All". The most effective nutrition programme is Personalised Nutrition that is based on accurate scientific testing,
The big breakthrough in my health was about 15 years ago when I was introduced to the Interclinical Laboratories Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis. Up until then, my health and fitness was on the downhill slide. As my health slid, I more strictly followed the standard medical advice which was to cut out animal fats - eggs, meat and butter, and to increase my intake of vegetable oils low fat milk and, by default, increased carbohydrates. Doing so had no effect on my sense of health and well-being. I continued to get "old" and I sure felt that way.
The turnaround in my health will have been noted by fellow sporting competitors who have seen me steadily moving up through the open ranks despite the adding up of the years (I'm now in my 66th year). This improvement in performance is no accident and it certainly has nothing to do with genetics: it is the result of years of attention to my nutrition and a whole lot of hard work.
Here is my latest Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis (HTMA) with comparative readings from earlier this year. I'll explain how it helps me to understand my metabolism.
High Ca relative to the general lie of the land, is associated with low thyroid function which is typically associated with an increase in cholesterol. My Ca has increased from 69 to 93, while Mg has dropped. While magnesium is still at healthy levels, it remains low relative to Ca. Low Mg is associate with diabetes. Action: increase thyroid nutraceutical support, including more Mg.
Low Cu which has dropped despite supplementation. Low Cu is associated with cardiovascular and metabolic disorders as well as rheumatoid conditions. Athletes generally need more copper than most people. I am consistently one of these people. Action: increase Cu supplementation along with cofactors (no nutrient works exclusively on its own, instead each is potentiated by numerous other nutrients).
Low Zn and big drop since the beginning of the year. Zinc is required for many functions in the body, including immune health, tissue growth and healing, digestion and insulin production to name some. Action: increase Zn and cofactors.
Low P. Phosphorus is the energy carrier within the body. It has many other functions, including the formation of bone and DNA genetic reactions. Low P may be due to either low protein intake or poor protein digestion. Low P may therefore be due to low Zn. Action: take measures to improve digestion while maintaining a high protein intake.
Low Mn. Manganese has dropped. Low Mn is associated with metabolic disorders including diabetes. Low Mn is also associated with conditions such as Parkinson's, brittle bones and cartilage disorders. Mn is a critical component of Super Oxide Dismuthase, the most important cellular antioxidant. It appears that all endurance athletes are low in Mn. Action: commence supplementation of Mn and cofactors.
High Cr which represents a LOSS of chromium from the body (take my word for it - this is a loss of Cr, not an excess. I have not been supplementing with it). A Cr loss on the HTMA is associated with increasing insulin resistance (diabetes), fat deposition and muscle wasting that are usually thought of as the inevitable loss of strength with ageing and the gaining of the "Middle Age Spread". Action: commence supplementation with Cr.
Low Mo. Molybdenum complexes with Cu in the cells. It is one of the cofactors for the proper use of Cu. Low Mo along with low Zn are also associated with male impotence and we can't have that! Action: supplement with Mo and cofactors
It is worth noting that the B vitamins, vitamin C and the Fat Soluble vitamins are all important cofactors for the absorption and utilisation of minerals. When people are under physical and emotional stress, their requirement for all vitamins is generally much higher. Liver is a rich source of the B and fat soluble vitamins. A diet that is low in fresh, free-range animal products is usually low in these vitamins.
You will gather that I have plenty to get on with in terms of nutrition. I'll continue to eat eggs, liver and black pudding each week and there are a number of supplements that I'll be either increasing or adding to my daily consumption. The HTMA will be repeated in about six months and my nutrient intake will be adjusted accordingly.
What I can conclude from this and previous HTMA is this:
My nutritional needs are dynamic and never static.
Like the vast majority of the population, I have many potential health risks that I must keep under constant control if I am to continue to live a healthy and active life.
It looks like I can be healthier, fitter and stronger than ever which is a fabulous way to be thinking of the future!
To finish: here are some rules of thumb that I apply to my own eating:
Breakfast is not the most important meal of the day: lunch is.
If I am not feeling famished I will skip a meal.
Now and then I'll fast from last night's dinner right into the following afternoon.
I avoid snacking between meals. If I can't get by on three good meals a day then I need to eat more during those three meals (with time most people can cope very well on just two big meals a day).
Favour fresh, nutrient-dense foods such as full cream milk, free range eggs and steak, whole grains and locally grown vegetables. I ask of anything I'm eating,"where are the nutrients in this?"
I avoid processed foods as much as is practical (difficult when travelling and exercising heavily).
I'll do long, slow exercise, such as bike rides exceeding two hours on nothing other than blackcurrant in my bottle and what is in my belly from the last meal. For very long rides I will, of course, carry a supply of wholesome and high-energy food but still avoid frequent snacking.