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Four important factors for optimal health

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One of my main health goals is to feel good each day. And a big part of that is ensuring that I have the sustained energy necessary to do everything I need to in a day — as well as enjoy it.

I’ve found something that works for me, and I want to share it with you. I don’t know anyone who couldn’t use more energy.

It’s not half as complicated as you may think either: There are just four practical guidelines to remember… quality, quantity, ratio and timing (QQRT). With these four factors to guide you, you can be well on your way to enjoying more sustained energy while also maintaining the healthy weight you desire.

Quality

Quality of the food you eat is inherently key to a healthy body. Quality food is usually real food — whole foods that grow from the ground, is nutrient dense, and mostly plant-based. Animal protein usually includes animal fat which gets to be limited for health reasons.

As far as vegetables and fruits go, choose organic as often as you can. Foods that are certified organic are grown in conditions that exclude toxins. For meats, dairy and eggs look for grass-fed, antibiotic and hormone-free. For fish, look for wild-caught pacific.

Consider purity of products grown in local farms and orchards or online. Quality foods usually include fiber (meat has no fiber, but is still valuable), protein, carbs, and healthy fats from quality sources. Phytonutrients from fruits and vegetables are also valuable in addition to being natural sources of essential minerals and vitamins.

Consider a modified Mediterranean diet, including legumes (beans and lentils), nuts and grains in balance. Until the body is in balance with the gut healed and body detoxed, consider leaving out grains (including gluten grains) and dairy.

Quantity

The fact is we eat until we are full. The more nutrient dense your food is, the less you need to eat to “feel full,” be balanced and feel satisfied.

You could spend a lot of time determining how many grams of each of the three macronutrients — protein, fat, and carbohydrates (PFC) — your body deserves to have, on average, per day, but that varies from person to person. Instead of doing that, if you focus on ratios and timing (coming up next), quantity usually falls into place naturally.

Ratios

To optimize metabolism, as found in nature, our best bet is to balance your macronutrients with the ratio that fits your lifestyle and intensity of activities. Even athletes who run and lift weights can do very well with about a P:F:C ratio of approximately 30:50:20.

If you look at any nutrition facts label on canned or processed “food” you will find that the “DV” or Daily Value recommendations we are led to believe is good for us is 30 percent fat and 60 percent carbohydrates. You will then notice that the protein amount is left blank. This leaves exactly 10 percent for protein. This is grossly insufficient in most cases, especially if one is doing resistance training (i.e. lifting weights, using resistance bands or doing any strength training) like I am recommending you do 2 to 4 times per week.

A better ratio recommendation for protein would be about 20 to 35 percent depending on activities. Consider protein and fiber with each carb meal to slow digestion, prevent spiking of glucose or insulin — as both are bad for cardiovascular health. Protein also lengthens the time (from 1.5 to 3+ hours) that a largely “carb” meal will last without hunger.

Recommending a number as high as 60 percent carbohydrates in the diet is completely irresponsible, especially if that includes “junk” carbs or added sugars like soda, baked goods, candy, pasta and bread. Although it depends on the intensity, duration and frequency of activities, a moderate range recommendation would be more like 20 to 25 percent carbohydrates — all complex and “clean” — coming from whole foods.

This leaves about 50 percent or more for fat. To prevent storing sugar as fat and to stimulate the body’s hormones to naturally burn more fat, replace simple sugars, added sugars and excess carbs with healthy fats like coconut oil, olive oil, olives, avocados, eggs, nuts, seeds and butter (not heated). Butter heated to boiling or frying produces rancidity in the body.

The nutritional makeup of the human body is approximately:

  • 23 percent protein
  • 64 percent fat
  • 13 percent carbohydrate

Compare the human body ratio of macronutrients with what you are putting into your body on a daily basis, on average, in grams to see how you are replenishing yourself.

In reality, the ideal ratios for your body will change depend on your activities or natural use of energy. Intermittent fasting and High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) or “Burst” Training both lower insulin resistance and trigger fat burning hormones. So, that said, consider not “counting” calories or grams of macronutrients at all! Yeah, freedom! Instead, purge the pantry, kitchen and secret “hiding places” of all unhealthy “food” and instead buy only healthy choices.

Timing

Consider these two keys of timing of foods:

  • Order of food consumption
  • Intermittent Fasting

Order of Food Consumption

The stomach works like a good blender. If you make a smoothie, you know that your blender will efficiently blend everything together if you put the liquid on the bottom, followed by say a banana, then say greens, then frozen berries or ice on top. Soft to hard, from bottom to top makes a quick, easy blend. If you did the opposite, you might quickly notice your blender binding up. So it is with your stomach.

Water passes through the stomach in seconds to minutes, if by itself or with supplements. Fruits digest very quickly — in about 5 to 20 minutes. Vegetables take about 20 minutes. Grains take a little longer. Protein from meat, because of the pH required to breakdown the protein takes about 2 hours or longer. Fats can take 2 to 3 hours or more. Eat what digests first, then go on to the next food group in ascending order of time to empty the stomach. This is especially helpful if you experience bloating or other digestive symptoms.

Eat fruit (dessert) first, before a heavy meat protein and fat dinner — simply because of digestion time. This will prevent bloating. Whenever you can eat dessert first — say yes!

Intermittent Fasting

This is the only experimental approach that consistently improves survival in animals with cancer, and extends overall lifespan by about 30. Intermittent fasting reduces insulin resistance — the main cause of inflammation in the body, type 2 diabetes and most autoimmune disorders.

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting:

Reduction in:

  • Leptin and insulin resistance (main causes of type 2 diabetes)
  • HS-CRP (high-sensitivity C-reactive protein — a key biomarker for inflammation)
  • LDL and total cholesterol levels
  • Triglycerides
  • Blood pressure
  • Body weight — especially obesity
  • Modulates levels of dangerous visceral fat that gathers around internal organs
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Mitochondrial energy efficiency
  • Oxidative stress (damage to lipids, cellular proteins and nucleic acids)
  • Hunger and sugar cravings
  • Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease (boosting BDNF protein production — a neural protectant)

Increase in:

  • SHBG (Sex Hormone Binding Globulin)
  • IGF binding proteins 1 and 2
  • Pancreatic function
  • Resistance to stress, disease and aging
  • Human Growth Hormone (1200 percent for women; 2000 percent for men)

These effects were seen even though the total calorie intake did not change or were only slightly reduced.

According to a 2014 study published in the journal Cell Metabolism, intermittent fasting without decreasing calorie intake, lowers high cholesterol, diabetes and obesity. A 5 percent healthy weight loss was almost immediately experienced and no weight gain occurred over the 38 week study. Eating was restricted to a 6 to 9 hour window. Unlimited eating times were also allowed on the weekends while still maintaining the overall results.

The study “found that time-restricted framework sustains the body’s circadian clock, which in turn, appropriately times the utilization of sugar, fat and cholesterol in different parts of the body. Daily fasting of 15 hours also allows the gut, liver and muscle to repair and rejuvenate by breaking down harmful chemicals and metabolic byproducts.”

Honor the 3 hour (minimum) window before retiring for bed by not eating the last three hours of your day. Enjoy eating during the “safe” zone (i.e. 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. if retiring by 10 p.m.). Ease into this and then practice it for at least three weeks before rendering an opinion. Pay attention to how you feel. And drink plenty of water. Water is safe at any hour and preferred before meals, limiting them during meals for ease and speed of digestion.

Yours in Health,

Dr. Brad Cutler

Sources:

  1. https://www.ams.usda.gov/services/organic-certification
  2. http://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2013/06/28/intermittent-fasting-health-benefits.aspx
  3. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/andrew-weil-md/fasting-health_b_1557043.html
  4. Amandine Chaix, Amir Zarrinpar, Phuong Miu, Satchidananda Panda Time-Restricted Feeding Is a Preventative and Therapeutic Intervention against Diverse Nutritional Challenges, Volume 20, Issue 6, p991–1005, 2 December 2014
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