Are You Using Food for Fuel or Pleasure?

I was raised in the south, where like many cultures, we use food to show love. If it was my birthday, I got a good report card, or needed to be cheered up, my mom would make my favorite meals.

Those traditions are still evident in my life today. I enjoy making a big breakfast on Sunday mornings with all my favorite foods. It reminds me of how my mom went all out for breakfast on Sunday morning. We’d have french toast, eggs, bacon and even coffee. She would make me this very milk laden version of coffee. It was so sweet. It had so much sugar and milk I couldn’t really taste the coffee. I just remember how she’d make it for me and put it in her nice tea cups from the “good” china. It makes me smile just to think about that.  So, my version of Sunday morning breakfast is my way of trying to recreate that experience. It’s such a happy memory for me. I’m sure many of you have similar stories. I’m definitely not asking anyone to give that up. It’s really okay in moderation.

foodisfuel

What I’d like to accomplish through this blog is to get us back to basics. Basically, food was created to sustain us by providing us with the energy we need to function and to live. I want to challenge you to rethink how you look at food and how we use it. As I’m preparing to train for a triathlon I’m constantly working on my diet. It’s forcing me to change how I use food. The most important thing for me is to see it as fuel. I need the energy to sustain myself through my workouts and to accomplish my fitness goals.

Now that I’m fine tuning my daily caloric intake I try to make the most of what I’m eating. I’m on a schedule that has me eating six times a day. I’m eating at 7am, 10am, 12:30pm, 3pm, 5pm, and 7:30pm. It seems like a lot, but these aren’t big meals.

I just started this schedule, but I immediately noticed my energy level at the end of the first day. It was incredible. By eating every 2-3 hours, my blood sugar levels are stable throughout the day. Therefore, my energy level is consistent. I avoid the highs and lows that most of us typically experience on any given day.

Noticing the difference in my energy motivated me to evaluate “what” I’m eating at those times. I dont’ want to consume empty calories. I need the right foods that will help me get to my next meal without feeling hungry or sluggish.

So, if you want to see a change in your energy levels, and use your food as fuel here are some basic tips.

1. Make sure every meal is balanced with protein, carbs and healthy fats. Not all carbs are bad; just make sure they have a low glycemic index. Low glycemic index foods are better for regulating your blood sugar levels (i.e. sweet potatoes). Try healthy fats like almond butter or peanut butter, and my favorite – avocado. These foods help you stay full longer.

2. Incorporate snacks between meals. Make sure they are no more than 150-200 calories and they are purposeful. A small bag of plain potato chips is 150 calories, but they do nothing to curb your hunger or sustain you. Good sources are pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and vegan friendly protein bars. Just make sure it’s not laden with sugar. Some protein bars are just glorified candy bars. You want to avoid those.

3. Make sure the afternoon snacks are higher in protein. This will give you that healthy pick me up at the time of the day our energy drops the most. My 3 pm snack helps me on my last leg of the work day. This is when I like an apple with 1-2 tablespoons of peanut butter.

4. For your larger meals load your plate with high fiber, low fat veggies. Broccoli is a great veggie that leaves you feeling full and provides very little calories.

5. Keep your carbohydrate intake to the early part of the day. Your body will have time to use those carbs for energy instead of storing it as fat when you eat them in the evening. You’re less active in the evening and your metabolism is lower.

6. Drink LOTS of water! Water not only makes you feel full, but it gives you energy. If you squeeze a little fresh lemon juice in it, it’s even better. Lemons have tons of vitamin C.

Those are my suggestions for now. I hope this is helpful to you. I’m learning new stuff everyday as I try to train efficiently for the triathlon. I will continue to share those lessons with you.

Question: How often do you eat food for comfort instead of fuel?

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