How best to fuel your body
In my last post with Joanne “Dr. Jo” Lichten, PhD, RDN discussed Food as Fuel. In this post and video Dr. Jo gives advice on best ways to fuel your body. Dr. Jo has authored many books. Her latest is Reboot: how to power up your energy, focus, and productivity and available on Amazon.
How best to fuel your body
Neily: I’m with Dr. Jo Lichten, registered dietitian nutritionist and author of Reboot. We talked about helping with optimal energy with the fuel that we put in our body. Please give us tips about what we can do.
Dr. Jo: So fuel are calories. Let’s just say you need 2,000 calories. That’s what it says on the (food) label—that the average American needs (which is not always true), but anyway let’s just say you need 2,000 calories a day, and you decide, “I’m going to have some cereal and skim milk”—300 calories for breakfast. And then you say, “Well I’m going to have a salad with fat free dressing and an apple for lunch.” What is that, I don’t know 100-200 calories, not very much.
Well you need calories all day long, 24 hours. So when that happens you can imagine you’re not getting enough fuel and then you’re overeating too much. We talked earlier about when you’re not feeding yourself during the day your body has to get glucose—the brain only runs on glucose. Some of your body, in fact, your heart loves fat, isn’t that great? So we need more calories.
But we need a lot of glucose calories for our brain and so if you don’t take in food—specifically carbohydrates—you’ve got to find the glucose from somewhere else. We do have a little bit of glycogen stores in our liver that pretty much by the time we wake up in the morning they’re gone and so we run on lean muscle mass. All that stuff you worked out the night before builds up all these strong muscles and all morning long and lunch long that you don’t fuel enough, those little Pac-Man are chiseling up your body. What a sad state of affairs!
So I talk about in terms of you’ve got to have breakfast. Don’t ever say, “Oh I don’t need breakfast,” You’ve got to have breakfast. As soon as possible, as soon as you wake up. If you can’t, as soon as you can. And if you say well I’m nauseous keep in mind that nausea could be a reaction to the starvation process that your body is going through. So start off with something small—a banana, a piece of toast and eventually that hunger will come back. And if you stop eating so much at night you’ll wake up in the morning hungry. You’ve just got to get out of that cycle.
So start eating some breakfast to put that glycogen storage back into your body. It’s also important to eat on a regular basis. By regular I mean for some people 3 meals a day if your needs are not very great. But then again we’re talking about if it’s 2,000 calories a day, I’m talking about eating a 500-calorie breakfast, a 500-calorie lunch maybe eating a snack because dinner is kind of late and then having a 500-calorie dinner.
It’s not about starving yourself all day and then overeating. Some people do really well with a gouter kind of style—that’s the French term for the snack that some of the kids used to get in the afternoon because in France dinner might be late like at 8:00 o’clock at night. Well it happens in American families as well. So you know it’s not just kids that need an afternoon snack, we might need an afternoon snack. It could be something as simple as—you go to a restaurant and they serve these huge sandwiches, have a half a sandwich for lunch, save the other half of sandwich for 3:00 or 4:00 o’clock in the afternoon.
When you’re driving home you’re not ravenously hungry. When you get home and open up the cabinet and decide what’s for dinner, it’s not about “What can I have for dinner?” Oooo here’s some chips and by the time you’ve sat down to dinner you’ve eaten enough calories for that moment in time that you really needed and then you sit down and you overeat.
Athletic people who burn a lot of calories really need to eat 6 times a day. So we talk about how to fuel our body throughout the rest of the day. It’s different for different people. But anywhere from 3 square meals to 6 mini meals a day.
Neily: Again Dr. Jo Lichten, author of Reboot. This is Neily on Nutrition and we’ll see you in the next video.
Dr. Jo is an author, speaker, and media spokesperson. She has spoken to more than 1,000 companies, groups, and conventions. Dr. Jo has appeared on more than 300 TV and radio shows and has been quoted in hundreds of articles in magazines, newspapers and websites.
Dr. Jo’s Reboot: how to power up your energy, focus, and productivity is available on Amazon.
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Jennifer Neily, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist | Wellcoach® Certified Health Coach