Have Your Wake and Eat It Too
As the new year kicks in, talk of diet and resolutions become rampant. It's so easy to start something that may only last a few weeks. One of the biggest hindrances to healthy eating is education. This article sheds some light on the core ideas at the center of healthy eating. From a wakeboarding perspective, we can learn quite a bit from some of the mainstream sports.
Action sports have progressed so much over the past 20 years. Athletes are pushing their bodies more and more. Wakeboarders are hitting bigger wakes and making monstrous gaps. Mainstream sports like football and basketball also require the body to be in top physical condition. The difference is that it is a normal practice in these sports to make highly calculated decisions to avoid injuries and keep progressing. Injuries are more common than ever, yet riders are still reluctant to accept the health practices that are embraced by professional sports outside the action sports industry. However, if you want to continue riding injury free, the answer lies not just in exercising, but mainly in nutrition.
One of the flaws of dieting and nutrition in western culture is that it focuses more on what not to eat than what to eat. Western culture has an infatuation with fitness and looking good, but when it comes to actual health, we are willing to cut corners. Health goes deeper than simply being skinny. Artificial sweeteners are a great example of our culture’s willingness to forego long-term health for short-term fitness. We are so worried about calorie counting that we fail to look at the bigger picture. Artificial sweeteners have no sugar or calories, which means that chemicals created in a lab are used to provide the sweet taste that is similar to sugar1. In no way is this healthy. By the same token, many people will choose to eat substantially less food because they wish to eat unhealthy. They think by reducing caloric intake, it doesn’t really matter what they put into their body. The problem is that what you put into your body is more important than what you leave out.
It’s true that almost every food has a benefit, even sugar and fat. Your body needs these things in small amounts. That’s why it is important to have a diversified diet that supplies plenty of nutrition. As a rider, I want to push the limits of the sport and my body. The last thing I need is an injury to keep me doing what I have a passion for, so why not stack the odds in my favor? Below, I’ve listed the some of the best foods that you can put into your body.
Amino acids are one of the most essential nutrients the human body needs to survive. It is the building block of life. It is how humans grow, create muscle and repair injuries. Amino acids are derived from protein, which is most abundantly found in meat, poultry and fish. Protein is also found in whey, soy, yellow peas and plenty of other plant products. It is recommended to consume about one gram of protein per pound of body weight each day2. If a person weighs 180 pounds, it’s recommended that he or she eat 180 grams of protein a day.
No research has shown that over-consumption of protein has a negative effect on the body. In fact, protein can help solve many of the body’s problems, including its ability to fight disease. The best way to receive protein is a combination of free range, organic animal products, as well as plant-based protein that can be taken in powder form. Recently, soy beans and some forms of whey have become so mainstream that companies who produce them have chemically altered them in order to make the most profits. In turn, this completely counteracts the health benefits of taking these products. I’ve found yellow pea protein powder to be a great supplement to animal protein.
Another important aspect to your health is the power of raw foods. There is something about the way that a whole plant comes out of the ground that is unique. The way that all of the molecules form the cells that connect to each other to make a living, breathing plant is something so unique that we are still discovering more benefits every day. An orange is rich in vitamin C, but extracting the vitamin C in a laboratory and injecting it into a pill or a supplement is simply no comparison to eating the entire fruit itself. What that means is that there is no replacement for good natural foods, no matter what "superfood" comes out next. A superfood is food with high nutrient or phytochemical content that may confer health benefits, with few properties considered to be negative, such as being high in saturated fats or artificial ingredients, food additives or contaminants.
I’ve found that the two best ways to get produce is either by buying them fresh frozen in the freezer or freeze dried. Freeze dried simply means that produce is collected and the moisture is immediately sucked out, thus preserving the essence of the produce much better than shipping it across the country.
Some of this can be stressful for someone who has limited knowledge about nutrition, but I’ve found ways to make it easier.
- When going out to eat, the safest bet will be to order a salad. This ensures you will get some form of raw fruits and vegetables. Always substitute spinach for lettuce if you can, as lettuce contains little nutritional value. Make sure you get protein in some form, whether chicken, seafood or steak.
- A good way to get adequate servings of raw fruits and veggies at home is to blend up a veggie smoothie with a powerful blender. I like to mix and match between spinach, carrots, celery, kale, watercress, ginger, flax seed, apple, banana, avocado, orange and beet. Use more vegetables than fruit, as fruit is higher in fructose and lower in nutrient density than vegetables. A good ratio is one fruit to three veggies.
- Some veggies are easier for your body to digest when lightly steamed. These include green beans, asparagus, broccoli and a few more. Add two inches of water to a pot, put the vegetables in a vegetable steamer inside the pot, put the lid on and bring it to a boil for about two minutes. Each vegetable varies in time, but as you cook vegetables they undergo a chemical reaction that causes them to lose nutrition, so the idea is to steam them just enough to increase taste and make it easier for the body to digest.
- Freeze dried fruits and veggies can be a great alternative. Organic, freeze-dried produce is comparable to fresh frozen produce and retains more nutrients than those purchased in the produce section of grocery stores3. My favorite way to get a lot of fruits and veggies is to create a superfood smoothie with freeze-dried organic superfoods like broccoli, spinach, kale, spirulina, barley grass and freeze-dried organic wild blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and cranberries. It’s also high in yellow pea and brown rice proteins. I get my superfood smoothies (SuperBerry and SuperGreens) from a company called Living Fuel.
- Try adding some coconut water in place of tap water. It’s a tasty alternative that’s also high in potassium and low in calories and sugar. I drink a lot of Vita Coco!
We hear new and contradictory theories about health and nutrition every day, but if you study what people are saying you will find two universal truths. First, the human body absolutely needs protein and amino acids in high abundance in one form or another. Second, you cannot eat too many vegetables. You can eat too many carbs, too much dairy, even too many fruits, but you can never eat too many pure vegetables.
For your convenience I’ve provided some charts below that will assist you in choosing the best foods. The first is the top ten ANDI-scored green and non-green vegetables. ANDI stands for Aggregate Nutrient Density Index, which is a score assigned to whole foods that contain the highest nutrients per calorie as Dr. Joel Fuhrman describes in his books Eat For Health and Eat Right America Nutritarian Handbook.
The others are lists of nutrition information available from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for fruits and vegetables.
With this information you can make your purchasing decisions based on what foods pack the most punch. Give yourself the proper fuel you need to push your body to the limit. Don’t hold yourself back. Get out there, and eat those proteins and veggies.
1. Artificial sweeteners: sugar-free, but at what cost?." Harvard Health Publications. (2012): n. page. Web. 22 Dec. 2012.
2. Craichy, KC. The Super Health Diet: The Last Diet You Will Ever Need. Tampa: Bronze Bow Publishing, 2011. Print.
3. Levine, Alyse. "Fresh Versus Frozen Produce: Which Is Healthier?." Livestrong.com. (2011): n. page. Print.
Austin is sponsored by Jobe, Vita Coco, Supra, Smith, Cape Fear, Zinka, Sage and Living Fuel.