Health begins with proper nutrition!
The Right Stuff is the title of an award winning 1979 book written by Tom Wolfe about the early test pilots who were selected for the Mercury program to be the first American Astronauts. It was later adapted as a movie in 1983 starring Ed Harris and Scott Glenn. America’s first astronauts were the finest specimens of humanity of their era. Physically and mentally fit with bodies of iron and nerves of steel, these men literally went where no man had gone before. I’m not being sexist, at the dawn of the USA’s space program, it was exclusively a ‘boys club’. Russia sent the first woman to space , cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova in the Vostok 6 mission on June 16, 1963. The US finally followed suit more than two decades later when the first female American astronaut Sally Ride flew up on the Challenger space shuttle, on June 18th, 1983.
The point is, these early space pioneers achieved the pinnacle of human health WITHOUT the hundreds of nutritional supplements being marketed today. The vast majority of these so-called ‘Elixirs of Life‘ really are little more than ‘snake oil’ which is an old term for any worthless concoction sold as a cure-all or medicine. So how did these men get so healthy you might ask? Simple, they ate right and exercised.
There is no ‘magic pill’. Diet pills are short-term fixes that work briefly and you usually gain back all the weight lost quite rapidly once you stop taking them. If you do keep taking them long term, they cause side effects and your body begins to build up a tolerance so that any benefits that may have been there in the beginning are lost at the end. Worse yet, every time you introduce a new drug into your body, whether it’s herbal, natural, pharmaceutical, or chemical, you are altering the biochemistry of your body and wrecking your metabolism. In essence, you’re making it harder for your body to function the way God intended it to work. ( The power that made the body has the power to heal the body, within reason, and over time.)
Save your money, and stick to the these seven essential nutrients :
Water, proteins, carbohydrates, lipids (fats), vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber.
The key is, based upon your age, gender, height, weight and activity level, you will need to have the RIGHT AMOUNTS of THE RIGHT STUFF. It’s like trying to keep seven plates spinning on the tips of sticks. You have to do the work, put in the time, and monitor the situation carefully or it all comes crashing down.
It took me YEARS of trying and failing and trying AGAIN to find the RIGHT combination of diet and exercise that works for ME. Three years ago, I weighed 75-80 lbs. more than I do today. I could not run a mile. Now I can run more than thirteen miles, and I’m slowly working my way up towards running a full marathon in November. A full marathon is 26.2 miles. I am healthier then I have been probably since before I was in college. I certainly was thinner and younger then, but I wasn’t this strong, and running a marathon was the furthest thing from my young, college mind. I still have ways to go, but I am improving, I am on the path, and I am sticking to the plan. It’s a journey, NOT a destination.
So HOW MUCH is enough?
Let’s start simple.
Water, pure clean water.
Your body is mostly water. Overall, it comprises about two-thirds of our body.
The average adult needs to drink about 8 glasses of water per day. That’s 64 oz. total or almost two liters if you live outside the US and use the metric system. If you are a professional athlete, or exerting under high heat you might need to double that amount. The key is to maintain your body’s normal level of hydration and replaces any water lost due to sweat, urination, or breath.
Next, We look at protein, fats, and carbs. These BIG three comprise the bulk of our food.
According to the Standard American Diet or SAD, the daily amount of calories needed is between 2000 and 2500. It varies from individual to individual, again based on size, gender, and age. Most nutritional labels do go with the 2000 calories. (Some experts recommend up to 2500.)
Food is FUEL to an athlete. You need to eat food to live, you should never, ever live just to eat food. Yes, we all have that Pavlovian response when thinking of our favorite foods, but food is simply just fuel for the body.
According to the 40-30-30 diet rule, aka The Zone Diet, 40% of our daily calorie intake should be from carbs, with the rest split equally between fats and protein. Again if you are an athlete trying to build muscle, you may want to switch that 40% to protein, and cut the carbs down to 30%.
Carbohydrates come in two types, simple and complex. You DO need both. Complex carbs need to be broken down by the body before being burned as fuel or stored as fat.
Fats naturally come in two varieties, saturated, and unsaturated. A ‘THIRD’ type of fats are so-called transfats. Transfats are NOT naturally occurring and are man-made in a lab. Avoid transfats at all costs! Saturated fats are solid at room temperature and tend to come from animal sources. An example is butter made from milk. Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and are plant based. You want the majority of your fats to be unsaturated, but you do need some saturated fats in your diet as well. The jury is still out on exactly how much you need, but best to keep the saturated fats to a bare minimum.
The recommended daily intake for protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, or 0.36 grams per pound. This amounts to: 56 grams per day for the average sedentary man. 46 grams per day for the average sedentary woman. Again athletes require greater amounts of protein to build lean muscle, which in turn stokes their metabolism allowing them to burn fats and carbohydrates faster and more efficiently.
Protein can come from either plant or animal sources. Plant proteins tend to be incomplete proteins, with a few exceptions like buckwheat, quinoa, hempseed, and soybeans. Protein is comprised of 20 amino acids; 11 of these amino acids are produced by the human body. For good health, we must get the other nine amino acids (called “essential amino acids”) from the foods we eat. Since animal bodies work the same way human bodies do, meat is a complete protein.
Dietary Fiber comes in two varieties, soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water, and it improves digestion and lowers blood sugar. Insoluble fiber aids with excretion.
This just leaves us with vitamins and minerals. There are 19 essentials on that list:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B1 (Thiamine or Thiamin)
- Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
- Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Folic Acid
- Vitamin K
Again, as for how much of each of these you actually need, going with the US FDA recommended daily allowances is a safe bet. Look them up online, or read the back of most multivitamins for the amounts of each. Some of these will pass harmlessly through your body if you decide to mega-dose, and you’ll just end up producing expensive urine. Others can store up in your body and reach toxic levels. For example, too much potassium in your blood will KILL you!
Almost every nutrient you just read about should be present in your diet IF you eat a healthy diet of whole foods and have a decent variety of fruits, vegetables, and grains mixed in with your choice of proteins and fats. Always remember that the absolute best thing you can ever drink is pure, clean water.
By sticking with proper nutrition and a regular exercise program, you will give your body all the tools it needs to maintain proper function. Your immune system will operate at peak efficiency and you will avoid many illnesses and medical expenses. There are no guarantees in life, sometimes you will get sick despite doing all the right things. But, your chances are far better when you do the right things and stick with the right stuff!
As always, I wish you success and happiness!