This week your focus is to reduce your frequency of eating starches and fill that vacuum with a greater variety of vegetables prepared a variety of ways.
Let me start by saying I’m not recommending the Paleo Diet. There isn’t a particular name for the nutrition philosophy I’m recommending because when you start to categorize and label things you create dogmas that can become very rigid.
Rigidity eliminates feeling, intuition, and going with your gut instinct. We also don’t like labeling what we’re doing because people tend to identify more with what they’re against or hate, rather than what is good or nourishing.
Many vegans or vegetarians spend far more time talking negatively about eating animal products then the benefits of a plant-based diet. Likewise, Paleo followers tend to go on about the evils of grains and starches and the wayward path of vegetarians and the modern man rather than extolling the virtues of the Paleo diet/lifestyle.
With all that said, the fact of the matter is that sugar spikes insulin, a hormone that sends a signal to your body to store fat. It also creates inflammation and speeds the aging process.
The next step of this journey is to reduce the amount of sugar you’re eating (especially starches and processed sugar) and fill that vacuum with a greater variety of nutrient dense vegetables and berries.
Time to “geek out” a little in this next section, because it’s important to know specifically what sugar does to your body.
The double whammy about sugar is that there isn’t much (if any) nutritional content to go along with the sugar induced insulin spike, so your body starves for nutrients at the cellular level and it continues to send signals to your brain that say, “feed me, I’m hungry.”
Unfortunately, the message from your cells isn’t so specific as to say, “feed me nutrient dense food like a kale salad with avocado, cucumbers, and red peppers sautéed in olive oil and garlic with sea salt on top.”
It simply says: “FEED!”
And that powerful urge can drive you to make poor eating choices. Especially when you’re tired and pressed for time.
If you have trouble losing fat even though you’re eating clean and exercising regularly you have probably built up insulin resistance. Insulin resistance occurs when you’ve maintained chronically high blood sugar levels over a long period of time. Usually from a combination of poor diet with too much sugar, eating processed sugars, a lack of healthy fat/protein/fiber, and insufficient exercise. High cortisol levels from chronic stress can also contribute to insulin resistance.
Chronically high blood sugar causes the cellular receptors that normally regulate sugar (being escorted by insulin) from the bloodstream to enter into the cell to become numb to insulin knocking at the door to get in.
Those cellular receptors down-regulate, which means your body has to release even more insulin to get the same amount of blood sugar out of circulation and into the cells, which in turn means your body is getting even more signals to create more fat cells and fill it up with the sugar circulating through your bloodstream.
It’s like when someone who wears a lot of perfume walks into a room and it’s the only thing you can smell at first, but after awhile you get used to it and can’t smell it anymore.
Ironically the reason that person wears so much perfume is because they’ve been wearing it so long that their own olfactory cells that make them sensitive to the scent have down-regulated so they have to put on more perfume in order to smell like they have enough on.
Glycation is the process by which sugar sticks to things. Normally these reactions are reversible, but with enough time and heat the bonds become permanent, which are called advanced glycation end products, or AGEs.
It’s a fitting acronym because AGEs make you age unnaturally fast!
When you toast bread oxidation reactions generate AGEs in the proteins and sugars present in the wheat, which change the bread from pale, soft and supple to brown, stiff and hard because the proteins and sugars form cross-links that stiffen the bread.
The same thing happens inside your body as AGEs cross-link normally mobile proteins in what would otherwise be supple tissue.
Fortunately, at normal blood sugar levels, the reactions occur so slowly that white blood cells can break them down allowing the kidneys to remove the AGEs from the blood stream. It’s these waste products that give urine its characteristic yellow color.
The implications of having your tissues hardened by AGEs are vast and far-reaching. It can occur in connective tissue causing joint pain and immobility. It can also turn semi-permeable surfaces of arteries into impervious walls, preventing nutrients from exiting the bloodstream and entering the cells that need them. When these nutrients become trapped they line your artery walls and can cause blood clots and atherosclerotic plaques.
Eliminating Sugar for Most Rapid Results
Simple. Starting tracking how much sugar you eat everyday and keep it to a maximum of 100 grams/day. (If you participate in an endurance sport or are extremely active this number will be a little higher.) The lower you keep your sugar total the more rapid your results will be on all levels – reversing insulin resistance, shedding body fat, taming inflammation, improving joint and skin health and reversing the affects of aging. Cycling your sugar intake is an effective way to go about doing this. Here’s an example:
Day 1: 100 g
Day 2: 80 g
Day 3: 60 g
Day 4: 100 g
Day 5: 80 g
Day 6: 60 g
Day 7: 100 g
The downside to this approach is that you may drive yourself nuts tracking sugar intake and I think it disconnects you from your own innate sense of what is nourishing for your body, however, it’s really effective in the short term for establishing baselines for the future and for detoxing from sugar. This would be the method I would recommend for anyone who is highly motivated to lose body fat rapidly, is obese or is suffering from insulin resistance/pre-diabetes.
Three-part Process to Eliminate Sugar (without counting sugar)
1. Be aware of how often you eat starchy or sugary food. Notice I didn’t say how much you eat. I want you to think about the frequency.
- When do you eat starches/sugars?
- Which meals?
- Do you ever eat a starchy/sugary snack?
Make a note about your weekly frequency.
2. Reduce the amount of sugar you eat by reducing the amount of meals you eat that contain it. If you normally eat starches with dinner five nights a week and three sandwiches with bread at lunch during the week cut it down to two or three nights a week and one sandwich. I think this method is more effective than trying to cut down on the portion size of the starches, but continuing to eat them with the same frequency because with the former approach you’re still spiking your insulin. [Read When You Do Eat Starches below.]
3. Removing sugar will create a vacuum in your weekly diet that will be best filled with a variety of vegetables and more dietary fat, which we covered in Week 3, so that you’re getting a wider spectrum of micronutrients from the vegetables to support better energy levels, longevity and a leaner body composition through improved metabolic function and optimized hormone levels, and giving yourself a source of energy (fat) that doesn’t spike insulin. We’re all creatures of habit, which can be good, but not when you eat the same 10 foods every week. A restricted diet leads to micronutrient and enzyme deficiencies that cause a host of problems; such as weakened immune function, poor digestion and nutrient uptake, that all ultimately result in poor metabolic and hormonal function that can then cause another laundry list of negative side effects. Did you know, for example, that Vitamin D is required for your body to absorb Calcium and that without it you won’t absorb Calcium from food regardless of how much you eat, that Vitamin C is required for proper Iron absorption, or that a Selenium deficiency will block your body’s ability to absorb Vitamin E?
Prepare Your Vegetables a Variety of Ways
The way that you prepare a vegetable will alter which nutrients are more available for digestion and synthesis. We’ll use bell peppers to illustrate this point. Bell peppers are the top source of vitamin C, but vitamin C is easily destroyed by heat, so you’ll get this most C by eating peppers raw (red peppers have highest vitamin C content). However, bell peppers also contain beta-carotene that your body converts to vitamin A. Beta-carotene is fat-soluble, meaning it’s more readily absorbed when consumed with a small amount of fat. Heat further increases its bioavailability. You’ll absorb more vitamin A from bell peppers lightly sautéed in ghee or coconut oil (don’t heat olive oil), therefore, than you would from the raw vegetable. This is just one example. The point we’re trying to drive home is that you want to eat a variety of vegetables prepared a variety of ways.
5 Ways to Get More Vegetable and Berry Variety
- Start dinner with a crudité plate featuring a variety of raw vegetables. It’s always a good idea to start a meal with raw food because they stimulate your body’s natural digestive enzymes to be released in preparation for more complex food like meat and they contain natural digestive enzymes that will assist your body during the digestion and nutrient absorption process.
- Start taking a daily greens powder supplement like the Dr. Schulze Superfood we carry at the gym.
- Eat seasonally!
- Change up your salad ingredients.
- Throw several different veggies you don’t normally eat into a crockpot to make a bone broth. [Foreshadowing for a future week.]
- Get a cold-pressed juicer and start juicing!
When you do eat starches
Increase the quality of the starches you do eat and how they’re prepared. When you do eat starches pair them with fiber and leaner proteins like chicken, fish, bison and very lean cuts of beef. Common starches listed from worst to best:
- Worst...Eat these very rarely if you must - Any kind of processed sugar; candy, pastries, kid cereals, and baked goods.
- Cereal, bread and pasta
- Red and white potatoes
- Sweet potatoes
I know that was a lot to take in. But trust me, this is one of those steps that if mastered, yield “OMG!” results in a very positive way.
If you eliminate bad sugar, properly moderate the amount of quality sugars, increase vegetables and follow the rules above when you do eat starches, you’ll burn fat rapidly, you’ll age more slowly, and you’ll radically reduce inflammation which means your joints will feel better, you’ll recover faster, you’ll protect yourself from chronic disease and your skin will look more vibrant.
There’s a direct correlation between how well you eliminate sugar and how fast you progress.
You’ll get leaner and enjoy a whole other level of energy and wellness as your body truly begins to optimize fuel and nutrients with peak efficiency.