Dr. Abelson’s Essential Nutritional Program – Part 1
Good nutrition is a key factor in any successful rehabilitation, wellness, or performance program. Good dietary practices keep your weight in check, strengthen your immune system, reduce inflammation, speed injury recovery, prevent disease, improve the overall quality of your life, improve sports performance, and can even revitalize your sex life.
When I treat my patients or provide them with exercises, I usually expect to see results within a short period of time. If I don’t see those results, the most common reason (besides the patient missing appointments or not doing their exercises) is often diet. For some reason, patients think they can keep their bodies dehydrated, stuffed full of fast foods, processed junk, and somehow not pay the price.
The good news is that once patients focus on certain key aspects of nutrition, it is very common to see:
- Resolution of chronically non-responsive injuries.
- Blood pressure returning to normal.
- Heart arrhythmias diminish.
- Weight no longer becomes an issue.
- Osteoarthritis come under control.
- Diabetic states (Type II) return to normal, and
- Resolution of a host of other conditions.
Also, what is really incredible, is when I see my patients turn back their biological clocks.
It is wonderful to see patients full of energy and enjoying their lives in a pain-free state. They don’t restrict their lives by the limiting standards that society sets for their age. In contrast, I see individuals in their 5th, 6th and 7th decades doing anything they want, without restrictions. That also means that they often no longer need the blood pressure pills, anti-inflammatory medications, pain killers, or the viagra.
So please take advantage of the information in this blog. In many cases it will make the difference between success, failure, or even decades of improved health.
Now for my standard disclaimer: If you have any type of medical condition, please see your medical doctor for their advice. This blog cannot be used to diagnosis or treat any specific medical condition. That being said, lets start with fuelling our body properly.
You Need Fuel – The Building Blocks
Let your gas tank run dry, your engine run out of oil, or your car’s radiator run out of water, and the outcome is obvious. Yet people somehow think they can eat sporadically, with no regard for the quality of food they consume, without suffering major consequences.
Think about this. Consider what happens if you don’t fuel your body on a regular basis (i.e. skip meals because you are too busy to eat). Your body needs fuel, so in this scenario your body turns to the best source of fuel it can find – your lean muscle mass – not your fat (nature is unjust I know). Thus, your body first goes after those muscles that you have been trying to develop. Consequently instead of getting stronger, healing injuries or losing weight, you end up getting weaker, staying injured and end up storing fat in all the wrong places.
Therefore, you need to fuel you body frequently with all the right building blocks, if you are going to succeed in making those positive changes we all like to see. Specifically, you need to eat 5 or 6 small meals throughout the day (small portions of course). Essentially you need to eat every 2 to 3 hours. This will have several positive effects: it will help balance you blood sugar, accelerate healing, and provide you with the energy you need for exercising. Don’t worry about gaining weight, as mentioned eating more frequently will help to balance your blood sugar levels and you will have tendency to much eat less.
On the other hand if you would like to gain weight, consider what ranchers do to cattle before going to market. Ranchers only feed the cattle a couple of times per day (lots of gains), which leads to considerable weight gain. So if you would like to fatten yourself up for market, two meals a day should work well.
Key point: Skipping meals, not eating breakfast, or going on a low calorie diet causes larger changes in your blood sugar levels, and makes you want to have larger meals or binge eat.
Obviously, our bodies need a regular supply of good quality food. So let’s talk about the three essential building blocks that each meal or snack should contain. These essential building blocks are: complex carbohydrates, proteins, and essential fatty acids
When you eat Carbohydrates they are converted into glucose which is either used immediately or stored in your liver and muscles as glycogen. Your body taps into this glycogen as a source of fuel when needed.
Your brain runs on glucose which is primarily derived from carbohydrates. Except for the process of glucogneogensis. This is where the liver breaks down fat to release energy, the conversion of protein to sugar.
The key to consuming carbohydrates is to eat them in balance with proteins and essential fatty acids. As much as you need carbohydrates we also need to sure not to over indulge in then. Over indulgence, especially in refined carbohydrates, will have several negative effects such as: weight gain, increased inflammation, decreased immune function, even a decrease in cognitive function.
This is especially true in the elderly. A diet to high in refined carbohydrates will often dull the mind. Glucose typically enchances cognitive function, but high levels of simple sugars (refined carbs) disrupts glucose and insulin metabolism. This can lead to mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and have has been linked to states of dementia.
Carbohydrates and muscle development.
Body builders know that protein is a critical element for muscle growth. However, most people do not realize that eating carbohydrates causes the release of insulin, which is an essential factor in making the amino acids derived from proteins available for muscle growth.
Of course the volume and type of carbohydrates you eat is extremely important. You need to be very selective about the types of carbohydrates you consume.
Processed or refined carbohydrates should be avoided at all cost. Refined carbohydrates are easily converted and stored as fat, are devoid of nutrients, and play havoc with your insulin levels.
Carbohydrates and Weight Loss
If you need to lose weight, then fresh vegetables that are low on the glycemic index are your best choice of complex carbs. Also vegetables and nuts that are high in magnesium such as spinach, kale and pumpkin seeds. This will increase a hormone called adiponectin. Adiponectin is involved signalling you body to burn more fat. The higher body fat percentage you have the less of this hormone in your system.
Some of the vegetables I would recommend to help you reduce your weight are:
- Spinach, lettuce, cabbage, kale, collard greens, and leeks.
- Broccoli,swiss card, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, watercress, radishes, rapini, and arugula.
- Artichokes and asparagus.
- Green beans and zucchini.
- Herbs, garlic, onions and leeks.
An important point here – not all vegetables are going to help you lose weight. Starchy vegetables such as corn, potatoes, turnips, parsnips, and beets, if eaten in significant amounts, will help you store fat not lose it.
Here is the problem, these vegetables taste great, but they can cause spikes in your blood sugar, which can then cause the release of excessive amounts of insulin. This increase in insulin makes you very efficient at fat storage, and it makes it almost impossible for you to lose weight.
Carbohydrates to avoid if your goal is weight loss – Any food that can cause a spike in your blood sugar level can make you gain weight.
- The obvious ones: Cakes, pies, candies, donuts, cookies, crackers, muffins, ice cream, chocolate, cereals out of a box, potato chips. Any thing high in refined sugar or corn syrup. Anything that contains corn syrup will spike you blood sugar levels. This is just about anything that comes in a box.
- The not so obvious ones: Orange juice (not freshly squeezed), whole wheat bread (and white bread), salad dressings, low fat baked goods, oatmeal, rice, pastas, canned vegetables.
It not just the carbohydrates that are making you fat. That belly that many people develop comes from the total caloric input. A simple equation – if you eat more than you burn you end up storing it as fat, no matter where the calories come from.
Once the extra weight is gone
If weight is not an issue I would recommend that you eat a balanced diet of low and medium carbohydrates on the glycemic index. This should be a combination of fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains (such as brown rice), and even sweet potatoes. These foods are high in vitamins, minerals and fibre. Please Note: You should still focus on avoiding refined carbohydrates. It’s actually hard to call many of these refined carbs “food”. This is because these packaged substances are so void of nutrients and are related to a plethora of pathological conditions.
One more comment – Acidic Carbs – An interesting thing about refined carbohydrates is that these foods are also very acidic. Research has shown that over a period of time acidic diets can lead to states of disease, dysfunction, and overall poor health. We will acidity and the pH of your diet are we proceed through this blog.
Eat too many refined carbs and you get fat, decrease immune function, inflame your body, slow healing, and dull you mind. Avoid refined carbohydrates and start eating nutrient rich, high fibre complex carbohydrates and you will take a big step in improving your health.
You need good quality protein if you are going to repair your body, increase your muscle mass, synthesize hormones, and produce antibodies and hemoglobin (which is responsible for delivering oxygen to your cells).
Protein is essential – there is no getting around it. If you are not a vegetarian, the best sources of protein are cold water fish. Fish such as wild salmon, herring, mackerel, trout, and tuna are your best choices. If you can, try to eat wild sources of fish due to the increased level of lead, mercury and PCBs in farmed fish.
If you are in the mood for red meat, stick to organic lean cuts. In general, be careful how much red meat you are consuming. If you have an acute injury do NOT eat red meat. This is because red meat contains high levels of aracadonic acid. Aracadonic Acid (A.A.) leads to pro inflammatory reactions which could inhibit your repair processes. I also recommend consuming organic beef since all other types have very high levels of antibiotics.
Chicken can be another great source of protein, but stick to the white meat. Your best choice of chicken would be organic, free range hens. Unfortunately, due to factory farming, most chickens today are full of antibiotics and other hormones.
Organic dairy can also be a good source of protein, but be careful of the high levels of fat and calories in dairy products. Also, diary can have high levels of aracadonic acid, which will increase pro-inflammmatory reactions.
Note: Quite often people will think they are allergic to dairy foods, but what they are really allergic to are the antibiotics in the dairy.
Eggs are also a excellent source of protein. Just be aware that egg yolks are very acidic, and may promote inflammatory reactions. Egg whites are one of your best sources of protein and are easily digested. My recommendation is for you to mix egg whites with one whole egg to reduce possible inflammatory reactions.
For those of you that are vegetarians: tofu, beans, lentils, soy, nuts, seeds, figs, dates, and avocados are great sources of protein.
The key with protein is to balance your protein intake with complex carbohydrates. Too high of a protein intake causes moderate metabolic acidosis. This cause an increased production of the hormone called cortisol (a stress hormone) which promotes visceral obesity (makes you fat around the middle).
Visceral obesity has a considerable impact on insulin function. Even a modest amount of cortisol can cause increased cellular resistance to insulin, which promotes development of type 2 Diabetes.
A little more on Cortisol
Think of the cortisol in your body an a barrier to weight loss This stress hormone is basically a fat burning barrier. The more circulating cortisol in your body the stronger your cravings will be for refined carbohydrates.
Cortisol also has one other nasty effect, it cause your muscles to break down so your body can have access to more energy. This is great if you are trying to get away from an attacking lion, but most people I know do not need this evolutionary adaptation.
Even Worse, the less muscle mass you have the slower your metabolism. Then there is the nasty cyclic nature of cortisol, which work like this. If your cortisol increases you will have an increase in abdominal fat being stored. The more abdominal fat (visceral fat) you have the more cortisol you produce with each stressful situation. With all the weight gain no wonder that high levels of cortisol are related to depression.
Fortunately there are some simple Tai Chi Breathing and Yoga exercises that you can perform that have been shown to reduce high levels of cortisol in your body. These exercises will be part of our blog on stress reduction.
So remember, include protein with every meal, but in balance with complex carbohydrates.
See the following blogs for the rest of Dr. Abelson’s Essential Nutritional Program: