Is What You’re Eating Killing Your Performance?
The more I read about athletic performance and work with athletes as well as Type-A personality business men and women, the more I realize good nutrition is vital physical performance and mental performance. Both your body AND your brain need to be in the game, literally. Even if your game is business. Unfortunately, good nutrition is quite hard to get in this country. You can’t depend on the government for nutritional advice and there are so many opinions and philosophies out there that it’s difficult to make sense of it all.
The more I read about good nutrition, the more I realize your health depends on the health of the food you eat. The more I read and the more I train for triathlon the better feel and perform when getting back to a human’s basic diet.
You spend all this time training then resting (the rest cycle is just as important as the exercise. Exercise targets specific muscle groups for improved performance, but those performance gains and strength occur during the rest phase that follows the exercise…..don’t forget to get appropriate rest!!). Each time you go out there you want to exceed your previous performance. But what if the food you’re eating is killing your performance?
I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately and questioning what I (think I) know is healthy and have been quite intrigued by the answers I’ve come up with. The most common answer is typically “it depends”
Is Salmon healthy? Yes and No. It Depends.
If you’re talking about Wild salmon, the answers is yes, it’s definitely healthy. It has spent it’s life living in its natural environment, eating its natural diet which give you all the nutritional benefits you’ve come to expect when you sit down to eat salmon.
But, it you’re talking about farm raised salmon the answer is no.
Why? Because the farm raised salmon is in a confined environment (which means it lives in a high stress environment without being able to exercise as it swims thousands of miles throughout its life. The Salmon lives in a chemically toxic water (would you want to dine where you and your room mates urinate or defecate?). The farmed salmon is fed a grain diet, sometimes supplemented with fish or fish flakes, much different than the natural diet of a wild salmon.
Why is everyone Wild about salmon anyway? Simply put.... It's The Omega-3 Fish Oils. The DHA and EPA our physiology needs. Salmon are naturally carnivores. They eat mackerel, sardines, herring, krill, shrimp and other fish. When they eat their natural diet, they are chock full of those very healthful Omega-3s. As Jonny Bowden, PhD puts it in his book: The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth, wild salmon is the “Best Source of Omega-3s on the Planet”
Omega-3 oils are natural anti-inflammatory Cox-2 inhibitors (like some of the anti-inflammatory medicines your medical physician would prescribe). Now you should also know that Wild Salmon also contains Omega-6s. A very low dose dosage when compared to Omega-3s. Hence, there is a natural balance of the anti-inflammatory Omega-3s to the pro-inflammatory Omega-6s. Suffice it to say there are much more Omega-3s in Wild Salmon than Omega-6s, which means, it’s good for you. Very good. It helps increase brain performance, fights inflammation as it occurs and as a result, helps you heal and recovery from training and from injuries.
BUT…That’s NOT true in farm raised salmon.
Not only is it not true, it’s the opposite.
There are much more Omega-6s in farmed salmon than omega 3s. So, not only is farm raised salmon not good for you, it’s actually unhealthy for you.
Sorry sushi lovers, most of your salmon is farmed. Not wild. But you’ll have to ask the sushi chef or restaurant owner to know for sure.
So, if you’re trying to perform your best, recover from your last workout or prevent your next heart attack and stroke, farm raised salmon isn’t helping even a “wee” bit. It’s probably actually hurting you.
I stopped eating beef 14 1/2 years ago because of the Mad Cow scare going on. And, it wasn't from Oprah's show of that year, it was a news magazine story that I saw and it just didn't sit well with me. Too much of my food was coming from people simply trying to make a buck and not caring how they made it. Cow farmers grinding up dead diseased cows and mixing them back into their vegetarian feed just didn't make sense to me. Forget the fact they were diseased, a cow is a vegan and a mono-crop vegan at that!. They only eat the flowering tops of grass. What what conventional farmer are doing is plain wrong!
Turns out I was right. Not only do most of our beef cattle today not eat their natural food (grass), they are fed a diet of genetically modified corn (which is 100% of the corn on the commercial market today including the stuff YOU eat), but it's mixed with soy, sorghum and other stuff (stuff being animal byproducts) as well. I’ve been in some pretty fancy restaurants where the menu proclaims “100% corn fed”. To that I say, so freaking what! Corn isn't a cow's natural diet, grass is!! Therefore the wonderfully marbleized meat produced corn-fed cattle is pure crap. They should be grazing in a field getting fat over the course of 4-5 years. Instead, they feed them corn and they get fat in 16-18 months. So, with some rare logical thinking, I hit the nail on the head with my reasoning.
Do you want to eat beef? There really are some wonderful health benefits to 100% Natural Grass Fed Grazing Beef. Did you know this kind of beef actually has quite a lot of beneficial Omega-3s??? Just like wild salmon, grass fed beef contains a good amount of DHA and EPA Omega-3 as well. When you cook the beef, some of the saturated fat turns into CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), another healthy fat that has been shown to get rid of your belly. Additionaly, CLA has been shown in some studies to combat cancer at all 4 stages... BUT THOSE HEATLHFUL BENEFITS AREN'T IN the mass produced cows that you find represented at your favorite steak house or in your local grocery store. So, buyer beware (If you want to know more about how your food goes from the farm/field to your plate, read The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan). Although to find it, you'll have to go to a Whole Foods or find a 100% Natural Organic cattle farm (which you can find on the internet). Remember, 100% is the key. Not just organic, not just natural. (You can thank your government for screwing up the terms natural and organic to where you have to now look for "100%" grassfed)
Remember the phrase: “You Are What You Eat” ??? You’ve probably heard it growing up and a few times since… But, I’m gonna change that phrase for you (you can thank me later) because it’s not nearly complete. It should be: You are What THEY Eat.
Because what your food eats, drinks and absorbs, makes a HUGE difference in your health. Here’s the question you need to ask……Is your food eating it’s natural diet?
Not is it eating “A” natural diet….is your food eating “IT’S” natural diet.
If you remember nothing else about nutrition or health, remember that. Your health, your athletic performance depends on the health of the food that your food eats. Over millions of years, we’ve evolved as part of a food chain. Luckily we’re on the top of that chain (except for the occasional surfer or SCUBA diver). So logic tells you when you mess with the food chain and try to circumvent it, you mess with your health.
If you continue to eat a diet that’s not native for the species you're eating, not only will your performance suffer, but eventually, disease will follow. Ad grains, sugar, BPA and other toxins that make their way into your foods and now you get an idea of what your health is up against..
Bottom Line: Your health and your performance depends on the food that your food eats.
Dr. Narson is a 2-term past president of the Florida Chiropractic Association’s Council on Sports Injuries, Physical Fitness & Rehabilitation and was honored as the recipient of the coveted Chiropractic Sports Physician of the Year Award in 1999-2000. He practices in Miami Beach, Florida at the Miami Beach Family & Sports Chiropractic Center; A Facility for Natural Sports Medicine.