The Big Health Problem
Want to achieve all of your greatness? Your Body is the only vehicle we have to take us through life. If we want to achieve all of our ambitions and goals such as, sports, hiking, traveling, good at school, and be happy it is going to require a lot of energy and effort. We won’t have enough effort if we don’t take good care of our bodies. The amount of life-hours that are lost due to this is always overlooked because it’s so hard to track or create a metric for. The big health problem is simply that health has been on the decline for many years. Per the CDC, obesity rates have gone up by about 30 percent in ten years.
This equates to 4.7 million preventable deaths per year. This is more than car accidents, guns, smoking, cancer and yet it doesn’t get mentioned or taught with the priority that it should. That represents lost time, happiness, energy, and more money than any computer or car can cost. What a better world we would live in if everyone had the power to output more of whatever their greatness is.
The big question on everybody’s mind is why is this happening? I found out the answer isn’t exactly simple. It’s a perfect storm of dangerous chemicals, mis-information, and money. Companies who make the food want their food to sit on the shelves for a longer period of time so they replace good nutritious ingredients with fillers and preservatives. These preservatives are often harmful chemicals that increase shelf life and likewise end up making the company more money. Food is similar to gas you put in your gas tank for your car. You need the correct technical specifications in terms of quantity and quality food. In this essay, we’re going to cover:
Quantity of Food = Calories In / Out
Quality of the food
Calories in / out
Calories are the amount of energy we put into our bodies through food. If we put too much energy into our bodies, it can become stored as fat and too little energy into our bodies and we won’t have enough energy to do basic tasks. The number of calories a food has can always be found on the nutrition label located somewhere on the packaging. There are also calorie tracking apps where you can scan the store barcode from the food label and it will calculate the number of calories while also keeping track of your macronutrients (Grams of Fat, Protein, and Carbohydrates) for you. The baseline number of calories is 2000 calories per day to achieve normal everyday activities prior to exercise. WebMD recommends the following guidelines to achieve weight loss or muscle gain:
Weight Loss - Calorie deficit of 500 calories
Build Muscle - Calorie Surplus of 500 calories
So that means that weight loss can be achieved by maintaining 3 X 500 calorie meals with zero exercise. With exercise the calorie deficit needs to move with the number of calories someone burns during exercise. If someone burns 500 calories during exercise that means that their total calorie burn for that day would be 2,500 and likewise can eat 2000 calories and still maintain a 500 calorie deficit.
Quality of the food
Once we understand the amount of food that needs to be consumed to achieve different health goals, we also need to specify the quality of the food that matters too. The very first one is nutrients. Nutrients are substances that provide nourishment required for growth and muscle development. The most nutrient dense foods on the planet per Health Line were:
Chia and Flax Seeds
This list of foods will help you have the energy for daily functions as well as exercise.
With regards to the quality of food we went right to the source. Dr. Josh Axe is a nutritionist for the U.S. Olympic team and some of his clients have included Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte. Michael Phelps has been a renowned as one of the best swimmers and has gone down in history as the most decorated olympian of all time. Dr. Axe mentioned that it’s an 80/20 rule. 80% of your well being is the quality of the food that you put into your body and 20% is exercise. Exercise breaks down the muscles and then the quality of the food that you eat rebuilds the muscles while you sleep.
Dr. Axe points out in a few of his articles that food doesn’t need to be unhealthy and there are healthy alternatives to some of the food that is bad for you. The most common ingredients to look for on the ingredients label are:
Aspartame - This is 180 times sweeter than sugar. Ingestion reports include dizziness, headaches, and memory loss. Some studies from Harvard Medical School also linked it to cancer, obesity / weight gain, and over eating.
Saccharin - This is 300 times sweeter than sugar. This was also linked to cancer, obesity and overeating.
Sucralose - (splenda) This is 600 times sweeter than sugar, this was originally discovered as part of a new insecticide compound. This is made of chemicals that have been linked to cancer and weight gain. Unfortunately this is chemical exists in a lot of items at the grocery store from energy drinks, to soda, to some candy, workout supplements, among many others.
Sugar - Refined sugar is actually toxic. This gets converted to glucose in your blood stream almost immediately and plays a major role in weight gain.
Dextrose - This is a fancy term for a simple sugar that is chemically identical to glucose. This was simply a net new name for companies to put on their ingredient labels to hide that their product contained sugar.
Dr. Axe mentioned that a good rule of thumb is if you look at the ingredient list, if it’s a chemical you can’t pronounce, it’s probably not good for you. The other thing that I thought was pretty neat was he mentioned to try to stay around the outside lane in the grocery store. Typically the food along the outside wall will require refrigeration, watering, and that’s where you’ll find the real fruit and vegetables. The food on the inner aisle’s are where your will find more fillers and harmful preservatives.
So what are the healthy alternatives? How do we cook at home to avoid not potentially going down the wrong path? Here are a list of very simple things we can do to swap out the bad sweeteners for the good.
Xylitol - This is a natural sugar found in fruits and vegetables. Companies will packetize this as white crystalline grains to match the feel and taste of sugar. This one is particularly interesting because it is a 1 for 1 replacement to sugar in recipes. I think it tastes better than sugar and is a natural sweetener that stabilizes blood sugar levels, promotes good health and is actually good for your teeth. I actually found Xylitol tooth paste.
Stevia - This sweetener comes from a stevia leaf and the body doesn’t metabolize the glycosides so there is no caloric intake or negative affect on the body. It has zero effect on blood glucose levels. This sweetener is 1.5 times sweeter than sugar so you’ll have to do a little bit of unwanted math when converting recipes. There are also many different vendors of stevia. One complaint that I saw a lot was that there was a bad after taste. However, one blog suggested to try a few different organic stevia vendors before you make a final decision. Some vendors seem to have a good sweetener with zero aftertaste.
Raw Honey - This is super healthy for you. This product surprisingly never goes bad which makes me wonder why more companies don’t use it as a sweetener to a lot of their products. This also helps repair and rebuild your digestive tract.
Coconut Nectar - This contains 17 amino acids and minerals. This will help you build muscle and burn fat.
Maple Syrup - Grade A or B maple syrup promotes good heart health and will help you work out longer.
Per Harvard Medical School, inactivity is worse for you than smoking. It can have negative side effects. They stated that at this point it should be considered a major national health problem. The baseline should be to shoot for 10,000 steps. The reason the 10,000 steps baseline workout began is because this is the minimal amount of exercise to release important chemicals that help brain function, make the body feel good, relieve stress, give you more energy, give you more focus, and also can help fight depression. This helps get you to a baseline fitness level that allows you to gain the majority of the benefits of exercise.
To gain all the benefits of exercise, we have to go above that. Regardless of the type of exercise, the performance of the workout is measured in heart zones. There are a few different versions of heart zones but the most typical has 5 heart zones. Everybody’s heart rate zones are slightly different and to be super specific would require a special endurance test. The easier and more generic way to calculate your heart zones is if you subtract your age from 220 and make that number your max heart rate.
For example: If you were 20 years old.
220 - 20 = 200 (max heart rate)
Here is a list of what the workout zones would look like:
Zone 1 - 50-60% of your max heart rate (Warm Up)
Benefits: Reduce stress and beginning of aerobic training
Zone 2 - 60-70% of your max heart rate (Easy / Could Go All Day Having A Conversation with a friend pace)
Benefits: Basic cardiovascular training. Helps build aerobic base. Also good for recovery.
Zone 3 - 70-80% of your max heart rate (Aerobic / A little hard to hold a conversation
Benefits: Improved cardiovascular capacity. Optimal cardiovascular training.
Zone 4 - 80-90% of your max heart rate (Threshold / could hold for 60 minutes but it would be uncomfortable)
Benefits: Improves threshold capacity and improved speed
Zone 5 - 90-100% of your max heart rate (Maximum /
Benefits: anaerobic and muscular power increase
The general rule of thumb is to try to spend 80% of your workout time in zone 2 and zone 3. The other 20% of your workout time in Zone 4 and Zone 5 to perform your best.
Exercise breaks down the muscle and then the food that we eat helps rebuild the muscle while we sleep. Making sure you’re getting enough sleep every night is more important than the type of food and type of workout. Sleep is the swiss army knife of health. Without sleep, our bodies won’t be able to process the food or rebuild from the workout we did the day prior. Good sleep also helps the mind convert information from short term memory to long term memory in the brain. It also plays a role in making sure your immune system stays in tact so that you don’t get sick. There is no substitute for it either. We can’t deprive ourselves of good sleep and then try to nap to make it up. Not prioritizing sleep is critically important. Everyone’s sleep cycles are different but in general we should be trying to shoot for 7-9 hours of sleep per night. There are four different sleep cycles and depending on the person they go through each cycle every 1.5 - 2 hours.
The difference sleep cycles are:
Rapid Eye Movement or REM (22%)
Deep Sleep (23%)
There are many products out on the market today that measure your sleep from fitbit, garmin or apple watches, Whoop wristbands, to apps you can download on your phone. These will help to make sure that you’re getting the right sleep in the correct amounts.
In Matt Walker’s TED talk “Sleep Is Your Super Power” he mentions the following to help increase sleep
Temperature - your body cools down during sleep and if the room is too warm, it will affect your sleep. Everyone’s body and house is different but start at 65 degrees and try going slightly cooler or slightly warmer based on preference.
Essential Oils: Eucalyptus, Lavender, Bergamot or Frankincense all will help you sleep. You can use an oil diffuser, apply to your skin, or spray a few drops on a pillow case.
Avoid Blue Light - Try to not look at your phone, computer screen or TV at least 20 minutes before going to bed. Some professional athletes say they don’t use anything 1-2 hours before going to bed. Play a board game, or cards, or you can also buy blue light glasses that protect your eyes from harmful blue light waves.
Regularity is king - Try to go to bed at the same time everyday to train your body to get into a rhythm.
Avoid Alcohol and Caffeine - Try to not consume caffeine in the afternoon and try to avoid alcohol all together. Alcohol stops all fitness recovery and can interfere with chemicals involved in regulating sleep cycles.
Darkness - Darkness triggers chemicals that help you fall asleep
Walk it out - Don’t stay in bed for long periods of time. If it’s been 25 minutes or so. Get up and do something different. Only return to bed when your sleepy.
Wind down routine - Try using a wind down routine. Sleep is similar to landing a plane. It takes time for your brain to make the landing. Dis-engage from the world for a second.
The Dalai Lama had a great quote when he was asked what surprised him most about humanity and he answered, “Man! Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices his money to recuperate his health, and then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present, the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die and then dies having never really lived.”
CDC Website on obesity
The Real Food Diet
By: Dr. Josh Axe
Super Food, Super You
By: Dr. Josh Axe
Article: Calorie Deficit: What To Know
By: Dr. Paul Frysh
Date Published: May 07th 2021
Article: Exercise and Depression
By: Dr. Debra Fulghum Bruce
Date Published: April 01 2022
Harvard Medical School
Article: Physical inactivity as damaging to health as smoking
By: Dr. Mikaela Conley
Publish Date: July 17, 2012
Article: How are Heart Rate Zones Used
By: Various Garmin employees
Dalai Lama XIV
Article: The 11 Most Nutrient Dense Foods
10,000 Steps everyday -
Sleep Is Your Super Power
How much sleep do we need
Date: Dec. 1 2021