I’ve been working in IT organizations for the past 13 years.  I’ve seen program code become apps, and web sites come alive, thanks to the brain power of software developers and user experience designers.  If you think they—and others working in cubicles and conference rooms—are so cool, would you not think for a moment about what keeps them going?

With many convenience stores located near office buildings, chances are, it’s not surprising to find on the tables of our country’s bright minds salty chips, sodas, bottled green tea, candy bars, more salty chips, instant coffee, and drinks claiming to make you fit or give you energy boosts.  Good ideas are born from such processed confections composed of salts, oils, sugars and other substances.  Thus, so many have been lead to believe.  Go on.  A fresh college graduate carving a niche in the big district, might just as well be carving a niche made of Romblon marble 30 years later—if he’s lucky.

Power Eating author in Manila

Nutritionist Dr. Susan Kleiner, author of the book Power Eating, was in Manila last February to talk about how we—and even professional athletes—eat.  She also touched on the topic of supplementation.

Eat For Fuel, Fuel Your Life
In her EDSA Shangri-la lecture on Power Eating (care of Healthy Options), Dr. Kleiner talked about how food can improve--or destroy--your performance at work and play.  Mood and food are revealed to be close bedfellows.
She recalled having an injured NBA player for a patient.  He was great on the hard court.  Was, since his injury lingered longer than expected.  He must have strained his shoulder hard enough that it threatened his basketball career.  The pain relievers, anti-inflammatories, ice and rest aren’t working.  It seemed early retirement was inevitable.

After certain physicians failed to make headway from the physiological angle, Dr. Kleiner then turned to the dietary angle.  Based on her theory that healthy muscles are made by right eating, then unwell muscles could be caused by wrong eating.  She tracked the player’s diet in a given period.  What she found out wasn’t surprising: a diet of fast food and processed meats, hardly any fruits or vegetables, and not as much water that his hard-working body needs.

Cutting her long story short so I can help myself further to EDSA Shangri-la’s hors d’ouers, she changed that player’s diet to one that is balanced and natural, and tempered by sufficient hydration.  It worked!  The sound of a locker room door shutting for the last time will have to wait longer, and his chances of wearing a championship ring just got higher.

Fuel for body and mind

The story above is all too physical, don’t you think?  What does it have to do with brain people huddled in their cubicles in our country’s premiere business districts?  Everything!

Muscles are made of cells: the building blocks of earthly life.  Brain and nerves are also made of cells.  While they do differ in composition, both cell types have the same parts and count on the same basic nutrients like protein and the right amounts of fat and salts.  Water is all too essential.

Brain cells (and nerves) are [sufficiently] fatty, dependent on just the right amount of salt for electrolytes, and made whole by protein.  The unique combination of fat, salts, protein, and—of course—water is what makes our brains the natural electrical computer that it is.

Tell me if you’re not yet nose-bleeding and I’ll tell you to read on, because if you’re one of those office persons, you need to know what’s coming.

Vicious pleasure-eating cycle

Young professionals who got themselves to believe that they need “feel good” foods to feel inspired are not wrong.  But their hedonistic definition of “feel good” foods is what’s faulty.

When our hunger and thirst are sated, we don’t feel disturbed by the natural nagging of our brain and digestive system to eat and drink.  Our attention at work is therefore undivided.  Our bodies—and brains—will go on doing the things we love doing, increasing productivity, creativity and concentration.  You’ll feel like you’re conditioned for a full marathon, or feel like you can beat the chess program that beat Garry Kasparov.

Eat For Fuel, Fuel Your Life
Your energy (with creativity, productivity and concentration) as a roller-coaster function of your eight- to nine-hour work day.  Weeee!!!
The opposite happens when we are hungry and thirsty—really hungry and really thirsty.  Even if you eat all the chips and drink all the sodas or caffeinated drinks within reach, you’ll still be hungry.  There’s a difference between feeling hungry and being hungry.

It begins when you grab those chips and coffee.  Chips are processed with fats and salts, some of those are unnatural ones.  They do have carbohydrates (mostly simple), but only in small amounts per gram of serving.  Those carbs are not the same as that of rice, oats or pasta—real and long-lasting carbs per serving.  Salts will retain excess water, and it threatens to increase your blood pressure significantly, which may cause headaches.  Fats have a tendency to thicken the walls of your blood vessels; the worst of it leads to calcification which could lead to heart disease.  In the short term, they cause headaches too.  Excess water, fats and salts increase your blood pressure, heart rate, body weight and the effort it takes to climb even to the second or third floors.  It makes even the usual chores that once seemed light heavy.

Eat For Fuel, Fuel Your Life
There is a Cornholio waiting in everyone.  All it takes is a mug of very strong coffee.  You have been warned.
Coffee and sugars give natural highs, but not at natural times.  At the onset, you will feel alert because sugars are simple carbohydrates that give an immediate boost of energy.  Caffeine in coffee and energy drinks boost metabolism, meaning everything your body does, it now does faster.  But these can work to one’s advantage temporarily, like in a short span of time.  When everything courses through your body fast, the natural high also ebbs as fast as it rises.

When you feel low again, you’ll repeat the whole coffee-and-chips cycle.  The demands of cognitive and creative work will cause you to depend on this routine almost instinctively.  Then you become high-maintenance.  The good news is, you’ll give employment to the healthcare industry.  The bad news is, the good news is not for you.

It gets worse: I recalled some magazine for call center workers ill-advising its readers to sparingly try the “coffee-Cobra®” mix to stay awake and “get ‘em irate callers!

Eat For Fuel, Fuel Your Life
I forgot the name of that call center magazine, but I think the Bureau of Food and Drug Administration (BFAD) ought to know.  Contrary to what we normally see in TV ads, most dedicated triathletes don't drink Cobra® energy drink. (Pikachu/Pokemon from Cartoon Network)
Fuel your life

Remember my last post on proteins (and how it also improves mood)?  Remember that and add more fresh plant matter and water to complete your healthy diet.  Go for complex carbs like brown rice, oats, wheat bread and pasta; they also have more protein in every grain.  Consume everything in moderation, except water.  Munch on fruits and nuts.

Remember that in the beginning of human history, our forefathers foraged and hunted only for what they needed.  When they have had their fill, they stopped eating.  They stopped hunting and gathering too, but they turned their energies toward something else like painting on walls, crafting tools, organizing religion and building communities.

Weren’t we intellectually creative and physically strong with only so little back in 1,000,000 B.C.?  Whatever you’re doing right now, and before your next visit to a convenience store, think: don’t undo one million years of human betterment.  Eat right!  That alone is rewarding by itself.
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