Keeping Energy High as an Active Person

Column by John Parrillo from Parrillo Performance.

Question: I’m an active person who works out, either aerobically or with weights, about six times a week. My problem is that I always feel like I’m out of energy. What can I do to keep energy levels high without gaining body fat?

How do you get health and vitality? In a word, calories. You’ve got to eat more of the right kinds of foods to build health. Unfortunately, some people still think that “less is more;” that is, the fewer calories they eat the more body fat they’ll lose. They start subsisting on diets in the 600 to 1000 calories range, most often while trying to follow rigorous aerobics and weight training schedules. These sub-calorie regimens don’t provide enough food to fuel their energy requirements. Their bodies go into a breakdown mode, in which muscle tissue (including heart muscle tissue) is lost. Not only that, vital nutrients are pulled from tissues to fuel the body, depleting nutritional reservoirs.

The consequence is exactly the opposite of what is desired: poor health, sickness, injury. Sub-calorie diets also slow the metabolism, the body’s food-to-fuel process, making it easier for the body to store fat. Nor can muscle be built if the metabolism isn’t running up to speed. The answer to getting lean, muscular, and healthy is increasing calories. On the Parrillo Performance Nutrition Program, you gradually increase calories to lose body fat and gain muscle. Depending on your sex, size, activity level and present metabolic state, you eat between 2,000 and 10,000 a day, sometimes more. When people first hear that my Nutrition Program allows up to 10,000 calories a day or more, they are amazed. But not all of those calories come from food. A certain proportion comes from nutritional supplements.

If you’re eating 10,000 calories a day, for example, about 4,000 of those calories are usually obtained from food supplements such as medium chain fatty acids like CapTri® and from protein and carbohydrate supplements like Hi-Protein PowderTM and Pro-CarbTM. Nutritional supplements play a key role in metabolism and nutrition. Used in conjunction with the proper foods, they assist in decreasing body fat supporting muscle growth, extending endurance and promoting better recovery and repair after training. Food selection is critical. My program includes lean proteins (fish, white meat poultry, and egg whites), starchy carbohydrates (potatoes, yams, brown rice, legumes and whole grain cereals) and fibrous carbohydrates (salad vegetables, green beans, cauliflower, broccoli and others).

Each meal should be structured to include a lean protein or two starchy carbohydrates and one or two fibrous carbohydrates. This combination of foods has two important benefits: First, the protein and fiber slow theHealthy Starchy Carbsdigestion of carbohydrates – and consequently the release of glucose – to provide consistent energy levels and sustained endurance throughout the day. Second, this combination provides a constant supply of nutrients so that your body can maintain its energy, growth and repair status. Also, you should eat five to six meals a day or more, spaced two to three hours apart. This pattern of eating is metabolically beneficial – for three reasons. First, it helps naturally elevate your body’s level of insulin, a hormone with powerful anabolic (growth-producing) effects. One of its chief roles in the body is to make amino acids available to muscle tissue for growth and recovery. Insulin’s release is triggered by the conversion of carbohydrate into glucose by the liver.

When glucose is introduced into the bloodstream, the pancreas releases insulin in response. For growth to occur, insulin must be constantly present in the body so that amino acids and glucose can move into the muscle tissue. Following a meal, amino acids remain available for protein synthesis for only about three hours. By eating meals of protein and carbohydrate two to three hours apart, you assure that your system is releasing adequate amounts of insulin, which, in turn, can exert its growth-producing action. The second reason frequent meals are beneficial involves “thermogenesis” – the production of body heat from the burning of food for energy. Following a meal your metabolic rate is elevated as a result of thermogenesis. Consequently, the more meals you eat, the higher your metabolic rate stays throughout the day. Third, with a constant nutrient supply, you are never forced into a “starvation mode,” a state induced by repeated cycles of low-calorie dieting in which the body prepares itself for famine. Because meals are coming at shorter, regular intervals, your body learns to process food more efficiently, and your metabolism is accelerated as a result.

John Parrillo
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