Let’s consider what actually happens in the inner sanctum of your digestive system and how that affects your energy level. There’s no doubt that after a large meal of meat, potatoes, bread, and dessert that you can feel the effects, usually in the form of a need for a nap. That’s when the caffeine and energy drinks are added to the wonderful concoction that’s percolating away in our intestines.
The body uses between 5 and 15% of calories/energy ingested to digest food. Digestion is the most energy consuming function of the body. It takes more energy than running, swimming or bike riding.
The easiest way to keep that energy for your performance and to avoid mid-afternoon crashes is to pay attention to the combinations of food you eat. This is relatively easy to do and it’s one of MY main secrets for staying trim while I’m traveling.
Here’s how it works: Basically, the simpler our meals are, the better the digestion will be so the principles of food combining primarily involve not mixing proteins and starches. So, meat or fish wouldn’t combine with rice, starchy veggies such as potatoes, or breads. These are the combinations that stay in the digestive system for hours as it works to push the food out of the stomach and then down about 30 feet of intestinal tract. A badly combined meal will take up to 40 hours to take that little journey. A typical Christmas dinner takes about 72 hours to digest. Plus, the longer food stays in your body, the more it putrefies because it’s gurgling away at 98.6 degrees and that results in toxic residue. It takes a tremendous amount of energy to deal with all that digestion and elimination.
By contrast, having your meat or fish with vegetables or salad, or your pasta with vegetables or a marinara sauce means that the meal is digested more easily, you expend less energy on digesting and save it for activity or brain power, and you won’t want to take a nap after each meal. The faster a food passes through our system, providing us with adequate nutrition and then exiting, the healthier it is.
Proteins and starches do not mix.
So no, meat sandwiches; pasta and meat balls, California rolls, burger and fries, or bagels and cream cheese.
Proteins do mix with vegetables.
So have a salad to start your meal, then meat or fish with veggies. Grilled fish on a bed of greens. Steak sautéed with spinach.
Starches do mix with vegetables.
That’s vegetable risottos, pasta primavera, baked sweet potato and salad.
Different starches do mix.
That’s rice and beans; black bean taco; bean burrito.
Different proteins do not mix.
Proteins are the hardest foods to digest so the simpler you can keep it, the better. That means digesting them one at a time. Fish appetizer followed by meat main course won’t work. Fish followed by fish or poultry followed by poultry will work.
Fats do not mix well with protein; pair moderately.
A little salad dressing is fine. Cheese on your burger isn’t.
Fats do mix with starches.
That’s license for pasta with oil and garlic, even pumpkin ravioli with sage butter sauce, a little butter on a baked potato. Guacamole or hummus with chips or veggies. Avocado sushi rolls. Bagel with butter.
Fruits should be eaten on an empty stomach.
There’s a reason for this. Fruit has to be allowed to digest first or it ferments on top of previously digested food, leading to indigestion. Fruit at the end of a meal is not a good idea for this very reason. You really need to have a couple of hours before eating it after other foods. Best to eat it first. Eat your fruit and then wait 20 minutes before eating anything else.
Melon should always be eaten on its own, not even with other fruit. That’s the only way it digests.
Fruit does mix with raw greens (except melons)
So, a salad with grilled peaches, or berries in salad are fine. Green smoothies are a great combination. Different fruits with a bit of kale or spinach thrown in are a great way to start your day and you don’t taste the greens.
You might think this sounds draconian but it’s not. These are guidelines. Play with them and experiment with your diet. See how you feel afterwards. Maybe you only do this at breakfast and lunch so you can have more energy during the day. Maybe you do it at night so you can sleep better. The liver is the body’s janitor and it works from around 10 PM until 2 PM onwards. The more help you can give it the better.
What about coffee? If you follow these tips, you won’t need a ton of coffee to keep you going. Introduce one of these tips at a time and ask yourself if you really need a cup mid-afternoon or is it just force of habit? Please don’t drink it before bed. A cup of hot water with juice of a lemon will help your liver start its night time routine.