Pasta, potatoes, sodas, and ice cream may have been a part of your diet all your life, but they definitely haven’t been players in the long chain of human history. People developed agriculture about 10,000 years ago, and that was the first time they were able to tend crops.
With the development of crops and farming came major changes to our diet in the form of ingesting large quantities of starches and sugars. Believe it or not, in the millions of years prior to 10,000 years ago, starches and sugars were almost totally absent from our diet. If you look at the span of human history, 10,000 years is the blink of an eye compared to millions of years. In fact, by the time we developed agriculture 10,000 years ago, 99.99% of our current genes were fixed.
What does all this mean? It means you weren’t programmed to eat starches and sugar, and your body still hasn’t evolved to handle it. Your body doesn’t know you’re a 21st century hipster—it still thinks you’re a hunter-gatherer, living on wild game, nuts, and a few berries here and there.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 65% of all adult Americans are overweight, and 27% are obese. When you eat a significant amount of either sugar or starch, it spikes your blood sugar, which prompts your pancreas to release insulin. This is why you feel sleepy and tired in the mid-afternoon after a pasta lunch, or at mid-morning after a breakfast of doughnuts and orange juice (Note: orange juice 100% pure fruit sugar.)
It gets worse. When insulin floods your system, it suppresses the hormones glucagon and growth hormone (gH.) These are the hormones that make you burn fat. See the problem?
What are the warning signs that you’re consuming too much starch or too much sugar?
- Excess weight—you just keep putting on pounds, no matter how hard you try to diet or exercise
- Fatigue and frequent sleepiness—you can’t stay awake all afternoon and you don’t have the energy you used to have
- Depression—things that used to be fun hold no interest for you anymore
- Brain fogginess—you walk into a room and forget what you went in there for, or you just can’t think clearly
- Bloating—you have bags under your eyes and your skin looks puffy
- Low blood sugar—you feel hungry constantly and your friends and co-workers comment that you seem to be very moody
- High blood pressure—your doctor has told you that you have it, or you’ve measured it yourself
- High triglycerides—a blood test has told you this
If you have at least three of these symptoms, you need to start cutting down on starches and sugars. Dr. Loren Cordain is a professor of exercise physiology at Colorado State University in Ft. Collins, Colorado, and is a renowned expert in the area of Paleolithic nutrition. He suggests that we should try to eat less like farmers and more like Paleolithic hunter-gatherers. In an interview with Life Services magazine, he says, “Generally, health begins to be noticeably disrupted when cereal grains provide 70% or more of the daily caloric intake.”
To begin cutting down on starches and sugars, here are a few tips from Gerry Morton, CEO of EnergyFirst:
- Avoid fast food if at all possible. It’s heavy on processed starches, sugars, and saturated fats, and light on vegetables, protein, and fruits.
- If you can’t avoid fast food, choose a chef’s salad or similar (a salad with some meat in it), or one of the new wraps (a tortilla stuffed with meat filling.) Never super-size anything. Avoid fries and shakes.
- When you shop for food, avoid the center of the store where all the starches and sugar products lie (on the inner aisles.) Instead, shop around the perimeter for fresh fruit, vegetables, and meat.
- Seek out recipes that use fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, lean meat and unsaturated fat.
- If possible, buy organic food.
- Be wary of sugar substitutes—they can have side effects. Instead, train your tongue to be satisfied with real fruit.
- Don’t buy juice—it’s concentrated fruit sugar. Eat the whole fruit so that you get the fiber, too.
- If you crave pasta, either eat whole-wheat pasta or make a substitute by slicing up eggplant into matchsticks with a mandolin slicer and sautéing it in some sauce.
- Avoid bread, unless its multi-grain whole-wheat, and even then eat it very sparingly.
- Instead of toast or biscuits for breakfast, have fresh fruit.
Many supplements can help cut cravings for sugar and starches. Find out more at www.energyfirst.com/nutrition-articles.
Gerry Morton, CEO of EnergyFirst, is an experienced athlete who has competed in 28+ marathons and 4 Ironman triathlons. Gerry is an excellent source of information on nutrition, supplementation and exercise. Since 1997, he has been educating and motivating others on how to attain peak performance. For more information, please email Gerry at www.energyfirst.com.