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Raw Foods that Increase Athletic Performance, By Tri-athlete Brendan Brazier
Kevin: Bren, I want to talk about a lot of things today, but first let’s start with some background on you.
Brendan: of course. I actually got into nutrition and just trying to get peak performance through nutrition when I was about 15 years old. It was all I was interested in when I was 15. I started doing athletics and that’s when I knew I wanted to try and become a professional athlete. I really enjoyed running, I enjoyed swimming, cycling and all that stuff. I realized soon into the game that I was obviously going to have to train a lot. I got some training programs for elite athletes and then I also looked at some training programs for average athletes. What really surprised me is that they are almost indistinguishable.
And then of course I wonder, well, why are some athletes big? And I realized that it has to do with recovery, because the faster you can recover, the faster you get better. I have found that 80% of recovery has to do with diet. This is what made me go down this path.
Kevin: Wow! So what are the things we need to do to recover, even if someone is training light or heavy, to get into peak shape and continue to perform at their highest level?
Brendan: Well, one of the big things is high-quality food immediately after exercise, because really exercise is just a form of stress. You break down your body tissue, muscles and cells and ligaments and tendons and if you don’t give yourself good food to rebuild that, then your body doesn’t have
choices than taking the food you give it and building new body tissue.
Eating high quality, good raw plant foods right after your workout will be the best way to stay strong, improve quickly as an athlete, and stay healthy.
Kevin: So at the end of the races, you go to so many things and you see people eating jelly donuts and pizza and all that junk food. What does it do and what are the best foods for people to eat after a race for recovery?
Brendan: Yeah, it’s funny. One thing that seems to be common is that after a workout or a race, people think it’s okay to eat junk food. They think to themselves, “Well, I exercised today.” But in reality, this is the worst time to eat junk food.
So, for recovery, I started making smoothies, of course in liquid form, so they really speed up digestion. So, I would make my smoothie, I’ll use ham protein, vegetables, flax and nuts and then I actually started to evolve over the years. It got really good and really healthy, and then I developed it as a product. It came out a few years ago, but it’s something that was born 15 years ago.
Kevin: Did you notice a difference in your recovery time and results when you started eating some of these different foods?
Brendan: Definitely yes. It was very noticeable. You know, one of the things that I find interesting about a lot of people now is that they expect things to be immediate. And we’re in such a sugar culture, and you know, if you drink a cup of coffee, you immediately feel the energy. And healthy food is not like that. They are not stimulants; they are nutritious, so you don’t feel the energy right away.
But over time, about six to eight weeks, if you clean up your diet, you’ll really start to feel better, and I just encourage people to stick with it.
Kevin: Well, when you exercise, you put a lot of stress on your body and deplete muscle glycogen. What is the relationship between the muscle glycogen it replaces and the sugars? And why isn’t that necessarily the best thing?
Brandon: Well, you definitely want to avoid any type of refined sugar. Like white flour, for example, it takes a lot of energy to break down and digest because your body has to build digestive enzymes to break it down and a healthy body can do it, but it takes work.
So if you use all that energy to try to get energy, the amount of energy you have left is very small. I used to be under the impression, like most people, that if you eat more calories you will
they have more energy and it seems logical. But I was getting really tired and I was eating a plant-based diet and I was also eating peanut butter and bread and things that were very high in calories but very
low nutritional value. And the body had to work so hard to digest these things.
So when I switched to more raw food, lots of leafy green vegetables, lots of fruit, getting carbs from fruit as opposed to grains, I noticed a big difference and that was a big point for me.
I think the whole calorie thing is so wrong and it just doesn’t take into account what the source of the calorie is and how hard your body has to work to digest and assimilate it.
Kevin: yes What kind of fruit did you eat and did you think was the best?
Brendan: Almost any fruit works for me, usually banana and smoothies, dates and berries. I try to eat and combine them as much as possible, so I will eat a lot of local berries. I really like grapefruit. I like apples, oranges. I also like some tropical fruit – mango, papaya, dates. Dates are an excellent source of quick energy.
Kevin: of course.
Brendan: Really good during long races just for a date or even to make an energy gel. I’m sure people – a lot of people are familiar with energy gels that you can take during a long run. And there are a lot of them, all the commercial ones as far as I know are really highly processed and not that healthy, but they are very easy to make yourself and I have a recipe for them in my book. You just take agave nectar, some dates, mix them with a little lemon and lime juice, grate the lemon and lime, mix it with a little sea salt and it’s a great gel. You just put it in a gel bottle and it’s a high energy that will keep you going throughout the race. It tastes good. It is refreshing and is a
really simple solution, of course, 100% raw and natural final process.
Kevin: This is unbelievable. When you’re working out for even 40 minutes or maybe even longer, two hours, six hours, what are some of the nutrients that get depleted and what specific things can you take to replenish them?
Brendan: Well, the body burns carbohydrates as its first choice for fuel. That’s why you need to make sure you’re getting enough carbohydrates. When many people think of carbohydrates, they think of starchy foods like pasta, rice, and bread. I hardly eat complex carbohydrates. I get almost all of my carbohydrates from fruit, which is a simple carbohydrate and the advantage of this is that the body cannot use complex carbohydrates without first converting them into simple carbohydrates, into sugar. So one less step for your body.
And one of the other things that are good for quality carbs are pseudo-grains. Pseudograins are technically seeds. So quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat and wild rice are all seeds…
You can make really simple snacks out of them, even just sprouted quinoa with some avocado with lemon juice and some sea salt, just a really simple flavor that’s really good.
Kevin: You touched on protein there, and I think a lot of people think they have to really overdo the protein. And what does it do to the body and why might it not be the best thing?
Brendan: Yes, excess protein is very common. These are poor quality proteins that many people eat and drink. Whey protein is very well marketed and is a staple for many athletes. This is sad. It’s incredibly acid forming, so to keep the blood neutral for survival, the body will pull calcium from the bones, and calcium is very alkaline. So over a decade or two, this results in weaker bones and is bad for the immune system. It causes inflammation and
something I recently learned was that osteoporosis is now much more likely to develop in North America, and it’s happening to people younger and younger in life.
And it was originally thought that this was because our diet did not contain enough calcium. But as it turns out, that’s not the case. Eating too many acid-forming processed foods removes calcium from the body. And if you would just eat more leafy green vegetables, more raw foods, basically less processed foods, the more alkaline it will be.
Kevin: When you talk about acid build-up in the body. Let’s talk about it in a day. Someone wakes up in the morning. They drink a couple of coffees. They exercise. After that they have a whey protein shake. Acidity is happening in their body, I think how
is the pH actually low?
Brendan: Yes, it is critical. It turns people into very, very sick people and it has become a very serious problem. You also touched on coffee, which I find very interesting. When I researched this, I realized that stress is the root cause of almost all problems, and that minor problems that are the first signs of stress are red flags. We really, really need to focus on the symptoms and not try to suppress and treat them, but really open up to them and know how to actually get to the root cause of any problem.
For example, when your body is under stress, the stress response affects the adrenal glands and cortisol, the stress hormone, increases, and when cortisol is high, you don’t actually go into deep sleep. It’s called delta and it’s really deep rejuvenating sleep. That’s when the body recovers and that’s crucial because if you don’t sleep like this, which 95% plus of North Americans don’t, we wake up feeling tired and craving coffee and sugar because coffee and sugar are stimulants.
By refining our diet, we can actually help reduce cortisol levels. Therefore, we will get into that deep delta phase of sleep and sleep efficiently. And that’s why we’ll wake up and feel ready to go. And even if we sleep efficiently, we don’t need to sleep. People say all the time, “I wish I had an extra hour in the day,” and in a way, you can have an extra hour in the day if the diet is very raw, plant-based, and really relieves stress.
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