Wednesday, June 17, 2009
What's In That Stuff?
My status as a human lab rat means that I must indulge in all of life’s various avenues, whether healthy or unhealthy. Last night’s little foray into the lower depths seemed innocuous. My wife sandbagged me with some new weird flavor of M&Ms. Both last night and this morning I felt awful. I’m very healthy most of the time but I also experiment with virtually any diet or training program that comes across my desk. In the name of science I drink, smoke, exercise for hours without food and sometimes water, and have been injured so many times from testing the limits of a training regimen I can’t begin to count. I’m a human test tube. But not much affects me as negatively as good old American junk food. What is in that stuff?
This will be turned into a more scientific article or series. Today I just wanted to cite some anecdotal observations. I think the last time I felt as bad as I did last night was when Ben and I ate a bunch of Halloween candy. The problem here isn’t sugar. I eat sugar all the time. It’s usually in a sports concoction of some kind but I also indulge in desserts and nice restaurants and, occasionally, eat a little chocolate or Nutella. But there is something different about standard candy that you find on any convenience store rack. Every time I indulge I feel awful, even if it’s for sporting purposes.
Last fall, after a long ride (hours longer than I was planning) with no food I was sugar crashing. I pulled into a Circle K and went for some candy items on sale. I don’t remember what they were, exactly (Twix and Reece’s come to mind) but eating a few hundred calories of this crap didn’t provide the same type of glycogen recharge as, say, Recovery Formula or a bunch of Hammer Gel would have. In fact, I don’t think it gave me a recharge at all. I went from feeling famished to feeling sick.
If you read the labels of these foods, as well as much of what you can get in fast food restaurant chains, it may not look too bad. The macro-nutrient profiles can look similar to healthy foods. A Snickers bar, at first glance, looks somewhat balanced. It’s under ingredients where things get fuzzy. Here we have an assortment of stuff you can’t pronounce, and most of it is some type of food processing by-product that we’ve found a way to add into our foods that has received very little scrutiny and testing.
One side of this argument is that the food scientists are trying to use Eskimo-like efficiency. The difference is that we were probably meant to consume every part of a whale but our creator never ran the calculations on the effects of genetically modified corn. Those scientists are using us as lab rats and, unlike me, most of you are being used unwittingly.
I once ran some experiments on food combined with long bouts of drinking. Those of you who went to college—especially those who participated in the Greek system—are fairly well-versed in late night eating. The entire chain of Jack-in-the-Box wouldn’t exist without this demographic. My experiments including getting schlossed and fueling to the best of my ability, not eating anything, or hitting the post-tavern fast food establishments. On all counts, I fared far worse when I ate junk food.
These experiments could be quite extreme. Drinking seven martinis, chased by only water, yielded a much lighter hangover than seven (or six or five or four) martinis chased by fast food. (Btw, using proper nutritional strategies, such as hydrating with an electrolyte replenisher (Recovery Formula fits this profile), could lead to virtually no hangover.) I then tried the late-night eating without the drinking. What do you think happened? The result was a bad night of sleep and a hangover.
These are just a few examples. I’ve got a life full. The weird thing is all of this is that eating after drinking doesn’t necessarily end badly. Eating normal—but not necessarily healthy food—at home, like cereal, some good cheese (unprocessed) and crackers, a sandwich, etc could have a positive effect. But eating fast food, whether it was from Jack-in-the-Box, 7 Eleven, Winchell’s or whatever, always led to worse results. What, in God’s name, is in that stuff?