Educating the younger set on nutrition

You are worth putting good fuel into!

Kids, you need to know this (and so do you parents).

Just before Christmas, I had the extreme privilege of speaking to two groups of students at the local high school (ages 15-16).

It is truly one of my favourite things to do: teach nutrition and fitness.

After 21 years of doing this, I am pleased to say that some things have improved. Our kids today do tend to know more about a lot of things than their predecessors did. I am also sad to say that many things remain the same, and some things are worse.

What’s great?

Kids know energy drinks and caffeine are bad for them but that hasn’t really stopped them from drinking them from what I could tell.

But there was some knowledge.

Iced Capps are wonderful for adults but not for kids (170 mg caffeine).

The cool part was the fun where I got to teach them HOW energy drinks work: they force the body to release stored energy from the endocrine system, they do not ‘give’ anyone energy.

It’s like driving a car to Calgary in first gear at 140 km/h with racing fuel. Sure, you feel really fast until the motor blows up!

Like most adults, kids had heard of proteins, fats and carbs, but didn’t really know what they were or how they worked. So it was really fun to explain them all with examples.

Protein is like spare and replacement parts, carbohydrates are strictly fuel and energy and fat is fuel and helps all the cells and fluids stay healthy including joints and the brain.

We talked about how much of each one (macronutrients), and what examples are. Again, the kids were fairly informed in many senses and just needed a little extra to really ‘get it’.

Here’s the big thing that sadly has gotten worse in the last 21 years.

Kids (and adults – according to our new clients at the gym all the time) are skipping breakfast.

What has changed is the reasoning. It used to be overwhelmingly because kids didn’t want to be fat and while it is still true they think that (and it is still a lie), the number one reason was different.

Over 80 per cent of the kids said they always skipped breakfast and the reason was they didn’t have time.


Not enough time?

To me, that always says ‘not important enough’.

And I really think they missed how important it is, so we talked about that at length. Like I said, if the reason ‘why’ is big enough, then ‘how’ doesn’t matter. You find a way.

What is really important gets done. So why eat breakfast? Why is it important? Why bother?

Well first off, I would say people think that skipping breakfast means your body will burn fat right? Because there is nothing else available and hey, that would be preferred right?

Sorry, no.

The body burns carbohydrates first but if you are out of those, it will look to burn fat, but that is slow, so breaking down muscle (amino acids) to make glucose (carbohydrates) is faster.

That means it will effectively use muscle before fat for several reasons.

First, muscle is ‘plugged in’, it’s electric, it’s tied in to the system and readily available to convert to fuel. It’s ‘fast fuel’ the body can grab immediately, whereas fat takes longer and much more work to access, because it is inert.

It is not plugged in, and just sits there requiring a chemical process to become fuel. PLUS (and this is even more important) when you do not feed yourself, your body is convinced you cannot afford muscle, because it is biologically expensive.

Muscle requires food like a big motor requires gas.

If you bought a big ole truck with a massive motor and tires, but refused to buy more than $5 a week in gas and if your truck acted like your body – it would trade that big motor in for a little tiny engine that was more fuel efficient, make you drive slowly and such.

Your body does that too – skip breakfast and your metabolism slows, you cannot think well, you react slower, you are tired and want to go back to bed and you lose muscle simply because your body determines that you ‘cannot afford it’.

All these things are going the wrong direction.

A lot of schools now have a breakfast program, but with budgets what they are, they never have enough protein for growing bodies and minds.

Since my son was three, he knew how to make a protein shake with healthy choices in less than five minutes and he drinks it out of his straw-based sippy cup in about the same amount of time.

If not a shake, then boil a dozen eggs on Sunday and grab a hard boiled egg and some fruit on the way to school or work.

What’s that, three minutes?

How about cottage cheese with fruit, yogurt, muesli and nuts mixed the night before?

Grab it out of the fridge and shovel it in. Zero morning prep required. Five minutes to eat. If you cannot find five minutes to eat before school, then re-read why it’s important and haul your butt out of bed. You are worth putting good fuel into!

Scott McDermott is a personal trainer and the owner of Best Body Fitness in Sylvan Lake.

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