Best Way to Get More Energy - Vegetables - Rachel Hilinski Nutrition - 3

The Best Way to Get More Energy

We all want more energy – am I right?

One of the biggest ailments of the Western world is a chronic lack of energy. A lack of energy can lead to a viciously frustrating cycle of overeating, constant snacking, and reaching for sugary, caffeinated beverages, all in an attempt to feel more energetic and not have to struggle through the day. Why are we so tired? Because we’re not combining our foods properly.

Digesting food requires more energy than any other function in the human body? It’s no wonder we’re exhausted after a big lunch! It stands to reason, then, that the best way to free up some extra energy is to make our digestion as quick and efficient as possible.

Here are the basics: We have four categories when we talk about Food Combining.

  • Fruit – takes 20-40 minutes to digest
  • Vegetables – takes 30-60 minutes to digest
  • Protein – takes 4 hours to digest
  • Starches – takes 2-3 hours to digest

When thinking about these foods, think of how they are digested in your stomach.

Imagine your GI tract like a conveyor belt. When there is one thing in front…nothing else can pass. So, the order of your food matters.

You want to eat the food that digest most quickly, first. Then, follow that in order of what takes shortest-to-longest to digest. Here are some more detailed rules to go by:

Rule #1 – Eat fruit alone

Eat FRUIT first thing in the morning on an empty stomach because it digests so quickly. If you want to get all of those vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, then you don’t want heavier foods slowing that process down and then losing the opportunity to get those nutrients. Fruit takes 20-40 minutes to digest.

Since it digests so quickly, you don’t want to eat it right after eating other food groups that take longer to digest. Remember the conveyer belt – they will sit on top of the starches, fat or protein and waste away. So, as much as it breaks my heart to tell you this…fruit is not a great dessert.

The best way to enjoy fruit is alone on an empty stomach or in a smoothie that is already broken down.

Rule #2 – Proteins and starches don’t mix

STARCHES take around 2-3 hours to digest. These are great to have during lunch time.

  • Pastas
  • Rice
  • Quinoa
  • Breads
  • Starchy Vegetables

PROTEIN take the longest to digest. They take 4 hours! When we talk about eating protein – this is plant or animal based. 

  • Fish
  • Tofu
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Tempeh
  • Animal Meat

When you eat protein, your body releases certain gastric enzymes that make it acidic. That acidity is what your body needs in order to break down the protein. However, when you eat starches, your body releases a different gastric enzyme that makes the digestive environment more alkaline. It’s like combining a “positive” and a “negative” together – you get a neutral combination. The same goes for our enzymes. When we combine acidic enzymes with alkaline enzymes, they create a neutral environment and there ends up being no digestive enzymes to help you break down and properly digest your food. This is why the biggest “no-no” is to mix protein and starches together…which sadly is so much of the American Diet.

What happens next, when your body can’t produce the proper digestive enzymes to break down your food? The food sits around and putrefies – aka; rots! The worst part of that process is that, the lack of proper enzymes to digest all of those foods creates a more bacterial environment where yeast, fungus and bacteria can grow. This also makes the digestive environment extremely acidic causing build-up of toxins, bloating, gas and even diseases.

Rule #3 – Vegetables are neutral

Vegetables are wonderful alkaline foods. They are simple for your body to digest and are considered absolutely neutral. If you love chicken or steamed tilapia fish, eat it along with some steamed vegetables and a raw green salad.

Best Way to Get More Energy - Vegetables - Rachel Hilinski Nutrition - 2

Rule #4 – Mixing two starches is okay

Starches aren’t as complicated to digest as protein.

While simple meals are always best, two different starches are okay to eat at once. If you are in the mood for a starchy dish, maybe try some pasta salad or a baked yam, eat it with some vegetables.

Rule #5 – Fats should be eaten moderately with protein (animal and plant) but are okay to eat with carbohydrates

Fat mixes well with starches but has somewhat of an inhibiting effect on the digestion of protein. You can pair small amounts of fat with protein, but it is best not to eat a large amount of fat with any protein. Even if you are eating an all-raw meal, it is best not to mix a lot of nuts (protein) together with a whole avocado (fat)! A plentiful supply of green vegetables can be used to counteract the interaction between a moderate amount of protein and raw fat. For instance, if you are having a piece of fish over a nice green salad, it is okay to have a little oil on the salad, but you will want to go easy and eat up a good portion of the alkaline greens first. The greens digest quicker and we don’t want them backed up from the fish.

A day with Food Combining

One way to look at it is staring your day eating light and then moving to heavier foods. So, you could have fruit and/or smoothie in the morning, and then for lunch you can mix a variety of starches together. For example, you could have potatoes with quinoa or rice with some vegetables like squash/zucchini.  Then, you can have your protein with salad and/or veggies for dinner.

Remember, that the best study out there, in-regards to this principle, is to try it out for yourself! In a short amount of time you will see how well it truly does work. And, isn’t that the most important thing? There will always be conflicting reports of “scientific evidence,” with regard to nutritional information. But if you try something for yourself, and you see that it truly helps you feel amazing with great energy, then who cares about all the noise out there? We are all so different…enjoy seeing what works best for you. Make the time to experiment! 

If you want more tips on creating healthy lifestyle changes, be sure to follow me on Instagram (@rayshealthyways) or browse through my website.

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Meet Rachel

I believe that anyone can live their best life if they are given the proper tools, understand the importance of feeding their body nourishing foods, learn techniques to calm their mind and recognize that their lifestyle choices are directly related to their well-being and quality of life.

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