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Culinary Waves: Energy output depends on fuel input

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Culinary Waves: by Chef Mary Beth Lawton Johnson

We need energy to move, to walk, to talk, to think. We even need energy to sleep. And as yachties, we usually are busy expending most of our energy to be more productive on board. We race to throw fenders over the side, rush to the store for supplies, run upstairs to the deck to deliver dinner. Get my drift? Somewhere in that process we forget to slow down and focus on what we should be putting into our bodies for the energy we need to keep on going without crashing.

It’s confusing – all those “energy” drinks, protein shakes, protein bars – which ones do you choose? What if it is not the right thing for your body? Is this the best choice you can make? Do you need to feed your body carbs or proteins or fat to sustain energy onboard all day? So many questions! Here are some answers.

Carbohydrates, fats and proteins belong to the macronutrient category because your body has to use them in large quantities. Carbohydrates fuel our bodies with energy by being broken down into glucose, which can be used immediately or sent to the liver and muscles to be stored as glycogen. When carbs are metabolized in the body, energy is released through oxidation. This is an ongoing process.

While proteins have other primary functions, they can be considered an energy source when carbs are not abundant because of depletion from prolonged exercise or an inadequate daily diet. Proteins are made up of amino acids, and if the body needs energy, it can turn some amino acids into glucose. To make the amino acid into what it needs, the liver basically strips the nitrogen from it. Protein, however, shouldn’t be considered a major source of energy for the body, because under ordinary circumstances, it only supplies about 5 percent of the body’s energy need.

Finally, fats provide a concentrated source of energy – more than twice the potential energy of carbs or protein. When the carb stores run out after lengthy exercise or long periods of hard labor, the body turns to the fat stores for energy. But keep in mind that foods high in fat and calories require more energy to break down and can leave you feeling tired and fatigued.

Here are some foods to get your energy level back up:

  • Lentils not only keep your blood sugar stable for hours, but mixing it with whole-grain rice turns it into a complete protein.
  • Quinoa, such as in a kale and quinoa salad, or quinoa cakes, or beans and quinoa.
  • Tuna fish in a salad or on a sandwich with whole-grain bread and veggie fries is a great idea for a quick meal.
  • Beans/legumes offer lots of fiber and protein.
  • Start your day with egg whites or whole eggs, or use as a topping for salads, or stuff with tuna fish for an appetizer. Put eggs into protein shakes for an added boost of protein and energy.
  • Whole-grain cereal mixed with chia seeds or yogurt will deliver protein and carbs that will jumpstart your day.
  • Don’t forget the wild salmon. Cook it with olives, celery and spinach for a complete energy meal.
  • Dark chocolate, nuts and seeds made into a bark or a protein bar are quick energy snacks.
  • Fruit such as apples, oranges, bananas and, my all-time favorite, blueberries. Blueberries are low in sugar but high in fiber.
  • Sip green tea in the morning before heading out on deck. It not only cleanses your system, but aids it in fighting disease.

So when you are about to grab that fast food or “energy” drink before starting your watch or swabbing down the deck, think twice. There are better foods to fuel your body and give you the sustained energy you will need.

Mary Beth Lawton Johnson is a certified executive pastry chef and Chef de Cuisine and has worked on yachts for more than 25 years. Comments are welcome below.

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About Chef Mary Beth LawtonJohnson

Mary Beth Lawton Johnson is a certified executive pastry chef and Chef de Cuisine and has worked on yachts for more than 25 years.

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