Guest Post: Octane

Ryan Krug

Have you ever wondered what the significance of the octane rating on fuel is? As a former mechanical engineering student, I specialized in internal combustion engines so knowing this little fact is near and dear to my heart. I’ve boiled gasoline of various grades and changed cylinder volumes on the fly to see the difference between the fuel grades.

To simplify the answer, the higher the octane rating, the less prone the fuel is to explode uncontrollably during combustion.

I liken selecting a higher octane fuel to eating for training and racing. A powerful engine needs a high quality of fuel so it can be compressed more to produce power efficiently. As our lungs/heart/muscles are our engines, what we put in effects what we get out. Fueling the body therefore plays a significant role in performance.

The two simplest and easiest things I did to improve my overall fitness through nutrition were:

  • I Got A Body Composition Test – I was 235 lbs three years ago. I didn’t understand how many calories I needed in order to survive. After a composition test, I ate 2,000 calories/day instead of the 2,500 I required, started cycling, and lost 55 lbs in four months. It was really as simple as eating fewer calories than I took in to lose weight. I just needed that first reference point in order to change the way I ate. Now at 170 lbs, I need 1,800 calories/day to maintain my weight and I’ve adjusted my intake accordingly.
  • Bought A Scale To Understand Portions – My sense of portions was WAY out of whack. I was eating foods and underestimating their caloric content by 100%. It’s a bit anal, but I bought a scale and weighed out snacks and foods such as cereal and milk, pretzels, peanuts, etc. until I understood the size and caloric content of portions. I didn’t know what 150 calories of ice cream looked like. To my disappointment, it’s not very much at all.

The last ten pounds I lost were harder than the first thirty. Balancing massive energy expenditures training with losing weight and not affecting performance was a tough balancing act. To lose the weight I looked towards what I was eating with the calories I could eat. It’s true – a calorie is a calorie in the energy conservation sense – but there are other benefits such as vitamins and minerals with the calories that create a balanced diet. Once I found the balance, my body didn’t crave the empty calories it was looking for in order to be balanced.

I realized I had to look for better fuel to produce the power more efficiently. In order to lose the last 10 lbs I changed the way I ate by:

  • Eating Organic It’s Nutritionally Better – The way our food is grown/raised directly affects the nutritional profile which we eat – Common Sense.
  1. Beef – Put two 6 oz. cuts of tenderloin next to each other and the grass fed version would have 92 fewer calories than the corn fed version. In addition, there are less saturated fats and more of the good Omega-3 fatty acids in the grass fed version.
  2. Eggs – Organic eggs have higher levels of Vitamin B, Folic Acid and Omega-3’s.
  3. Milk – Grass fed organic milk has higher levels of antioxidants and Omega-3’s.
  4. Poultry/Pork – I haven’t found any reliable nutritional studies looking into their nutrition. However, pigs and chickens on factory farms are raised on questionable feed and continuous antibiotics. I personally do not want to eat an animal that has been fed hooves, rendered fats, poultry and byproducts, rendered pork products, rendered horse products, urea, manure, or any other part of an animal. The last time I checked, cows were vegetarians and pigs/chickens weren’t cannibals.
  • Doesn’t Have Chemicals –Although there isn’t a nutritional benefit to organic fruits/vegetables, there is another rather important benefit. They are grown without chemicals which stunt development, cause cancers, and affect the endocrine system. Last time I checked, I need a fully functioning endocrine system to ride a bike.
  • Doesn’t Have Antibiotics or Growth Hormones – Confined animals are fed a stream of antibiotics and hormones, and those come across in the meat. Just ask Contador. I’m sure he has a lot of research on the subject. Bacteria eventually evolve and become immune to the antibiotics. It’s already happening and causing contamination of foods. Raising animals in an organic fashion eliminates the necessity to stream antibiotics into the animals.
  • Environmentally Friendlier – Confining animals means a lot of crap. Where do you think that goes? Into the waterways. While it is illegal to dispose of confinement waste by putting it into the water systems, it is not illegal for rain runoff to pollute streams/lakes. Add runoff from confinement farms to runoff from cash crops and what you get are vast areas of rivers/lakes/oceans where indigenous animals cannot grow as a direct result of the pollution. Antibiotics are also in the animal waste products and therefore get into the water systems.
  • Eat Fresh Fruits/Vegetables – Current studies have shown no nutritional difference between fruits and vegetables which have been grown organically or conventionally. There are items to look for when selecting produce though. They are:
  1. Freshness – As produce ages it loses its vitamins and minerals so finding the freshest produce is key. There are many farmers markets to attend and consumer supported agriculture farms around the cities that deliver produce on a consistent basis throughout the year. Not only will you know that it’s fresh, but you will also know exactly where it is coming from.
  2. Soil Conditions – Nutritional differences for produce are largely determined from the ground in which they are grown. It took time and effort but my wife, daughter, and I visited farmers around the area to see if our expectations and assumptions about where our food came from were correct. It’s reassuring to know where and who your food comes from.
  • Don’t eat anything you don’t recognize or can’t pronounce – Since when does bread need 30 ingredients? Why does pop need to be neon yellow? Preservatives and dyes don’t need to be in foods. There is no purpose to them. So what if bread lasts a week longer with all sorts of chemicals? Our bread has six ingredients. It does go bad quicker than “typical” bread but in our house it’s usually gone before it has a chance to get old.

You may hit up McDonalds for a Big Mac, fries, and a shake after a race but I would urge you to become a more knowledgeable consumer and understand what you’re eating. Although I want to do better than you, I would be more than happy to lose because you were eating better.

  1. Brandon Krawczyk said:

    could you point me in the right direction for info about getting a body composition test?

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