This article is by guest writer Craig Williams, who has a great deal of other work available on various topics. Our readers may find much of interest especially at www.phalx.com
“Our Sacrament is Nutrition and Healthy Eating, our Rituals are Strength Training and Conditioning.”
Living amidst a world of chaos and cacophony, one of the most important revolutionary choices we can make on a daily basis is nutrition. We live in a homogenized world empty of life and vitality. This world offers up its sinister offering as empty vapid food for the body, empty vapid images for the mind; manufactured food for a manufactured “reality.” In complete revolution against this modern trend, we must begin to envision both our physical body and the food we use to nurture the physical body as Sacraments. In Tantra and Pagan Gnosticism, we honor the physical body as the highest substance, the container of the sacred, the sacramentum, a living and breathing Sacrament. A sacrament can mean many things to a diverse array of spiritual systems, but in essence it signifies a physical substance or physical act which makes manifest an invisible and spiritual presence. Through training and conditioning we can transform the physical into a living Sacrament which can manifest the Numinous. If we contemplate the deep esoteric significance of this alchemical reality, we enter upon a mystical and brutally revolutionary mindset of respect and reverence for the physical body transforming the corporeal into a realm of radical revolution and unbridled freedom.
In order to honor, support, and sustain the physical we must feed and nurture it. If we wish to transform the physical into a numinous expression of freedom then we must learn to view nutrition as a sacred act and eating as a sacred offering into the mysterious flame of the Soul which lies hidden deep within the corporeal landscape. We must envision our daily intake of food as a Sacrament which signifies the physical journey we must undertake in this lifetime. We must see nutrition as a vitally important aspect of personal transformation and personal freedom. All the seeds of hard work we plant with the iron and steel will not come to harvest if we do not create a nutritional environment conducive to anabolic transformation. Therefore we must create an almost obsessive zeal for honoring both the physical body and the food we offer as a sacrifice unto the Soul Flame hidden within the body as literal Sacraments. What we consume literally becomes the body and blood of our daily ritual sacrifice of training and functions as a mirror of our Soul Flame!
Perhaps the most important foundational idea when discussing the vast topic of nutrition from a transformational perspective is the creation of a sacred time and a sacred space for nutrition. We must set ourselves apart from the mindless masses who feed in a somnambulistic trance while driving or watching television. We must create a reverent mindset as we create and consume food. In complete and radical revolution against the mechanistic pace of the modern world, we must slow down and take the time to reverently prepare and consume our food! This can be a vital first step in creating a sacramental reverence for food and nutrition: make the effort to sit down and eat slowly as much as possible, avoid eating while driving, reading or watching television, and attempt to create and prepare the majority of your own meals. These simple actions are primordial in nature and in essence and can awaken the inner flame of transformation which is pervasive throughout the entire body-mind complex. By paying full attention to our meals we can create a literal sacred space / sacred time, alchemical and transformative. It also important to take a moment and give thanks and gratitude for the food we consume and if one is sharing the food with brothers or sisters, take the time to give gratitude for the sacred occasion of consuming the sacrament in union. This attitude of respect and reverence stimulates and awakens a primordial Soul memory deep within the body which literally transforms the mealtime into a sacred Solar ritual.
The topic of nutrition is a vast and controversial topic. I view the concepts of nutrition much like the concepts of fighting: master the basics in order to maximize survival. The world of health and nutrition is heavily fueled by media trends over basic common sense, much like we see trends come and go in martial arts circles. We can try to complicate fighting with mystical concepts or fundamentalist myopic attitudes on which style of “best”, but it will essentially boil down to the basics: who is stronger and who knows the basic technique of fighting will typically prevail. We can carry this concept over to the world of nutrition and glean important concepts for long-term health and training recovery. Before focusing on trendy diets promising miraculous results, focus on mastering the basics of macro-nutrient consumption. Almost anyone involved with serious strength training or fight training knows the importance of protein, so let’s start with this macronutrient. There are countless protein powders on the market ranging from whey to casein to plant based. On a fundamental level, one type of protein powder is not “better” than the rest. There may be variations in amino acid profile from source to source however in processed protein powders this variation will be minor at best. If using a protein powder, choose one with the least ingredients and without artificial color / flavorings and experiment with various sources to find one that digests easily. I use protein powders extensively with patients and clients who I coach and I use them myself as important additions to a training diet however I always view this as a “supplement”, meaning a minor addition to an already strong food-based nutritional infrastructure. The key idea is that one must establish a solid nutritional foundation before seeking miraculous results from a scoop of protein.
I tend to prefer actual whole food sources of protein over protein powders for daily nutrition. When you make it a priority to fill the majority of your protein intake with food based sources, you will build a much deeper reservoir of power within the physical body which is key for rapid recovery and avoiding injuries. My favorite sources of food based proteins are small servings of lean cut meats (preferably wild game), eggs, wild salmon, organic cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, beans (properly prepared to avoid gastric issues), tempeh, nutritional yeast, quinoa, brown rice, sprouted breads, Barilla protein pasta and nut-butters (avoiding all dairy except organic cottage cheese). There are several important ideas to keep in mind when discussing the intake of protein, one being the foundational idea of food rotation. Avoiding mono-diets is key for insuring adequate macro and micro-nutrient consumption. This is perhaps the most common issue I encounter with patients and clients. Individuals tend to get stuck in ruts in all aspects of life and nutrition is no stranger to this. It’s not uncommon to hear individuals lament their lack of progress while doing the same work-out, reading the same books or eating the same meals in a mechanistic fashion. Variety is key for stimulation of growth and diet is no different! Rotation diets are key for insuring adequate nutrition variety as well as avoiding the food sensitivities / food allergies. Therefore map out a variety of protein sources and do not get stagnant by using only one or two sources out of laziness. It’s quite easy to have hard-boiled eggs, a variety of game meats, tempeh, a variety of beans, or wild salmon on hand to add as protein blocks into various meals. Make it a point to prepare these options and be creative in order to avoid having to constantly depend upon protein powders for nutrition.
The macro-nutrient of carbohydrates is also often mystified and made confusing. The basic idea to grasp in order to maximize sports recovery and overall health and vitality is to make vegetables and fruits your main sources of carbohydrates. Many individuals have a food sensitivity or food allergy to grains, therefore I typically only recommend the use of basic brown rice and quinoa, both of which are less likely to cause any gastric upset or food sensitivity issues and provide a large amount of nutritional benefit. There are many benefits to making the main sources of carbohydrates simply fruits and vegetables. The two factors which are vital to the health and vitality of an athlete / martial artist are the dense nutrient yield and high fiber, both of which are essential when consuming a high protein diet. Many of the side-effects of high protein diets such as constipation or gas-bloating can be ameliorated by adequate consumption of fresh steamed vegetables and whole fruit (not fruit juices). I typically recommend light steaming, baking or grilling for vegetables as this allows for easier digestion and absorption of nutrients; salads can be eaten “raw” but large servings of vegetables should lightly steamed, grilled or baked. Fruit should ideally be eaten whole and not juiced and consumed away from high protein meals to avoid gastric issues as fruits and proteins digest in a dramatically different timeframe in the gut; when one combines high protein meals and fruits, it is not uncommon to encounter gas, bloating or nausea, therefore keep fruit by itself and ideally away from high protein meals by at least one hour. As mentioned earlier when discussing rotation in dieting, make sure to eat a broad spectrum of sources of fruits and vegetables and avoid predictable food choices. Seek out a wide array of colors while sourcing fruits and vegetables and if possible, eat locally grown sources from farmer’s markets or your own garden.
Outside of discussing the basics of protein and carbohydrate consumption, one important factor which is crucial to discuss is digestion. Healthy digestion is the ultimate foundation for health and vitality on all levels. If we are not digesting our food, we will not grow and transform. This becomes especially important for athletes and martial artists as we tend to expend vast amounts of energy training and fighting and consequently demand a larger nutrient intake. And it becomes of paramount importance when one is training to gain mass and consequently eating large amounts of food. Therefore we must maximize our digestion in order to maximize our growth. There are a large array of digestive enzymes and probiotics on the market which can be used for these issues. However I find two key areas much more important than supplements and pills when discussing healthy digestion: the addition of spices to the diet and the use of herbal bitters. These two areas are essential ways to stimulate deep primordial vitality and maximize health / sports recovery while reconnecting us to our Soul’s feral domain of Nature. The healing power of spices are an area which every athlete should embrace and incorporate into their daily lives. Spices such as cumin, coriander, fennel, ginger, turmeric, oregano, rosemary, and black pepper are nutrient dense anti-inflammatory powerhouses as well as time honored digestives. These spices become especially important when consuming a high protein diet as the spices can help maximize digestion of dense protein sources, particularly game meats.
The western diet has abandoned all flavors except sweet and salty, therefore returning to the use of spices is in many ways a return to our primordial roots. Take the time to transform you kitchen into an herbal apothecary by learning to use flavorful spices in all levels of nutrition; learn to grow spices and treat them as sacred doorways to the Spirits of the Land and Forest; prepare and consume them as Sacraments which bless and transform the everyday meals into a the sacred eternal meal. The use of herbal bitters is also key for insuring adequate and complete digestion of all macronutrients and once again is of utmost important when one is eating to gain mass. The benefit of herbal bitters is that the taste of bitter blended with a nuanced balance of warming and cooling herbs stimulates the entire physiology of the gastrointestinal system as well as the liver / gallbladder resulting in improved digestion of protein and heavier meals necessary in mass-gaining scenarios. Herbal bitters are a better choice than simply using digestive enzymes as bitters actually tones and strengthens the inherent power of the entire digestive system and does not simply “treat the symptoms.” Bitters is excellent for chronic gas, bloating, nausea and even hang-overs. Avoid using bitters with stimulant laxatives! I recommend blends by Herb Pharm, Gaia Herbs and Urban Moonshine, or better yet create your own by seeking out bitter roots and herbs and learn to create your own tinctures to reconnect with the primordial power of the Earth.
We make choices each time we harvest and consume food. In today’s modern mechanistic world, the sourcing of our nutrition can be a radical statement against the empty soulless homogeneity of factory farming and fast food. Seek to transform your meals and mealtimes intoSacraments which aid you in the alchemical journey of life! Learn to grow your own food, kill your own meat with your own bloodied hands, mine the roots from the dark cool soil of the Mother and give thanks for the rare blessing of consuming Her Sacraments. Every act should be a radical statement of the Soul and our nutrition is one of the most powerful avenues of alchemical transformation. Don’t take it for granted.