Saturday, April 24, 2010


This is the second in a series of articles concerning the Philippine Sports Science Conference 2010. Read the first, which is the introduction to the series and gives an overview of the conference, here, and the third, which talks about proper hydration, here.

The first talk during the Philippine Sports Science Conference 2010 was about “energy and strength boosting nutrition by Dr. Blecenda Varona, RND, Dr. PH. She opens up, first of all, by saying that her expertise deals primarily with aiding sick, and average, yet sedentary individuals. Applications of her methods to expertly – trained individuals should first be reviewed and personalized by a professional nutritionist working closely with the athletes’ coaches.

Alright, first things first, is to simply do what our parents told us when we were little: “eat your fruits and vegetables!” This is basically the core concept surrounding Dr. Varona’s talk. There is such a large variety of these foods, especially in the Philippines, and all of them are incredibly healthy and nutritious, with the right combination giving us more than any overpriced multivitamin in the market today.

Speaking of pills, the good doctor also does not recommend them. At all. She follows the “food “first” mantra, wherein we should all get all of our daily nutritional needs through the right combinations of foods instead of some supplement. Many doctors and nutritionists around the world actually adhere to and recommend this method, yet are all easily shut down by the power of mass marketing. Studies have also shown that only 30% of supplements (in pill or powder form) are absorbed by the body. The rest is simply removed, usually by urination (which is also touched upon by a later talk by Prof. Luz Callanta on hydration).

Dr. Varona continues her talk by stating the importance of properly chewing our food, which, studies have shown, aids in the digestion process, and thus, in the efficiency of our cells to absorb the nutrients for optimum nutrition.

And no nutrition lecture is complete without the condemning of junk food. Any sort of junk food, fast food or the like should be completely removed from one’s diet if one plans to live a long and healthy lifestyle. This is because junk can contribute almost nothing to the body aside from sicknesses such as heart diseases and obesity, while natural foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains can cure almost any ailment the body can succumb to.

She, of course, continues by bluntly stating that “all diseases are reversible through healthy lifestyle conversions”. Now, I don’t know if she also means things like cancer and the AIDS virus (which, now that I think about it, is quite surprising that no one asked her about it), but she mainly talks about sicknesses related to things like heart diseases and obesity. She notes several studies about the matter, but her favorites concern one Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, who has a book called “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease”. Dr. Varona has attended Dr. Esselstyn’s talks, has read his book and studies, and has met him in person. She’s a very outspoken admirer of him and even wants to bring him to the Philippines to further spread his message. Consider purchasing his book here:

In any case, the point is that Dr. Varona mostly talks about heart disease, and to her knowledge, literally all forms of heart disease currently known by man is completely reversible by a healthy lifestyle conversion. So, yes, again, she preaches to completely dump eating habits akin to what one may call the “Standard American Diet (SAD)”, which is chockfull of junk food and fast food, and is the primary reason for the blowout of obesity problems in that country (and is also admittedly a very nasty problem here in the Philippines, as well), and convert to a diet composed predominantly of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Dr. Varona states that there is no need to eat most animal products, though states that properly prepared eggs, some fish, and milk can prove beneficial. This is because that meat is mostly composed of fat, no matter how lean it is. Beef, for example, contains only around 30% protein, with the rest being mostly fat. Fish has the highest percentage, with around 80%, depending on the type. Animal meat also contains cholesterol because of their fat content, which is, of course, entirely undesirable in our body in large amounts.

“But what about the protein?” Yes, the question will come sooner or later to people who preach what is widely known as a lacto – ovo vegetarian diet. One word: beans. Beans contain a significant amount of protein, and one does not need to consume a horrendous amount to reach what a pound of beef would give you. That, plus none of the fat and cholesterol, and instead, a whole lot of vitamins and minerals.

She then begins to apply her talk to sports and exercise, since, after all, that’s what the conference is all about. So, beans are an excellent protein source, fine. That takes care of the post – workout food for muscle recovery, growth, and so on. But what about pre – workout when trainers would usually recommend a higher amount of carbohydrates in order for the body to have an efficient fuel source during the physical activities? Well, fruits and vegetables can completely cover that, but the doctor singles out another type of food that is excellent for athletes who wish to carbo – load before a particular intense training session: the sweet potato. She praises the sweet potato and says that Filipinos are quite lucky to have a very large variety of the food. She says that all form and colors of the sweet are incredibly rich in carbohydrates and are quite good and healthful for the body.

She closes her talk by once again stating that having a diet that circles mostly around her recommendations will not only help one live longer, but will also increase one’s energy levels, decrease one’s recuperation time, and remove almost any sort of disease in the body. So, to recap, Dr. Varona’s suggestions are to:

1.    Eat a diet composed mostly of fruits vegetables, beans, whole grains, and sweet potatoes
2.    Remove any sort of animal product from your diet, but some fish, eggs, and milk are fine.
3.    Never eat junk food, fast food or anything of the like ever again.
4.    Not to take any sort of supplements unless your doctor or nutritionist highly recommends them to you for medical and recover purposes. Get your adequate doses of vitamins, minerals, fiber, etc from food. Remember: “food first”.

Dr. Varona, of course, has a book out, called “Healing Wonders of Diet: Effective guide to diet therapy”, which is available in all National Bookstore outlets. I bought a copy at the conference for Php800.00, and will also review it.

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Hello, I'm Noel Blanco and I write Fitness Philippines. I have been involved in physical fitness for more than 10 years now and am currently taking up graduate studies on Exercise and Sports Science at the University of the Philippines. You can contact me at
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