Wakeup Diet & Exercise Program Restores natural circadian rhythms
Wakeup Diet FAQ, Part 3

Foods & Phase Shifts

QUESTION. On the Wakeup Diet, how much time would I devote to food preparation?

ANSWER. Not a lot. About a half hour per day. In our household, we spent more time on weekends, especially if I barbecue. This time is in addition to maintenance, such as loading and unloading the dishwasher.

The Wakeup Diet™ allows the use of certain prepared and microwavable foods. This allowance reduces food-preparation time for working people.

QUESTION. Are the foods below okay?

ANSWER. I'll add my comments to your list of foods below.

Low-Fat Milk. I recommend unsweetened soy milk. Unsweetened chocolate or vanilla soy milk are okay for occasional variety. Non-fat or powdered milk are the second and third choices. Interestingly, skimming the milk increases the percentage of sugar (lactose). Of course, sugar is bad for narcoleptics and sufferers of jet lag. Natural milk also contains hormones. I object to "2%" low-fat milk, because 38 percent of its calories come from fat! A gram of fat has twice the calories of a gram of protein or carbohydrate. See Joe Piscatella's Choices for a Healthy Heart.

Low-Fat Cheese. No. When you can get it, substitute soy cheese. Otherwise, in food that others prepare, very small pieces of non-fat cheese are okay. Stay away from "low-fat" and full-fatted cheeses. On the so-called "low-fat" cheeses, refer to the Piscatella book. Joe's advice in a nutshell: "Low-fat" is a misleading term. Instead, look for "percent of calories from fat." Avoid products with more than 25 to 30 percent of calories from fat. Manufacturers sometimes bury this information on their labels. If you can find the total calories and fat calories, you can figure out the percentage yourself. Here's the formula...

(Fat calories * 9) / Total calories

Trans Fats. Bad for the heart. Stay alive. Where possible, avoid trans fats. They're artificial. The body can't process them in a healthful way. Avoid "hydrolyzed" and "homogenized" fats such as no-mix peanut butter and stick butter. Avoid pies, breads, biscuits and junk food with "crispy crusts." All these products use trans fat shortening. The trans fats are major ingredients in cakes and icings. Traditional cakes and icings substitute butter, cream or other fats. These fats are rich in cholesterol. Junk foods often use saturated triglycerides such as coconut, palm or palm kernel oil. Triglycerides contain no cholesterol, but can clog your arteries anyway. Fats of this type will also cause phase shifts. Don't eat any of these dishes.

Artificial sweeteners vs. natural sweeteners? Avoid artificial sweeteners. Limit natural sweeteners to the minimum. No cookies, candy, muffins, pie, cake, ice cream or sweets. No pastries such as torts and eclairs. No dessert breads. In fact, no breads of any type during the workday.

Stevia sweetener? Avoid it. Like many artificial sweeteners, Stevia has its problems. The type of Stevia that you'll usually find in foods is far removed from the natural plant. In fact, like sugar or corn sweeteners, stevia is highly processed and refined. This product has caused chromosome breakage and mutations in lab animals. See: Stevia.

Peanut Butter. As long as you choose a natural peanut butter, there's nothing wrong with peanut butter. Look for this ingredient list: "Dried peanuts." A small amount of salt is acceptable. Smucker's makes a good natural peanut butter. Consume peanut butter only before bedtime. This product will induce a phase shift. For narcoleptics, expect a sleep or cataplexy attack. We think of peanut butter and plain, nonfat yogurt as natural alternatives to Xyrem®.

If you're a calorie counter, know that peanut butter is mostly fat in the form of triglycerides. A snack can easily exceed 200 calories. Limit your peanut butter to once a day, and one slice of peanut butter bread or toast.

Avoid processed peanut butter and "spreadable" peanut butter. These products contain adulterants such as corn oil. Worse, processing such as hydrogenation often converts the corn and peanut oils into trans fats. Trans fats cause hardening of the arteries and accumulation of triglycerides in the circulatory system. The often promoted lack of cholesterol in peanut butter doesn't prevent these effects from occurring.

Also avoid peanut butter "mixes" that include soy, corn oil, tapioca or other adulterants, even healthy ones. These "mixes" usually also contain sugar or corn sweeteners. Worse, the mixes don't taste like peanut butter. Yes, if you can stand the ersatz, processed taste, these products might save calories. But then we're not talking about peanut butter anymore.

Look out for "peanut butter cracker" type junk foods. You'll find these in vending machines. In addition to the adulterants we've mentioned, these products include preservatives and sugar. Plus, the crackers are just the type of starchy food that will promote phase shifts and sleep attacks. Avoid such products.

Of course avoid purposely fattening products such as "chocolate peanut butter." These products are dares to your sweet tooth. These products are also impure. Because the emphasis is on indulgence, expect trans fats, poor quality and other problems. By design, the product benefit is 180 degrees from health.

Breakfast cereal. As part of breakfast, we strongly recommend the diabetic cereal Glucerna®. Note to those with concerns about gluten: Glucerna seems to contain gluten. Yet in our tests, Glucerna outperformed gluten-free products. After eating Glucerna, you'll usually remain alert. You can aggressively pursue and solve new problems with fresh ideas. You'll notice fewer visual artifacts and headaches.

With this product, the swelling is less than with conventional cereals such as oatmeal or corn grits. Glucerna isn't perfect. Unfortunately, it contains added sweeteners. Also, this is a fortified cereal. Those who take supplements might not appreciate the extra vitamins. Still, we feel that this product could help most phase-shifted individuals, including narcoleptics.

QUESTION. What types of oil are okay? Olive? Canola?

ANSWER. Use as little cooking oil as possible. Avoid animal fats such as bacon grease, tallow or lard. Stick to polyunsaturates. Don't prepare or consume deep-fried foods. See: Cooking Oil.

Other rules about fats and shortenings. Avoid saturated oils such as palm, palm kernel and coconut. Don't eat prepared foods with these oils in them. For example, bread with these oils. Don't eat foods with added animal fats. For example, braunschweiger or chicken pies (delicious though they are). Trim fat and skin off all meat portions.

QUESTION. Can I "move" the light meal to dinner and take the heavy meal at lunch?

ANSWER. No. Meals and meal sizes correspond to wakefulness levels that are appropriate to certain dayparts. If you have dinner at lunch, you'll shift more than the meal. You'll actually shift your personal daypart out of line with the actual time of day.

The Wakeup Diet™ isn't a weight-loss plan, like other diets that you may be familiar with. Yes, total caloric intake is important. For that reason, switching meals might seem okay. Yet caloric intake isn't the main thrust of this diet. Instead, we're concerned with correcting phasal disorders.

We have good reasons to forbid "sleepy foods" until the dinner daypart. The light, protein lunch keeps you as alert as you can be. The recommended foods for lunch are also easy to digest. These foods pass through your stomach rapidly. Protein also tends to suppress the appetite. These facts are all advantages to eating Wakeup Diet foods according to plan.

QUESTION. What do you think about the gluten-free diet? Would it work for phasal disorders such as narcolepsy?

ANSWER. Note: The language is misleading. What we really mean by "gluten-free" is "wheat gluten-free."

Apparently the thesis is that wheat gluten, barley or rye causes narcolepsy-like symptoms. Or maybe that narcoleptics and phase-shifted individuals really have celiac disease. Or maybe that sufferers without celiac are gluten-sensitive. (By the way, gluten is protein. Celiac disease is the inability to digest wheat gluten or gliadin, a gluten protein.)

Unfortunately our tests of supposedly gluten-free products don't support the thesis. For narcoleptics without celiac disease, a gluten-free diet probably won't help sufficiently. Besides, some gluten-free diets allow starches that the Wakeup Diet forbids during the day...

• Amaranth • Buckwheat • Cornmeal or corn starch
• Potato flour or starch • Rice bran or flour  

Most of these foods tend to precipitate cataplexy or full-bore narcolepsy attacks. Only soy flour is okay. During the workday, the Wakeup Diet restricts even soy products to the minimum.

On the brighter side: Those promoting the gluten-free diet have at least part of the idea. Wheat gluten is in many starchy foods. Starchy foods seem to irritate and worsen phasal disorders such as narcolepsy. Here are our conclusions about gluten...

  • Starchy foods, whether they contain gluten or not, remain the problem. This isn't a new discovery. Dieticians know that these foods make all people tired. During work hours, phase-shift sufferers must also avoid fats and dense proteins. Steak is an example of both fat and dense protein. For all dayparts, steak is off the Wakeup Diet.

  • Probably not all narcoleptics or phase-shifted individuals have celiac disease. For those without celiac disease (or gluten sensitivity), we don't recommend a gluten-free diet. Those with celiac disease (or gluten sensitivity) should consider a gluten-free diet.

  • Gluten-free diets allow starchy foods that don't contain gluten. For narcoleptics and other sufferers of phase-shifts, any starchy foods can be disastrous.

  • We welcome more research on gluten.

QUESTION. You mention that alertness depends on the type of food you eat. Doesn't all food make you sleepy?

ANSWER. Alertness depends on many things. Food is one of them.

All foods make you sleepy. When you switch on the stomach, it requires some of your energy. You can't help but feel a reduction elsewhere. But there's a secret: Foods aren't equal in how sleepy they make you. Some foods make you very sleepy right away. Others have a more delayed effect. More important, some foods really load you down. These foods sustain the sleepiness. Other foods aren't such a burden. These foods cause a brief period of sleepiness.

Let's divide foods into two categories: Foods that cause substantial sleepiness and foods that don't. The "sleepy foods" are starches, fats and dense proteins. Dense proteins are the ones that require a lot of chewing and a lot of digesting. All these foods tax the system in one way or another. The "low-impact" foods are lean proteins and low-glycemic carbohydrates.

The trick is this: When you need to be alert, that is, during the day, avoid "sleepy foods." At night, when you need to sleep soundly, bring 'em on! Nighttime is the right time for sleepy foods. To help you sleep even better, exercise vigorously, producing sweat. Then take a warm shower. About an hour before bedtime, eat sleepy foods. Don't overeat. Just enjoy a sensible dinner. Later, you'll be amazed at how well you sleep.

QUESTION. Why shouldn't I drink coffee or other caffeinated foods, or take caffeine pills?

ANSWER. For several reasons...

  • Caffeine can randomly reset your circadian rhythms. (Chronobiologist Dr. Charles Ehret proved this point.)

  • The compulsion to drink coffee may occur at any time, including nighttime. Nighttime caffeine will tend to keep you up and shift your nighttime phase to a later hour.

  • The bitterness of coffee encourages consumption of sweets. These carbohydrates can cause both sleepiness and hunger. The sleepiness will result in sleep attacks, fragmented sleep, and phase shifts in your dayparts. You'll tend to fall asleep soon, but at night you'll tend to have difficulty sleeping.

  • Caffeine is addictive. Like most addictive substances, caffeine produces tolerance: After several weeks, caffeine may have little effect except reinforcing a habit. Yet evening caffeine might still disturb your sleep.

  • Caffeine is a neurotoxin.

  • Caffeine can cause dehydration.

  • Caffeine can cause shakes, clumsiness, vertigo or balance problems.

  • Caffeine can deplete your body of essential electrolytes and vitamins.

  • Caffeine can cause or worsen acid indigestion, GERD, and hemorrhoids.

  • In some narcoleptics, caffeine can cause or worsen time and space distortion.

  • In some narcoleptics, caffeine can cause or worsen hypnagogic hallucinations.

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