Cutting the Hype and Gaining Health

Survival nutrition goes beyond consuming high-calorie foods and energy drinks. It includes both your body's flight-or-fight mode and the knowledge of survival and nutrition. It also includes your health index and the health index of everyone in your family. Poor health is a detriment and a liability in an emergency. In a situation where your body's ability to run or fight is not enough, survival becomes more about your everyday health than about changing stored fat to energy. In short, survival nutrition is two parts - Surviving an emergency and building long-term health so that you can survive an emergency. 

Everyday Diets Are Building Blocks for Survival

Our daily nutrition consumption helps prime every system in our body. This includes the production of muscle, bone, and sinew and the ability of our bodies to fight off disease by consuming highly nutritious foods that are full of vitamins and minerals. Survival mode is dynamic. Out-skiing an avalanche is a flight-or-fight response, but being trapped in an avalanche is an entirely other experience. Survival situations can become an instant and instinctual reaction or a long, drawn out event. Eating healthy, nutritious foods helps prime your body to survive both.

Do you consume foods to increase your basic health index? Everyday health is just as important as being capable of surviving a natural disaster or a disruption in your food supply. Your health level is the foundation on which the capability to survive rests. 

Survival Nutrition — Surviving an Emergency

The philosophies vary about food sources, stores, and consumption during a survival situation. Those include poor-quality boxed meals from the supermarkets' bargain bin to private label bone broth protein powder. Which is the correct type of food to store? There isn't a perfect answer because survival requirements are not static, however there are a number of precautions you can make now.

If you have not prepared for an emergency, then consumption is limited. However, the focus of this conversation is to promote thinking about preparing for the big what-if. The goal is to highlight learning, survival nutrition, and everyday health.

In an emergency situation, your body needs good nutrition, and it needs nutrients that quickly become bioavailable - ready to use. This includes sugars, starches, and proteins. However, not all sugars, starches, and proteins are ideal in an emergency.

Example: Candy or food sources with a high glycemic index will provide you with a high but short burst of energy. Dried apples are going to give you a short burst of energy and a long burning energy source. Which is better? If your emergency is short in duration, they are both equal. If your emergency is going to last longer than an hour, then the dried apples are a better food source. 

What you might face dictates what you will need to survive. A raging snow storm that lasts for a week requires different food and nutrition than surviving an earthquake where there maybe a longer term food supply disruption. The lesson is that we know that not all emergencies are the same and that what we consume has different results. During a short-term emergency, your body's supply of adrenaline will burn quickly. We may not have time to eat a candy bar or dried apples. A good way to think about why what we eat is important is this:

If you had lunch an hour ago and you had a candy bar and some dried apples, changes are after that hour, the energy from the candy is spent. You might even feel somewhat tired or sleepy. That is because the high-sugar candy caused your blood sugar levels to spike and then crash. The dried apples are still working for you because they are also a long-term energy source. Both the candy and the fruit are a short-term source but fruit also acts as a long-term energy source and will provide you with an energy reserve after the high glycemic foods, such as candy, are depleted. Natural sugars and foods that are lower on the glycemic index tend to help your body maintain an even blood sugar level. So after an hour, you still have energy that is bioavailable from the dried apples. 

The Quality of Your Food Choices have a Big Picture Impact
The quality of what we consume impacts our everyday health and our ability to not only survive but thrive, in an emergency situation. This needs to become your focus for survival nutrition. Optimizing nutritional intake prior to and during an emergency provides you with the greatest chance of survival. 

Prepping and conservative practical preparation is important. Whether you are laying in supplies for world-war III or throwing a survival pack together for a long weekend adventure fly fishing in a backwoods creek, how you prepare is essential to your survival. Forethought and preparation save lives. When you think about an emergency food supply, think quality foods. These are good sugars, good starches, and good proteins. 

Because survival nutrition is not a constant and more dynamic, it becomes goal oriented. What changes between everyday food consumption and eating during an emergency is your caloric intake. When the body is in survival mode, the caloric demand increases. You need more natural glucose, long-acting starches, and high-quality lean proteins. You find these foods in fresh or dried fruits, whole grains and legumes, and lean cuts of meat and poultry. 

Goals for Survival Nutrition

Survival nutrition can be seen as an equation that measures the duration of the event, and the caloric intake required to meet the physical demands during that time. Set your survival goals accordingly by planning for:
  • Number of people to feed
  • Amount of calories required per day (estimate)
  • Adequate stores drinking water
  • Bioavailability of food choices
  • Emergency rationing
  • High-quality food sources
Good Nutrition is equally about the management of food stores. You can improve the quality of the food you store by:
  • Actively rotating rations and nutritional supplements so that you use the oldest food first. 
  • Proactively inspect stored food for spoilage, infestation by vermin, and the expiration or physical damage such as dented cans or environmental spoilage. 
  • Focusing on foods that create balanced meals
Survival nutrition is complex, but it is manageable. Do you address both daily nutrition and long-term food storage as part of your survival plan? There is no better time than today to start preparing for the big "What-if." Make a plan to eat healthy foods, get more exercise to get your body ready. Also, lay in food stocks that offer short and long-term energy, good fats, and plenty of protein. 

Added Resources
Food and Water in an Emergency - FEMA — Good food storage tips, Prepping tips for laying in food stores, a good guide on how long stored food lasts.

Video — Overnight Bushcraft - Survival Trip: Late Summer at Wild Pond — Good adventure for beginners or advanced outdoorsman. As you watch, evaluate the energy use for everything he does. It all comes down to nutrition.