Diet to give you optimum energy

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Such an arduous job will inevitably tax your body. Your metabolism seems to double, with a likewise increase in appetite. Your wounds heal three times as fast. Your nails and hair grow faster as well. While fasting, I’ve learned that your body can consume up to 60% of its energy converting food into usable energy. Breaking down a tough steak, for example.

So there is definitely a science to proper food consumption in order to make your body as prepared and fit as possible in order to ensure optimum performance, and hence income. One researcher studied the treeplanting profession and came up with an optimum diet, with all sorts of other treeplanting tips. Not sure if I would agree with a lot of sugar and bread, but the following is my own take on it.

In brief, you don’t want to eat meat during the day, shifting rather to a glucose oriented diet, where your body needs glucose for the physical work. But protein is important for muscle regeneration. 10 hours a day of struggling with a shovel in nature, and then crawling over logs will put a big strain on the body. It is like sporting for that long. Ideally your body needs to rest so that it can recuperate. But since you are denied that, without a proper diet, you will find your body starts to eat your muscles to convert them to glucose, required for the physical exertion. Without a proper diet, treeplanters can look like gauntly but strong muscled skeletons. It is almost unavoidable. But I found that, with a good diet, I was able to maintain the job for many months, without end. Many planters apparently burn out after only two months. For muscle regeneration, I found that drinking whey powder (a protein-rich biproduct of cheese production) with (non gmo) soya milk after dinner is a good idea. Let your body use the easy to process protein to regenerate your muscles while you sleep – the best time for body regeneration, when it uses its energy to heal and regenerate the body. Obviously, a good night’s sleep (practically impossible with many, partying treeplanting crews) is important, without alcohol so your body doesn’t have to first preoccupy itself with filtering and processing the poison you just injected into it, before working on healing your body. You can get such protein powder from pharmacies or sports outlets.

treeplanting camp-cook
Drawn from

         For the mornings, I like to have eggs (more protein), bacon, cereal and milk, yoghurt for good poos, and then the rest of the diet is standard healthy stuff, like veggies etc. Lots of carbohydrates, which the body can use well for long and short term energy. Try not to eat too much in the morning, otherwise you may find yourself waddling around like a lowballer for your first few bagups.

         During the day I like to focus more on glucose, the body’s primary source of fuel, sparing my body the additional energy it would require to first convert some food into glucose before it can use it as fuel. Some planters swear to Gatorade, but the main ingredient in that is sugar, which weakens your immune system. The healthiest form of glucose is molasses or organic maple syrup, although not the easiest to get. The second ingredient in Gatorade is Dextrose. Just before salt, meaning it could be a negligible amount. My Chinese doctor recommended Dextrose to me after I had spent 5 months partying with my cousin, sleeping little and consuming much evil. I had depleted my system of resources, my face lacked colour, and I felt weak. She recommended 10 table spoons a day mixed into Soya milk. It is actually quite tasty. Salt is important because it is needed to keep your body hydrated. Otherwise you get to a point where you pee out roughly what you put in. Our bodies are roughly 85% salt water. The fact that your tears can taste like sweet seawater can remind you that we all, originally, came from the ocean. So the correct amount of salt in your juice concoction is important. I like to experiment, and gauge how much I pee the next day. If I add too much hydration crystals, I once developed gas pain in my stomach (although I cannot be certain it was because of that). The last ingredient is monoxide. I went to some pharmacies and asked them about this and was suggested some alternatives, which has a bunch of active ingredients which help to hydrate the body. Designed for children with diarrhea problems, but which can be used for similar hydration issues. Apparently electrolytes are important (more info in the Dietary Supplements section below). It is a high endurance sport. Move over Armstrong, we’ve got some trees to plant. So it can definitely become an extensive science to feed the treeplanter with the ultimate and productive yielding diet.


         For my drink then, I like to prepare the following:

  • two four litre jugs. Can usually get free milk jugs from the cook.

  • I’ll put about four scoops of dextrose into each jug. You can add lemon or ice-tea crystals, for flavour, or simple sugar. Squeezed lemon could be good because it is an important cleansing ingredient while fasting. But for those who want to go all out, you could just use more of the healthier glucose below (next paragraph) and knock out sugar altogether. Perhaps the noname glucose, acting as table maple syrup.

  • if you do decide to go healthier, which inevitably means more expensive, you can choose a greater degree of glucose, preferably in the form of maple syrup, which is apparently the healthiest form of glucose. Molasses can be good too.

  • then you can add your salt and hydration crystals, experimenting to limit peeing the next day, while avoiding gas pain or any other undesirable effects you might suspect as attributed to the crystals.

It should taste rather sweet. I liked it right from the start, but others who drank it all grimaced that it was too sweet. Or it doesnt bother me to leave it in the sun until it gets piss warm. Some have expressed it tastes exactly like that. But when I drink it it feels like I absorbed light-feeling energy. I eat much less during the day. Eating is also time consuming. For optimum time savings, I’ve even considered sipping the substances through a hose all day. But I’ve been told that planters who have tried that experienced teeth problems, after being soaked in sugar sweets for an extended period of time. It can be a nice break to occasionally unbundle trees and just stand up straight for a change and swig back some energy juice. It does throw you out of your rhythm though, and I found I could survive reasonably well drinking only during bagups.


For the rest of my day I like to eat rolled oats / trail mix / granola bars, carrots, one or two pj (peanut butter and jelly) sandwiches, and some fruit if they had some I wanted. These ingredients seem readily available on the usual camp treeplanter’s menu. It might also be possible to convince the cook or management that shifting to such a diet, even mixing into big barrels the super drink above, could increase production and profits.

In the end, you should be aware of your body, and consider it as a machine which is yielding you income. If you fine tune it properly, you will be in less pain, be able to plant more months, and generate more income for yourself. When I first started planting I developed a big craving for potato chips and beef jerky. My roommate suggested that I could have been responding to a salt depletion. It was a big shock to my body, having enjoyed two years of relative stagnation. I would therefore suggest you listen to your body and make appropriate adjustments, where necessary.

treeplanting camp mess tent

Standing in line at the mess tent after a long day’s hard work.

Dietary Supplements

With such high demands on your body, regular food intake will not be enough. The stresses and toils work differently on different parts of the body. Your joints are highly exerted, so the tendons need help with lubrication and other issues. It makes this better time than ever to pull out those vitamins and other goodies. With the big plastic jug of whey powder, I felt I had a small pharmacy in my tent. Below you will find a list of products I found through local pharmacies. Ask various pharmacies in your area for their opinion, if you cannot readily find the below:

  • whey powder – easy to consume protein to help regenerate muscles

  • some form of glucose, such as maple syrup or mollasses (more info above). You can also shift some to sugar, such as Gatorade or lemon ice-tea crystals, although this is not so healthy

  • multi-vitamins can never hurt. Consider taking double the daily recommended dosage, or ask your physician

  • green electrolyte stuff (cant remember the name, just ask at the pharmacy)

  • vitamin B complex, to help your body cope with increased stress

  • MSM, to help your joints. Should start with that program three weeks before planting as it takes that long to percolate through the system and begin working

  • comfrey root, to help the joints further. Very effective and works immediately. Can mix with tiger balm as well, which are very soothing on the joints and tendons. Better as topical treatment and not internally, as it may harm the stomach.

  • ginseng. Optional for motivation. May consider using at 3pm when the day winds down and you start to lose motivation. An extra kick for the last 100 yards, but make sure you do not overstress your body. Keep tabs on your overall state and be careful not to overexert yourself. Guage your activity and monitor your body, otherwise your body could make up its own mind and force you to take some days off lying sick in bed, costing you more money in the long run. Others have used Royal honey for increased boost

  • Spirulina – if you can find it somewhere, it is a one celled organism comprising roughly of 60% carboydrates, 30% protein and 10% iron. Your body just soaks it up and does not require energy to process it. Can come in a powder and you can mix with pineapple juice to improve the taste. Best drunk during the day, when immediate energy is required the most.

More articles I’ve written about health.



Treeplanting attire

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We are a family operation managing private custom boat tours in the beautiful Palawan area, and are happy to help travelers with their plans through the country, having traveled a lot of it ourselves and planning to visit it all. The pages in this section concern when I was treeplanting in Canada over eight summers.

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