Body fuel

Over the last few years I’m lucky enough to have been asked, by some very carefree people, to test-drive a number cars and then write about them. I like cars and the physical and mental act that goes with driving them. It’s probably reinforced by my engineering background but, even from before I started school, I’ve always had a love of all things mechanical, how they’re designed and what makes them operate at their best. It’s a bit like cooking really.

Of course a good car can’t possibly show off its best characteristics unless it’s driven properly, by a person who knows what they’re doing and can appreciate the vehicle and therefore treat it right. There’s no doubt I’m actually not that person but as long as I fool myself into thinking I am then I’m happy. It’s a bit like judging how good a lover you are; as long as you think you’re amazing then little else matters.

By the same token that the input from the car driver is all important, so it must matter what sort of fuel is poured down the filler tube. Taking an extreme example, obviously if you stick diesel in a petrol car, even though the fuel’s obtained from the same raw material, the car won’t perform at its best. In fact, it won’t actually perform at all but it makes my point.

At a more sensible level, just using the right grade of fuel makes a difference. And it’s not all marketing hype in those messages extolling us to buy the more expensive unleaded at the pump rather than the entry-level variety. Some of these pricier fuels, in the right car, of a certain age, driven in a particular style, can improve fuel economy and/or general performance. It stands to reason that one fuel can’t necessarily be the best for all cars and, believe it or not, it’s a fact that fuel quality varies around the country and therefore your cousin in Southampton, even though he drives the same car as you with similar fuel, might not get the same performance out of his.

So why should human beings be any different? With our propensity to buy more and more ready meals from the supermarkets and takeaways without any real knowledge as to their provenance and makeup, we endanger our wellbeing by not understanding our own basic fuel.

Studies have shown that those children that moved on to the Jamie Oliver style of school dinners did better in exams than before. That certainly sounds like it could be a bit of Jamie’s marketing hype but if you lived on nothing but beef burgers and chips for a month, do you think that your body would be at its optimum at the end of it? Your legs almost certainly won’t be able to power you along the 100 metres quite as fast as before because, apart from the excess flab you’d now be carrying, the muscles won’t have been fed the best fuel. So then it’s worth considering that, to all intents and purposes, the brain’s a kind of muscle too and benefits from a balanced diet made up of good quality food.

I actually find it annoying that we need studies to point this out to us. Do we really need to be told that rubbish-in equates to rubbish-out? We’ve long appreciated that poor air makes us breath badly, that loud noise can effect our hearing and that bad beer gives me a hangover. And yet we seem to think that we can throw any old rubbish down our necks and still operate at our optimum.

There’s little more precious to us than the machine that carries us around all day. Surely we should take more care about the way we fuel it.

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