“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” – Charles M. Schulz
Recently, I wrote about how I broke through from fat to fit. In that post, I promised to share what I’ve learned over time about eating for optimum fitness. Some of this might be new to you — even contrary to what you may have been taught. I hope you’ll do your own research and try what seems best to you. Eat the meat and spit out the bones
There are only three macronutrieints: protein, fat and carbohydrates. Each contains calories, but one flaw in most nutrition strategies is the assumption that all calories are equal. Using this logic, well-meaning people cut back on their eating across the board — or worse, shift to a higher percentage of carbohydrates in their diet.While they may lose weight, they end up with a higher percentage of body fat and less muscle, thus becoming a skinny fat person — a lose-lose scenario.
At one level, you could say that an excess of calories from any source would necessarily cause you to pile on the pounds. However, it’s not as simple as that.
Of the three, you only need protein and fats to survive. Carbohydrates can have a place in your diet, but you do not require them. Protein supplies you with the amino acids you need to support lean body mass – the most metabolically active and desirable stuff for health. So whenever you sit down to eat, make sure you’re taking in adequate protein and eat your protein first.
How to calculate protein requirements
Let’s start by saying that, unless you have a history of kidney disease, we’re going to calculate the minimum daily protein. To do this, you need to know your lean body mass. There are multiple ways to calculate this. (I like the method devised by husband and wife M.D.s Michael and Mary Eades — authors of the book, Protein Power.) If you don’t have access to the tables and constants, you can use an online calculator like this one.
Once you know your lean body mass, you can determine how much protein you need per day. If you’re athletic, you should aim for 0.9 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass a day. If you weigh 175 pounds and have 15% body fat, your lean body mass is 148.75 pounds. An active man with this lean body mass should take in at least 134 grams of complete protein per day. Spread over three meals a day, that would be approximately 45 grams of protein per sitting. And for your information, one ounce of lean meat contains approximately 7 grams of protein.
Wait? Fats are good for you?
In a word, yes. Eating fat will help you to feel full, but it won’t make you fat unless you combine that fat with carbohydrates. They provide the kind of fuel you need, and interestingly, when you’re consuming fat, your body takes this as a signal that all is well and you do not attempt to store it.
At our house, we use grass fed butter, avocados, nuts, extra virgin olive oil and unrefined coconut oil as our sources of dietary fats. This, of course, is in addition to the fats present in meat, fish, eggs and dairy products.
If you want to gain a better understanding of the ways dietary science has been skewed to disfavor fats, check out the book, The Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz. She reports how the entire country’s eating habits — and nutritional education — rest on some shaky foundations.
But let me tell you that your brain needs fat to function. And your body needs cholesterol in order to produce testosterone. That’s right. In our area there are radio and TV spots talking about America’s plummeting testosterone levels and selling remedies. And this while we are telling men to avoid cholesterol in their diets. If you want to avoid being low-T, crack some eggs.
For the record, two-thirds of your serum cholesterol is produced by your liver. It does this, not in response to cholesterol you eat, but in response to insulin you produce — that production happens when you eat carbohydrates.
If you’re concerned that eating protein and fat will skew your health metrics, I have been eating this way for over 15 years and my cholesterol numbers are consistently within normal limits.
Kick carbs to the curb
So let’s say you’ve figured out how much protein you need per day, and you’ve decided to let fat back into your diet. Good man! You lack one thing: you must now break your addiction to carbohydrates and cut your consumption of them way back.
Let’s start with what sports trainer Mark Verstegen calls “the Devil’s carb” — high fructose corn syrup. This inexpensive sugar appears as a leading ingredient in nearly all sodas and many, many prepared foods. Become a reader of food labels and wherever possible choose whole foods, or at least options that are free of high fructose corn syrup.
You can get rid of a lot of carbohydrates easily through your choice of beverages. I drink black coffee, unsweet iced tea and water — all of which have zero calories. The only exception to this practice is the protein shakes I use to make sure I get enough protein every day. Quit drinking your calories. And if you’re serious about getting fit, that includes alcohol.
But don’t stop there. Eliminate all white carbs from your diet — sugar, bread, rice, noodles, potatoes. These spike your insulin, which is the master fat storage hormone.
Tim Ferriss says
In his book, The 4-Hour Body, Tim Ferriss decribes an eating plan we’ve followed for the past four years. The Slow-Carb diet employs a lot of the principles above, but replaces refined carbohydrates with legumes — beans. Six days a week, you eat meat (protein), non-starchy vegetables and beans, while avoiding white carbs, fruit and dairy. One day a week, you’re allowed to have a cheat day where everything is back on the menu. We have found this to be rather easy to sustain over time, but you should know there is no exit plan when one hits his ideal weight/body composition.
Ferriss says, “The decent method you follow is better than the perfect method you quit.” I think this is great guidance as you make progress toward the best possible version of yourself. Don’t be afraid to experiment and to modify any plan to enable you to improve your appearance and your health.