31 July 2009

How much?

Great. So we know what to eat and what not to eat. Let's talk a little on how much to eat.

You probably already realize this, but your body isn't a machine. Today, you may burn up 2,163 calories. Tomorrow you might use 2,607 and yesterday maybe 1,979. The point here is to not get caught up in calories. It's silly to aim for 2,000 or 2,500 a day.

The great thing about the foods I've suggested to you is that they are all very satisfying (read: filling),don't overstimulate insulin production (a process that actually makes you more hungry) and most importantly, ensure you are getting the most nutrients per unit of food. The point here is eat when you're hungry and eat until you are satisfied. It's impossible to grow fat from fruits and vegetables and nearly impossible to grow fat from meat (since your body will only tolerate a certain amount).

But if you are an athlete, looking to lose weight, or are just interested in taking this way of eating a step further and have other specific goals, here are general rules of thumb. I always have to stress that these suggestions and only suggestions. They come out of a culmination of figuring out what works best for myself as well as a couple years of research and reading of various studies and approaches.

1. Protein: Your body needs adequate protein. It's the building blocks on muscles, helps them to heal, and does a number of other things throughout the body that are beneficial to you. For regularly active Joes, I recommend .8g of protein per pound of bodyweight. More mature (over 40 years of age) or sedentary males will be fine with .7g per pound and females .6g per pound. The majority of reader's probably fit in one of these categories. For example, a 180# active male, requires around 145g of protein per day. For a 120# female, you are looking at around 85g. If your aim is to lose weight, I suggest calculating your protein requirements using your ideal (but realistic) body weight. If gaining muscle mass is a priority, then 1g of protein per pound of body weight is what you should be thinking. As points of reference, four ounces of chicken has around 35g of protein. A six ounce sirloin steak has around 50g. One egg has about 7g. Six ounces of salmon contains around 40g.

2. Carbohydrates: I like to keep my carbohydrate intake at 1g per pound of body weight plus or minus some. This gives you plenty of that quick energy that you need, but not so much that you run into insulin issues. A large apple or banana has around 30g. One cup of blueberries has around 20g. One cup of cooked carrots has around 15g and one cup of cooked broccoli has similar amounts. A medium sized sweet potato has around 60g with the peel and around 50g without. Most nuts contain about 5g per ounce plus or minus some depending on the variety.

3. Fats: Ah, my favorite food group. Fat intake should be roughly the same as protein intake. This will help to cover the other calories needed now that that dump truck load of carbohydrates isn't coming in and also cause less insulin to be realeased to manage the carbohydrates you are eating. One tablespoon of most oils contains about 14g of fat. An ounce of nuts contain about 18g. One small avocado has around 20g. Your protein sources will also contain adequate amounts of fat, so don't fill up on olive oil and almonds (though one or two tablespoons of oil and 2 to 4 ounces of nuts is certainly ok).

Example: I'm a young, active 150# male, so I aim for about 120g grams of protein, 150g of carbs, and 120g of fat each day. This equates to around 2,200 calories per day. However, please keep in mind that some days I probably eat as many as 3,000 or as little as 2,000. I don't count calories. I make an effort to get adequate protein, eat when I'm hungry, and stop when I'm satisfied. Your body isn't a machine, but it is remarkably intelligent in knowing what and how much it needs so listen to it when it tells you something.

29 July 2009

What Not To Eat

Food products are everywhere and unfortunately I'm not talking about tupperware or toaster ovens (though I might as well be). I'm talking about items produced for human consumption that have been processed and hydrogenated and fortified and skimmed and pasteurized and enriched and refined and carbonated and all those other things they do that pass for "food" these days. Think about it. Most of our great grandparents had never even heard of some of the stuff on the shevles now.

So what is a food product? There's a couple simple ways to tell. These guidelines however, are not 100% true 100% of the time, but will help you in making decisions about what to buy and what to put back on the shelf.

1. It has a package. Packaged foods are usually a sign that the product has been through some sort of processing facility and that some sort of effort has been made to make that food last longer than it realistically should. Which leads us to...

2. It doesn't rot or go rancid. It goes stale. Meat goes rancid. Milk goes stale. Onions rot. Cheez-Its go stale. Apples rot. Bread goes stale. Real food is living matter that has only a certain amount of time to be consumed.

3. The package makes health claims or has unpronounceable/unfamiliar ingredients. See #1.... Have you ever read (or tried to say) what's in a Special K Protein Bar? Or soy milk? Or Lucky Charms? Case closed.

4. The ingredients list high fructose corn syrup or hydrogenated oil. Don't get me started. High fructose corn syrup isn't a whole lot worse for you than real sugar. I'll buy that. But it's still sugar. Hydrogenated oils are also a terrible breed of human-made fat that can lower HDL cholesterol ("healthy") and raise LDL cholesterol ("lousy"). You'll hear me discuss both of these menaces more indepth at another time.

*NEW* 5. It looks the same every time you eat it. A piece of meat or an onion is real, organic matter that grew and developed on its own, therefore each is individual and unique (read: real food). Ketchup and Fritos will forever look and taste exactly the same (read: processed garbage).

So there you have it. These are just a few ways to tell if you have a nasty food product on your hands. A good way to prevent these from entering your home is to shop the perimeter of the grocery store. The aisles are generally filled with the shelf stable, processed, hydrongenated, yadda, yadda crap that the employees don't have to worry about checking. Also, most farmer's markets are completely devoid of Kraft, General Mills, and Nabisco's pretty packages.

27 July 2009

Eat food?

Here we are. What to eat? Funny how such a simple question can alter your length and quality of life. I'm going to borrow heavily from author Michael Pollan today (In Defense of Food, The Omnivore's Dilemma) since I think he has it mostly right.

Eat food.

Whoa. That was easy. Right?

No. Most of the "food" you eat today isn't really food. It's processed food product. We'll pick up later with "food products" and how to know what one is, but for now, I just want to get to the meat and potatoes (...sweet potatoes) of what I think we should all be eating.

Let's start with meat. Don't get me wrong. If you are a vegetarian that thinks eating meat is inhumane, I can't fix you. If you are a vegetarian because you think the living conditions for most of the animals are terrible and the USDA health standards needs some revising, I respect the hell out of you (and you are largely right). If you are a vegetarian because it's trendy and your favorite food is french fries, I don't feel so bad for you. Humans are designed to eat meat. Just look at your teeth for proof. So what kinds of meat? All meat. Cattle, bison, pig, chicken, other small game, deer, rabbit, organ meats, whatever, etc. Eggs also fall under this heading, but milk, cheese, and other dairy products do not. Just about the only thing I recommend to limit is veal (which has an abnormally high content of fat thanks to the practices of modern day sheep farmers).

Moving on to fish. Fatty fish are best: salmon, tuna, and the like. However, even white fish (flounder, tilapia) and shellfish (shrimp, scallops, crab) are great sources of clean protein. Wild is ALWAYS better than farmed.

Eat your veggies! Vegetables are now going to assume the role of your primary source of carbohydrates and they offer a fantastic source of nutrients per calorie. Let me explain what vegetables ARE NOT. They are not corn, beans (black, lima, butter, or soy), rice, or potatoes. They ARE asparagus, broccoli, lettuce, spinach, carrots, squash, zucchini, eggplant, capsicums (bell peppers), onions, etc. Sweet potatoes (yams) are in fact a vegetable (and have a much smaller impact on insulin levels than your typical white potato), but I still only recommend them in moderation or regularly for serious athletes/gym-goers/manual laborers. Green beans are also another exception.

Everyone likes fruit. Apples, blueberries, strawberries, melons, grapefruit, citrus fruit, peaches, etc. Fruit is also a great source of nutrients per calorie and more carbohydrates that aren't as detrimental to your blood sugar. Bananas are a fruit (and a favorite of many at that), but my advice on them is similar to that of sweet potatoes above.

We've got our proteins and carbs covered. How about some healthy fat? Nuts/seeds and oils are the best. Nuts include walnuts, pecans, macadamias, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds, coconut, flax seeds, nut butters, and many others. Oils include olive oil, flax oil, nut oils, coconut oil, lard, tallow, limited amounts of canola oil and butter, and others. Please note that "nuts" does NOT include peanuts or cashews. However, if a handful of peanuts or some natural peanut butter is the worst thing you eat, you're doing pretty good. Also, oils does not include soybean oil, peanut oil, corn oil, or partially hydrogenated/hydrogentated oil of ANY kind. Avocados technically belong to the fruit family, but they are also another great source of healthy fat.

This all might seem limiting, but we are only getting started.

25 July 2009

Can you tell I'm passionate?

Today, I'd like to quickly go over the last piece of the puzzle: glucagon. Glucagon is like the jelly to insulin's peanut butter. Insulin keeps blood sugar from rising too high (by taking glucose out of the blood and storing it) whereas glucagon keeps these levels from going to low (by promoting the burning of fat and fat stores for energy). It's all about a counterbalance between these two hormones (that most Americans never achieve).

So what have we learned so far? The government wants us to eat a diet full of carbohydrates to support our domestic wheat, corn, and soybean industries and have convinced us that this is an ideal diet that promotes health and longevity through a a series of carefully selected studies funded by our domestic wheat, corn, and soybean industries. We also know that carbohydrates provide us with quick energy in the form of glucose that circulates through our blood to our cells. This causes insulin to be released that tells the liver to store the glucose for a short time. If those stores are not used in a timely manner (or more carbohydrates are eaten), insulin tells those stores to become fat tissue.

Storage of fat isn't so bad really. In fact, we need it to survive, but chronic elevated insulin levels are so bad.

Did you know that chronic elevated insulin levels lead to all the diseases of civilization: heart disease, obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis, etc.? These are the results (read: symptoms) of the complicated havoc that high levels of insulin plays on your system. Doctors (and pharmaceutical companies) like to treat all of these symptoms as the disease with different drugs that cost a fortune per month. What happens when you go to the doctor and have to pay for expensive pills each month? Your health care costs rise and the pharmaceutical companies have a customer for life and we end up in a mess like we are currently in. Some of these drugs work. Sure, but you can eliminate the problems (and the bills) with your diet which we will finally discuss next time.

Sorry for the tangent. Can you tell I'm passionate?

23 July 2009

We just can't make time for everything

"....chronic elevated insulin levels and lipogenesis"

Remember this conversation we were having? The words above are a bit intimidating, wouldn't you say?

Let's start with insulin. I've mentioned before the fact that insulin controls the amount of glucose in the blood (blood sugar), but what you probably don't know is that insulin controls nearly everything related to your metabolism. It can also dramatically raise or lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels in a matter of hours. Insulin is a hormone, just like testosterone, estrogen, and growth hormone. What sets it apart from the rest is that it is the only major hormone that encourages the storage of fat, which brings me to lipogenesis.

Consider the scenario we discussed last week where I went through a typical American's daily diet. Lots of carbohydrates led to "chronic elevated insulin", right? In short, your body never had time to fully utilize (read: burn) all the carbohydrates you've stuffed it with and so insulin levels never drop back down to normal levels again before you munch on that bag of potato chips. So our good friend insulin does all it knows how to do. It tells the body to take all those carbs you haven't used and store them as fat, a process known as lipogenesis. (Lipo meaning "fat", and genesis meaning "the beginning") This is how insulin attempts to maintain a regular blood sugar.

So if you're body is still working on all those carbs you ate for lunch at dinner time, when does your body have time to burn fat?? Never. That gets stored too.

21 July 2009

Who are you anyway?

So I've been hitting you with a lot of boring facts lately. Today, I'd like to give you a little background on me and why I'm so interested in what you eat.

It all started about 3 years ago when, as a junior in high school, I became interested in rock climbing. I'd never really been a "sports" kind of guy. Sure, I played tennis okay, and had dabbled in your typical soccer and baseball as a kid, but was never very good. I had decided that at with a 165# 5'6" frame, I just wasn't built to be an athlete.

Climbing introduced me to a whole new way of thinking about strength and sport. I began to realize that I needed to drop some weight if I was going to get any better. Through a combination of intense workouts and a severe calorie restricted diet, I lost 27 pounds in 3 months. Great, right? Yeah, except I was miserable, weak, and tired just about 24/7 (quite the opposite of the goals I was hoping to achieve).

I slowly worked my way back up to what I felt like was a weight that balanced my climbing performance with my overall happiness and well being settling in at 150#. My next goal became the maintenance of this new weight. Over the next year or so, I limited my overall fat intake as best I could (something probably practiced by 95% of dieting Americans) since that is what I had come to believe was a healthful and correct way to live my life. I also abstained from red meat and hydrogenated oils. This is about the time that I really came to be fascinated with nutrition and food. I studied it. I read about it. I practiced it. (Though you could make the argument I still hadn't gotten it yet.)

About 8 months ago now, after climbing had led me to weight lifting, weight lifting then led me to Crossfit, a community of dedicated gym goers and intense workouts designed to help one maintain fitness in all areas of strength, agility, flexibility, endurance, so on, and so forth. A series of conversations with fellow Crossfitters led me to a completely novel and new approach to eating (note: not dieting). Loren Cordain calls it Paleo. Mark Sisson calls it Primal. I call it the natural approach. This new way of thinking about food led me to new books and new studies and new experts that are out to turn what we've been told about eating upside down because quite frankly, what you've been told is wrong. Unfortunately though, the what has to come after the why so I will be continuing our conversation about lipogenesis in my next posting before outlining this natural way of eating, though you are more than welcome to visit Loren and Mark's fantastic sites.

So that's where I am today. After graduating from Appalachian as a Food & Nutrition Science major, I hope to continue on to graduate school for food chemistry or something similar. Ultimately, I'd like to do research on obesity and diabetes.

17 July 2009

Carbohydrate overload...

Carbohydrates are a pretty interesting breed of macronutrient. They provide our bodies with a fast and easily digestible source of energy needed to get through our day. Let's discuss the metabolic pathways that carbohydrates take... Whoa. Don't get too excited.

Upon consuming a slice of bread, a Dr. Pepper, or a banana, your blood stream begins the process of carrying the sugar (glucose) created from the starch you have just ingested throughout the body and to your cells for a quick fix of energy. Next, a hormone you are probably familiar with called insulin is released shortly thereafter which tells your liver to begin the process of taking the excess glucose out of the blood stream. The liver stores it as glycogen to be used over the next few hours until your next meal. Insulin levels slowly taper off back to normal levels during this fasting period.

Lipids (fats), on the other hand, digest much more slowly. Fats takes over as your source of energy after all stores of carbohydrates are depleted in the liver. One gram of fat provides an amazingly efficient amount of energy per gram compared to carbohydrates (9 kcal/g as opposed to a carbohydrate's 4 kcal/g).

So let's say, in typical American fashion, you awake at 8AM, climb out of bed, and drag yourself into the kitchen. Breakfast consists of a bowl of cereal or bagel, a banana, and maybe some milk. You're looking at close to 100g of carbohydrates in that one meal (well on your way to the recommended 300g per day! Great!). So around 12PM, you get a break from work, head home, and hit the kitchen. Let's try a sandwich this time. Two slices of bread and few slices of turkey sounds good. How about some chips? Add a soda and we are talking a possible 150g of carbohydrates. For dinner, your wife/husband/boyfriend/girlfriend/whatever wants to go out to eat. Italian he/she says. Everything on the menu looks great, but you decide on the spaghetti. Add another 5o to 100g of carbs to your total for the day (depending on the serving size). Oh, and we forgot that snack around 3PM and the dessert at the restaurant...

The trouble with this typical scenario is the kind of carbohydrates and the total amount consumed. By noon, your body hasn't really gotten done using all those carbs you fed it for breakfast. By dinner, your body is really only getting started on those carbs from lunch. Get it?

What happens to carbs when you don't use them? Chronic elevated insulin levels and lipogenesis....

16 July 2009

So... What am I doing wrong?

There are two major flaws with the "healthy diet" you've become accustomed to.

The USDA recommends you eat the majority of your calories (60%) from grain products, then fruits and vegetables, then some meat, fish, and dairy. Finally, they lump sugar and fats all in to one big general category and tell us to "eat sparingly." Then, they wrap it up, tie it with a pretty bow, and call it the Food Pyramid that you are familiar with today.

I'm sure you've heard of the USDA, but do you know what it stands for? It stands for United States Department of Agriculture. Do you know what we produce a lot of here in the United States? Grain. Wheat, corn, and potatoes to be exact. Sounds like the USDA and those it represents want us to "Buy American," huh? Granted every company desires to sell its product, we just do it at the expense of our nation's health. Have I gotten your attention yet? This is problem #1. We rely far too much on processed carbohydrates.

Now, let's head up our Food Propagan... I mean Pyramid to the very top where we have our "everything else" category, the place where fats and sugars reside together. Putting these two groups of macronutrients together is like comparing apples to... vacuum cleaners. Sugar isn't a whole lot different than the processed carbohydrates I've mentioned above, so you can trust I'm surely not rushing to defend it. However, fats on the other hand, I do want to stick up for a bit. Fats are essential to human survival. The cells in your body have an outer membrane that is made up of fat. Your brain is mostly made up of fat. All of your internal organs are held in place by layers of fat. Your body relies heavily on the fat you eat to provide essential fatty acids to your body. That's problem #2. We have been told to strictly limit fat intake

So why are carbs bad and fats good? That goes against everything I've ever been told! Yeah. I know. I know. I'm getting there. This is about to get good.

14 July 2009

A brief history...

Welcome to Trutrition.

My name is Nate and I'm currently a student at Appalachian State University in lovely ol' Boone, NC where I am a Food & Nutrition Science major. I've been actively reading, researching, and studying nutrition as a hobby for over three years and am excited to pursue it as a career. You'll learn more about me later.

I've created this blog with one general thing in mind: give the people the truth! Like most casual, health minded Americans, you might be thinking I know everything I need to know about eating healthy. Well... you've been misinformed. I'm about to rock your world.

Nutrition is a complex beast to tackle, and I certainly don't claim to have all the answers. Research studies are plagued with all sorts of inconsistencies, biases, and variables. The agricultural and pharmaceutical industries have the FDA and USDA wrapped around their collective finger. And let's face it! Some of us are happier not knowing.

In the 1970's, the government adopted the Nutrition Guidelines that we are familiar with today after a series of misguided steps led by lobbied scientists using those inconsistent research studies I was telling you about (more on that later). They told us to eat 2000 calories, 50g of protein, 85g of fat, and 300g of carbohydrates. For everyone. Regardless of age, race, or genetics. And we believed them. We began to consume less and less animal protein, attempted to cut out fat of all kinds, and started filling up on bread, potatoes, rice, and packaged foods just like they said. Right? What happened? Where are we today? Incidences of obesity, diabetes, hypertension, osteoporosis, heart disease and a host of other health issues appear more and more frequently. Two in three Americans are considered overweight and one in three is considered obese.

Please understand I'm not proposing a conspiracy theory. I'm proposing that even though they have our best interests in mind, they just didn't get it quite right. That's why I started this blog. That's why I'm going to help you sort through all the information out there to give you the truth.