(21 min) !! -this is long as it is not an easy subject..
While talking to my father yesterday on the phone, we started discussing modern diets and how he was going to attack the next few months as he is looking for a change.
He is looking at getting into some of the new stuff, specifically keto and zero sugar hoping for a fat utilization reboot.
The more questions he asked the more I realized I wasn’t getting through. At one point he stopped me and said, “you are assuming I know which and how much of any given food is made up of carbs, protein and /or fat…and I don’t.”
“But dad”, I stated, “you taught me all of this.”
‘No I didn’t, I planted the seed of your nutrition interest by teaching you how to use diet to lose weight, taper before wrestling matches and increase muscle…I don’t know this stuff…”
Bang! Just like that another great life lesson at the hands of a great master.
Assume makes an ASS of U and ME.
I’ve been writing all of this stuff over the last 5 months and at least a part of it, is in hieroglyphics.
So here you go – the incredibly abridged crash course of nutrition. In the old days we’d say the lesson with all the fat cut out but guys…fats are good nowadays, not bad. Keep the fat baby!
Prior to my diatribe into nutrition, I think its only fair to give you a brief course syllabus.
- Most of what we were all taught isn’t exactly correct any more – it seems 100 years of research has shined some light onto dogma that has been relayed as facts. So try to keep an open mind as I relate the “new rules”
- There is by no means a “definitive” Rule of Nutrition. Every one is going to have things that work and things that don’t – everyone responds to food differently. What I am offering is a way to grasp basics so you can better experiment.
- There is no superfoods, wonderdrugs and/or good and bad foods – certain foods react different to different people so use your head – packaging labels, advertisements, books, magazine articles are all written with an objective in mind. Typically $. Labels are put on food packaging by market research and evil spectacled, goatee twisting, red BMW convertible driving frat dudes you hated in college. Form your own opinions.
- This is going to start simple.. and then just like sophomore year pre-calculous, just when you think you’ve got in I’m going to throw in a slew of parabolas and mix all of it up. (2 types of carbs…puh)
- These are the basics, so concepts like reactive foods and lectins and ideas about what makes foods good or bad are not going to be used. That’s deep, next level stuff that you can find on my links.
This is why everyone in kinesiology and pre-med at one time decide they are going to major in Nutrition. Because it’s a ton of impressive sounding words that is a blast to dive into and has set rules like math – you can figure it out in the classroom and it’s just grand..until you put in into real life and it all goes to hell. Nutrition is chock full of “yeah buts.” As in last night when my dad asks, “A potato is a vegetable right?” uhhhh sort of. ”yeah…..but.” Peanuts are good right? ugh.
Basics – there is three general categories of food.
All food, breaks down into these 3 categories. Lately, they are called “Macros” as in macronutrients, a term you’ll come to just HATE if you’ve even been cornered by a friendly cross fitter, bodybuilder and new to paleo/primal diet experimenter. These guys are obsessed with discussing each specific gram of Marcos they ingest each meal and ratios and blah blah blah – the macros…
The 3 Macros are:
Your foods are made up of these – in different ratios. They provide the calories the body burns to live, run, work, think etc. Carbs, proteins and Fats are the ENERGY sources for the body.
It’s important to understand the differences in these because they all act differently when adjusted in your diet. They all do different stuff when eaten.
So where are these then?
Carbs are anything bready, sugary, starchy, and grainy. Pasta, cereal, bread, rice, oats, cookies, syrups, potatoes, rice.
They also are the primary energy in fruits and vegetables – apples, oranges, papaya, asparagus and lettuce.
Carbs as a term, is often interchanged with sugars when speaking about diet. This is because when you eat carbs, the saliva in your spit and the acids in your stomach break down these carbs into sugars – Carb molecules are big and big molecules can’t get past the gut lining so they break down into little components: sugars and pass into the blood.
Your body can then use these sugars to top off levels in the muscles and store a little bit more for later.
Your body makes insulin to allow this transportation and storage. Think of Diabetics here – this is why they need to stay away from a lot of carbs and away from sugars – they don’t make insulin so there is no way to haul it away and sugary blood is “No Bueno.”
Carbs are neither good nor bad – they’re needed. BUT…not nearly as much as previously taught in the 1990’s and prior, with “carb loading” and giant spaghetti dinners before competition.
In fact, hang with me here, because the body is a miraculous machine: If you have too many floating carbs, the muscles cant take it all in, so it starts dumping it off on the liver. The liver fills up quickly and says, “screw this – there’s way too much sugar floating around. Turn the extra into fat and store it for the days when we’re starving (as in body fat, love handles, fat ass, flabby triceps) – we can use it then.”
Seems our ancestors didn’t have 70,000 square foot grocery stores down the street and occasionally had to go hungry at times. Hence fat storage which is simply saving energy for a later date. (psst. Guys…you don’t need to do this anymore)
OK that’s deep enough for this article – the main point is start to “get” what foods have carbs in them.
There will be a Quiz later!
Think Meats primarily – muscle baby. Actually, the muscle from other animals. Now before Vegans start throwing bean burritos and tofu burgers at me – yes, there is protein in some plants, I get it. I teach it, but this is Nutrition basics, 101.. and I want a basic understanding here. There is also some protein in milk etc. But for the most part animal products.
Proteins can also be used for fuel and similar to how the carb craze of the 1980’s and 1990’s kicked in, the protein craze of the 2000’s and 20teens exploded for basically the same reason the carb kick decades earlier did. There’s a lot of protein in muscle – so the scientists…wait, that’s not fair. The journalist’s reporting what the scientists found, said – “eat a ton more protein, it’ll go to the muscles!”
Hopefully its pretty easy to imagine protein as muscle because that’s what muscle is made up of.
Your steak, your burger, eggs, fish, tofu (the protein from soy), chicken and sausage is high protein.
Just like sugars, proteins shouldn’t get into the blood – if your gut is working perfectly, they will break down into small parts called amino acids. The AA’s are what get’s into the blood and travel via the highway system of the body to organs, muscles and skin and repair damage.
Caveat: too many proteins can also end up being stored as body fat. You better truly need that 75G protein blast shake after your 12 minute “workout” there champ!
Fats are the trickiest to explain. Back in the WWII era it was easy – fat was fat – the fat on the steak was fat – the meat was protein with a fine marbling of fat.
Milk was milk and 2% had 2% of the natural milkfat still present. Whole had the whole amount of fat (about 4-5%) and skim milk was basically milk without the fat – the fat was skimmed off because anyone from the 1930’s with a butter churn worth a damn would tell you that when you let milk set for a while, the fat rises to the top (as crème) – you can then skim it off – a la butter. Or crème. The fat part.
Wow Chad that’s not too hard. Well, the mad scientists in the food industry can basically do magic with fats and carbs and turn it into anything. Think double stuff. Both the cookie part and the cremey goo – Fats started getting a really bad rap in the late 70’s and 80’s because all the chemical shit that was coming out of the mad scientist’s labs was making people sick and cancerous and actually physically fat. But it can’t be the scientists – PhD’s are doctors and doctors are our friends – it must be the fat. Yep too much fat!…
“Fat might be bad Earl”
“OK, then Let’s substitute fat in food for transG-glutimate-1K-3G-polymersaccharidelactorglutimthionecarbonate. “
1: “Damn Bob, that tastes like shit.”
2: “Ok, add 32 Grams of sugar, how is it now?”
1: “Well it’s doable…actually the 5th time I tried it I kind of crave it”
2: “Well…Hell, technically we can call it fat free now – wonder if the guys at marketing can sell it?”
1: “Phew that was close. Despite millions of years of getting by, we avoided a fat-pocolypse”
2: “Good, work Earl, want a Diet Coke?”
They were lab chemicals – an amazingly incredible blend of carbs, fats and carbon chains replaced where nature never intended them to be that resulted in some of the most crazy, technologically advanced products in the world – some of which were deemed ok to eat and further altered to make them tasty over repeated exposure. Cheese puff dust on pringles as an example.
Well its grown. Cheesy chemicals are now just called cheese. It’s not, cheese doesn’t do what Valveeta does.
For this article – don’t think of chemicals as fats here – its just soooo deep it’ll melt your mind and I just am not great at explaining organic chem. easily.
Let’s get modern, wait, let’s go ancient! and think of fats as God intended. Fats come either as a semi solid or liquid at normal temperatures so think of things cremey and slippery. Butter, Oils (avocado oil, olive oil etc), Avacado itself is a high fat veg/fruit. Nuts are high in fat. The fat part of meat – such as bacon – ½ fat, ½ protein and now we’re dancing everyone:
Time for a quiz.
- Dissect a Whopper for me.
- The bun is carbs, the meat is protein and a little fat, the sauce is chemical crap, the tomato, lettuce and onion is carbs, the ketchup is chemical crap that your brain will so desperately try to convince you is tomato, the cheese is basically fat.
Review… and this is where is gets sooo difficult because at the “billion served forces” like fast food joints, food is just isn’t what it appears. The buns are modified, so is the sauce, the meat was until a few years ago and I still have a hard time thinking there’s not something more added to it to give it a unique taste and make it last longer via shipping routes, shelf life etc. Cheese, we talked about already and…you know what? – I have an easier way.
Grab whatever food you want and just look at the ingredient list. Go ahead.
I mean if I bake bread its flour (carbs), small amount of sugar, (carbs), water, salt and yeast. It’s basically all carbs.
Now go to the pantry and look at the ingredient list on bread for me. I’ll wait here for a minute.
Holey, schemoley Batman…what’s all of that? Exactly. That’s why we’re all confused. The bread in the package has about 37 ingredients!
My education on all of this is at the 1900’s level and that’s just not how food is made anymore.
That’s why the revolution in caveman type eating and diet plans called Paleo, Primitive, Caveman, and hunting/foraging. Kill it or pick it and you can probably eat it right with not too many problems. Wait? Your food doesn’t have an ingredient list? Well then, it’s probably real food!
Ok hang with me here as we get to the diet revolution.
Let’s just say that you’re a, I don’t know, 20 to 70 year old man and decades of eating crap and confusing diets have left you in sub-par health.
If you decide to try keto, let’s say in an effort to reset insulin resistance (huge killer in our country), that means basically no carbs. You need a reset…There is a reason for you. As I said earlier, carbs are neither good nor bad but there are people that a low carb diet would greatly benefit – such as diabetics and people trying to starve off cancer cells and people looking to reset a chronically inflamed body. These guys are going for keto –
The body is a miracle see.. you can still make fuels for your muscles and brain from fats – so in keto you sub in good fats as a replacement for carbs.
Good fats are non scientist altered – coconut, avocado, olives, nuts, and oils – and for God’s sake be careful because there a million poser’s out there- Margarine is not butter. Coconut and olive oil comes as “virgin” or “processed.” Guacamole can be quite fair game but if it’s in a package it’ll have 100 ingredients. It’s not the same as an Avacado, salt and pepper – So know this – Look for it.
This leads us to why in some diet plans – some Carbs, even fruits are out- until the results you need are seen – in some cases long term or even life long.
In fact the term keto is actually ketosis – which is “burning fats for energy rather than carbs” and not to be substituted for keto acidosis which is basically a by product and overspill of fats.
Oh man we can get deep with this…my brain is whirling right now with body miracles and how to explain this all.
Lets step back a second here. Those big 3 were the Macros, remember?
There are also micros – these are the vitamins and nutrients the body needs to make the miracles happen… There that’s it – that’s as far as I’m willing to go with this.
But get this – if a fruit is deemed a “superfood” or “miracle” food, you need a context before you jump on board. Is it a huge boost of a micronutrient (say vitamin A which is a great micronutrient for your eyes) but surrounded by a gazillion carbs (as a fruit is likely to be) . Because that jacks with a guy with diverticulitis or a guy on a low carb diet because he’s attacking a prostate cancer?
This is the amazing difficultly with writing a nutrition 101 paper – because this stuff is intertwined like a spiderweb. Everything is connected. And there is a profound amount of dogma and old wives tales – such as..”this is good or this is bad”
Don’t despair however yo! Keep it simple and experiment.
But at the same time, see why the newest trends like Intermittent fasting, Keto and heck even Adkins from 2 decades ago do so well. You just simply have a lot less variables to add to the equation because you are eating less ingredients. Start to eat PURE and you’ve just taken the difficulty of nutrition from senior year calculous back to 7th grade algebra…still a little crazy but do-able.
OK take a Deep breath. Actually take 6 deep breaths – the studies for mind reset and immediate blood pressure drop is 6 deep breaths. We’re talking 35 whole seconds just for you.. you’ve got 35 seconds to spend on you.. don’t you?
Sorry there but I needed that.
Quiz question #2 –
Why are people such as myself adding coconut oil and some ghee (clariefied butter) to their coffee in the morning?
- It’s a way to add a little good fats to their morning usually in an effort to get the body some macros but ensure there isn’t any carbs in their early routine.
- If I am doing that with a stack of pancakes (carbs) with syrup (carbs) and powdered sugar sprinkles (carbs) I’m basically doing it because I’m uniformed OR feel a prolonged state of fasting is coming up and want to increase my fat storage (as in lovehandles) because I fear an impending ice age. Extra fats added to your diet while keeping high carbs in a bad idea!
OK – quickly – which macro am I primarily?
Macadamian nut? Both fats. Good Fats.
Water? Nothing, as much as you want.
Apple Juice? Terribly high in sugars, not healthy.
Peanut Butter? A wicked twist engineered to make your brain hurt….answer? read the label, there’s a million different types and concoctions of peanut butter.
Spinach? Carbs – (see stage 2 below)
Honey? Pure sugar. Carb
Potato? Carb (not a vegetable at all – it’s a starch)
Broccoli? Carb – but mixed with a lot of fiber….hmm)
An this is how we get to stage 2 in my article –Carbs from vegetables and some fruits are different.
Yep – too bad – you have to learn this – there are actually 2 carbs:
Simple and complex.
Simple Carbs go straight into sugars in your gut – apple juice – its sugar people. Similar to drinking a coke. (trivia – you can use apple juice in place of oral Glucose when testing for diabetes it has so much sugar!)
But an apple – has a lot of fiber and form to it – a little more complexity. It’s a mix of complex and simple carbs (tastes pretty sweet still so you know its got a lot of sugar)
Move over to veggies like Broccoli and you have a much higher ratio of complex carbs and a way way lower amount of simple sugars.
Not very sweet is it dad?
Same goes for spinach, arugula and leafy salad ingredients – These “complex carbs” are what all of us should be injecting in our diets as they basically have a nil amount of insulin requirement and help shunt in good fats into your system.
So a big green salad with olive oil and a sprinkling of nuts may be a bang up incredible meal even for those trying to stay with a high fat diet.
A glass of orange juice however is akin to speed eating 4 oranges in 7 seconds – your body is in shock mode!
Oh my gosh guys, I’m sorry – I now this is long and I know it is complicated – the idea was to make it easier to process so you can make better decisions. Not sure I have.
How about I leave you with this.
Get your carbs to the complex variety – leafy greens, cauliflower, broccoli etc.
Get in good fats – if you’re 27 to 85 year old, don’t be scared of fats anymore – it wasn’t them that was to fear, it was the chemicals and sugars used to replace them! Fat free is no good.
Protein – you need some – maybe not as much as you thought though.
Start to look at labels – it explains the ratio right there: Fats, Carb (with a breakdown into sugars) and Proteins right on the label. Hey, and while you’re browsing the label just look at ingredients. Is there is a lot of 50 cent, tough to pronounce words? Well then, it probably came from a lab somewhere.
Lastly – don’t make this miserable – I have tons of articles about just substituting a word to change your mindset. Diet is the word in question here. If that means the food you eat, well then no problem. If “diet” means restrictive misery, change your word. Real Food is delicious and should be enjoyed and loved and fun. Food should make us happy!
You can create – cook, learn to love food, REAL food again – that means not concocted sauces, chemicals and packaged drivel.
Your tastes will change – I’ve mentioned before on an article how absolutely terrible a Pringle tastes when you haven’t had one for a few months and how incredible the 14th tastes when you chow em down. Its amazing to have your real-world taste buds open up and explore the world again.
My dad constantly tells me how he’ll never eat Broccoli, as a fist pounding fact. But as his taste buds naturalize to what nature intended I’m thinking maybe it won’t taste so horrible…Roasted to perfection with a great butter dollop, dash of salt and spritz of orange splash could change his mind…well probably not – but I guess we’ll see huh?
Questions, comments and additions below!