THE CONTEXT OF CALORIES... PART II

A rose is a rose, is a rose, is a rose…..it smells the same by whatever name you call it…….

A calorie is a calorie, is a calorie, is a calorie…. Well, NOT quite,………

How do you figure out the proper number of calories – and breakdown of fats, protein and carbs – to accomplish your fitness and health goals? To lose weight? Lose fat? Gain muscle? Maintain status quo? Run marathons?

In fact, most popular daily diets look at overall calories as the main factor in weight loss and weight gain. The age-old conservation of energy Conventional Wisdom says that “a calorie is a calorie.” From there most diet gurus generally prescribe some formulaic one-size-fits-all breakdown of fats, protein and carbs. A classically trained Registered Dietician will tell you that protein should be around 10-15% of calories, carbs should be 60% (and mostly from whole grains) and fat under 30%. This macronutrient breakdown stays the same regardless of how much weight you need to lose or what other goals you might have. Somehave advocated 40/30/30 diet. The USDA bases everything on a choice of between 2,000 and 2,500 calories a day. KISS ( Keep It Simple Silly) does not work here. It’s not that simple. Calories do have context.

The human body uses the various macronutrients for a variety of different functions, some of which are structural and some of which are simply to provide energy – immediately or well into the future. Moreover, with regards to energy conservation or expenditure, the body acts as both an efficient fuel storage depot (and as a toxic “waist” site) as well as a potent generator of energy, depending largely on the hormonal signals it gets. It will store glycogen and/or fat and it will build muscle – or it will just as easily tear them all down and use them for fuel – based on input from you: what you eat, how much you eat, when you eat, what you’re doing before or after you eat.– As long as you can keep your average intake under control and understand how the various macronutrients function over time, it is alright to succumb to our food cravings sometimes. (Thanks for the small mercies…)

Our genes want us to be lean and fit. It’s actually quite easy as long as we eat from the long list of Primal Blueprint healthy foods and try to avoid that other list of grain-laden, sugary, processed and otherwise unhealthy foods. Realistically, we also want to allow for the occasional party-splurge, a pre-planned (or accidental) intermittent fast, an over-the-top workout or even a week of laziness. Where most people get into trouble is in miscalculating their energy needs over extended periods of time – not day-to-day.

Four basic principles to guide the Primal Blueprint eating style:

1) 80% of your body composition will be determined by your diet. Yes, exercise is also important to health and to speed up fat-burning and muscle-building, but most of your results will come from how you eat. I’ll write more on this later, so just trust me on this one for now. Suffice to say, people who weigh a ton and exercise a ton, but eat a ton, still tend to weigh a ton.

2) Lean Body Mass (LBM) is the key to life. Lean mass (muscle and all the rest of you that is not fat) is directly correlated with longevity and excellent health. Rather than strive to “lose weight”, most people would be better off striving to lose only fat and to build or maintain muscle.

3) Excess body fat is bad. Most human studies show that being significantly overweight increases your risk of nearly every disease.

4) Excess insulin is bad. Chronic excess insulin may be even worse than excess sugar (and we know how bad that is). All animals produce insulin, but within any species, those that produce less insulin live longer than those who produce a lot. Eat to keep insulin low.

Following can be the basis of an individual’s macronutrient intake:

Protein:

Protein takes priority. If there is ample glycogen (stored glucose) and the body is getting the rest of its energy efficiently from fats, protein will always go first towards repair or building cells or enzymes. At 4 calories per gram, that’s between 320 and 440 calories per day in protein for about 110gms intake . It’s no problem if one is eating low carb because the excess protein will convert to glucose, which will reduce the effective carbohydrate needs.

Carbs:

Carbohydrate drives insulin drives fat. The idea in the PB is to limit your carbs to only those you need to provide glucose for the brain and for some reasonable amount (certainly less than an hour) of occasional anaerobic exercise. And the truth is, you don’t even need glucose to fuel the brain. Ketones from a very-low carb diet work extremely efficiently at that task. Either way, ideally, we would like most of our daily energy to come from dietary or stored fats. Typically, 100-150 grams of carbohydrate per day is plenty to keep you out of ketosis (and ketosis is NOT a bad thing) but away from storing the excess as fat if you are the least bit active. Don’t forget that your body can make up to 200 grams of glycogen from fats and protein every day, too. On the other hand, if you are looking to lose body fat, keeping carbs to under 80 grams per day will help immensely in lowering insulin and taking fat out of storage..

Ironically, it’s tough to exceed 100 grams of carbs even if you eat tons of colorful vegetables. Even if you eat a ton of vegetables AND a fair amount of fruit, you’ll be hard pressed to exceed 150 grams of carbs on average per day. Our remote ancestors couldn’t average 150 grams of carbs a day if they tried, yet they had plenty of energy and maintained their lean mass. At 4 calories per gram that’s only between 400 and 600 calories per day. We are at 1,000 calories on the high end. So where does the rest of the fuel come from?

Fats

Learn to love them. They are the fuel of choice and should become the balance of your Primal Blueprint diet. Fats have little or no impact on insulin and, as a result, promote the burning of both dietary and stored (adipose) fat as fuel. Think about this: if protein and carbs stay fairly constant, you can use fat as the major energy variable in your diet. Feeling like you need more fuel (and you’ve already covered your bases with protein and carbs)? Reach for something with fat. Nuts, avocados, coconut, eggs, butter, olive oil, fish, chicken, lamb, beef, the list is a long one. 100 grams of fats per day would only add 900 calories to you. Even if you average somewhere between 1400 and 2200 calories per day over a few weeks, as long as you pay attention to protein and carbs, your body composition will shift to lower body fat and more desirable lean mass.

The above arguments may be against the Conventional Wisdom, but realising that and continuing in the same path IS THE WISDOM……………

Some times let us agree to disagree…

Be bold, Be armed with knowledge. You can strike better at the enemy….

Only this time, the enemy is within. I want YOU to win, your HEALTH to win….

Lastly, let me acknowledge Mark Sisson... It is always a pleasure to read him.

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