Do the Math
In my recent Context of Calories post, I explained how the different macronutrients we eat at each meal (fats, proteins, and carbohydrates) have different effects in the body. I suggested that, despite their raw calorie values, it’s far more important to get a lasting intuitive sense of how much of each macronutrient you need and when you need it (or not).
But how do you do that? 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. Barry Sears has his 40/30/30 “Zone” diet. The USDA bases everything on a choice of between 2,000 and 2,500 calories a day. But, as I said earlier, it’s not that simple. Calories do have context.
200 Calories is 200 Calories. Right?
“What’s that in the road ahead?”
“What’s that in the road!? A head!?”
Context is important.
Many people think weight loss is simply about cutting calories. But context counts here, too. Calories do have context and that’s what I want to explore today. Is a calorie from fat the same as a calorie from protein or carbohydrate? Depends on the context. Does day-to-day calorie monitoring make any difference if your week-to-week weight and energy expenditure are dialed in? Maybe not.
Amber Waves of Pain
Insulin, cholesterol, fats… They’re only the tip of the iceberg. I’ve had a few “definitive” topics up my sleeve for a while now, and grains are it for today. Yes, grains. I know we’ve given them a bad rap before, and it’s safe to say I’ll do it again here. Sometimes the truth hurts, but you know what they say about the messenger, right? Without further ado…
Grains. Every day we’re bombarded with them and their myriad of associations in American (and much of Western) culture: Wilford Brimley, Uncle Ben, the Sunbeam girl, the latest Wheaties athlete, a pastrami on rye, spaghetti dinners, buns for barbeque, corn on the cob, donuts, birthday cake, apple pie, amber waves of grain…. Gee, am I missing anything? Of course. So much, in fact, that it could – and usually does – take up the majority of supermarket square footage. (Not to mention those government farm subsidies, but that’s another post.) Yes, grains are solidly etched into our modern Western psyche – just not so much into our physiology.
I get emails every day from people who are changing their lives for the better by following the guidelines I outline on this site. But many are looking for more of what the Primal Blueprint has to offer. That is to say, they want a comprehensive break down of the elements that make up the Blueprint; a Primal primer if you will. In coming weeks I will be going into detail – anthropological evidence, modern research, etc. – regarding this health philosophy, but I first want to offer up this summary of the Blueprint. I think it is a good starting point for what is to come.
In this extended article you will find the basic building blocks needed to discover the Primal side of your life. What does this mean? It means learning and understanding what it means to be human. It means using this knowledge to help you make important lifestyle choices. It means modeling your life after your ancestors in order to promote optimal health and wellness. And, most importantly, it means taking control of your body and mind.
If this article intrigues you be on the look out for a much more thorough explanation of how we can learn from our past to shape and mold our future.
My basic premise is this: The Primal Blueprint is a set of simple instructions (the blueprint) that allows you to control how your genes express themselves in order to build the strongest, leanest, healthiest body possible, taking clues from evolutionary biology (that’s the primal part).
I’m a former vegetarian who still enjoys cooking with all kinds of beans. I don’t see them in any of the MDA recipes. What’s your take on them?
Legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas, split peas, etc.) aren’t, by any means, the worst thing you can eat, but they don’t make the ideal meal either. In my estimation, legumes fall into the “O.K.” category with wine, chocolate, cheese and other dairy, etc.
On the upside, legumes offer protein, and they tend to be good sources of several minerals like potassium and magnesium. On the downside, they offer only a moderate at best amount of protein (generally 4-9 grams per ½ cup serving). As the How to Eat Enough Protein post showed, legumes’ protein content is dwarfed by the 28 grams you’d get from a cup of cottage cheese or the 50+ grams you’d get from six ounces of several meats. And this relatively small amount of protein comes with a hefty carb content: as high as 28 grams for that same ½ cup serving!
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