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.
I’ve been getting a slew of emails lately from marathon runners and other endurance athletes among our group, many in response to our 30-Day Primal Health Challenge. Questions have run the gamut but generally get at how to combine endurance training and Primal Blueprint methodology:
How do I combine a low carb diet with marathon training? (Hint: you generally can’t)
What would you recommend for carb refueling post-race?
Can I even do the PB challenge if I have to adapt the diet for training purposes?
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).
We’ve always been dear friends, staunch allies, and devoted advocates for our edible friends in the plant kingdom. Whatever craziness descends upon our lives and our society, there’s sanity, indeed healthful respite in a bountiful, brimming, vibrant dinner plate of vegetables.
And now there’s even more reason for veggie veneration. Research from Tufts University funded by the Agricultural Research Service suggests that potassium-rich plant foods can help older men and women maintain their lean muscle mass.
“What?! Well, I’ll be damned.” We know! We said it too!
We’ve always loved vegetables (and their fruit compatriots) for their antioxidants, their minerals, their fiber. But this had us bowing down at the cornucopia, we have to say.
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