Monday, January 21, 2013

Healthy Eating Part 2

Solid Protein

Here we have meat, eggs and nuts.

Egg yolks are full of vitamins and minerals, egg whites have some protein. Since I was about 12, I've been aware of a trend (and I've been increasingly aware of it as an adult) in which people will have 1 egg + 6 egg whites in a meal. They throw away the yolks, usually, because the yolks contain fat and cholesterol, and not as much protein as the whites. When you consider that egg yolks contain the kind of fat and cholesterol you want in your body, and that they're almost like swallowing a mutli-vitamin capsule (perhaps even better, if we're to assume that vitamins work best in their natural state), you'll probably recognise this habit of ditching the yolks as madness...or at least the product of misinformation. Most of us would benefit from having an egg or two each day, and so long as it fits your macros/daily calories, I can't think of any reason for a healthy person to put a limit on how many eggs they should eat.

Nuts, like eggs, are a mix of fat and protein. Most nuts I've eaten have been more fat than protein. This isn't a bad thing, although I personally prefer my ratios of fat and protein to be tipped in the other direction. I can't think of much that nuts offer in the way of micro-nutrients. That doesn't mean that nuts aren't nutritious, it means that I've been lazy at studying. To me, most nuts are filling and bland, so I'm not at a high risk of blowing my macros on them. I've found them to be a good balance to the fruit that I eat -- fruit provides nutrients but does nothing for my satiety; I don't know of any micro-nutrients provided by nuts but they fill me up easily. However, I know other people who can eat raw nuts as if they were candy. If that's you, be sensible. Often, nuts will be salted. Salty food tends to rev up your appetite, so if you need to restrict your calories, you're probably better off with unsalted nuts.

Meat includes the muscle mass of all animals that walk on land, fly in the sky and swim in the sea. Every time someone distinguishes between "meat" and "fish" or "poultry," I get an itch in the back of my brain that really wants to tell them that fish and poultry are meat. Anyway, meat is pretty much the best natural source of protein. The redder the meat, usually the more iron is in it, or so I've been lead to believe. Women need a boat load of iron, because every month they relieve themselves of a boat load of iron. Apparently long distance runners need a boat load of iron, too. So, if you're a female cardio bunny, you should probably be eating steak 24/7, give or take (not an actual prescription).

Om nom nom.

If you're reading this blog, then you probably have an interest in fitness, in particular strength, since that's where most of my attention has been spent so far. That being the case, it's worth knowing about macro-nutrient needs.

Sedentary people don't need much of any macro-nutrients. They aren't using their bodies, so they don't need a lot of carbohydrates for energy. They aren't putting wear and tear on their muscles, either, so they don't need a lot of protein. Sedentary people can often get away with consuming only 1g protein per kilogram of bodyweight. However, if you do train, and you train hard, you'll generally be wise to consume twice that much protein. That's 2g/kg/day. Sounds like meat's gonna be on the menu, in that case. 2-3 total serves of solid protein per day? Not a chance. Let's bump that up to the same standard we hold vegetables to: 3-5 servings, and possibly more. There also appear to be benefits to consuming 1g fat/kg/day. That's a bit more than "use sparingly," and a bit less than "pile it on in!" The rest of your macro-nutrients should probably be carbohydrates, and outside of the carbs found in fruit and vegetables, should generally be the kind that your taste buds don't recognise as sugar (although, at a chemical level, all carbohydrates are some combination of sugars). That brings us to...


Grains are, by and large, the most overrated item in the food pyramid. 6-11 servings? Seriously? Here's what grains provide: carbohydrates, more carbohydrates, satiety, and a poor source of protein. They don't provide much in the way of micro-nutrients, they just provide energy for doing stuff. Now, if you happen to have a physical job, then yeah, go ahead and eat 6-11 servings of grains a day. Are you a professional athlete? Go stuff your face with this stuff. Have as much as you need. Are you a white-collar professional who spends most of their time seated? Then put the sandwich down. Put the lasagne back in the freezer. Leave the rice alone. If you're trying to lose weight, you should probably be limiting yourself to 4 servings a day. Maintaining weight? 4-6. Gaining weight? 6+. That's right, I'm branding the prescription from the food pyramid that I was brought up on as weight gain territory for people who spend most of their time seated. And remember that I'm including sugars and high-carb vegetables in this category, too. So if you're mostly sedentary (except for when you hit the gym), trying to lose weight, and drinking a lot of coke and eating a lot of cake, guess what? You just wrote off your right to enjoy the satiation and more sustained energy release of more complex carbs. Good job.

Now, of course, these amounts need to be scaled based on the individual. Remember that grains are basically just filling in what's left of your macro-nutrients after you've had all your protein, fat, dairy, fruit and vegetables. Based on your current size and weight, your level of activity and your goals, how much carbohydrate your body needs will vary. In fact, this is probably the most variable part of a good eating plan, because it is the filler part.


I mentioned above that 1g fat/kg/day seems to work well. The fat you should be eating is generally the fat thatt's intuitively obvious where it came from. The fat on your meat is okay (but be sensible with how much of it you consume), the fat in your nuts and eggs is okay, olive oil is okay, the factory-made trans fats in more processed foods than you'd like to know about is probably not okay. There's been a lot of hating on saturated fats for as long as I've been alive, and an equal praise of unsaturated fats for a long time, too. The information I'm working with now seems to suggest that unsaturated (especially polyunsaturated) fats aren't all they've been cracked up to be, and saturated fats aren't as bad as they've been made out. Most sources I've dealt with regard factory-made trans fats to be poison.

The end bit

All in all, these are my thoughts. There is some study and experience behind this, but if you look you will find nutritionists, dieticians, personal trainers, and plenty of authors telling you otherwise. Take it or leave it. I feel that this covers the way most of us should be eating, but it's up to you to agree or disagree with me, and then to act on that sentiment.


  1. We are omnivores designed to thrive on a high complex carb diet. This is not looking as a nutritionist, but an evolution and anatomy stand point.
    We generate more amylase in our mouths than most other animals, have greater tolerance to sugar in the blood than many animals who don't live on fruit or nectar.
    This said we are not designed for a live of being on our posteriors 90%+ of the day so even though I am a self-confessed food pyramid fan, I do accept that it needs to be amended to the individual.
    There is also of course general balance and reduction. Keep the same calorie ratio, 60-65% carbs (of which only 5% max should be simple), can be fine as long as the volume suits your activity level.
    I eat masses of carbs, but I do more than most mentally and physically, twinned with a metabolic rate so high I am unbearable, and genetics making me so scrawny I could have hidden behind a lamppost mean I am still considered slim despite being my heaviest ever and eating like a pig over the festive season. A thing many hate especially because I am too old for them to credit this to my youth anymore.
    Protein becomes really complex when you start looking at the amount the body can absorb in one go, this varies slightly just after training, but is generally less than you would find in a pint of protein shake. Eggs are a source of great amusement to me. I have seen many eating raw eggs and done so myself a few times, and there was a trend for eating only the raw egg white to eliminate the fat of the yolk. Amusing because protein doesn't store well and birds use a combination of locked down protein in the white and enzymes in the yolk to keep this fresh for the chick until needed. Basically the only way a human can digest egg white protein is by eating with the yolk or by breaking down the chains by cooking it.
    Fats. There was a story I read years ago about an American woman, not racist, there are stupid people in every country, who had all fat removed from her diet. 2 days later she was in hospital, no-one had thought to tell her that most vitamins and minerals are fat soluble, so had been unable to get into her system in those 2 days. Anything you eat to excess that can be converted to fat will be, including protein. If you burn the energy, there is nothing wrong with doing this, in fact it will be essential. If you know you won't then you have a problem, or many problems in fact.
    The body is outstandingly good at telling you what you need, but this normally only works when you are taxing it. When life is easy it goes for what it wants and this is the stuff nature provides least of, fats, sugars and salts. Basically if you're training or generally active, you will be getting told what your body needs, if you are lazy you'll be told to eat junk by your body and need to ignore it and eat properly.

    2 things to remember with diet.
    Balance and measure is the best way to good diet.
    All generalisations are wrong.

    1. I think if we were all still doing what nature intended (moving our bodies), a high complex carb diet would make perfect sense. And it does make perfect sense that our biology would support this -- it's only been in very recent human history that a vast number of us have found a way to be productive members of society by sitting on our bums all day long. When I went to work on a farm for a few weeks in November, I think I doubled my calorie intake mostly by eating a lot more grains and enough fruit that I no longer produced sweat, I produced apricot juice isntead, and I came home 2kg lighter. Consuming a dozen servings of complex carbs each day makes perfect sense if you're using your body the way nature intended...unfortunately, use of the body is far less common than it used to be.

      That's some interesting insight into egg digestion. I remember when raw eggs were seemingly popular amongst the gym community (although I wasn't a part of the gym community back then, so this is just the (likely skewed) perception given to me by the media at the time. Meanwhile, barely anyone I talk to seems to be into raw eggs today.

      On the other side of the coin compared to the American woman who didn't eat enough fat, it's my understanding that you can also O.D. on the fat-soluble vitamins. With the water-soluble ones, if you take in too much, you'll excrete the rest. With the fat-soluble ones, if you chronically take in too much, apparently you can poison yourself because the excess stays in the body. Kinda funny.

      "2 things to remember with diet.
      Balance and measure is the best way to good diet.
      All generalisations are wrong."

      This is gold. My brother and I quite enjoyed this one.

  2. One of my friends ODed on zinc to increase his libido, all the stranger considering he wasn't getting any.
    Made his body incapable of absorbing a lot of minerals now. Really stupid.
    I have started a blog now,
    Has a bit of detail about the weirdo that is me and some of my life.


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