Food and Nutrition

Slicing through man made myths.

“slice mango and avocado fruits in closeup photography” by David Di Veroli on Unsplash

Let me first get the important disclaimers out of the way. I am not a nutritionist. I don’t have a degree or any qualification that bestows upon me the ability to advise people on what they should eat. I’ve been strength training for the last 7 years and have always been intrigued by nutrition. It seems to me that the general population knows how to workout, but they don’t know how to eat right. Hopefully this will help clear things up.

FATS ARE EVIL!

Let’s start with the most obvious. Fats are bad for you. Right? It is so obvious that the macro-nutrient is synonymous with the layers of subcutaneous and visceral tissue growing our bodies — Fat. In the 1970’s America waged war on fats. Scientists declared that blood pressure and heart disease was due to high fats (cholesterol) in the blood stream. This translated to — fats lead to heart disease. So the American population did what they thought was best. They replaced the fat in their diet with carbohydrates. That didn’t quite help according to this article.

So do fats make you fat? Do fats really cause heart disease? Let’s try to understand by delving into the nature of this macro-nutrient. Fats are of different kinds —

  • Unsaturated (Poly and Mono)
  • Saturated
  • Trans

Trans fats are produced by hydrogenation of oils and are the worst for you. There is no doubt; and all parties agree that Unsaturated fats are great for you. The kinds that are found in fish, avocado, extra virgin olive oil etc. However, the biggest debate that is still going on about fats is whether saturated fats are good or bad for general health and disease prevention.

Before I go into technicalities, let me tell you something from personal experience. There was a point in time when I used to eat eight whole eggs everyday. This was my way of supplementing protein while engaging in strength training. Eight whole eggs contain eight yolks. Those yolks are high in saturated fat. Many people forego eating yolks because of that reason. But did you know that by not eating the yolk, you’re getting half the protein? Did you also know that you’re getting absolutely zero sulfur and phosphorus? Oh, and you’re also depriving yourself of about 90% of the nutritional value of the egg.

Now on to the technicalities. Eating fat doesn’t make you fat. Eating too much makes you fat. If you know how much to eat to maintain your body weight, you cannot gain weight by substituting fat for say, protein. In fact recent studies have found no co-relation between even saturated fat and heart disease. Even whole milk has been a target due to its saturated fat content. And this article in The Atlantic explains how we’re wrong about milk too.

So should you eat fat? Sure, we all eat fat in some way or the other. Should you eat saturated fat? I am not going to give up whole milk anytime soon and I love coconut oil too much to give it up too.

You’re Not Getting Enough Protein Bro!

So how much protein do you need to eat? According to experts, if you’re sedentary, you don’t need anymore than 0.75 gm per Kg of body weight. More protein doesn’t necessarily always mean more muscle. If you’re strength training and want to build muscle, you could maybe increase your intake to 1 or 1.2 gm per Kg of body weight. That is still way less than the Bro recommended 1 gm per lb of body weight. Your body can not process that much protein anyway unless you’re on steroids (which you shouldn’t be). All the extra protein that you eat is either used for energy (not the most efficient source) or pretty much excreted from your body.

The Bro recommended protein intake has caused an explosion in the protein supplementation industry. Since the FDA doesn’t regulate supplements, the protein powder industry itself is worth billions of dollars today. And according to this article, protein powders don’t really help with muscle growth anyway. The protein that we need can be eaten by consuming lean meats, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds, legumes and Greek yogurt. You don’t really need protein powder for anything unless you absolutely cannot get enough protein in your diet (vegans).

If Fats Aren’t Evil, It Must Be The Carbs

Now wait a minute. That can’t be right? Carbohydrates are one of the most essential macro-nutrient of all. They provide us with the most efficient source of energy for our metabolic pathways. After the Fat is Evil phase, every one started targeting carbohydrates. That’s because everyone replaced fat with carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates come in different forms too. Fruits are excellent sources of carbohydrates. And so are donuts. Which one should you eat? I’ll let you be the judge of that.

Minimally processed whole grains are great sources of carbohydrates in addition to some other minerals and vitamins. Unless you’re one of the few who have celiac disease, you can eat whole grains. The gluten free charade is just a way for the food industry to rake in more profits; shown here in this video by CBC —

So we shouldn’t shun carbohydrates either. The benefits of cutting carbs out completely have not been identified yet.

What About My MultiVitamin and Mineral Supplements?

Surely, the multivitamin and mineral supplements must be good. How can supplementing your diet with Vitamin B12 be bad? Well I’ll theorize first and then we’ll go into specifics.

Vitamins and Minerals are important parts of any healthy diet. However, the main source of vitamins and minerals are naturally occurring — fruits, vegetables, whole grains and meats. If you’re eating those things, you don’t need to supplement with anything. Also, the extracted isolated vitamins and minerals probably don’t carry the same nutrition value as naturally occurring ones. Here is an example. Carrots are a great source of Vitamin A. Do you think an isolated Vitamin A supplement can compete with a carrot? I highly doubt it.

Besides, supplements don’t really work.

So What Should I Eat?

The True Health Initiative headed by Dr. David Katz is a great resource for what you should and shouldn’t eat. But the guidelines are very easy to follow-

  • Eat more vegetables
  • Eat some meat
  • Eat fruits
  • Milk, yogurt and eggs have their place
  • Eat fish
  • And overall, exercise moderation.
  • Eat a little less than usual

There you have it. Easy enough? Don’t fall for the fad diets, follow these simple guidelines to healthy life!