Diet is an emotionally fueled issue. Quite often training for strength or training for sports is performance based. Put up or shut up. However for one reason or another, “belief” and therefore “faith” enters into eating habits. I was certainly one of those people years ago. I did things and said things that made sense then, but are fundamentally wrong based on evidence. Remember that word, evidence.
I grew up in Pittsburgh eating real food like most people. It’s amazing I made maturity. According to so many current faddists, I should be dead. Cereal and milk for breakfast. Occasionally eggs, sausage, toast. Sandwiches for lunch with fruit. Good home cooked foods which included both canned and frozen foods. No health food stores around and vegetables were seasonal and more expensive in the winter. By eating this diet, my male relatives worked in mills and coal mines and fought wars. I know, that’s shocking. I was able to train 7 to 9 times a week and still grow to 6′ 1″ and 178 lbs. In fact my friend, Fred Schwendel played football and threw a shot put based on a daily lunch of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a carton of Jungle Juice. Try taking hits from opposing linemen when your own muscles and bones are built on Jungle Juice.
When I moved away from home with 200 dollars and a sleeping bag, it was five for a dollar yogurts from Winn Dixie (five breakfast for a dollar!), I skipped lunch, then ate chicken with rice. That’s what my roommates and I could afford. I was still training 5 to 6 days per week and sleeping 6 hours per night the first year in Fort Lauderdale. . My weight was 175 lbs, about three pounds thinner than high school under my Mom’s great cooking.
So in the years that followed, I adopted the Eat to Win regimen of “Dr” Robert Haas. He had neatly organized eating plan which appeared to backed up by research and athlete testimony. Remember, “appeared” is the operative word.
I ate lots of “complex” carbs and had a vigorous job in addition to running and some strength training. My body weight plummeted and I viewed this as an adaptation to a scientific diet. My muscular endurance also dropped. I didn’t have the brains or experience to put two and two together however.
I read the Zone and took it back to the book store. Then about a year later I re-read it and loosely applied the concepts, namely, more protein and healthy fats. My physical endurance improved, I gained lean body mass and also got leaner. Magic? Hell no. Of course I’ll explain this in a bit.
The last influence was Dan Duchaine’s Body Opus. That led to finding Lyle McDonald on the internet years ago and also to Alan Aragon. I actually started to think. I bounced into the area of Paleo since the higher protein and lower carb thing was similar. I posted a study where low carbs were showing great gains in lean body mass versus a higher carb diet. Supposedly the superiority of low carb. Lyle McDonald wrote me a note saying, “..match the protein and calories. The results will be the same. Stop believing bullshit,..” or something to that effect. This is what I needed. To think of things in terms of physics, chemistry and evidence.
You see, it’s pretty simple actually. In art, there are 3 primary colors. In nutrition, there are 4 macronutrients, water – carbs – fat – protein. [alcohol could be the fifth and oddly comes in fifths]. That’s it. All those thousands of diet books and only FOUR macronutrients. One thing we are really good at is making simple things complex. Why do we do this? Same three reasons we have wars. Money, money and money.
Let me take a pit stop and tell you I have spent a FORTUNE on worthless food supplement. I’ll admit to being that stupid. Not quite as stupid as many,.. but sometimes slow to learn. You realize of course that food supplements were developed to increase passive income for fitness companies. You can sell someone a barbell and it’s good for 100 years. No return customers. So they had to tell you that buying food supplements would be the only path to improve your training. That’s how they make money. Other than a multivitamin, fish oil, creatine, vitamin D and powdered protein to add to other foods,.. they are not only worthless, they may reduce performance. The only thing they make healthier are the bank accounts of the supplement companies which are bigger crooks than pharmaceutical companies.
But I digress,.. back to FOUR macronutrients. With some reading, it’s pretty easy to figure out. Determine your protein requirements and you are taking one giant leap in the right directions. Alan Aragon has a GENERAL rule to figure out protein consumption. Find your target weight, and eat that many grams of protein. I’m sure he has refinements on this process, but it’s a decent general rule. Then he lays out eating half that number in grams of fat. The rest of your caloric intake is carbohydrates. Rather than spell out the exact numbers, I will list websites for both Lyle and Alan amongst others at the end of the article.
To determine body weight, it’s most important to determine your percentage of body fat. There are hormonal differences [thank God] between men and women. Once again, I will give resources at the end of the article that will help you find the appropriate leanness level for your goals. Most people are not just over fat, but under muscled. Particularly women and older people. As we age, we are less active and we lose our taste for protein. Some simple advice is to eat more dead animals and pick up heavy stuff. Your bones and muscles will thank you.
I see the biggest problem is that we moralize food. We don’t live in an either/or world. There is context and the answers will be specific. Stop using ‘good’ and ‘bad’ in terms of food.
Here are my opinions [just my opinions] on some nutritional topics and statements.
“My cousin’s a doctor and he said,..” — That’s called “Appeal to Authority” It’s also anecdote.
“Natural is best.” – Strychnine and botulism are natural.
“Carbs are the source of all evil.” — No, they just taste good. Don’t moralize.
“Supplement X burns fat.” — Then why are there any fat people? Most all of these fat burners can be bought at gas stations and Walmart. Ever been to Walmart? This crap does not require a prescription and is relatively cheap, yet obesity is increasing. Why? If you know of supplement companies who sell this stuff, call their 800 number now and please tell them how bad they suck.
“We need to eat like Paleo Man.” — Well, brontosaurus is tasty, but savages ate what they could get their hands on. Including each other.
“Insulin is bad.” – Try going without it.
“Italians eat garlic and have low blood pressure, therefore eat garlic.” – Correlation is not causation. Epidemiological studies are crap. However, like anecdote, they sound sensational.
“Nightshades are poison.” — Yes, aircraft hangars full of bodies from eating tomatoes.
“Gluten is the cornerstone of evil. Today’s wheat is genetically modified!” – Wonderful. I suppose the world’s population can go to Whole Foods with the other elitist pricks and buy overpriced junk. Less than 10% of the population has a measurable reaction to gluten. A smaller portion of that has issues with Celiac’s disease. Yet, we as a society can’t eat gluten. Amazing. Do the f*ckin’ math. The problem isn’t gluten. The problem is you are stupid.
“GMO’s and Monsanto are destroying the earth.” – Yes and they are creating Third World Debt, AIDS and making us write bad checks. Trust me on this. You will DIE from something else. Probably from being too goddamn fat. Not using your seatbelt. Not flossing. Falling in the shower. Rather than focus on the big things, you amplify meaningless crap like GMO products, Splenda and Equal.
“Aspartame breaks down to wood alcohol in the body.” – So does tomato juice. Do you advertise THAT fact? Seriously.. this is an agenda pushed by that douche, Mercola and his lemmings. How else are chiropractors going to make money than preach voodoo nutrition? Ask your chiro if you should go to your registered dietician to get you neck cracked.
“High Fructose Corn Syrup is making us fat!” – No, you eating buckets of donuts is making you fat.
OK, back to the article. [I’m having too much fun!].
What does Tom eat?, Here goes.
Breakfast- Same thing every morning and I love it.
Oatmeal, with dried cranberries, 1/2 apple and almonds. I add 50 grams of whey to this.
I also drink 4 or 5 cups of black coffee.
No lunch. Ever. Maybe a handful of almonds.
Dinner is 3/4 to 1 pound of animal protein. Cheese, salad and wine. Maybe some bread dipped in olive oil and spice and topped with parmesan.
So daily…. I have gluten, nightshades, dairy, grains. Most all the food is bought in the ‘hood. Walmart, etc. I go to Whole Foods for cheap wine and dark chocolate.
Supplements. Fish oil, vitamin D. I use whey on my oatmeal. When I train I like drinking Emergen C. At night I take 5mg of melatonin. [thanks to Dr. John Crisler for advice].
I will be 56 in February. No HRT,.. YET. I’m about 10 to 11% body fat and regaining lean body mass that I lost during a 30 month divorce. [around 20 pounds, from 178 to 158 lbs.]
Last words. Understand evidence. If I say it, then it’s BS. [anecdote]. If some population has some habit amidst thousand of others,.. epidemiology/ correlation does not equal causation. If it’s done to RATS,.. it’s not likely it will work in humans. [most of the supplement industry uses this garbage]. The same goes for fruit flies.
Survey evidence is weak. Seriously, “.. a questionnaire was filled out by Norwegian housewives,…” Give me a break. The gold standard is a double blind, peer reviewed study. It’s expensive and not always practical. The key of all keys is to have peers debate outcomes and hold them to a high standard. [Like Alan Aragon’s Research Review].
For everyone who thinks this cost money,.. Lyle’s page, www.bodyrecomposition.com has massive, massive, amounts of FREE information. Alan Aragon’s Research Review is CHEAP. No physician should be without it.
Last thoughts. People are stupid. For one reason or another, clinging to a trend or tribe is easier than actually thinking. So we have our high carb or low carb, we have our paleo and we have our gluten free. All of those groups are unwilling to actually stand out and think. This is called stupid. Once a comedian, whose name escapes me was told about 9/11 conspirators. He said, “They are stupid.” The reporter said, “Well up to 40 percent of the American public thinks it may have been an inside job.”. The comedian said,.”Yes. 40% are stupid.” He’s right. The inability to THINK is the problem. Monsanto won’t kill us. Nor high fructose corn syrup, gluten, aspartame, Splenda, nightshades or genetically modified foods. We will kill ourselves through preventable accidents, overeating or plain stupidity.