Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Time for some solid nutrition info

Today's Weigh-in: 198.2 lbs.

Phew! I thought I was going to be over 200 after this past weekend, but I'm still under, which is great. I ate pretty well yesterday, coming in at about 2200 calories. I've pretty much gotten rid of all the junk food that was in my house, so it's not there to tempt me when I get a craving, and I went shopping last night so my fridge is full of the good stuff. Now all I gotta do is not eat too much of it and I'll be dropping pounds in no time.

I know that there are many of you out there who are just starting on this journey, and I wanted to take a moment to share some resources and information that I have found invaluable. Today I'm going to focus on diet, and will elucidate information on exercise in a later post.

When I first started trying to get in shape I believed everything you hear on TV and in the media: fat is bad, grains and starches are fine (or even good). As I progressed and researched I learned that all of these "facts" are untrue. Fat is the body's preferred fuel, and processed carbohydrates are what's keeping us fat. Insulin resistance is what is causing the national (and global, it seems) epidemic of obesity, type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and high triglyceride levels (called "the deadly quartet"). Insulin resistance is in turn caused by consumption of high levels of high-GI (glycemic index) carbohydrates (which includes any processed carbohydrates, sugar, and most grain products). This high level of consumption only really started in the 20th century in the Western world. There's a reason these diseases are called "diseases of civilization"; they only happen in "civilized" nations. Primitive and agrarian societies have very low levels of cancer, heart disease, or anything in the top 10 list of causes of death in this country. Myocardial infarction (heart attack) was almost unheard of even in the US until the beginning of the 20th century, even though people ate large amounts of butter, lard, raw whole milk, and meat, all of which are high in the "bad" saturated fats that, we are told, contribute to heart disease.

So what gives? If you really dig into the research that's out there (that isn't funded by special interest groups such as the corn lobby) you find that humans thrive on high fat, high cholesterol diets, provided they refrain from consuming processed carbs. So taking that into account, it seems that the correct diet for the human body is one high in fruits and vegetables (which, although containing carbs, are quite low on the glycemic index, and also contain fiber, vitamins, and phytonutrients that our bodies need), high in animal products (which provide protein and fats), and low in grain-based products and sugars (remember that corn is a grain, not a vegetable). Add to that the healthful benefits of nuts, seeds, and good oils (such as olive, palm, and coconut) and you've got yourself a recipe for health. The secret is keeping the levels of insulin released in your body to a minimum, which allows your body to burn fat instead of store it throughout the day.

Don't believe me? Check out these resources:

Free CrossFit article on Glycemic Index
Weston A. Price Foundation's Fats page
The Zone by Barry Sears (although his prescription of 40% carbs is a bit high for my taste, the book has a ton of good information)
Articles on high-fat, low-carb diets by Vihjalmur Stefansson, one of the first Westerners to live with the Eskimos and eat their traditional diet
Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes

There are numerous other resources, so if you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment.


Will @ 4XLT said...

That's a really solid overview, man. Thanks for sharing!

Brian said...

great post! This is exactly the kind of stuff I need to learn more about. Losing weight is easy, but really learning how to eat right is not.
thanks for the info!