I haven’t written about nutrition in a while so I thought it was time to revisit this subject. Mostly because it garners so much conversation, but also because the amount of misinformation out there is so misleading it irritates me. I know in the past when I have written on this subject I have angered some, but once more let me explain that if I use something as an example that the reader happens to agree with, disagree with, or feels I am personalizing it, know that it is not meant that way. Something “you” have done personally, or I have seen a post or tweet about, may have brought a subject to my head but it does not mean I am personally attacking you or that I even care about what you eat. I don’t. It’s your life, so do whatever you want, but don’t expect me to turn a blind eye and never mention it. That isn’t going to happen.
It’s a lot like the Little Debbie sponsorship of Ironman Chattanooga. Most people had no issue with this, but I do. Does this mean there should be a boycott of Ironman? No. Not at all. I get that it’s a business and they have to make money, and I also get that not everyone has the ethics I have. I am not now, nor will I ever, endorse something on these pages that I don’t agree with in the interest of money. I like money. I’d like to have more of it, but I am not selling myself out for it. I know that some don’t believe that, but it is true. If Kellogg came to me today and offered $1 million to advertise on my site I would turn them down. I know that is hard to believe for some, but that is their own ethical dilemma, not mine. I am the same way with Chik-Fil-A. I will admit that I used to LOVE Chik-Fil-A, but I will not go to one any more. Not because the food is not good for me, but because of their support of hate groups and the fact that they fired a women manager so that she could be a Stay At Home mother. So when I see a thread on a social media site asking for recommendations for a coach, and one coach says that they are good because they told their clients to partake of oatmeal creme pies during their taper, well, that is just wrong, and disingenuous. The funny thing about that string was of course I said something, which I am known to do, and I get numerous direct private messages from other coaches basically saying that “thanks for saying something because I don’t want to and appear I am bad mouthing another coach”. I disagree. If someone is giving out bad information, I feel it is your responsibility to call it out. Just me I guess.
This all tracks back to Ancel Keys, who managed to convince politicians that obesity and heart disease was caused by cholesterol. Never mind the fact that there is no evidence of this being true. The American Heart Association pounded on this, which in turn influenced the USDA, and lo and behold, the Standard American Diet is now low-fat and high carb. The USDA started recommending this diet in 1980, when the obesity rate in the US was 847 million. The current obesity rate in the US is now 2.1 billion (CDC website). Keys was also the person that convinced people who BMI was the measurement for obesity. It isn’t. The point is this, we, as humans, survived for millions of years eating high fat, low carb food, so how is it now bad for us?
The sad fact is also that most doctors don’t get it. Let’s leave coaches out for a second, because most of them just follow what has been fed to them in their online certification class. Hippocrates said to “let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food” yet the curriculum in most medical school is devoid of nutrition (or it is touched on barely). Doctors are spoon-fed these same USDA guidelines and are told to dispense this to their patients. When a physician is brave enough to venture away from this line of though, they are ridiculed, attacked in journals and professional circles, and discredited to the point of losing licenses to practice. The power of politics over science is very strong.
Maybe simplicity is the key here?
The body, if it came with an ingredient list, would be, in order; Water, Protein, Fat, Minerals, Carbs, Vitamins. We are told from a very early age that “we are what we eat” so it stands to reason the most simple answer here is to eat in the quantities with which we are made. High protein, high fat, low carb. but then the question of how much of each come up. The vegans will say (and have on social media) that you only need 8-10% protein in your diet. Where does this come from? Our old friend the USDA whose guidelines for adults are 10-35% protein, 30% carbs, and 20-35% fat. There are many different takes on this. Obviously the vegan, because they don’t eat meat, is going to side with the low-end of this scale because, well, because it fits what they believe. So let’s do the math. If you eat a 2000 calorie per day diet, that is 200 calories of protein to meet the 10%. 200 calories of protein is 50g (each gram of protein is 4 calories, so 200/4=50). How many beans do you need to eat to reach 50g?
So lets look at another method. The RDA standard for maintaining muscle mass is .7 to 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight, so for a 200 pound man this is 140-200 grams of protein each day. Quite a difference right? The same 200 pound man as a vegan would only eat 50g vs. 200g. If you believe the RDA, then only eating 50g would result in a loss of lean muscle mass, which would make sense when you see these thin, emaciated runners. Don’t believe me? Google pictures of Olympic long distance runner who mostly eat high carb diets and then look for pictures of printers and hurdlers who eat mostly high protein diets. Go ahead … I’ll wait.
See the difference?
I am not meaning to say one style of eating is superior. If you choose to be a vegan, hey, go forth and do good things. Most vegans I know do it for ethical reasons, and I totally get that (though one thing I’d like to ask, and I am not being a smart ass … I’d really like to know … is what the purpose of a cow or chicken is other than providing meat? I tried googling this and could find nothing.) so I would never say that what they are doing is wrong. And I also understand that everyone is different. Studies have shown that about 20-25% of people can process sugar, for example, with no issues. The problem arises when these 25% have a strong voice and can influence the other 75% that sugar is OK and if they can’t handle it something must be wrong the “them”. Another sticking point for me is when the vegan crowd states something along the lines of “humans are meant to be vegans”. No. We are not. There is no proof of that. In fact we do not share anything in common with the traits of vegetarians animals (eyes on the side of the head, one stomach, etc.). But the human body is a wondrous thing, and the fact that we can adapt, and excel given enough time, to any environment says something about us as a species.
I guess the bottom line is, as always, to find what works for you and do that, but try not to mask your personal beliefs in a cloak of pseudo-science. You can find studies that back anything you want to back. The old joke goes that a priest went to a researcher and asked for scientific research proving the existence of God. The research scientist stated that he had 200 papers showing the universe was created billions of years ago and that man has been on the earth for millions of years, and he had one that showed man had only been for 3500 years and that science had made up the rest to move the world from God.
“I’ll take that one”, the priest said.