Low fat, high carb…
High fat, low carb…
They both work.
But there is a concept that I don’t think is talked about enough is either of the communities.
Here we’ll talk a little about different protein, fat and carb ratios, and what I feel is more important than any of that.
What Are Macronutrients?
The macronutrients are the nutrients most people know. These include proteins, carbohydrates and lipids (fats). These are the nutrients that contain calories.
What You Should Be Focusing On More Than Macronutrients
There is a saying in the bodybuilding/weightlifting world that goes like this: “If it fits your macros” (IIFYM). I really hate that saying because I’ve learned that for health, we need to focus much more on the quality and the micronutrients; the vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidants within the foods we eat more so than how much carbohydrates or protein it has. Focusing more on the micronutrients of foods will do more for your overall health than focusing on the macronutrients.
Things like IIFYM are based off of an outdated model of nutrition that focuses on calories and pays no attention to the nutritional value of the food. A grilled conventional steak with some garlic bread can have the same amount of protein and carbohydrates and fat as a piece of hemp-seed covered wild salmon with a side of organic sweet potatoes and kimchee served over a salad. The wild salmon, sweet potatoes and kimchee over salad, though, would be the better choice because you’ll be avoiding the antibiotics, hormones and carcinogenic acrylamides from the grilled steak. You’ll also be avoiding the blood sugar spikes, chemicals and gluten from the bread. Even though the macronutrients, or ratios of protein, fat and carbs are similar between the two meals, you’ll be getting in more fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals and probiotics with the second meal.
What To Look For When Eating
When deciding what to eat, it should be about the quality of the foods, how your body reacts to them, and your unique needs; not necessarily how much protein, carbohydrates, or fat are in them. I personally try to stay more on the low carb side of things because that fits my body best and I don’t handle lots of fruits very well.
If you’re eating a quality paleo diet with lots of vegetables, your macronutrient ratio will most like fall into a good range. For someone on a paleo diet, I like the percentages outlined in “The Perfect Health” diet by Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet. They say to eat around 20% carbs, 65% fat, and 15% protein by calories. They recommend 65% plants and 35% animal foods, however, I recommend 80-90% plant foods and 10-20% animal foods. For the most part I stick with green leafy vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, low glycemic-load fruits like berries, other fruits, fermented vegetables like sauerkraut and kimchee, wild fish, pasture-raised chickens, grass-fed meats with organs, and lots and lots of homemade soup.
Make Sure You Follow This Rule With Your Carb To Fat Ratio!
In nutrition, there are a handful of “rules” that tend to fall across every dietary theory.
Things like drinking enough water, not eating processed foods, getting in tons of vegetables, and getting enough rest all are universal rules to follow no matter what diet you follow.
When it comes to macronutrients, there is a rule you should know.
In the presence of a 100% whole foods diet and daily physical activity, either follow a higher carb, lower fat diet, or follow a higher fat, lower carb diet, but don’t combine lots of fats and carbs together.
When I say “don’t combine lots of fats and carbs together,” I’m not talking about eating fat and carbs together at the same meal (coconut oil on sweet potatoes, for example). I am talking about the carb to fat ratios in the overall context of your diet. For 9 out of 10 days, stick to either a high(er) fat, low(er) carb, or a high(er) carb, low(er) fat diet.
The reason behind this is because if we follow a high carb, low fat diet, we may be eating much more sugar (from fruits and/or starches), and more sugar will be circulating in our blood. But because there is less fat as well, that sugar can easily be burned during exercise (which is absolutely necessary for health). If you follow a higher carb diet, you’ll want to increase the caloric content on higher intensity exercise days.
If you’re eating a lower carb, high fat diet, less sugar will be circulating in the blood, so inflammation caused by constantly elevated blood sugar levels will be less. But because there is more fat, that means you have to be diligent as to when you will eat your carbs. If you’re lower carb, higher fat, you should base the amount of carbs you eat on your exercise level. On days where you are exercising more intensely, eat more carbs. On days you don’t exercise intensely, eat less. It’s pretty simple.
How To Determine Whether You Should Eat A Higher Carb Or A Lower Carb Diet?
Other than genetic testing, the best way to determine anything is to experiment on yourself. You will know after a couple months on a particular diet if it is right for you at that time (it may change later, with the seasons, if you move (Your body would want different food in New York and Costa Rica), or if your tastebuds or activity levels change).
From observation, I’ve noted that people who are more prone to constipation tend to fare better on a higher carb, plant-based or vegan/dairy free vegetarian diet. The fruits and vegetables feed more bacteria in their gut and help move things along more smoothly.
While people with constipation may fare better on a diet higher in 100% whole food carbs, those more prone to diarrhea tend to fare better with a higher fat diet with more meat. A paleo, SCD, or GAPs like diet tends to help alleviate symptoms of IBS-D and IBD more so than vegan or plant-based diets.
I also suggest getting a blood glucose monitor and checking your blood glucose levels to see how well you can handle carbs.
Are There Rules For Acne Sufferers?
While there aren’t many hard fast “rules” for acne sufferers, we do need a lot of vegetables. Vegetables should be a part of every meal. I was extremely strict with my diet for a few months during the healing phases, juicing and blending green and eating 100% clean, 90-100% organic plant-based for weeks. I recommend this for those with acne. Now though, if I want, I’ll be a little more lenient with my diet.
You don’t have to have a restricted diet forever except under certain circumstances such as like those with celiac disease – they can never have gluten. It is important though, that you follow a very healing protocol for a minimum of 3 months when you embark on a health journey. This took me a while to figure out. I would eat super healthy but then I’d eat something that wasn’t healing for me (thinking it was only a little and I’d go right back to eating healthy) and that would set me back for weeks. Healing takes time. It takes effort. It takes planning. And it takes commitment. When you jump into something, do it 100%. I remember reading a quote by Dr. Dean Ornish who talked about his Ornish Diet and the success rate people experienced. Paraphrasing, he said that the people who followed his program 50% got 50% of the results. The people who followed his program 80% got 80% of the results. And the people who followed it 100% got 100% of the results. When you go into something, dedicate yourself to it and do it right.
How To Make Sure You Don’t Eat Anything You’re Sensitive To
Even if you follow the perfect high carb, low fat vegan diet, or higher fat, lower carb paleo diet, you may still be experiencing problems. You can still experience inflammation, red skin, large cysts and other health challenges.
After adopting what I considered to be a really healthy diet, I still wasn’t where I wanted to be. That’s when I got food sensitivity tests. The tests showed that fructose and honey caused inflammation in my body, so I further modified my diet and eliminated most fruits and all honey. It also showed me that I had leaky gut because over 20 foods showed up as reactive, which is a high indicator that foods are bypassing my intestines, so I started supplementation with glutamine, slippery elm and other gut-healing herbs. The tests also showed that eggs were inflammatory towards my body. I took them out and within 2 weeks all of cysts disappeared. I still had small breakouts, but the cysts were gone and have never came back. If you want to know more about food sensitivity tests, you can watch the presentation on food allergies and sensitivities here or you can order your own food sensitivity tests.
Diet is individualized. My diet will definitely change in the future.
No matter what diet you follow, eat the highest quality foods.
Listen to your body. Take your time with doing a comprehensive elimination diet or a detox and track your progress when you reintroduce foods. And if you need extra help, get objective data with functional tests to get to the root causes of any health issues. You can hire a functional health practitioner to help you with that.
- Aim to follow either a higher fat, lower carb OR a higher carb, lower fat diet, but don’t combine the two or else blood sugar and inflammatory issues may come up.
- More importantly than the ratio of fats, carbs and protein, focus on the micronutrient content of the foods you’re eating. Make sure that what you are eating is filled with vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, fiber, water and other nutrients that help sustain health. Eat real, whole foods.
- Make sure you’re eating tons of vegetables and doing the other fundamentals (exercising, resting, hydrating with water, reducing stress)
- If you are still experiencing problems regarding food even after eating healthy, look into food sensitivities. This video will show you which tests I recommend
- If you’re still having issues, contact a functional health practitioner for more help
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