How much protein an athlete really needs

Working in the fitness world, I hear A LOT about protein. I hear the whole gamete…”I need x amount of protein every day or I’ll lose muscle,” or, “Vegetarians could never build muscle,” and “I can’t have a single meal without protein!” There are grains of truth to some of these statements…but let’s look at this scientifically, to see how much protein a person really needs, and where they can get it from.

What foods contain protein?

The short answer: almost all foods! Or, at least they contain a partial protein. Almost all have some of the 9 essential amino acids that make up a complete protein. Some foods make up a complete protein-which means they contain all 9 of the essential amino acids. Complete proteins include: Meat, dairy products (cheese, milk, etc), eggs, and soy.

Plant based protein

Although other foods are “incomplete” on their own, they become complete when they are combined with other foods. And you don’t even have to combine them in the same meal. Our body holds onto amino acid stores all day, so if you eat complementary proteins in the same day, they will form a complete protein. And our body doesn’t discriminate whether it’s a plant or animal source…a complete amino acid chain is a complete protein, no matter what the source.

Vega Protein

My favorite protein powder mix.

Can a person have too much protein?

Definitely. In fact, the average American has too much protein in their blood instead of too little.

What are the effects of too much protein?

There are many negative effects to an overage of protein if the system. Here are some of the main problems:

  • Calcium Deficiency: High consumption of animal protein can lead to low calcium levels. This can eventually lead to osteoporosis, or low bone density.
  • Ketones: When the body is starved of carbohydrates, and is using fat and energy for fuel, it goes into a state of ketosis. This can cause glucose intolerance and insulin resistance, which can lead to bigger problems.
  • Kidney Problems: When the body is in ketosis, it enters into a state of dehydration. Also, the calcium imbalance (from excess urinary calcium) can lead to kidney stones.
  • High instance of Free Radicals: Too much protein in the blood equals a larger amount of free radicals, which reek havoc and can lead to many diseases.
  • High Blood Acidity Levels: A high level of acidity in the blood can actually lead to a difficulty in keeping muscle mass. (The opposite of what most athletes desire.)
  • Higher Chance of Disease: I tried, and tried, and tried to find a study that shows the opposite of this. But every pier-reviewed study that I’ve ever found shows that in increase of animal protein consumption equals a much higher rate of disease. There’s a much higher (like, 50% higher) rate of diabetes, heart attacks, stroke, and even appendicitis.

How can I tell if I have too much protein?

There’s a variety of ways…the easiest is to get blood-work from your doctor. If your blood protein levels are above normal, and/or your calcium levels are low, you probably get too much animal protein. (It’s really really hard to overdoes on protein from vegetable sources.)Protein

The Anthropology of It

There is a evolutionary reason why humans can easily extract protein from plant sources. In the past, before refrigeration and grocery stores, we had to hunt and gather all of our food. Hunting takes a much larger amount of energy expenditure than gathering. (It burns more calories, takes more time, and often takes more tools.) Also, there was no guarantee that the hunters would be successful. Often hunters came home empty-handed. Also, people did not hunt every day. Most of our ancestors spent a lot of time relaxing, preparing food and weaving. Hunting took a large effort to organize and orchestrate. The majority of indigenous tribes only went hunting once a month or so. Many tribes only ate animals even less than that, or would only eat tiny pieces at a time. Animal are scarce at high altitudes, in the planes, or in dry areas.

Therefore, since meat was not a guaranteed source of protein, our bodies are evolved to extract protein from plant sources. And guess what the most common form of animal protein was/is in indigenous tribes? Bugs!!! So if you really want to “eat like our ancestors,” you can make yourself a hearty plate of grubs and grasshoppers.  Yum yum yum…

This is my own photo from a visit to Thailand. A whole assortment of roasted insects!

This is my own photo from a visit to Thailand. A whole assortment of roasted insects!

How do I know I’m getting the right amount of protein?

It’s actually pretty simple: Eat a variety of foods in every meal! Eat a variety of food groups (different vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, legumes, fats, etc), and a variety of colors! As long as you keep your diet varied and healthy, you should get plenty of protein. Also, the quality of food determines the quality of your protein. Dairy from grass-fed cows will be better than dairy from grain-fed factory farm. Organic, colorful corn is far better than GMO yellow corn from mono-cropping. So get your fill on whole, healthy foods, and you should be on the right track! And yes, you can still gain plenty of muscle and keep your explosive strength.

Should You Go Gluten Free? And What is Gluten Anyway?

Gluten and BreadThere is a new movement in the health world: going gluten free. Gluten free is becoming mainstream, it’s no longer just for the devout health conscious among us. New gluten free products abound on the shelves, new items popping up weekly. But what is ‘gluten free’ exactly? For that matter, what’s gluten?

Gluten is a complex protein molecule found in many of the most commonly available grains. Wheat is the primary grain associated with gluten, but it can also be found in rye, barley, and ancient varieties of wheat (such as triticale, spelt, and einkorn). Gluten is the molecule responsible for the chewiness in bread products, and is in part responsible for trapping the gasses that make bread rise. Because of gluten’s sticky nature, it is also commonly used as a filler or binder in processed food, and is frequently used to make imitation meat products or boost the protein content of foods.

Going gluten free means avoiding any and all products that have gluten, be it whole wheat or barley, or any processed products that contain the flours of the gluten grains (such crackers, pasta, etc.). The reasons for going gluten free deal specifically with your overall health and your sense of well being. The major disorder associated with gluteWheatn is Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder caused by the ingestion of gluten. Symptoms of Celiac disease can be broad, but can include: bloating, diarrhea, headaches, depression, joint pain, and a multitude of others. However, it is becoming more widely accepted that Celiac disease may be the most extreme of gluten sensitivities, and that a broad range of sensitivities from the mild to the extreme exists.

The only way to be sure you have Celiac disease is to get tested by your doctor. However, many people will test negative for the condition. That doesn’t mean you aren’t sensitive to gluten, however. Many of the common symptoms of Celiac disease are also experienced by those who test negative. One of the best ways to test your sensitivity is to self-test for a gluten allergy or intolerance. Try removing gluten from your diet for a week if you suspect you may be sensitive, and note how you feel.

Many people find that by removing gluten from their diet they have increased physical energy, increased mental energy, better sleep, less joint and body aches, less headaches, better physical recovery, better digestion (including bowel movements), less skin issues (including acne and skin blemishes), and even better mood. Many of these benefits have been reaped in my own life since removing gluten from my diet, especially increased mood and body aches. Additionally, I have found that by eliminating wheat and barley specifically from my diet, many seasonal allergies that I once thought ‘normal’ have either minimized or disappeared.

CookieNote that not everyone is sensitive to gluten. Many individuals find that they tolerate gluten just fine and receive no benefit by removing it from their diet. Cutting gluten from your diet also doesn’t automatically mean your diet will be healthier than if you did include gluten. With the numerous products being released, gluten free varieties of over-processed foods are also in the mix. A gluten free cookie is still a cookie filled with sugar and excess calories – it just doesn’t have wheat or barley. However, they are numerous excellent products abound that are gluten free and healthful – choose your products wisely.

Testing positive for Celiac disease or self-testing and finding you have a gluten sensitivity is not the end of your food world. There are numerous alternatives to the common gluten grains, such as cutting out grains entirely, or including the non-gluten grains in your diet: rice, corn, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, millet, and oats (Note: many oats are produced on equipment that also process gluten grains. If you are extremely sensitive to gluten, buy gluten-free oats, or oats processed in a gluten-free facility). While a life without bread may seem difficult, it is quite doable. You’ll want to experiment with your foods, find the dishes that best suit your tastes, and learn to incorporate them into your lifestyle. For example, try making this gluten free sunflower cake! It is especially important to read all food labels if you find you cannot tolerate gluten, as it is added to numerous products. Read carefully, and select products that do not include gluten.

As with gluten sensitivity itself, there is a spectrum of how much gluten some people can tolerate. Some will find they will be able to tolerate small amounts, while some may find they cannot tolerate any. Continue self-testing for your sensitivity and see where you lie on the spectrum! And again, if you suspect you might be at all sensitive to gluten, try cutting out all gluten products for 7 days and see how you feel!

Self Testing for Food Allergies and Intolerances

Many common ailments that affect us can be linked to either a food allergy or an intolerance that go (mostly) unnoticed. Headaches. Flatulence. Poor bowel movements. Lethargy. Fatigue. Depression. Sudden weight gain. There are numerous indicators; many can be common among multiple people, but they can also vary on an individual basis. An allergy, an intolerance, or a sensitivity to a food all have one thing in common, however: once they are removed, a greater sense of well-being returns.

A food allergy differs from a food intolerance. A true food allergy can be measured by your doctor through a blood test. This test is conducted by measuring your immune system’s response by accounting for the amount of allergy antibodies in your blood, called immunoglobulin E (IgE), in response to an administered food. A high level of IgE indicates an allergy. Often, however, our bodies will not create a full immune response when a food is ingested or placed into our bodies, and thus these tests are not always accurate. A food intolerance can be a mild, prolonged immune response that is otherwise undetectable, but can also be a digestive system response. Both hamper your body’s ability to function at optimal levels. Common food allergies and sensitivities include foods such as grains, gluten (a unique protein in wheat, barley, and other grains), soy, milk (both the proteins and lactose), eggs, tree nuts, and peanuts (it’s really a legume!).

There are three common ways to self test for a food allergy, intolerance, or sensitivity:

The Pulse Test is on the fastest and easiest ways you can see if you potentially have a food allergy or intolerance. Your pulse can be taken anywhere you can feel your pulse best, or have someone take it for you!

  • Upon rising and after being awake for about an hour, take your pulse for 60 seconds. This will give you your average resting pulse rate.
  • Just before a meal, relax and again take your pulse rate for 60 seconds. If you have been quite active throughout the day, later in the day it may be higher than usual. If it is higher, note that it is higher, but still keep in mind what your average resting pulse rate is. Then, chow down!
  • 30, 60, and 90 minutes after the meal, again take your pulse rate. It is important not to take your pulse immediately after eating, as your body is sending extra blood to your stomach to begin digestion, creating an increase in your heart beat. If the rate ranges at least 10 beats more than your resting pulse rate, you may have a food sensitivity to a food you ate. Create a journal and write down what you ate if this is the case (more on this below!)
  • The next step is to isolate all the foods you ate when you note an increase in your heart rate. Test them systematically with the same process as above. Any food with a continued elevated heart rate may pose to be problematic for your body, and may be best removed from your diet. You may want to try an elimination diet for this food. More on this below, as well!

Keeping a Food Journal is one of the most effective ways of tracking foods that may pose potential problems for allergies or intolerance. At its basis, it is simply logging all foods you take in over any given period of time, and also logging how to feel after you eat. Log how you feel immediately after eating, shortly after (30,60,90 minutes), before you go to bed, and when you wake up the next day. If symptoms such as headache, lethargy, dizziness, sneezing, body ache, or any symptom you might find peculiar or curious (even if you experience it all the time!), write it down! Try eating similar foods, and see if the same symptoms occur. As with the Pulse Test, you will want to try isolating each food and log how you feel in reaction to each. If and when you find a reaction, you may want to avoid this food entirely or try…

The Elimination Diet. This diet can also be referred to as a rotation diet, and is best utilized in conjunction with a food journal. Elimination diets can vary, but at their core they follow a simply procedure:

  1. Eliminate all foods from your diet that you believe may be causing your trouble, OR reduce your diet down to basic foods that are unlikely to cause most people trouble: fruits, vegetables, lightly cooked meats (if you eat them), and easily digestible grains (primarily white rice).
  2. Log how you are feeling in your food journal. Simply by reducing potential problematic foods and following a more simply diet, many people will note an increase feeling of well being. Be specific in your food journal. How do you feel? What is your mental energy like? Your physical energy? What are you not feeling?
  3. Slowly reintroduce potential problematic foods to your diet, one at a time, and keep them in their most simple form. For example, if you think soy may pose a problem, try eating some soybeans or tofu rather than a processed soy product. Note in your journal how you feel immediately after eating, and again before bed and the following morning.
  4. If you find you react to a certain food, you may want to avoid it for a while again, and then try reintroducing it once or twice more. If you continue to find you react to the food, it is probably best to eliminate it entirely. However, frequently an intolerance can develop from eating a food too often. By eliminating some foods for a prolonged period of time, you may find you tolerate it again at a later time. Try reintroducing it slowly, however.

Food allergies and intolerance can develop for many reasons. Sometimes our bodies are simply incapable of processing a specific food properly. Other times, various conditions can trigger our bodies to create an intolerance, such as emotions, stress, or even eating a specific food too frequently. It is always important to be mindful of the food we eat and the mental state in which we eat them. Choose your foods wisely, respect the signals your body gives you.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Banana Protein Muffins

In my ever present search for easy recipes, I stumbled upon these delicious gluten-free muffins. But these aren’t your average muffins, filled with sugar and simple carbohydrates, creating a blood sugar spike and leaving you hungry for more. These muffins are a meal! Bake up a big batch or two (or three), and you have easy, on-the-go mini meals, filled with complex carbs, good fats, and protein to keep you full for hours! As with all recipes, the ingredients listed below function as a base. Experiment to your heart’s content!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup Almond Flour
  • 1/2 cup Oat Flour
  • 1/4 cup Amaranth Flour
  • 1 cup Egg Whites/Eggs (I use 1/2 cup each, feel free to use whatever ratio your prefer or what you have on hand)
  • 7 to 8oz Greek Yogurt
  • 3 Ripe Bananas
  • 1 tbsp Coconut Oil
  • 2 tbsp Cacao (Chocolate) Powder
  • 1 tbsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon

Preparation:

  • 1. Preheat oven to 400˚F. Coat silicone muffin cups or muffin pan with olive oil so as not to stick.
  • 2. In a large bowl, mash bananas into a paste. I like them a little chunky for texture.
  • 3. Mix all remaining ingredients into the bowl until a smooth consistency is reached.
  • 4. Spoon mixture into muffin cups/muffin pan.
  • 5. Bake in oven approximately 15-17 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool, and eat!

Thinking about going gluten free? Or not sure what gluten is? Check out this article!

Is Raw Milk Really Safe?

Milk is onIt's a cow!e of the most widely debated foods. Should we consume it? Is it natural for us to consume milk beyond infancy? Are most people allergic to milk? Should we ferment milk? Is milk really mucous forming? Do you need milk to build strong bones? What about all the fat and cholesterol in milk? Is low-fat or non-fat milk better than whole milk? Perhaps one of the largest debates at present regarding milk is whether or not milk should be consumed in its raw state or pasteurized and/or homogenized.

To understand this debate we must first know what exactly pasteurization and homogenization entail. Pasteurization is a process originally developed by French scientist Louis Pasteur. It is a process of heating a raw food to a certain temperature for a specific length of time, and then cooling it immediately, in order to eliminate all harmful and potentially pathogenic micro-organisms within the food. This process differs from sterilization in that is does not eliminate ALL micro-organisms, but only those that are deemed hazardous. Additionally, Pasteurization aims to eliminate most enzyme activity within a food. Pasteurization of food extends the shelf-life of foods that would otherwise spoil too quickly (such as for shipping). Pasteurization of food can be applied to more than milk, such as for wine. Today, two types of Pasteurization are utilized for milk in the United States. The first is high-temperature, short-time pasteurization, where milk is heated to approximately 71.7°C (161°F) for 15-20 seconds. The second is ultra-high temperature Pasteurization (or simply ultra-Pasteurization), where milk is heated to 135°C (275°F) for at least 1 second.

Homogenization is an emulsifying technique, designed to break the fat globules contained within milk into smaller and smaller particles, so as to prevent the separation of milk into its components (fats, lactose, and proteins). Milk is homogenized by pushing milk through a small tubes, called pores, that slowly get smaller and smaller as the milk continues through. As the tubes shrink, the fat globules in the milk break apart and become smaller. The pressure required to push milk through these tubes can range from 2,000 pounds per square inch up to 14,500 pounds per square inch. Typical fat globules in milk range in size from 1-10 microns, but after homogenization can range from 0.2-2 microns. Because the fat globules are now much smaller than previously, they remain suspended in the milk itself, rather than simply rising to the top of the milk. The amount of pressure required to homogenize milk creates an amount of heat approximately equal to that of Pasteurization.

Raw milkProponents of raw milk claim that has a host of benefits:

  • Raw milk has numerous antibacterial properties that help protect itself and those that drink it from harmful pathogens
  • Raw milk contains natural enzymes that helps digest all components of milk
  • Raw milk also contains numerous bacteria that produce lactase, the digestive enzyme that helps break down the milk sugar lactose, a component of milk that gives many people digestive trouble
  • While many people are indeed allergic to milk, most people with sensitives have allergies to the super-heated proteins in Pasteurized and homogenized milk, and are thus not actually allergic to milk
  • Raw milk contains natural growth hormones if it comes from a healthy mother cow feeding on good green grass, and is thus a very healing food
  • Raw milk contains higher levels of conjugated-linoleic acid (CLA), a healthy medium-chain tryglyceride (a saturated fat) that aids your body’s immune system and ability to utilize fat as energy
  • Raw milk contains a higher percentage of vitamin B12, as B12 is easily destroyed in heat
  • Raw milk contains raw protein, and thus is easier for our bodies to break down and assimilate for use
  • Raw milk that is fermented, such as a good raw cheese, is even easier for our bodies to assimilate, and contain additional beneficial bacteria that aid in digestion

Proponents of pasteurized/homogenized milk, such as the FDA, claim:

  • Pasteurization does not cause allergies to milk to lactose intolerance
  • Raw milk does not kill dangerous pathogens by itself
  • Pasteurization does kill harmful pathogens
  • Pasteurization does not decrease milk’s nutritional value, including B12
  • Raw milk contains a dangerous bacteria known as Listeria, which can cause miscarriage and death of a fetus or newborn
  • Raw milk can be a source of food-borne illnesses, such as vomiting, diarrhea, fevers, headaches, and body aches

Milk?

The purpose of this article is not to dissuade or persuade the consumption of either raw milk, pasteurized milk, or homogenized milk, or to promote one above another. However, my personal experience has given me a wealth of information when it comes to consuming milk. This is my experience, as it pertains to how milk reacts in my body. I encourage all people to wisely experiment with foods, and be conscious and note how not only milk, but all foods, react within their bodies. I initially began eliminating dairy from my diet a few years ago, attempting to find any food sensitivities I may have. I noted no drastic differences at first when eliminating cheeses, but did notice I had less allergies in general once I eliminated liquid milk. Upon adding liquid milk back into my diet, my allergies again flared up. I assumed this meant I should not consume milk at all, and virtually eliminated it, with the exception of cheese occasionally, for a couple years. Then I heard about raw milk. For the majority of my life, I never knew there could be a difference. Milk is milk, right? But I decided to give it a try; after all, I’ve always loved milk. There was no negative reaction, no allergies whatsoever. In fact, it seemed like my body was bursting with energy. I loved it. I am fortunate to live in a California, where raw milk is currently legal. While I don’t drink raw milk everyday, I do enjoy it occasionally as a treat.

I do encourage people to try raw milk if they find they have sensitivities to milk and would like to truly enjoy milk. But again, do it wisely, try it slowly. I know many people that simply cannot tolerate milk in any form, and also many that find no difference in how they feel or how they digest raw milk, pasteurized milk, or homogenized milk. If you are fortunate to have access to any form of milk that is fed a natural diet of grass and not injected with numerous hormones unnecessary to its production, and are able to digest milk, enjoy it as you would all things: in moderation, not to excess.

Feeling Full and Satisfied with Food

The latest fad diets are hard to ignore. They are plastered in front of our faces on magazine covers, commercials, blogs, internet ads, books, and grocery stores. Low Carb? Low Fat? Paleo? Separating carbs and protein? Raw Food? HOW DOES A PERSON KNOW WHAT TO EAT????

There’s a lot of misinformation out there, but luckily science can come to the rescue. Nutritional studies come out with new findings every year, but there are some basic facts that can help sort through the endless information available. One tool: the basics of energy metabolism. This can be quite simple, and doesn’t have to be a long, boring science lecture.

The basic idea: To get the most satiation and satiety (fullness right after a meal, and the length of time you stay satisfied), it is beneficial to have carbohydrates, protein, fat and fiber in your meals. Different foods serve different purposes, and you can have eat a snack with only protein or only carbs and survive. But if you want to feel satisfied and full, it’s important to include a bit of everything. (Also, vegetables are the magic ingredient!) Here’s why:

Vegetables: They contain a lot of fiber and very few calories. The fiber and bulk of vegetable roughage causes a feeling of fullness and satisfaction, and supplies the body with a range of nutrients.
Eating only vegetables: You may feel full initially, but your body will quickly use the calories and you will soon be hungry. Also, with so few calories, a meal of purely vegetables lacks the energy it takes to be active.
Too few vegetables: You may take in too many calories, since it will take a lot of protein and fat to feel full. Fiber is super important for digestion, and the diverse micronutrients will satisfy your body’s needs, making you feel more satisfied.

Carbs: Starch and Carbohydrates provide the most immediate energy source. The body breaks them down quickly, and the calories are soon available for use. This means that you feel more full faster, and can start using the energy right away.
Too many carbs: If your meal contains too much starch, you will have a lot of energy available immediately; but if you don’t use it quite quickly it will be stored as fat.
Too few carbs: If you eat too little starch, it will be more difficult to feel full, and you may eat too many calories before feeling satiated (satisfied).

Quiche with goat cheese and spinach, salad with basil pesto dressing. A beautifully balanced meal from my new favorite restaurant, WeHo Bistro.

Protein: This includes any complete amino acid chain, including vegetables sources. Beans, hemp, soy, and eggs all count as protein. Protein takes longer to digest than carbs, so the energy becomes available awhile after you eat. To feel fuller longer, this is a good thing. If protein is in your meal, once the energy from a carb spike drops, the energy spike from protein kicks in.
Too much protein: Too much protein (especially animal protein) causes free radicals in your blood. Free radicals are bodily chemicals that will run free and ravage the body, causing various diseases and harm. Most Americans test too high in blood protein.
Too little protein: If you don’t have enough protein in a meal, (i.e. your meal is purely starch), your blood sugar may drop, and you can become irritable and hungry faster.

Fat: Poor dietary fat. It has gotten the worst rap among “health food” and diet advocates. But, our body needs a certain amount of dietary fat. Fat gives us energy, and fatty acids (like Omega 3) promote brain activity. Plus, fats make us feel more full for longer. Studies show that people who follow a low-fat diet get hungry faster, feel unsatisfied, and end up eating more calories in a day than those who don’t eliminate fat. Since the “low-fat” craze of the 90’s, heart disease has actually been on the rise.
Fat takes the longest to provide energy to our body, so after your carb energy spike and protein energy spike have subsided, the energy spike from fat kicks in. So this provides a longer satiety (length of satisfaction and fullness from a meal), and may make you less likely to reach for unhealthy snacks in between meals.
Too much fat: Before you pour cream and bacon on your pasta in excitement, know that you can eat too much fat. It is 9 calories per gram (compared to protein and carbs which have 3 calories per gram), so you can go overboard. It may make you feel sluggish or overly full, and excess calories can be stored as body fat. Plus, fat quality is important. Cold-pressed olive oil and coconut oil are different than toxic margarine, canola oil, and bacon fat. So choose quality of quanity.
Too little fat: Your cells need fat for energy, building, and repair. Too little fat means you may get hungry too soon after a meal, and reach for unhealthy snacks. The minerals and hormones produced by your thyroid can also become off-balance. Too little Omega 3 can result in memory problems. So, add some olive oil to your brown rice, or some raw butter to your asparagus.

Sugar: Energy from sugar is the available the quickest, but this is only beneficial if you need immediate energy without the desire of a full belly (like when you’re running a marathon or riding a bike.) The sugar provides immediate energy for use, without the body needing to “waste energy” digesting. But if you don’t use the energy immediately, it will cause an insulin spike and store the extra energy as fat!

Food Combining

I’ve been trying to eliminate stomach-aches since I can remember…literally. In my long search, almost nothing has been as effective as proper “food combining.” That said…I don’t want you to run out and buy a long book on complicated food combining practices. Some people have made a complex science out of it…which is fine, except that adding stress to food planning can take away from its healthful benefits. There is just a plain and simple way to take advantage of this food philosophy, and I swear you can still eat yummy food.

So here is the basic Food Combining “equation:”
One Carb+One Protein+Fat+Lots of Vegetables (fiber)!!!!

OR

Fruits-All by themselves.

*Note: The ingredients used should be of good quality. Eating cheese is fine, but the plastic-like American stuff is barely more edible than plastic. So make sure your ingredients are fresh and chemical free. 

For the purposes of food combining, what food counts for which categories?
Carbs: For this purpose, carbs include: Potatoes, corn, corn meal, flour, oats, wheat, rye, flour, corn, very starchy root vegetables, some legumes, and beans. (For the purpose of food combining, beans and legumes are in both the carb and protein category).
Proteins include: Meat, soy, dairy*, beans, and some legumes.
Fat: Oil, mayo, lard, butter, avocado, nuts, seeds, nut and seed butters, etc.
Vegetables: All vegetables, like lettuce, greens, carrots, eggplant, tomatoes, etc. (Except veggies that are super starchy, like potatoes. Legumes, beans, edamame, and such do not count as vegetables.)
**Dairy: Though dairy is a general “protein,” in food combining, the different forms of dairy count as seperate proteins. For instance, sour cream, cheese, and yogurt would count as three different “types” of protein. So combining several different forms of dairy in one meal could equal digestive issues.

Some meals after they have been properly “food combined.” Although they say “tummy happy,” this may not prove true for everyone. You must pay attention to food allergies and sensitivities.

A Typical Burrito: Flour Tortilla, Rice, Beans, Meat, Cheese, Tomatoes, and Sour Cream=Digestive disaster.

3 kinds of carbs, 3 forms of proteins, and very little vegetables equals impending digestive distress.

Tummy Happy Burrito: Corn/Flour Tortilla, Grilled Veggies, Raw Cheese, and Avocado.

Typical Breakfast: Sausage/Bacon, 3 Eggs, Fried Hash-browns, Pancakes, and Toast w/Butter and Jam.

Tummy Happy Breakfast: Pan-Roasted potatoes with veggies and Himalayan Salt, topped with an Organic Free Range Egg OR Tofu Scramble.

Typical Sandwich: White bread, lunch meat, cheese, mayo, mustard, lettuce and tomato.

Tummy Happy Sandwich: Organic sourdough bread, raw swiss (or tempeh bacon), mixed greens, peppers, sauerkraut, avocado, and mustard.

Fruits: Fruit is an interesting food. It can be very good for you…but better for your tummy if eaten alone. Fruit digests very quickly…more quickly than grains, fats, proteins, and even some vegetables. So if you eat it combined with these foods, it will digest, than start to “ferment” in your stomach, since it can’t go anywhere until the other food digests as well. So fruit can make a great between-meal snack, or evening meal, but it can cause some unpleasant side effects when combined with other food (like fruit and cottage cheese).

*Note: the exception to this is pineapple and papaya. These tropical fruits contain natural digestive enzymes, and small amounts can be eaten after a meal.

Here’s a recipe for fruit salad!

The Proteins

Perhaps more than any other macronutrient, protein is the most consistently mentioned. In fact, it means literally “of first importance/quality.” When we think of protein, we think mostly of what we are eating, and while that will be mostly the focus of this article, proteins extend far beyond what’s on the end of your fork. Proteins are building blocks of all living organisms, creating the structures that support their cells, functioning as hormones to organize our life processes, creating antibodies to safe-guard our being, acting as catalysts in the form of enzymes, as well as having thousands of other functions. Protein is the most abundant molecule in the human body, with the exception of water. Because of proteins’ vast array of functions, it is the nutrient primarily used to build and rebuild tissues within our body, such as your muscles.

Protein as a macronutrient differs from the others in that it is a large molecule composed of amino acids linked together by peptide bonds. The are 22 amino acids important to our health, as they serve important functions in our body, and are divided into three categories: essential amino acids, non-essential amino acids, and conditionally essential amino acids. Essential amino acids cannot be produced by our body, and as such must be acquired from the foods that we eat. Non-essential amino acids on the other hand can be created by the human body through the breakdown of proteins during digestion, provided enough protein is ingested. Conditionally essential amino acids are usually non-essential, except in times of stress, such as illness.

There are nine essential amino acids including leucine, isoleucine, valine, lysine, threonine, methionine, phenylalinine, tryptophan, and histidine. Non-essential amino acids include alinine, asparagine, aspartic acid, and glutamic acid. Conditionally essential amino acids include arginine, cysteine, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine, and tyrosine.

All food contains some protein, as it must in order for whatever organism it came from to survive – the only exception is if a food is processed from its natural form. Primarily we think of protein deriving from animal sources, such as beef, chicken, fish, milk products, and eggs. It can also be found in plant sources, such as legumes, grains, roots and tubers, seeds, nuts, vegetables, and fruit. Foods are classified into two groups when it comes to proteins: sources of complete protein and sources of incomplete proteins.

Sources of complete protein are foods that contain the full array of amino acids as required by the human body. Most frequently this includes sources of animal protein, but can also include exceptional plant foods such as quinoa and chia seeds. Sources of incomplete protein are foods that do not contain all amino acids in significant amounts as required by the human body, which primarily includes plant based foods.

There are some important caveats to this that will be touched on in future articles, but especially includes the source from which meat derives. For example, a cow fed a diet that is unnatural or atypical from what it would normally eat (ie. consisting primarily of corn and other grains), may lack specific amino acids required by its own body, as well as the human body, as opposed to a cow fed its natural diet of only grass.

The human body is a magnificent engine, and as such, it is not necessary to eat food containing only complete proteins. So long as our food is not derived from a single source of calories, our bodies are able to break down proteins from a vast array of foods and obtain whatever it may require to function. While it is important to eat a wide variety of foods to obtain the nutrients (not only protein) your body requires, it is even more important to eat a wide variety of foods if your diet does not contain sources of complete proteins. A way of thinking about this is to imagine a ‘pool.’ When your body breaks down proteins, it takes amino acids and adds them to the pool. As you continue to ingest and break down more proteins, it takes the amino acids and again adds them to the pool. When your body requires specific amino acids, it is able to gather what it requires from the pool, and assimilate them into the specific proteins it requires.

There has a been a wide debate for many, many years, nearly since the discovery of protein on a molecular level, about how much protein we actually need in order to survive. The requirement for protein varies on an individual level, determined primarily on an individual’s activity level. For example, a sedentary individual requires much less protein than an athlete, as the athlete is more frequently breaking down tissue in need of repair. Largely, trial and error are required to determine how much protein you need, and from what sources your body best derives and assimilates them from.

Macronutrients! (A bird’s eye view)

Everything we eat can be broken down into two nutritional groups: Macronutrients and Micronutrients. Today’s feature is the macronutrients!

Macronutrients compose the majority the foods we take in for energy, classified as calories. Macronutrients are further broken down into three groups: proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Each macronutrient provides a different amount of calories that can be utilized as energy: proteins and carbohydrates provide approximately 4 calories per gram, while fats provide approximately 9 per gram.

Proteins are large molecules formed of amino acids linked together by bonds called peptides. When a protein is digested, it is broken down into its amino acid parts. Humans require 20 amino acids to live. As long as we have an adequate intake of proteins in our diet, our cells are able to manufacture 11 amino acids from other amino acids – these amino acids are called non-essential amino acids. However, 9 of those amino acids must be obtained from diet alone, these are called essential amino acids. Like the other Macronutrients, proteins are essential to our health. Most people recognize proteins as being able to repair our tissues, but they’re utilized in almost every process in the body! Examples of foods most people associate with protein are: eggs, dairy, meat, legumes and beans.

Protein!

Protein!

Carbohydrates are molecules composed of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, and are frequently referred to as saccharides. There are four groups of carbohydrates: monosaccharides, disaccharides, oligosaccharides, and polysaccharides. Monosaccharides are the simplest of carbohydrates, they are simple sugars such as fructose, the common sugar found in most fruits. Disaccharides are groups of two monosaccharides, a more complex sugar, and include lactose, the sugar found in milk. Oligosaccharides are more complex sugars, and not typically fully digested by humans. An example is fructo-oligiosaccharides, which is found in a large variety of plants. When fructo-oligosaccharides enter our intestines, any undigested bits will be further digested by our gut-bacteria. Whenever the term ‘pre-biotic’ is used, it is because the fructo-oligosaccharides are feeding these bacteria. The last group, polysaccharides, are the largest molecules in the carbohydrate group. Two good examples of polysaccharides are starch, such as that found in grains and potatoes, and cellulose, the fiber found in plants.

Fructose!

Fructose!

Fats round out the Macronutrients, and are very large group of molecules. They are also classified as a group of lipids (an even larger group of molecules). There are three main groups of fats we’ll focus on: saturated fats, unsaturated fats, and trans fats. Saturated fats are fats with all available molecular bonds being filled by hydrogen, and thus ‘saturated’ by hydrogen. There are a large variety of saturated fats, but they are primarily found in our diet from animal fats, such as butter or lard, or from tropical fruit oils, such as coconut and palm. Unsaturated fats are broken down into two major groups: monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats have a similar molecular makeup as saturated, but have only one molecular bond unfilled by hydrogen. Monounsaturated fats are found primarily in animal fats and plants; they compose the primary fat of avocados. Polyunsaturated fats are fats with multiple molecular bonds being unfilled by hydrogen. This group also includes the all important Omega fats (such as Omega 3 and 6). Trans-fats are a group of fats that are either monounsaturated or polyunsaturated, and are unique in that they contain two sets of double carbon atoms bonded together. Trans-fats very rarely occur in nature, but can occur frequently in the processing of food, especially when high levels of heat are utilized. Processed trans-fats are regarded as a dangerous substance when it comes to health, and are heavily linked to coronary heart disease and unhealthy levels of cholesterol – processed trans-fats are best avoided entirely.

Fats!

Fats!

In our next articles we’ll be focusing in more detail the specifics of each macronutrient. We’ll also begin to cover the micronutrients, the group of nutrients that don’t contribute the calories for you to live, but are still essential for optimal health!