The Power of Nutrition in Fueling The Body~Mind, Part Two - There is No 'One Size Fits All' Approach
In this article, I will continue the discussion around the last post to the Heroics Blog titled ‘The Power of Nutrition in Fueling Your Body~Mind; Developing a Relationship to Food’. In this article, we developed the topic around the inner and outer relationships we have to food and our bodies. This topic can run as deep as the history of our origination as a species...as the nutrition we have had access to has evolved drastically over the past 10,000 years in our development.
To frame an important piece of our history - humans began farming just around 10,000 years ago. This was the initiation period for a VAST improvement in the production of our food supply, and therefore the nutrition we consumed became more readily available. This shift allowed us as a species to go from spending a lot of our time hunting and gathering to allowing agrarian farming production to produce, and provide crops as a primary food source. When this occurred, this left a large portion of the population within communities to develop their own crafts, trades and means of production to progress the development of the community.
Food is a basic survival need. With the introduction of agrarian farming, the need to ‘go hunt’ each day was taken off the table as food sourcing came more readily available from agrarian farming practices. The variety of foods farmed was largely grains, along with the production of vegetables and fruits per the season that best suited the growth of such crops geographically. Depending on where you lived, humans ate what farmers would produce that season. As you can imagine, if there was less production, it was a scarcer year in fresh food-supply, the crops were depleted. Since grains are relatively easy to produce, and store, the increase in agrarian farm production introduced a higher amount of grain into the human diet. While being a convenient and highly worshipped staple in many cultures - this higher intake of grain also led to deterioration of vital biological systems and nutrient variety within our diet.
Through our evolution since agrarian farming, we humans have lost touch with the feet- in-the-ground origins of our food production and organic nutrition. We used to be very close to the cycle of where our food came from. Instead of eating with the seasons, we now eat what is supplied in grocery stores, shipped and packed to reach us from across the world. Yet, our need for vital, organic nutrients has and never will change.
Thus, in this article it is important for me to explain simply that every individual is very different in their nutritional needs. Even members of the same family will have different needs each day when it comes to what they need to eat to keep their body healthful and thriving. Since nearly ANY food ingredient is available to us ANY time, we now have the opportunity to learn what ratios of foods will be most suitable for us and our individual needs - depending on the season and lifestyle we are living. We can do our best to keep our meals balanced to what feels best for our body, in that period of time.
Macronutrients in Food
There are three primary building blocks that make up foods, called macronutrients. These are fat, carbohydrates and proteins. Macronutrients are all physical structures of food that help rebuild our physical structures in our bodies. The term ‘balanced’ in this context when we are speaking of meals means a meal that provides all needed constructs to fit the metabolic needs of the individual on that particular day. A balanced meal will have a carbohydrate, fat and protein - all at different ratios depending on the individual.
Use this photo diagram to better understand the macronutrients in foods you already know. Notice how some proteins have carbohydrates in them as well. While, some proteins have more of a mixture with fat. The mix of macronutrients is different depending on the food, so it is best to be aware of the individual food and its effect on how you feel.
Fats - More of a heavier consistency, these foods are calorically rich. They tend to exist as oils, seeds, nuts, dairy, eggs, and within heavier meats such as beef or even salmon.
Proteins - The fundamental building block of our tissues, protein also exists frequently as animal meats. Protein is also a fundamental part of plant foods as well - creating the hardier consistency of beans, legumes and grains. Proteins can be harder to digest and assimilate from plant-based sources vs. animal based sources.
Carbohydrates - Easy to find, and usually the cheapest source of food to buy. Carbohydrates are found in all fruits, and vegetables, or even grains. Carbohydrates make for a very quick source of energy and can easily be stored as fat if the body does use them readily.
Balanced Meals & MacroNutrients
One can consider their ancestry to have a large influence on the ratio of fats, proteins and carbohydrates that make up their plate. Those with ancestral lineage of communities that resided closer to the equator, will more likely have a genetic congruence with meals that have a higher carbohydrate content. This is due to the larger availability of various fruits, and vegetables all year round. Those with ancestral lineage of communities that were closest to the poles of the world, will have a higher intake of heavier proteins and fats. In colder regions the ground gets colder, and plants go dormant. Those who lived in colder regions couldnt as readily depend on crops to grow all year, and therefore depending more on stored, dried or hunted meats or starchy vegetables.
Bill Wolcott discusses this differentiation in metabolisms more deeply in his book The Metabolic Typing Diet, as does Paul Chek in his book How to Eat, Move and Be Healthy. In these two references, there are three primary incorporations of fats, carbs and proteins on one's plate. There is the ‘fast-oxidizer’, the ‘slow oxidizer’ and the ‘mixed oxidizer’. Here is an image pulled from Bill Wolcott’s book for you to understand a visual of the types:
Three Metabolic Types
The ratio of your plate will differ each day, yet the basic foundation will typically remain the same for most meals.
If ancestry resides from a region closer to the equator, one is more likely to thrive more off of meals that are based with ‘slow-oxidizing’ ratios. Meals are then best digested with more carbohydrates and plant varieties with a moderate portion of fat and protein. Consider this a 70/30 ratio of carbohydrates to proteins and fats.
This metabolism is most likely to have a mixed heritage, where ancestry may have had access to plants, and carbohydrate foods more readily than protein and fats year round. Meals then are best digested with an equal portion of plant foods to fats and proteins. Consider this a 50/50 ratio of carbohydrates to proteins and fats.
The fast oxidizer type is one that thrives more readily off of heavier, protein rich and fat based foods. Meals may be best when based on that 70/30 ratio when it comes to plating protein and fat to carbohydrates.
To know which stage of metabolism your body is at - a thorough questionnaire can analyze how your body functions best based on your experience with different foods. Or, one can - self experiment and feel into how their body feels after eating certain meals plated in different ratios. We can learn alot about our bodies based on how we feel after eating.
Discovering Your Ideal Macronutrient Ratio
The beauty about the different metabolic types is that it all can change as the body changes, or moves to different environments. For instance, if a person decides to travel from a colder climate to a warmer one - they may experience craving fattier, heavier meals to then craving lighter meals in the warmer weather. This is why there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to dieting. As the environment changes and the body changes, the adaptation to specific nutrients and their ratios also vastly changes.
From reading this article, you may be encouraged to take note of the different types - mainly their ratios, and see how your body feels in relationship to the amount and type of foods on your plate. Decide which type is your ‘baseline’, or allows you to feel most optimal most days. Then, allow mealtime to be centered around nurturing the food ratio that keeps your energy levels stable, and body functioning optimally.
If you typically eat a salad for lunch with a little bit of cheese or chicken atop, start there. If you’re an egg and bacon for breakfast lover, start there. Then, try another day with a new ratio. The eggs and bacon lover may try a fruit and yogurt breakfast. The salad lover may have the steak for lunch, or salmon fillet with less vegetables. This is a self-experiment to notice how your body feels upon trying different plates of food, and the macronutrients within it.
Some questions to ask yourself could be:
Do I tend to get hungry between meals or go long periods without needing a whole lot of snacks? OR do I tend to not enjoy snacking, and prefer to eat regular square meals?
Do I have an appetite for protein? If so, what type sounds, feels, or smells the best to me? How much would keep me satisfied?
Do I have an appetite for vegetables or fruits? If so, what kind? Raw or cooked? How much of each?
When do I feel sluggish if ever? Can I trace my sluggish feeling to being a symptom from too much or too little carbohydrates? Protein? Fats?
Do I have the most sustained energy when I eat protein and fats or carbohydrate rich meals?
Allow these questions to serve as further guidelines to becoming aware of how your body feels by which way of eating. Just remember, there is no one size fits all approach to dieting. Meaning, ‘atkins’, ‘keto’, ‘vegan’, etc could be an amazing diet to try one week, then the next your body may need a different variety of nutrients available. It's important to listen for the signs your body is expressing to you, and make changes to your plates adequately.
If you have been on or are just starting your journey to discovering your relationship to food and how foods can make you feel - this is an exciting journey! My advice would be to not let information-overwhelm keep you from getting to know your body. At the end of the day, your body never lies. Allow the wisdom your body expresses to you to point you in the direction of what serves your highest good to a vital, energetic and joyful life.
Natalie Ross - CHEK HLC2 Practiitioner