The Stressful Pursuit of the Correct Meal Plan
With literally hundreds of meal plan variations from which to choose, it is no wonder people can become stressed and frustrated. Which one is best and why? Some experts seem to promote the “correct” plan for everyone. If the experts disagree, who is right? With that said, let’s look at some general principles regarding nutrition. Once we grasp these principles, we can do a better job of selecting the proper plan.
Principle #1 – Protein is a Mainstay
Principle #1 – Protein is responsible for a great many bodily processes. One of the primary roles is to act as a structural component of cells and tissues. Without enough protein, the cells and tissues would not function properly. Proteins, by the way, are large, complex molecules made up of smaller amino acid compounds. Some amino acids are made by the body; others (essential) are not. You must get the essential amino acids from your diet. Protein also provides a small amount of energy in absence of carbohydrates and fat. Therefore, consuming high quality, clean (organic, grass fed, free range) protein is extremely important. The idea is consume enough protein to support your system. This depends on your age, activity level, genetics, metabolism, and overall muscular structure.
Principle #2 – Know Your Carbs for the Best Meal Plan
Principle #2 – Carbohydrates produce energy and assist in digestion. Most, such as starch and sugar, break down into glucose. Fiber, another carbohydrate, is vital to digestion, but it does not break down into glucose. Carbohydrates can be either simple or complex. Simple carbohydrates are sugars and can be naturally occurring or added to foods. Natural sugars are found in fruit, dairy, vegetables, legumes, and other whole foods. Added sugars, such as sucrose and dextrose, are packed into processed food, which are usually low in nutrients and high in calories. Generally, we consume far too many carbohydrates in the Standard American Diet (SAD). The principle here is to consume enough carbohydrates, but not too many.
Principle #3 – Fat Does NOT Make You Fat
Principle #3 – We need to eat a reasonable amount of fat to stay healthy. There are two main categories of fatty acids – saturated and unsaturated. Both can be beneficial. However it is wise to limit saturated fats (do not eat more of them than you do unsaturated). Fats help the body maintain its core temperature, absorb nutrients (vitamins A, D, E, K), and provide energy. Additionally, fats are extremely helpful for our cells, brain, hormones, hair, and skin. The dangerous thing with fat is really not so much the eating of fat but the storage of fat. Our bodies suffer greatly because of excess fat accumulation around the organs and waistlines.
With a workable understanding of the three principles, we can better decide what works best for us regarding meal plans. That’s right…I said “works best for us.” There is no once size fits all program that will work the same for everybody. Each of us is different and has different requirements. I will say, however, a Paleo plan or slight variation seems to fit MOST quite nicely.
So where do we begin in selection of a plan for us?
One key to remember is this: Limit carbohydrates to between 50-150 grams daily. This is the “sweet spot” and can be a great place to start. Begin somewhere in the middle and adjust up or down depending on your need. If your body fat is already in an acceptable range, you may be able to consume a little more. If you body fat is out of range on the high side, you will want to really focus on using fat as your primary source of fuel. As an extreme in a high body fat condition, a practitioner may utilize a ketogenic nutrition plan, which forces the body to utilize fat as its main fuel source. This in turn, can substantially lower body fat. I caution you to obtain a practitioner’s supervision with this to avoid excessive muscle wasting.
It can be quite confusing I must admit. Start with a Paleo plan or slight variation and go from there. Many Paleo type plans focus on higher amounts of quality protein and fats and lower calories from carbohydrates. Utilize the glycemic index when selecting carbohydrates and eat at least 80% of them from the low glycemic variety with the remaining 20% coming from the moderate glycemic category. Limit high glycemic carbohydrates.
This should assist you greatly in your selection. Here’s to living the wellness life together!
Learn more from Mark Sherwood at Live4E.