The F Word

[This is a reprint of a post I wrote on November 28, 2007 for Crossfitnyc. I am taking the liberty of reprinting some of my favorite posts from the Crossfitnyc site here because their weblog software no longer credits me with authorship of any of my original posts.]

The F Word

The word “Diet” sends waves of fear and apprehension into the hearts of people. The D word has many connotations associated with it that are hard to overcome. So I am cautious about trying to convince you “to diet” or to “go on a diet.” Let me instead try to explain the ins and outs of eating intelligently. Instead of the D word let’s use the F word: Fuel.

The two important concepts to grasp when considering fueling: what kind of fuel? and how much fuel?

The two questions are answered by the Paleo Diet and the Zone Diet. The Paleo Diet also known as the caveman diet (eating only stuff cavepeople ate), the God diet (eating only stuff that God made), the Harlem diet (if it’s white, it ain’t right) is a good place to start when deciding what kind of fuel you should use. Anything that isn’t processed by humans is a good place to start. Grassfed meats and fish are the ideal protein sources. Vegetables and fruits are the best sources for carbohydrates. Nuts, seeds, avocados and olives are the best sources for fat. Starches, grains, legumes and dairy products are unfavorable food groups. These fuel sources provide all the basic macronutrients as well as all your micronutrients and fiber. In the case of Bread vs. Broccoli, Broccoli always wins.

The Zone Diet answers the question of how much fuel you need. The Zone defines a “balanced diet” and is open enough to allow you to choose which fuel sources you would like to use. In the Zone there is no limit on the kind of fuel you can consume just how much you consume.

A Zone Diet “Block” equals 7 grams of Protein, 9 grams of Carbohydrate and 1.5 grams of fat. Your lean body mass and your activity level determine your block intake per day. A block is considered a balanced proportion of macronutrients: 40% carb, 30% protein, 30% fat.

When counting Zone blocks, you only consider the primary nutrient type (e.g., treat fruits, vegetables, and any grains as a carb source alone. Eat lean protein and don’t count its fat content towards your 1.5g of fat per block. Eat healthy fats and ignore any non fat macronutrients they have. Don’t count the protein in tortilla, banana, or pecans, etc. Consider them carbs or fat. Treat peanut butter as a fat. You wouldn’t apply the protein and carb totals in peanut butter towards your block count.

The trick is managing the kind of fuel you consume AND how much fuel you consume. To eat Paleo does not necessarily connote that you are consuming the right amount of fuel. Conversely, it is possible to eat in the Zone with bologna, cheese and Wonder bread. To drive this point home consider the condition hyponatremia: drinking too much water. Water is great and necessary but things can still go horribly wrong if you drink too much of it (or not enough for that matter). Eating intelligently requires thought be paid to both quality and quantity.

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