BB2019 – Week 3, Monday – Macros for keto?

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TL;DR

  1. You body doesn’t know what a calorie is. Your body recognizes carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.
  2. I really dislike people obsessing about precision when they aren’t even in the relevant space.

“You don’t spend much time talking about macros and calories on keto. Why not?”

Well, first, I’m not sure calories are a thing you body sees. Nowhere in any of the digestion mechanisms is there a setting for calories. Seriously, go look at the chemical aspects of digestion. Do you see anything about calories?

Carbohydrates are broken down into monosaccharides, proteins are broken down into amino acids, and fats are broken down into fatty acids and glycerol.

This is in great contrast to what I was trained to care about by the Stanford MD-PhD who did our nutritional training for the UC Berkeley Triathlon team 15 years ago. He had us focus on water and multiple small carb-loading meals. He had lost significant weight by eating small meals and believed the mechanism to be one of internal caloric optimal meal size. He was a powerlifter and his strength had improved and it seemed like common sense. If you eat more than a little bit at any one meal, it spills over into fat stores.

So . . . there’s something not wrong about this. Specifically, if you consume a small (300 cal) carb:protein:fat mini meal, the gram break down is probably close to 30g carb: 20g protein : 10g fat. If you have reasonable insulin sensitivity, you won’t get a big insulin spike from 50g of carb+protein. But bump that to 1200 cal meal and now you have 200g of carbs+protein. It is far more likely for you to have an insulin response. This is normal. And healthy.

Here’s why I would say he wasn’t wrong. If your glycogen stores are full – the muscles have all they need – insulin puts the leftovers into fat. Insulin stores wherever you have space. Muscles topped-off? Okay, fat cells next. If you are regularly eating many meals a day and you are ingesting fuel while you workout (so you use up what you ingest while you are on the bike/run/swim/gym), you do not need to replenish glycogen stores in your muscles. You’re all filled up at the muscle level. There’s no room for extra. Insulin is made specifically to get the extra glucose out of your bloodstream. Muscles don’t need it? Okay, open up fat stores.

So he was not wrong about what happens when you have extra calories on your plate when your cells are already full (cells, not stomach!), but he totally missed the mark on the mechanisms.

What I now suspect he was observing in his lab was a reduction in insulin response by making such small meals. But he wasn’t looking at insulin, he was obsessed with calories. So rather than the meal caloric size being the determinant, it was the lack of insulin response to the meal. So was the insulin response a calorie issue or a meal composition issue?  Many of the snack meals involved avocado or almond butter. Keep in mind this is reflecting back on his pattern years ago, I would bet he was essentially fat-fasted during his snacks so he was not eliciting an insulin response as often as he had been when he had been consuming granola.

That said, I saw him 2 years later for a check-in, and he was not mentally stable. He was obsessed with food to a level that made me really uncomfortable, having grown up in a neighborhood where many little girls started dieting at 100 pounds. He was still lifting, but he looked flabby not fit – to be fair, he had always looked flabby not fit. He tried to coach me on my mini-meal composition. It was complicated. Mega-complicated. To make matters worse, due to my size, I was restricted to 150cal mini meals with two normal meals of 300cal. I made some effort with it, but triathlon was not my life’s dream and the eating plan did not help my perpetual dehydration. 150cal is nothing. It’s a tease of a meal.

And second, I really don’t like to see people obsess about doing something perfectly when we are not 100% sure about the mechanisms and your internal response. Why measure for absolute precision when we aren’t completely sure about the accuracy?

Imagine you are mapping a driving path from Dallas, Tx to Houston, TX. There are a few main ways and a few alternate paths. You can develop plans A, B, C, D, etc. pretty perfectly. So you set out to execute your plan with your prepared contingencies.

But what if you’re in Sweden. Those perfectly tuned plans have no relevance in Sweden. You prepared with precision but failed to accurately determine your relevant environment. Obsessing about macros is that.

What makes keto the first dietary intervention worth trying is that it IS measurable. How cool is that? You can tell if you make ketones. You can tell if you’re in Sweden or in Texas. NOW you can determine what you want to do precisely. You can tell if a particular food knocks you out. No need to guess.

And the more you dig into the research, the benefits on cognitive function, athletic performance, and overall super-ness are hard to ignore.

TL;DR

  1. You body doesn’t know what a calorie is. Your body recognizes carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.
  2. I really dislike people obsessing about precision when they aren’t even in the relevant space.

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