Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Experimenting with diet and nutrition

As some of you know I'm currently studying a nutrition course. Partly for my own interest and partly as a personal retraining programme in order to be self-supporting in ministry. Anyway, my interest in nutrition foes back a long way and should have been better informed a long time ago. I was only four years old when I declared my dislike of most meat and announced I wasn't going to eat it anymore! My mum thought it was a phase, but in broad terms I've not eaten most red meat since then. I still eat chicken and turkey, and a few other things that I like, so getting all my essential amino acids has never been a problem.

A few years ago I decided to do two things. One, tackle my increasing weight and secondly, take a serious look at the potential risks of diabetes and possible solutions. BOth my mother and my grandfather had type II and my twin now also has been diagnosed type II. I started to look at GI and we adjusted our diet as a family to follow a lower GI/GL regimen.

In the run up to our daughter's wedding, both Anne and I lost a lot of weight following a ver popular eating plan that worked for us, and generally speaking we are being reasonably successful at maintaining our weight. Of course the root problem is that you put on weight because you metabolism doesn't match your calorie intake, and those habits are hard to change but need to change over the long haul if you're going to avoid the modern phenomenon of going form one diet to another.

My current experiment on myself is to use both a calorie counting tool (the My Fitness Pal website I blogged about recently) and an adjusted balance of protein and carbohydrates and fat in my diet. The FSA guideline is roughly 15% calories from protein, 30% from fat, and 55% from carbohydrates. To give you an idea of what that looks like, the average healthy adult male runs on about 2,400 calories a day (it just makes the maths a little easier). 15% of that is 360, 30% is 720, which leaves 1120 for the carbohydrate portion.

The simple calculation is that 1g of protein or carbohydrate is 4 calories and 1g fat is 9 calories. So that would suggest that you would need to eat 90g protein, 80g fat, and 280g carbohydrate. Apparently, most people usually don't eat enough protein, and often too much fat, but that's a discussion for another day.

To lose weight you need to eat a calorie deficit diet (fewer in than burnt). But protein uses more energy to digest and so if you get more of your calories from protein the logically your body will need to work harder to extract the nutrients. This is the basis for diets like the Dukan diet that is very high in protein and low in carbohydrate. So my experiment has been to eat a calorie deficit diet of about 500 calories a day below my needs, and to eat 30% protein rather than 15%. On top of that I am making sure that I drink a lot of water. at least 1.5 litres a day and probably nearer 2.5.

What I've noticed is this:

Firstly, it's quite hard to make sure you're eating that much protein. My daily target is 150g, which turns out to be quite a lot for a non-meat eater! Protein shakes can help, but that's not a cheap option by any means and you do need to be careful about what you're doing.

Secondly, drinking that much water takes discipline, but then so does everything else!

Thirdly, never forget the importance of exercise to maintain lean muscle mass and keep your metabolic engine running!

Fourthly, it seems to work! I've lost about 6lbs (2.2kg) in 3-4 weeks and I still treat myself to the occasional flapjack in the coffee shop once a week.

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