The Body’s Food Cycle
Low carb? High carb? Low fat? High fat? Low protein? High protein? Which is right?
In order to understand and appreciate this we need to look at how the body’s food cycle works, which comes mostly from an understanding of bio-chemistry.
All foods that go into your mouth are converted to one of three major things (in addition to providing some important, but minor things like fiber, minerals and vitamins):
1. Amino Acids
Those are primarily the only three things that all food gets converted into.
Amino acids are the building blocks of life. These are what creates new cells. New bone, skin, brain and muscle cells. These come from proteins. Proteins are mostly meat foods, but some vegetables and fats can also produce some amino acids by providing proteins.
Sugars are the food of life. They provide energy and feed the cells. All carbohydrates and sugar products are turned into one of three things: Glucose (blood sugar, which is generally toxic to most cells in raw form), glycogen (stored immediate food energy found in selected cells or storage areas) and fat cells (depending on how much you work between 10% and 50% of all carbohydrates and sugars are turned into body fat cells, which are used as a protective layer and for emergency energy reserves). All vegetables or plant products fall into this category. When it comes to sugars the body is not discriminatory. Whole wheat is no different from table sugar, except that the wheat contains some minerals, vitamins and fiber that is not found in the table sugar. The wheat also takes some additional processing so the amount of sugar calories in a teaspoon of wheat is not the same as in a teaspoon of sugar, about 75% of that teaspoon of wheat will get converted into glucose just like about 90% of the teaspoon of table sugar will get converted into glucose. The difference between fructose (fruit sugar) and table sugar is minimal. A little more of the fructose may possibly be passed to the body since fructose is directly used in small quantities, so 1% of the fructose may go directly into the body while about 90% of the remaining 99% is converted to glucose. When it comes to packaged food, a candy bar (doped up with minerals and vitamins) is not much different from shredded wheat (doped up with minerals and vitamins), milk (doped up with vitamins) and fruit (vitamins are naturally found in this item).
Lipids are special complex enzymes (proteins) that are generally termed “fat cells” and these are used to aid in the conversion of sugars into usable energy by providing materials like phosphates. Fats are categorized as either Trans fats or non-Trans fats. People often think in the terms of saturated or saturated fats, which is an older, but still valid way of categorizing fats, however this is no longer the best way to think of fats. We used to find all saturated fats to be evil (and they basically still are) with all unsaturated fats as being good fats (this part is not always true, as some unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are now classified as a Trans fat, which is a bad fat). Trans fats are the new “evil” fats and most of these are found in lard and other meat fats. Non-Trans fats (or low Trans fats) are found in some fish (Salmon) and oils like olive or canola. These are considered “better” fats and people are encouraged to consume more of these. Fats, besides aiding the creation of body energy, also aid in the creation of cholesterol and are further categorized into HDL and LDL. HDL is good. LDL is bad. You are supposed to maintain a ratio of these two elements. The cholesterol level is never supposed to be above 200 and majority of this figure is supposed to be made up of HDL. Those lipids not used are also stored as raw fat cells in the body.
The process of eating poached chicken with broccoli, some brown rice, onions and a garden salad with olive oil and vinegar dressing goes as follows:
The chicken is turned into amino acids and some lipids. The broccoli, rice, onions and salad is turned into mostly sugar and the remainder because roughage or fiber.
The chicken fat and oil in the salad are turned into lipids, some of which are HDL and LDL cholesterol, some of which are used by muscles and other cells for energy when combined with glycogen.
The sugars created from the veggies are turned into glucose, which goes into the blood stream and ends up in the liver. Immediately after an increase in blood sugar occurs the pancreas releases insulin to protect the body from the toxic properties of the sugar (and it also aids in the absorption of glucose by the body cells). This forces your blood sugar content to drop and often causes fatigue. Insulin also decalcifies the bones and teeth (the primary cause of tooth decay). Hence it is a good idea to consume products that introduce calcium into the body (milk products, for example) or to take slow calcium supplements. As with vitamin C, extra calcium is expelled from the body almost immediately, so a slow or time released calcium is required to replenish the system on a regular basis.
A sugar spike is generally considered unhealthy by medical science in any form. Normal body sugar levels are considered too high. Eating this meal will cause sugar (or glycermic) spike of 70 to 100. It will cause the normal “5” level of body sugar to shoot up to “7” or higher. This puts the heart and circulation system at risk. It also taxes the pancreas which much produce more insulin to protect the body and return the blood sugar level to a “5” which often overshoots and comes out at a “4” before the insulin subsides and the body naturally returns to a “5” level. This is why you become fatigued. It is also why you “crave” seconds or desert. You eat. Your blood sugar rises within 10 minutes. Your blood sugar drops within 15 minutes after that. You feel tired and crave more food or sugar to combat the fatigue.
The body never uses more than 2,000 calories per day in sugar, so anything over that level is automatically converted to fat. It is unclear as to if athletes with a higher metabolism system are exempt from this rule so it is possible that they, too, store fat above the 2,000 limit.
For a normal weight person (someone with a BMI between 17 and 23) of average height it takes 1,700 calories just to exist. To sleep, sit, read, watch TV and walk a little is what a normal diet provides (the remainder of those 2,000 calories turns into fat if you don't do some extra work). That 300 in reserve calories from the “healthy” diet of 2,000 calories per day should be used for things like extra work, exercise and fun. This 300 calories will buy you 30 minutes playing one on one basketball or doing a whole softball game. It will also buy you about 1 hour of jogging time or two hours of walking time. This is why people end up "fat" in old age. They don't do a lot of extra work while eating normal or above normal, which then leaves too many calories of sugar in the body, which is converted to fat, generally after a person reaches 25 years of age and their metabolism declines.
Anything above 2,000 calories or what the body doesn’t use immediately for energy is stored as fat cells. Women have more fat cells than men, about 25% more and they are required to. No woman should ever go below 15% fat unless she is an Olympic or Professional athlete and even then they should stay closer to 17%. No woman should go above 27% unless she is pregnant. No man should go below 9% unless he is an Olympic or professional athlete. No man should go above 21% under any circumstances unless so ordered by a doctor.
The body is measured in several ways, of which the two most common are BMI (Body Mass Index) which is a ratio of weight to height (19 to 25 is considered normal, anything above is large, anything below is small) and BFC (Body Fat Content) of which women should have more.
BMI is a ratio of weight to height.
BFC determines a ratio of fat cells to skin cells and is determined by an electrical resistance or measurement of three folds on the body. A BFC of anything larger than 21 for a man is bad and anything larger than 27 for a women is bad. Anything lower than 15 for either man or woman is not great unless you are an athlete.
A high BMI with a high BFC means you are overweight or obese to an unhealthy level.
A low BMI with a high BFC means you have too much "fat" inside your body and risk heart disease.
A high BMI with a low BFC means you are an athlete with good muscles and are somewhat healthy.
A normal BMI and a normal BFC means you are about the right size for an average person who is not an athlete and should remain modestly healthy from a cardio vascular stand point. Adding some exercise will make this even better.
A low BMI and a low BFC means you are anorexic or skinny to an unhealthy level.
Diet and work-out go together. You can’t do a low calorie diet and work-out at the same time. If you try you will eventually black out.
An "average" diet is about 35 to 40% protein (10 to 24 ounces of meat a day), 40 to 45% carbohydrates (12 to 32 ounces of grains, fruits and veggies a day) and the rest good fats (3 - 10 ounces of good, non-trans fats with HDL properties). The total range is 1500 calories for a weight loss (much smaller BMI and BFC -- the low end of the ounces for a diet)) with no work out to 2,000 for weight loss with work out (same smaller BMI and much lower BFC), to 2,500 for muscle weight gain with work out (slightly larger BMI and same or lower BFC), to 5,000+ for huge size gains, with large muscles (huge BMI and a normal or slightly below normal BFC -- the high end of ounces for diet foods). The last method leaves you like a football player, professional wrestler or muscle man. You should have huge arms and thighs, but a normal or small waist.
Weight loss diets without exercise are generally in the 1400 to 1700 calorie levels. You generally end up with a lower BMI and lower BFC.