20
Jan
12

Food stuff

In the comments to a previous post, TMI writes:

Okay, you’re a nutro-paleo kinda guy.

Well, sort of.  Because I’m also a pedantic ass, that statement hasn’t been sitting quite right with me (although if all you had to go on were the articles I’ve linked to over the past few weeks you’d be forgiven for thinking that it fits like a glove).  I’m not so much a “paleo kinda guy” as I am a tinkerer.  The human body/metabolism/endocrine system is a massively complex system, and changing its inputs will lead to changes in its behaviour.  I’m interested in nutrition because I want to change my inputs (food/sleep/exercise/&c.) to get more of the outputs I like (strength gains, mental clarity) and fewer of the outputs I don’t (fat gains, trouble sleeping).  I end up reading (and linking to) a bunch of paleo sites because the paleo people are interested in mechanisms to support their hypothesis, while a thundering herd of more mainstream nutrition types are merely interested in whatever correlations come out of observational studies, and mechanism be damned.

From there it’s an easy leap to throwing together a half-assed Food Manifesto:

  • Food is fuel.  A lot of it tastes good, and that’s wonderful, but it’s still fuel.  Garbage in, garbage out.
  • Get your diet 90% right 90% of the time and you’re doing just fine.  Don’t sweat perfection unless you enjoy it.  Don’t sweat the small stuff unless you enjoy it.
  • Eat for what you’re going to do.  Note that if you exercise with any significant intensity, a lot of what you’re going to do is “recover from a workout”.
  • To a first approximation, try to avoid processed foods.  Grains and legumes are more processed than you think they are.
  • You need to eat fat and protein to survive (meat).  You need vitamins and minerals to survive (offal, vegetables).  You don’t need to eat sugar or starch to survive.  This should tell you something.
  • If you’re going to make changes to your diet, try to have some idea of what you’re doing (“I’m going to eat two apples a day”), why you’re doing it (“…to lose fat”), how you expect it to work (“…um, something to do with fiber?”), and a way to tell whether or not it’s working (“I’ll measure my weight and waist circumference once a week for four months”).
  • Make small changes, one at a time.  If it works (you measured it, right?), get comfortable with it before changing something else.  If it’s counterproductive, drop it and get back to baseline for a while before changing something else.
  • Supplements are not the devil.  But don’t think you can eat crap and fix it with supplements.  (Also, keep in mind the “why and how” from above.)
  • Most mainstream nutrition advice is well-meaning and wrong, and notably fails the “how” and “is it working?” criteria.
  • Even the mainstream nutrition advice that isn’t wrong is probably at least fifteen years behind the science.
  • Most heterodox nutrition advice is well-meaning and wrong, too, and exhibits the same symptoms.
  • Try to avoid fructose, bearing in mind the 90-90 rule.
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