Sorry to you ancestral eating detractors – but, the ancestral (Paleo / Primal) eating lifestyle is not a carnivore orgy. But, I too have seen examples where proponents of the diet say that you can eat meat, fish, and poultry to your heart’s content and not gain weight. And, I’ve seen numerous Paleo cookbooks where it seems that every recipe has bacon in it.
I have no grudge against bacon, I love the meat and bacon renderings (in small quantities – and, despite what the last WHO advisory states – more in my next post) – but, it belays the actual truth – yes, when you look at an ancestral eating plan (This one from The Primal Blueprint) – the lowest level of the plan is meat and poultry (this is based on calories – not volume) – but, look right above that. Ahhh, there they are! The vegetables are lurking in the netherworld and we know that vegetables have a lot lower caloric load than meat – so, it stands to reason that our plates should be mostly vegetables and not huge slabs of meat that would make Fred Flintstone proud.
But, wait – hold on there, Cave Woman. Don’t carbohydrates and protein have the same Calories per gram? Yes – that’s true (both have 4 Calories per gram) – but, meat also contains a certain amount of fat. So, for example – here is a listing of the protein and fat contents of some familiar meats…..
Meats are not just protein, but a mixture of fats and proteins, and so – by understanding this it will help you better understand how to put together the appropriate macronutrient balance.
Vegetables on the other have virtually no fat (no, I am not including avocados here – which are technically a fruit). So, let’s look at that listing…
I know that 3.5 ounces (or 100 g) may not mean that much to you – but, that’s generally a heaping cup full. And, I have NOT included corn since that is really a grain – and not a vegetable.
So, what about our protein needs and what does this type of eating really entail?
First, protein is very much needed to repair tissue, make new cells or enzymes and hormones needed for our body to continue to function. But, the amount depends on activity level and if the person is in a compromised state (such as injury, or in advanced aging). The general rule of thumb is as follows:
- Inactive: 0.5 grams of protein per pound of lean muscle mass (see example below)
- Moderately Active: 0.7 – 0.8 grams of protein per pound of lean muscle mass
- Active: 1 gram of protein per pound of lean muscle mass
So, let’s take an example (me). I weigh 138 pounds and, at my last measurement, was at 23% body fat. I am also moderately active (I generally exercise 5 – 6 days a week; and walk a lot).
- That means my Lean Muscle Mass is 138 x 0.77 = 106.2.
- Using the information above, I should consume about 0.75 grams of protein per pound per day 0.75 x 106.2 = 80 grams.
- This means around 27 grams of protein per meal.
Look at the first table – I think you see – that’s not a lot of protein.
So, let’s look at the meal plan we are building.
- About 100 g of carbohydrates per day to either lose weight of maintain it. You could eat a cup full of ALL the vegetables I have listed above and be near that amount. That’s a LOT of food. Doesn’t sound like a meat orgy to me! Even if you include berries and other fruits – that is still quite a bit of food.
- You really only need a small amount of protein (~ 320 Calories for me) over the course of the day.
- So, where does the remainder come from? Good fats – more in upcoming posts.