Eating for Optimal Health Part II – What you eat, how much you eat and when you eat, all matter.

In last week’s blog post: So, what should you eat for optimal health? – Part I, I listed the seven basic principles I have extracted from the many diet books and resources I have studied. These principles are:

  1. What you eat, how much you eat and when you eat, all matter
  2. Eat clean
  3. Eat lots of vegetables and fruits
  4. Use only healthy fats and fat sources
  5. Incorporate sufficient proteins in your diet
  6. Best beverage to drink is pure water
  7. Add or subtract specific foods based on your personal needs

Today, let’s focus on the very first principle: What you eat, how much you eat and when you eat, all matter. And, without any fluff, let’s get to it.

What you eat: Our physical bodies need:

  • Oxygen
  • Water
  • Macro nutrients: carbs, proteins and fats
  • Micro nutrients: vitamins and minerals
  • Enzymes
  • Bacteria
  • Certain molecules

For optimal health, what we eat needs to provide all these items in optimal quantities. If any of these are taken in insufficient quantities, suboptimal health will result.

How much you eat: One aspect of how much to eat is based on how much energy we need every day. The other aspect is to eat so as to receive optimal quantities for our bodies’ needs a) through g) above.

The first aspect about energy, in-turn depends upon two factors. How many Kcals (or Calories) do we need for the basic metabolic activities (beating heart, circulation of blood, breathing, maintaining body temperature etc.). And, for other physical activities which can depend upon our lifestyle, taking elevators vs. taking stairs, number of steps walked in a day, exercise or no exercise, driving to work or biking to work, doing the work manually or letting machines do the work, etc.

And, there is yet another factor that dictates how much to eat question, i.e., how efficiently is your body able to convert food to energy. Basic metabolic cycle, called Krebs Cycle or the Citric Acid Cycle involves myriads of elements to convert carbs, protein and water into energy.

When to eat: While there are many theories as to when to eat, there is one major principle that is well understood and is critical to optimal health: Sugar Management. Body converts carbohydrates into glucose (sugars) before they can be converted to energy using the Krebs cycle. Rate at which carbs convert to sugars depends on the glycemic index of the specific food. And, how much sugar is generated, also called glycemic load, in this process is based on glycemic index and the quantity of food.

Body either uses up all the glucose it generates or it stores away what it cannot use in the form of body fat. For optimal health, one must eat just enough, so that all of it can be converted into stored energy rather than stored fat. This means eating meals more often, if necessary, to not generate excess that will have to be stored away as fat.

Bottom line and My Personal Plan: Given all these factors, you can easily imagine why there is much room for controversy about what to eat, how much to eat and when to eat.

When one expert says, “Just figure out  how many calories you need and then simply eat that many calories.”

Next expert might say, “Not true, because you still need all of the elements 1 through 7 that body needs. That is why, 2500 calories from sodas is not the same as 2500 calories from fruits and vegetables.”

Yet, third expert may argue that if you are missing just a few key ingredients, your energy cycle may be all messed up and nothing else will matter.

So, what is one to do? The best answer, I have synthesized from all those book and resources I mentioned in part I, is as follows. I am here using my personal example to illustrate. These days, my weight is 161 (plus minus 2 lbs.)

  1. Decide how many calories you need to consume in a day, based on your build and life style (usually 2300 calories to 2800 calories):

In my case, I decided about 2500 calories meet my daily need.

  1. If you are not at optimal percent body fat, reduce the calorie in-take by 20%

So in my case, since I am still working on losing body fat, I budgeted 2500 x 80% = 2000 calories

  1. 15% should come from fat

For me, 2000 x 15% = 300 calories. 300/9 = 33 grams of fat

  1. Budget 1 gram per pound of body weight for protein.

For me: 160 grams of proteins. 160gms x 4 cals/ gm = 640 calories

  1. What remains is budget for carbs. Thus, Calories from carbs = Total Calorie budget – fat cals – protein calories. Divide by 4 for number of grams of carbs.

So my daily intake budgets are:

  • Total 2000 calories
  • 300 cals from fat, i.e., 33 gms
  • 640 cals from protein, i.e., 160 gms
  • 1060 cals from carbs, i.e., 265 gms.
  1. Use fruits and vegetables as the basis for carbs that will not only meet carb requirements but also most of the micro nutrients. It is really easy to blow carbs budget with breads and pasta, and most of those also have very high glycemic load.
  2. Use your choice of protein sources for the budgeted amount of protein requirement. Again, be careful in selecting protein sources, since it is very easy to blow the fat budget with poor choice of protein sources.
  3. Break up intake into at least six meals and mix proteins with carbs for each meal to keep sugar level throughout out the day and also prevent spikes after each meal.

For one day, I did a complete journal of what I ate and also using resources on the Internet figured calories for carbs, proteins and fats. This was a particular intense day during my 21-day Muscle Mania challenge. I don’t always do strength training workout with my trainer and Bikram yoga the same day.

Below here is the result. Remember, I am a vegetarian and I have been using Whey Protein as my major source of protein.

You can Click on the picture to enlarge it, if it is not readable.

Meal Planner and Journal for Ashok

What do you think of this approach?

Do you feel that this simplifies the mumbo jumbo of what to eat, how much to eat and when to eat for optimal health?

Do you see a hole in this approach? What would you do differently?