Wednesday, August 5, 2015


For those of you who might be less interested in the scientific details, and more interested in simply how to get real world results, here's the short version of how the nutritional aspect of Evolutionary Power works.  We'll discuss physical activity and other essential healthy components of a healthy lifestyle soon.  (And for those who are interested in the science, stay tuned for future posts!)

 "You must empty your cup, so that it can be filled."  (~Zen proverb)

Okay, first things first.  Forget pretty much everything you've ever learned about "healthy" nutrition and exercise, especially if what you've learned is that consuming fat and cholesterol causes obesity and heart disease, or that too much protein is bad for your kidneys and bones, or that eating large amounts of grains (even "whole grains") and performing chronic, moderate cardiovascular exercise are good for you.  None of these bits of conventional wisdom are true.

At the very least, please try to suspend your belief in these myths long enough to test them against what we now know--and what the best scientific research has proven--is true:  We are, for all intents and purposes, genetically identical to our hunter-gatherer ancestors.  The dietary and behavioral patterns for which they evolved and upon which they thrived up until just 10,000 years ago are still the optimal ways in which to fuel and move our own bodies.

Still there?  Good.  Then, without further ado, I present to you, in short form... the simple truth behind eating for Evolutionary Power!

1.)  Don't eat grains or refined sugar, because they're bad for you.

Whereas certain species of birds and rodents have evolved for the consumption of grains, humans have not.  Unlike other living things that have developed more exciting ways to protect themselves against being eaten (claws, fangs, thorns, horns, shells, smells... you get the idea), the best that grains (grass seeds) could come up with is an insidious variety of poisons and anti-nutrients, most of which build up in the system over time and eventually cause the animal that consumes them to fail, suffer chronic illness, and die.  

This, combined with grains' high levels of simple carbohydrate (which causes humans who eat them to experience dramatic surges and drops in insulin levels, leading to increased body fat storage and chronic states of inflammation), and their relatively low levels of beneficial nutrients (vitamins and minerals), makes them a comparably unhealthy food choice for members of our species.  Same goes for refined sugar, especially the man-made poison known as high-fructose corn syrup.

Here's the news flash that Big Agriculture doesn't want you to see:  High-fat diets are not causing the chronic diseases that are killing most members of industrialized society today; a grain-based and high-sugar diet is the source of this modern plague.

Remember, your body doesn't get anything it needs from grains that it cannot get from healthier, more nutrient-dense vegetables, fruits, nuts, and animal sources!  If you can internalize this truism and put it into action, you will be 80% of the way toward optimizing your health.

To put it another way, why eat this...
... when you could eat this, instead?

2.)  Eat lots of animals--and plants that aren't grass--because they're good for you. 
The consumption of large amounts of animal fat is what allowed our hominid ancestors to develop the amazing reasoning, problem-solving brains we enjoy today.  Additionally, fat is approximately twice as calorie-dense as the other macronutrients (protein and carbohydrate), making it the energy source of choice for hunter-gatherers who weren't sure when their next meal was coming.  As it was for them, so it should also be for you, the modern hunter-gatherer-in-training.

"But wait!" you might say.  "If fat has twice as many calories, shouldn't I eat less of it if I want to lose weight?"  You'd think so, but I'm afraid it's not that simple.  Now, I promised to not get too science-y in this post, so I'll keep this part relatively short, but it's important for everyone reading to at least have a cursory understanding of how this works.  To be concise, calories in do not necessarily equal calories out, due to the manner in which they are metabolized, and the ease with which they are converted and stored as body fat.  It works like this...

When you eat a gram of carbohydrate (which is just a chain of sugar molecules), it gets broken down almost immediately into its component sugar molecules and carried into your bloodstream as "blood glucose".  Blood glucose is toxic, so your body's response is to use it up or lock it away as quickly as possible.  In order to do this, your pancreas secretes insulin.  The natural and intended function of insulin is to act as a "key," allowing glucose and other nutrients to enter the cells of your body's muscles and organs, and to transport the excess blood glucose into your fat cells.

If you are physically active, your body's muscles and organs will metabolize ("burn") some of this glucose in order to meet its immediate energy needs.  Any remaining glucose that is not burned fairly quickly is converted and transported (again, via insulin) into your body's energy storage system--fat cells--and saved for the day that your body thinks you might be starving.  The result for most people?  More body fat.

[As an aside, the hyperproduction of insulin triggered by eating high levels of carbohydrate, coupled with a lack of physical activity, over time, diminishes the cells' sensitivity to it (they become "insulin resistant"), and the pancreas eventually begins to suffer from serious job burn-out.  Voila... we have now invented Type 2 diabetes!  The resultant high blood sugar (which, as you remember, is toxic) results in damage to the body's peripheral nerves and blood vessels.  This is why uncontrolled diabetics eventually go blind, have their limbs amputated, and die of kidney failure.  As if this wasn't bad enough, the presence of excess insulin also has a powerful, systemic inflammatory effect, leading to conditions ranging from arthritis and allergies, to eczema, cancer, and heart disease!

Okay, enough of the doom and gloom.  At this point, it's important to note that eating for Evolutionary Power does not necessarily mean following a "low carbohydrate" diet.  It just means eating the right kinds of carbohydrates (primarily complex/fibrous and unprocessed), from the right sources (vegetables, fruits, and some nuts), and probably less than you're used to overall, with the majority of your energy needs being met by mostly animal-sourced fat.

Whereas the typical American consumes more than 300 grams of carbohydrate per day (quite frankly, a deadly amount over time), the recommendation for losing weight at a healthy, sustainable rate is 50 to 100 grams of carbohydrate daily (or even as low as 0 to 50 grams temporarily, to help speed up the process).  If you are already at a healthy weight, eating 100 to 150 grams of carbohydrate daily will suffice to maintain this virtually effortlessly.  If you start creeping into the 175 to 300 range, though, be prepared to start looking for bigger pants again.

In contrast to consuming carbohydrate, when you eat a gram of fat (or protein), it takes longer for the body to break it down and convert it into glucose.  This means your body experiences a more gradual release of insulin, resulting in increased insulin sensitivity (a good thing!), greater satiety (i.e., you don't get hungry again as quickly), and sustained, consistent energy levels (no more highs and lows throughout the day).

Even better, once you've weaned your body off of high levels of carbohydrate, your cellular metabolism will have reset itself and returned to its natural state, a mechanism designed to burn fat as its primary source of fuel.  Interestingly, whether it's the fat from a nicely marbled steak or an egg yolk you just wolfed down, or the wad of fat dangling under your chin or over your belt, your body can't tell the difference in terms of what it's burning for energy.  All it knows is that fat is available to metabolize as its preferred energy source, and that's just what it will do.

Next up on the list of popular myths, "But won't eating all of that fat (or dietary cholesterol) give me high cholesterol?"  Short answer:  Nope, and even if it did, high serum cholesterol levels don't cause heart disease.  Rather than reading what I have to say about it, just click here to watch a short video regarding the lies we've been fed about cholesterol and heart disease for the past 60-plus years.  The bottom line is that fat and cholesterol aren't bad for you, but the grains and grain products heavily subsidized by the government are, and--along with smoking--are the primary causes of heart disease, along with countless other preventable diseases.

We'll get into specifics regarding the various types of fat at another time.  For now, just keep in mind that fat from animals (i.e., fatty meat) should be your primary source of energy.  Butter, ghee, and full-fat dairy (if you aren't lactose intolerant) are good, too.  Avocados, coconuts, and nuts are excellent sources of plant-derived fats, as are coconut and olive oil.  Stay away from "vegetable oil," be it canola, corn, soy, or peanut.
Which brings us to protein!  One of the most common questions regarding this vital macronutrient is, "How much do I need?"  Anywhere from about 0.6 to 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body weight is plenty.  If you're trying to gain muscle, consuming up to 1.5 grams per pound of lean body weight can be helpful.  Again, the majority of your protein should come from animal sources (meat, fish, fowl, and eggs).

One common mistake often made when reducing dietary carbohydrate is attempting to replace it--as a primary energy source--with protein.  This often culminates in ravenous hunger, unhealthy feeding binges, frustration, and a painful belly flop as one falls off the wagon.  Remember, although adequate, high quality protein is essential for muscle building/ maintenance, immune function, and various other bodily functions on the systemic and cellular levels, it is not your body's preferred primary source of caloric energy.  If you're feeling low on energy due to reduced carbohydrate consumption, don't jump to protein as the replacement.  Remember, not only is buying extremely lean cuts of meat more expensive, but it is also not in the best interest of your health... eat that fat!  Add some coconut oil to your coffee.  Slather your vegetables with butter.  Top your salad with avocado and crumbled bacon.  Leave the skin on your chicken and the fat on your pork chop.  Snack on a handful of walnuts or macadamias.  Eat as many eggs as you like.

So, to sum that all up, here's the 10-second elevator spiel:  Eating for Evolutionary Power consists of consuming foods that are high in fat (mostly meat and eggs), adequate in protein, and including plenty of comparably low-but-adequate carbohydrates from non-grain sources (vegetables, nuts, and fruits).

Seriously, what's not to love?!?
3.)  Drink plenty of fresh water, because it's good for you.

Your pee should be clear or a light straw color.  If it isn't, drink more water.  A cup or two of coffee a day won't hurt anything (unless you're hypersensitive to caffeine), but it also acts as a diuretic (makes you pee), so don't count it as "water."  Tea is okay.  Soda is poison.  If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation... make it a special occasion.

4.)  Supplement wisely.

Although you should be eating a wide variety of vegetables and fruits, taking a high-quality multivitamin supplement provides good insurance against any possible deficiencies, at a low cost.  We don't spend as much time in the sun as did our ancestors, so some supplemental vitamin D3 is also a good idea... 2,000 to 4,000 IU daily is a good amount for most adults; 1,000 is good for most children.  If in doubt regarding dosage, have your blood levels checked and follow the recommendation of your medical provider.  Balancing the ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fats in your diet can also be difficult, due to the fact that much of the meat available (and affordable) today is not grass-fed.  Supplementing with 1,000 to 2,000 milligrams of high-quality fish oil will be of great help in this regard.

5.)  Don't feel like you have to do this perfectly 100% of the time (unless you want to), because life is too short to not enjoy the things you like.

A commonly espoused concept in the Paleo diet community (including Evolutionary Power) is "the 80/20 rule."  The idea behind it is simple:  if you adhere to these principles 80% of the time, you will enjoy the health benefits provided by this lifestyle, and still have the freedom to enjoy anything else in moderation, up to 20% of the time.  Additionally, as time goes on, you will probably find that you do not crave the "anything else" nearly as much as you once did, and 80/20 may very well eventually drift in the direction of 90/10... 95/5... and even 100% some or much of the time.  Do this thing, and do it well, but not to the point that it makes you unhappy; that would not only be--in all likelihood--unsustainable, but also miserable, so what would be the point?

And... That's pretty much it, in a nutshell!  Proper physical activity is incredibly important (and will be discussed in the future), but I cannot emphasize enough that the composition of your body and the state of your health is determined about 80% by what you put into your mouth.  Whether you jump in with both feet, or ease into it by making one small change at a time, learning to fuel your body by following these few simple rules will set you on the path toward achieving Evolutionary Power!

  • Consuming grains and refined sugars is bad for you, and--along with smoking--causes most of the chronic diseases plaguing the industrialized world today.
  • Eating animals, eggs, and a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, and nuts is good for you.  If you are not lactose-intolerant, a little full-fat dairy can be a healthy addition to your diet, as well.
  • Stay well-hydrated.
  • Don't break the bank buying supplements.  If you're eating the right kinds of foods, you should be getting everything you need from your diet, but adding a multivitamin, some D3, and fish oil may be beneficial.  Research other supplements if desired, but proceed with caution.
  • Remember the 80/20 rule.  Life is for the living.  Finding the right balance will afford you the greatest enjoyment during your ride on Spaceship Earth.
Be sure to check back soon for the next exciting installment of Evolutionary Power!

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