Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Macronutrients: How Many Are There?

There are three. But let me explain how this came up and why the not-so blanket term "carbs" bugs me like mad!

If you don't know already, I'm an assistant coach at my CrossFit but also spend some morning hours personal training some clients out of a local mini-globo gym. So I am in a unique position to witness the CrossFit/Paleo trickle down effect to the mainstream populace. I also get a daily reminder of how pervasive the "Common Wisdom" and misinformation regarding fitness and nutrition is.

I was at a friend's baby shower this weekend with a bunch of people I'd only met briefly once. There came a moment of dietary disclosure when one woman mentioned all the healthy foods she'd "O.D.ed" on the night before. She said she ate far too much broccoli, cauliflower, beans, tofu, etcetera etcetera. [Now if you are of the Paleo persuasion you will agree with her that any bean or amount of tofu is too much. So it's no wonder to us why she felt so ill.] All the while the hostess' coworker was sitting in the corner listening to this conversation about this "health food gluttony": it was just then that she was introduced to the conversation as an eater of "zero carbs". For a brief moment I thought that there was a Primal girl sitting there on the couch and I got a little excited! I thought, oh my gosh, has the information reached this far that I'm meeting Primals at baby showers?

As soon as she was introduced to us this way, I too was introduced to her as also "eating funny". I was asked what I ate and I mentioned, "no grains, corn, beans, rice, flour, things like that" to keep it simple. She stared at me with her mouth open. "So," she said slowly, "what do you eat then?" Odd question I thought, still thinking we were on the same page. I replied, "meat, vegetables and some fruits, occasional nuts and seeds." At the mention of fruit she stiffened right up and nobly pronounced, "oh I don't do fruit."

Then like a movie script she popped a grape tomato in her mouth and asked the hostess if she had managed to grab her protein pudding out of her office desk like she'd asked her to. Protein Pudding? Zero carb protein pudding? Now that can't be real food. Okay, NOT the same page at all...not even the same BOOK!

So this is how I got on this tangent about the not-so blanket term "carbs" that people are throwing around. So first let us look into the issue of a person that states she doesn't eat "carbs" and so doesn't "do fruit" yet eats tomatoes. In case you don't see what I see right away I will point it out. Tomatoes ARE a source of carbohydrates. There seems to be a disconnect here, so here are the short sweet basics.

There are only THREE macro-nutrients. Count them with me:
1) Protein
2) Fats
3) Carbohydrates

The list does NOT go:
3) Carbohydrates (pasta, cookies, doughnuts, breads)
4) Fruits and Vegetables
5) Frankenfoods (zero-carb pudding, skinny cow ice creams, zero-calorie ketchup, fat-free mayo etc)

Whether it's a grain, a sugar syrup (maple, honey, corn syrup, HFCS), a tomato, a doughnut, or an orange it is a carbohydrate. Period. Simple as that. Well, okay, maybe not THAT simple. Most foods actually contain some combination of all three macro-nutrients (nuts are an awesome example of that).

But what I'm getting at is that I don't want you to use the term "carbs" and use it to ONLY mean grains and sugar. It's misleading to you, to me, and helps you feed your sugar addiction by allowing you to eat zero-carb frankenfoods thinking, "oh the label says there's no carbs in this, so it's okay!" Take a look at the ingredients in a low-carb pudding with 2g of carbohydrates listed.
Water, calcium caseinate (a milk derivative), soy protein isolate, soybean oil, sodium chloride, dipotassium phosphate, artificial flavor, carrageenan, dextrose, tricalcium phosphate, sucralose and acesulfame potassium.
Are you really going to call that food? Gosh I hope not! So just as fish is not always recognized as a meat (happens alot, not sure why though) please remember that fruits and vegetables as well as grains, beans, flour, sugar, and potatoes are all sources of carbohydrates.

*If you need a good reason NOT to eat grains, try reading this manifesto by Whole9. But I've got more. Let me know if you need more links :-)

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