THE SCIENCE BEHIND THE EATING PHILOSOPHY
Okay, so the eating plan… We’re going to be working off of some likely unfamiliar paradigms with this eating plan. We ask that you give us your open mind, and we’ll try to give you a little bit of the science behind our eating philosophy at The Platform. Our research and experience shows that the way you eat may likely be the single largest influence on not only your health, but how you look as well. In fact, some sources claim that diet is up to 80% of what makes up body composition. With that said, our priority is always going to be health with every recommendation we provide. At the end of the day the primary goal with the The Full-Body Liftoff is to aid you in achieving your goals while enhancing your health. We are not doctors, however, so please reach out to your primary medical care provider prior to undertaking any of our advice.
So let’s get into it. What if we told you that eating fat will actually force your body to burn more fat?? I know, I know, crazy concept right? But is it really? Let’s think about it for a second. What if we simplified the definition for food as a source of fuel for the body (e.g. calories)? Keep in mind, food is much much more than just a fuel for our bodies and minds, but let’s consider this as a simplification for now. Okay, so food equals fuel. Now, if we told you that the type of fuel you put into your car was going to make it run differently, you’d probably believe us right? Alright, now working off of this premise, let’s consider that analogy in its basic form. Your body uses food for energy by converting it to two major forms of fuel:
Fat (ketones/fatty acids)
So in its most basic sense, you can train your body to either burn sugar for fuel or burn fat for fuel. Now if we want our bodies to burn our own fat, we probably want to train our body to primarily use that as a source of energy right? This way, whenever our body hasn’t received any outside source of fuel for a while, we can efficiently and quickly go to our own body’s excess fuel in the form of fat! Pretty sweet right?
So let’s clarify a bit about how the body converts foods to fuel. All food/calorie sources are categorized in three major forms:
These three categories are called “macronutrients” (technically alcohol is a fourth, but it’s metabolized into toxins in the body, so we won’t consider it for our fuel analogy). Let’s talk a little bit about how the body deals with each…
Most people have a pretty good handle on what proteins are, and which foods consist of mainly fats/oils. Carbohydrates consist of any foods that are not protein or fat. That means yes, pasta, bread, potatoes, as people tend to think of. And it includes everything else that isn’t protein or fat too! That means sugars, grains, fruits, and anything else that you’re probably not sure about.
The body readily converts virtually all non-fibrous carbohydrates to glucose (blood sugar). (Note that fiber serves as food for the good bacteria in our gut, and it is not converted to sugar; this is where the term, “net carbs,” comes from.) The glycemic index gives us some indication of how fast the carbohydrates are converted to sugar.
Once, the liver converts these carbohydrates to sugar, a large portion of them are sent through the bloodstream to fuel our cells with energy. This is intuitive when we think of the boost in energy associated with a lot of candy. And not too long after that, we are hit with the familiar sugar crash. This is what people are referring to with the “glucose rollercoaster.” Lots of glucose in our systems, and we’re full with energy. It’s then processed, and we’re soon tired, feeling low on blood sugar, and in need of more food. This happens in different scales with all carbohydrates, depending on the speed and amount of carbohydrates we’re processing.
It’s easy to see how in attempting to bring our blood sugar back up on a carbohydrate-based diet, it is easy to overeat past baseline, and then dip back down with time, making us tired and hungry again. This mechanism is the basis for why conventional dietary advice advocates many small meals throughout the day. This way the urges to spike above baseline are less pronounced. This is all working in a carbohydrate-based diet paradigm.
Now if we’ve been doing some high intensity workouts, like the ones recommended in the Full-Body Liftoff, and then we eat carbohydrates after our workout, our muscles grab onto this sugar and store it for future intense bouts requiring energy. However, there’s only so much “sugar” the muscle cells can hold. Once they’re filled up, or if they’re already full because there hasn’t been any exercise recently, the blood sugar gets converted to fat (triglycerides) and stored in our fat tissue.
So the basic route for carbohydrates is as follows:
From this perspective, it should make more sense why we recommend carbohydrates after workouts. When we’re not refilling our muscle cells, we want to avoid having excess sugar that’s stored as fat. We also recommend some carbohydrates for dinner, since we can store some sugar in our liver for the brain to access while we sleep (this is the third place blood sugar can be stored as glycogen, not shown in the diagram above, but it fills up quickly). Some carbohydrates before bed also help to turn off our stress hormones and assist in relaxing us.
One caveat to be aware of here: fructose (a large portion of the sugar that’s in fruit) is also a type of carbohydrate, but it is not converted to blood sugar (glucose) in the same way as most carbohydrates. This type of sugar is actually much more efficiently converted to fat for storage. Additionally, fructose does a poor job in making us feel full since it doesn’t trigger the release of insulin or leptin (the hormone that tells us we’ve eaten enough), thus you’re more likely to overeat. These, among others in regards to inflammation and overall health, are some of the reasons we don’t recommend a large amount of fruit in the diet. And the fruit we do recommend tends to be lower in sugar (shoot for the more tart berries, for instance).
All in all, carbohydrates can be a good tool for our body after intense exercise and for helping us sleep. With this knowledge, we want to time our carbohydrates so they’re aiding our recovery by replenishing the glycogen stores in our muscles, or they’re helping us sleep better. We don’t need many carbohydrates to accomplish this. And there’s really no such thing as “essential carbohydrates” as there are with essential fatty acids (omega 3, omega 6 fats, etc.) or essential amino acids (proteins, see the following section). So we want to have just enough carbohydrates for our intended purposes, and no more.
Alright, most people are pretty familiar with the fact that meats (chicken, beef, pork, fish) contain proteins. There are also some vegetables that contain proteins. It’s worth noting though that animal sources are the only proteins that supply us with all nine essential amino acids. The word “essential” in this context refers to the fact that our body cannot manufacture them internally. Thus, we need to get them through our diets in order to build/maintain muscle and maintain all the other necessary bodily functions. We want to make sure we have enough protein to rebuild and build stronger any of the muscle tissues we’re breaking down in our workouts. Remember recovery is happening as a continuous process from the time we finished our workout until the next one (too long in between workouts will allow muscle atrophy, the deterioration of muscles, but new research is showing this takes a lot longer than once thought). We want a pretty continuous stream of proteins for this repair to happen, so we recommend protein at all meals unless you’re doing an intermittent fast (buttered coffee, etc.). We especially want protein before sleep, because 80% of protein synthesis happens then!
As with carbohydrates, protein can be broken down into glucose and used for blood sugar by the body (a process called gluconeogenesis). This is a pretty expensive metabolic pathway for the body, so this is not the preferred way to use energy. We’d much rather get our main source of energy from fat, and then use the proteins for rebuilding. This is where the 15-30% recommendation comes from. If you’re really trying to put on muscle, you’ll want to gear more toward the 30%, up to 1 gram of protein per 1 pound of target body weight (for example, current weight = 180lb; target weight = 190lb; target protein = 190g).
Good ol’ demonized fat. Fat has been demonized throughout the last few decades, and it’s unfortunate as it’s essential for hormone production (like testosterone for men and estrogen for women), it’s required for our brain to talk to all our other body parts (myelination), it’s required for absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like Vitamin A, D, E, and K (kind of important to say the least), and the right types of fat can help us reduce inflammation and aid repair in our bodies… And it’s also the body’s preferred source for energy: it’s the most efficient energy source from the three macronutrients, and its byproduct is pure H20. For 1 unit of glucose, we get 32 ATP, and for 1 unit of fat, we get 96: that’s a 3:1 ratio for energy per unit we get in of fat!
So fat is more efficient, AND we can teach our body to go to it for a primary source of fuel. So let me ask you, if you’re trying to burn your own fat and reduce your body fat percentage, why would you want to have your body primarily going to sugar for fuel? Well you probably wouldn’t. Imagine not being dependant on blood sugar, and thus not being a slave to the light-headedness and food cravings that come from not eating for some time. Imagine not being a slave to the glucose rollercoaster anymore. This is actually very much how it works when you’re fat adapted (ketotic). In addition to this idea, fat is a much more sustained energy source than glucose too! (Imagine fat as nice sustained-burning logs on a fire, compared to the glucose as kindling that lights up and burns out in no time). Seems like a win-win right?
To add to that, as mentioned earlier, the main satiating hormone is leptin (i.e., it makes you feel satiated and NOT HUNGRY). Satiety is triggered and this hormone is actually increased when people are put on a high-fat diet; this means you’ll be full faster, longer, and you won’t have the desire to eat so much. Pretty sweet huh? Alright, so long story short, good fats are going to go a long way for our diet. And we want to make sure fat makes up the majority of what we eat to be healthy, fat-burning machines. Yes, it seems counterintuitive only because you’ve heard the opposite your entire life, but let’s use the mechanistic logic and the research to guide us here, instead of historical fallacies as have been the crux of people’s traditional misconceptions.
So what are healthy fats? Healthy fats can come from any of the following items:
butter/ghee (preferably from grass-fed cows)
fish oils (preferably wild)
olive oil (preferably extra virgin)
most nuts (note, peanuts are not a nut as the name implies, but rather legumes)
animal fats from grass-fed / pastured animals
There are three major categories of fats you’re probably used to hearing about: saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated. We want to shoot for the majority of fats we intake to be saturated. Yes, this is totally contrary to what you’re probably used to hearing. But in fact, saturated fats are the most stable fats, and they actually protect against oxidative stress (a major source of inflammation, i.e. the root of most illness). The more unsaturated (mono being one break in the carbon-hydrogen chain, poly being multiple), the more unstable. We just have to make sure the saturated fats are from healthy, whole food sources, and never hydrogenated oils or artificial trans fats. It’s actually polyunsaturated fats that are the most unstable and thus the most likely to denature and become oxidized (rancid). The oxidation is our biggest enemy when it comes to disease.
Another important concept to consider is the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids in our diet. Both of these polyunsaturated fatty acids are essential for our bodies, meaning we cannot manufacture them ourselves. The ratio of omega-6 : omega-3 is a very important number when it comes to the inflammation in our bodies. Lots of omega-6 compared to omega-3 means lots of inflammation. To put it into perspective, the ideal ratio is between 1:1 and 4:1 for omega-6: omega-3. Where are most Americans? Somewhere between 16:1 and 30:1. Yes, that’s a lot of inflammatory fatty acids (mostly due to all the vegetable oils used in cooking, especially in fast food). This is why you’ll often hear that you want to take fish oil to reduce inflammation and aid in recovery (as well as for brain health); and this is why we want to get most of our meats and dairy/butter products from wild, pastured animals. These fats have much better omega-6:omega-3 ratios than their factory farmed counterparts.
Now to quickly address the obvious concerns… Doesn’t fat increase cholesterol? Actually, for the majority of the population, saturated fats do not have any long-term effect on cholesterol. And numerous recent meta-analyses have shown that there is no positive correlation with saturated fat and heart disease. This whole concept stemmed from the U.S. wanting to point a finger at what was causing reduced longevity compared to other countries, and a very flawed “Seven Countries Study” showed a linear correlation between fat in the diet and mortality due to heart disease. Unfortunately, the countries chosen were cherry-picked out of the 21 surveyed (which showed no correlation) just in order to back the hypothesis. Although the study was highly critiqued at the time, the U.S. adopted the idea of a low fat, high carbohydrate diet as a national diet policy. We will add more to this section in due time, but we’ll note that over the years, the U.S. population has lowered their saturated fat intake and increased carbohydrate consumption; meanwhile heart disease has increased, and 63% of the population is considered overweight or obese...
So the way we optimize hormone production and become healthy, fat-burning machines is by having plentiful healthy fats, sufficient amounts of proteins, and just enough carbohydrates. This will serve as our template in terms of macronutrients.
Now, what about micronutrients? Providing the body with sufficient micronutrients is absolutely essential for sustained good health. The template here is to stick to real, whole foods. Whole foods means no added ingredients and no processing. Not that complicated right? Ideally these are nutrient-dense and low in toxins. This means stick to some of the staple catchphrases as much as you can:
And avoid the following items:
industrial vegetable oils
high fructose corn syrup
Other than that you’re free. Make good choices, and enjoy your food!