Tuesday, March 30, 2010

You Are What You Eat - Dietary Modification Principles

Everybody has heard that eating too much without sufficient exercise causes weight gain, and cutting back on the calories and more exercise will result in weight loss. If only it were that simple. There are many other considerations to factor into the overall 'calories in - calories out' equation.

First, you must understand the three building blocks of nutrition: carbohydrates, protein and fat. While it is not the intention of this blog to delve deeply into the biochemical properties these macronutrients, it is important to understand that each has a profoundly different effect on your body and is used differently around the body. For example, the much maligned fat is preferentially used for the creation of cholesterol and is incorporated into the cell membranes of all tissues, especially the brain. Strong evidence suggests that it is not fat which makes you overweight, but the improper metabolism of carbohydrates, specifically the highly refined carbs and sugars (yes, even fruit to an extent) which are such a large component of most Western diets.

I have been following Calorie Restriction with Optimal Nutrition (CRON) for four years now. CRON involves reducing calories consumed by 20 - 40% below the normal level. It also requires eating the proper combination of macronutrients (non-refined carbs, lean protein and healthy fats) so that you also get the 'optimal' micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). In order to accomplish this, I use a free software program called CRON-O-METER which can be found here. This simple software allows you to enter the precise foods you eat each day, and then breaks down the macro and micro nutrients to your pre-set goals. For me, I consume 1800 calories a day, and find that I do need to supplement to hit some of the micronutrient requirements, but the key is to achieve the RDA levels through your food intake. Not an easy task, and you quickly find that if you follow closely, there are no calories left for any food items except healthy vegetables, lean protein and non-adulterated fats. If you find you need help hitting your nutritional goals this is an excellent source for all-natural support.

While it is an ongoing science, likely to be debated for many years into the future, it is quite apparent to me that the level of calories consumed, and more specifically the quality of calories consumed has a large effect on the genetic makeup of our body. Emerging evidence is demonstrating that our genes are continually evolving on a daily basis based on the quantity and types of foods eaten and the many factors which are our environment. Studies have shown that gene expression can be positively or negatively altered by one meal. With that in mind, it is easy to understand that altering our food and controlling as many environmental factors as possible, we can change our genetic constitution toward factors which control most diseases, and our predisposition toward developing many of the common Western maladies such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and stroke.

So it is true that you are what you eat, as well as what you come in contact with in your environment (pollutants, chemicals and common cosmetics as a starter). All of these factors directly impact the voyage our genes follow... and the best part is we are in control of the ship to a large extent.

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