Fat, Protein & Carbohydrates
Everything that lives – whether it be a tree or a human, a dog or a strawberry – is made of the same basic ingredients: fat (fatty acids), carbohydrates (dressed-up sugars) and proteins (amino acids). Fat, carbohydrates and protein are the three macronutrients (derived from the Greek word ‘macro’, meaning large) that, either by themselves or combined, make up all of the food we eat. The human body needs both fat and protein to survive and flourish but - contrary to popular belief and even government guidelines - not a single ounce of carbohydrate is necessary to sustain human life. Not today, tomorrow or ever!
Everything we eat - no matter what it looks like, its texture or its taste - is broken down in our gut into one of the three components mentioned above.
While there are three macronutrients, natural whole foods generally only contain
a combination of two. If the food (or drink) is derived from something that once
had a face, it is made up of protein and fat, the exception being a small amount of carbohydrate in eggs and milk. If the food came out of the ground, it generally consists of protein and carbohydrates. Note how everything has protein! This is because protein is the building block of life.
A few exceptions to the two macronutrient rule are nuts, seeds, milk and avocados, which feature all three macronutrients. There are also a few foods made of just one macronutrient: table sugar (although it’s less a food, more a poison) is made up of just carbohydrate, and oils such as coconut and olive are made from just fat.
What Do Macronutrients Do?
In all humans and animals, all three macronutrients can carry out energy-related roles:
- Carbohydrates – are converted to sugar for energy
- Fats – are converted to fatty acids, in the main to repair cells or to use as energy
- Proteins – are converted to amino acids, to repair and rebuild cells or to use as energy
Let me start this section on macronutrients with something that came as a shock
to me, and something that I still have the hardest time in convincing some of my
more stubborn friends. Of the three macronutrients, it’s not fat that makes us fat, it is carbohydrates. We could buy the flabbiest cut of meat on sale in our butcher’s and serve it with a baked potato, and it would be the potato that makes us fat, not the flabby meat. You see, it’s quite simple, our body has no intention of storing fat as fat! Our body has a preference to use fat as fuel.
Sadly, while there are many wonderful natural healthy fats, there are some deadly man- made ones too, but we will get to these later. We will also learn later that for the body to store fat as fat, it needs the presence of lots of sugar to glue (glycerol) it together, but for now it is important to understand these two very important and life-changing facts:
- As long as we cut down our carbohydrate intake, eating fat does not make us fat.
- Carbohydrates and other sugars are the only macronutrients that are easily converted into body fat.
Fat – Fatty Acids
While proteins and carbohydrates are fairly straightforward to understand, fats are a little more complex. Rather than provide chapter and verse straight away, we will cover just the basics right now and then build up the picture throughout the remainder of Fat & Furious.
Let me again state that if we are overweight, fat in food is not our enemy but our friend. Or, more precisely, good fats should become our new best friends. Fats don’t make us fat, and never have done. It’s carbohydrates and to a far lesser degree protein that causes us to pile on weight, but not fat. I remember how I would always cut the fat off my beef, lamb, chicken and duck in the belief it was the fat that made us fat, when in reality, leaving it on meat means we drop it from our waistline.
Quality fats correct our hormones and keep them in balance so that we feel more energetic. They actually help us burn more energy (not store it) and make us feel fuller so that we stop overeating. And, more importantly, quality fats reduce the likelihood of us falling victim to six out of ten of the most common causes of death in Great Britain!
Sources of good fats include anything rich in omega 3 such as salmon, nuts, avocado, coconuts, olive, lamb and organic butter. Deadly fats to avoid include
all trans-fats (normally food labels call them ‘partially hydrogenated oils’), fats in processed and packaged foods and vegetable oils, which believe it or not, are rarely derived from vegetables.
In principle, all fats are incredibly healthy, as long as they are real fats and not manufactured fake fats, which can be very toxic and dangerous. The health concern should not be whether a fat is saturated or not, but whether it is real or manufactured. Seriously, you don’t need to concern yourself with which type of fat you are consuming, as long as you ensure it is real!
Trans-fats: be extremely cautious of trans-fats. While natural trans-fats are produced in the guts of some animals, such as beef, lamb and some dairy products, the vast majority of trans-fats are artificial fats, hydrogenated to make them last longer. If the ingredient list says hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated, then it’s not a healthy fat and should be avoided! Artificial trans-fats or hydrogenated oils are toxic, ugly and deadly.
Protein – Amino Acids
This is the basic building block of all life forms. Its name is derived from the Greek word ‘proteios’, meaning ‘primary’ or ‘first’. Protein is the driving force of change within our body. It comes to our aid when we need repairing – it rebuilds many of our organs, body tissue and muscles. It is responsible for growth in the young and is the creator of our hormones.
Protein is made up of amino acids. There are 22 different types of amino acids and they are all created from the elements carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen or sulphur. Our body can actually produce most of the different proteins that it needs, but there are nine that it can’t make and these are very important to our health. For this reason they are named the ‘essential proteins’ and it is imperative that they form part of our diet.
In 2007 the World Health Organisation published a report scoring the quality of proteins from various food sources. As animals contain similar combinations of proteins to humans, it’s not surprising that food derived from animals topped the list, with eggs, poultry, meat and fish the clear winners.
Once the body receives amino acids from foods rich in protein or from supplements, using the 22 different incoming varieties it is able to make more than 50,000 different varieties of protein inside our body. Once these new proteins are synthesised they form, among other things, our organs, bones, blood, and replace or repair muscle tissue. They are responsible for the creation of essential hormones such as insulin, melatonin and human growth hormone.
Carbohydrates - Sugar
Once we start eating a real food diet,, in addition to carefully dodging the poisonous oils, our new dietary enemy becomes sugar and processed carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are almost exclusively derived from plants (plus a few dairy products) and are not found in meat, fish or poultry.
Throughout Health Results programmes, you will see carbohydrates written as CARBS. The reason for this is that we want you to see carbohydrates for what they are, with a very apt acronym: ‘Carbohydrates Are Really Bad Sugars’. What do we mean by this? Basically, carbohydrates are just sugar in disguise.
Potatoes, pasta, bread, cereals and rice all convert to sugar in the body, and when it enters our bloodstream, sugar is poisonous! They might be dressed up in fancy packaging, and often carry labels with misleading health benefits, but we need to realise our body was never designed to consume them.
Whether they are simple or complex, all CARBS are still eventually turned into sugar by our body. The complex ones just take a little longer. Every time we eat CARBS, complex or not, we are eating sugar. Too much CARBS/sugar makes us fat, and will eventually lead to a whole host of problems, illnesses and diseases.
With the exception of fibre, all CARBS are converted to sugar, and any excess sugar in the blood is bundled up by insulin and stored as body fat. This can happen so quickly that shortly after a CARB-loaded meal, that we feel hungry again. We call this the Carbocoaster.
The Carbocoaster works like this. We eat a sandwich and the body converts the bread to sugar. Our brain summons insulin to quickly grab any excess sugar, which to our body is pure poison, and stores it as body fat. Because the bread is now no longer in circulation, we feel hungry again, so consume another. The Carbocoaster effect is enhanced because both the blood sugar levels keep getting topped up and then depleted quickly, and after the initial surge of insulin this too plummets as it finishes hiding the sugar. This rollercoaster only happens with CARBS and other sugars. There is no fatocoaster or proteinocoaster, just the dangerous, highly addictive, adrenalin- rushing, body-crushing, high-speed Carbocoaster.
CARBS and other sugars work on the brain the same as cigarettes. We get a craving and we eat a pack of crisps, mints or a doughnut or two. It satisfies us for a short while, but not for long. Before we know it, we want more. One biscuit becomes two biscuits becomes three biscuits and so on. CARBS are addictive and just like cigarettes they have the power to cause chronic illness and kill us!
You are going to come across the phrase ‘Metabolic Syndrome’ several times at Health Results. It is a phrase used a lot in medical circles today, relating to the fact that most chronic illnesses we face in Great Britain including cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, type 2 diabetes, strokes, obesity and more, can all, in part, be related to the release of too much insulin. This modern onslaught of insulin is caused by one thing and one thing only, the consumption of far too many CARBS.
When we want to lose weight, different authors, different experts and different doctors all offer varying advice on how many CARBS we should consume each day. Some will say 70g, some 100g and some very specific amounts such as 73g. But the reality is the body doesn’t actually need any CARBS at all! Put simply, the fewer CARBS we eat, the quicker we both lose weight and regain our metabolic health.
When we get down to our ideal weight, if we want a couple of apples or bananas
then we can go for it. We won’t want bread because once we start living without it, we become as averse to it as we would if we were forced to eat a dead rat! If we start eating too many CARBS in fruits (which is, after all, nature’s candy) and vegetables and our weight starts to pile back on, we simply just cut them down again. It really is as straightforward as that.
Types Of CARBS
Let’s look at CARBS in a little more detail. Depending on the size of the molecule, they may be known as either simple or complex. As well as breaking down into simple or complex, CARBS are also categorised as refined or unrefined.
These are the CARBS with the smallest molecules, so they are quickly absorbed and give a rapid boost in energy, a rapid increase in blood sugar levels and cause a spike in the production of insulin. As they are converted to energy so quickly, if we don’t burn off this energy promptly it is quickly stored as fat in our body’s favourite fat store. Simple CARBS include virtually all types of sugar. They are also found in natural products such as milk and fruit. But most of all, we are going to find them hidden in all sorts of processed foods, sweets and fizzy drinks.
These CARBS are composed of long strings of simple carbohydrates and are therefore bigger. As they are bigger they have to be deconstructed into simple CARBS before they can be absorbed. As a result they provide energy more slowly. Because complex CARBS are digested more slowly, with a slower release of energy, there is more opportunity for our body to use the fuel and they are therefore less likely to be stored as body fat. However, the energy from complex CARBS is still released faster than both protein and fat. Potatoes, peas, whole grain, wheat, rice, pasta and beans are all complex CARBS.
Now before you rush out and eat loads of potatoes, rice, pasta or grains because I have informed you that they are called complex CARBS, I want you to remember that they still convert to sugar (it just takes a little longer).
These are CARBS that have been highly processed in a factory. Any goodness that the CARBS might have been hiding, such as fibre, minerals and vitamins, are normally removed, or at best dramatically reduced, in the refining process. On the packaging of refined CARBS, we will often read that they have vitamins and minerals added, but these are only putting back some of the goodness that resided before being processed.
As you will have correctly guessed, these are CARBS that have not been processed. As well as vegetables and brown rice, foods labelled as wholegrain or multigrain are generally unrefined. Here is the good news: unrefined CARBS from vegetables and fruits (as long as they are organic) come complete with all of the vitamins and minerals that Mother Nature intended for us to consume. That said, if CARBS are over cooked, then their nutritional values start to diminish and in some cases disappear completely.
Complex & Unrefined CARBS
So if someone eats complex CARBS that are unrefined, then surely they won’t put on weight – right? It’s a nice idea, but unless we are keeping portion sizes extremely small, then most likely we will. You see, if we consume any more CARBS than we can burn at that time, while the body will store a small amount in the liver and muscles, it will send the rest to our fat stores.
If you are still not convinced that it’s CARBS that make us fat with their constant and continual conversion into sugar, and their quick release into the bloodstream causing a spike in insulin, then why is there such a thing called the Glycaemic Index? Food labels index all CARBS based on how quickly they perform this task. There is no glycaemic index for either protein or fat. Why? Because protein rarely converts into poisonous sugar and fat never does.