We have all seen the old food pyramid, and many alternative food pyramids have been created. Vegan food pyramids, low-carb food pyramids, anti-inflammatory food pyramids, Paleo food pyramids, etc etc.
While working on my personal data and feedback loop driven approach to diet and workout, non of the food pyramids actually ended up coming anywhere close to what the data and multiple feedback-loop rounds ended up telling me. In this blog I want to talk about the food pyramid that resulted from my data-first approach to diet and workout. Some of it will look anti-intuitive. Some of it will look plain disgusting and some of it will look totally insane. But please bare with me while I try to explain the ideas behind this alternative food pyramid.
One important thing to note about this pyramid is that it assumes you are working out; lifting weights, and doing so at least three times a week.
layer 1: Protein, Micro-nutrients, fluids and feedback-loops
At the basis of our pyramid we a set of important concerns that should be considered pivotal:
- The engineers approach to diet and workout dictates we use a control feedback loop approach to our diet. No two persons are the same. Measure your results as objective as possible (in our case using the Generic Body Health Index and its differential.
- The most static part of our diet is protein. You should stay within a daily protein intake bandwidth ranging from 2.2g to 2.6g per kg of lean body mass. You should do this in a way that maximizes the diversity of amino-acids.
- An other relatively static part of our diet is micro-nutrient diversity.
- Where possible, we should try to get at least part of our protein using protein sources that also provide relatively high levels of EPA and DHA Omega-3 fatty acids.
- Where possible, our micro nutrient rich foods should also be sources of ALA Omega-3 fatty acids.
- Finally, sufficient fluids are an other foundational ingredient of our diet.
So how do we achieve these levels? We will combine animal with plant sources for our protein intake. Nuts are both a source of healthy fats and of proteins. Diary is a great source of protein and some micro nutrient. The ratio’s of fat versus protein in nuts and diary are higher than what is suitable for our protein requirements and total caloric needs, so we need to turn to add lean sources of protein. These could be eggs, meat and sea food. Alternative to much of these animal sources, insects can form an environmentally friendly source of protein. Yes I know. Eating bugs sounds disgusting. The problem though is that plant based sources of protein tend to both have a to low protein/calorie ratio to satisfy our protein needs, and also lack beneficial diversity in amino-acid content. On the other side, diverse,lean, low-carb sources of protein come with an ecological footprint that is unsustainable for our current let alone our future world population. We need to find a middle ground between eating things like meat and turning vegan, and replacing at least part of our animal protein sources with insects seems to be the only way forward. If you are not up to it (yet) than go with more traditional animal protein sources, but in the mean time you should try to break through the mental obstacles that make eating bugs unacceptable to you. Eating bugs is healthy for you and for the planet. We need to slowly adjust out mindset to the concept of eating bugs. The foods discussed so far aren’t just sources of protein. If we choose them carefully and consume the whole spectrum, they should provide for a wide range of amino acids, part of our Omega-3 needs and part of our micro-nutrient needs. There are other essential micro-nutrients missing though. To supplement these, and to address our fluids requirements, we add veggie juice and water to our foundational layer. Take it easy on the starchy tubers though and add berries for taste and nutrient spectrum. We want to maximize the micro nutrient/carb ratio of our juice, at least at this level.
Layer 2: Fat & Veggies
Once we have our foundation secured, we can look at adding (mostly) fat and veggies upto a level slightly above our bodies base resting metabolism. We add veggies, spices and dark chocolate for additional micro nutrient diversity and additional dietary fiber. The fat part should mostly be mono-unsaturated fat, but saturated fats are a decent supplement when we don’t overdo it. We already covered (most of our) Omega 3 needs in our foundation. Stay away from processed oils, oils made from GMO crops and fat sources high in Omega-6. No Canola oil or anything like that. When you need to choose between Canola oil and lard, lard is actually the healthier option. Not as healthy as olive oil, but much healthier than the highly processed oil from GMO rapeseed. As for mayonnaise. Mayonnaise is an easy addition to many foods that can add more healthy fats to your diet, but some care is needed. Most mayonnaise is made from processed oils and often contains high levels of sugar. Make your own mayonnaise using olive oil or other unprocessed oils high in monounsaturated fats and low in omega-6.
Layer 3: Timed carbs
You may have noticed that up to now everything has been quite in line with low-carb discipline. Fat, protein and lots of micro-nutrients with relatively little carbohydrates. The point to this has been: You truly don’t need carbohydrates if you are sedimentary. When you want to do a high intensity strength oriented workout, like the one my ebook will be advocating, than you really really need some well timed carbs. But when you do take carbs, its a good idea to time these carbs perfectly relative to the time of your workout. Much of the carbs from our veggie juice can be included in our carb timing on our workout day, but chances are these won’t be enough. We add more sources of carbohydrates to the timed layer of our diet. We do this in three parts:
- Starchy foods in our pre-workout meal
- Fruits as pre-workout snack
- Coconut juice mixed with water and possibly part of our veggie juice as sports-drink for consuming during our workout.
It is possible that your personal control feedback loop will add some post-workout carbs also, but the core concept of this layer of the pyramid is that most of your carbohydrate intake is concentrated around your workout. On resting days your diet should be a low-carb diet. There seems to be absolutely no benefit in high carbohydrate levels for sedimentary days. If you do consume high carbohydrate foods on resting days, do so in limited quantities and prefer starchy foods over sugary foods. No sweat fruits or fruit juice and certainly no dried fruits.
Layer 4: Use sparingly
A food pyramid wouldn’t be complete without a ‘use sparingly’ section. While processed foods of most types should be considered off-limit, a diet meant as a way of life instead of a short period of suffering, can only be sustained if you allow yourself to indulge yourself in a bit of the bad stuff. In this diet the bad stuff that is acceptable for occasional indulging are sugar, grains and non-processed oils rich in Omega-6. You shouldn’t make consuming these foods to much of a habit, but banning them completely won’t make you popular at parties. So if you are invited to a lunch, have that bun of bread, or at that party that piece of pie. Unless you have a really big family and end up eating pie twice a week that is 😉