A while back I wrote a blog post describing my engineers food pyramid that came to be using a combination of some base data engineering on raw data from epidemiological studies, end the extensive use of N=1 control-feedback-loop experiments. Whenever both data engineering and control theory are suitable, I went for control theory first. Whenever nutritional science has different theories with conflicting resulting advise, I tried to see what theory the epi data showed to be least viable. Each control-feedback-loop experiment takes me at 6 to 18 weeks, and some experiments have come at the expense of my own health. The last experiment was a 12 week run of a 15% carb 15% protein 70% fat diet without carb-cycling, that my health didn’t agree with. I both lost some strength and gained a substantial amount of body fat. As I have stressed many times, everyone is different, many people are doing amazing on a high fat moderate protein keto diet, and control-feedback-loop based dieting by definition is an N=1 solution aimed to find the best diet tailored on you as a unique individual. My main approach: trust the data. There are many wild nutritional theories out there, but many can be easily shown either wrong or inappropriate for you as an individual with some basic control theory and data engineering effort. As I have described in multiple other posts, I use two health markers (weight relative body under-strength and age/gender adjusted over-fatness) that I combine into a vector that in turn I use to calculate a desired delta. By using the vector difference between desired delta and actual delta, we get an error vector that can be used as error in a control-feedback loop. While most dietary theories come with their own shortcomings, as I outlined in my previous post, the most disastrously wrong theories all seem to be linked to veganism sub-cultures. People become vegan for different reasons, and some of these reasons are absolutely important to consider.
- serious ecological sustainability concerns.
- Ethical concerns regarding cruelty to animals.
- Ethical issues with killing animals.
- Health concerns.
For those of us that, like me, are concerned about the environment, animal cruelty and health concerns, but don’t have ethical issues with killing animals, especially if these animals are just insects, replacing most or all animal products with insects, if you can get passed the western aversion to eating bugs, should be a serious option to consider. Personaly, my favourite nutritional pattern could probably be described as ovo-ento-vegetarianism. However much I would like to promote ovo-ento-vegetarianism, as I have done a few times before, in this blog post I want to share my dietary findings with those of you who share some of the above concerns and either have ethical issues with or an uncontrollable aversion against eating bugs. So here it is:
If you have been a vegan for a while, chances are you have been exposed to books and publications that will disagree strongly with some of the things I’m presenting here. Some sub cultures of vegans have put their trust in gurus, questionable scientific theories and scientific organisations with strong ties to rather extreme animal rights groups. If you are a big fan of Dr Campbell, the PCRM or Freelee the banana girl, than what I propose here may against many of your current preconceptions. But please bare with me while I try to explain the ideas behind this alternative food pyramid. Everything if data based first and theory based second.
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 2.0g 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 Omega-3 fatty acids.
- Where possible, our micro nutrient rich foods should also be sources of 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 supplements with whole-food plant sources for our protein intake. Nuts are both a source of healthy fats and of proteins. 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 low-carb sources of protein. Unfortunately the choice for whole-food low-carb vegan protein sources is close to non-existent. Yes I know. Protein-powder could be considered processed food, and processed foods in general are a bad choice. 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. Fortunately the quality of mixed-source vegan protein powders is absolutely excellent on all accounts. 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. We should absolutely add crushed flax seeds to the diet as they are high in Omega 3 and compensate for not eating fish or fish based oils.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. Finally there are two more essential suplements that every vegan should take: Carnitine and vitamin B12.
Layer 2: Fat & Veggies
Once we have our foundation secured, we can look at adding (mostly) fat and veggies up to a level slightly above our bodies base resting metabolism. We add veggies, spices and dark chocolate for additional micro nutrient diversity and additional dietary fibre. The fat part should mostly be mono-unsaturated fat, but saturated fats are a decent supplement when we don’t overdo it. When you cook, don’t use unsaturated fats, use coconut oil instead. The saturated fats in coconut oil may be worse than mono saturated fat when unheated, heating fat changes the rules of the game. Oxidation of unsaturated fats makes them rather unhealthy, using coconut oil should help there. 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. Being a vegan, chances are high that your cholesterol levels are pretty low. Good for you! Or is it. There are actually real and serious health risks that are linked with LOW cholesterol. If your cholesterol is anywhere below 150, this should be a serious concern and eating more coconut oil, that is high in healthy stable saturated fatty acids could quite probably reduce many health risks. So don’t be afraid of saturated fats. Don’t be afraid of coconut oil. Use it liberally when cooking. It may do little for non vegans who get plenty of SFA from animal sources already, and causality may not have been confirmed yet for many correlated health issues, but why artificially keep your cholesterol at extreme low levels when we know there are strong links? Why take the risk? The research simply isn’t there yet, but that doesn’t imply it will be safe until the research is finally there. There is a sizeable probability that low cholesterol levels are causal for many health issues and mortality numbers. Don’t put yourself in dangers way and eat plenty of coconut oil prepared dishes.
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 sedentary. 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 most probably be a low-carb diet. There seems to be absolutely no benefit in high carbohydrate levels for sedentary 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 😉