Protein calories don't count






The term fuel gets used unilaterally when we talk about macronutrients. The idea that the body burns macros in order to provide energy for it to function is the basis for Calories in Calories out (CICO).

I think this is an incomplete view of the process.

If the human metabolism is basically the overall function of the body staying alive then anything that causes the conversion of fuel materials could be considered “fuel usage” and this is how most people look at caloric intake. This includes the 4 metabolic pathways (Phosphagen, Glycolytic, Ketogenic, and Oxidative) and any fuel material lost in the conversion of substrates into raw fuel sources.

But, is the loss of fuel material during substrate conversion the same as the usage of the end product?

If I put 10 gallons of 83 octane gas in my car and my engine is underperforming and I lose 25% of the gas in the process of fueling my car, is the car using 10 gallons or 7.5 gallons to turn the wheels?

Some would argue that it doesn’t matter. You put 10 gallons in and it will get you as far as it gets you. This is the idea behind CICO.

Let’s say 10 gallons allows me to drive 300 miles. What if I put in 93 octane? I’d get farther on the same total amount of gas and I might even get a lower percentage of overall fuel loss. Does my car still need the same amount of gas to get 300 miles?

The car hasn’t changed but because the fuel changed, now I can get more out of it.

This is what happens when we change what we eat and focus on the highest levels of nutrient density, bio-availability, and digestibility. The highest octane fuel we can give ourselves is animal-based food.

Let’s look at another scenario.

Same 83 octane fuel. I get a tune-up. I get new spark plugs, air filter, oil change, belts, transmission fluid, and balance my tires.

I fill up with 10 more gallons of gas and I drive 330 miles. Same fuel better performance. Sure 10 gallons is 10 gallons. Is it really the same if it does something different based on the performance of the machine it’s fueling? Is the distance traveled less important than how much fuel was used?

If you aren’t doing everything you can to improve the physical performance of your body then you are leaving out one of the best ways to improve your health and metabolic efficiency.

Lastly, how many types of vehicles are there? How many different levels of engine efficiency, usage, ages, and fuels come into play when we look at all of them?

Humans are even more diverse. How can any generic calculation of total caloric intake account for the quality of food, the level of metabolic performance, and a person’s lifestyle or health status?

This is why CICO is flawed.

The fuel we consume is not the fuel we use for fuel. It is often much less. No one is created the same. No one eats the same. No one does the same amount of physical activity. No one uses fuel at the same rate.

Think about this.

Protein is not a primary fuel for the human body. At times, the body may use up to 10% of available protein to re-supply glycogen (GNG) as needed, but it’s not the default go to. In fact, if there is an abundance of glycogen available, GNG will pretty much never happen.

Even when protein is used there is a 25%-35% loss of energy in the process.

Protein calories don’t really count.

Protein is used to build and repair. Fat is used for fuel.

I’m not going to get into the difference between using fat or carbs for fuel in this blog. Fat is better.

In most people who are trying to live in ketosis, the goal should be high protein and managing fat intake for body composition and health.

Here’s a great chat I had with Ella Bruce on the topic of protein and how to figure out keto/carnivore for body composition goals.




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