30 Day Challenge: Meal Plan Day 10 & What do you mean ‘low carb’?

Posted on May 11, 2011


A lot of you have been asking/commenting about the low-carb part of Paleo. Does that mean low-carb labeled foods? Without carbs I’ll die! I’m an athlete, I can’t eat low-carb! etc. Don’t feel bad if you thought any of these things, mainstream media has us convinced we need carbcarbcarb from those glorious whole grains stuffed into everything under the sun these days. When we look at the science of how the human body works though, it’s clear as day that you, in fact, do not need tons of carbs to survive. In fact, you’ll likely survive better without tons of carbs.

Here’s why: Each macronutrient has a caloric value. Protein contains 4 calories per gram. Carbs contain 4 calories as well. And fat contains 9 calories per gram. Your body can use all of these macronutrients for energy…NOT JUST CARBS.  When you eat food, your body goes through a multi-step process to break it down, and one of the steps is to send the broken down nutrients to the liver for processing & distribution to the body. When nutrients get to the liver, some of them get stored there for future use – this is called liver glycogen. Some of it gets sent directly how to the body to use for immediate energy or to feed the muscles.

If you’ve been eating excessively or eating too many carbs, the door to the storage room that is your liver will be closed and carbs will be turned away into the bloodstream as glucose (hello elevated blood sugar levels i.e. type-II diabetics!) Excess carbs are converted to fat as a short-chain saturated fat called palmitic acid. It connects with a few other molecules (glycerol, proteins, cholesterol) to become a VLDL (very low density lipoprotein…notice that a carbohydrate just became something that is measured when you get your cholesterol tested <–mainstream media tells you to lower your fat intake to reduce your cholesterol but we just saw how a carb raised your cholesterol..hmm)

**When you are eating at a reduced calorie level in relation to energy expenditure, your body will convert amino acids from protein to glucose molecules it can use as energy, which is stored in the liver & released into the blood stream.

**The body can use stored fat as an energy source (of which even the leanest among us has bountiful amounts of energy from the source) and it can learn to convert fat that you eat into a primary fuel source. Those of you hard-core original Atkins folks out there remember learning about “ketones” when you did that meal plan. Ketones are NOT the same as ketosis – ketones are small pieces of fat that are water soluble that your body can, in short time, learn to process as fuel. But if you’re always eating a high-carb diet, you’ll never train your body to run on anything else.

This is just a VERY BASIC rundown. You can find a much more detailed explanation of how your body burns macronutrients for fuel in Robb Wolf’s book, The Paleo Solution. (thanks to Robb for providing the explanation for me to paraphrase from!) Essentially, eat your carbs from veggies & some fruit & you’ll generally be good to go. If you’re an endurance athlete, I recommend the book The Paleo Diet for Athletes, by Loren Cordain & Joe Friehl.

Here’s my daily meal recap for you! I felt freaking awesome yesterday, and I attribute it all to how spot-on I hit my nutrition the day before. Eat well today, live well tomorrow gang!

Breakfast: 4 slices bacon (wasn’t too hungry…probably because it became insanely hot & humid in Chicago & I have no A/C. who wants to eat when you’re sticking to everything??)

Snack: Iced Americano BLACK + tupperware container of frozen strawberry slices & 1 Tbsp sliced almonds (refreshing! frozen berries are so cooling in the summer heat! and bursting with antioxidants!)

Lunch: leftover grilled chicken breast topped with bbq-salsa + raw kale salad + 1 medium sweet potato (awesome lunch! complex carb from the sweet potato & kale salad, a good size portion of protein  -yum! do you see how cooking for yourself can be cheap?? still eating that leftover chicken! the chicken cost $6 and will have given me 4/5 meals!)

Snack: 1/4 cup mixed nuts (roasted almonds, cashew & cranberries) (if you’re trying to lose weight, or even if you’re not, watch yourself with the nuts!! it’s way easy to eat way too many!!)

Dinner: Pork Curry (ground pork browned in pan, add bag of spinach, 1/2 can of light coconut milk, 2 cloves garlic minced, simmer until spinach wilts, stirring to incorporate) + 1/2 cup applesauce (probably would not make this again on such a FREAKIN HOT evening with NO A/C, b/c curry and already sweating Kate does not make for a comfortable combo. But it was what was on the menu, we had the ingredients & I didn’t want to give in to just ‘picking something up’ because it was hot. This was surprisingly easy to make! You can’t mess this up just give it a try!)