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Macronutrient Ratios

by (510)
Updated about 12 hours ago
Created April 29, 2010 at 12:17 PM

I am trying to adapt to a Paleo diet--and having trouble. I know it should be simple but I have a lot of "food issues" and nothing with food is simple for me. I don't WANT to count anything (calories, nutrients, etc.) but I think to get started I could use some guidance on macronutrient ratios that people are using. I would actually like to lose about 20 pounds--so going lower in carbs is probably reasonable for me. I don't know how low to go, though...and how much fat/protein to balance it all out. Advice to eat until "full" doesn't work well with me--my satiety switch broke many years ago. If anyone can offer some advice to a struggling newbie, please do so!

Also, has anybody successfully reduced reflex sympathetic dystrophy pain or other symptoms with a paleo diet?

Thanks in advance for your help.

Af43d11d60547c868ccf1e4daccb76ad
25 · March 28, 2011 at 1:52 PM

your math is wrong on the protein calculation. 1g/1lb for a 200 lb'er with 15% body fat is 170 lbs of lean body mass, ergo 170g of protein per day, not 185. Just an FYI. :-)

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510 · April 30, 2010 at 11:53 AM

This is really a comment to everyone--I'm really trying to do all of the things that have been suggested--just not seeing much success. I know it boils down (hate to enter this argument) to eating too much food. I am new to eliminating some of the "bad" things so perhaps I will see some positive effects soon--but appetite control remains a serious issue for me. Also, I have recently developed a lot of GI pain--need to figure that one out! I don't think it is diet-related...I just tested negative by blood work for Celiac but positive by Enterolab...also for casein sensitivity. Thanks!

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8 Answers

8ea784171b2d15cffb537349b341b806
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260 · April 29, 2010 at 2:34 PM

For carbs, go as low as you can while still being able to function and have good workouts. The reason for this is that many people lose fat much quicker by having insulin levels as low as possible. But everyone is different, some people function better on more carbs, so play around with it. Mark Sisson has a good post about this: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/the-primal-carbohydrate-continuum/.

For protein, aim to get 1g/lb of lean body mass.

For fat, eat enough to satiety, taking into account the calories you are already getting from protein and carbs.

You don't need to count calories, Tom nailed the protein part, a palm-sized amount is good. For fat, grab a handful of nuts, and then round out the meal with some fruit or vegetables. Another way to go about this is to fill 1/3 of your plate with protein and the rest with vegetables. But this doesn't work if your plate is huge, hah.

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1710 · April 29, 2010 at 3:03 PM

I began my journey into "Paleo" eating as a practitioner of the Zone diet, and I still think of myself as a Zone dieter, even if Dr. Harris calls the Zone "pseudoscientific nonsense." (And I anticipate many a flame and down votes for even mentioning the Zone here).

What I recommend to friends is that you first approach a "paleolithic" level of quality in your diet (first step is taking stuff out -- no sugar or alcohol, no refined grains, no processed foods, nothing that comes in a plastic tray inside a bag, etc; second step is adding stuff in -- quality meats, unprocessed veggies, nuts and seeds, some fruit).

But for those of us who need to watch our weight and who have trouble with satiety I recommend two things: (1) keep a journal recording, impartially, everything you eat and when. Use this tool to track your unconscious eating behaviors and check them. When you realize when where, and why you eat and how it makes you feel, it becomes easier to get control. (2) Starting thinking about the amount of foods you eat each time you eat. When I started thinking about food quantities, I used "the Zone" and it has helped me lose 40 lbs and keep it off for more than a year now.

The Zone diet basically argues that you should eat protein and carbs together, and add fat to fuel activity. It is NOT a simple 30/30/40 ratio system; rather that is the baseline or unmodified "Zone" diet, which I call the "canonical" Zone diet. Athletes are advised to eat more fat for energy. And everybody is advised to experiment with the protein/carb ratio until they arrive at a ratio that works for them. For some people, that means much lower carbs. Robb Wolf has a little article called something like 32 Ways to Skin the Zone which explains techniques for adjusting the ratios of a Zone approach to quantities until the desired outcome (fat loss, muscle maintenance and building, general health) is achieved.

Myself, influenced by the Zone, I try to eat small meals, frequently. I try to make sure that I eat some protein, some added fat, and a bit of carbs every time I eat. And the more I feel like I want to lose weight, the more I limit the carbs. The more I feel like I need energy, the more fat I eat.

The "Zone" rule of thumb is 1g of protein per pound of lean mass per day (for athletes). Less for the sedentary. Therefore, if you are 200lbs and have 15% body fat, that's 185g of protein per day, or about 26 oz. of meat, or its equivalent in eggs (about 28 eggs) etc.

For me, a good rule of thumb for carbs is no more than 150g per day, no matter what. That puts me in a Robb Wolf modified "Zone" diet, not a canonical Zone.

I like to think of limiting carbs as such: it is estimated that the brain can use up 130g of glucose per day on its own, so, if you can keep your intake below that level, you virtually guarantee that your body will start to use lipolysis/ketosis and glucogoneogenesis to fuel other activities. And that can mean fat loss. If you eat more than 130g per day, you are basically looking at elevated insulin for glycogen and fat storage, and a bunch of other problems. To put 130g of carbs per day in perspective, that's 13 cups of broccoli, or about 5 apples.

After getting protein and carbs in line, you then eat enough added fat to support your energy levels and activity. Dr. Harris recommends dairy fat. Others recommend coconut oil. Others recommend nuts. Others recommend rendered animal fats. Others like olive oil. There's a huge debate about fats. Tune out the noise and listen to your body.

Af43d11d60547c868ccf1e4daccb76ad
25 · March 28, 2011 at 1:52 PM

your math is wrong on the protein calculation. 1g/1lb for a 200 lb'er with 15% body fat is 170 lbs of lean body mass, ergo 170g of protein per day, not 185. Just an FYI. :-)

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9948 · April 29, 2010 at 1:19 PM

An excellent place to get started is Dr. Kurt Harris' blog on getting started paleo here: http://www.paleonu.com/get-started/

Most people here have adopted most of the points Dr. Harris makes and most find that that many, many ailments are relieved...especially by the removal of all wheat and wheat products and removal of all sugars from the diet.

You may find that elimination of these items will solve your RSD problems in that wheat and sugar are known inflamatory agents that are expressed in many ways. Your inflamatory reaction to wheat and sugar probably manifests itself as RSD.

And notice that Dr. Harris says that there are no guidelines as what the "correct" macronutrient ratios should be. There aren't any. Paleolithic man had none and neither should you.

Follow the advice of Dr. Harris and report back to us. I think and hope you will be pleasantly surpised.

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587 · September 07, 2013 at 12:44 AM

I agree that Kurt Harris' on ramp is a great method to get going. Even though your satiety switch is broken now, it can still be reset. You're probably in a bit of metabolic derangement from poor insulin control and maybe some leptin resistance issues.

My advice would be start by eliminating sugar and grains and do NOT count calories. Giving up sugar and grains in the modern world is difficult enough. Don't make it harder on yourself. You'll find that giving these things up, you won't be able to overeat unless you're eating way too many nuts or nut butters. After a while, the satiety switch will get turned back on and you'll be good to go. As for protein, get a good palm sized amount of animal protein with every meal, and possibly more if you're hungry. Protein and fat increase satiety, so this will help with hunger to get a good dose at every meal.

Good Luck!

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0 · April 20, 2013 at 3:11 PM

The above comment is the most stupidest thing I have read on any Paleo website/forum, they are a complete fool. Not only are they delusionally and naively wrong, but to mock the Paleo diet on a Paleo forum suggest they have too much time on their hands and are in dire need of attention. A lack of attention which is probably born out be ignored by everybody because they are an idiot.

'Comical edge'? Nobody in their right mind with a shred of real nutritional knowledge or intelligence would present it in a 'comical' way knowing how serious the side affects are of the Western Diet.

M n M thanks for the advice but f*ck off!!

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0 · March 13, 2013 at 7:10 AM

You guys are insane to consume so much protein and fat!! Do yourselves a favor by looking into Dr. Graham's 80/10/10 - very educational. Carbs are the main fuel your body needs, and it's very easy to test this out yourself (as some genius posting above put it, "if your body is not adapted to run on fat, you may feel queasy or tired for a few days" -- yea, no s^&% you're gonna feel tired w/o any ENERGY!, lol).

If enjoy the comical edge whilst educating yourself, look up durianrider on youtube.

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2119 · April 30, 2010 at 11:23 AM

I'm very slowly losing weight (my weight is in the high-normal category - I'm not desperate to lose at this point) eating about 100g of carbs per day. That does include fruit, the occasional sweet potato, piles of green vegetables, and random other colorful veggies. I usually hit 50% fat/25% carb/25% fat, but I do quite well at 60% fat too.

Personally, I would only go low enough in carbs to lose weight at what you consider a satisfactory rate. It's hard to say what that might be for you. If you want a nice initial loss, you could go all the way down to a 20g for a week or maybe two and then gradually add carbs (like 5g a week) until you're not losing weight, then go back 5g. This is the advice that's actually given in the Atkins book, but most people don't do the adjustments methodically, and some don't do it at all.

As far as foods...if anyone asked me personally, I would suggest treating gluten, soy and corn like an allergen - avoid any product that contains them in any form. Avoiding soy and corn will keep you away from 95% of the gluten-free junk food in the center aisles - there's no shortage of crap gluten-free stuff at the moment. I even went without soy sauce (I have celiac, so it's wheat-free Tamari) for nine months. I found out for sure that GF soy sauce is fine for me in reasonable quantities, and now I know for sure.

You'll mostly be shopping from the perimeter of the grocery store, which is a good habit to get into. Don't eat any processed foods, and read labels! If you're eating dairy, there should be NO ADDITIVES. I found that UHT dairy products and anything containing carageenan was really bad for me. Carageenan is a bean, and it just does not agree with me. I'm apparently not the only one. If a yogurt or sour cream contains anything beyond milk, cream and cultures, you do not want it.

Don't use any artificial sweeteners. I actually gave up stevia as well. Teasing your brain with sweet tastes, especially in the absence of other calories (like in black tea and coffee) is, I think, a really bad idea.

I would also give up all legumes at this point, especially peanuts and peanut oil.

The next step I would take is to try to find local pastured dairy, eggs and meat, and to cut all farmed seafood. Farmed seafood has a vastly different nutrient profile than wild, and it's just not as good for you.

On the other hand, if you do better giving up stuff cold turkey - go for it and eat only lean meats, veggies, fruits, nuts and seeds!

24868bf5aa2c49e269392765932d9dc4
510 · April 30, 2010 at 11:53 AM

This is really a comment to everyone--I'm really trying to do all of the things that have been suggested--just not seeing much success. I know it boils down (hate to enter this argument) to eating too much food. I am new to eliminating some of the "bad" things so perhaps I will see some positive effects soon--but appetite control remains a serious issue for me. Also, I have recently developed a lot of GI pain--need to figure that one out! I don't think it is diet-related...I just tested negative by blood work for Celiac but positive by Enterolab...also for casein sensitivity. Thanks!

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2004 · April 29, 2010 at 2:31 PM

I second the recommendation to check out the Panu site – lots of great info and guidance. Like you, I’m on a quest to lose 15-20 lbs. It’s slowly coming off now. I’m being more diligent about avoiding grains and sugar, but I’ve REALLY noticed a difference in my ability to lose weight after focusing on avoiding bad fats: soybean oil, canola, etc. Read food labels closely: corn syrup, sugar and bad fats are in everything. Ditch the mayo and avoid all salad dressings except those you know are olive-oil based. It’s almost impossible to avoid bad fats at restaurants (see this great Eades post), so do your own cooking as much as possible. I still make mistakes, but I’m getting there. I eat a fat-protein-carb ratio of about 70-20-10. I probably eat 1,700 to 2,500 calories a day. My mastiff is my exercise—walking him twice a day, playing tug-of-war and heaving his growing haunches into the car. I’ve decided to put additional strength training on hold for now.

If you’re having trouble with satiety, try focusing on getting a lot of healthy animal and coconut fat. Don’t worry about total calories at first. Put lots of heavy whipping cream in your coffee/tea; fry your eggs in lard or butter; eat fatty cuts of beef. There’s only so much fat you can comfortably take in – your body will tell you when to stop. If your body is not adapted to run on fat, you may feel queasy or tired for a few days, but stick with it; it will pass.

When I feel like it, I track my eating on the iPhone/Touch app “Tap & Track”. It has a decent database of foods, and it gives you a pie chart of your macronutrient ratios for the day. It’s even easier to use than fitday.com. Love it.

So in summary, this is working for me: avoid grains and sugar, get lots of good fat, avoid the bad fat, get outside and move around a little.

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