Are You Predator or Prey?

This may seem like an odd question to consider, but are you predator or prey?

To answer this question, I want you to take a moment and think about an animal that is a predator (most people pick lions, tigers, wolfs, cheetahs, or sharks). Once you have a picture of the predator in your mind, I then I want you to think about an animal that is prey (once again, most people pick cows, buffalo, antelope, deer or smaller game like chickens or rabbits).

When you think about these two different classes of animals, you can see that they are clearly different. As you picture these animals in your mind, here is what you might have noticed:

The predators have eyes in the front of their heads. Most animals that hunt have eyes in the front of their heads (think about your tigers, sharks and lions). But even animals like monkeys, apes, and rats have eyes in the front of their head because they have to search out their food.

Prey, on the other hand, have eyes on the sides of their heads (deer, chickens, rabbits…). Animals that are prey have to look out for attacks and need a fuller view of the world than those that are hunting. Most prey don’t have to look too far for their food, they graze on what is below their feet (grasses).

Most predators are skinny because they eat fat and protein.

Most prey are fat because they eat carbohydrates (grasses).

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How Much Protein?

I get this question all the time, “how much protein should I be eating?”

While most of us think it is hard to get enough protein, the opposite is actually true. In our modern day world, it is easy to get enough protein. This protein myth is a hard one to get over and one that is deeply embedded in our culture.

If you look at recommendations from various health organizations, here is what you get:

The world health organization suggests that most people need somewhere between 30-45 grams of protein a day.
The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suggests a little bit more (somewhere around 45-55 grams of protein a day).

While I’m not in the habit of agreeing with national and international health organizations, this time I’m on their side. We need far less protein than we think we need.

Both of those recommendations are in stark contrast to what Americans actually eat; we eat around 90 to 200 grams of protein every day. What is crazy is that even though most people eat double the amount of protein that is recommended, they still run out to the health food store and look for protein powders to increase their protein intake.

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Fat and Heart Disease

Eating fat causes heart disease, right? If you have read this blog at all, you should know that it is not fat that causes heart disease, but eating sugar (and foods that act like sugar) and vegetable oils.

The benefits of eating fats (the right fats) are obvious:

Fat is good for your blood sugar (fats don’t increase blood sugar at all and will actually slow down the absorption of the sugars that you do eat).
Fats are a good source of energy in your body. Ketones (breakdown products of fats) are just as important as an energy source as glucose.
Fats are essential to make hormones, the walls of every cell in our bodies, and are used as protection, insulation and fuel.

Despite the benefits of eating good fats, there may still be this nagging notion in the back of your brain saying that all this fat you are eating cannot be good for your heart. It is a hard idea to shake, so let’s take a trip down fatty-acid-lane and look at the fats that course through your veins and see what research (not politics) says about these fats and what they mean for your heart.

Blood Fats

There are many types of fats that flow through your veins. You may know some of these (like cholesterol, HDL, LDL, triglycerides) and you may have heard that some of these fats are good for you and some are not. What might surprise you, though, is that most of what you have been told by your medical doctor is wrong and following their advice can have a big impact on your health. Let’s look at what these fats mean to your health (and the blood fat you should really be paying attention to) and what causes them to rise and fall.

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The Problem with Vegetable Oils

Next to sugar, I think the worst foods you can put in your mouth are vegetable oils.

This is a hard thing for people to understand because we have been led to believe that vegetable oils are better than saturated fats, but nothing could be further from the truth. Remember that saturated fats are fats that come from animal sources (meat, butter), but you can also find them in coconut and palm oil. These fats are “saturated” with hydrogen molecules and that means they are stable and don’t change when heated (this is a good thing). A saturated fat also doesn’t react with other molecules (another good thing).

Unsaturated fats are the fats we extract from seeds (like canola, corn, sunflower…). Since they are not saturated, they are unstable. When we heat these unsaturated fats they tend to twist out of their natural configuration (and become what are called trans-fats – the world is starting to wake up to how bad trans fats are). Unsaturated fats are also very reactive with other molecules (including molecules in your body) which is why you should avoid them like they are poison. We are waking up to the health threats from these misshaped and twisted molecules. The problems with trans fats are many. To put it simply, your body does not know what to do with these molecules because they have been twisted out of shape. Trans-fats are associated with increased inflammation in your body, clogged arteries, and even weight gain.

Studies have shown that around 5% of any vegetable oil you buy contains trans fats (this is because the oils have to be heated when they are manufactured).

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Food Melodrama

Close your eyes for a moment and picture two plates with nothing but broccoli on them. Now imagine pouring butter all over the broccoli on one of those plates. Now pick. Which would you choose: the just-broccoli plate or the butter-and-broccoli plate?

Most people will chose the broccoli with butter, but as soon as they make that choice strange thoughts jump into their heads. Even though a buttery meal would taste great, they think that that it is a heart attack waiting to happen.

Stop for a moment and think about this: how did that thought jump into your head? If you think that a heart attack and eating butter are related then that thought must have come from somewhere, right? It had to come from somewhere because if you were to eat a stick of butter, you wouldn’t immediately fall down dead. This means that someone told you that butter and heart attacks are related and they told you often enough that you believe it to be true.

The question you have to ask yourself is this: is that thought correct? Is there a relationship between butter and heart attacks?

When I think about the way that we think about food, it feels like I am watching an old fashioned melodrama where the villain with a black hat and cape has changed his clothing, bleached his hair, and is now wearing all white clothes. The funny thing is that everyone loves the villain and thinks he is the good guy, while the true hero of the story is hated.

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Are you on the Wrong Fuel?

Our world is burning the wrong fuel. Whether you believe that global warming is real or not, burning fossil fuels creates problems such as air pollution, environmental damage, and political instability. There will be a day when oil costs more than it is worth to extract it from the ground. Changing from burning oil to using renewable resources is not going to be easy, but once we have made the change we will all be better off.

The same is true with our body’s fuel.

Most people think that our body’s energy and sugar are the same thing. The reason you think this has to do with a combination of advertising and misguided research studies. In the past, it was well known that athletes would “bonk” when they exercised for a long time without eating anything. Researchers discovered that bonking was due to running out of glycogen (the quick-energy form of sugar). To keep from bonking, scientists discovered, athletes needed to keep taking sugar in during exercise.

The sport drink industry has pushed this idea out of the science lab and into our brains and this is why most of us think that sugar is the same as energy. When you feel tired, it is your blood sugar dropping, isn’t it? Even kids know this. Our bodies are tied to sugar like our world is tied to oil, we cannot imagine a world without either of these energy sources. But there is another fuel source that is not only better for our health, but is also better for weight loss.

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