Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Navy's Official Guidance

Grains: "Come Back to Earth" . Carbohydrate = FUEL for the brain & muscles
. Main sources are: Breads, cereals, grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables.
. What to look for in a grain: The least processed forms of grain you can find.
. Think brown and found close to the ground!
. The best choices will have more than 3g of FIBER per serving.

This is part of the Navy's NOFFs fueling series.

Overall, this is not as bad, and is very much like what is recommended by Precision Nutrition, and that is an organization I respect for the results they generate in clients. But this approach is not going to help many busy Sailors lean out. The Navy has lost something like 5000 Sailors in recent years to physical readiness failures, primarily due to excess body fat. It's painful for the individuals and not great for the USN to bleed trained folks due to preventable causes.  Frankly, if they held an audited PFA right now, the numbers would be astronomical.  The number of folks walking around both out of body fat standards, and who could not comply with the situp, pushup and run standards - if they were actually enforced - would be a stunner to the organization.   Whereas much of the Navy is characterized by integrity, the PFA program is unfortunately anything but that.

Why won't NOFFs help?
-multiple small meals throughout the day is proven to help under some conditions, but does NOT improve metabolic rates. Multiple small meals does not "rev up your metabolism."  It is also a logistical challenge for those overwhelmed with a remarkably demanding schedule while underway sailing ships to eat quality small meals on 2-3 hour intervals. I think the "many small meals plan" is good for those who are motivated to change, who have a coach, and who have the time to deal with the logistical requirements. That's not going to apply for too many Sailors.
-For the life of me, I can't see the logic of recommending dense carb sources like grains for folks that need to lose weight. Yes, some can lose weight while eating high carb foods but the real question is - why
include them? Delete grains and you lose NO essential nutrients. On a per calorie basis, grains are a poor choice for micronutrients, even for folks that can tolerate the gluten, phytates, the opioids and the obnoxious, gut attacking fiber.
-What function do grains and oatmeal and rice and such serve in the human diet? Only one - to allow adequate caloric intake for humans who are not hunter/gatherers. Grains are storable, tradable, can be used to feed livestock, and large scale farming allowed some folks to farm so others could work as blacksmiths, politicians, religious leaders, and or develop full time trade.  Grains enable "civilization" and allowed "civilized" peoples to murder and displace their physical superior hunter/gather neighbors, by enabling a higher sustainable birth rate. 

Nutritionally, grains are a second rate source of micronutrients and a potentially injurious source of calories (injurious due to the fact that it is so easy to eat more than is needed). In other words, grains are a "staple" when you cannot get actual human food.  The advent of modern grain species (this isn't your biblical wheat you are eating folks) made it all worse, as did cessation of traditional preparation practices (soaking, fermenting).

In short - those with excess body fat need to reduce carb intake. It's simple, it's executable aboard ship (I've done it), and it works for most if not all people.

The other part of NOFFs that is questionable is post exercise guidance.  Supposedly, after you work out, your body is depleted of glycogen, so you have to pack in a bunch of carbohydrate so you can "recover" and train again quickly.

Ok - so you exercise to burn calories, then eat more food so you can exercise again?

You would almost think this would be a self defeating cycle for a individual who's biggest concern is weight loss and restoration of health, except for all those studies showing fat loss for populations that exercise. And that's the rub, since for every study that shows an exercise benefit for fat loss, there are others that do not. And even beyond that - I see folks working out every day, and their waistlines prove exercise is not the key to the fat loss kingdom.  As the saying goes, "You cannot out train a bad diet."  So skip that "recovery" eating, eat when you are hungry, train for the desired physical attributes you desire, vice training to burn calories.  Eat meat, vegetables, nuts and seeds, little fruit or starch, no sugar no wheat.

Obviously, I'm a proponent of exercise is awesome to enhance life. Exercise is essential to ageing well. The right exercise improves mood and sustains your capacity to do what you like. Dieticians and the rest of the professional fitness industry have been saying "eat small meals many times per day to keep your metabolism in high gear" and "eat a lot of fiber to feel full and reduce glycemic impact" and "eat less fat because fat has 9 kcal/gram" for so long that it's just what has to be said, regardless of the lack of proof. To admit that grains are poor food choices is to admit that fat is a good food choice for those seeking to lose weight.
It's the math - if you eat 100-150g/day of carbs, that's about 400-600 kcal. Most folks would be hard pressed to eat 100g/day of protein, and even that would only add another 300-400 kcal (depending on the latest guesses about the actual caloric impact of protein in the human body).  1000 kcal/day is only half of what most folks need. That means the extra 50% of kcal has to come from good quality fat, which is still, to most of the exercise and fitness world, the rough equivalent of rat poison.  Except it isn't, it is the primary human fuel, which is why we adapted to store it for present and future needs.
What is likely to happen with NOFFs is that busy Sailors will keep right on working hard and will eat too many easy to find carbs, ignore the satisfying high fat snacks that would help, and won't make the one fundamental shift that will improve their physical and mental performance, their health, their appearance and their appetite: They won't practice carb restriction.

The significance of carb restriction is foremost that it helps to reduce hunger, and secondarily, that all of the symptoms of ill health that accompany obesity are reduced more rapidly via carb restriction than by any other approach.
It is, of course, simple to say "carb restriction" but hard to practice it. In the long run, cultural change is extremely difficult for an institution like the US Navy, but without the right information, it's impossible.

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