Principle 1: Use The 40:30:30 Ratio For Each Meal

Published: 13th January 2010
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The first principle of creating a successful nutritional program is to determine what to eat and in what proportion. It is vitally important to create the proper ratio of protein, carbohydrates, and fat in each meal or snack. Over the last ten years, there have been many innovations in nutritional science. Many of these advances have created contradictions and rifts within the scientific community. Diet books that advise reducing your carbohydrate intake to a minimum and eating a high-protein diet have popularized many of these new innovations.

While increased protein intake is beneficial and important, high-protein diets are extreme and unrealistic in the long term, especially for individuals with busy lifestyles. It typically takes more time to prepare foods and meals that are high in protein than to reach for a bag of chips or a candy bar. Essentially these diets prescribe a high-protein diet to elicit a certain hormonal response that facilitates rapid weight loss by putting the body into a state of ketosis. Ketosis is an abnormal increase of acidic biochemicals in the blood and urine and a sign that the metabolism is impaired. These acidic biochemicals are produced when there isn't enough glucose in the bloodstream. High levels of ketones make blood abnormally acidic. Does that sound healthy to you?

Many people on high-protein diets initially see rapid weight loss due to the body being shocked into doing so, but eventually they reach a plateau. For the most part, people on high­protein diets cannot sustain this way of eating for longer than three to six months. Then what? They go back to their old way of eating and end up where they started, or worse. There are three serious problems with high-protein diets. First, as I mentioned, they are hard to maintain. Second, they are typically high in saturated fat, which contributes to clogged arteries and an increased risk of heart attacks. Last, there are not enough long term studies to prove that eating a high-protein diet is safe. Long-term studies have shown that people on a higher-protein diet-not a high-protein diet that dramatically reduces carbohydrates- have a greater success rate in reducing body fat and maintaining that weight loss in the long term. I tell you this because I have seen it hundreds of times with my own clients.

So what is the answer? After experimenting with every diet under the sun, I have found that a higher-protein diet works very well for approximately 75 percent of the population for weight reduction and weight management. The diet philosophy I'm referring to is "The Zone" by Dr. Barry Sears. His philosophy makes sense because it prescribes that 40 percent of your diet should come from low to moderate glycemic carbohydrates such as most fruits and vegetables, 30 percent from lean sources of protein, and 30 percent from "good" fats. This is a balanced, realistic nutrition plan that one can easily adhere to for life. It's how I instruct my clients to eat, and on average they experience a consistent weight loss of 2 pounds of body fat per week. . know there are some high-protein diets that claim 8 to 13 pounds of weight loss without exercise in the first two weeks. I won't dwell on this claim other than to say that even if someone did lose that amount of weight, not all of it would be from fat loss, and it would definitely be the exception to the rule, not the norm.

Body fat reduction is all about eating in a way that safely manipulates one's hormonal response to insulin. More specifically, it's about using food in combinations that limit the secretion of insulin. The main function of insulin is to sweep up "extra" or unused carbohydrates in the bloodstream and store them as fat for later use. Not only that, but increased insulin levels inhibit the body's ability to release the stored fat. What does that mean? It means that it becomes virtually impossible to utilize stored body fat for energy. In general terms, the premise of a higher-protein diet is to reduce the secretion of insulin by reducing the amount of high glycemic carbohydrates You eat and in what combinations you eat them.

What we are really talking about here is a hormonal response to the foods you eat. We are talking specifically about insulin and the amount of it that is released into the bloodstream. The greater the quantity of insulin leased, the more calories are stored as fat and the less fat the body releases for energy usage.

Insulin is released into the bloodstream in response to glucose, which is essentially sugar. Any carbohydrate, after being digested, breaks down into its basic chemical compound, glucose. That means that any carbohydrate, whether it be table sugar, fruit, bread, pasta, or a starchy vegetable such as a potato, will eventually be turned into glucose by the time it enters your bloodstream. The greater the quantity of glucose in your bloodstream, the more insulin is secreted. When a certain level of glucose is detected in your bloodstream, your body secretes insulin to remove the excess.

Our goal here is to find ways to slow down the rate of glucose absorption. The slower the rate of absorption of a carbohydrate, the less apt the body is to store it as fat. The three factors that determine the rate of absorption of a particular food are the type of carbohydrate, the fiber content, and the fat content. We refer to this as the glycemic index(absorption rate). We want to eat primarily low- to moderate-glycemic-index carbohydrates, such as most fruits and vegetables, which also happen to be high in fiber. High­glycemic-index foods such as processed bread, baked goods, candy, chips, potatoes, rice, and pasta raise insulin levels and can inhibit weight loss. Pasta and rice are the exception if they are consumed in the right proportion and combined with the right food, such as a lean protein source.

Some carbohydrates are more complex than others and have a longer molecular chain. Therefore, the digestive process is required to work harder to break them down into their basic material(glucose or sugar) because of the increase in fiber. Fiber and fat both help slow down the digestive process and help satiate us faster. The result is that we feel fuller for longer periods of time and typically reduce the amount of calories we ingest because we feel full.

The Zone, popularized the notion of eating more low­ to moderate- glycemic-index carbohydrates and more lean protein to facilitate weight loss, optimize energy levels, and reduce the chance of developing adult- onset diseases. The 40:30:30 ratio is a very realistic, balanced, healthy diet that you can adhere to for life. Today the term "glycemic index" has entered in the lexicon of our diet vocabulary. Essentially, the glycemic index rates all carbohydrates according to their complexity, rate of absorption, and their immediate effect on blood sugar. The higher the rating, the more insulin is secreted. Here is how it works. Foods that have a high GI rating are absorbed and digested by the body very quickly, causing dramatic fluctuations in blood-sugar levels, thus raising insulin levels. Low GI foods have the opposite effect and greatly lower and control glucose and lipid levels. Low GI foods help to control and manage weight because they satiate you for a longer period of time and delay hunger. In doing so, low GI foods will also aid you in reducing caloric intake without your feeling deprived.

Steve writes health care articles on herbal medicines and home remedies. If you wish to publish this article in your website or ezine, you are welcome to publish that, provided you are providing a link back to authors site at

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