Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The food composition mystery

For the last two days, I logged food for the first time in a while, and I looked at the breakdown on Tuesday night, and thought, wow, here's the problem. Calories 2100 (probably a few more), net carbs 27, protein 197 g, % fat 55, % protein 38, % carbs 7. Not a great-looking breakdown (and I should add that yesterday looked much the same). Too much protein, too little fat, too many calories... maybe. I thought, my weight will surely be higher today. So, of course, you guessed it... it was lower on Wednesday. Not a lot, and within the range in which I've been fluctuating, so nothing to get excited about really, but still. Today it's even lower... actually the lowest I've been in this weight cycle. Go figure.

One of the great mysteries to me is, what breakdown of calories/carbs/composition should I really be eating. I know that it's in vogue to say, if you're eating a low carb diet, calories don't count... and that seems to be absolutely true for some people. Others argue that they still can't lose weight without restricting calories. Others, including Dr. Eades, seem to be arguing that while there is likely to be a metabolic advantage to a low carb diet, that isn't a license to pack in an infinite number of calories (although the probable result of that will be not weight gain but a failure to lose weight). The latter makes the most sense to me, particularly since I've played a little with more calories, with no particular result (although I probably didn't stick with it for long enough).

A good basal metabolic rate calculator can be found here. It's simple, but the good thing is that it's based on age as well as the customary gender and height and weight. Anyway, that says I should be eating about 2,000 calories to maintain my weight and that Michael should be eating about 3,800 to maintain his (another example, in my opinion anyway, of how these things cannot be calculated with a simple formula as weight increases past some level... if that were really what he needed to eat, he would have been losing a couple of pounds a week at absolute minimum for the last two years). So... let's take that 2,000, and add an arbitrary 500 for the fact that I move around a lot (should probably be considerably more than that) and then let's add in an even more arbitrary 200 for some low-carb metabolic advantage. That would give me a budget of 2,700 at minimum... and let's say I'm eating about 2,100 calories... that's a calorie deficit of 600/day or 4,200/week, which should amount to 1.5 lbs. lost per week. Except, of course, that it's not really working that way.

And I have to say, I'm not exactly stuffed. I mean, I don't have some sense that I'm eating too much, and really, I'm not eating a lot... too much meat, maybe. And part of the calorie density is that we've been eating a lot of red meat lately and not so much chicken and fish, I guess. A lot of the time lately, too, I've been feeling hungry. Or, as Michael would say, peckish... not straving but I could sure eat something. Which to me suggests that the fat/protein balance is off; that I might do better getting more calories from fat and fewer from protein. The protein numbers for the last few days have been, I think, excessive. Protein is another of those things that it's hard to get a clear sense about. Is excess protein bad? And what level of protein is really excessive? Certainly I'm well above my minimum protein requirements... but those are minimums.

I have no idea.

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