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Nutrition guidelines for optimal health and performance

With all the conflicting information available online it can be difficult to decipher the correct course of action when it comes time to formulate a nutrition plan. In this article I will elucidate the core principles of the Alpha Actualization nutritional philosophy.

1. Prioritize saturated and monounsaturated fats

Saturated and monounsaturated fats should comprise the vast majority of your fat intake. These fats are far more stable and resistant to oxidation when compared to polyunsaturated fats, the health ramifications of this simple fact are staggering and will be detailed in a future article concerning the dangers of vegetable/seed oil consumption.

Saturated and monounsaturated fats will raise testosterone while polyunsaturated fat will lower testosterone. Saturated fat is especially good at raising testosterone, even more so than monounsaturated fat.

In my own diet the majority of my fat intake comes from whole milk, beef and eggs. Other good fat sources include butter, cheese, coconut oil, macadamia nuts (or macadamia oil) and tallow. Ghee is not a good source of fat as it contains an excessive amount of oxysterols which are harmful.

2. Minimize intake of polyunsaturated fats

Polyunsaturated fat intake should not exceed 10% of total fat intake, so if you eat 100 grams of fat per day your polyunsaturated fat intake should be 10 grams or less.

In order to meet this target you will need to avoid nearly all processed foods as they usually include vegetable/seed oils as ingredients and these oils are typically very high in polyunsaturated fat.

Polyunsaturated fat will lower testosterone via several mechanisms:

- Exposing the leydig cells to increased oxidative stress

- Lowering cholesterol which is a precursor to testosterone production

- Increased intake of phytosterols if the polyunsaturated fat comes from vegetable/seed oils*

*These oils are very rich in phytosterols which have been shown to directly interfere with testosterone production.

3. Eat enough total fat

While points 1 and 2 have stressed the importance of ensuring that most of your fat intake comes from saturated and monounsaturated fats, it's also important that you get enough fat overall.

For optimal testosterone production aim for at least 1 gram of fat per kilogram of body weight. Eating even more fat than this doesn't do much to increase testosterone further, it simply adds more calories that would be better obtained via carbohydrate.

4. Avoid low carbohydrate diets

Although low carbohydrate diets are fine for sedentary or lightly active people they are not suitable for highly active people burning through vast quantities of muscle glycogen.

If you perform high volume bodybuilding workouts, several hours of moderate to high intensity endurance training per day, or you have an extremely physically demanding job then you will need enough carbohydrate to replenish your glycogen stores.

Sedentary or lightly active people burn very little muscle glycogen and what little carbohydrate they need can be supplied via gluconeogenesis (the liver can convert amino acids into glucose). Assuming they eat enough protein to account for the amino acids lost to the gluconeogenesis process they should be able to maintain their muscle mass and glycogen levels reasonably well even on low carbohydrate diets.

Highly active people simply burn too much muscle glycogen for gluconeogenesis to account for, these people will need to increase their carbohydrate intake to account for this.

Not eating enough carbohydrate to match your needs will result in suppression of thyroid hormones, increased cortisol, decreased testosterone, reduced serotonin production and an inability to maintain or increase muscle mass.

5. Prioritize starch rather than sugar

While ensuring that you eat enough carbohydrate to replenish muscle glycogen is important, it's just as important to make sure you eat the right kind of carbohydrate.

Glucose can be converted into glycogen by your muscles and your liver while fructose can only be converted into glycogen by your liver. In order to replenish muscle glycogen most effectively the majority of your carbohydrate intake should come from starch sources (rice, bread, potatoes, pasta etc.) as starch breaks down into glucose when digested.

Most sugars are only 50% glucose at best, for example sucrose is 50% glucose and 50% fructose, lactose is 50% glucose and 50% galactose (which can only replenish liver glycogen just like fructose) and HFCS which is very similar to sucrose but with a little more fructose and a little less glucose. Dextrose is an exception, it is 100% glucose in powdered form and is usually man-made from refined starch although small amounts can occur naturally in some foods. Maltodextrin also breaks down into glucose when digested.

After an intense workout or hard day at a very physically demanding job it's better to get 100 grams of carbohydrate from starch rather than 100 grams of carbohydrate from sucrose, the starch will be broken down into 100 grams of glucose while the sucrose will be broken down into 50 grams of glucose and 50 grams of fructose.

Even though you've eaten the same amount of carbohydrate and calories you will promote much more glycogen replenishment in your muscles after eating the starch because you have provided 100 grams of glucose compared to only 50 grams of glucose from the sucrose.

This is not to say that you should be afraid of fructose, when eaten in moderation fructose is not harmful, it only becomes harmful when eaten in excess (generally above 100 grams per day). A few pieces of fruit or some berries or a glass of pomegranate juice will not harm you and can actually be beneficial for your health as they provide antioxidants and soluble fiber.

A good rule of thumb is to keep fructose intake below 100 grams per day and prioritize starch as your primary source of carbohydrate.

6. Eat enough protein but don't go overboard

1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight is more than enough for the vast majority of people, the standard recommendation of 1 gram per pound of body weight (2.2 grams per kg) is overkill and a waste of money, mostly advertising propaganda from protein supplement companies.

7. Most of your protein intake should come from animal sources

The best protein sources are meats, eggs and dairy products. These proteins are complete proteins and have the highest biological value. Plant proteins have a lower biological value, even when combined/mixed to form complete proteins.

The 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight recommendation mentioned above in point 6 assumes that the majority of your protein intake is coming from animal sources. If the majority of your protein intake comes from plant sources (which is not recommended) then you should aim for 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight rather than 1.5 grams per kilogram of bodyweight.

8. Be mindful of antinutrients

Antinutrients are compounds that interfere with the body's ability to absorb vitamins and minerals. The vast majority of antinutrients are found in plant foods although a much smaller number exist in animal foods.

Some examples of antinutrients are:

- Phytic acid

- Oxalates

- Avidin

Phytic acid and oxalates are primarily found in grains, seeds, various nuts, legumes and vegetables. Avidin is found in raw egg whites but can be inactivated when cooked.

One of the major problems with whole grains is their antinutrient content. For example, brown rice would appear to be superior to white rice if you looked simply at the vitamin and mineral contents, but once you factor in the antinutrient content of brown rice that advantage vanishes.

Adding whole grains such as brown rice to a mixed meal containing meat can actually interfere with the absorption of minerals such as iron and zinc found in the meat.

In this case you would be better off eating white rice which has only trace amounts of phytic acid compared to brown rice. The small difference in zinc and iron content between brown and white rice simply doesn't matter, what matters is keeping phytic acid away from the meat.

Eating a steak along with some white rice will result in much greater overall zinc and iron absorption from the meal compared to eating steak along with brown rice. The fact that brown rice has more zinc and iron than white rice is irrelevant, keep the big picture in mind.

For the record, white basmati rice is the starch source I recommend most, it contains only trace amounts of antinutrients, it is gluten free, has a moderate glycemic index while all other white rices have a high glycemic index, it has the lowest arsenic content of all rices, it contains only trace amounts of fat, contains no FODMAPs and is very versatile, you can make an almost endless variety of dishes using just rice, meat and seasonings.

9. Fiber is conditionally beneficial

Fiber is not an essential nutrient, although it can be beneficial in the right context. Firstly we need to differentiate between soluble fiber and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber attracts water and turns into a gel-like substance. Insoluble fiber does not attract water and passes through the digestive system unchanged.

Soluble fiber feeds the gut microbiota, microorganisms can easily and quickly metabolize soluble fiber. Soluble fiber also helps to decrease the absorption of oxysterols and advanced glycation end products (AGEs), both of which are harmful to health.

If you're someone who eats a standard Western diet full of processed foods that are heat treated during production then you are likely ingesting a significant amount of oxysterols and AGEs. In this context adding soluble fiber to your diet would offer some protection by reducing the amount of oxysterols and AGEs absorbed by the body.

Likewise, if you enjoy your meat well-done then you are creating more oxysterols and AGEs compared to medium-rare meat for example. In this context adding soluble fiber to your diet would also offer some protection.

It's a myth that fiber is essential for a healthy gut microbiome, although it's true that gut microbiota feed on soluble fiber, they are able to survive and thrive just fine even on a diet completely devoid of fiber.

If you're someone who doesn't eat processed foods, doesn't overcook their meat and who doesn't take antibiotics unnecessarily then soluble fiber is not really going to help you much at all, if at all.

If you're someone who experiences constipation regularly or you suffer from diverticular disease then increasing your intake of both soluble and insoluble fiber can help.

10. A reduced meal frequency can help control appetite and provide a variety of health benefits

Reducing your meal frequency is one of the most impactful changes you can make to your diet when it comes to improving your health.

Adult humans do not need to be constantly eating throughout the day and evening, in fact I would argue that this grazing pattern of eating is detrimental to health.

In my opinion human beings are healthiest and better able to control their appetites when eating less frequently and incorporating some kind of fasting period into their daily routines.

Some of the most popular fasting or time-restricted eating strategies include:

- 16/8

- 20/4

- 23/1 (also called OMAD)

- EOD (eating every other day)

I want to introduce you to another strategy that works amazingly well, I use it personally and have recommended it to others who have also had great success with it. 2MAD or 2 meals a day.

You may be thinking that many people following a 16/8 or 20/4 strategy are already eating 2 meals a day during their feeding windows, where 2MAD differs is the spacing of the meals. 2MAD as I describe it looks something like this:

- AM meal at 6:00 AM

- PM meal at 6:00 PM

The meals do not need to be spaced exactly 12 hours apart, close enough is good enough, eating at 7 AM and 6 PM or at 5 AM and 6 PM are both close enough, don't stress over trying to space your meals perfectly 12 hours apart.

You could also eat at 10 AM and 10 PM if you wanted to, it doesn't really matter what the actual meal times are.

Essentially you are eating 2 meals spaced apart by roughly 12 hours. This is very different to how most people approach eating 2 meals a day. Most people will either skip breakfast and eat only lunch and dinner or they will skip dinner and eat only breakfast and lunch. People adhering to a 16/8 strategy usually fall into this category.

Why do I prefer to skip lunch and just eat breakfast and dinner? It's very simple, I don't need to worry about having to take food to work, or take food with me if I'm out and about on the weekend. Not having to worry about eating lunch can also save you a great deal of money because you won't be tempted to buy fast food when out of the house.

Some of the potential benefits of a reduced meal frequency include:

- Increased autophagy

- Increased metabolic flexibility

- Lower fasting glucose

- Lower fasting insulin

- Stable energy level and focus

- Appetite suppression

- Less prep/cooking/cleaning time

- Less money spent on fast food

Whether you opt for 2MAD like me or some other fasting/feeding strategy (there are pros and cons to each strategy) I have no doubt that you'll feel so much better and be healthier when compared to grazing all day and evening like the average person.

Watch the video below to hear how Jason has optimized his health and performance by adhering to the guidelines in this article:


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