Meet Mother Nature’s Perfect Macronutrient Ratio.

MacronutrientCellStructureIf you’ve ever attempted to stick to a diet that required you to count each and every calorie consumed..

Then you may well know that it isn’t the easiest thing to do. Fortunately… There is a better way.

Unfortunately, this “better way” seems to be basically over-looked anytime the Paleo diet, or nutrition in general, is brought up for discussion.

Knowing how to “piece together” meals in order for them to have optimal macronutrient ratios, is a foundational component to evolutionary nutrition.

As more and more people come around to realizing that the way in which they’ve been eating has set them up for a myriad of potential health related problems down the road, it’s important that they don’t jump out of the frying pan… only to land in another, even hotter, frying pan.

And such is the case for many that have been searching for the diet that will actually provide them with the life-changing results that they want..

When expanding your understanding of food and it’s affects on your health.. Having a solid grasp on macronutrients is absolutely essential in order to see the big picture.. Continued nutritional education is the other critical component of the Paleo movement that sometimes gets over looked.

Below, we’ll not only discuss how to make sure your macronutrient game is right, we’ll also talk a bit about why proper macronutrient ratios are so important.

 

missingthepointMissing The Point.

For the most part, there isn’t much emphasis on the importance of dieting based on proper macronutrient ratios. Besides the obligatory medical sites, most of the emphasis, when discussing the Paleo diet, is put on the specific foods that either do or don’t fall within the guidelines of the diet.

Even the institutions that rally to attempt to debunk the Paleo diet never bother to bring up the importance of macronutrient ratios.

Your body is one giant macronutrient ratio.. Eating in accordance with this ratio is key to achieving the benefits that you’re looking to get out of eating healthy.

Without a solid understanding of this concept and how to incorporate it into your dietary habits, you’ll be forever lost on your dietary health journey.

Interestingly enough, the macronutrient ratio that a proper diet would consist of is also a ratio that can be found elsewhere throughout nature..

Mother Nature Knows Best.

Many times throughout human history, our capacity to over-analyze a problem and completely miss the simple, common sense, and sometimes obvious solution has gotten us into various kinds of trouble.

Such is the case with the way in which we’ve collectively chosen to feed our bodies… “Choosing”  grains as one of our primary food sources has left us with a diet that basically takes that common sense solution and flips it completely upside down. The solution being referred to here is, of course, optimal macronutrient ratios.

For the sake of clarity, a macronutrient is simply the three building blocks of food. The amount of these nutrients that a food contains defines it’s macronutrient ratio.

The three macronutrients are:

  • Proteins
  • Fats
  • Carbohydrates

For the past 4-5 decades, most people’s diets have quickly progressed into having a very high ratio of grain based carbohydrates.. this flawed ratio that has somehow slithered it’s way into being the de facto diet for most Americans, is at complete odds with the ratio of macronutrients that is found reoccurring throughout nature.

Nutritional Composition of The Human Body

Upon initially breaking down the composition of the human body into the three main categories of nutrients, you would come to the conclusion that it would roughly be:

  • 25% Protein
  • 73% Fat
  • 2% Carbohydrate ( Glycogen stored in the muscles and liver )

But that’s not the full story..

Protein and fat molecules actually contain some carbohydrates, so you have to go one step further and break them down into their different elements as well..

Without getting overly technical, after it’s all said and done.. The nutritional makeup of the human body looks more like the below:

  • 23% Protein
  • 64% Fat
  • 13% Carbohydrate

Pay attention to those numbers.. That is the composition of you.

That ratio of nutrients is important for anyone that aims to eat in alignment with their biological makeup rather than against it, which is what an ancestral dieting is all about.

What We Can Learn From Breast Milk

It’s not too much of an exaggeration to say that there are many out there who haven’t eaten how nature intended for them to eat since they were a baby.

It’s been proven that breast-fed infants are healthier, in general, than formula-fed infants. Taking a closer look at what nature has determined to be an optimal food source for us in our absolute most formative years in life can provide some valuable insights..

For our purposes today, we’ll talk solely about breast milk’s macronutrient ratio.

Not only human breast milk, but the milk of all species of mammals consists of about:

  • 10-20% Protein
  • 50% Fats
  • 25-40% Carbohydrate

For many, this fact alone is be enough to make them question the logic of a “low fat” diet, and we tend to agree.. You may notice that the carbohydrate percentage is a bit higher than the composition of the human body like we just discussed… but breast milk isn’t intended for adult humans.. it’s been designed specifically for babies.

While we can certainly use the nutritional make-up of breast milk  in the quest to determine optimal macronutrient ratios.. There are a few key points that need to be taken into consideration.

In infancy, humans have ridiculously large brains compared to body size… The infant brain is about 10% of total body weight, and more importantly, it accounts for about 75% of total calorie consumption. By comparison, the brain of an adult human accounts for about 2% of total body weight and consumes about 25% of all available calories. Big difference.

What this tells us is that an infant’s needs for carbohydrates is going to be much higher than that of an adult’s, because the brain primarily uses carbohydrates for fuel, and apparently babies are all brain and no body.

Key insights:

  • All mammalian breast milk has a macronutrient ratio of : 50% fats, 25-40% carbohydrates, and 10-20% protein.   As pointed out by a commenter below, this statement isn’t accurate. While human breast milk and that of most other mammals does mimic the above macronutrient ratios. There are many mammals that produce breast milk with macronutrient ratios that are all over the board. That said, there is certainly still a heavy bias towards the the above ratios.
  • Infant brains require significantly more carbohydrates due to larger brain to body ratio.
  • Breast milk still shows huge emphasis on fats

The conclusion to draw from all of this is that after adjusting for a decreased need for carbohydrate due to a smaller percentage of our nutrients being consumed by a big baby brain, breast milk closely mirrors the composition of the human body. In other words, nature thinks it to be a good idea to eat in accordance to the nutrient ratio of your body.

 gorilladietWhat All The Other Animals Eat

A popular point  made by proponents of vegetarianism is that there are many strong, intelligent, and well developed animals in the wild that eat a vegetarian diet.. So why can’t humans eat a diet absent of meat?

It is an interesting point.. Look at gorillas, for example, who are largely vegetarian but possess some one of the most powerful, intimidating physical presences found in nature. There aren’t many things other than a great white shark that I wouldn’t prefer to encounter in the wild besides an angry gorilla.

I think it’s safe to say that whatever the gorilla is eating is certainly working for it. You simply don’t develop that type of musculature without the right nutrients..

And while it’s true that the gorilla eats a diet that is higher in carbohydrate and lower in protein than what would be considered to be in alignment with the before mentioned universal macronutrient ratio..

As usual, it’s necessary to go one step further to see the full picture..

You see.. Through evolution, humans have lost significant portions of our digestive tracts that gorillas still possess. With the growth of our brains, and therefore, tools.. we humans learned to sort of “pre-digest” our foods before it even entered the body… We no longer needed that portion of our intestines… so we simply “grew out of it”.

Humans have, perhaps inconveniently, lost the ability to transform nutrients. Unlike the gorilla which still retains the full ability to transform nutrients before they are actually used by the gorilla’s body for energy production.

I’m guessing by now you know where this is headed.. After the gorilla transforms it’s consumed nutrients, it’s dietary macronutrient ratio is:

  • 60% Fat
  • 24% Protein
  • 16% Carbohydrate

The gorilla eats a ton of fibrous vegetables that it is then capable of transforming into the proper nutrients. It’s important to keep in mind that humans have evolved out of that ability, due to the use  of tools and food preparation, enabled by our brain growth.

The same is true with all other mammals as well… regardless of what they actually eat, their bodies are fueled by a universal arrangement of nutrients that so obviously mirrors on very own macronutrient composition.

Our developed brains aren’t the only things that distinguish us from the rest of the animal kingdom… We also have the distinction of not being able to transform our food into the nutrients our body needs.  It seems that we traded our ability to transform nutrients for the ability to make fire and tools.

Fair Trade.

All in all.. We certainly got the better end of that deal..

The human brain is an absolute power house of a development in the timeline of history. It’s allowed us to ensure the survival of our species above and beyond most all potential competitors… That is the goal.. right?

In fact, survival isn’t even something that most of us even consider.. That is the measure of the evolutionary edge that the human brain has afforded us.. Truly, a gift to be appreciated.

It only comes with just one catch.. We have to actually use it for it to be an advantage.

Somewhere along the “low fat” eat nothing but breads, cereals, corn, and grains mindset of the last few decades.. We’ve completely stopped using it.

Especially, it seems, when it comes to the very thing that allowed the development of such a priceless possession in the first place.. The food we eat.

For more about how to implement the optimal macronutrient into your Paleo meal plan… check out this post.

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Comments

  1. Thank you so much for posting such an informative article! I’ve seen a lot of videos lately promoting a super high carb vegan diet, because “that’s what we’re designed to eat,” with gorillas cited as supporting evidence for this.

    It was nice to see such a well thought out article detailing these ratios. :)

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