Reader Q&A: Perfect Meal, Protein Restriction, Bulletproof Coffee, and Longer Fasts

ReaderQ&A Melanie Avalon

I’m starting this Q&A series because I often get random questions from strangers (soon to be friends!) about Paleo/IF etc. Rather than individually answering them, I figured I might as well go public, and help others along the way.¬†Feel free to submit questions here.¬†

The following questions come from Shanna, who has experimented with Paleo/keto/IF in the past, but after reading¬†The What When Wine Diet, is now committedly putting them together (and keeping some clear gin along the way!) We’ll look at the “Perfect Meal” for IF, Protein requirements, when to have Bulletproof Coffee, and longer fasts.

Here are Shanna’s questions:

1) What is the “Perfect Meal” to eat for dinner? If I wanted to build 5 such dinners? Do you have a post or anything that I could follow? Just to get started (last night I ate a steak and broccoli slathered in kerrygold butter).¬†

Note: Shanna is asking about the perfect meal in a dinner-only, intermittent fasting protocol. She also wants to know about the protein-restriction suggested in this post: Easier Way to Achieve Calorie Restriction Benefits:

“…exchange [processed foods and carbs] for healthy fats like butter, eggs, avocado,¬†coconut oil, olive oil, and nuts‚ÄĒessentially the very fats the media and “experts” tell you to avoid. You may also want to¬†restrict your protein¬†a bit if you’re typically a big meat eater. I strongly suggest eating only high-quality pastured protein, and limiting it to about one gram of protein per kilogram of lean body mass (about one-half gram of protein per pound of lean body weight) may be appropriate for most people. (Note: if your body¬†fat¬†mass is 20 percent, your¬†lean¬†mass is 80 percent of your total body weight.) These kinds of food choices, in combination with intermittent fasting, will help shift you from carb-burning to fat-burning mode.”¬†

ANSWER:¬†Shanna’s steak and broccoli slathered in kerrygold sounds like a pretty perfect meal for an IF dinner (or even non-fasted dinner)!¬†The idea is to get all the necessary protein and nutrients for body growth and repair, as well as fat for energy, while minimizing factors which will spike insulin/blood sugar and leave you hungry soon after (aka, processed foods and carbs/sugar).

For the “perfect meal,” I suggest:

1. Start with a¬†piece of meat¬†which meets (pun intended) your protein requirements (more on that below). Think a nice steak, some fish, or even chicken. I tend to go either the steak route, or a combination of lean chicken and fatty salmon (to maximize protein and healthy omega-3 fats). For fattier cuts, favor grass-fed, since the nutrients, vitamins, and any potential toxins, are stored in the fat. If I’m eating simple plain, lean chicken, I like to supplement it with grass-fed gelatin or collagen (a la¬†Great Lakes), in order to balance the protein ratio, making it less inflamamtory and more supportive of joint health.

2. Add some¬†healthy fats¬†to satiety, if your protein isn’t already super fatty (like a juicy ribeye). Even if it is fatty, you can still add more healthy grass fed butter or coconut oil. Also consider a super food fat, like grass-fed bone marrow, or pastured egg yolks.

3. Fill out the plate with healthy green vegetables: think broccoli, spinach, brussel sprouts, etc.

4. I also suggest adding some¬†fermented foods¬†to every meal, in order to support a healthy gut biome. Examples include sauerkraut and kimchi, or kefir, if you’re allowing dairy. Make sure the fermented foods contain¬†live¬†cultures (most sauerkraut, for example, is pasteurized). Also¬†read labels – you’d be shocked how often these foods contained added sugars and other nefarious ingredients.¬†Consider¬†Bubbies sauerkraut¬†(which¬†is¬†slightly heated, but still contains live cultures) or my new favorite,¬†Vegi-Delite¬†(available at Whole Foods).

5. And of course, feel free to have a glass of¬†red wine¬†(or in Shanna’s case, clear gin)!

On Protein Requirements: As mentioned in the Mercola post, daily protein requirements are around 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body mass. You calculate this by determining your BMI (via a scale which does so, or with a less specific online calculator), and then using that percent to determine your lean body mass. (Simply subtract your BMI from 100, to determine the lean body fat percentage). However, if all else fails, you can really just do 1 gram per pound of total body weight in my opinion.

This protein “restriction” isn’t so much restriction, as simply meeting baseline requirements, since many people in the Paleo world tend to go crazy on meat, and eat excess protein (as I often do). ¬†Moderating protein is recommended, because¬†protein in excess of requirements can be converted into glucose¬†(sugar) by the liver. This can actually spike blood sugar levels, kick you out of ketosis, or make you hungrier. That being said, if you have to choose between eating too many carbs or eating too much protein (though neither is ideal), I’d say choose the protein. Adding fat or green carbs to excess protein, might also mediate the potential insulin spike. I’ve actually been recently experimenting with slightly less protein, and more green veggies (a la Brussel sprouts), and have noticed a slight anti-inflammatory response.

In sum:¬†So for the “Perfect Meal,” it’s gonna take some experimentation. Play around with your meal each night, until you find the right combination(s) which fills you up, and keeps you pleasantly satisfied and full of energy until your next meal.

2) Should I do bulletproof coffee after boot camp if I’m not planning to eat again until dinner?

ANSWER:¬†For the unfamiliar, bulletproof coffee is a type of coffee developed by¬†Dave Asprey.¬†You basically blend a tablespoon or two of grass fed butter/ghee or coconut/MCT oil into your coffee, during the fasting window. The idea is that by consuming ONLY fat in the fasting window, you do not “break” your fast (since your body is running on fat anyways during a such a time). I’m a smidge skeptical of the butter, ghee, and coconut oil, since they do contain components which *might* require digestion. However straight up MCT oil is rapidly converted to brain-fueling ketones, so I believe this is a nice way to go.

The second part of bulletproof coffee, is using mold and toxin free coffee. Dave is a big proponent of the idea that toxins in foods create inflammation and brain fog. (And I agree.) His super expensive, albeit toxin free, “Bulletproof Coffee” (available for purchase at¬†Erewhon,¬†Amazon, and his¬†personal site) is created to further prevent the “crash and burn” feeling. I’ve tried Dave’s coffee, and definitely notice a difference from regular coffee

So that’s the backstory. Bulletproof coffee gives you INSANE energy… and I mean insane. Like…. I can now conquer the world!¬†type thing. So for the question about coffee AFTER a morning bootcamp/workout, I’d say it depends on when the activity ends. If it’s an early morning thing, then feel free to have some bulletproof coffee after. But if you’re getting done in the afternoon, you might want to skip the bulletproof coffee, or only have a tiny bit, so as to not completely dull your appetite for dinner/impede sleep quality. Try it both ways, and see how you feel and perform! Shanna’s boot camp starts at 5:30am, so some bulletproof coffee after should be fine. If it keeps you up at night, just have less the next day.

3) If I wanted to fast from dinner Monday to dinner on Wednesday is that too long?

ANSWER:¬†This one is¬†completely up to you. I’ve actually never done a 48 hour fast. I’ve never even fasted more than one whole day. (I personally can’t fall asleep “empty” as it were.) However, if you are the type who¬†can¬†go longer than 24 hours, and assuming you aren’t¬†already underweight, you’ll be fine! The metabolic changes for¬†fat burning and growth hormone benefits continue to escalate for the first 72 hours or so of a fast (and possibly even longer).¬†Check out this chart.¬†So if you’re used to fasting and have a bit of spare fat to lose, a longer fast should be just dandy (with protein stores still protected, contrary to popular belief). Fasting also promotes increased protein synthesis once you resume eating, so you don’t have to worry so much about muscle loss. Basically, if you’ve got some fat to lose, and can easily fast longer – by all means go ahead. You’ll slam through that body fat. This however, is straight up fasting, not really¬†“intermittent fasting”¬†as I outline.¬†

So go for it. It won’t kill you (and will likely be pretty awesome for you), but if you find yourself weak or lethargic for a substantial amount of time, you might want to back off a bit.

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