Are there really fat burning foods and what foods help and/or hurt our metabolism? If so, are they good for the masses? These two questions specifically I clarify these by explaining the individuality and context of food and delivering a framework when looking at our nutrition based on our unique needs and preferences.
Connect with me on Instagram @jadeteta
Jade: [01:17] Ok, welcome everybody. Welcome to today’s show. We’ve been talking a lot about self-development, and topics around psychology and things like that. I’m going to switch back today into talking about metabolism and health, and specifically this idea of fat burning foods, and what foods help and/or hurt the metabolism. This is one of those things that I think people get wrong all the time, and part of the reason they get it wrong is because they wrongly believe that there are certain foods that are good for everybody and certain foods that are bad for everybody. They also tend to forget the context in which a food shows up in. So, let’s cover those two things first, and then I’m going to try you in this podcast – I’m going to give you a framework of which to work from when you’re evaluating a food. The first thing we need to understand is we need to understand individuality and context of food. The individuality part is pretty easy, or at least it should be. We all know we have different tastes. There’s some people who like bitter foods - they like beer, and they like brussels sprouts, and they like coffee – and these kinds of foods are good for them, or at least they like them. They don’t necessarily have a huge sweet tooth. Now, the other side of things, there are people who, obviously, crave sweets, have a huge sweet tooth and need to do certain things. It’s funny, I know people who have put, literally, Splenda on their eggs because they like sweet so much. Some people like hot sauce.
[03:01] So, we forget about these personal preferences that matter, and they matter a lot. If you take out a food that someone really loves, one of the things you learn in clinical practice really quickly – and clinical practice being different from just strictly looking at research papers – you start realizing that as soon as you remove a food from someone, you pretty much blow up the process. If you take chocolate, for example, from someone who absolutely adores chocolate, you are perhaps hurting their chances of being effective long-term as a lifestyle; not short-term maybe, but long-term. And the idea here is that we know conclusively that it is easier to lose weight for a short period of time than it is to maintain that weight over the long run. So, we have to look at individuals in terms of their personal preferences. We also have to look at individuals in their psychology and the way they manage stress. Like, when people are under stress, it can impact them in different ways. For some people it can elevate hunger pretty significantly, and for other people it has a normalizing effect, and for still others, it can actually suppress hunger. Now, short-term stress tends to be more appetite suppressing for most people, but chronic stress has been associated with cravings and hunger in many, many people; of course, not all – this is where it gets confusing because we would like to say it happens to everyone – but we know cortisol, because of some of the effects it has on the brain, effects people - probably most people - in a way that elevates the cravings for highly palatable foods, and causes us to be more hungry with stress; of course though, this is going to be different. We all know what this is like. Just think about going through the stress of a breakup or loss of a loved one, and some people’s appetite goes completely away and they can’t even think about food, and other people’s appetite becomes ravenous and all they want to do is food. So, we need to look at these psychological differences, and then, of course, there’s physiological differences. One person eats carbohydrate and it has an appetite suppressing effect. Other people eat carbohydrate and it makes them eat more or crave more. Some people feel like they get satisfied more from adding more fat. Some people do better on protein. Some people don’t like certain textures. We need to take all of this into account. One of the reasons people fail again and again is because they are ignorant to these ideas. Man, I call these, really, the 4 Ps of metabolic individuality. The difference is physiologically, and the way our body’s respond biochemically to certain things; the difference in our psychology, which is the way that individuals interact with the psychology, and stress, and other people, and things like that; then, it is all about personal preferences, what we like and what we don’t like; and then the fourth one that I haven’t mentioned yet is what I would call practicals – that is who are the people around you, what kind of environment do you live in, do you live around nothing but fast food places, do you have a spouse and kids who bring in junk food into the house, do you have an orderly sort of place, is your work place conducive – these are the practicals, the things that you don’t have a whole lot of control over that do influence you though.
[06:29] You can kind of think of the practicals as kind of like more your environmental influences. So, these 4 aspects of things, your unique physiology, psychology, personal preferences, and practicals play a role in whether or not a nutritional regime is going to be good for you or not. Then, of course, we have to look at context. Context is something that people miss all of the time. For example, if you are starving, then a Snickers bar or a doughnut or something like that actually becomes a health food. If you have already consumed 2,500 calories for the day, and you are going to add extra 100 calories or 200 calories of blueberries and blackberries, they are no longer a health food in those contexts. If you’re exercising a lot and eating a lot that’s very different than eating a lot and not exercising. Same thing with eating less and exercising more – eating very little plus trying to put out a lot of output in exercise is very different than eating less but not exercising a whole lot. These contexts matter because the way the physiology is set up is we react to stress. Remember, our metabolism is one big stress barometer, so it does look at the gap in calories, intake vs. output, and the farther that spread gets, whether from eating less and exercising more, or eating more and exercising less, that can register as a stress. Both of those can register as a stress as that calorie gap gets bigger and bigger, whether you’re taking in far too many calories or whether you’re in deficit for far too long. So, I talk an awful lot about this idea of context when I use these metabolic toggles. There’s eat less-exercise more and eat more-exercise less, sort of the dieter and couch potato, and this is the idea that most people are most familiar with, and they’re not even aware of the other options, which would be eating less and exercising less, and eating more and exercising more. Think about it: eating less and exercising less is not a huge stress for the metabolism. If you’re only taking in 1,000 calories, which for some people, they’re oh my god that’s too little – that’s not a problem if you’re not also burning 2,000 calories. The metabolism can deal with that a little bit. It can make up that difference, it’s not as stressful as it would be if you’re only taking in 1,000 and you’re trying to burn up 2,000. People miss this not realizing the stress of taking in only 1,000 while trying to burn 1,000 is far different than the stress of taking in 1,000 and doing nothing all day.
[09:09] Your body registers those two things as different, so context matters. A food that is a so-called junk food in one context is healthy in the example that I gave you about you’ve only had 500 calories today, you need to work out, and you have a Snickers bar; that’s not going to be a problem for you. That’s not going to cause an issue. As a matter of fact, you probably could use that extra fuel. Same token, you’ve eaten pizza all day for all weekend, and then you’re going to add extra blueberries on there as if that’s going to make a difference. In the end, that calorie difference matters, so this is something we need to realize whenever we have this conversation about what is healthy and what is not. We need to understand what is healthy for one person is not necessarily going to be healthy for the other person based on these 4 Ps – physiology, psychology, personal preference and practicals. And we also have to understand the context in which we’re talking about food. So, this puts complication on board and I wanted to mention this first, because I think once we have these conversations about what’s good and what’s bad people forget about this. Now, the final thing I’ll say here, and this goes back to individuality, one of the things you’ll learn when you’re in clinical practice and you end up working with thousands people over the years – at this point tens of thousands for me – you start to understand very clearly that you will see very healthy vegans and vegetarians, you will see very sick vegans and vegetarians, you will see healthy meat eaters, you will see very sick meat eaters; so, this idea is really about how do we match our unique 4 Ps with a nutritional protocol, and that we need to start being more nutritionally agnostic and just admit there is no one-size-fits-all diet. Not everyone should be vegan or vegetarian or will thrive on those diets, and it is ignorant in a sense not to understand that, although I do understand why people have those viewpoints, because they get their information primarily from their own experience and then they go to documentaries and things like that, and/or they’re just research based and not really realizing that research is really a tool for averages and not a tool for individuals, and that’s where I want to go next. Once you understand this idea of we are all very different and we are all individuals, once we start having the conversation about research, which is why we had to have this conversation first about individuality, we start to recognize that research is an imperfect tool for individuals; however, it is useful to get us in the ballpark because it does tell us about averages, what will work probably for most people. But the reason I went through all that discussion here in the beginning is I wanted to kind of make sure we all understand that what I’m getting ready to talk about next is really about averages and research, and we always have to defer to the idea that individuals will respond differently based on these 4 Ps, and based on the context they find themselves in.
[12:21] So, let’s get into now this idea of what would be a fat burning food and a, what I could call, a metabolic meal or a metabolic food that is healthy and functional for the metabolism. And let’s just define this as a food that, when you eat it, helps you manage hunger and cravings, keep energy stable, help you sleep better, maintain mood, also help you maintain or achieve optimal body composition. When I talk about fat loss foods, we are not talking about – there is no such thing as a food that when you eat it, it magically helps you burn fat. That is a ridiculous concept. There is no food that you eat that is magically going to help you burn fat. As a matter of fact, when you eat ANY food, ANY source of calories, your body will immediately stop burning its own calories and prioritize burning those calories. Let me say that again. It does not matter what you eat; once you do eat, the energy you take in through eating is going to cause your body to stop burning its own fuel and start using the fuel you just put in. From that point of view, there is no such thing as a fat burning food. When I’ve mentioned the concept of fat burning food, or I talk about a fat burning food, what I’m essentially saying is it’s a food that when you eat it makes it far more likely you can easily achieve a calorie deficit and shut down hunger and cravings, which help you achieve a calorie deficit. When we’re talking about fat loss, we need two things: we need a calorie deficit – that’s absolutely required; we also need hormonal metabolic balance. Now, this term hormonal metabolic balance is a term that is a imperfect term. I don’t even like the term, but what it’s trying to describe is that we need something to essentially manage our hunger and cravings to allow us to continue achieving that calorie deficit, and we also know that just because we are losing weight does not mean we are losing most fat. We could be losing water, we could be losing some muscle. Just because we’re gaining weight doesn’t mean we’re automatically gaining fat. We could be gaining water, we could be gaining some muscle. And if we’re losing weight, we want to maintain our lean mass as much as possible. That’s what makes us look good, feel good, function better, live longer. We want to burn fat primarily over just losing weight, so the hormonal metabolic balance helps us do that. It helps us – these hormones are involved in managing hunger and cravings and energy, and they are involved in making us burn mostly fat vs. some muscle.
[15:15] That’s what I mean by yes, we need a calorie deficit, but we need to be able to maintain that calorie deficit easily, and we need to be able to hopefully make sure that the whatever we are burning on our body is mostly fat. Very important concept to understand. So, that’s what a fat burning food is – ANY food that helps us to achieve those two things. Which then begs the question, if you have somebody who has, let’s say, a high fat-high sugar food like chocolate, and this person, based on the context of their life and their individual makeup, uses these foods as a buffer food – in other words, they have 3 or 4 Hershey’s Kisses at 3pm, and as a result of having this high sugar-high fat food, they end up eating better for the rest of the day, they end up having a salad, they end up eating a sensible dinner, they don’t binge into the night – then in that case, we would call the Hershey’s Kisses a fat burning food, because they helped this individual maintain hunger and cravings and eat better later on so that they could more easily achieve a calorie deficit. Now, I think most of us would admit that that’s rarely going to happen, but of course, we do know people like that, don’t we? I certainly do. I’m sure you do. I’m sure you know somebody who can have one or two cookies and then eat sensibly, and that the one or two cookies actually helps them continue to eat sensibly. We also know individuals who have those one or two cookies and then eat the whole bag of cookies, and then decide oh my god, I ruined it, and then order 2 pizzas and 2 burgers and end up eating 5,000 calories that day because of the two cookies. Now, most people are going to, again average, have some certain things that we’re going to want to look at, so now I’m going to talk about the concept of metabolic foods, and give you a framework at which to look at this just overall for you as an individual, or you and your clients – if you’re someone who coaches individuals – and then you can essentially put the individual’s 4 Ps, their physiology, psychology, their personal preference, and their practicals on top of this framework. So, here’s the framework that I’m going to give you based on the research. When you evaluate foods, what you want to do, in my mind, is you want to look at the research and the averages and say, these are the components, these are the things that when we look at the research and we look at averages, these are the things that make the biggest difference, and you want foods that have these components, they share these components. Then, once you have that understanding, then you want to take the individual – you or a client, whatever – take their 4 Ps, their physiology, their psychology, their personal preferences, and their practicals – and by the way, practicals has a lot to do with the context at which they’re eating – and then merge this together with the framework that I’m going to give you.
[18:07] So, what’s the framework? I want you to imagine – we’ll call this the metabolic foods framework or the metabolic meal framework. What we want is the following, and you can kind of think of this as pyramid, with the base of the pyramid being most important, or the thing we know the most about, and then we’ll work our way up. To me, a metabolic meal is a food that, first and foremost, satiates, causes long-term satiety, and satisfies. Now, these are words that basically point us to manage hunger and cravings. We want to eat foods that when we eat them take away hunger and cravings, take away the biological, biochemical urge to eat more. If we can control hunger, we control almost everything else. This, to me, is the most important aspect. A metabolic meal controls hunger and cravings. It takes the edge off, it makes us not want to eat more. Now, once we understand that, we essentially go ok, what are the foods that control hunger and cravings in most people but don’t add calories, and that’s the next level up in terms of this framework. We want foods that suppress hunger, we want foods with low calorie. So, what are those foods? Those are foods that – and research clearly shows us this – that are rich in protein, lean protein, fiber, and water-based foods. Yes, lean protein. Why lean protein here? Because fats add extra calories. Fat is the most calorie dense of all the foods. So, if we’re just trying to suppress hunger without adding extra calories, we want what primarily? We want primarily vegetables and lean protein sources. We want vegetables and lean protein sources. Protein, fiber, and water. And we all know what this is like. This is why you can take 5 chicken breasts and you would not be able to probably eat that in a day; however, if you had 5 doughnuts, you would easily be able to eat that in a day. Maybe even for breakfast for some people. Now, you may be aware that, or you may not be aware that a chicken breast and a doughnut roughly have the same amount of calories. It’s called 250-300 calories for about a 8 ounce chicken breast and a regular size doughnut. You are going to be hard pressed to eat 5-6 8 ounce chicken breasts. You could easily eat 5-6 doughnuts in a day.
[21:01] That’s the protein component, that lean protein, like chicken breast, like bison, like fish, these types of foods, like protein powders, whether they’re vegan/vegetarian protein powders, or whether they are milk-based protein powders, or beef based protein powders. Lean protein is huge here. Also, what’s huge here is a bucket load of vegetables. Vegetables are very low calorie, very high fiber, very water dense. This is why they fill you up so much. This goes to also differences in psychology, personal preferences, and physiology. A vegan or vegetarian can easily gravitate towards this even if they don’t do meat, because then they go ok, well, I know I want protein, fiber, and water, I don’t eat meat, so I need mostly vegetables, not mostly carbs. Most vegans and vegetarians are really carbins or starchins and starchitarians. Right away, if they understand this concept, they can go, oh, I want protein, fiber, and water, and I want low calories, what are those types of foods? Well, those are vegetables, and so I really have to stop being a starchin and eating mostly starch, or starchitarian and eating mostly starch, and become a vegetable-atarian and eat more vegetables. This is interesting, because I know meat eaters who eat more vegetables than some vegetarians and vegans. And again, so this talks about context and personal preference. So, the first part of this framework is control hunger and cravings. The next part is foods that are low in calories. The next part is foods that are nutrient dense, and the last part is foods that give enough palatability and hedonistic potential, but not too much. We’ll talk about that in a minute, because you’re probably going what did you just say, Jade? This is important, but there’s 4 parts to a metabolic meal. One, control hunger and cravings; two, low calorie; three, nutrient density; four, tasty enough but not too tasty. These are the foods that we want to be thinking about. These are what metabolic meals are all about. This is what a fat burning lifestyle would be all about, nutritionally speaking. Can I control hunger with a low amount of calories with also a lot of nutrient density, and actually, my food tastes good enough, but it’s not so good that it sends me off on binges. Those are the kind of meals that we are looking for. So, when we think about that, right away you see that when we talk about this idea of low calorie and hunger suppressing, we talk about lean proteins, water sources, and fiber sources. I often times talk about a little sort of easy way to remember this. This essentially comes down to soups, salads, scrambles, shakes, and stir-fries. Soups, salads, scrambles, shakes, stir-fries – these are foods, protein, fiber, and water rich, especially if you have soups, salads, scrambles, shakes, and stir fries that are low in fat and low in carbohydrate.
[24:10] Now, again, there’s nothing wrong with fats and carbohydrates. In fact, they’re wonderful for a lot of people, and some people thrive on those. But remember, we’re talking about just in general, and we’re talking about someone we’re assuming we’re talking about weight loss, fat burning, so we’re assuming this person wants to lose weight. So, what we want is highly hunger suppressing so we’re not eating everything in sight, and low calorie so that the things we do eat help us easily achieve a calorie deficit. Then, of course, we want nutrient density. What are those foods? Those are going to be foods with here’s where some of the fats come in and things like that. These are going to be foods that are very nutrient dense. Obviously, vegetables and fruits and meats are going to win here. Again, these things are very nutrient dense. Then, you can start talking about, well, we also need essential fats, and we need that kind of thing; but, the last piece here, which the food is tasty enough, but not too tasty, is the idea of combinations of foods. What we know is the most highly palatable foods have a unique combination. That combination is sugar and/or starch, fat, and salt, and alcohol. These are the things that make foods taste good. If you take potato and you add salt, and you add fat in it, you will love that potato and want to eat huge servings of that potato. However, if you just take a plain baked potato and eat that, it’s going to have a very different effect. This is the reason why bland white rice that the Asians tend to eat vs. stir fried, fat laden, salt laden rice that Americans tend to eat are two different foods. The bland white rice is tasty enough, but it doesn’t trigger overconsumption. The salted fat-based rice is very tasty and causes overconsumption. This is the reason why pizza, burgers, french fries, things that combine fat, starch, and salt are overeaten to an excess. This is why potato chips are overeaten. This is why tortilla chips are overeaten. So, what we want when we talk about fat burning foods and metabolic meals is we want food to taste good enough, but not be so tasty is causes us to overeat; and this is where this sort of trickiness comes in. We want foods that satiate and satisfy. This is primarily going to be lean protein and vegetables – think chicken and broccoli – that are also calorie dense. Again, think chicken and broccoli with basically some added fruit. We’re talking the paleo lifestyle here when we’re talking about hunger suppressing, and we talk about this idea of calorie sparse. Then, we want nutrient density. This is where plant foods, and essential fats, and things like that come in.
[27:01] We really want to amplify fruits and vegetables even more with enough but not too much of the other things, and some good quality fats here. But again, we don’t want nutrient density and then causing calorie excess, especially for overweight. The priority first should be lose weight, not add extra calories on. Again, it goes back to that whole thing, if you’ve already consumed 3,000 calories for the day, 2 cups of blueberries are not going to be helpful at that point; they’re going to be hurtful. At that point, the blueberries become a junk food; they just add to the calorie burden. So, first we need to control the calorie burden, then we want to make sure we’re getting the nutrient density. Then, we also want to make sure we’re enjoying our food, that it’s not like making us gag, but it’s also not so palatable we’re overeating like crazy. Now, once we do that, once we get this soups, salads, scrambles, shakes, and stir-fries and then add enough of salt, sugar, fat, alcohol to make our meals tasty enough but not too tasty to cause us to overeat, now we have a base level meal plan that we can begin to move forward with, and then we now take our particulars, our 4 Ps and merge them onto this idea of what is a fat burning food or a metabolic meal. This metabolic meal has those 4 parameters – shuts down hunger and cravings, is calorie sparse, is nutrient dense, and is palatable enough but not too palatable. Those are the 4 things you should become fanatical about when you’re looking at your meals, and then you merge those 4 things with the 4 Ps – your unique physiology, this takes some time, perhaps, to figure out what foods sit with you and what foods don’t. Maybe every time you have meat or beef you get heartburn, or burping or belching. Maybe you have low hydrochloric acid function. Maybe you’re gluten sensitive. That talks about your physiology. Psychology-wise, maybe there’s certain foods that are comforting for you that you need to have to actually eat better. This would be like, well, I need to have cream in my coffee, it’s a buffer food; I need to have some dark chocolate, it’s a buffer food; when I have wine, it helps me rather than hurts me maintain this calorie deficit and this nutrient density. So, you have to take into account your psychology and your personal preferences. Then, you have to manage your practicals around this. What actually is available to me? If I’m shopping, like in some neighborhoods, and your only place to shop is an Exxon Mobil station, that changes a little bit the kind of meal you’re going to be able to eat, or your client is going to be able to eat, and you’re going to have to work within that framework. But, I wanted to give you this understanding because I do think people don’t quite understand how to manage all the information that’s coming at them.
[30:07] Whenever you have a new food or a new way of thinking about food, I suggest you start to filter it through these 8 parameters, or these two frameworks that I’ve suggested – the 4Ps of every individual; what’s their physiology, what’s their psychology, what’s their personal preferences, and what are their practicals; and then also, the key parameters of what a fat burning food or a metabolic meal really means – a food that suppresses hunger and cravings while remaining calorie sparse, while being nutrient dense, while also being tasty enough but not so tasty it sends us off on a search for more highly palatable foods. This is a really good way to start thinking about nutrition so that you’re not stuck in this mentality of there’s only one way to do things, and you start to realize oh, no wonder certain things work for me and certain things don’t; no wonder why if I do chicken and broccoli all day long I may be completely stuffed, but I still am craving a taste for something. So, this gives you though what you want to be shooting for. Those 4 parameters, in terms of what a metabolic meal is, combined with your 4 unique attributes – the 4 Ps – help you to begin to understand how to manage food around your metabolism, and give you an idea of what we really mean when we’re talking about fat burning foods and metabolic meals. Alright, I’m going to stop the podcast here today. I hope you enjoyed this podcast. Do me favor, go over to iTunes if you’re enjoying this and give me some love over there. Also, if you have further questions, you can find me @jadeteta on instagram. Definitely DM me there and I’ll try to get to your questions if I have the time. I will see you on the next podcast.