The Low Fat Diet

The Low Fat Diet or 80/10/10

Last year, I stumbled upon the Low Fat Diet while I was exploring the world of raw vegan foods.

The purpose to explore this diet was to see how different foods would influence my concentration and running performance. I'm convinced that you'll only gain knowledge about something if you try it and feel initial and sometimes long-lasting changes.

Most people understand the principles of a low fat diet where one ideally consumes foods that are low in fat. This can mean consuming foods like lean meat and low-fat dairy products. The fact is that processed foods often contain more refined sugars and artificial flavors than the body is able to handle.

Over time, excess weight is shed and the result is a leaner body. But less body weight doesn't automatically equal healthy and fit.

There is another approach to the low-fat diet. Dr. Doug Graham, an advocate of raw veganism, created the so-called 80/10/10 diet and turned studies into user-friendly principles anyone can apply.

80/10/10 refers to the three-calorie nutrients. A minimum of 80 percent of calories should come from carbohydrates, a maximum of 10 percent of calories from fat and another 10 percent from protein.

A research on 5000 people who lived on raw vegan foods showed a 65% - 70% consumption of fat. The average American eats roughly 40% of calories from fat. In contrast, these fats can be defined as saturated fatty acids found in baking goods and deepfry oils whereas some raw foodists eat high amounts nuts, avocados and seeds.

The world authorities recommend about 10% as a maximum which compares to the principles of the low fat diet.

The bottom line, as Dr. Graham states, is that all diets should lead towards greater consumptions of greens. There is nothing else to it except to eat more vegetables and salads. And to go easy on fat. The result will be a leaner body, more energy and mental clarity.

According to Dr. Graham's low fat diet, the main food groups are classified into subcategories.

It took me a while to understand the different food combinations and prepare my meals that are recommended in the recipe section and I learned a lot in the process. The more consciously I combined foods the more aware I became of how my body was digesting food.

Here are the seven main categories that this low fat diet is divided into:

  • Proteins like nuts, plant proteins, foods low in protein, seeds, sprouts, starchy proteins and animal proteins
  • Starches
  • Nonstarchy and green vegetables
  • Fats
  • Sweet, subacid, and acid fruits
  • Melons
  • Syrups and sugars

Now, does this require me to track my daily food intake with a calorie counter to make sure I don't eat more fat than what is recommended? For your own interest, it might be useful to find out about the nutritional facts of the foods you eat on a regular basis.

There are many hidden fats especially in processed ready-meals and those can easily add up.

I've used the program for a while out of curiosity and was amazed at how much fat peanut and almond butter have, for example. I love nut butters and used to eat them as a spread on bread or as a snack. Yet, their fat content is very high so that I've reduced my consumption to 1-2 tablespoons a day. That's plenty if I take into account the various other sources of fat found in oils, margarines, chocolates, avocados, nuts and seeds.

So when I first got familiar with Doug Graham's program, I was thrilled to find out more about ideal food combinations, classifications and new recipes. I thought I give it a try for at least four weeks and see how I feel.

Dr. Graham is proposing three meals a day which I knew would be a challenge for me during the 4-week-trial regarding that I love snacking throughout the day. I tend to have a fairly big breakfast on most days, then usually train, snack through the afternoon and have a main meal in the evening, either raw or cooked. So sticking to a diet where the body should be allowed enough time to digest the food in between meals turned out to be not the right thing for me after a week.

Starting the day with lots of fruit felt very refreshing and provided lots of energy. For lunch, I'd have a big salad with fruits, lettuce and dried fruits and for dinner usually an all raw food or cooked vegan meal. I wasn't training for a race at the time so that I didn't need to adjust my dietary needs for training in particular.

What I also noticed after a few days was that I'd get headaches in the afternoon feeling very tired. I noticed that I'd overdone the fruit and started to add flaxseed oil so that the sugars from the fruit would slowly be released into the blood stream. By late afternoon I simply couldn't face any more fruit and would feel very acidic even though I had eaten a huge percentage of calories from carbohydrates.

Starchy proteins in beans and grains are not recommended on the 80/10/10 diet and I really felt restricted craving for crunchy wholegrain bread and legumes. I missed chutneys, sauces and spreads. My teeth also started aching from all the fruit I was ingesting. I was certainly eating plenty of carbohydrates and very little fat but didn't feel satisfied at all. If anything, I was craving more fat.

When it comes to determine your exact caloric daily intake and figuring out the exact percentages of carbohydrates, fat and protein every single bite of food must be tracked. And that is something that is never worth my effort.

Some people find it quite natural and integrate calorie-counting to their daily agenda. It's a very individual matter and I'm convinced that obsessing over food too much takes away the enjoyment of eating.

Socially, I've experienced some issues when I eat out. I've learnt to let go a little bit and not spoil my evening because the pasta dish might come with a sauce that contains traces of dairy.

After all, there is no right or wrong as to whether a low fat diet like the 80/10/10 is recommendable for ultrarunners. It's certainly an interesting path to walk on for a while. It's a matter of the consequences you'll face as opposed to be for or against this diet.

It's quite common during phases of high-mileage and intensity running training that the body needs more fuel, i.e. fat. Coconut oil and dates are great foods to consume straight after a workout and will speed recovery and muscle repair.

Any diet is a challenge if it's labeled with restrictions and bans. Life is an exploration and in connection with ultrarunning, living on a certain diet is also a spiritual experience.

What works great and in alignment with your current beliefs will always work to your advantage. It might well be that the low fat diet is the right way for you to go.

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