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Meat Woes


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Hi folks,

Hoping that someone can shed a little light on my question.


Background: I successfully completed 1 whole 30, and almost a whole 30 before that. (Unintentionally messed that one up by eating some mixed vegi's with corn.) I followed the meal plan to a T, and generally enjoyed it.


I am planning on doing yet another Whole 30, but I am questioning the meat consumption. Last time around, I ate primarily conventional grocery store meat, as there are no stores I could find around here that sell grass-fed meats. I was, once upon a time, for ethical reasons, a vegitarian. I started eating meat again when I was able to obtain locally farm raised meat. I would like to go back to that, but since there are no stores that sell that near here, (I moved) I have to drive quite a ways to get "local" grass-fed meats. Hello sticker shock + gas money. When I was eating that way before, I could get a LB of bison for about $6.00, which is affordable, the best I have found now is $12+ Shipping... Not so affordable.


I started thinking, and realized when I was a vegitarian, I did a whole bunch of research and discovered that a person of my size really only needs about 40g of protine/day. I did a little more research and from what I can tell, exceeding about 10% of your daily intake of calories (yes, yes, I know, no counting calories. I am not planning on counting calories, just bear with me here.) doesn't really do a whole lot for you. (At least not in terms of your ability to repair and gain muscle.)


Since eating 4 oz of meat (what I was eating per meal on my last whole 30) (yes, it really is the size of my palm, I am pretty small.) per meal was around 30 g of proteine, I was getting, at a minimum, 90 g of proteine (I believe the percentage is calculate as grams of proteine X 4 = calories from proteine. In this case the number is 360, which means I would have to eat  3000+ calories for me to be getting the minimum % of proteine. ) Additionally, this doesn't take into account the proteine found in other foods. For example, If I ate meat/eggs at two of my meals, and 4C of Spinach + 1 T of Tahini butter (+ seasonings to make tahini into dressing) I would still be consuming 11 g of proteine at the totally meatless meal. (Yes, I know that nut butters don't count as a proteine, but that doesn't DISCOUNT the fact that my serving of fat for the meal still has proteine, which should still be counted towards my total proteine consumption for the day.)


So with that info + the fact that:

Ethically, it is important to me to eat sustainably, ethically raised meats exclusively

Don't really have the money to spend eating ethically, sustainable raised meats at every (or 2X daily plus eggs) meal


Is there any reason for me to NOT make a decision this time around to NOT eat a specific, unique animal based protine serving at ALL meals during the day? Does the fact that my proteine is now coming from a healthier source make up for the loss of the 4 oz of protine a day?

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You can eat anything you want, but if you are going to call what you are doing a Whole30, you need to follow the guidelines. The guidelines say you should eat a palm-size portion of protein at every meal and that means meat, fish, chicken, eggs, etc., not vegetable or nut protein. 


I question the sources you relied upon in coming to the conclusion that 40 grams of protein per day is all a person your size needs. Some very smart people (not just the Hartwigs) agree that the meal template with the palm-size portion of protein guideline is on-the-money when it comes to health. 

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I don't understand your maths.

Meat and eggs and nuts contain fat and water, they are not 100% protein.

100g of lean steak for example contains 30g of protein and is less than 200 calories.

The minimum protein requirement is sometimes quotes as 0.5 g per kg of body weight but this isn't what's recommended for good health.

But say you had three steaks, that's 90 g of protein but less than 600 calories not 3000 calories

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I don't understand your maths.

Meat and eggs and nuts contain fat and water, they are not 100% protein.

100g of lean steak for example contains 30g of protein and is less than 200 calories.

The minimum protein requirement is sometimes quotes as 0.5 g per kg of body weight but this isn't what's recommended for good health.

But say you had three steaks, that's 90 g of protein but less than 600 calories not 3000 calories

90g protein is 360cals....there was something about more than 10% of your cals in protein is a waste of protein....so the OP would need to eat 3600 cals for that to be 10% of her intake.

The only people I've heard suggest 10% protein are those advocating the 80/10/10 rule. IMO they don't look healthy!

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Hi All,

Thanks for your responses so far.


Tom, I respectfully disagree with the idea that I cannot call what I am proposing a whole 30. There is nothing sacred or magical about a “palm size portion†of protein. In fact, vegetarians do whole 30s without the palm sized protein rule. I doubt anyone is eating a palm sized portion of Kefir or yoghurt, or edamame. (In fact, I just looked it up, to make sure I am not crazy, and the rule isn't always meat based protein, it is "as often as possible", which is, I guess, ultimately what I am trying to define here. ISWFp.188)

Telling someone that by not following arbitrary guidelines without question, they are somehow  excluding  themselves from this exclusive club is a little silly, and contrary to what I think the Hartwigs, you, I and most other folks who participate in this experiment are doing. (Becoming healthier and trying to help others become healthier along the way.)


Having looked at both the vegetarian and non-vegetarian guidelines of a whole 30, I interpret the “rules†for a “whole 30†to be:

At every meal you should a nutritious protein source, a small serving of a healthy fat, and a whole bunch of vegetables. Palm sized is a great way  to help omnivores guesstimate the amount of protein they should be eating (more for large people, less for small people). I am not going to need more protein because I have  abnormally large hands, or less if I have extra small hands, so hand size is really a little vauge.


Big picture thought: What portion of my diet each day should be made up of protein? Can I eat less at one meal because it is our cultural vales that are driving the idea that we need a palm sized portion of meat at each meal? How  much of the idea that you need protein at every meal is based on the mentality that a heaping portion of Broccoli with coconut oil and some seaweed salad, can't possibly be a meal, despite it containing protein, fat, and carbs, because, ‘well… it's just… vegetables…and I grew up in a country that believed you needed meat with every meal'. Will that meal provide you with as much protein as would a steak? No, but if I average that meal in with the 2 other meals a day that do contain animal protein, will that allow me to achieve "Optimal health?"


If I really wanted to add some extra protein, I could always add in some nut butter, but that isn't allowed. I get the feeling that the issue with counting a nut butter as your protein is: People will all of a sudden start eating 4 T of nut butter to reach their protein “requirement†for the meal and take their protein:fat:vegi ratio WAY out a balance.


My thesis is that all of these portion sizes are created to encourage a correct ratio of nutrients, and that potentially, I can still obtain an acceptable ratio of nutrients by subbing in a nut butter seaweed, or other alternate plant based protein source for 1 meal. I am going to walk through how I get my ratios, since there was a question about how I did my math, feel free to skip if you want to just take my word for it.


Looking at a typical lunch for me following the minimum standards (Some days, depending on my hunger level I will increase the protein or fat, or add in a fruit or second vegetable. I am just trying to keep the numbers simple and concrete as opposed to creating a range, so I am using the meal template of: 1 serving fat, 1 serving protein + lots of veggies)


If I ate 4 C of spinach I would get 4 g of protein, 4 g of carbs and 0 fat

¼ an onion I would get 0 protein, and 3 carbs and no fat

4 oz chicken breast I would get 30 g protein, 0 carbs, and 2 g fat

1 T coconut oil would give me 0 protein, 0 carbs and 14 g of fat


Using the follow math 1 g of protein = 4 calories, 1 g of carbs = 4 calories, and 1 g of fat = 9 calories I get the following info:

34 g protein X 4= 136 calories of this meal are from protein, 7 g if carbs X 4 = 28 calories in this meal from carbs, and 16 g of fat X 9 = 144 Calories of this meal are from fat.

That means that my meal breakdown is: 136 cals from protein/ 308 total calories = 44.15% of my calories in this meal come from protein, 144 cals from fat/308 total calories = 46.75% of my calories for this meal come from fat, and 28 calories from carbs / 308 total calories = 9.09% of my meal's calories come from carbs.


44% of my meal being protein is WAAAAY beyond the 10% minimum, and seems excessive to me. (Am I really biologically designed to get almost half of all my nutritional needs from meat? Were my ancestors really that awesome at hunting?)


Now, if I take the same equation and simply sub 2 T of Tahini butter for the coconut oil and Chicken, (or seaweed etc...) I get the following nutritional data:

Tahini butter = 9 G of protein, 5G of carbs, 23 G of fat

Spinach and onion remain the same

That gives us a total of 13 G of protein, 12 G of carbs and 23 G of fat, which translates to 52 protein cals, 48 car cals, 207 fat cals

This means that now: 16.93 % of my meal is from protein, 16.63 % from carbs, and 67.42 from fat.


Now let's look at a whole day:

Morning meal of 3 eggs, 2 cups of kale, and 1 T of coconut butter gives us: 96 cals from protein, 52 from carbs, and 270 calories from fat.

I am going to also add in 1 c of baked sweet potato, since I have discovered I love them. (In reality, this might be squash, carrots, or any other non-green vegie.) My sweet potato adds in 16 additional calories from protein, 164 calories from carbs, and no fat.

These additions, with the inclusion of the 2 previously explained meals bring my daily intake to:


Traditional version, 2 meals with meat, 1 meal of eggs: 31.32 % protein, 23.16% carbs, and 45.51% fat.

Non traditional version, 1 meal of eggs, 1 meal of meat, 1 meal of non trad protein: 24.48% of my calories coming from protein, 24.83% coming from carbs, and 50.69% coming from fat. My protein is still WAAAAY beyond the minimum 10% or 40g of protein required.


I am not advocating that I, or anyone else, start counting and calculating and nit picking, I just am attempting to demonstrate why I have the question that I have, and back it up with data. I am not also suggesting that I am going to eat only nut butter as my alternate protein source. 


Based on the fact that a vegetarian whole 30 exists, I assume there is nothing ultra special about only getting your protein from a meat based source. My understanding is that the issue with the vegetarian version is that you are adding in potential allergens in order to get your protein, which I would like to avoid. This suggests to me that there is no reason to NOT get 1/4-1/3 of my protein requirements for the day from another non-animal source, providing the following: that I really do eat protein with my meal, and that it does not create a potential adverse reaction. Does anyone know anything that I don't? Is there something inherently awesome about meat that I won't get eating it less? I vaguely remember reading, when I was a vegetarian, something about complete and incomplete proteins and why you have to pair incomplete proteins to make them as good as meats, but I thought that was debunked?


In response to my source about the 40 g of protein a day, I believe I reached that conclusion after reading the revised edition of Diet for a small planet, which, at this point, came out a looooong time ago. 10-14% protein seems to be the number thrown around on the internet as being a sustainable, healthy minimum for protein.


Ultimately my question is:

Is there a reason that “magic†happens on a whole 30 is because I am eating meat based proteins exclusively, or that I am maintaing a ratio of protein, carbs and fats or something else? Are there essential nutrients that will no longer be consumed at appropriate levels by eliminating 1 meat based protein a day? Will my deciding to change 2 meat based meals a day to 1 (plus eggs), but using a higher quality meat offset any of these losses?


The fact that no one seems to really know how much protein we need is partly why I am interested in this question. People who advocate a vegetarian diet suggest far less protein than someone who advocates a meat diet, and I was hoping to reach a conclusion that is not based on dogma, or because someone said. ISWF states right in there that "optimal health" cannot be achieved eating ONLY a plant based diet. I completely agree, and believe that I am a healthier person thanks to my meat consumption. With that said, If I can still obtain "optimal health" by doing something that I believe is more ethical (sourcing locally farm raised meats, and eating less of it) as well as actually being feasible for me financially, as opposed to having to eat factory farmed meats 3/day because that is what I can afford, why wouldn't I? 

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Diets are personal. Everyone comes to their own conclusions about what is healthy by reading, experimenting and by doing what works for them and their life.

I don't think eating only 10% of my calories from protein would work for me or my lifestyle so I wouldn't do it. You've decided that's what is bet for your health, so you wouldn't eat my diet that's about 30-35% protein

You have obviously decided what you think works best for you and your lifestyle, at this point in time. Is it in line with what the whole 30 suggests? Not 100%, which is why Tom suggested what you're doing isn't a whole 30. Is that a bad thing? No! You can eat what you like, when you like.

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That entire encyclopedia of a post that you just made is totally against the spirit of the Whole30. You are over thinking this, and making it FAR too complicated just so that you can get your way. You can eat whatever you damn well please, but unless you follow the rules set out by the creators of the program, you can't call it a whole30.


If you think that your way is healthy and you can reach optimal health getting only 10% of your calories from protein and you don't have to eat animal protein at every meal, then do it. Do whatever you want. Just don't call it a whole30, because it's not. If you want to do all the math and calculations like you did above to figure out what percentage of every meal is fat, protein, or carbs and how many calories you're getting from each, go right ahead, but don't call that a whole30 either, because it's not.


A whole30 is not about micromanaging your macro nutrients.


It's supposed to be simple.

It's supposed to be easy to understand

And most importantly, it's supposed to free you from that kind of neurotic calorie counting and establish a more healthy relationship with food that is intuitive and natural.

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I would like to add that a lot of the reason for different approaches and different maths is because it is hard to break real food down into numbers that work for all scenarios.


For example your percentages are based on weight, not volume. But our stomach fills up by volume not weight. And unless we want to be slaves to the kitchen scale our preparation of food portions is easier to do based on volume - the whole 30 visuals of palms, thumbs, how many eggs you can hold etc is easy like this.


RDA's are usually minimums recommended to stop you dying, not keep you fully healthy.


Amounts dictated for sustainability again are more about keeping the most people alive on the minimum amount of resources.... but do we really want the earth to be able to support 50 billion unhealthy people on a vegan diet or plan our population and food production to support 10 billion people on a healthy ethically managed diet.


I would like to add that I like the whole30 because it is about how to eat real food for optimal health... both nutritionally and psychologically.


Our ancestors never weighed foods or worked out percentages. Many ate predominately meat based diets for much of the time.


A lot of research went into the whole30 and Melissa and Dallas have put together a program that works for many people as a starting point. They are the first to point out we are all responsible and the best judge of what works for us. Be your experiment of one. But if you want to know the why of the whole30, read the book - everything is explained there including what is based on science, what is based on research and what is based on analysis and also in a few cases what is based on opinion.


And if you want to pick and choose some bits or combine with other methodologies and calculations, do that... but you cant incorporate this into a true "whole30" and you wont get the same results you might have got (good or otherwise) if you did a true whole30, just like it is stated the vegetarian whole30 is a less than optimal alternative to the true whole30

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