At the start of my Ray Peat style diet journey, everything I read at the time said to balance your macros at every meal.
So that’s all three macros – protein, fats and carbohydrates.
One reason was blood sugar balance. The other main reason, was to make sure you were getting all your macros in for the day in the correct proportions to be beneficial.
So far so good. Logically it makes sense.
The other day I read an answer to a question in one of the Ray Peat groups that said something like – it’s actually not necessary to have all three macros in a meal.
While I know this is true in theory, I thought to myself, “Uh oh this is going to confuse a lot of people.” And sure enough, the comments after it started to say – “well I’m going to need help with this.”
So I wanted to explain it from my practical experience and how I understand it to be, just in case it is helpful to others.
I discovered this one first for myself when I was experimenting with low fat in a Ray Peat diet, and it’s impact on weight loss. (Read more about that here.)
First of all in ALL protein sources there’s already fat in it. In fact often it’s too much – like eggs for example – protein is 6g but fat is 5g. So it’s nearly one for one protein and fat. Normal cheese is the same. (In this article I compare cheeses as an example.) So if you’re eating 100g of protein in a day and all your choices are high in fat like eggs and regular cheese, then you’ll easily be having 100g of fat as well.
You actually really have to go out of your way to source protein that is low in fat.
So in practical terms, fat is not something that you consciously need to make sure you include in your macros. Because it automatically is included. The focus should probably be on making sure you don’t have too much.
So why encourage people to add fat in every meal?
It’s not necessary, because it’s already in every protein. So this makes it easier for people just to focus on Protein and Carbohydrates.
Now we know that carbs raise blood sugar. Starches more than fruit/sugar because starch breaks down to all glucose, where as half of a sucrose molecule is fructose, which is processed by the liver.
So if you are a person with diabetes, pre-diabetes, or if you are coming off a Keto diet so your carb processing is dodgy already, then eating carbs by themselves is going to cause issues. The glucose will stay in your bloodstream far too long, and not get into the cells where it needs to go.
This happened to me at the start when I was coming off a Keto diet. If I had a cup of OJ by itself, I would get dizzy, feel really weak and light headed. Then when hunger came on, it felt like a real urgency, almost like a feeling of panic. It was like none of my glucose storage functions were working, and because I no longer was eating enough fat to fuel my body, nothing was getting through. Hence the body freaking out.
Now after four years and fixing the carb processing system in my body, I can have a glass of juice, and two bunches of grapes and feel fantastic. I can go for hours with no dizziness or massive blood sugar drops.
So it is true. You potentially can eat carbohydrates and nothing else at a meal depending on your own health and how your body functions.
I haven’t tried it with starches though, just fruit.
Protein apparently can lower blood sugar. So this is why the suggestion to pair protein and carbohydrates together. They balance eat other out when it comes to blood sugar levels. Perfect in the situation I described above when I was starting out.
So should you eat protein by itself?
If you don’t have any blood sugar problems, then possibly you could with no obvious adverse effects.
However there is one more thing to consider with protein. When you eat protein or any food for that matter, digestion and assimilation all take energy. So that along with the rest of the body still need to be fuelled somehow, while you are eating this protein and nothing else.
So the body could take it from your liver glycogen stores, it also can take it from your muscle glycogen stores if you are using that particular muscle. After that though it will look to break down protein to make the carbs that you need.
Now I’m not sure if it uses your muscles first, or the ingested protein to convert to glucose that it needs, but either way it’s a waste of protein and/or a waste of hard earned muscle. Especially when you could have just sipped a bit of juice with your protein, and not made your body work twice as hard in the process.
So I hope this has explained the debate over whether macros are required at all meals or not.
In the case of added fat – definitely not required.
For carbohydrates – it depends on whether your body is up to it or not.
When it comes to protein – it depends on whether your body is up to it and if you happy to potentially waste protein/muscle.
For me, I like to keep everything as easy as possible for my body, so protein with fruit/juice is how I roll. (It seems Ray Peat does too. See the quote in this article.)
Happy discovering and learning more!