Food Consumption 1: Protein Consumption
This is a photo of me over 10 years ago when I competed in a bodybuilding physique show.
I normally walk around at 148 lbs but to be competitive I need to put on 10 lbs of lean body mass. This required me to consume over 4,000 calories a day in order to put on more weight over the course of 6 weeks.
To give you an idea of what my meals looked like during this period a macronutrient breakdown was as follows:
2lbs of protein, 1lbs of vegetables, 4 sweet potatoes and 2 cups of brown rice. This was a temporary period of over consumption but for many this is closer to a normal every day level of consumption in the fitness industry.
"The US food production system uses about 50% of the total US land area, 80% of the fresh water, and 17% of the fossil energy used in the country. The heavy dependence on fossil energy suggests that the US food system, whether meat-based or plant-based, is not sustainable"1
Within the fitness industry there's this belief that bigger and leaner are the only goals that matter. This pushes people to constantly strive to attain a physique that is significantly greater than their body structure was meant to carry. This requires a surplus of conventional feedlot agriculture due to the costs associated with such a spike.
People think they need to consume more protein in order to be healthy. Increasing intake costs more money, so purchasing power is limited to subsidized feedlot animal products. These products fall under a grey area of being "healthy" food products to fit into this unrealistic picture of being lean or musclebound as healthy. This ideal of health often comes at the expense of both the planet and this individual's internal health.
The conventional meat industry is one of the biggest polluters of our planet. It is very resource intense to maintain and process these animals. Much of the food grown for these animals such as corn and soy are monocultures. Monocultures have been found to encourage pest outbreaks and produce less nutritious food.2 In addition to being less nutritious, these crops also strip the soil of nutrients leaving it barren and susceptible to run off which will contaminate nearby drinking water sources.
One solution recommended to curb the negative environmental impacts include promotion of good crop and organic pastured meat rotations as positive ways of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.3 This encourages carbon sequestration and helps regenerate the soil for more nutritious food and pastures for animals to roam on.
Another solution is to adopt a new perspective on what it means to have a healthy diet and what constitutes good protein sources. Changing our beliefs is what will help have the biggest impact moving forward.
You choose for better with your dollars by telling farmers and stores what you want. Secondly by encouraging more animal farmers to follow this regenerative practice which should help drive lower costs for consumers in the long run.
When individuals decide to consume less protein they will do a few things:
- Eat more sustainably raised proteins, which should be less volume overall and impact on the environment.
- Financially speaking you end up spending the same amount but now with an emphasis on quality over quantity
- Increase vegetable intake for a focus on your overall health.
- Introduce alternative protein sources within a diet such as legumes, non-GMO soy and filling in the gaps with trace protein from vegetables
- Overall deciding to consume less food is the solution as we are already producing enough food to feed the world based on less overconsumption food eating patterns.4
This is a video by Chef Del Sroufe discussing plant based protein strategies in order to change the perception from the health and medical world on what are good protein sources.
As you watch the video:
Think about how your current fitness goals and the kind of foods you need to consume to support your activities and aspirations.
Do you think that your current food choice and volume of food falls in line with being a steward of our planet?https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/78.3.660S
2 Wallinga D. Today's Food System: How Healthy Is It?. J Hunger Environ Nutr. 2009;4(3-4):251–281. doi:10.1080/19320240903336977
3 Muller A, Schader C, El-Hage Scialabba N, et al. Strategies for feeding the world more sustainably with organic agriculture. Nat Commun. 2017;8(1):1290. Published 2017 Nov 14. doi:10.1038/s41467-017-01410-w
4 Kc KB, Dias GM, Veeramani A, et al. When too much isn't enough: Does current food production meet global nutritional needs?. PLoS One. 2018;13(10):e0205683. Published 2018 Oct 23. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0205683