What’s the ideal mix of carbs vs. protein for your diet?

by | Jan 17, 2012 | Nutrition & Diet | 0 comments

Dr. Ronald Lavine practices chiropractic in New York City and Princeton, NJ

Where Does the Protein Go?

When you eat protein, your body does one of three basic things with it:

  1. breaks the protein down as fuel
  2. builds inflammatory and stress-response signaling molecules
  3. builds healthy lean body tissue such as internal organs, brain cells, and muscles.

It’s not possible (nor is it desirable) to block all protein from entering pathways #1 or #2, but you want to balance your diet so that you can build plenty of healthy, lean body tissue. The key to health is to maximize pathway #3.

It’s Complicated

The ideal ratio of protein to carbohydrate for your body depends on a number of factors

  • your level of physical activity – and the types of activity you do
  • how healthy your metabolism is
  • how sensitive your tissues are to insulin
  • how close you are to an ideal weight
  • the integrity of your digestive tract
  • lots of other things science has yet to understand

sweating athlete

Because of the complexity of these factors, many nutritionists have given themselves carpal tunnel syndrome from tapping calculator keys to figure out the optimal formula.

But There’s A Simpler Way

The simpler way relies on a fundamental health principle: if you pay attention to your own body, it will tell you a lot.

Here’s what that means: If you eat a meal with the right fuel mixture for your particular metabolism, you’re going to feel better an hour or so later. If you eat a less-optimal combination of foods, you’re going to feel worse.

That’s pretty simple, isn’t it?

Here’s Your Plan

Start with breakfast. Choose a particular mixture of foods to eat for breakfast each day for 3 or 4 days. An hour after breakfast each day, make a note of how you feel in each of three dimensions:

1. Appetite/Satisfaction/Digestion

  • Do you feel hungry an hour later, in need of a snack?
  • Do you feel bloated or is your digestive track uncomfortable?
  • Or do you feel satisfied?

2. Energy Level

  • Do you have too much or too little energy?
  • Feeling nervous, jittery, or fatigued?
  • Or is your energy strong and even?

3. Mental & Emotional State

  • Are you mentally slow or muddle-headed?
  • Anxious? Depressed? Having difficulty focusing?
  • Or is your mind clear and able to focus on the task at hand?

If you have a negative response to the breakfast that you’re eating, shift to a higher proportion of protein with fewer carbohydrates. Try the new plan for three days while keeping track each day of your reaction an hour later. If your response improves, you’ve found the ideal mix of protein and carbohydrate for your metabolism.

If your response doesn’t improve, try lowering the amount of protein you’re consuming while increasing the carbohydrates. As before, track your response.

Ultimately, you’ll find your unique optimal ratio of protein to carbohydrate for breakfast. Stick with it. Vary the foods you eat each day, but keep the protein-carbohydrate ratio the same.

Then, move on to lunch. Track it in the same way, noting your response an hour or so later.

Once you’ve found your ideal mixture for lunch, move on to dinner.

Your Ideal Diet for Blood Sugar Control

Soon, you’ll know the right proportion of carbohydrate to protein to eat at each meal. Your diet will keep your blood glucose in the proper range, and provide you with abundant energy, a positive mood, and a smoothly working digestive tract.


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