Note: I’m not an evolutionary biologist or nutritionist or researcher. The contents of this blog post is based on my understanding of how our ancestors fueled themselves.
We evolved from our ancestors and by ancestors I’m not talking about your great grandfather. I’m talking about the early man who existed millions of years ago. What we are today is a result of what he ate and how he survived. Considering that the early man didn’t have to worry about health insurance and little pink gifts for this girlfriend, all he focussed on was sourcing his next meal and finding a safe cave to wake up alive.
He was always on the look out for the most nutritious and calorie-dense food because food quality and quantity were a big deal. In order to survive (and thereby pass on his genes), he had to eat and in order to eat he had to hunt. While you and I relate food to pleasure and taste he related food to survival. In the absence of food he starved. When food was available in surplus he indulged in gluttony. While you and I relate physical activity to building muscle or burning calories he related physical activity to hunting or being hunted. He fought, ran, jumped, pulled and pushed to survive… to evolve.
Though I have referred to the early man as “he”, this is not the story of one person. Billions of our ancestors did similar things and survived millions of years. Keep in mind though that they were all in different regions of the world and were subject to different challenges. Some lived in sub zero temperatures all year round with limited access any kind of plant food while others lived in tropical climates with more access to a variety of foods. Wherever they lived, they spent all day hunting and gathering food for themselves and their dependents. Trust me when I say that the greatest nutrition researchers and dietitians can’t hold a candle against our ancestor when it comes to food quality and requirements. They spent thousands of years ‘testing’ the effects of different foods, quantities and feeding times on their bodies. They ensured that they fueled their body with the most nutrient dense foods at the right times because they knew that the nutrition will produce stronger offspring who would continue to evolve.
In the wild the strongest survived. The better the food, the stronger the beast and the better his chances of survival. Like this wasn’t enough reason to be strong, strength was a sign of ‘better genes’ and the females always chose stronger men (and vice-versa). As the stronger ones made it through time, their weaker counterparts vanished and so did their lineage. Everything written until now was meant to give you a glance of their lives and make you realize why food was, is and will always be the most important part of the evolutionary puzzle.
Quickly recapping. What have we established?
- The early man was bad ass. He was strong, fast and extremely intelligent.
- His research on food (quality, quantity, timing) and the effect of food on the body is unmatched.
- He ate only real food and went great distances to procure the most nutritious food.
- He fasted (starved) and feasted on a regular basis – more out of compulsion than choice.
So it sounds to me like he is the guy I would go to for nutrition related advice and if I did I’m guessing this is how my Q&A session with him will go.
Me: Our world today is pretty messed up. Even with all the poverty and starvation, about 15% of our world’s population is overweight and 60% of our deaths are from chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes which are all directly related to our food intake. With this as a background, I have a few questions.
Him: I don’t talk much. So if your question is stupid I will skip it.
Me: What should I eat?
Him: Ummm… food. Real food.
Me: How much fat and protein should I eat?
Him: Eat real food… the ratios will take care of themselves.
Me: Are carbohydrates bad?
Him: Are you an idiot?
Me: What about cheetos, cake and pizza?
Him: Are we still talking about food?
Me: What about fat?
Him: Fats are good for you. Grow up.
Me: Carbs are good. Fats are good. Why am I fat then?
Him: You eat too much and you hardly ever move that heiny of yours.
Me: How many meals should I eat per day?
Him: Eat when you’re hungry and when you can find real food.
Me: What do I do when I don’t have access to good/real food?
Him: Skip the meal and fast. When we went hunting for food and came back with nothing, we fasted. We didn’t eat dirt instead.
Me: What is real food?
Him: Ok, you ARE an idiot. Anyways, real food is vegetables, meat, fish, fruit and nuts.
Me: Did you know of anyone in your time with any chronic diseases whatsoever?
Him: Nope. No one.
Me: If you ate so ‘healthy’ and didn’t have any diseases why was your life expectancy 35 while ours is 70+?
Him: Because we played ‘Who dares wins’ with bears and lions everyday you schmuck!
Me: What about grains? Did you guys cook and eat them?
Him: I didn’t eat them. I hear some of us did eat them but our social networking is kind of sketchy so I wouldn’t trust the information. One thing for sure is even those who did eat them ate them when there was no other option. Like we say in our hood… I mean… cave… if you had to choose between McDonalds and grains, choose grains.
Him: Yea man. They repackaged and sold rotten animal carcasses left over by hyenas. The clown was a freak by the way.