What is PFC? PFC is our approach to balanced eating, and each letter stands for these three macronutrients: protein, fat and carbohydrate. The foundation of our approach is eating real food and including all three macronutrients in a healthy balance. Many diets focus on restricting or completely eliminating a macronutrient, but the truth is: your body needs and works best when it has them all.
Why do we need protein, fat and carbohydrates? All three macronutrients support the body, brain and metabolism in their own unique way. Protein is a building block for many of our neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) and has the ability to increase our metabolism. Fat supports brain function, keeps us full and acts as a buffer for carbohydrates by slowing down their assimilation into our blood stream. Carbohydrates give us quick energy because they have the greatest effect on raising blood sugar levels. The best way to support metabolism and brain function is by consuming all three macronutrients together.
How do you determine which category a food falls into? Many of the foods we eat fall into more than one of the PFC categories. In general, we place a food into the predominant category (whichever category the food contains most). You can look at the nutrition facts label on packaged food to find this information. Keep in mind that the protein choices that support metabolism most are animal products, like meat, fish and eggs. Therefore, we count foods like peanut butter or cheese, (both of which contain fat AND protein) as fats — not only do they have more fat than protein, but they aren’t proteins that support metabolism the most. When in doubt, count it as whichever category it has most of and don’t stress about it too much! PFC Balanced Eating Part 2 has more on which foods fall into which category.
How does PFC compare to SAD? The Standard American Diet (SAD) is an eating regimen consisting of a high amount of refined carbohydrates, refined oils and trans fats, low to moderate protein consumption and minimal healthy fat. The SAD is a disaster when it comes to keeping blood sugar levels stable. Carbohydrates, the macronutrient consumed most when following the SAD, are also the macronutrient that contributes to the greatest highs and lows in blood sugars. Consuming carbs with little to no fat (which acts as a buffer and minimizes the potentially damaging effect of carbs) sets you up for a ride on the blood sugar roller coaster. You may be familiar with common side effects of this wild ride, including but not limited to: having trouble focusing, low energy levels, intense cravings for sugar, carbohydrates, or alcohol, feeling out of control, frequent fatigue and/or undesired weight gain. No wonder we are sicker, fatter, and more frustrated than ever before.
Why eat the PFC way? The underlying key to consistent energy levels, positive moods, improved mental clarity, supported metabolism, decreased sugar cravings and avoiding getting “hangry” is blood sugar regulation. You can stabilize your blood sugars when eating in balance by incorporating healthy fat, quality protein and nutrient-dense carbohydrates every time you eat. When blood sugar levels are too high or too low, we are sure to experience consequences like increased blood pressure, inflammation, anxiety, insomnia, mood swings and more. To stabilize blood sugar levels, strive to eat protein, fat and carbs every three hours (four hours MAX!) to keep blood sugar levels balanced. We call this the Three-Three Rule (PFC every three!).
How do blood sugars and eating PFC affect weight gain and weight loss? Unstable blood sugar levels can lead to weight gain because if we constantly eat large amounts of carbohydrates without running marathons to burn them off (which most of us aren’t and shouldn’t be doing on a daily basis), then we store them as excess fat. When we do this over and over, we are storing carbohydrates instead of burning them for energy. Stored energy = weight gain. Just like imbalanced blood sugar levels can lead to weight gain, stable blood sugars are essential for weight loss. This is because glucagon (your fat BURNING hormone) cannot do its job if insulin (your fat STORING hormone) is at work. Eating carbohydrates without healthy fat causes the need for your pancreas to secrete insulin. Insulin helps regulate your blood sugar levels by storing excess carbohydrates. If you’re not regulating your blood sugar levels by eating PFC balanced meals and snacks, it makes sense that those extra pounds keep creeping on and staying on.
Do I need to count anything? We don’t recommend counting points, calories, grams or anything else, but it is important to be aware of portion sizes. Each person’s ideal portion size of protein, fat and carbohydrates is dependent on their weight, goals and activity level. That being said, it’s important to consume all three each time you eat.
- Protein: A good rule of thumb is to aim for eating a portion of protein equivalent to the thickness and circumference of the palm of your hand at meals (2-3 eggs, 4-6 oz. of chicken, beef, or fish) and about half that amount at snacks.
- Fat: For most people, we encourage having a MINIMUM of 1-2 servings of fat at every meal and snack (one serving equals half an avocado, an ounce of cheese, 1 Tablespoon of butter, coconut or olive oil, 2 Tablespoons of nut butter, ¼ cup coconut milk, 2 Tablespoons heavy cream, etc.).
- Carbs: For most people we recommend choosing non-starchy vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, spinach and cucumbers first. These vegetables don’t affect your blood sugar levels nearly as much and they provide loads of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Fill up on these first (shoot for a couple cups at each meal!) and limit the starchier veggies like potatoes, carrots, squash, corn, and fruit to about a half cup at a time to help prevent blood sugar spikes.
2 Additional points worth mentioning:
1. Never eat a carbohydrate alone. The problem with eating any carbohydrate alone is that because all carbohydrates turn to sugar once they reach the blood stream, they spike your blood sugar levels. This sets your body up for cravings and binges, irritability, lack of focus and weight gain. When we eat carbs, we do not receive a message to stop eating until our stomachs are physically stretched and full. When we eat fats, our brain receives a hormonal message (cholecystokinin) telling you to stop eating. Remember that fats help slow the digestion of carbs, which causes a more gradual increase in blood sugar instead of a spike. If you’re in a pinch and cannot find all three PFC, opt for two out of three and try to find a protein or fat source to go with your carbs to soften the effect the carbs have on your blood sugar levels. Read this post for more on this.
2. It’s NOT about perfection. As much as we dislike counting calories or points, we dislike getting too nitty-gritty about eating. Keep the focus on real food in balance and learn to listen to your body. Make connections by noticing how different foods affect your mood, energy levels and cravings and pay attention to how you feel when you leave out a macronutrient. Our clients love how this way of eating is very forgiving: Even when you aren’t perfect, you’ll still feel great.
For more on PFC eating, get our FREE Getting Started Guide when you sign up for our newsletter, check out PFC Balanced Eating Part 2: The Components, follow the hashtag #PFC on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook and tag your own balanced meal photos so others can be inspired by your ideas too! Read this blog post for more on the blood sugar roller coaster, and for more information on starting this lifestyle, check out our Back to the Basics post. For individualized help on portions and making the PFC way of eating fit into your lifestyle, please contact our team to set up an appointment with one of our coaches!