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CrossFit Northern Ireland: Dr. Michael Ray on Macronutrients by Dr. Michael Ray - CrossFit Journal

In Nutrition, Reference, Videos

October 18, 2009

Video Article

Zone Diet creator Dr. Barry Sears has said people should treat food as a drug, and Dr. Michael Ray agrees.

Speaking at a recent Level 1 Cert at Elite 400/CrossFit Northern Ireland, Dr. Ray addresses macronutrients and their effects on the body. Simply put, your body needs carbohydrates, but different kinds of carbohydrates can produce very different changes in the body.

Low-glycemic carbs will slightly boost insulin and glucose levels for a longer period of time, while high-glycemic carbs send them skyward for a short period of time. When the levels plummet back down, you feel hungry, and if you eat high-glycemic carbs again, you’re setting a pattern of insulin spikes that can have negative effects on the walls of your blood vessels.

Consuming protein encourages the release of glucagon, which helps blunt insulin spikes, and eating low-glycemic carbs reduces the potential for sharp peaks even more. The inclusion of fat in a meal slows the absorption of high-glycemic carbs and further reduces the likelihood of dramatic increases in hormone levels. The result of a well-planned meal: nicely regulated levels of insulin and glucose.

7min 15sec

Additional reading: Meth in a Can by Keith Graves, published Nov. 24, 2008.

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20 Comments on “CrossFit Northern Ireland: Dr. Michael Ray on Macronutrients ”


wrote …

Good Stuff, Let's see the rest!


Darren Coughlan wrote …

good explanation of insulin effect [graph], best lecture Ive seen so far on the macro nutrients ie, to the point & clear


wrote …

A word for Paleo diet folks:

In "Deadly Harvest" Geoff Bond talks about proper food combining. He's stressing that our digestive system can break down variety of foodstuffs into useful component parts, but it can't do that simultaneously because the processes are conflicting.

In brief, he's describing how the starch/protein combination is particularly bad because the insulin secretion is actually multiplied, which contradicts what was said in this video. The same goes for fruit/protein and fruit/starch combination.

"Deadly Harvest", however, often contradicts Gary Taubes "Good Calories, Bad Calories" which in return doesn't always agree with "The Zone". And i'm just mentioning these three because they seem to be them most popular diet reading in CF community.

It's really confusing, even with the quality material like the books above. Who should you believe? It would be really cool if those authors would sit together and work it out.


Does it mention that all foods must be converted to fatt acid to be absorbed, if so where is the problem with food combinations?


replied to comment from Darren Coughlan

Not sure how much i'm allowed to quote the book...
Eventually yes, all the foods get converted but how it's done differs. It takes much longer for stomach to release protein to the small intestine than it does for the starch. It also uses different enzymes for each. That's not a problem if there is predominantly starch or protein, but if there is an equal mix then the body has to decide which should be a priority and so the enzyme secretion is perturbed and the imperfectly digested food causes imbalances in absorption, intestinal flora, hormonal feedback, promote bad bacteria...

He also says that protein, like starch, also provoke the secretion of insulin and when starches are digested at the same time, insulin secretion is multiplied.

Again, i'm not sure how much i can quote the book. He points out that western diet is predominantly starch/protein combination, like corn/tuna, hamburgers, hot dogs, steaks and fries... It used to be only two food groups, non-starchy plants and animal matter, and our system has no problem combining those.


non-starchy plants and animal matter sit fine with me when zoning, still dont see a problem, even slight one, when sticking to 'favourable' carbs.


wrote …

I haven't read deadly harvest, but I have read the others. Both Taubes and Sears are hypothesizing remember, no double blind blah blah... test has proven either of their theories, so the answer to your question would be a very educated guess at best. Try eating all foods separately and report back. I think Sears rec. P-C-F in that order. Don't think its been lab tested.


wrote …

I love these videos of lectures from Level one certs. I just took my level one and I had a great time. These videos help to jog my memory of the lectures, and so I really get the most from what I learned.

On the notes of what the other comments are saying, I really fall back to what the Crossfit mantra of: If it works do it, let the results speak for them selves. I am trying to follow the zone diet strictly and its to soon to tell if it is working for me but I do feel pretty good. It has worked for others it will probably work for me. With regards to the other nutritional perscriptions If it works for you and your lifestyle do it. I like what Rob Orlando said on crossfit radio, not a direct quote but: beer good, bread bad. He is a crossfit fire breather and his diet works for him and his life style.


wrote …

Mike Ray is one of the smartest people I know and he has the amazing ability to present potentially complicated material in a clear, concise manner. Basically, he is a ninja.


replied to comment from Erik Hayes

I'm also very interested about the effects eating foods separately would have. It seems to me that this would go along very well with what the paleolithic diet was like. It doesn't seem likely that people would have all three macronutrients available at all times, such as hunting or gathering. It seems more likely that they would eat fruits/vegetables as they gathered them, and would cook and eat the meat, although probably storing some, when they had acquired it. I've also heard of some studies that were used to counter Dr. Sears' diet plan that suggested eating protein and carbs increased the area under the curve of total insulin secreted for a meal. What makes me suspicious of these studies(which I haven't had a chance to look at) is that they don't mention how HIGH insulin levels reached in the carb/protein meals vs the carb alone. I think it would very interesting, however, to see if separating foods could have benefits. Please keep us posted Branco!


wrote …

Also, does anyone know of the study he uses for evidence when he says the carb only breakfast for kids leads to higher caloric intake? I'm interested in citing it in a paper I'm writing. Thanks!


wrote …

Yeah, there is some contradictions regarding the protein/carb combo, as it concerns their hormone response. In this video Michael Ray proposes that protein intake surprasses insulin spike. Dr. Sears has advoctaed the same idea in his lecture series here. However, the opposite argument is that glucagon, produced by the body as a response to protein consumption, hits the liver and causes it to release glucose, which then produces an insulin spike.

One of my clients who is a paramedic in training has just given a diabetic patient a shot of glucagon in order to cause the patients'liver to release glucose and raise his insulin level.

Big contradiction going on here. I am really curios about it...


wrote …

Celio, the diabetic patient would have been given a shot of glucagon to raise the blood sugar levels back to normal range, most probably due to a miscalculation of food/insulin ratio. Hypo patients appear to be in a drunken agitated state, much the same as I used to get at about 4 in the afternoon when i was a carb eating freak!! (before turning paleo) Remember T1DM do not produce insulin/or enough to elicit a response.
Ergo glucose would not raise insulin levels, this would only happen to someone with normal beta cell function.

hope that helps.


wrote …

This video is great. I love how he introduces 'fat at a damper', this is very important and helps explain my one of my favorite breakfasts will keep me full until late in the afternoon, stable energy throughout. What is it, 5 eggs, 5 to 6 blocks of potatoes, 1 tbsp fish oil, 1 breakfast sausage. High GI/GL carbs can be dangerous but in my opinion, can be fine too (quality is a given).


Julianne Taylor wrote …

There have been really good studies done on the effect of protein plus carb, vs a carb only meal on insulin secretion. The study Dr Ray mentioned with overweight teenage boys was one.

The boys had either a breakfast of oatmeal or a breakfast of omelette and vegetables in a zone balance. Both had the same calories.
It is true that protein has a small effect on insulin, however carbs has a far greater effect. When you take out some carbs and replace it with protein the insulin release is far lower for the meal than if you had been only carbs. Basically the meal has a lower glycemic load.
When you add some fat, it slows down the digestion of carbs and this also dampens glucose release and consequent insulin secretion further.
This particular study showed this clearly.

I am interested to find out more about how your body can't digest starches and protein well together, I've done undergraduate nutrition and this has never come up in nutrition biochemistry.

If you look at paleo info though you find that grains and legumes have lectins which damage the gut - this will cause both leaky gut and a reduced enzymes for both carbs and protein. This will affect digestion of both food groups.

If however the grains are replaced with non damaging carbohydrates (especially fruit and vegetables) this won't happen and they should both digest well. If the gut enzymes are not being supressed by grain and legume lectins then enzyme release is good and proteins will break down fully into amino acids.

Grains, in particular wheat, is also a problem as the phytates in wheat bind with minerals in the gut and reduce absorption.

And yes protein stimulates glucagon which gets stored sugar out to be used, but this is good, it helps keep blood glucose levels stable when consuming a lower carb diet. This helps with appetite control. This is good. A meal with only carbs pushes up blood sugar levels and then insulin. The other thing Dr Ray did not mention which is worth noting, is that while insulin levels are high you cannot release fat or glucose from storage. Which is why keeping insulin levels down and pushing up glucagon is good - it allows fat release - and you can use the fat to fuel your muscles.

Re Darren's comment on all foods break down into fatty acids in order to absorb - sorry this is not accurate.
All carbohydrates are broken down into sugars, primarily glucose.
Glucose stinulates insulin secretion.
All proteins are broken down into individual amino acids (ocasionally small chains of amino acids called peptides)
Protein stimulates glucagon and a small amount of insulin
All dietary fats are broken down into fatty acids.
Fatty acids have no effect on glucagon or insulin. They are either used for fuel or building blocks of prostaglandin (eicosanoid) hormones which are either pro-inflammatory or anti- inflammatory.

Ooops - getting carried away!

They all then get transported into the bloodstream to get used or stored. If the protein or carbs are in excess of needs they will eventually end up being converted into fat by the liver ready for long term storage.
Of course fat needs no conversion and is easily stored as fat if you eat excess. However it takes insulin to comminicate to fat cells to store the fat. That's why keeping insulin levels down is so important.

Zone Instructor and nutritionist, New Zealand


wrote …

Mike - Terrific explanation of how the body reacts to macros...loved how clearly it was described - so far, it's the best delivery I've seen/heard!
I agree with Pat - he's a ninja..


Thanks for the info Julianne, Some good stuff.
I was asking a question not making a statement though.


wrote …

I have a fair understanding between the high GI/GL carbs and low GI/GL carbs. However, I need advice on where old fashion oats (not instant of course) fit into the Zone and/or paleo eating. I'm trying to become more disciplined with nutrition. I eat a lot of oats and I was wondering if I'm on the right path. Any advice??


replied to comment from MARC KELLY

Barry Sears noted that steel cut oatmeal is a good source of D-GLA or GLA (can't remember which one) and this fatty acid helps with eicosanoid balance. I think that oats on occasion would be good for supplementing DGLA, but they still are a pretty dense carbohydrate source, so I think using it post workout would be the best time to eat oats. Other than that, I would limit it. I've personally switched from a fairly low carb (50-80g) Paleo diet to a ketogenic (


This video is great

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