Why proteins + carbs = heartbreak

Never combine proteins and complex carbs, such as starches.

This is such an important part of the correct rules of combining food types, that it deserves a more in-depth look. It’s also a tough rule, as it eliminates a lot from our diet, from pasta with sea fruit to the simpler toast with eggs. In order to understand why these combinations are wrong, you only need to understand two major factors: enzymes and the pH in which they work. That’s it, I promise 😊

Enzymes are the workers in your body. Just like on a construction site, where it’s not enough to have the best plans and materials if you don’t have skilled workers, in your body enzymes do the lifting. From cellular respiration to breaking down foods, to substance transport through cellular membranes or immune functions, to cellular division and destruction. Some of these hard-working enzymes are tasked with digesting everything you’ve eating and send it on to the liver, where a decision is taken: use, throw away or (God forbid!) store?

Illustration of the Glucosidase enzyme
Glucosidases are enzymes responsible for breaking down complex carbohydrates. Here an illustration of one -credit: Thomas Shaffe/Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 4.0 license

Nature’s harmony is evident in our bodies as well: we have enzymes with clear specialisations and roles. For each nutrient we take in, there is a type of enzyme that will take charge. You have different kinds of enzymes for proteins, carbs and so on. Also, each nutrient can only be broken down in a certain environment, with the adequate pH and composition.

Proteins are only digested in an acid environment, which varies in intensity depending on the complexity of the protein.

Animal proteins are the most complex types of proteins, which is why they require the strongest stomach acids to be digested. Animal proteins required 1.5-2.5 strength on the Ph scale, while vegetal proteins require weaker, 4.5-5.5 Ph acids, because their simpler structures are easier to break down. Acids for breaking down animal proteins are almost 1,000 times stronger than the ones for vegetal proteins! This is why meat and eggs will always take longer to digest than a salad and some nuts.

Proteins are why you have hydrochloric acid in your stomach. It’s the alarm clock for acid enzymes, their signal to get up and get to work.

Back to basic chemistry. What happens when acids and alkaline substances meet? They get neutralised. However, we are too ingeniously designed for the digestion process to simply stop. While animal protein is being broken down, which takes hours, the rest of the food is awaiting its turn – but risks fermenting.

Time food spends undigested in the stomach is not time well spent!

The longer the time spent in the stomach, the larger the fermentation degree. While the food is in an acid environment, alkaline enzymes which should deal with carbs and fats are a bit… sleepy. Deactivated by the acidic Ph.

Basically, everyone hangs around waiting for those proteins, until the small intestine is reached, and a new cycle begins. The environment is now strongly alkaline, acidic enzymes deactivate, alkaline enzymes come to life and continue digesting carbs and fat.

Such a defective system lasts up to 12 hours, depriving us of huge amounts of energy. Do you ever feel tired after a substantial meal? Or maybe you feel bloated, have gas or chest burns?

The big issue is that, at 37 degrees Celsius, the longer the food stays in the body the slower it moves through the digestive system, increasing the chance of turning into toxic residue under the heat. The long hours spent in warm intestines lead to decomposition of proteins and fermenting of carbs. Many nutrients are lost, and we’re tired because this whole process takes energy.

When you eat something of vegetal origin, including proteins and carbs (like cereal, nuts, soy), you’re taking in vegetal proteins, which break down fast into weak acids, with low fermentation potential. If you chew properly, you cut the digestive effort in half.

Things in nature are simple. And your body loves simplicity. The less “mixed” your food intake, the easier it is for your stomach to do its job.

Bad mixes of foodstuffs leave sediments, which further slow functioning of bodily systems and deposit fats, especially around the waist, no matter how few calories we actually take in. If we don’t combine proteins and starches during the same meal, we will improve the nutrients our bodies can actually use and free up more energy.

We can’t always be perfect. If you are to sin, do it in the afternoon, ideally at dinner. Use a scale to balance your diet: on one side, healthy things like salads, vegetables and fruit. On the other, concentrated or badly mixed food. If you intend to start a dinner with heavy and badly-mixed food, start with a salad, without oil. It will counter some of the effects, covering the stomach in a protecting fibre layer, which will help with the heavier stuff.

There’s some good news in there: you don’t have to give up your favourite food. The best thing is we can keep eating them, just not all at once! The general rule is that, after we ate something concentrated, we should let 3 to 4 hours passed before another, so that the stomach can have time to get ready.

It’s easier to plan meals in advance at first, by carefully following this rule. It will get easier once you get used to it, trust me!

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.