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Entries in Paleo (4)

Monday
Aug272012

Paleo Diet Update - 45 Day Report

It’s been 45 days since I overhauled my diet to a much more strict Paleo regimen, so I figured it was time for a check in to not only assess how things have been going, but share my key learnings as well. 

Overall, the diet (or “eating lifestyle” as some would say) has worked very well for me.  Like anything else, I have made a few mistakes here and there (some minor, some major) but those mistakes have led to more research, asking more questions, and has been key to finally hitting somewhat of a sweet spot.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I have basically eliminated the “healthy” carbs like oatmeal and sweet potatoes.  As a grain, oatmeal has no place in a Paleo lifestyle however sweet potatoes can be fine in moderation, or used selectively if one is a highly-active athlete (think CrossFit or endurance/triathlete).

As written in Robb Wolf’s book, I have limited my fruit intake to one serving per day.  This used to be a banana (pre-workout) or an apple, but those are higher sugar fruits so I have maintained strictly blueberries as my fruit serving, usually as an after-dinner dessert.

Key Mistakes:

1 – Not paying enough attention to protein sources

For years I have kept turkey meatballs from the grocery store as a part of my weekly shopping menu. They are ready-made and convenient, plus they are easy to track when counting calories. When discussing my energy levels with the group at my CrossFit gym, one smart girl questioned whether or not these turkey meatballs contained enough protein.  I checked the ingredients list (red flag: too many “ingredients”) and among the first few elements were enriched wheat flour, and bread crumbs. Same was true for the ready-made turkey burgers I was getting from the store. 

I didn’t eat a single one of them from that point on, and committed to cooking more legitimate and wholesome ground turkey.  Eventually I added protein sources like lamb, bison, and organic grass-fed ground beef.

2 – Not getting enough fat.

This probably should have been #1, as it is the single biggest key so far in making sure that my workouts not only have enough fuel to be sufficient, but can make improvements.  One article helped clearly illustrate for me just how important dietary fat can be in the absence of dietary carbs.  The metaphor I would use is that if the body is a fireplace or grill, protein can be burned for energy (like wooden logs or charcoal).  Dietary or muscular protein can be converted into glucose (fat cannot) but dietary fat is the kerosene or lighter fluid needed to help ignite the process.

One of the single worst CrossFit WODs I’ve had came the morning after doing a horrible job in getting enough fats into my meals.  My performance that day was so sluggish that even I had to laugh and make jokes with one of our coaches after it was done.  But even through the brutality, I had learned a crucial Paleo lesson – if you want to be an active individual, getting enough dietary fat is of maximum importance.

What am I eating?

A standard day’s eating looks something like this…

Breakfast: 4 scrambled eggs + ½ avocado

Mid-morning: ½ avocado + 4-5 pieces turkey bacon

Lunch: 8oz ground turkey or lamb + vegetables (mixed greens, asparagus, broccoli, etc) with LOTS of olive oil. May also add ½ avocado if training later in the day

Mid-afternoon: repeat of lunch, with ½ avocado

*If there is a training session scheduled later (usually 5:30 or 6:30pm), the last bite of the mid-afternoon meal goes down no closer than 2 hours before my WOD begins. Through trial and error I have discovered this is the window of time when my body can completely digest a solid meal and be ready to train without issues.

Pre-CrossFit WOD: 5-6 tablespoons of coconut oil and/or almond butter

*Taken usually 90 minutes before I train, this has become a great way to top off my energy stores heading into an intense training session.  It usually takes 45 minutes before my body feels the energy surge from something being ingested, but I allow an hour and a half due to fat being slower digesting/loading than fast-acting sugary carbs would be.

Post-WOD: Protein shake + amino acids

Dinner: Rotisserie Chicken + vegetables

*If still hungry close to bed time I may down 1-2 tbsp of almond butter and half a protein shake.

 

Thanks to the above, my energy levels have never been better.  While I am tired at points from the intense training, I no longer have the sleepy energy crashes I would get at my office desk after polishing off one of those giant 32oz smoothies that I loved so much.

I’ve also lost an inch from my abs (read: gut) and waist since a measurement 5 weeks ago.  People claim that I look leaner, and I do seem to fit better into shirts that were too tight before I started. I have also lost 8 pounds since I first began.

As previously mentioned, I’ve tried almost every dietary philosophy out there.  This is the first time I have experienced success in all phases (workouts, body composition, scale weight).

Some say that this diet is too restrictive, but personally I am enjoying the fact that grocery shopping is very simplistic since I know exactly what to buy. There is very little guess work.  There is also no time spent worrying about portion control as one would on Weight Watchers or similar philosophies.  Lowered carbohydrate eating (with an assumption of a reasonably-active lifestyle) allows a person to take in a greater volume of food than they are typically used to, as the body metabolically processes protein, veggies, and good fats differently (read: more efficiently) than heavier foods like grains, dairy, or lots of sugars.

Needless to say, things have gone very well thus far in the first 6 weeks and I am excited to see what happens both in-terms of bodily changes, and my CrossFit training as things continue to get dialed in. 

I don't foresee abandoning the Paleo lifestyle any time soon, and look forward to another check-in or status update a couple months from now.

Saturday
Jul142012

Paleo Diet - Revisited

As you may know from reading, I've tried (or experimented with) quite a few dietary philosophies. 

 

I've done Intermittent Fasting...Low Carb...Vegetarian...Vegan/Raw Foods...and also Paleo.  

 

I've been eating a Paleo style for probably 8-10 months, but still haven't seen the changes in my body or weight that I would like.  As is usual case, the first step is not to analyze what might be wrong with the diet, but what's off-center about my discipline.

 

Thanks to a few friends (yes they're CrossFitters) I've come to realize that the carb intake in my diet is still too high.  To fuel for the brutal CrossFit WODs, I've been eating close to 2 sweet potatoes, 1-2 bananas, an apple, and occasionally 1 cup of oatmeal on an average day.  The leap of faith I've struggled to make with true low carb Paleo eating is to reduce the carb intake down to 1 fruit serving per day. 

 

The biggest question, at least for me has been - where does my energy come from?

 

Low carb Paleo eating relies much more on health fats (increased volume) to re-train the body from being a sugar burner (carbs in the system become glucose in the blood stream, to be used by our active mucles) to becoming a fat burner.  Most of us carry around many extra pounds of stored energy on our bodies (hips, belly, thighs, etc).

 

The tough part of this eating style is that it takes a while for the body to acclimate from receiving so many carbs/sugar calories for energy.  One of the best metaphors I heard was to think of it much like a computer trying to download new software or a spyware virus firewall.  There is a measure of time required for the system to register the update before it becomes new and improved.  Typically this time period sounds like 2 weeks on average, but obviously everyone's body and metabolic system differs,

 

I read "Paleo Solution" by Robb Wolf on a plane trip this past week, which was a great source in trying to figure out where to begin. Robb is one of the preimenent sources on Paleo eating.  He also pointed to a colleague, Charles Poliquin who advises his beginner Paleo clients to go with a "meat and nuts" breakfast (ex: deli turkey + almonds).   Mostly this is to ease in simplicity of execution for beginners.

 


You may ask - "So what are you now eating?"

 

Gone (for the intermediate future) are the bananas, apples, and bowls of oatmeal.  The Green Tea smoothies are also out (this is the toughest sacrifice to make).

 

In their place, I am eating 1-2 avocados each day (usually cut in half with each meal). I'm also trying to up the amounts of almonds, and olive oil (or similar-based dressings on salands).

 

There are literally hundreds of diet books and websites out there, but what does it for me is Real World application.  Two of my training buddies from CrossFit Dilworth lost close to 50 and 80 pounds respectively by eating Paleo style.

There are also several others I've met who report lost pounds of body fat, in addition to having much more stable and consistent energy levels during the day (versus the energy crashes that come with insulin drops from relying on carb sugar).

 

The goal is to stick with this plan of relying on healthy fat calories for energy through the 2 week "download" period and analyzing how I feel.  If things seem fine, the goal then becomes sticking with it  for the next two months throughout the summer.  I did one CrossFit WOD on this diet last week and reported a fine performance, the WOD would have been difficult with or without fruits and carbs for energy. I actually saw a few Paleo Food Trucks at the 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games this weekend, which was encouraging.

 

If things work out as well for me as they have for my friends, I'll be sure to follow up with results.  I also hope to do a separate post where my friends who have lost amazing amounts of weight share their strategies and hopefully help to inspire anyone else who isn't quite happy with what they see in the mirror, or how their clothes are fitting lately.

 

Until then, wish me luck every time I walk through the fruit isle at the grocery store or drive past the Smoothie shop.

Tuesday
Feb162010

Steve Nash's No-Sugar Diet

This may be the first entry so far that is completely self-explanatory, thanks to the title.

 Odds are I don't need to explain to you who Steve Nash is, so instead of repeating his bio, I'll save some time.  I was blown away earlier today when I found out how seriously Steve Nash takes his nutrition and how closely he monitors what foods he eats.  His diet is pretty simple and as "idiot-proof" as it gets:

No sugar.

That's it.  Nothing fancy, nothing elaborate, no calculations, or balancing of macronutrients each day. 

Nash guest-wrote a column for Men's Journal back in December 2009 where he outlined his discovery of what eliminating sugars from his diet could do for his health and NBA career:

"Refined sugars, Dr. Jain told me, impair your immune system. In fact, one teaspoon of refined sugar suppresses our white blood cells for up to six hours, making it a lot easier to catch a cold. I really can’t afford colds during the season, so that’s all I needed to hear: I cut out refined sugars cold turkey. No M&M’s at the movies, no energy bars, no Gatorade — I even had to be more careful when going to Jamba Juice, because sometimes they use sugar-filled juice from concentrate. After a few months, I stopped craving sugar entirely."

"The difference was instantaneous: I slept better, I recovered from workouts more easily, and I had more energy. When we started training camp in September, we were doing two-a-days — four or five hours on the court — and I never got sore. Even more telling is the fact that this summer I traveled all over the world for my foundation, bringing team sports to war-ravaged countries. I was missing out on sleep and still training the whole time, but I never got sick. I’ve got to think it’s because sugar wasn’t wearing me down."

        

Steve Nash is also a big fan of green tea, one of my personal favorites.  His meals in an average day (aside from a fiber breakfast cereal) generally follow Paleo qualities (lean chicken, fish, lots of vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds).  He even replaces the dairy milk at breakfast with rice milk or almond milk.

There's even a site dedicated to anecdotes around Nash's great nutritional habits and the effects they've had on NBA teammates like Shaq (now with the Cavs) and Jared Dudley.

Aside from being a two-time MVP,  one of my favorite pro athletes, and generally all-around cool guy, Steve Nash is yet another athlete who proves that you can compete at a high level, well into your thirties when you take command of what goes into your body.  More times than not, the better foods that go into your system, the better performances and overall health that will result.

Here's a Nike video where Steve Nash shows off his multi-sport skills:

Sunday
Feb142010

How do I get lean? Part 1

"How do I get lean?" 

"How do I get abs?"

"How do I get a six-pack?"

There's a dozen variations on this question, but "answers" to the above can be found all over the internet, usually followed  closely by an attempt to sell you something.

Well I'm not about to sell any product or supplement or workout book, but I do want to share what I've learned through trial and error (mostly error) that finally helped me locate my long-lost six-pack that had been hiding since I stopped playing football in 2001.

In Part I of this series - I'm going to focus on what I believe to be the MOST important part of "getting lean", and that's your diet.  As I've said before, I hate the term "diet" but I'll use it here just to keep things simple and uniform.  This is definitely going to be a simplistic approach to nutrition and subsequent fat loss, as there is a ton of more scientific research and context available online.  My hope is to make a complex process simple and easy to digest.

One of the best quotes I've ever read on this topic was in Runner's World magazine -

 "Great abs are made in the kitchen"

To this day, it's the best advice I've ever received with respect to shedding body fat and "getting lean".  Fitness experts Brad Pilon and Craig Ballantyne would say, you can't out-train a bad diet and they are correct.  Most bodybuilders or fitness pros or figure models would agree that the only difference in training for "muscle gain" vs "fat loss" is the way you eat.

Most "fat loss" eating plans are going to be structured with either low carbs, or carb cycling during the course of a week.  It's my opinion that it is nearly impossible to "get lean" while on a high carbohydrate diet.  Carb-cycling is essentially 2-3 days of low carbs (anywhere from 0.3-1g carb per pound of body weight). Followed by 1-2 days of higher carbs (1.5-2g per pound of body weight).

This does drift into the more complex habit of counting macronutrients, which isn't for everyone.  An easier way of ensuring that those carbs don't become "fat" is to make sure they are from complex sources (oatmeal, brown rice, sweet potatoes, and LOTS of vegetables with moderate fruit).  Higher GI (glycemic index) carbs like white breads, pastas, and white potatoes make for a messy carb load and you will rarely find any one with a desirable level of "leanness" that uses high GI/simple carb sources in their diet.

Another simple approach if one doesn't wish to go through the science of carb cycling (but still has a level of self-discipline) would be to adopt a Paleo approach to eating.  To stick with my goal of maintaining simplicity, a Paleo diet is built upon the approach that we stick to foods that were around during the Paleolithic age or the "Caveman" era.  This eating approach is built around lean meats, fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds.  Grains and breads have no place on this diet.  Here's a tremendously simplistic but funny video that helps bottom line it all:

Mark Sisson is one of the proponents of this sort of high protein/moderate (healthy) fat/low carb approach.

There is plenty more to discuss on the topic of "eating to get lean", but I'll pause for now.  Next time I hope to delve into the way to structure workouts with an eye towards dropping winter body fat to get ready for the warm weather beach season.  Here's a quick preview and hint - if you're putting hours and hours on the treadmill at a slow pace, there's a reason you're probably not where you want to be.

More to come...